Roasts and Toasts

The Toast of Vikram Vedha

After Batman, Vikram Vedha has arguably the catchiest theme (TANA-NANA-NANA-NAA…. TANA-NANA-NANA-NAA). After Joker, Vedha is the next worst guy you’ll want to root for. This film is a delirious mix of Vikram Vethal and The Dark Knight. For the uninitiated, Vikram and Vethal, is the story of King Vikramaditya and his adventures with the Vethal (poltergeist/ghoul). Poltergeists are supposed to be noisy beings who damage property. Thala Ajith’s Vethalam was loosely based on this premise.

A sage asks King Vicky to go to the forbidden forest and bring back the Vethal. King Vicky says “Easy peasy lemon squeezy” and sets out. When he finally faces the Vethal, King Vicky realizes his adversary isn’t an easy target. The Vethal plays more hard to get than a Tinder match who holds strong ideals of feminism, independence, and has high standards. So, King Vicky instead turns the tables and says “only here for friendship”. This gets the Vethal talking. The Vethal promptly lays down some ground rules. The Vethal states that he will ride on King Vicky’s back, and as they make their way back to the sage, King Vicky will have to listen to a story. At the end of the story, Vethal will ask him a question in the form of a riddle. If King Vicky doesn’t know the answer, the Vethal will stay with him, answer the riddle, and move onto the next story. If King Vicky knows the answer and doesn’t respond, his head will explode. If King Vicky responds correctly, Vethal will fly back to his tree, because “if you know errthang, why you need me for, biatch?”

King Vicky agrees to all of the above while mumbling “this clingy bitch right here.” He also notes that if prenups had these clauses, divorce rates would drop steeply, because ain’t nobody getting married if they know exactly what they’re getting into. Now, back to Vikram Vedha.

Madhavan plays Vikram, an encounter specialist, with a broad frame and broader smile. He is headstrong and prides himself on knowing he is always on the right side of the law. He can come back home after a long day of feeding bullets to goons and sleep like a baby, because he knows he has never killed an innocent human being. Vikram is your happy-go-lucky death dealer. This is established in the opening sequence, where Vikram and his squad take a gang by storm. Vikram clocks the most kills, but spots a runner. Instead of chasing after him, Vikram takes a walk in the park while twirling his glock. When the rowdy hits a dead end, he turn around and surrenders, and this annoys Vikram. He responds with, “You could’ve surrendered back there. The fuck did you make me come after you? Okay, tell me a joke and I’ll let you live.” The felon cracks a below average pun. Vikram is not amused and shoots the kills. Lesson for budding comedians: it’s a kill or be killed world out there. Better be ready for the day a cop comes after you with a gun, and all you can do to save yourself is tell a good joke.

Vijay Sethupathi is the best buy one get one free deal in Kollywood. You sign him, you get his acting skills for free. Not for sale individually. His performance as Vedha will surprise audiences once again. Right from the start, it’s clear that Vedha isn’t evil incarnate. He is the bad guy, because the good guys wouldn’t have a job otherwise. He is in the logistics business, and people get hurt once in a while. Every time he faces off with Vikram, he distracts him and gets away; leaving Vikram with answers to find. He teaches Vikram to look at both sides of the coin, instead of simply stopping with calling heads or tails. The story ends with Vikram and Vedha fighting side by side – forced to be brothers in arms due to circumstances. Finally, Vikram and Vedha have a Mexican stand-off, and it’s Vikram’s turn to riddle Vedha – “Should I let you go because you fought by my side, or should I kill you right here because that’s my job? Which is right?”

THE END. The best cliffhanger ending I’ve ever witnessed in Kollywood yet.

The supporting cast has also done well. There are two female characters (Priya and Chandra), and no item songs. There’s also a strong sense of casual feminism.

Priya is Vikram’s wife. She has tattoos, a serious job, and doesn’t exist just to make her man feel better about himself. She is a lawyer who hates cops. Vikram is a cop who hates lawyers. This friction brings them together, and thus begins a flashback song montage of their courtship. There’s a lot of insinuated sex, and they go to bed wearing normal clothes. It is time we acknowledged that lingerie and lip-biting isn’t always part of foreplay. On their first night, Vikram and Priya take the couch and pass out. Again, it is time we acknowledged that the wedding ceremony takes a physical toll on the bride and groom, and they’re too tired to even think of sex. When Vikram realizes Priya is Vedha’s attorney, he tries to get her to drop the case. Priya responds with “Why don’t you drop the case? Your work is work, but mine isn’t?”

Chandra also has her moments – when she gets slapped, she slaps back; when someone tries to intimidate her, she puts them in their place.

The soundtrack is great, and the songs have replay value. Karuppu Vellai is the recurring theme, and Yaanji serves as the romantic montage number. Tasakku Tasakku is the actual item numbers, where the bad guys have some fun dancing to their own tunes with a side of booze. The rest of the songs seem like they were made by the music director simply because he got commissioned for the job – much like a content writer who has to meet deadlines because they got paid ahead of time in full. The movie has a lot of subtle humor peppered in the most intense scenes, but the grit and pace of the thriller is maintained. You can tell there’s a lot of tension in the movie simply by checking out Madhavan’s nipples. After Batman, his nipples are the sharpest. This might also explain why he never wears a bulletproof vest.

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Roasts and Toasts

The Roast of Iru Mugan

 

Iru Mugan roughly translates to “two-faced”. This is useless trivia, much like the entire script of this film. Chiyaan Vikram proves once again that he is the Johnny Depp of Kollywood, by donning makeup for roles that don’t really require it. This results in his thespian acting talents getting smothered beneath the layers of said makeup. If the role doesn’t require makeup, Vikram will grow a beard just so he can shave it off and look completely different in the next shot and get through security. Because, facial hair is enough to throw off facial recognition software.

The plot is about a drug called Speed. Which is exactly what the movie lacks. Then, they make references to Hitler – because the story doesn’t have enough juice. This drug is packed into inhalers that makes junkies out of asthma patients. Iru Mugan also puts the junk in junkie. Once inhaled, the drug works by exploiting the adrenaline rush triggered by extreme fear and paranoia, and renders the user capable of superhuman strength and invincibility. Or something like that. The effects and purposes of this drug are specifically ambiguous. But, the effects last only five minutes. Which is also how long Akilan Vinod lasts in bed.

Chiyaan plays a RAW agent, and therefore oozes RAW masculinity, among other things. His name is Akilan Vinod. Not just Akilan. Not just Vinod. Kollywood has graduated to a whole new level where we have started giving fucks about the full names of the characters. Akilan Vinod is what happens when Jason Bourne goes to Mars and realizes Dindigul Thalappakatti has opened a branch there. His beard and hair are inspired by pre-2010 Abhishek Bachchan. When he is clean-shaven, he can also sing, dance, and look like a buff Jim Carrey. He also gives advice to an Indian born Malaysian cop: “Be Indian police. Break rules for a good cause” Indeed, because when it’s for a good cause, rules shmules!

Harris Jayaraj has earned a special mention here, with songs based on names such as Halena, Gazana, and Maya – girls Harris wishes he had dated. That is the only explanation, especially when none of the characters in the movie are named Halena, Gazana, or Maya. The background scores work as auditory cues. Just in case you go blind halfway through the movie, you’ll know what’s happening based on the sounds. Thumping fast paced music stolen from your nearest gym is indicative of action and violence. DOO-BA-DOO, DOO-BI-DA or similar sounding nonsense means the villain’s name is being mentioned. Yes, every single time the bad guy’s name is mentioned. The villain’s theme is basically a Twitter notification.

Nithya Menen is planted in this movie simply so the villain can injure her and crack a pun – “Are you okay, Kanmani?” BOOM! MIC DROP! PEACE OUT! OHHHH! I mean, you’ve got to give it to him, guys. Otherwise she just exists in the background. Other than that one time she goes undercover as a hooker who ran out of a Flamenco concert.

Nayantara plays Meera, another RAW agent. Her role consist of marrying Akilan, getting shot in the head, falling off a cliff, a case of bad memory, and wearing black leather. We all know the rules of Kollywood: If you want to take Nayantara seriously, she needs to be wearing black leather. Meera can also hack into any computer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F3. This also works on touchpads mounted on BMW dashboards.

Now, we come to the main attraction – Love (DOO-BA-DOO, DOO-BI-DA). Also played by Chiyaan Vikram, Love is what you get when you take a gay Joker minus the face paint, and give him a Scar voice. He is admittedly not into women, but nobody really knows who he’s into. His name serves only one purpose, to flip every love related cliché. These are some of the lines from the movie:

  • Love never dies
  • Everyone falls in love, but today Love is going to fall
  • Everyone chases after love, but you have made Love chase after you

If you went Love-dekabaal at this point, it is totally understandable.

He is also a tattoo enthusiast. All his employees – literally every single one of them – has a black heart with a cupid’s arrow inked into their napes. Right under the tattoo is a chip which will send out an EMP and kill said employees if they don’t do their job. This is directly lifted from Kingsman: The Secret Service. But, the censor board had a problem with exploding heads. They strictly prohibit any kind of blowjobs being administered on screen. Love has a special handheld device with an app that has all his employees listed. Fastest Finger First is Love’s version of letting someone go.

But, when a freelancer fucks up, Love applies face powder that burns their skin upon contact. Moral of the story: When a freelancer fucks up, the boss has to make up for it.

The movie ends with Akilan and his wife on a boat. They’ve been apart for four years, and he’s got a severe case of indigo balls. He wants a baby. She says it’ll take too long. He says he’ll get her pregnant in less than 24 hours. How?

You guessed it. Speed. He takes a pump from the inhaler so he can pump the missus. NOT EVEN KIDDING. Take Speed, have baby in 24 hours. Because, fear makes you want to fuck your wife.

Here’s what IMDB has to say about Iru Mugan:

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery; 7.8/10

“Set in Malaysia, this action-packed story follows a dude with dual personalities, as he duels with his various personalities.”

Dude, dual, duel. DOO-BA-DOO, DOO-BI-DA…

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Travelogue

Tirunelveli Junction

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The first thing you will notice the moment you get off the train at Tirunelveli Junction is that the train pulled in late. The Nellai Express strictly follows the concept of Indian Stretchable Time (IST), just like every other upstanding Indian citizen. Well begun is half done, so the train will start on time… and leave it at that. This will also serve as your first introduction to the Alwa (not Halwa) that Tirunelveli is famous for.

For some reason, Kollywood has always made Tirunelveli and its occupants look like a bunch of shady motherfuckers who will chase you from Kanyakumari to Australia, just to put a dent in you with makeshift farming-equipment-inspired weaponry. Contrary to popular belief, the people of Tirunelveli are extremely welcoming, right from the auto rickshaw drivers to the food stall owners. If you aren’t in your senses, it might feel like you travelled all the way here only to get driven around town in a rickshaw, or stuff your face full of Idli, Dosa, Poori, Pongal, and the likes. The only way to escape is to make no eye contact; just keep walking.

While Tamizh is the local language, the dialect sounds like Honey Singh rehearsing his lines sans beats in the background. Yela (not to be confused with Yelawolf) is the Tirunelveli equivalent of Bro, Dude, Dude-bro, Nigga, Fella, Man, Macha, Machi, etc. Every third sentence begins with Yela or ends with ‘la. Exercise caution, though, as this term of endearment is only for informal communication. Do not rope it into conversation while talking to an elder, or you will meet the same fate as Jackie Chan in Rush Hour. Surprisingly, the most soft-spoken lot is the police. The cops regularly belt out instructions to motorists parking on the roads leading into the Junction, and make it a point to address each person with sir or a similar term of respect. “Sir, please do not park your vehicle there. If you refuse, I will be forced to fuck you up, sir. Please, sir.”

Tirunelveli Junction is also home to Arasan, the most happening hangout spot a student can afford. If you are on Tinder and looking for some fun times in Tirunelveli, you don’t have to swipe right or left, the screen will instead flash GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GET TO ARASAN, BITCH! This is where awkward first dates happen, where the girl you want to meet will bring her own posse (unannounced) and you will pay for everyone. No. Questions. Asked. The menu has a decent number of burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, pizzas, and a good selection of drinks and ice-cream. The plush couches, the tables, the chairs, the ketchup, it’s all red. Red for louw, maybe? Oh, stop it, ya! Shy is coming.

The bus stand is the size of a football pitch. If you ever find yourself waiting for a bus, try one of the tea stalls, where the chef will try to speak in Hindi if he feels you are a few shades fairer than everyone else in the vicinity. Once the bus arrives, it is war. Nobody gives a fuck about you getting in and settling into a seat. It is each man for himself. From a distance, it will look like a litter of puppies trying to cram their way back into the womb – ten individuals pushing into one narrow entrance. Fret not, for there is a hack. As soon as the bus pulls in, you must jump up, alley-oop, layup, and slam-dunk your bag into a seat – through the window while you’re still outside the bus. Unfortunately, everyone else has mastered this trick, so only sheer determination and animalistic want for a seat will get you through. If you manage all of that, there’s still getting into the bus. Therefore, an inside man for the job is recommended. This teaches you the most valid life lesson – if you want something bad enough, fuck the shit out of it. Once you are in your seat and the bus has moved, you may steal a few lines from Malcolm X; “Yela, we didn’t land on the seat. The seat landed on us, ‘la!”

Tirunelveli is home to the most interesting food, excluding the Alwa. Sri Sugi is probably the only place where you will get a donut for less than twenty bucks, and the donut will hit the G-spot in your tongue. It is succulent, soft, sugarcoated on the outside and yellow on the inside, and laced with rosewater extract. At nightfall, head back toward the station for the most satisfying street food experience of your short and until now aimless life. Banana leaf adorned benches skirt each side of the street, and you won’t have to choose where to go because someone will eventually pull you by the hand and plonk you down on the stool. The first thing you will have is Idli, you have no choice. As soon as your tush touches down, four white, round, breast implant-like objects will land on your banana leaf. After that, you will be asked what you want to have. Your options – Dosa, Podi Dosa, Mutta Dosa, Chappathi, Half Baayil.

Podi Dosa is when the Molaga Podi is sprinkled all over the inner surface of the Dosa. The moment you take a bite, your mouth will experience hell – extreme heat, extreme spice, extreme sinning. It’s like an STD for your tongue: you know it’s bad, but it was fucking worth it. The Mutta Dosa is what happens when a Dosa and an omelet 69 each other. The Half Baayil is the Tamizhian’s version of Sunny (Leone) side up. Everything you ask for is made right in front of you. So, when you aren’t lost in mandible masturbation, the preparation of what you are about to eat will act as good filler content while waiting for your next item. The best part about dinner on the streets of Tirunelveli – you can eat the entire solar system (including Pluto and all the other banished planets) for a hundred bucks or less.

Alwa for dessert is a must. It is a lubricant for the soul. Hot, fragrant, and floating in clarified butter, with one cashew nut at the top – like Pompeii prior to decimation. But, buying yourself the perfect piece of Alwa is an art honed over many years of trial and error. Santhi Sweets is the real deal, but there are five of them in a row. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the right one, dive into the throng of Alwa addicts, and come out victorious. You will get molested, groped, pinched, mentally undressed, and that’s just if you’re lucky. Your gender does not matter. But, the Alwa makes it all worth it.

The images featured aren’t mine. I was busy either watching where I was going, or busy stuffing my mouth. And, my battery was low. I am human, after all.

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Roasts and Toasts

The Toast of Yennai Arindhaal

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Gautham Vasudev Menon seems to have discovered the formula for an action-adventure cop drama by putting together the better elements of Kaakha Kaakha, Vetaiyaadu Vilayaadu, and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. It seems like he watched through these movies, took notes of what worked and what didn’t, and then penned down the story for Yennai Arindhaal. The evenings spent at Lloyd’s Tea House with his assistant directors seems to have paid off. But, this flick is best enjoyed when you go in with no clue about the plot, and therefore no expectations. Refrain from looking up the story on Wikipedia – that doesn’t mean you’re curious, it just means you’re a dick.

The background score is well done, and the soundtrack does not give one headaches. Harris Jayaraj does not employ a mixture of EDM, dubstep, and gibberish just to drag the song to over four minutes long. He has either worked really hard, or changed his dealer for recyclable sounds. The Ultimate Star churns out the ultimate dance routine, and watching him shake a leg gives one the same joy as watching a child dance to its favorite song, gleefully and fucklessly. The title character narrating parts of the film is reminiscent from Kaakha Kaakha, so is the homicide of the homely yet sensual saree-clad female lead (refer Vetaiyaadu Vilayaadu, Vaaranam Aayiram).

Ever since Sarvam, the trend of killing off the lady love just when everyone in the audience is ready to create her a profile on Tamil Matrimony has become the director’s lucky charm. Filmmakers, if you’re listening, we don’t really mind her tagging along for the entire movie. Just saying. The dialog is crisp, but sinks in after a certain point. The viewer is able to easily guess what the other guy’s comeback will be. The English dialog is sparingly strewn around, just to make sure people don’t complain of Peter induced nausea. Although the cuss words have been muted, Thala delivers expletives like Punda, Baadu, Thevidiya, Fuck, and so on with such eloquence that it leaves the audience squealing with delight.

Anushka can credit her role to be one of the most decent performances of her career. Her character seems deliberately dumbed down to compensate for Trisha (dancer/MILF/stunning in a saree). She is about as brainy as a blonde with a Ph.D.  All it takes to infatuate her is for someone to ask her “Are you okay?” while she barfs away to glory. She is one of those girls who will ask a guy out, but make it sound like she is doing him a favor. She is never lonely, because she always talks to herself – loud enough for the audience to hear.

Arun Vijay essays his role to perfection. Gautham Menon makes the hero look good and the villain even better. He is indubitably the best looking bad guy in Kollywood, period. He can dance without sweat stains the size of Australia blotting under his pits, and run in Krrish-inspired slow-motion. His shirt is always missing the first four buttons, and is responsible for multiple climaxes in the audience before the film’s actual climax. He is also a safe, helmet-handy rider; this indicates his wish to die at the hands of Ajith, rather than Chennai’s nefarious daredevils on the road.

Although Vivek’s role was more of an extended cameo, he does his job well. He reminds us of that one friend we have who cracks jokes at the worst times, yet manages to make us laugh (with ensuing moans and groans of Ayyooooo). The references to Thangapushpam and Minor’s penis were Easter eggs to the staunch Kollywood Rasigan. It is clear that the jokes are not performed, but merely plugged into the conversation. Vivek has been made out to be more of a humorist than a comedian, needing no vulgarity or random acts of violence to induce hysteric laughter.

Gautham Menon sticks with the program and makes his Hitchcock-esque cameo. Daniel Balaji fires two bullets. In case you’re wondering “Daniel Balaji, who?” – exactly!

While the film is packed well, there are a few chinks in the armor. For instance, the villain’s motive for murdering Trisha is unclear. The director is yet to get the knack to make short, staccato dialog look normal. It sounds more like a cued exchange of words – like reading out a WhatsApp conversation. The action sequences are few and exciting, with no shaky cam. All said and done, using the same font from Vetaiyaadu Vilayaadu for this film’s poster could have been avoided. The movie is almost three hours long, with a good payoff in the end.

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