Reviews for Aayitha Ezhuthu

Ayutha Ezhuthu

Balaji Balasubramaniam

(c) Balaji Balasubramaniam
http://www.geocities.com/bbreviews/2004/aezhuthu.html

After dealing with matters of the heart in Kannathil Muthamittaal and Alaipayuthey, Manirathnam once again takes up a social issue in his latest film Aaydha Ezhuthu. Here he takes on politics as a whole, providing his opinion on what is necessary to cleanse it. Though the movie contains the usual Manirathnam film trademarks like strong performances, stunning cinematography and a vibrant soundtrack, it is the fresh narrative structure and the character-based rather than issue-based approach that mark the movie with the unmistakable Manirathnam stamp, raising it quite a few notches above the average Tamil movie. Aayudha Ezhuthu revolves around three characters - Inba(Madhavan), a henchman who dreams of making it big in politics; Michael(Surya), an idealist who believes that students entering politics is the only way of cleaning that cesspool; and Arjun(Sidharth), a playboy for whom a life of fun in USA is the only ambition. The three men, from different strata of society and with radically different views on life, couldn't be more dissimilar but an incident on Napier bridge makes their lives intersect. None of their lives are the same again. I sincerely feel that Kamalhassan and Manirathnam are the only two personalities trying to take Tamil cinema to the next level (though there are quite a few trying to pull it down to a lower level!). Not surprisingly, these are the same two directors who have attempted narrative structures different from the usual chronological structure for their movies this year. While Virumaandi let us view the same situations in two different scenarios, Manirathnam opens the movie with a crucial incident and then doubles back in time to offer us a glimpse of the lives of the protagonists leading upto it. So we see the lives of the three men in parallel timelines and get the chance to view the same incident from different perspectives. This lends a fresh touch to the proceedings. While this organization is innovative and makes the proceedings seem fresh, the split does not seem well-balanced. Once we see the three characters meet, we are impatient to see how this impacts their lives. So we tend to be a little impatient through the flashbacks(which take up two-thirds of the movie). Madhavan and Surya have a couple of meetings, both intentional and not, before their meeting on the bridge. But Sidharth's past is completely unconnected to theirs and his flashback seems more like a romantic filler rather than an integral part of the story. Also, the proceedings once the flashbacks end seem rushed and we don't get a satisfactory payoff deserving of the buildup. The whole approach to politics is rather vague and simplistic and there no sense of closure at the end. Manirathnam succeeds in creating three characters completely different from each other and crafting a storyline where the intersection of their lives seems completely possible. Madhavan and Sidharth both have enough shades of gray to earn our interest right away though their characters are handled differently. Madhavan's fluctuating moods lead to several raw and powerful scenes, especially with Meera Jasmine(the scene after her return from the hospital is a standout with its simmering emotions). On the other hand, Sidharth's unfocused, meandering life leads to several delightful one-liners. He is someone who says "thank you" when his father accuses him of being selfish! (on a side note, Sidharth's dad is refreshingly different and pragmatic from other screen dads who routinely scream at their good-for-nothing son). Surya at times seems perfect enough to fit right into a Vikraman movie but his idealist thoughts and ambitions grow on us easily. Technically, the movie is top-notch as expected. Ravi.K.Chandran's cinematography is spectacular whether capturing the green outdoors or the glitzy, lighted indoors. Note especially the predominance of a particular color(red for Madhavan, green for Surya and blue for Sidharth) for each of the three main characters, that reflects their characters and attitude towards life. Rehman's tunes match the mood and fit in well. As far as song picturizations go, I was torn between the lack of the trademark, exhilarating picturizations that inhabit Manirathnam movies and acceptance of Manirathnam's intent to blend the songs in. Still, the camera's acrobatics in Goodbye Nanbaa... and the grandeur of Jana gana mana... catch the eye. Nenjam...'s picturization though was the biggest disappointment, especially considering the wonderfully naughty lyrics. Madhavan scoops up the acting honors with a terrific performance that couldn't be father away from his loverboy image. He is completely believable as the violent rowdy and speaks volumes with his eyes. Surya continues his recent, amazing streak with another strong, credible performance. He speaks his dialogs with just the right amount of sincerity and conviction that makes the devotion of the people around him entirely believable. Sidharth clearly suffers from a Boys hangover but luckily, that is exactly the mode required for his role most of the time. Meera Jasmine gets the meaty role among the heroines and convincingly expresses the "can't live with him; can't live without him" nature of her character. Trisha's face seems to register a lot more expressions than before as she unwillingly falls for Sidharth. Isha Deol is more of a passerby in her few scenes with Surya. Bharathiraja makes a very believable, down-to-earth villain and his sly smile, especially during his conversations with Surya, is right on the mark(Surya matches him smile for smile too!).

Aayitha Ezhuthu / Yuva

Baradwaj Rangan

(c) The Economic Times, Madras Plus - May 27, 2004

'Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva is really Professor Mani Ratnam's moral science lesson to India's youth. The portion with hired killer Inba (Madhavan)/Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan) could well be titled Crime Doesn't Pay. The life of selfless activist Michael (Surya/Ajay Devgan) is a Serve Your Society appeal, while self-serving yuppie Arjun (Siddharth/Vivek Oberoi) plays out a Redemption Is Always Possible scenario. Oh, and let's not forget the overall message: Good Usually Triumphs Over Evil. Sounds drab, right? It's actually anything but. From the opening credits that zip across like speeding highway cars to the eye-popping climactic action sequence, 'Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva' is an explosion of filmmaking energy first -- and secondly, only secondly, is it an example of how to successfully fold messages and ideas into an overarchingly broad entertainment. The pre-release insinuation about 'Amores Perros' being an inspiration turns out partly true. There's definitely a stylistic similarity -- in the hyper-cut frenzy of the accident that links the three protagonists from three walks of life; in the way this accident is revisited before branching off into each of their stories, chapter-titles and all. For that matter, the relationship dynamics between Inba/Lallan and Shashi (Meera Jasmine/Rani Mukerji) echo those between Val Kilmer and Ashley Judd in 'Heat'. Why look only towards foreign shores? Mani Ratnam's own work is referenced more than anything else. The beach song is a Gen Y update of 'Vaa Vaa Anbe' ('Agni Natchatiram'), Shashi's leaving her parents (against their wishes) for her man is a tad 'Saathiya'-like, Inba's wish that his children shouldn't grow up like him is right out of 'Nayakan', and rowdy-idealist Michael is a more fleshed-out Karthik from 'Mouna Raagam'. (His mother even exclaims, like Revathi in the latter movie, that she hates not knowing where he'll turn up next -- at a lockup or in a hospital.) The point is, the patches may be from all over, but why complain when the resulting quilt is so ravishingly crafted? Ravi K Chandran's cinematography is exquisitely invisible. Each scene delivers, through light and colour, the exact intended mood, without clamouring for look-what-a-great-shot acclaim. AR Rahman contributes not just a terrific soundtrack, but also an evocative background score with plaintive country-western guitar twangs, full-blooded Orffian chants and 'alaap'-style vocalisations. The dialogues often add vital humour to the drama -- after a Lallan-Shashi showdown, she reveals she's pregnant; he retorts, "Baap kaun hai?" -- and had 'Virumaandi' not already viewed the same incident from several viewpoints, Mani Ratnam's bold, distinctive narration would have seemed even more sensational. 'Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva' isn't all technical exterior; its heart beats with three very different kinds of love. Inba/Lallan and Shashi are bonded through the ages -- as the song goes, he's 'kabhi neem kabhi shahad kabhi naram kabhi sakht'; every loathsome trait comes with a loving one, and she just can't let go. The Arjun-Meera (Trisha/Kareena Kapoor) affair, in contrast, begins as a casual hormonal fling, which, again, differs from the more high-minded Michael-Radhika (Esha Deol) bond, born of friendship and shared ideals. These love stories unfold deliberately, and this helps to savour the relationships. As Radhika drifts aimlessly, flush with Michael's declaration of love, or when Arjun and Meera take a bus ride on their last date, the pushing-fifty Mani Ratnam proves once again that there aren't many better portrayers of young love -- or of youth itself. Watching Radhika superstitiously tie a thread around Michael's wrist, or hearing the US-crazy Arjun talk about tonsuring his children at the Pittsburgh Balaji temple, you see that, for all the posturing, religion is still a part of young India. At the same time, this movie about youth invites its audience to be a little mature, to dig in a little deeper. When three lives are presented in three distinct quarters -- as opposed to being detailed throughout the course of a film -- only so much can be shown, so some extrapolation becomes necessary. You may wonder, for instance, why Arjun's priorities shift so conveniently, after just a few meetings with Michael, but then you think back and say maybe it's also because he's fallen in love -- his transformation is as much Meera's doing as Michael's. Finally, we get to the fourth quarter, and Mani Ratnam, after carefully spinning three engrossing narrative threads, suddenly throws his hands up in the air. The last half-hour is crammed with all sorts of tying-up devices, many of which don't work at all, especially the political wish-fulfillment scenarios that make the one-day-CM idealism of 'Mudhalvan' look like gritty social realism. It's great to want to show denim coexisting with 'khadi' -- this makes for a knockout visual as well -- but that kind of accomplishment needs to be in a movie of its own, not just in the scrambling-to-a-finish climatic portions. In 'Yuva', at least, the ho-hum political bad guy (Om Puri) is merely a smooth-talking gasbag, but (director) Bharatiraja, playing the same role in 'Aayitha Ezhuthu', looks and speaks as if he's stepped right out of the gutter. Are we really to believe that college idealism can triumph so easily over such ruthlessness? So 'Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva' begins with a bang and ends with a whimper, but the bang lasts well into three-quarters of the film. You could say that that makes the end all the more disappointing, or you could take a leaf from Mani Ratnam's upbeat ending and feel satisfied that so much works so well -- especially in 'Aayitha Ezhuthu'. The gritty Tamil version works better than the (relatively) glossy 'Yuva', primarily due to its cast. Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukerji are impressive, but not as heartbreakingly intense as Madhavan and Meera Jasmine. Vivek Oberoi and Kareena Kapoor are fine, but Siddharth and Trisha look less like happening movie stars, more like the Every-Yuppie they're playing. Only Surya and Ajay Devgan -- and Esha Deol, who's better in 'Yuva' because she seems more comfortable with the language -- even out; both take some getting used to as college students, but both pull you in with their passion. 'Aayitha Ezhuthu' is also more rounded because it has scenes that 'Yuva' doesn't. An early Michael-Inba brawl puts a personal face to their relationship, while Michael and Lallan (in 'Yuva') are just strangers till the accident. Arjun in the Tamil version faces two life-altering experiences -- with Michael's mother, with Meera (at a railway station) -- that his Hindi counterpart doesn't, so it's easier to accept the subsequent transformation of the former, the "vellaikaaranukku kooja thookkara case" as Meera so eloquently puts it. So, yes, if you had to choose at gunpoint, go with 'Aayitha Ezhuthu', but no such persuasion should be needed to make you watch at least one of the versions. 'Aayitha Ezhuthu' may score over 'Yuva', but either one is way more exciting, more stimulating and more entertaining than anything we usually get to see.