Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kadhalan: how about no?

Shankar, one of my favourite Indian directors, began his career in the early 1990's with Gentleman, which I haven't seen but I hear is not all that good. His next film, the Prabhudeva-Nagma starrer Kadhalan (1994), was a commercial hit with a popular A.R. Rahman soundtrack, but his film career really hit a stride when he made Mudhalvan (which he later remade in Hindi, and titled Nayak: The Real Hero, starring Anil Kapoor), a story of an everyman who gets to be Chief Minister for 24 hours, does a lot of good in the role and therefore creates a scandal for the political establishment.

Considering this background, Kadhalan (which, as the title suggests, centers entirely on a love story between the leads) is sort of Shankar before Shankar himself knew the kinds of films he was best at making. The lack of a social message is partly what makes this film so uninteresting in my eyes. The love story isn't believable, original or striking enough to make for a good story, and the villain isn't even bad enough. Coupled with some very questionable scenes (like the torture of Prabhudeva's character by a female police officer), and in terms of plot this film just doesn't feel very worth watching.

The positives come from a couple of comical scenes (not provided by the film's comedian Vadivelu, who's so unbearably unfunny it hurts) and the indeed memorable soundtrack. The song visuals include excellent dancing by Prabhudeva, and there's even a couple of scenes where he does some awesome classical dancing. (The blogosphere's resident expert on classical dancing films, MinaiMinai, posted her thoughts on the movie here.) A fun piece of trivia is that my favourite actor Vikram actually dubbed for Prabhudeva in this film. (Don't ask me why, I honestly couldn't tell you..)

I don't want to rag on the film too much. It does have some good bits and pieces that remind me of my favourite Shankar films, and it was obviously a very popular film in its time. But overall, it simply didn't win me over like his others have, and I'm only holding onto the DVD for the fun songs.

Speaking of which, here's one of them - enjoy!

Take it easy!


dustdevil liz said...

I really wondered about the torture scenes. On the one hand, it seems really unusual in a South Indian movie to have the hero shown defeated and vulnerable. On the other hand, these scenes went on soooo long, it seemed like they were fetishizing it a little bit too much.

veracious said...

I think the point was to show how much hardship the leads would go through for the sake of their love, but yeah, it was excessive. :/

icyHighs said...

I don't remember the movie, but the songs were massive in my childhood. Prabhu Deva was a phenomenon too, with his breakdancing and evry other kid trying to imitate him.

My reading of Shankar is very contradictory to yours - I thought Gentleman was his best movie. The one with Asihwarya Rai in a double role his worst. And everything else just in between, with maybe "Indian" starring Kamal Hassan a little better than the others. The latest, Enthiran, was just terrible.

Will give him credit for constantly featuring great soundtracks though, thanks to a certain A.R. Rahman!

veracious said...

I've not seen Gentleman, so don't know how much I'd rate it. I love Shankar's "message" films, though.

Anniyan, Indian and Sivaji are probably my top Shankar films, though I also enjoyed Nayak and Nanban, and thought Boys was okay.

Enthiran had some funny scenes, but plot was a total mess!

Ramsu said...

Ah yes, Kadhalan. I remember what a craze the songs were when it came out, and how the movie itself was a colossal disappointment.

Shankar had, for a while, this weird pattern where his odd movies were socially conscious populist popcorn fare that nevertheless worked during their running time (Gentleman, Indian, Mudhalvan, Sivaji, Nanban), whereas his even movies (Kadhalan, Jeans, Boys) were romances that made you want to barf. Enthiran was the one that broke the pattern -- despite being his eighth film, it was mostly watchable.

veracious said...

The songs are good, but yeah, the film not so much.. I guess this was back in the day when you could get a huge crowd into theaters just on the strength of the soundtrack.

I love his socially conscious populist popcorn - Enthiran was just a mess of him trying out every tool in the CGI toolbox, but entertaining as hell despite terrible plot/characters. I hope he goes back to socially conscious mass-entertainers. It's his niche, and what he does best, IMO. Boys, Jeans, Kadhalan - all films I could've easily missed out on.

sakthi said...

Strangely, I couldn't sit through the first half of Sivaji. What with all the gyan about Tamil culture, tamil women and all the praises of how homely the heroine is. And then she wearing the most revealing clothes in the song sequences. Couldn't sit through the hypocrisy