Monday, May 04, 2015

Uthama Villain - a report

I agreed to go for the Uttama Villain show with some trepidation. I am not a big fan of the serious, cerebral movies of Kamal Hassan no matter how good they may be. I would rather settle down and enjoy a mind numbing comedy by him any day, so the name of the movie and the promotional shots made me a little uncomfortable for Kamal in my opinion tends to crowd the screen with him and there will be a lot of self-indulgence on screen. By the interval I had relaxed and the reasons for the same will follow in the lines below.

Uthama Villain (UV) is the story of a dying star making an attempt to achieve immortality by doing something what he does best, that is being a star. I will avoid sharing the plot of the movie for it will not do justice to some sparkling writing by Kamal. His intelligence and wit shines right through and sometimes if you do not pay attention you will miss it. The wordplay and the choice of names for the various characters are enjoyable. The characters (there are so many of them!) are adequate and sometimes you wish you could see more or less of them as they bordered from good to annoying.

The protagonist called Manoranjan (note the name) appears to be partly / wholly autobiographical of Kamal himself and makes you wonder if UV is Kamal’s attempt at leaving behind a masterpiece. Kamal plays Manoranjan a movie star who is married, has a young adult son, a patronizing father in law and has an affair with his doctor. On knowing that he is terminally ill he decides to make a movie with his mentor played by K Balachander which will be called Uthama Villain, with Manoranjan playing the role of Uthaman. If this is confusing you should watch the movie.

While Kamal scores as the writer, the choreographer in few dance sequences, songs, lyrics and invariably in the acting sequences, he fails when he succumbs to the abyss of self-indulgence. Manoranjan stays with you long after you leave the cinema rather than Uthaman because of Kamal’s subtle scenes like the one with his son when he reveals his illness. Uthaman fails in his attempts to stay in the mind despite some genuinely funny lines including an unexpected bit of toilet humour.

As you leave the theatre it slowly hits you; despite the explanation of the title given by Manoranjan in the movie you have a sneaky feeling that the title of the movie is again autobiographical. It is about a person who is perceived as a villain in real life because of his mistakes but is actually an Uthaman because it was circumstances that made him into a villain.

What did I like:
-         Story and concept
-         Kamal the actor as Manoranjan
-         The support cast
-         The humour
-         The sub text that keeps you interested and attentive
-         The behind the scenes look into the life of a superstar

What did I dislike:
-         The Uthaman movie was long, at times annoying, sometimes feeling unwanted
-         Pooja Kumar has nice legs and hands as they are prominently showcased but her expressions are annoying and the lip sync is terrible
-         The graphics, especially those that were used for the animals were amateurish, for instance the fearless princess is clearly seen stroking air instead of the tiger
-         The music for all the orchestration is largely unremarkable and only the first song registers, probably because of the airplay on radio
-         The opening song is terrible and Kamal the choreographer fails because you see an overweight actor trying to do something that looks like he is trying too hard to prove himself with a heroine who is looking like his daughter

What did I miss:
-         Except for self-indulgence there is no rationale for using the folk art of Theyyam in the movie, I really missed the connect there
-         I was intrigued by the introduction of the legend Subbu Arumugam and the premise of a fusion of villupaatu and theyyam held a lot of promise but except for the first few opening bars the villupaatu disappeared
-         The ensemble cast including some great actors had little to do
-         The editing could have been better, I believe that the trimming was done based on feedback after release and parts of the UV were snipped but it left gaps that could have been done better
-         Kamal the underplayed actor, surely more of Manoranjan and less of Uthaman would have made this a better movie

Bottom line: Go watch it, it is a good movie by a talented superstar but it falls short of being great because the star succumbs to the charms of being a super star.

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