Tamil Movie Reviews:
With cricket being the passion and obsession that it is, it is surprising that more movies haven't been made about it. Hindi cinema atleast has Lagaan in the genre of a 'cricket movie' but as far as Tamil cinema goes, our only claim to fame so far is I Love You Daa, a film that was an insult both to the game and to cinema itself. Debutant director Venkat Prabhu rights the situation with Chennai 600028, a film about local cricket. Fun, youthful and stylish, it is a film for both fans of cricket and cinema.
The R.A Puram Sharks team has never won the local cricket tournament and has been beaten in the finals the last 3 years by the Royapuram Rockers team. This year's tournament has just been announced and the Sharks are determined to win it. But the team runs into some issues as its captain Karthik(Siva) and key bowler Palani(Nitin Satya) end up fighting. Meanwhile, Raghu(Jai), a Rockers player, moves to R.A Puram and the Sharks view him with suspicion.
I never thought I'd say this about a director but Venkat Prabhu's wisest decision in making this movie is that he has aimed low. Having picked cricket as the theme, he hasn't tried to make his movie about the game at the international, national or even state level. The logistics for presenting the game convincingly at those levels would have been daunting, leading to amateurishness and silliness. Instead he has focused on local cricket, played in the streets and empty lots in Chennai. Apart from the smaller scale making things easier for him, it helps the movie create an immediate connection with the viewer since almost everybody has played street cricket at one point or another and so can identify with the protagonists.
Chennai 600028 is light-hearted and fun. When other directors are trying to overwhelm us by upping the ante in aspects like sentiments and violence, Venkat Prabhu takes the opposite route and keeps things light throughout. Characters express what they feel through offhand comments rather than in big showdowns. There are misunderstandings, fights and other complications but they aren't tackled as though they are life-or-death issues. And what's at stake in the big final match isn't the guys' lives, livelihoods or loves. Its just their egos and a cup. This light-heartedness without the film being an overt comedy, makes it really stand out.
While the light-heartedness helps almost every aspect of the film, one thing it doesn't help is the romance. Aravind's romance with Cristine is too cursory and appears to have been added as an afterthought. It is cliched and lacks both passion and charm. The other romance involving Vijayalakshmi doesn't fare much better but that can be overlooked more easily since it atleast paves the way for the main conflict in the film.
Inspite of the fun nature of the film, the all-important match at the end does manage to raise some tension and this is solely because of the characters. We may not identify or sympathise with them but its impossible not to like them. They could have been plucked out of any area in Chennai and this realism helps make us feel that it is our friends who are playing. Their conversations are witty but very natural and even the few double entendres sprinkled around don't feel vulgar (as a bonus, we also get a take-off on the most spoof-worthy piece of dialog in Chandramukhi).
The film's ending really reveals Venkat Prabhu's wish to be different. He gives us exactly what we expect but not in the way - nor at the time - we expect it and so manages to finish the film on a wonderfully ironic note. Kudos!
The film is very, very stylish visually. From the casual, conversational introduction of its characters to the final match, the film is glossy and slick and slo-mos, split screens and other camera tricks keep it lively and vibrant throughout. Premgi's background music also plays a big part in this and after Pattiyal, this is another movie where the fast score goes hand in hand with the visuals to make up many spirited sequences. A simple case in point is the scene Jai makes his first visit to Nitin's house. Not since Agni Natchathiram has two people simply staring at each other been picturized with such energy!
The cast is made up of both new faces and actors who seem familiar but who we can't really place. All the actors do a competent job though no one stands out in particular. Gangai Amaran's son takes on the role of the movie's comedian. The 2 actresses don't fare as well as the actors. Ilavarasu is his usual witty self. Yuvan Shankar Raja delivers a suitably youthful, fun soundtrack though the movie could have done without atleast 2 of songs. Un Paarvai... is the pick of the numbers with the picturization ensuring that the sequence doesn't feel slow. Yaaro... is also melodious but is one of the numbers affected by occurring too close to another song. Ulle Vaa... is used suitably at a couple of places. Jalsa... and Saroja Saamaan Nikaalo... are fun songs that make us smile.