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Reviews

Mankatha – Movie review

Movie: Mankatha (Tamil)
Star Cast: Ajith, Arjun, Trisha, Lakshmi Rai, Andrea, Anjali and Premji Amaren
Director: Venkat Prabhu

Venkat Prabhu is known in the kollywood industry for delivering youthful movies with different storylines and screenplays every time. With Mankatha, he has lived up to his reputation. Apart from the story line, there is innovation in almost every field of the film track like photography and stunts. He has made conscious attempt to deviate from the conventional approach.

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Kullanari Kootam – Movie Review

Looking into the recent trend, Tamil movies tend to portray Madurai as an uncivilized village filled with uncouth and loud mouthed villains, hillbilly heroes among people hacking each other to death with sickles and machetes as part of their regular lifestyle. Yes, Madurai is not a metro city, but it definitely is a peaceful town and among the last few cities on earth where Tamil is spoken like Tamil and the Tamil culture is still alive.

The moment the Kullanari Kootam movie started with the title credits on foreground and Madurai cityscape in background, I thought this is yet another movie set to deface Madurai. But as the Movie progressed I felt that though they have not captured the real pulse of Madurai lifestyle, they are not here to tarnish the city’s image. It’s a story of a random young man from a middle class family and his love story filled with adventurous twists and funny friends.

Vetri (Vishnu Vishal) is a jobless MBA graduate loitering around harmlessly and aimlessly. He spends his happy little life on the Rs 10 per day allowance from his father. He lives with his family in a small house in Madurai and a few songs and scenes have been shot in typical Madurai landmarks. There ends the Madurai connection for this movie. Vishnu’s father is a strict headmaster and he despises the entire lot of policemen for some unknown reason. Vishnu accidentally recharges a random mobile number when his father entrusts him with the responsibility of recharging his prepaid mobile balance. Apparently (predictably) the random number belongs to a pretty girl Priya (Remya Nambeesan). A few missed calls and some staged encounters leads to love blossom between these two. Priya’s father is a policeman and he promises to give her away in marriage to Vetri if and only if he becomes a policeman. And by now if you had concluded that this is a typical kollywood plot, you are wrong.The second half of the movie shows how Vetri meets with a gang of good-hearted youngsters aspiring to become policemen and together how they manage to become policemen.

This is Vishnu Vishal’s 4th movie and in all four movies his character is almost the same: a naive but straight forward youngster with a will and wish to win.  Maybe this is what he does the best. It suits him and he has executed the role perfectly in this movie. Remya is pretty and pleasing to watch (She resembles Divya Spandana @ Kuthu Ramya at many instances). She has very little to do in the movie, but with whatever is there to perform she has done well. The casting for Vetri’s family members are near perfect. Everyone has done well and fit the bill. But the real highlights are the Kullanari kootam (Fennec Fox gang). All four guys have done an exceptional job. Their dialogue delivery, portrayal of down-to-earth attitude and innocence is commendable.

This is a debut film for director Sribalaji. He has tried something different yet so familiar. He could have avoided a lot of over-stretched scenes and cut-short the movie by a good 30-45 minutes. The storyline is neither brilliant nor too dumb. He has delivered a movie that is enjoyable by a wider audience. After a long gap I come across a decent Tamil movie without unnatural heroism, illogical drama, intolerable sentiments, violence, vulgarity or absurdity. Though the movie hasn’t got the best of the screenplay, plot or music, it’s a feel good movie that keeps you entertained for most of the running time.


Manmathan Ambu – Review

The promos of ManMathanAmbu, could push a feeling that it’s a full length Masala comedy flick. But on the contrary, ManMathanAmbu is a mix of many feelings. The movie is so mixed up that we end up confused about its genre. Kamal Hassan comedy flicks like Panchathanthiram, Avvai Shanmugi and Sathileelavathi and  emotional genre like Anbe Sivam, Guna and Mahanadhi were master pieces. In this movie he tried to marry the genres, but the stitching fails to hold them together.

AMBUjakshi (Trisha) is a famous heroine in the Tamil and MATHANagopal (Madhavan) an heir to a big businessman, is her fiance. Ex-Military man R. MANnar (Kamal) is a private security agent and as the story is crafted around these characters, the movie has been titled ManMathanAmbu.

Mathanagopal is always suspicious of Ambu’s character and he accuses her of infidelity. Enraged by this she looses control, while driving his Hummer and becomes a cause for an accident with a white Ford. But before they could check out what happened to the occupants of the Ford, a crowd of Ambu’s fans mob them. In a hurry to move away from the place, Mathan bribes the police and they move out. Ambu also decides that they must part ways and she goes on a vacation to France. Mathan wants to prove her infidelity and hires Mannar to get evidence. Mannar goes undercover and this covers the first half of the movie. The story building is pretty good and the sequence of events are kept pretty crisp and fast paced. With complexities like this in a Kamal movie, the audience would definitely expect splitting humor when complexities untangle.

But as we enter into the second half, tragedy genre starts taking shape. Apparently the occupants in the Ford were Kamal and his wife. She was killed in the accident and Ambu discovers this and is greatly saddened. There is one particular scene where she tells him about this and Kamal reacts to her confession. First its shock, then a stint of anger, then acceptance, finally forgiving. Even if one mutes the volumes, Kamal’s expression would easily tell you his feelings. Brilliant acting made to look so natural and performed with ease. No wonder Kamal is an Award winning performer. He is exceptionally talented.

Then the storyline jumps back to comedy genre and the complexities start to untangle.  Sangeetha who plays the role of Trisha’s friend has done a perfect job to fit her role. Her dialogues and dialogue delivery are so natural and molds with her character. Trisha seems to have lost the glamor quotient and gained a lot of acting skills. Looks like a good trade-off. She is pretty when its required and she is serious when the story line demands. Madhavan has done a good job too, but he is getting too stereotyped with his characters. A little bit of difference in his dialogue delivery style would have done great difference. But nevertheless he fits the bill.

The climax is a little twisted. The story takes a dramatic turn. Its funny, but not splitingly funny. Running around in circles, twisting words, jumbled letters and happy ending are director KS Ravikumar’s trademarks. A little bit of reduction in the intensity of tragedy and some subtlety in dialogues about sex and infidelity, would have made this movie a total entertainer. But still its a good movie to watch, especially if you are an ardent Kamal fan like me.


Swift VDi – Test Drive [5 min review]

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So far I have checked 3 hatchback and I was not completely satisfied with any of them. Either it was the high price or the low spec that kept them at bay. Maruthi Suzuki Swift is one of the most common hatchback you can find in Indian roads. It’s no more a car that can make heads turn. But the design of the car is such that, it can be modified and pimped up to make heads turn. Maruthi cars in India have been a success story from day one. There is a Maruthi authorized service center in almost every part of the country and even a basic car mechanic can fix the car in minutes. No other car manufacturer has studied the pulse of the nation and its roads, like Maruthi Suzuki has mastered. Most of their cars have a good resale value and buying a Maruthi is a very safe bet. My Dad’s first car was Maruthi 800. It was an integral part of our family. The tag line “India comes home in Maruthi”and that advertisement connects with us as much as it connects with any Indian family.

A Maruthi is already parked in our garage. It’s a Maruthi Swift Dzire VDi, the sedan version of Maruthi Swift. This car is totally awesome and its the best value for money one can get in Indian Automotive market. But we already have a Maruthi, and I was reluctant to get another Swift into the house. With much reluctance and with not much options left, I called for a Test drive. The local dealer got the Demo car. It was a Swift VDi version and I expected it to have all the features of the Swift dZire VDi. But it doesn’t come with the integrated Audio system like the one in dZire. Plus there were a few other minor features missing.

I don’t have anything new to talk about the Swift. But this particular Demo car was an aging horse. It was not maintained well and it didn’t give me the driving pleasure unlike my year old Swift dZire. So I sent away the car and called up a friend who owns the Swift, but the petrol version. After driving it around, I felt that I must definitely drive a diesel version, if at all I have to choose a Swift. The driving experience in a petrol version Swift is much different than the diesel version.

Still waiting to test drive a Diesel Swift and the decision is more likely to be in favor of Maruthi.


Tata Indica Vista Aura 1.3 QJD – Test Drive [5 min review]

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Indica Vista was on my mind and on the list from the day I saw one on the road. At first sight, I didn’t realize it was an Indica.  I assumed it must be some Korean make or something else. I liked the exterior design, especially the parts near the rear door. After sighting one Black and White Limited Edition Vista on road, I almost decided that this would be my next car.

I wanted to test drive the Vista. I called the local dealers, but the people on phone were pushing for Punto, because I inquired about Punto with them earlier. So I walked into the showroom in person and demanded a test drive for Vista. Unfortunately, I walked in on a sunday and the sales person didn’t have keys to the Demo vehicle. So he took me to the service station and gave keys to a vista TDi. It was a basic version as well. As I stepped into the vehicle. I was totally disappointed. The dashboard was empty. It felt like I am in some cheap vehicle. As I started the engine, I sounded like the very old Tata Indiaca or the Indicab Diesel. I didn’t want to stay any longer. I jumped out of the car and asked him to bring a 1.3 Quadrajet to my place the very next day.

Next day as expected, he got an Aura 1.3 QJD (Quadrajet Diesel) to my place. The dashboard was pretty much the same. Except that it had a 2 DIN audio system with cheap speakers fitted. But the engine was awesome. It’s from the Fiat stables and it has a rock solid reputation. Surprisingly there was a dip in power when AC was on. This was quite disappointing. The gear box (Fiat OEM) was smooth except for the shift from the 1 to 2 gear. The driver seat was comfortable to an extent. The rear leg room was very spacious and the boot space was average. The steering rim was very thin. It lacked the sporty feel. The wheels are 14 inch, but they look tiny as compared to the body of the car.

The centrally placed instrument panel was not comfortable at all. I hated it in Palio as well. This is a good vehicle for Indian roads. It offers good value for money. But you get what you pay for. Also Tata Service stations don’t have a good reputation around here. They seem to treat all Indicas as cab vehicles. The design is good, and so is the engine. But there is a gap in the marriage. This car lacks the luxury factors of a B+ segment car.

This is another car, I am taking off the list…


Skoda Fabia Active – Test Drive [5 min review]

Following up on my activity of choosing a car to buy, I test drove a few other vehicles. I had a feeling that Skoda Fabia will be expensive, but I didn’t have any idea on the car. Fabia looks a lot like the Swift. But its build and quality is nowhere near any of the other hatchback available right now in the market. I was bent on getting the Diesel version in any car I choose. I knew it was 1-1.5 lakh more than the petrol variants, but still on the long run and for long runs, Diesel was a better option for me.

I was totally clueless about Skoda and I didn’t know the dealer in my city. So I went to their site and filled in a form for Test drive. A few hours later, I got a call, not from Skoda, but from Carwale.com. The sales person on the call told that they have tie up with Skoda and they will ask the local dealer to contact me for a Test Drive. That didn’t happen for atleast 3 days. Then a guy called from the local dealer and he promised to send a test drive vehicle.

Skoda Fabia - Built for Quality

Skoda Fabia - Built for Quality

The next day I got the vehicle for test drive. It was Fabia Ambiente 1.4 PD TDI. The exterior was not so impressive to me. But the quality and finishing spoke for itself. The interior was so spacious that I forgot that I was sitting in a hatchback. No wonder it’s a premium hatchback. I was surprised to know that it was a Volkswagen engine. Under its hood was the famous TDI engine : a registered trademark of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft. The steering column was totally adjustable. It can be tilted, pushed or pulled. It had a OEM 2 DIN Audio system. The height adjustable driver seat was very comfortable. But the dash-board was quite dull with grey colored interiors. It look quite bland and not fancy. The rear seating was not very spacious. It can hold 2 adults comfortably. The boot had quite an innovative design with adjustable tray. It was spacious. The tyres were tubeless and the wheels were alloy.

The drive was pleasant, though nothing extra-ordinary to mention about. The reverse gear mechanism was something new. The first gear toggles as the rear gear, when pressed down. The engine was noisy compared to Fiat’s 1.3 MJD. But it’s quite bearable. Experts say the Fabia’s 3-cylinder engine will make the car capable of delivering a fuel economy of 14-15km per litre.

That was all I checked as I was running late for a meeting. I got the price quote and found it to be 2-3 lakh more than the other cars in the segment. But it’s quite justifiable. The reason for the price difference are:

  • 1.4 TDI engine
  • The Alloy Wheels
  • The 2 DIN Audio System
  • Height Adjustable Seats
  • and the overall build quality

Overall its a Sedan packed into a hatchback. It’s a very powerful vehicle and its ideal for the both long drives and city shunt. To me, its bit over-priced. I am not yet ready to get into the premium segment. If I am ready to pay 8 lakh for a hatchback, then why not go for a sedan? It all comes to a list of “what-you-want”. And this car exceeds my list and I am striking it off the list.

Next Please…


Grande Punto Emotion Pack – Test Drive [5 min review]

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Within minutes of calling the dealer, they sent a fully loaded Fiat Grande Punto Emotion Pack to my door step. Now let me explain where I am coming from and what is my mental model and requirements before choosing to test drive the Punto.

I own a Hyundai Santro for the past 10 years or so. It’s a aging war-horse and it’s not able to keep up with the daily traffic battles. I also own a Swift DZire DZire “>VDi. This is an awesome car but quite huge to drive around the city and find a safe parking lot. I drive around 20 km per day and occasionally there is a need to go on long drives. So I have started looking out for a good option. The Bank is already after me for EMIs towards DZire. So I wanted a car that will not burn a big hole in my small pocket.

The cars in my choice / segment are: Swift VDI / VXI, Indica Vista Quadrajet, Skoda Fabia, Grande Punto Emotion / Emotion Pack. The cars which are not in the menu are Maruthi RITZ and A-Star (hate their design), Hyundai i20 (too expensive and not a value for money) and Hyundai i10 (almost every other person has it).

Today I start with the Grande Punto. Grande Punto (henceforth mentioned as GP) appeals to me because of the chubby exterior design and the solid looks. I didn’t anything other than that it looks good and a couple of my friends own it. So I decided to test drive it.

I noticed that from a distance the headlights are much like those of Indica Vista. But that’s not a bother. I got a Red Emotion pack to test drive. As I sat in the driver’s seat (I am 5’10” tall) I felt comfortable with my legs stretched out completely. The seat was comfortable contrary to many reviews which claim it to be non-ergonomical. The window and mirror controls in the door were placed exactly at the right place and the steering mounted controls were highly tempting. The front and side views were decent and better than Swift DZire. But the rear view seems to be a bit squeezed. Lot of blind spots in there. ABC (Accelerator, Brake, Clutch) were quite easy and free to operate. Hey! who switched sides, the Indicator and Wiper controls? That’s quite annoying. Felt like using a Sony Ericsson mobile after using Nokia for years. Nothing fancy in the displays, except that you would see a small multifunctional display to read your mobile messages, call details, FM tuner, etc.

The dashboard was minimalistic and the plastic used felt not-so-cheap. The emotion pack model comes with a music player and I would say it sounded average like any other OEM fitted sound system. Did not check the AC vents but the power of AC was quite good. Did not fiddle much with the controls, but they were conveniently placed both for the driver and the navigator.

The seats were dual tone. Barely noticed it as it was black and gray combination. The glove compartment has the USB port for the music player and a dock for windows mobile (strange, why not android or symbian? LOL) The Blu and Me technology helps to connect up to 5 mobiles via Bluetooth with the car audio system. I haven’t checked it, but it sounds like a cool option for gadget freaks like me. The rear seat felt a bit cheap and hard. There would be ample legroom and headroom for 3 adults (less than 5’8″ tall) to squeeze in and survive a non-stop 200 km journey (IMO). The seats are 60-40 fold-able, but it’s of no big use to me. The boot space is quite generous. The overall quality of the interiors is quite average and does not match to it post exteriors.

Now the main part: Drive. On 1st and 2nd gears, the full power is not leashed. In fact there is a power drop in the second gear. You have to floor the gas to get the vehicle moving. Once on the 3rd gear, the beast is unleashed but totally in the driver’s control. The steering wheel is thick enough to give you a sporty feel. The brakes are good. Stops in time with least possible jerk to rear and front passengers. Due to the airbags, honking is quite hard and I tend to press the steering controls instead of the horns. You have to have a big palm to reach the horn and still hold the steering wheel. The best part is the feeling of safety. While driving I felt the safety of a fortress. Maybe it’s because of the sturdy steel body and chasis.

The rear lights are placed high on the car’s back for better visibility. But there is only one reverse gear light. Why? And there is only one rear fog lamp. Why? Not sure if they are sufficient. On the whole, this is one solid car. With nothing much to complain this is a good buy for urban-rural combo drives.

The car is a bit over priced. On road, after discounts I will end up burning Rs. 7 lakhs for the fully loaded emotion pack and Rs. 6.6 Lakh for the emotion version. Price is the only factor that has made me put this car on hold.

Test Drive Verdict: on-hold

[Image Courtesy: nexuzinteractive]

More images at TBHP