They say that the first line of any story is the key towards engaging a reader's interest. If so, the same rule applies for the first scene of a movie as well. And when the first few scenes from the Lumiere Brother's first Tamil movie -- also the first SFX movie in India roll before you, showing a slippery Krishna dancing on top of Kaliya, you know you're in for something different.
Krsna Movies' Mudhal Mudhal Mudhal Varai (M3V) touted as the first Tamil metro movie certainly sets the tone, keeping with the considerable hype raised by both the movie and its director, Krishnan Seshadri Gomatam.
And, to give credit where its due, the movie isn't pretentious, as it documents the trials and tribulations of Hayagreev (C P Satyajit), who is a successful ad film-maker, but is remarkably unsuccessful when it comes to making a movie.
He's watched Akira Kurosawa, read up on screenplay writing and just knows that his first movie will turn out to be a super-hit (though you know that it certainly isn't going to be a mainstream Tamil movie) but he's had no luck with mainstream Tamil producers. They want big heroes, stylish heroines and hit songs but Hayagreev, aka Haggy can't give them those. This sinks him, his assistants Mahesh (Charan), Maya (Vidya Easwaran) and Selvam 'Shakespeare' (Senthil) into gloom.
His girlfriend Sindhu (Anuja Iyer) a smart, perky, bold and vivacious young woman is keen on him making a movie before he marries her. Together, they go pubbing, clubbing and shopping, but despite monetary success and a great love-life, there seems no way out for Hayagreev yet.
And that's when the movie backtracks, moves side to side and every direction possible, cataloguing Hayagreev's life experiences, and his path towards his present position.
A voiceover in the background gives the lowdown on his life until then: his first experiences with a girl during his childhood (where he explores girls' bathrooms), first kiss, first sexual experience (which ends in a hilarious, very cheeky fashion) and so forth.
Along the way Haggy explains his life's philosophies, his assistants' backgrounds and idiosyncrasies (Mahesh, for example, has OCD), while also letting you now that he's very flirtatious, can engage a girl's interest at the drop of a hat and is pretty persistent in his goals, actually. Various side characters shed light on him from their point of view.
Haggy's movie gradually takes shape as a series of firsts. But as he moves inexorably towards the end, he's tortured by a question; how on earth is he going to find a fitting climax?
C P Satyajit is so much the lead character Hayagreev that it's well-nigh impossible to separate the character from the actor. There's no trace of self-consciousness, or artificiality.
You're seeing Anuja Iyer after Sivi, and she's certainly matured since then. As the strong, yet compassionate girl who's desperately in love with Hayagreev, she's impressive. Any man ought to be grateful to have a girl like this for a soulmate.
Charan as the OCD-afflicted assistant who wants his employer to win wrings some sympathy, while a host of characters, starting from the Senthil to the bank manager who wants to pay a villain in a rape scene, are a clever combination of realism and imagination. Since the movie is rarely from Hayagreev's viewpoint alone, the number of characters is quite huge.
Make no mistake about it; M3V is certainly not mainstream fare. It has been filmed on a certain section of the society and is likely to appeal more to them than to others.
It's an inherently up-market movie, targeting a niche, urban audience. Its tale of affluent directors in search of their dreams, girls who aren't afraid to have sex before marriage and single parents who raise children certainly doesn't fall under the formulaic genre.
Yet, it's not an art-house production. Krishnan Seshadri Gomatam has intelligently taken a plot that is likely to appeal to everyone -- the story of a man aspiring to succeed, a documentation of firsts, which would have happened in everyone's life: Chennai or Chenglepet.
M3V isn't without its faults though: some sequences are too long-drawn out and unnecessary. The movie seems to be a strung up feature with certain segments that flash, while others sink into nothing -- notably the ones added for a 'cho-chweet' factor, calculated to induce sympathy. But they don't.
Too many times, the director shows far more than he ought to. The climax, especially, is far too artificial and falls into the trap of commercial cinema. But what the heck? This is a first effort, and deserves some leeway.
Aslam Mustafa has recognized the up-market feel of the movie and set out to provide a mélange of modern and traditional -- though the refrain of Govinda!, especially in the sad scenes, is more productive of humour. 'Govinda' in mainstream movies, of course, has a different connotation.
Fowzia Fathima's camera has an earthy, natural feel, without going overboard on the artiness angle. Thotta Tharani is a past master in recognizing exactly what settings would best suit the movie while B Lenin's editing follows a brisk pace, careful never to linger anywhere too long.
Commercial movie-lovers might not find this to their taste but if you're a lover of fairly realistic cinema, capturing the life of an urban metrosexual's life and times, then M3V is for you.