Thursday, February 22, 2007

That Four Letter Word : Y-A-W-N

That four letter word

I wanted to like Sudhish Kamath's new film. I really did. I wanted it to be hip, intelligent, and interesting.

Sadly, it isn't any of those things.

I'll begin with the good stuff. The fact that Kamath has completed the film on a VERY tight budget, and it ended up looking as decent as it does is to be commended. By leveraging his popularity as a journalist to draw attention to TFLW, he's done independent Chennai filmmakers a service by opening up possibilities for their films as well. It takes determination, courage and a great deal of patience to be a pioneer, and, in a sense, this film makes Kamath one.

That's why it's unfortunate that the film itself fails so badly.

That Four Letter Word begins with what is essentially a decent enough ( if hardly imaginative ) premise, and quickly descends into tedium. The story meanders along. The acting is sometimes passable, sometimes atrocious. The screenplay fails to grip. And the less said about the dialogue (in particular, the try-so-hard humour) , the better.

Very ordinary characters sleepwalk through very ordinary situations spouting bad lines and looking rather disinterested most of the time. Only Cary Edwards shows any signs of enthusiasm - and actually manages to be likeable the few times that the contrived dialogues allow him to be.

The music and visuals actually strive manfully to liven up proceedings, but in the absence of any other good stuff - story, dialogues, acting - to support them , they simply cannot salvage enough to make TFLW even moderately fun.

The upshot is this - there's nothing in this film that makes you even remotely want to continue watching it. Other than the vain hope that it can only get better (it doesn't).

In failing to make a film that is worthy of taking the opportunities he has created with his smart marketing, Sudhish Kamath lets himself down. This could have been the film to provide a much needed fillip to independent Chennai filmmakers, but instead it ends up as forgettable and simply boring cinema.

At a recent press screening at Sathyam Cinemas, Sudhish rather charmingly said to the audience : "You can tell us it sucks."

Sorry, mate, but here goes : "Sudhish, it sucks."


  1. Thou art very polite! But seriously, it takes all sorts to create an 'indie' film culture in Chennai.

  2. have you earned your right....what say.....

  3. Anand,

    While i agree with many of your comments, i think that you missed the point... You have assumed that it can be treated on par with "normal" cinema, and you have based your comments on that assumption. Sudhish Kamath has already made it clear that you must leave behind any preconceptions and expectations you may have when you watch his film. The truth is, the film is just a front. It is really an announcement to the world: "WANNABE, KNOW-IT-ALL CRITICS who JUST DON'T GET IT have finally found a WORTHY LEADER".

    I don't think "the pioneer" has done any service to the independent industry... I feel its quite on the contrary. Prospective investors will simply be too scared to put their money on independent ventures, for the end results could be something like this. INDUSTRY KILLER!

    I feel the actors tho' could have come through with less dignity than they did if "the pioneer" had been more effective... I actually felt sorry for them... But they should feel relieved and happy now, their lives will be better, their worst nightmare is over.

    Of particular note in the film is the romance in the restaurant between Isha and Vishal. I have never felt so much physical revulsion while watching ANY scene from ANY film. CRINGE CITY!

    I feel it should be compulsory material for film students. They should have an idea of how things can turn out. Kudos to "the pioneer" for setting the benchmark for bad art.


  4. Anand and Self - All I'm saying is that Sudhish Kamath has done most things right in the way he has marketed his film, got it screened at a quality city cinema, managed a well attended premiere, and got celebrities to say nice things about the film - a good blueprint for others with similar goals. I've never seen it done this well by a Chennai filmmaker before - though, admittedly, Sudhish's name being well known does give him an edge. Yes, Sudhish will not create an Indie film culture on his own - I'm not even sure he intends to - but efforts like these are important to spark something. Too bad the film wasn't better.

  5. Update - Sudhish Kamath has been large enough to actually link to my review from his blog . It takes a genuine sense of fair play to do that. Appreciate it, Sudhish.

  6. Sudhish in his blog says:

    "For all the films I ripped apart when I was little, maybe this is poetic justice. As they say, what goes around, comes around."

    "If this works, anybody will be able to make a movie and find an audience. For a market to emerge, we need to cultivate it. Support indie cinema. Support fresh thought."

    Had I known him capable of such humility, the tone of my previous post would have been different... I guess I was reacting to something on his blog that said that you have to "earn your right" to criticize his work, which i found sufficiently ironic, to be vocal about.

    If this is an effort to create something new by a first timer who is looking for opinions, then here goes: The movie was an absolute drag, and i only stayed till the end because i had other reasons for not leaving mid way, than wanting to know what happened next. The lip sync was very poor in many places, as if the dubbed dialog was different from the dialog on camera. I could not understand the reason for the random alternating with lo-fi black and white visuals (maybe theres a reason there tho')... The characters don't look very convincing and and there is very little depth to the screenplay... events just seem to occur at random, like the completely unnecessary drag race with the very convoluted indian "homie".

    On the positive side, the camera work looked pro (to me), which is particularly challenging to accomplish using lower cost digital technology. The music worked for the film (tho' i doubt very much if it is original for the most part... to get an orchestra of that quality for one session would probably cost more than the entire budget of the movie), the comic-y interludes were quite funky, the actors were all likable and the concept is quite original (at least i have seen nothing exactly like it). Last but not least, it takes guts and perseverance and a tremendous amount of work to accomplish this... all very commendable, i think.


  7. Gautam Menon, Suriya and Revathy have all had only nice things to say about the movie. You are disputing?

  8. Sudhish - That's a pretty spirited defense. Respect. I can vouch. too, that Self does not intend to offend. It's a vocal, strong opinion - but nothing personal. He feels the same about George Lucas, Iron Maiden, and Angelina Jolie's work in third world countries.

    The 'Monsters Inc.' coincidence is rather unsettling, to say the least (it's not exactly and obscure film). Your music director, in my opinion, should have noticed that, and at the very least, should have informed you of the fact well before one week before the release, so that you could have taken a call on using the piece.

    Also, I believe that once you've put something out for public consumption, you've got to be prepared for the brickbats, however uninformed or 'un-earned' you deem them to be.

    And, about Supes's costume, reams have been written about it, especially in the excellent Superman : Birthright. Some interesting thoughts at

    Self : I honestly didn't think Sudhish would actually read our humble blog. Ball in your court.

  9. Thanks Anand... and self (and susan, and the kid from IE) , i almost got carried away and said something about the movie. Now i won’t. Mr Kamath might hunt me down, slash my tires and force a retraction. Or worse, he might reply in his characteristic 9000 words. In fact i may have forced his hand already.

  10. hey sudhish kamath!

    I must say i am quite surprised by your elaborate response. I didn't expect you to come forward and take my opinion positively.

    That said, I'll excuse myself from this discussion with one final suggestion: It does occur to many people including myself, that your (negative) comments in your reviews sound very patronizing... It almost sounds as if you think that most of the movies you review would have benefited from YOUR direction. Which is what makes one react particularly harshly to your creative efforts... AND things like "you shit heads had better earn your place to criticize me", particularly after YEARS of YOUR questionable quality of criticism (to be polite :), WILL NOT go down well, no matter what your reasons be.

    All best wishes for more engaging results with your next endeavour.


  11. yeah awful movie..sudish meeds to dig a hole and bury himself for making an awful movie..further i request all wannable directors to watch this movie so that they can learn how to make a bad movie

  12. A few things guys don't know about film making....

    1. It is no big deal to make a movie...a digital camera for filming is available for renting at less than Rs. 1500 a day. Yes, in Chennai. (Don't ask me where. Just give a small advt in classifieds in one of the papers.) The guy who loans you the camera also sends you a escort to ensure that you don't damage the equipment. You have to just feed the guy and give some minimum pocket money. So that's it about the cost.

    2. Next comes actors. If you're a journo with a big publication, there will be guys who would like to act gratis. There will be other chaps music, art , editor etc.all willing to chip never always helps to have a journo's mobile number in your contact list...If you and I try to make a one will touch you with a barge pole....that is why, movie making even though is no big deal...not many venture into it....

    3. And as for writing a script....well,...This is BIG need someone with some REAL talent..someone who can write stuff that can fare well in comparison with higher stuff..........that is why you get Knock Knock I Am Going to Marry crap multiplex movies....(I am yet to see TFLW)

    4. As I said before, it is no big deal. So, I really wonder why the movie cost 4 lakhs!!

    5. I saw Kramer vs Kramer the other much do you think that movie would cost in digital film making assuming that the stars Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep..act for free...

    6. 20 years was considered hip and happening to be a book or magazine the advent of TV channels, people's opinion of journalists have come down, presently...the zeitgeist is film making and fashion designing....

    I rest my case....

  13. Watching TFLW was an exercise in torture. The film was shabby at best,...mind numbingly irritating at worst. I would've rather jabbed a q-tip in my ear, over and over again. I get the whole thing about this being a maiden venture and the actors all being frickin noobs. But seriously, lack of experience is no excuse for a film to suck THIS badly. Those are 80 precious wasted minutes of my life, i'm never getting back. Burn in hell, SK!

  14. PS - You just reinforced the American stereotype on the Indian accent, son.

    PPS - Sunglasses inside closed buildings are NOT hip or cool. More like obnoxious and asinine!

    PPPS - And what the FUCK is up with that gorilla guy's hat??