1999- Review

After I saw Kamal's Dasavatharam at Woodside Cinema, I stopped going out to cinemas to see Tamil movies. I thought they were so unworthy to spend hard earned 10 bucks and three hours. But Lenin. M. Sivam's 1999 was a movie I couldn't afford to miss. I've reasons aplenty. It was a Tamil movie selected to be screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year, as one among 350 movies from Canada and other countries. It was voted as one of the Top 10 films made in Canada this year. Good enough to raise curiosity hah..... But I had one more reason to see this film. Raj Thillaiampalam, the man who composed songs and arranged background scores, comes from a family which I know and respect. Yes, their family and our family have shared mutual respect and love for couple of generations atleast as far as I know. Further, Raj's dad was my private Math teacher during my advanced level times. So, I had an extra reason to go to the cinemas to see a movie after a long time.

1999 is a story about three youngsters. All are from Srilanka and all have lost atleast one parent due to the civil war. Kumar (Thilepan Somasegaram) is a gang leader in the eastside. His parents were killed in Srilanka, and he came to Canada with his little brother as an 18 year old. He gets involved in this bloody gang business after his brothers involvement in a fight with members of a westside gang, led by Maranai. He wants to get out of all the crap using the 'Peace' time, organized by elders between East and West.

Anpu (Suthan Mahalingam) lives with his dad who is a workoholic. Anpu is a member of Kumar's gang for 5 years. He and his father Suntharam (Ampalavanar Ketheeswaran) always get into arguments about his activities. Suntharam wants his son to get away from the gang and start a good life.

Akilan (Kandee Kana) is a harworking student, who is studying at Waterloo. He has a Grandpa (K.S. Balachandran), who is friendly. Akilan also lost his parents during the war. He wants to help kids in Vanni, he collects funds to do so in his free time.

Anpu and Akilan were good friends in high school times. Both have some feelings (lets say One-side love) towards their high school angel, Geetha (Luxi). They both have plans to express their love to Geetha on her birthday. But their lives take a horrible turn the day before Geetha's birthday.

Did Kumar succeed in getting out of the Gangster live and lead a good life?
Did Anpu chang and make his father happy?
Who wins the race to secure the special place in Geetha's heart?
All questions are answered in the film.

Most of the performers did their job very well. But one would have to say, Suthan Mahalingam as Anpu steals the show. He has given a stellar performance. Thilepan Somasegaram as Kumar does his part without much trouble. Seasoned performers like Ampalavanar Ketheeswaran and K.S. Balachandran were good. Kandee Kana's performance was disappointing. Particularly in the scene where he shares some jokes with his grandpa, it was medicore. Luxi didn't get anything to do except walking here and there in nice dresses (and those alluring eyes) in song sequences (cliches would be a better word, sorry Lenin)

Given all the limitations this crew had, I didn't expect this sort of a quality output. The captain of the ship Lenin.M.Sivam chose a very good story line, used complicated method of story telling, (the method used by heavyweights like Akira Kurosawa, Alejandro Gonzalaz Injarittu) and told the story without any complications. Camera was O.K, given they didn't have the leverage to use high quality state of the art cameras. Raj's music and back ground score was nice if not ground breaking. (I like S.P.Bala's and Karthik's songs).

Weak areas
Climax was not the best. The reason for the death of one of the three main characters is not well explained. Mistaken identity can not be a logical reason in this case. That missing logic in Screenplay could've been linked through dialougues, but I don't care about it, since this is Lenin's first attempt in the mainstream cinema. The biggest weakness in this movie is the characterization of the femal lead role. This character doesn't have a single scene except two dream songs. This is one area our (Srilankan Tamil) film makers should avoid. It has become an identity of Indian cinema, and to have an identity of our own, we must avoid these.

Final Remarks
Lenin, well done mate. I understand the pains of making a movie with such limited resources (cast, crew, finance, time etc). I also understand the hardships in Marketing these movies, particularly in standing head to head with Indian movies with greater entertainment packages. I heard about the struggle you had in securing cinemas and the trouble you faced in getting crowds. But mate, amongst all these, you did a commendable job. So, everyone in the cast and crew of 1999, pat yourself on the back. Job well done.

Verdict: 1999 was a better reward for the money and time spent, even better than what I got from spending same amount and one more hour in watching Dasavatharam.

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