Appu... upsetting, while 'Maharani' Prakashraj shines!

Stars: Prasanth, Devayani, Prakashraj, Dhamu, Ramesh Kanna and others
Music: Deva
Director: Vasanth
Released: June 16, 2000
Reviewer: Sandya Krishna
Rating: 1 star

Director Vasanth might have decided to take revenge against his 'guru' Balachandar by making Appu... but this film really took its toll only on its audience.  By the way, what a terrible film to take fathers to, to celebrate Father's Day.  (A blunder that I know, I will never do ever again!)..  With a meandering and flawed Poovellaam Kaettupaar and now a pointless, disjointed Appu (a supposed remake of the Hindi hit, Sadak) and a-forever-in- production; never to release, Rhythm, Vasanth has pretty much come to the edge of the cliff in concluding his career for good. He might want to take a few tips from Manivannan, P.Vasu, R. Sundararajan and others on how to break into acting to make a living.

Having said that, Appu tells the time-tested, Kodambakkam approved formula of a disturbed cab driver, Prasanth, constantly dazed and confused about the mysterious circumstances leading up to his sister's (Eeswari Rao in a thankless role!) suicide in Mumbai.  For a guy struck by the depression bug, he occassionally takes a break, smiles and dances to a thaththuva paadal, Vaa daa.. vaa.. ambadhu rooba dhaan.. ambadhu rooba dhaan.. nanbaa en thevai ellaam naaLukkoru ambadhu rooba dhaan!.   Devayani enters his life once and then again in the Grant Road red light area desperate for his help.  In the midst of this high-end masala enters the queen/king of the Grant Road prostitute chain, Maharani (casually and charismatically played by Prakashraj), a ali caught in an identity crisis and in a fight with Prasanth, while keeping Devayani as his/her prime sexual prospect for his/her clients.  Upon seeing haunting images of his sister's ruined life, Prasanth decides to embark on a torturous journey of bargain, barter, buy and sell with Prakashraj, in the hopes of receiving Devayani as the lucky prize.  What begins as an interesting premise, despite the amateurish and disjointed beginning portions, turns into a nightmare of scenes from old films, cliched dialogues and a tired set of stars and sets. 

To add to the miseries, there are gaping 'logic' holes in the movie from the very beginning.  Vignesh claims that his girlfriend, Kaveri received a severe beating from her father and landed up with a bruised forehead.  The very next scene, Prasanth (kidnaps) brings in Kaveri to Vignesh.  (No thalai-la maavu cut-tu!.. Nothing!).   To add insult to injury, the stringent father that he is, Kaveri's father never comes in search of her even once.  In another instance, Eeswari Rao Prasanth, Devayani and Prakashraj in Appuwrites to her family after two whole years as a prostitute under Maharani in Mumbai.  Agreeing fully with the concept that Maharani would never let go of her and that she had nobody to fight for her, it seems a little absurd that it would take her so long to write to her family or even get in touch with them.  We will forgive that!  So, what about this?  Prasanth and Eswari's father is shown in the flashback and yet, no sign of him ever again in the film. (Not even a picture with a maalai hanging to show his passing.   Hey! Tamil Cinema traditions... How can we ever break them?).  (The entire flashback sequence has been very poorly picturized.  You'd gulp down a few teaspoons of cough medicine in a quicker, easier and painless fashion than go through this sequence once!)  A little further down, Prasanth recovers from an injury and asks Devayani permission to lie on her lap.  So, what does he do instead?  He lands his head right on her shoulder and chest area. (Very wise, wouldn't you say?).  One last point to make, Prasanth makes a telephone call to his friend, Bhaai and warns him of potential danger from the police and Maharani.  Yet, he calls again and gives Bhaai his address to mail him some money.  Predictably, Maharani tortures and kills Bhaai.  Deduction: Appu has no brains. :-) 

Deva, who had bailed out Vasanth on two previous occasions, in Aasai and Nerukku Ner, has dug his grave with his music in Appu.   Unlike the other two films, the songs here are only mildly interesting, due to the excessive masala sprinkled on them.  After taking a look at the extravagant costumes in Alaipayuthey and those exquisite ones worn by Aishwarya Rai in Kandukondain2, what a shame that Producer Pushpa Kandasamy (and K.Balachandar) didn't deposit enough in Costume Designer Renuka Vasanth's bank account (maybe because she happens to be the director's wife :-)   The entire Idam Tharuvaaya song picturization features Prasanth, Devayani, Vignesh and Kaveri dressed in their one respective costume, while dancing and prancing in South Africa. Vasanth sir, please watch Telephone Mani Pol in Indhiyan for a lesson in song picturization in a foreign country.  The Prasanth-Devayani duet, Yaeno Yaeno with the zebras and other animals faintly seen in the background, can be fast-forwarded, as the choreography is rather painful to the eyes.  This leaves the battered and butchered song pronounciation (thanks to Sukhwindara Singh) and picturization of Punnagaikku; and a qawwali style picturization of Koyilaa Koyilaa.. By no means has any of Vasanth's films ever had such a bad concept of song picturization - even Jyothika's jump-a-thon in Poova Poova Poova Poovae in Poovellaam Kaettupaar was a true masterpiece :-()...  A big thumbs down to newcomer Vinod for his tired and unoriginal cinematography and to the very poor job conducted by the editors.

One word exemplifies this film and that is, Maharani.  Prakashraj proves that he doesn't win national awards by being a 'fluke' in the industry.  His poise, power, elegance and love for details makes his ali Maharani the best catch in town, regardless of her/his sexual identity.  It will not be a surprise if he wins the National Award again this year (after his wins for Iruvar and Anthappuram in the last few years!).  Ms. Maharani, it really was a pleasure to have met you knowing that you make Tamil cinema and Tamilians proud.  A big hats off to Ramesh Kanna as well.   His style and spirit in delivering comedic dialogues is at par or even better than Vivek in a few spots.  His ill-fated end as a disabled cobbler also earns him a few sorry looks and sighs.  Prasanth and Devayani appear like blind characters trying to find their way in the dark during the course of the film.  Dev dear, please continue to maintain your figure.  It is a relief to see a lean heroine for a change.  Vignesh, Kaveri, Dhamu and Eeswari Rao have been conveniently used as urugaai!

Watch Appu for Prakashraj and nothing else! 

Sandya Krishna

Original Photograph (Appu): Thanks to the Audio Cassette Insert
Photograph Scanned and Re-worked by: Sandya