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Times of India
Synopsis: This second edition of Stone Bench Creations' anthology of short films contains four shorts with a prelude that are linked by their genre.
Review: How do you introduce an incestuous romantic comedy, an action thriller with a twist, a ghost comedy, and a tale within a tale? Aviyal answers it with Shameer Sultan's wacky prelude that has an actor talking. It is only when it ends that we realise that he has been preparing us for what is to follow.
Sruthi Bedam has a storyline that if attempted in a mainstream film today will have one organisation or the other protesting. A young man is attracted to the guest who has come to his home. She is a looker and is only a year older to him, though there is a hitch — she is his chithi (aunt)! Director Mohit Mehra treats this Balachander-ish plot as a comedy. There is a friend character, who advices the hero how wooing the woman is wrong even as he subtly eggs on the smitten guy with voyeuristic delight. The way Mehra keeps us guessing about the motives of woman adds to the suspense.
In Lokesh Kanakaraj's Kalam, a filmmaker and his friends go after a pickpocket and his cronies, who have stolen from them a CD and pen drive containing their short film. What starts off as a low-key thriller turns into an action film (with the action being choreographed against an Aiyappa song!). There is a twist as well, and it is pulled off commendably.
Two friends go on a trip to Rameswaram with the ashes of their dead friend. That is the premise of Kanneer Anjali, which is somewhat a rambling film, with hot-or-miss humour. The tale takes a turn when the duo (or, should we say trio?) gets acquainted with a drug smuggler en route, but Guru Smaran's film lacks the tautness of the other films. The acting, too, feels amateurish.
But the anthology ends on a high with Alphonse Putharen's Eli, which seems to have been made prior to his Neram days. Bobby Simhaa and Nivin Pauly play the leads here as well, and even their appearances are similar to what was in that film. A gangster narrates a story and we get the actions that happen in both these stories, interrupted often by the noise from a (unseen) couple's lovemaking. It is visually splendid and shows why Putharen has come to be one of the most exciting filmmakers today.
Plot-wise, the shorts in Aviyal are streets ahead of those that formed the first edition, Bench Talkies. They are daring, wacky and fresh. A couple of these films even manage to transcend the made-for-TV visual style of shorts. It will be interesting to see what Karthik Subbaraj (who is one the project's backers) and co serve us next.