Posted in AR Rahman, Movies - General

Kaatru Veliyidai


To describe Kaatru Veliyidai as a movie about love would be too simplistic. But it wouldn’t be wrong.

To do justice, I would go a bit far. I would say Kaatru Veliyidai can be described as a movie about emotional abuse, a movie about the potential trauma that a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force goes through unknowingly, a movie about Stockholm syndrome and love, and a movie about testosterone dominant relationship where the male partner expects and takes things for granted.

If you like writing or have ever been fascinated with what goes through a movie script writer’s mind when he/she conceives an idea, develops conviction and goes on about writing a full movie script, then this movie would make you wonder what could have been the trigger for Mani Ratnam to write Kaatru Veliyidai.

Relationships are complex and there are many different dimensions one can use to weigh relationships. And certainly one can take many different points of view to look at the complexities of a relationship. As an avid Mani Ratnam movie fan, you’d think, Mani Ratnam has already dealt with so many different shades of relationships in his past movies. Even as late as his last movie OK Kanmani, where he dealt with live-in-relationships, he has pretty much looked at relationships from so many different angles. So I wondered if the trigger for this movie, Kaatru Veliyidai was really him wanting an another take on one of those unexplored complexities of a man-woman relationship or if there was something else.

Ravi Varman, the cinematographer of Kaatru Veliyidai must have had quite a ball. With so much of scenic landscape to play with, with so many close up shots to work on, with so many long takes to deal with, and most importantly with Mani Ratnam providing you the inspiration, what a lovely job it must have been to be behind the camera. He excelled in his craft and the movie was an absolute visual treat.

Aditi Rao Hydari is such a revelation. During her pre-release promo interviews which I followed, I could tell here is a girl who has her head above her shoulders, knows what she wants, etc. etc. But I wasn’t sure what to expect of her as an actor, on screen, other than bringing a fresh face to Tamil cinema. Aditi manages to surprise you. To pull off those emotions and the nuances in close-up shots are not easy and she has done it extremely well. “She was likable throughout the movie” would be such an understatement.

Her character Leela Abraham, is the victim of emotional abuse. A girl who has heard so much about her brother’s squadron colleague, the charming VC (Varun Chakravarthy) and the one whose spot her brother eventually took on that flight on that fateful day. She gets to meet VC eventually, after she graduates from medical school and she is completely in awe of him, with all the infatuation from childhood, culminating in an uncontrollable mixture of feelings for him. This mixture is certainly not love. Perhaps more than love. Perhaps less than love. Or love that is not what she had dreamt of till then. Or perhaps she doesn’t think she is ready to love another person yet. All these are evident because of her hesitation to say “I love you” to VC, who on the other hand, has been shamelessly saying “I love you” right from their second meeting.

Mani Ratnam leaves a lot for you to explore Karthi’s character (VC) on your own, other than the obvious references to VC’s chauvinistic, male arrogant instincts that come to play more often than not, when he is around with his friends/colleagues. A very typical fraternity club behavior – When you are around with your “guy” friends, you want to show off how much “your” girl loves you. When he is alone with Leela, he quite often exhibits a split personality – a possessive & a helpless lover, who is desperate for attention but he quickly changes into a controlling boyfriend, who doesn’t mind saying things that you want to hear. Even though we get a glimpse of his family and the complex relationship with his dad, the mentally disabled brother, etc., I wish Mani had given more food for us to explore those aspects that may have contributed to who VC is. Karthi pulls off a heavy role with a lot of intensity and charm. This is certainly one of those rare Mani Ratnam movies, where there were many lines to be rendered with many long takes and both Karthi and Aditi carried their roles with aplomb.

Leela’s parents on the other hand, come across unlikeable and Mani gives us very little room for us be imaginative here, except connecting the obvious dots and concluding that they hate VC because of their son’s death.

When the orchestral version of Vaan appeared throughout the movie in bits and pieces, I was longing for the extended version. If I remember correctly, the orchestral version appears in a little more complete form only towards the end and then you get to hear a 2-3 minute version of it during the rolling end credits. I really wish AR Rahman releases the extended version soon. The background score was extraordinary and the whole electric guitar bits he had used as his general Air Force and fighter pilot themes were stunning.

Now, the most interesting part of Kaatru Veliyidai for me was the unique IAF backdrop, the Kargil conflict, the POW situation, the great escape from Rawalpindi to India through Afghanistan and of course things that are related to the Air Force lifestyle. Why all these? That brings me back to the question I had asked earlier – What was Mani’s trigger for this movie? The Air Force backdrop and the conflict?? Or was it the elusive and insidious emotional abuses in a relationship, which we rarely talk about as opposed to physical abuses?

Kaatru Veliyidai is making us aware of the fine line that exists between possessive love and emotional abuse. And making us know that it’s as fine as the gap that exists between layers of a breeze. 

Posted in Humor - General, Movies - General

Jimmy Kimmel’s Morning At The Oscars

Where I imagine Jimmy Kimmel’s morning on the day of the ceremony, as he gets ready to host Oscars 2017

“So did Ricky Gervais really help you Chris?”, Jimmy Kimmel was quite nervous and he wanted to get some tips from Chris Rock.

“Well. Not really Jimmy. Why do you ask?”, Chris Rock on the other side of the phone, perhaps in Bahamas or Jamaica, but surely on a Carribbean beach sipping his colorful drink.

“I don’t have to be the one saying this to you, but as you know your ratings were down 6% from previous year’s..”.

Silence.

“Chris, I know it was not you. And it had nothing to do with you. I think people feel this whole Oscar thing is rigged. There is less and less credibility around the awards. Some folks even call this the Fake Awards show..”, Jimmy trying to cheer Chris Rock up.

“Huh..Who said that?”, Chris Rock.

“That’s beside the point. Just want you to know that Cheryl is extremely proud of how you conducted yourself last year and she sends her best wishes to you. She likes you man..”, Jimmy Kimmel, now ready to move on.

“Do well Jimmy. Think you have an easier job this year. Or not. I don’t know. It’s good that a white man is hosting it this year. That’s all I can say. Good luck brother..”, Chris Rock hangs up.

“Fake Awards show? Who said that Jimmy? Who?”, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of AMPAS, livid with anger.

“It’s a good thing that you are not on Twitter Cheryl. Let’s just say a man whose name would be referred to many times during the awards ceremony tonight without his actual name being called out, tweeted this out last night. You know who..”, Jimmy sipping his coffee while ensuring that his bowtie assistant was focused on his task of tying the knot.

“Oh Puhleeze! Not that we didn’t expect this, but doesn’t he have a more pressing job to do like sorting out his mess?”

“I wouldn’t know that Cheryl. Ok, I have an important question”, Jimmy going through his script on his iPad.

“Go on..”

“After Leonardo DiCaprio gives away the Oscar to Meryl Streep, I thought I could add this line, the one right here.”, Jimmy pointing at his iPad.
“..’Coz we all know what Meryl is going to say and how she is going to get a standing ovation..”,
 Jimmy, earnest as always.

“You presumptuous bastard!!”, Cheryl pats on Jimmy’s back with a fake fit of anger.

“Alright. Alright. I was just trying to be prepared. That’s all. You do think it’s a good line. Don’t you?”, Jimmy.

“Whatever Jimmy. You know what to do. Just don’t embarrass us that’s all”,Cheryl smiling and yet subtly giving her approval for that specific joke.

Both Jimmy and Cheryl decided to take a break. They closed Cheryl’s office door and started walking in the dark alley towards the kitchen area. The dark corridors were eerily dark even on an awards ceremony morning and this year there wasn’t even a power outage unlike last year.

Then all of a sudden, Jimmy tripped over an object which wasn’t quite visible in that darkness. He stumbled over the object, tried hard to balance himself, but failed miserably and ended up falling on that cabinet holding Jack Nicholson’s special drinks. The fall itself wasn’t too bad going by bodily injuries. Jimmy Kimmel just bruised his elbow thanks to the sharp edges of the cabinet. And the cabinet somehow survived the weight of Jimmy Kimmel and it didn’t move an inch. The small table next to it, which holds Mel Gibson’s Bible and Tom Cruise’s personal copy of Ron Hubbard’s Scientology scripture had been disturbed a bit as a result of the jolt, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.

Jimmy suddenly felt a hand on his shoulders. Almost felt like it was trying to pull him up in a manner of helping him.

“Hey, Matt! What are you doing here?”, Jimmy puzzled to see his enemy standing right behind him.

“Jimmy, I came here to offer truce. I want to end our rivalry tonight on stage. And I then saw you and Cheryl walk towards the kitchen. I saw you take a stumble. Tried to help you man..That’s all. Hope you didn’t hurt yourself so bad that you have to withdraw from hosting tonight’s ceremony..”, Matt Damon, with a sarcastic look on his face.

Meanwhile, the flickering lights on the ceiling stablized a bit and there was better visibility on the corridor.

Jimmy looked up Matt with confusion and then he looked down to see the object he tripped over. Cheryl, who had gone ahead of Jimmy to get her coffee from the kitchen came running back after hearing all the noises in the corridor, with a cup in her hands. She too was surprised to see Matt Damon there.

Jimmy picked up the suitcase from the floor.

“This can’t be. Is this the PwC ballot case?”, Jimmy.

“What? Please don’t tell me that we have compromised ourselves..”, Cheryl, shocked in horror as she looks down.

The suitcase was wide open and the cards that hold the Oscar winners’ names were strewn all over the carpet. They hadn’t been sealed inside the envelopes yet.

“You miserable Matt! You damning Damon!
I know you did this. You did it to ruin my evening..”
, Jimmy started screaming with a maddening rage.

Matt Damon wiped the smile off his face, wore his shades, and started running towards the door.

Of the many cards that lay bare on the carpet, at least 7 of them had the same text on them.

“La La Land”.

Posted in Movies - General

La La Land

lalaland

What is it about the protagonists of ‘La La Land’ that they don’t play well with others?

Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista at a coffee shop inside Warner Bros, and is an aspiring artist. She fails again and again in her auditions, but she insists on producing a single-woman show, written, produced, acted and even financed by herself. Even that one big audition that gets her through the barrier and makes her a success (of which we are left to imagine but do not actually get to see how big it is) involves her putting up a solo performance by delivering a monologue of her own making quite spontaneously.

Seb (Ryan Gosling) is a pianist, a Jazz traditionalist, someone who dreams of owning a Jazz club built in a way that it reveres all the jazz masters of the past, while keeping the tradition of classic Jazz alive. He struggles but continues to find solo gigs here and there. He makes compromises by playing  set list of Christmas tunes, even when his hands itch to play his own tunes at clubs, that don’t much care for Jazz, but at least he is happy to live the day by being a solo pianist, till he finds that once in a lifetime opportunity to get himself financially secure, even if it means he has to compromise.

And as strong as they are about pursuing their individualistic visions of their lives, both Mia and Seb just don’t play along well with others. It’s a struggle and it’s a compromise for them, every step of the way. So, finally when they meet each other and try to accommodate each other, they find it difficult.

Damien Chazelle pretty much lets us know what ‘La La Land’ is all about right at the beginning. A traffic jam on a freeway, results in an explosion of a massive dance routine featuring drivers from all the vehicles that are stuck there. It’s colorful and spectacular, what with the camera angles and the flash-mob style dancing absolutely making you stand up from your seats to break a leg, or jiggle I should say. Within 5 minutes, you are thrown into this fantasy world, which you don’t want to come out of anytime soon..or at least that’s what you are made to believe.

Because at that point, the director stakes claim that he would stay true to his artistic pursuit of making a musical, except that he really doesn’t end up making a perfect musical. There is about a 40-45 minute period in the film where there is no song and dance ritual. Not that it is bad, in fact, I quite liked that portion of the film, but somehow Chazelle was convinced that it was the right thing to do even though that was not really staying true to his pursuit of making a perfect musical.

The Music – Yes, the very essence of a musical.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am not qualified to even write a short critique on any kind of music, leave alone for a musical, that too one that involves some classic jazz. So, this is simply a reflection of how I felt as a listener, while I was watching the movie. In short, the music didn’t really hit me. Before I went into the theater, I may have listened to bits and pieces of the music through trailers, TV promos, etc. even though I deliberately waited to listen to them all in complete form till I watched the movie. The only pieces that stayed with me were the ‘Mia and Seb Theme’ and the ‘City of Stars’. The former has a very simple, but a poignant & a sad hook and the latter to me is a dance around the same notes that make the former hook work, but in somewhat of a happier plane. When I came home and listened to the theme piece, I have to admit I was completely impressed.

Justin Hurwitz is of course going to grab many awards this awards season and he deserves them all, because he has been part of a successful musical. He and the director have definitely brought out the nostalgia aspect so very well and if you have any familiarity with that era of song and dance, there is is nothing not to like about what they have managed to pull off. Still, it was not enough to make me fall in love with the music.

If there is one thing Chazelle fails to bring out in this movie, it is to breather life into his characters. To put it differently, I think he fails to bring out the life of his characters. There were three scenes that stand out in the move to me, where he does do that very powerfully. I just wish he had extended that control he showed in those three scenes, to many more scenes.

The first scene is where Mia tells Seb how she hates Jazz by giving a glimpse into her past. What follows is a bit of mansplaining on Seb’s part, but I will let that go and won’t hold that against Chazelle. The second scene is where Mia asks Seb if this is really what he wants to do (when he surprisingly shows up at the apartment during the middle of his tour) and the third scene would be part of the climax, where towards the end, they walk away from each other after understanding where they are in their lives.

I just wish Chazelle had taken the emotional time needed to chisel out a few more scenes to bring out who the real Mia is and who the real Seb is – not just their dreams.

Finally, if someone asked me if the movie worked for me or not. I would say, yes it did. And the only reason it worked for me in spite of my above observations is because of the lead pair, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. They were splendid as Mia and Seb, and I am not sure if anyone else could have pulled this off so well. They are pleasant to watch and they carry the verve of the generation so well on screen.

In the end, La La Land is more about veneration of a bygone era. It’s a movie that adores the traditionalism of that era, be it in music or in mannerisms, be it in the methods or in the mechanics, but certainly not the spontaneity or the deep personal sense. In an effort to make a musical that reflects all that he holds dear from the 1960s, the nostalgia, the color, the choreography and the jazz, Chazelle ends up making a movie that fails to connect all the dots, and yet screams artistically to touch the visual sense of the modern moviegoers, who either have a personal connection to that era or those who find an exotic connection to the optics of that era by getting to live that colorful life, vicariously through the success of Mia and the unhappiness of Seb.

Posted in Movies - General, Uncategorized

24 – The Movie

24

I watched this movie in a theater with a really awful sound system. Even though I had vouched that I wouldn’t come back to this theater to watch a Tamil movie again (after I watched Kadal a few years ago), today, I had to make a choice largely due to some traffic congestion issues.

12 points on 24

  1. I really wish Vikram Kumar or his team had done a final edit of the movie after watching it with 100% “audience hat” on, without any emotional connect. I am sure they would agree with me if I told them that the movie felt a tad too long.
  2. Not necessarily an entirely novel concept to moviegoers in general with time travel and all. But for Tamil audience, an absolutely original storyline with a very familiar twin brothers backdrop.
  3. Vikram Kumar has done an extremely good job with his script to make it very refreshing and very engaging.
  4. The movie starts off in 1990. I can’t recall science labs and scientific gears resemble anything like what they have used in the movie, but I have to admit that I fell in love with the props and everything else. The art directors Amit Ray and Subrata Chakraborty deserve multiple high-fives. The props and scientist gear took me back by a century at least if not more, but the coloring and the overall texture of the scenes made sure this aspect blended well with the movie. So much so that they became a highlight of the movie.
  5. Cinematography by Thiru is top notch. The train chase sequence, The estate and its surroundings (which were shot in Poland) have come out beautifully on screen and the overall skin color of the movie is simply outstanding. I can’t say enough about how visually appealing the whole movie is.
  6. Music by AR Rahman. Enough said. My biggest regret is that I couldn’t watch the movie in a better theater.
  7. Suriya has played all the three roles with aplomb. Minute variations in body language to tonal differences, etc.
  8. The whole sequence around Saranya’s family reunion towards the end could have been chopped off – At least a bulk of it.
  9. The chemistry between Suriya and Saranya, as son and mother is awesome on screen.
  10. Am a fan of Nithya. And she can do wonders on screen. In this movie she had to play a pivotal but short role and she has knocked it out of the park.
  11. Samantha – She does what she has been doing of late. Brilliant work in a very repetitive character that she has been getting to play of late.
  12. Overall, Vikram has done a very decent job to make 24 the movie, a very engaging movie. He has worked very hard to write a script that would cater to multiple age groups. The only challenge here is when you do something like this, you tend to overdo sequences, lines or certain sentiments and I felt that team behind 24 may have fallen into that trap here and there throughout the script. But nothing to take away from what a gigantic achievement this movie is for the team. Really hope this paves the way for many more moviemakers to dream of making more fantasy thrillers and I also hope that the Tamil movie audience shows their support to movies like these.
Posted in Humor - General, Movies - General, Uncategorized

Chris Rock’s morning at the Oscars

Oscars

[Where I imagine how Chris Rock’s morning would have been, as he was getting ready to host Oscars 2016.]

Meanwhile, somewhere inside the dark chambers of the 7th floor, in a corner meant for Jack Nicholson’s drinks and Mel Gibson’s Bible & his anti-semite rantbook, the marksman is oiling his bows and applying lacquer on his arrows (or the other way around..one could never tell in that darkness), while sharpening his nails at the same time. He looks a bit jittery as he works on his eyes. It is very evident that he is training hard and is preparing to take shots at those seldomly used dummy targets there in the corner. The tall building that is housing these targets is swaying quite violently in the storm that is passing through that morning, while the electricity supply has been erratic for the past 7–8 hours. The LED sign outside the building should have read “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”, but the storm had done some damage and at this moment, it reads “Nope. A Sad Discriminatory Team”.

In case you don’t know what AMPAS (short for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) is, here you go:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is a self-applauding professional honorary organization, consisting of mostly white men over 50 years old, with the stated illusion of advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures. The Academy’s corporate management and general policies are overseen by a highly self-serving Board of Governors, again mostly mostly men and may be mostly white. The board includes representatives who are picked based on their lobbying power from each of the craft branches.

The roster of the Academy’s approximately 6,000 motion picture professionals is a “closely guarded secret.” And it is not hard to understand why. While the great majority of its members are based in the United States, membership is open to qualified filmmakers around the world. Please note the phrase “it is open”, because all it means is that there is no mandate that the academy should have professionals from outside the US.

The Academy is known around the world for its annual Academy Awards, officially known as The “Oscars”, but more popularly known as The “Mery Streep Awards”.

Chris Rock, this year’s marksman, has everything going for him. He is funny, He is from New York and He is Black. Ok, not excatly everything going for him..But, you get the picture.

He continues to take aim at his dummy targets, without really being sure if Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of AMPAS, could overhear his whispering joke venoms attached to those arrows. In a conference room not too far from where Chris is, Cheryl is giving finishing touches to the list of presenters and performers for the evening, while her assistant is using her mobile phone as a source of light for Cheryl.

“Priyanka Chop..who?”, Cheryl wasn’t entirely sure who this was.
That girl from Quantico..”, her assistant yowls from her side.
Cheryl nods her head in acknowledgement. And a smile creeps in.

“You got that Chris..? Another non-white in the list..”, Cheryl yells from inside, hoping Chris could hear her.
“Now, enough with those #OscarsSoWhite jokes!”.

Chris shakes his head, takes some quick notes and starts talking to himself.

“Sofia, Priyanka, Dev, Benicio, Quincy, John Legend, Pharrell, Kerry, Byung-hun, Olivia Munn and Lady Gaga..Isn’t that such a diversified list we have this year?. Wow…Don’t think we have had a show full of so many diversified talent..err..from around the world..”.
The tone in the voice quite clearly underlines how proud Cheryl is with her almost final list.

“Olivia and Gaga in your diversity list?. Gotto be kidding me..”, Chris can’t take it. But, he looks completely helpless at this point.
“Cheryl, Do you remember that Trump-Black Panther joke? Is it in or out?..”, Chris yells back.

“Told ya..Stop calling Beyonce for hosting tips..”, Cheryl.
“So, that’s means it’s out..”, Chris strikes off one more in his list.
“At this rate, you might as well call Billy Crystal to host the show..!!”, a visibly displeased Chris.

A mobile phone rings.

“Hey Chris, This is Jada..Want to let you know how disappointed I am — we are.. actually… with you this year. You couldn’t even..”.

Chris goes back to the corner and takes a sip from a glass that resembles the ones they serve at Mos Eisley Cantina in Planet Tatooine and just then the power supply comes back on. Cheryl gets up from her chair, completely content with her list..and she starts walking out of the conference room, taking a quick glance at her list.

“Hmm, may be just to mix things up a bit, we should add Morgan Freeman and Reese Witherspoon to the list. What do you say Chris?”..

“..Of course. G-R-E-A-T Idea Cheryl. See you in the evening!!”.
“Chris, sweetie, no surprises this evening…Alright..?”

Chris Rock, now in a complete state of despair reaches into his pocket and picks up his phone.
“Ricky, My man!! Need your help…”.

 

Posted in Movies - General, Uncategorized

Jil Jung Juk

953471010Jil_Jung_Juk_Official_Teaser

Three ring leaders. Two of them are into drug trafficking. The third one specializes in kidnapping and oil gouging. They all need to survive by cashing out, as the socioeconomics of the world around them is pushing them to their brinks, because such is the time in future they live in. In short, theirs is a Kokkumaakkaana Ulagam . Then there is a chemist/pharmacist, who is capable of disguising drugs in the form of everyday objects through his magical scientific inventions. And, that is enough reason for the first drug don to hire him. This don has a driver and a yes-man assistant to travel with, even though the latter decides to betray his boss by colluding with the second drug traffic crime leader. Remember, all three crime leaders have their own battalions of henchmen, who all are also trying to survive in this kokkumaakkaana ulagam. The oil gouging specialist, in the meantime, gets a whiff of that last hurrah of a drug peddling heist that his arch enemy, aka, the first drug smuggling kingpin, decides to indulge in, before law enforcement & all things apocalyptic in the world catch up with him. How does he get a whiff of it? Through a series of unfortunate events set in motion by three small time crooks, who were hired by the first drug smuggling kingpin. Now, these three crooks are neither trying to mastermind a hijack of the heist of their lifetime, in their favor, nor are they trying to show off their heroics, but they are simply being caught in the moment, as they heuristically try to come out of dire life threatening situations, they are made to encounter one after another, as a result of their continuous incompetent & comical errors.

That pretty much is the plot of “Jil Jung Juk”, where Deeraj Vaidy (Note: No H in his name) tries to go Guy Ritchie and in the process brings out a completely original and a localized shade of Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels to Thamizh cinema. An absolute refresher of a movie and a thoroughly enjoyable ride this one, where Deeraj follows these three crooks, played deftly by Siddharth (Jil), Avinash (Jung) and Sanath (Juk), as they try to disentangle the knot, they messily made in the first place.

The screenplay is taut but not very crisp. Radharavi’s and Nasser’s roles stand out, while the direction is above par for a debutante. However, what make the ‘Jil Jung Juk’ experience unique are the graphics/art, the choice of ‘color’ for the movie, editing and music in that order. Dialogues, in particular are likely to keep the younger audience alive & laughing in the movie halls, while the plot itself may keep some audience away from the movie halls, simply because of how dark the screenplay is, albeit in a comical way. As much as it is a comedy, it is not your run of the mill slapstick humor, so Deeraj forces you to pay attention to the lines, which is good and bad. Many subtle funny one-liners may go unnoticed, but that’s mostly due to how dialogue rich this movie is. I wonder if less dialogues would have worked better to keep the humor tight.

By setting the story in future, Deeraj and his creative team have done a great job of avoiding any lavish sets. I guess the art director had to work on only two big outdoor sets – one being the ‘movie set’ and the other being Rawther’s oil silo storage. Rest of the outdoor shots are quiet cleverly shot in barren lands and roads, while the indoor sets for a pharmacy, bar, the second drug lord’s den were adequately done. Again, the cinematographer’s brilliance and the lighting ensured that a totally unseen futuristic time is brought in front of our eyes. But I wonder, why not set this story a little far away in future? Like 2030 or 2040? 2020 seems too close to us from 2016 that the kokkumaakkana ulagam Deeraj wanted to project seems a little hard to relate to, only because it is 2020 – only 4 years ahead.

This energetic team deserves a pat on their backs for taking a road, not taken before. And they have done that with a whacky, dark sense of humor and abundance of original creativity, which has been evident right throughout the pre-release promotion time.

PS:  Wish Deeraj had stayed away from using that ‘dark skinned African’ refrain, when he hilariously wrote that Uganda bit. The Uganda humor bit worked, but this refrain left a slight bad taste in me.

Posted in Movies - General, Uncategorized

Irudhi Suttru (Saala Khadoos)

irudhi-suttru

If the hinted substories evoke just enough curiosity, while the viewer in you continues to focus on the main plot as it unfolds, only to go back home to eschew on those incomplete substories and imagine the many layers of these stories based on several subtexts and untied knots thrown at you, then you know the director and the scriptwriter have done a fantastic job of creating a classic movie. “Irudhi Suttru” falls into this category and that’s exactly why I loved “Irudhi Suttru” by Sudha Kongara.

Sudha manages to touch upon several substories that could have taken their own forms, diverting the viewer’s attention from the main plot, while also giving additional dramatization scope for her to make the movie more meandering & more of an emotional rollercoaster. Instead, she chooses to leave all of them unexplored – the substories or subtexts or social issues I mean, leaving the viewer with a more difficult job of choosing to build on them, if needed and as needed.

Here is a list:
1) sexual harassment 2) sports infrastructure in India 3) general favoritism, political influences and overall corruption that ail sports administration in India 4) poverty and proselytization 5) sibling rivalry 6) women empowerment 7) the really heartwarming relationship between Radharavi and Madhavan, about which you have no clue till the last 10 minutes or so, and that too you get a whiff of it through a lighthearted one line exchange 8) Indian women boxers & what motivates them 9) etc. etc.

And no, none of the above is elaborated in the movie. They all are for the viewers to infer and build upon. To some extent, that is as much of a respect Sudha places on her viewers, as it is about her own conviction that the movie would work better if she takes a high road.

But, the movie is really about 2 characters. The story is as predictable as any sports movie, specially one that involves a passionate coach spotting a talent from the crowd, who is completely unaware of anything related to the sport that he/she has been spotted for. Madhavan as Prabhu, a retired boxer, but a passionate coach, is known for straight talk and for blowing his fuse off when confronted or put in dishonest situations. He prefers telling the truth & speaking his mind out in all circumstances – not giving a s**t to anyone or in any situation and he continues to dare his politically motivated fellow boxing federation officials, including the chief. Prabhu gets transferred to Chennai from Hissar due to a past rivalry between him and the federation chief and one which now has manifested into more of a “me or him ego clash” for the chief.

So, Madhavan rides his bike to Chennai where he spots Madhi, a fisherwoman girl, who he believes has all that it takes to become a champion. However, she (Ritika Singh) is boisterous, unruly and completely disrespectful of authority, while her sister is the one who is more focused on building a boxing career just to enable her find a police job (her only life aspiration). Once the backdrops of these two characters are established, it is very easy for the viewer to imagine how the story pretty much ends – sort of. Right? And the director definitely doesn’t want to deprive you of a chance to feel good about yourself at the end of the movie. So, in may ways, this is not a new story. At least the flavor of it.

Yet, it is a completely new movie, because of all the wonderful characters that come together to make up so many unique incidents that build one upon on another and follow a sequence organically, to transport the viewer a climax, which brought me a lump or two.

Madhavan couldn’t have found a better role to announce the breaking of his hiatus. He lives the character of an occasionally drunk, irreverent boxing coach, who doesn’t give two hoots about political corruption that ails the boxing federation. In fact, he tries to face these issues head on in his own rude & ruffled way by giving counterpunches.

Ritika Singh, a debutante, makes you travel with her right from the first moment you see her on screen. It’s not necessarily her beauty or cuteness, but the “life” she manages to bring onto screen. Her character is so alive, and so lovely & she makes everything about Madhi likable (North Madras slang included).

Nasser plays a junior coach and I don’t know if anyone else could have played that part better. All the other supporting cast members proved their worth all around.

Santhosh Narayanan’s OST worked big time in this movie and I thought his music alone moved many scenes very coherently. Needless to add, the songs had already become popular before the release of the movie and that again is largely due to the rugged, unfurled style he decided to adopt for this movie. Hats off to him.

In the end, Irudhi Suttru/Saala Khadoos is all about zeal, love and respect.

I highly recommend the movie, not for feminist reasons (which are also good enough reasons to go watch), but more for the sheer brilliance of the director, her vision of the script and for some top of the line casting.

Don’t hold any punches when it comes to making this movie an undisputed champion in the box office.

Note: It probably should be spelled “Irudhichchutru” to be precise..but I decided to refer to the movie as “Irudhi Suttru” because that seems to be the filmmakers’ preferred way of spelling it.

 

 

Posted in AR Rahman, Movies - General, Uncategorized

Tamasha – Don’t let go of that child in you!

tamashaImtiaz Ali’s scripts can be regressive, if you are not attuned to his skillsmanship of dealing with romance in his movies. In all his movies, except Highway (which till date remains my favorite from his lot), he has a reflexive nature to look at love between a man and a woman through a broken prism. His love stories have always been only about love. And I don’t mean that in  a less than complimentary manner. If Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal were more about struggling souls finding true love, Rockstar perhaps was the first shift in gear from the Ali stable, which really drove the search for true love through a deeply disturbed psyche which went looking for a broken heart, all in a quest to create good music. Now in Tamasha,  Ali returns to a similar terrain, one that of a disturbed soul looking for true love, but only this time he carefully maneuvers the search and transforms his story into a simpler and perhaps a much more relatable/accessible version of what that disturbed mind is looking for.

The problem with Ali’s transition from being a simple romantic storyteller in Jab we Met to a more intricate and a complex one, the one we get to see in Rockstar and now in Tamasha is that, you either get on with the journey or not. It depends on where as a movie watcher you are able to connect with the characters or with the plot. If you missed the connection early enough, Rockstar and  Tamasha are two rides that could end up spinning you down through a tube with bumpy stops, thus putting you through an ordeal, you otherwise wished you had avoided. But if you catch on to the angle that Ali wants us to see through his characters, then, notwithstanding a few slightly stretched out scenes or overdoing of a theme or two during the course of the journey, Imtiaz Ali simply stuns you with his nuanced characterizations and dialogues. And I think that’s where Imtiaz Ali scores big with Tamasha. The characters and the way Ali makes you connect with them, fall for them and feel for them – that is if you get on with the journey early enough.

Why always the same story? 

Through Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), the boy who would steal money from his father’s wallet just to listen to stories narrated by this small town storyteller, Imtiaz Ali intricately layers his script (and you) with a well conceived screenplay & images of how epics from all around the world, including India’s own are pretty much woven around the same story. The beautiful overlay of Chali Kahani with this background at the beginning of the movie, pretty much sets the tone for what the viewer should expect in terms of narration for the rest of the movie. Very little has been said about Tara’s background (Deepika Padrone) in the script and I guess that’s because Ali didn’t think that was necessary because his protagonist is Ved. And the broken prism through his narration happens is the one Ved holds.

After setting the backdrop for his protagonist, Ali quickly switches to Corsica, where probably the movie’s breeziest few minutes take place. Even if you end up not liking the movie as a whole, those 15-20 minutes of the movie set in Corsica alone is worth your trip to the movie theater. Be it Rahman’s brilliance in Parade de La Bastille which smoothly transitions to Matargasthi, or Ali’s brilliance in etching out the carefree moments that  Ved and Tara need to be in their ‘role-played characters’, I can’t but imagine how every guy wanted to be that Ved for a few minutes and every girl wanted to be that Tara for those few minutes, Corsica or not. Yes, it may have gotten a bit stretched out – those role playing moments, but if you simply gave into the flow, which is exactly Ved wants to do, one would understand how those moments in Corsica build up Tara’s expectations for what were to follow.

As Tara lands in Kolkata, the song Heer to badi sad hai (with some enjoyable lighthearted lyrics by Irshad Kamil) is played. Much like Wat Wat that comes later on during Ved’s epiphany sort of a moment, I couldn’t quite connect the jazzy or loud juxtaposition of these songs, although I loved the total abstractness of the same. Tara’s persistence eventually leads her to Delhi where she tracks down Ved, who contrary to what Tara was imagining, is caught in his own spiral downfall of living his life, playing by the rules set by others on how life should be lived. This is when Ali tries too hard to have his audience connect with Ved and his internal struggle to come to terms with the distance between his heart and the world. Ved takes time to realize why Tara is in love with him and what he needs to do. But those moments of epiphany, both when he talks to his dad about it and when he randomly connects with that auto driver and his roadside restaurant pedestrians through Wat Wat, somehow didn’t stand out when compared to those simple flashback images of his childhood.

In Ali, Rahman has a reliable ally, a filmmaker who respects his music and weaves his scenes around his music. Ali has so much reverence for his movie’s music and what Rahman does for him. It was evident in Rockstar (of course), but in Highway and Tamasha, Ali takes the most difficult path to show his reverence for Rahman. Except Matargasthi, none of the other songs have a true bollywood setting and yet, they all fit in perfectly. As if the songs were fit in first before Ali wrote his script. Chali Kahani and Tu Koyi Aur Hai were very artistically spliced to spruce up Ali’s narration and they worked so well. I hope Rahman continues to derive creative satisfaction doing projects like these because there aren’t too many filmmakers like this anymore who can stay current with the trends in moviemaking and yet, stay true to their beliefs on songs being an integral part of movies.

With Tamasha, Imtiaz Ali once again tells the  same story. The story of a disturbed male protagonist getting lost in a maze of love and his struggle to reach his lover, who makes him realize who he really is.

The last few seconds (when both the lead characters are shown listening to music with their headphones on, while we don’t get to hear anything) just underscores that as much of a heavy romantic story this is, in the end, Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha is all about not letting go of the child in you.