Posted in Movies - General

Vikram Vedha – A Story of Choices

The two lead characters of Pushkar-Gayatri’s Vikram Vedha have one thing in common. They both are devout to their chosen profession with an obstinate belief in their respective approaches. The confidence they have in their approach with which they go about conducting their business pretty much provides them the drive they need and it also helps them define their moral compass ..a compass that gives them distinct clarity between black and white, in a world full of several shades of gray.

Vikram Vedha

Why Vikram Vedha turns out to be one of the best Tamil movies in recent times is not because of the philosophies and the above principles that define the two lead characters. But because of Pushkar and Gayatri’s screenplay that quite intricately builds the plot for the viewer, leading up to a climax which works in the most cinematically engaging way possible. The element of suspense, when revealed during the climax makes the audience connect all the dots. The hallmark of a great movie & a brilliant screenplay is how much it makes the viewer think about the movie after he or she walks out of the movie hall. I was thinking about the intricate plot for a few hours after I walked out of the movie.

Both Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi carry their roles with aplomb. Vijay’s character is a more relatable one for the Tamil audience. They have seen him in similar roles (not in a negative shade, but Chennai slang speaking, casual mannerism wielding, etc. etc.) and have cheered for him for his ability to breathe life into these roles. And yet, there was something more intense in this role and Vijay scores big in every opportunity he gets in the script.

Vikram’s role on the other hand was a bit more difficult for Madhavan to fit in and he pulled it off quite brilliantly. His character demanded balancing multiple relationships, each with a different set of nuances. Be it with a attorney wife, who is actually on the other side of the criminal case he is dealing with OR be it during his personal encounters with Vedha, the mobster whose downfall has been his mission and also the person who intrigues him the most by making him look at the gray side OR be it with his colleagues, with whom he shares his ideologies in the most pragmatical way possible with some kind of naiveté – These are some of the different shades of Vikram’s character that Madhavan had to carry on his shoulders.

Vedha is that introspective criminal, who was thrown into the mix due to circumstances. He is fully aware of what he is doing and hence keeps himself detached from other people, except perhaps for his love for his brother, a matter in which he had no choice. He deals with situations in a practical way, weighs his choices justly and sticks with his decision. He is smart and is persuasive.

The Vikram-Betal structure has been used to frame this intricate plot of what otherwise is a simple story. Pushkar and Gayatri have shown their humorous side in the past through their earlier outings and their penchant for brilliant one liners continue here as well but in a more unassuming way than you could imagine in a plot like this. Even though Sam CS’s background score is bright and energetic for this movie, providing the much needed gusto, he also overdoes it to some extent (would have preferred a softer approach in some sequences). The main theme chant inspired by the powerful “Aigiri Nandini” stands out and bodes well with the overall momentum of the movie.

In Vikram Vedha, we get to witness two characters from two sides of the socially dictated moral spectrum of “Right vs Wrong”, pitted against each other and making choices based on their instincts.  When one of the two characters offers the other a different perspective and the other character agrees to accommodate a different perspective, the choice making is no longer instinctive but analytical.

And the buzz of “Oru Kadha Sollattaa Saar?” (“Shall I narrate a story, Sir?”) continues to ring in my ears.

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Posted in Movies - General

Dunkirk – An Act of Survival

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For the American movie audience, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk will come across as an educational experience because this historic event from 1940, albeit being one of the major chapters of the British WWII history books, is hardly talked about in America.

Nolan, the man known for his quirky and yet intelligible signature style of creating temporal melee of events, like in movies such as “Memento”, “Inception” and “Interstellar”, doesn’t fail to stamp his style on Dunkirk as well. His signature style involves telling a story through multiple timelines, sometimes overlapping through his tense screenplay , but eventually synchronizing them all in the only way he can. His audience often walk out of the movie halls thinking or analyzing what just happened, but with Dunkirk he manages to achieve much more. The audience walk out with a sense of trauma relief. A trauma caused by some intense and realistic 107 minutes of being part of the largest evacuations in WWII history and surviving some ruthless enemy attacks.

Dunkirk starts off in quite a fiercely animated way, with a group of six soldiers trying to chart their way out to the sea from the middle of the town, where they were hiding when flyers from the Nazi Germany had been dropped — Paper flyers giving them a dire warning of having no way out. That intensity that sets in the first minute is not lost almost till the end credits. In fact, it only escalates during various sequences in between. The overall cinematic experience is beyond anything you may have seen in war movies. Hoyte Van Hoytema with his vivid shots, Hans Zimmer’s tension filled background score, the editor, the sound engineers, etc. who managed to keep that immersive experience till the end deserve credit for aiding Nolan with creating a masterpiece of cinema.

Having not been warned prior to watching the movie, it took me a few minutes to understand the three timelines cryptically set by Nolan at the very beginning. Not that I am spoiling a surprise here, but it may help you watch the movie and enjoy the experience if you knew it ahead of time. With these three timelines being editorially intertwined in a skillful way, Nolan still manages to tell three different stories (and their backstories) with a common meeting point.

Land, Sea and Sky — Those are the three different timelines.

With a naval commander on land, who is coordinating the evacuation through minimal resources, we get to experience the story (and the events during that one week timeline) through a fumbled escape route taken by Tommy, a thin soldier, whose emotions are as raw as what Nolan wants us to experience, nothing too personal and nothing too painful, but simply as raw human instinct for survival.

On sea, the story and the timeline of that one day unfolds through the experiences of a private small boat owner (played by one of my favorite actors Mark Rylance), who is being called for this mission, along with a civilian fleet ranging from tug boats to steamers and ferries, all sailing through the English Channel, to help evacuate as many English soldiers as they can from Dunkirk. Mark Rylance’s character, Mr. Dawson and his son end up taking a shy lad, who happens to be the son’s friend in their mission. As they navigate the waters, with Luftwaffes (german fighter planes) dominating the skies and with other troubled English ships on the water, they eventually manage to rescue more than what they may have set out to sail for.

Meanwhile, on air, we have three Royal Air Force pilots taking off in their Spitfires to give cover for the fleet and also in an attempt to shoot down the Luftwaffes. As they battle the bobbing clouds and blinding sun, they need to somehow survive the relentless attacks from the enemy planes. We get to experience the story and this timeline of an hour unfold through Tom Hardy, piloting the only plane that eventually makes it to Dunkirk successfully. As he walks out of his plane, he shoots it in order to avoid it being captured by the Germans. That sight signifies the sentiment of the war.

Christopher Nolan’s brilliance for juggling different timelines and his amazing ability to show them all through a vision that can only be described as elastic (made into reality with the help of Lee Smith, the editor), makes this movie work big time. The intensity and the rawness captured through a wide angle 70mm format and Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score with a sustaining hum of a metallic noise throughout the film along with intermittent string outbursts to ratchet up tension and anxiety pretty much take you to the middle of the combat zone.

Nolan manages to avoid showing gore which we are so used to in war films, and instead chooses to show the rawness of the action as it unfolds. We don’t get to see wounds, we don’t witness blood gushing, we don’t get to see zoomed broken legs or arms, and we certainly don’t see too many traumatic injury filled faces. Nolan doesn’t hide the reality of these combat scenes, so you do feel all of the above in passing. What’s more, Nolan doesn’t even identify the enemy here as Nazi Germany, as if letting us know, there was no point in telling us the obvious. Even Churchill, an integral figure behind the evacuation is never more than a passing reference who gains relevance (in the movie) only through a newspaper article which Tommy reads after he gets home, towards the end.

Wars may not be won by evacuations, but this evacuation was truly a victory for the human will to survive. Dunkirk is an experiential movie that leaves you with an impact that very few war movies manage to achieve.

Bring on the Oscars!!

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

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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.