Having a Ball
This ain’t no fight
The ball is never outta sight
Just heeding our call
And blithely, having a ball
Having a Ball
This ain’t no fight
The ball is never outta sight
Just heeding our call
And blithely, having a ball
Inside the Lone Keeper
A war rages on
For Inner Peace
What’s the point of living through a whole life and attaining wisdom, if you can’t share it with others? It’s utterly useless, if you ask me.
I presume, it’s that exact premise which prompted me to write this blog post.
I have decided to share my wisdom. The wisdom that is all about being in a state of uselessness and why that’s not a bad thing, as long as you are wise enough to realize that you are useless.
Before I dig myself deeper here, let us qualify uselessness. And answer some basic questions.
1) What is being useless?
2) How difficult is it to be useless?
3) Can you really be useless?
Firstly, useful or useless is a relative thing. We often associate being useful with an act that is beneficial to ‘others’. That’s where the problem begins and it’s all to do with our society. We live in a society where if we do nothing, by being still or silent and absolutely void of any stimuli, there is a negative stigma associated with it. The implication is that one is being useless. But in reality, by doing nothing, by creating that void for your mind and body, you are being extremely useful to yourself. Neuroscientists would agree with me when I say that the benefits that come out of being useless are tremendous for your own personal health.
How difficult is it to be useless?
The short answer is – It is very difficult. It needs extreme training and rigorous practice of doing nothing before you can perfect the art of being in a state of uselessness.
I am not kidding.
It was before the birth of Internet. A time when you would walk to the street and stop at the first restaurant to get food and didn’t have to look at Yelp for the 25 different choices you had within a 5 min walk radius & didn’t need to rely on the 256 reviews, before deciding to hail a cab to go to a restaurant 29 minutes away from home.
It was a more adventurous time, if you were up for it, or if you were the kind who didn’t want to torture yourself by processing information, then I guess you resigned everything to fate. Either way, this was also the time, when you could sit and stare at a tree while sitting on a park bench, and do absolutely nothing for hours together. There were no notifications or alerts to prompt you or remind you to check your phones. It was during this time, I practiced my skill. I am not saying that it was easy to be useless back then, it was a bit easier. I often had long periods of time before someone realized how useless I was. So, that kept my determination going. The bottomline is, it is much harder to be useless these days. Almost impossible. Unless, you become a Buddha and walk away from everything. Then you can try to become useless.
Can you really be useless?
I think the answer is yes. Although I am a bit split on this question. By answering this question, if I am being useful to you, then the very premise of this question is flawed. I think that somehow makes this state of being in utter uselessness a distorted reality. May be it doesn’t exist. Even when you are being useless to others, you are being useful to yourself. Right?
That makes me think.
Wait..wait..I know, I know..
You the reader, you are one step ahead of me. I know what you want to ask.
Before you ask me, let me clarify this. You are going to ask me if I thought Buddha was being useless.
I would say – YES. Buddha was able to attain all his wisdom, only after he forced himself into a state of being utterly useless. I would imagine his whole exercise would have turned useless, if he had tried to do something instead of nothing.
Buddha attained wisdom. His wisdom entailed the beauty of doing nothing and why being in a blissful state of uselessness provides one happiness. But, What did he do after all that?
He shared his wisdom with everyone.
Damn!! He became useful.
I think I have lost my own plot here. Never mind.
As Bertrand Russell says, there is much pleasure gained from useless knowledge. Hope you gained much pleasure reading this.
You can read my other posts “On such things”, right here.
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.
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.
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!!
யார் தொடங்கினர் தொடரும் இப்பகையினை? தெரிந்தால் ஒப்புக்கொள்ள பகுத்தறிவாளர்களுக்கு இங்கு கொஞ்சம் பஞ்சம்.
தெரிந்து, தெரிந்த பகையை புதிய பரிணாமத்தில் விரித்து பிரித்து, இன்னல் பல வளர்த்து மதத்தோடு மதத்தின் பலம் பார்க்கத்தூண்டும் மந்தவாதிகளல்லவா நாம்!
All days had been terrific till now. Hadn’t they been? Well, to be precise, there were rather many that were terrific till about 99 days ago. But there has not been a single terrific day since.
Today is the 100th day.
May be today is going to be different. At least, Daimonald Kertrump, the man at the helm is hoping it would be.
He calls his bird assistant and asks him to summon Prickly Reapus to the quad altar immediately. Then, he swiftly wears his orange mitre on his head, leaves the Bishops’ robes room and heads to the altar.
As Reapus enters the west nave, he starts walking towards the quad altar and when he is about 5 feet away, he notices that Bacchanal Sturanus, the Archbishop of White Supremacy is standing right behind Kertrump, holding the altar rail, trying hard not to make his state of stupor so obvious. His eyes are bloodshot red.
“I am so sorry”, says Reapus.
“Well, you should be..”, Kertrump.
“I didn’t know I was stepping on Mr. Jagged Koalemoshner’s toes. But, in my defense, My Lord, the Most Esteemed Cardinal, If I may say so, Mr. Koalemoshner’s toes seem to be everywhere. I mean, literally everywhere. May I ask, if it is even humanly possible? I would’ve asked him directly if only he could speak..”, Reapus trying to defend his actions.
“Didn’t follow a word of what you said. Before we speak on an important matter, I am gonna get me that caramelized drink from the south. Whatchamacallit? Hmm..Hey Reapus! Have you seen this? Look at this..I love this red button..”, Kertrump, with a childlike enthusiasm pushes the button.
Before Reapus gets ready to ask what that button is all about, he hears a loud groan of the slumping Bacchanal from behind.
“Bacchanal, You are so fat that you are casting your shadow all over me. Move away from the light. I don’t know which button I pressed…”, Kertrump, trying to locate the right red button.
“Where was I? Yes. It’s about that little boy Jagged. He is like my son. So, be careful what you want to bring to me about him Reap. It better have some real merit in it..”, Kertrump.
“Your Holiness, I have an urgent business to attend to in 15 minutes. If you’d let me, I will cancel that meeting, in the event, your eminence’s reason for summoning me here far exceeds the urgency of that of my oily conversation with one Mr. Trex..”, Reapus holding a palm sized device in his right hand.
“Yes. Of course. But we will be done soon..”, Kertrump continues.
“You know today marks the 100th day since I took charge of this Archdiocese. Before me, these churches were in a terrible shape. The congregation didn’t have proper seats to sit, the candles were half broken and people had brought candles from other places that shouldn’t belong here in the churches, the ceilings were so high, there were too many colors on the window panes instead of what God would’ve wanted — just white window panels, etc. etc. You know all that..?”
“Yes of course, Your Holiness..”, Reapus.
“Look at this church now. Isn’t it beautiful? Everything has changed..for the better..”, Kertrump’s gloating continues.
“Yes. You would be very right My Lord Cardinal. I will ignore the size of the congregation before you took over and what it is these days..”, Reapus.
“C’mon Reapus! I have had bigger congregations. When you walk out of the west nave, you should check out the pictures on the wall. But what I really want to know is why the Pope is so unimpressed with me? Why is the clergy not praising me?”, Kertrump’s voice shifts to a slightly sombre tone.
“My Lord! It must be the crooked path that connects the Vatican walls to the Basilica.. You should read the latest edition of the Vatican Journal..”, Reapus.
“When you say things like that Reap, I don’t know what to tell you or what to do with you. Do I look like I read? You know this is when I feel like I should say YES to Bacchana’s proposal. I won’t tell ya what it is…”, Kertrumper winks with difficulty.
“Well. My Eminent Cardinal, all I am saying is that the Vatican security has been infiltrated by fake sentinels and they are not letting real news reach the Pope..”, Reapus.
“That explains it. That explains it all. We can change that I think. We can kill those fake sentinels soon. But here is why I called you now. Since you are a magic man with words, tell me what is the one thing I can do on my 100th day that would make people forget everything that happened till now and they start talking about what happens today. In other words, what media considers as our 100 day achievements (as ridiculous as they sound), can easily be manipulated by this one thing I am going to do today. Or two things. I want to control their narraive. Like always..”, Kertrumper takes a sip of that caramelized sugar drink.
“Most Eminent Cardinal, I have a thought. Been thinking about it for a while. Here..”, Reapus, opening his phone.
All of a sudden, they hear a loud noise echoing through the high walls of the chamber all the way to the ceiling. It gets louder and louder as the bird assistant gets closer to the altar with a white phone in his hand. He is visibly panicking.
“Your Eminence, You must see this..”, the bird assistant stutters.
“Oh Shit..The wrong button..!!”, Kertrump starts trembling, as he brings his petite sweaty palms together and clasps himself tightly.
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.
Mansplaining Women’s Day
Listen, I am going to make it a special day,
You don’t know how much I know all that come your way.
So, I want you to forget all your strain,
And join me in my celebration of your pain.
Walk right through this door, watch out for your gown,
Oh, you didn’t tell me you were wearing cocoa brown.
I’d have asked you to pick something in burgundy,
To go with my tie, but who cares if we aren’t trendy?
Today is all about honor, so let me do you the honor,
And tell you what makes you the best in this corner.
Don’t yawn yet. With me darling? You still with me?
Do know that only you can make me the man I want to be.
Here. Here is a fine Syrah. Give it a try.
Any other night, I’d let you have your chardonnay, dry.
But tonight is your night, so experience the exquisite,
I bet you will thank me for this, till our next visit.
Where was I? Yes, honoring the fearless,
And those who stood up for your rights, no less.
For all that you are able to do now,
Many men must have sacrificed what and how.
Want another glass? Thought you’d be done with just one.
This Syrah, with its black pepper overtone, is strong even for men.
Always thought a lot of women wouldn’t have it in them,
You are special and I will never leave you, whatever may come.