Thursday, September 29, 2005

The much-necessitated disclaimer

Well.. with all the hullaballoo going on about the correctness in the choice of Paheli as the official nomination from India (Rediff leading from the front), I wanted to reiterate my stand on this whole Oscar-thing. I mean, this token Oscar nomination has been going on for long time with not much significance (swayed by south Indian films for years including the likes of Jeans) and nobody seemed to care as much as they are doing now!
My previous post was of the rants-kind on a token piece of parody in the name of nominees happenning year after year.
I am not reacting in anger (like the repeated rants here) about what should have been the right choice instead of 'Paheli'. But, surest thing, I would have loved had HKA got selected, though :(.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Oscar Swindlers

Well, the FFI has chosen Paheli* as the official Indian entry for this year's Oscars. Not that it's going to make some difference. But FFI is so screwed that they do this every year; only once in a blue moon, have they selected one among the worthier efforts of that year.
Otherwise it's all like some parody like this year's nominees list which include Veer-Zaara, Sachein, Anniyan and the likes. Enough said.
Even National Awards falter sometimes to mediocrity. But nowhere near to match FFI!
The grapevine has it that after Jeans, this is the closest chance we might get to clinch the oscars! ;)

* - I haven't seen Paheli myself and hence no comments on the movie itself.

Links thru India Uncut.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


When Surya, a low-life yet honest man gets released from the jail (convicted for murder), because a sidekick of a big law-breaker in the city claims that he committed the murder, Surya asks him "Why?". He replies, "Deva". An attempt at pithy stylized dialogues. But, it is really funny in its awkwardness nevertheless. Wait, there is more to come. As Surya comes out of the jail doors, he sees Deva standing there, all alone, waiting for Surya's arrival. He expresses his gratitude for Deva and says "En kitta irukkurathu onnu thaan. En Uyir. Adha naa unakku kodukka thayaar'aa irukkaen" [paraphrased]. Deva, in turn, asks him to be his friend, his Thalapathi (Commander-in-chief). And they hug each other heartily, only in a few seconds after their second meeting (and the first doesn't go too well)! This sequence definitely reminds me of what Jabberwock wrote here (in a 'subtle' sense, of course).
Quite obvious that the scene I have sampled is from Thalapathi, Mani Rathnam's attempt in retelling the mythological story of Karna from the epic Mahabharatha. It is worth mentioning that it also has Mani Rathnam writing the dialogues for his movie (An unusual thing; Anybody shed lights on Idhaya Kovil & Pagal Nilavu, please).
The movie could have well been one of MR's fine efforts with its interesting premise (with strong echoes of Benegal's tour-de-force Kalyug). The references to the mythological original are quite straightforward unlike, say a "Hey! Ram", but yet adapted to the contemporary scenario very effectively.
1. Surya, as a child, coming in a small piece of floating pad stuffed with chaff or something.
2. Surya doesn't say "No" to anybody coming to him for help.
3. Placing Arjun on the law's side {and he does come from a place called Pandavapuram (?)} thus placing him in a "war" against the "Kauravas", Deva and Surya.
4. The Shobhana love-angle also suggesting Karna's failed attempt at marrying Draupadi since he was not a Kshatriya. Interestingly, Benegal also suggests that "Draupadi" was once in love with "Karna" in his Kalyug (though, I don't remember any such suggestion in Sage Vyasa's masterpiece. May be, I missed it out thanks largely to the kitsch, good-wins-over-the-evil version of Mahabharatha in Doordarshan).
More higher points are IR's fantastic score and Santosh Sivan's impressive cinematography give a solid support the very bleak atmosphere maintained throughout the movie. MR's affinity to picturise songs with all the aesthetics is all too evident in this movie (and he pays his tribute to Kurosawa in the song Sundari Kannaal Oru Sethi). Inspite of these high points, the misé-en-scene throughout the movie (who are these people who rever Deva and Co. as their Saviours and which city are we in? both of these unanswered deliberately) and an impulsive leaning to go over-the-top in melodrama really pulls the movie down.
The melodrama quotient reaches strange levels when one starts wondering if it was deliberate from the Mani Rathnam's part to equate the story to Mahabharata which had come in T.V. with over-the-top melodramatic setup. So, we have Surya (the name indicating the connection with God Surya, apart from quite a number of shots of Surya standing right in between the twilight sun and the camera giving him a halo effect) crying on his mother's lap the moment he meets her; Arjun, his half-brother (played by a young Aravind Swamy, a MR constant-to-be), calling him "Anna!" and hugging him after Deva's funeral.
Rajini, in his last attempt at shedding off the heroic persona, still gets quite a share of it to appease his fans and we have MR on the other side trying to make Thalapathi as a great film. That conflict shows up in the movie too (and in the film's denouement too, with Surya joining hands with his mother safely, as "there is no evidence against him").
I always maintained (then, perhaps mainly because I was/am an ardent fan of KH) that Guna was a much better effor than Thalapathi (the comparison being for the sole reason that they were released on the same day). I still think so.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal

That this movie got made in the 1970s will be very hard to believe for many many generations to come. This is due to the condescending way with which we look at the older movies and our nonchalant feeling that the newer generations of film-makers are making better movies in the Tamil Cinema arena (I, myself, am guilty of this). The fact, I see on second thoughts, is that such gems get made once in a while. We have gems being made now as well. But, its more like a freaky occurrence. Well, in that sense, this movie is a freaky occurrence too. Perhaps, the freakiest of them all. IMHO, Jayakanthan should have written and directed more movies. He (like Sujatha - who in his screenwriting stint wrote, more often than not, for movies of much lesser worth), is no stranger to Cinema. In the preface of the book on the screenplay of this movie (available in some Tamil bookshops), A. Bhimsingh, the director of the movie [*], beams that working with Jayakanthan was a revelatory experience and he was quite awed at knowing that Jayakanthan was a fantastic screen writer and that he understood the grammar of Cinema very well.
This is a movie about Ganga (Lakshmi in a career-best role; and National Award winning role), a Brahmin girl, who gets sexually 'assaulted' (well, there is a big question mark left here which is an audacious stroke of beauty from the writing department) by a man who gives her a lift on a rainy day, and how that day changes her whole life and how she attempts at getting her life back to normalcy. The movie works at various levels -
1. a searing criticism at the way marriage/sex/women are treated by the bourgeois society.
2. a character study of a lonely woman and loneliness itself
3. an unusual love story (heck, this description sounds terrible; but, hope you get the point)
4. and above all, a movie about relationships.
When Ganga's uncle asks for her pardon, the way the film cuts to the time when Ganga leaves with him to his home and he says "I will show them what's what!" is the clearest testimony for the reason behind the movie's title apart from the study of the lives of the two protagonists.
The movie steers clear of all clichés starting from not being yet another overtly pseudo-feminist fare (which was quite an identity for "good films" of Tamil Cinema in the 80s) with its very non-judgemental look (to such an extent that it even refuses to observe from a typical feminist standpoint, though that might be the most rightful position to take) on that fatal incident. After years, when she decides to meet the man (who is then introduced as Prabhu played by Srikanth) and she even befriends him, it is very strange from her part to catch the man who raped her and ruined her whole life. The girl going after the man who 'raped' her has been the plot of many movies [**], mostly terribly handled, and as if it was a righteous thing for the woman to go for that man. But here, it is not a mere indictment on the woman to go after him; but a willful decision from her part to do so; to prove her "smartness" to her uncle who, quite stupidly, says "she should go get that guy and marry him if she is smart enough" trying to prove she "cannot marry" unlike all other women. Her loneliness and Srikanth's helplessness and guilt plays the main factors in their progressing friendship. When Prabhu says he never forced anybody and asks Ganga if he really forced her that day, it is suggested that it was not a rape at all. In short, when Ganga finally yearns for his love, she no more feels he was the reason for her state of abandonment; rather, its the people around her who disowned her after that fatal incident years ago.
The writing involves many moments breaking many a cinematic cliché. Just to sample, Prabhu is a rich man. But still "his English is not good" (at least he thinks so; portrayed without much emphasis on it by, say, letting him speak horrible English) and admires Ganga for that. Literary references have been mostly absent in the history of Tamil cinema. But here we get references to Chekhov, Wodehouse (in a throw-away scene) etc.
Well, this is the only Jeyakanthan movie (clearly the man behind this fare) I have seen and I am still on the hunt for his other movies.
Also, Check out Baradwaj's take on this movie.

* - A. Bhimsingh collaborated again with JK and made Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkkiraal. His son, B. Lenin, adapted JK's "Oorukku Nooru Per" (a very serene, 'art-house' work which won him the National Award for the Best Director.

** - Sirai, a movie made by R. C. Sakthi is quite similar to this movie (and inspired by Benegal's Nishant, perhaps). Only that there we have a self-conscious director telling us that he has tried to tell the story "visually" (being apt to the cinematic medium, that is). But, something awfully goes wrong in its execution and becomes an unbearable piece for most of its running time, thanks in large proportions to the comedy track which in an approximate measurement goes for more than an hour.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Through George's post, I read Rediff's list of upcoming Hindi movies this week and had one serious question.
What's a Madhavan-style comedy?