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cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Anbarivu (2022)

So you all know what an FRS is right? Right?

We would like to start by wishing all our readers a very Happy New Year, let’s just hope there are less movies with narration this year.

-10: Narration, there goes our new year wish, all the best to us. This is not a complex story, as in, this is just another village vs village story and there are at least 3000 ways to tell this without having to have narration.

Since we are blog that does not just raise questions but also provides solutions: makers can actually name the movies with the same premise so that audience can directly connect

-5: Narration by Vidarth, who is kind of like the principal antagonist, beginning with his narration almost feels right as the movie progresses, but then this narration comes to nothing and his narration is also not followed through.

I wish to start a new business by sending a daily whatsapp/text reminders to directors and writers on set, it would just read the following.

Daily Reminder: People are not dumb.

That seems like a good segue to our next point

-50: Twins

If you thought that the village vs village was a done to death in Tamil cinema then you are in store for another repetitive story jumping off point- separated twins.

It doesn’t bother us that Anbarivu picks up familiar themes, it only bothers us that the director is brazen with the- “yeah yeah, we know you have seen these movies before, but did it have Hip Hop in them?”

Yes Hip Hop is the differentiating factor in the film, but not always differentiating factors are good. And this time he comes in twos.

-300: Napoleon plays a quote-unquote majestic village headman, where people ‘respect’ him for what he is, his weekend hobby is to fight in riots with neighboring village folk.

There is undeniably a cast angle here and an intent to show that caste violence is a sickening thing and slip in a message about equality, but how does the director think that a two hour 45 min film which glorifies such violence for two hours and 20 mins expect us to believe that such a transformation can happen in the last 25 mins?

Hehe, it can, possibly with powerful filmmaking. Run time is not an indicator of impact, but here it seems almost like a casual turn the movie takes towards the end.

Also the Napoleon character is applauded in the end, because he ‘accepts’ that he was wrong etc. Boss he must also be in Jail, so must the Anbu character.

-120: Generic Maduraikarans: funny like one specific thing becomes relatively mainstream it completely loses its specificity, ever since Maduraikaranisms were taken up as major characters in tamil films, they have ever since been reduced to stereotypes who spout words like Sambavam, Rathabhoomi etc

Tiring.

-60: Ragging in Canada university

-23: Hero’s dad becomes president of IDFC or something in Canada and this is celebrated by Canadians on TVs and billboards etc

-101: Hero gets slow motion entry because is hero and most of the village cheer him because he is hero, do educate us city types, do villages like these exist?

Also village celebrates hero’s birthday with Jallikattu, of course there was going to be Jallikattu in this movie

+45: Murattu Kaalai Ex Machina

If you know, you know

-25: Heroine thinks that all foreigners are in open relationships, hero thinks that all village love is true and pyoor etc, so he must marry a pucca tamil girl etc

+56: Irritation as a plot propulsion device

Somewhere I feel that the director is very perceptive, he understands that the material at hand can bring about much irritation to the audience, so much so that he incorporates this as a theme

Arivu irritates his thatha in the village

Anbu irritates his appa in Canada

So yeah, that’s about it.

-20.9: Delayed Thaai Paasam Gratification + with Amma song

-59: Movie is confused max, it believes that it needs to be a commercial film and hence needs to add commercial elements but also realized that these commercial elements are also regressive, so movie cannot make up it’s mind, so it makes one of the twins a woke reformer (something of the sort)

+30: But I would also like to come clean, that on a Saturday with an impending lockdown, the second half of this movie was quite calming even though the first half (my division not the movie’s) was quite aggravating.

The second half gives chance for all the characters that were introduced to come together and in their own ways complete their respective arc. It’s not the most organic of stories but somehow seemed “well-set”, Anbarivu also benefits from a good supporting cast who can sell this story and make up for whatever is lost by the casting of the leads.

And in this Vidarth really was interesting.

-87: It’s not a village movie unless there is a foreign corporate power trying to take over the lands of the people

Etc

Yeah I know.

Subam

Team FRS

Anbarivu is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar

Categories
Netflix OTT TV

Decoupled (Netflix, 2021)

What if you could really say what you think? As opposed to what if you could really say what you feel?

I avoided the word feel, because Arya Iyer in the new Netflix relationship series Decoupled doesn’t seem to care much about feelings.

He is an observer and a thinker and by virtue of being the second best selling Indian English author in the country (huh), he is able to achieve this special status.

In India, it must really be normal to say what you think, after all it is guaranteed in the Constitution, but as an earlier Manu Joseph (the same who created Decoupled) column would go on to say:  freedom of expression is always subordinate to someone’s freedom to take offense.

Netflix marketed Decoupled as a divorce comedy that looks at marriage in urban elite India, which it is, but it is also mostly not.

Arya Iyer, a stand-in for Manu uses Decoupled as a platform for social commentary. All evidence points that way that, starting from the Dravid vs Tendulkar argument, the constant state of being riled at Indian bullshit jobs, the users of certain words and the general dissing of economists and art films. It’s all from his columns.

In modern marketing (an upmarket term that marketers use to prevent themselves from being identified as digital marketers), seniors would often throw around the term ‘content repurposing’ which is shorthand for ‘we don’t have any new ideas.

There you learned something which you can use in your next marketing meeting. See here, I’m being meta about my day job while using a film blog as a platform to spell out my irritations. Decoupled does the same.

The observations from Manu’s mint column which are visualized, some of them prescient like an offhand comment on how like Israel everyone in India should have 2 years military training and many hilarious like literal Greta Thunberg costumes, Gurgaon working women’s book club and the concept of live-art.

But what’s the point?

People (mostly men) have a lot of irritations, but mouthing them would land us in trouble, increasingly so when each word has to be measured in the fear of offending anyone. So much so that it is often portrayed that expressing such observations (however superficial) is somehow insensitive to others.

The threat of being offended looms large and most opinions are not expressed. Be civil, agree to your mainstream, smile when you have to, salute when you have to, give for the causes everyone gives to etc. In a sense it is the freedom of collective expression that prevails over the freedom of expression.

While the better thing to do would have been to air the opinions however stupid or profound and be done with it. It’s an opinion for God’s sake, it can change and it should offend.

Arya Iyer is a creation of an irritated mind, he cannot exist in reality, he cannot exist in the sectors of Gurgaon or in any Indian gaon; but Manu goes beyond just creating an irritating character but allows him to pursue his irritation into actions of small pleasure; it is as though in this universe: the irritated must irritate, the annoyed must annoy back and therein lies the sweetness of small-time revenge.

And Madhavan is a revelation as Arya Iyer, offending everyone, he is self-assurance personified and when he does say these observations (The Indian way of having one gate closed- haha), it does come off as a person who wishes to be seen as smart.

Punching in all directions

There is an unwritten rule that farmers and poor people should not be made fun and the joke should always be on the rich and the famous. Decoupled boxes with this rule in some episodes. When the driver Ganesh tells Arya that the smell on his body is actually the smell of the land (the sweat from agriculture), in a usual film or series this would be an inspiring-emotional moment but here it is played for laughs.

I wish this season had gone into establishing that rich or poor, we all come with our quirks, malice and goodness and true representation is showing them as they are and not feigning respect or sympathy for sakes. Ganesh does get the best lines in the series after Arya, maybe a tad bit too late.

Decoupled also does not give me enough of Shruti, played by Surveen Chawla who displays a keen understanding for the character but has very little to do, again until the very end. The writing also becomes lite when the series tries to be an Indian version of Seinfeld (Arya and his friends pitch something like a show about nothing to Netflix) and suddenly the gravity of the lead characters decoupling takes over episode 7 and 8.

The series is important to me also because after a long time felt watching a show which did not try and appeal to everyone for the sake of distribution. The creation of the niche shows was what was promised in OTT land but even the good ones took the broad-based Bollywood approach to storytelling.

Decoupled is specific in its targeting and interesting in its premise, funny in its happenings and is a very easy watch.

All episodes now streaming on Netflix.

Categories
cinema

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time (2021)

So, it’s December now and I thought that this would be a year (like most) which would pass on without me having to cry about watching a movie and lie about not crying about it later.

Like how most grown men do.

But I was proven wrong, like how most grown men are (often).

So, I had read Slaughterhouse-5, sometime just after I could squeeze in a membership in a decent library to which I could cycle to.

Usually, people who do read books, talk about reading slaughterhouse-five in college. Others would have had a passing glimpse of the Cat’s Cradle cover, those folks ended up with an MBA.

Nowadays, people look at you as a genius if you remember that if you merely remember the author and the book title. They might even give you a prize for it.

So it goes.

Nevertheless, nothing ever prepared me (even reading Slaughterhouse-five) for Bob Weide’s documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. Otherwise, I would have carried a box of tissues with me.

The tears came not only because of the realization of the fact this was a thoughtful, cheerful and wonderful documentary on arguably America’s greatest man of letters of the 20th century.

Ok side note:

how to determine if you are really reading the greatest author of your generation?

Answer: If your parents have heard of him/her; then better throw the book away, far away.

Side note ends.

The tears came because, it is possible to lead a fruitful life by a man of letters (as this documentary shows).

Vonnegut Jr, died in 2007, he was eighty-four and he had retired ten years earlier. He regarded life very seriously and hence wrote funny novels about it.

The tears came because, any career length feature about Vonnegut would have simply been awe-inspiring.

But this doc which was forty years in the making where the writer-director is himself a character (a trait Bob inherits from Vonnegut) and makes it another great film about family, friendship, loneliness and the struggle of the creative process.

Just like Simla Special.

Ok, that was supposed to have been my punchline.

So, do yourself a favor and use the weekend to watch Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time.

Like most of the movies that matter, this is not on any OTT that you maybe paying precious money on.

That’s life, spending on all the wrong things, when all the right things are for free.

Simla Special can be watched for free on YouTube.

If you don’t know how to get hold of a copy of Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, you are using the internet wrong.

So it goes.

Categories
cinema:tamil

Aranmanai 3: Into the Aranmanai-verse

Beyond Imagination

In Aranmanai 3, Yogi Babu plays a thief called Abhishek (lel), who thinks he has stolen 10 kg of gold and safeguards it in the titular Aranmanai.

But the audience knows that it is not 10 kg of gold but 10 kg of dosa batter.

How far can this joke be extended successfully?

Sundar C does it for almost 3 hours.

Actually, this is nothing for Sundar C, compared to how he has managed to extend the same-premise franchise for three whole movies and maybe into the future as well.

“Cash grab!” someone shouts.

Yes, but only in ways like how the MCU is a source of recurring revenue. It is a cash grab but certainly better in many ways than the immediately comparable Kanchana franchise.

“Okay, they are really serious about discussing the Aranmanai franchise” someone shouts.

Yes, as is the case, we are ahead of the curve in assessing pop-culture phenomenons, when all other review bodies can only see this as a cash grab. They will continue to see it as a cash grab till maybe the fifth or sixth installment (or till the point of ego-breakdown) and write think pieces about how “Aranmanai” is actually good.

This cycle happened for many franchises, including The Fast and the Furious, whenever review bodies see franchises, they see it is as a devious corporate attempt to extract more money from the same.

Maybe true.

But Aranmanai 3 is actually good. Very good.

And I am not saying this because of my inherent bias towards Raashi Khanna films. #FullDisclosure

Astrologer asks: What’s your Raashi, Khanna?

A good way to gauge interest while watching a movie is to pause it at any moment (thanks to OTT) and see if we are able to guess the rest of the way. Most of the movies would fail in this test, but the investment that I have in the characters alone would see me through.

For Aranmanai 3, I tried to do this multiple times and always Sundar C and team always won.

If Aranmanai can be seen as an extension of Chandramukhi and Aranmanai 2 an entry which was just finding it’s footing in mythological horror; Aranmanai 3 can be seen as Sundar C completely embracing the madness.

Chandramukiying!

Always crazy in thought and totally shocking in execution, you will see stone lions come to life, undying love and half dead bodies, scheming paintings, competing saamiyars, poison spewing paatis, piano playing ghosts, tik tok obsessed aunts, matted lock sadhu brigade and lots and lots more that you will forget to be shocked when singers Shankar Mahadevan and Hariharan appear as themselves leading a lord Murgan themed rock concert somewhere in the unreachable hills in this undefined film.

If the writing team had suggested 100 ideas during the discussion, all of them, repeat, all of them, made it into the film.

It’s great! It’s baroque! It’s nothing like anything!

It’s a movie where two ghosts come together to form a combined fighting unit!

What’s not to like?

Sundar C what you did there

Then there is director Sundar C himself recurs as Ravi, the great controller of all the strands of the plot. Each of these strands as dangerous as the snakes on Medusa’s head and only he can make sense of it all, and even that pressure is lifted off from our shoulders.

The satisfaction.

Also, this is the last appearance of Vivek sir, extending his sadboi comedian persona well into the beyond, he will be missed.

Aranmanai 4, yes over here, I’m interested; but can Sundar C ever top this?

Aranmanai 3 is now streaming on Zee 5.

Categories
cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Annaatthe (2021)

So, everyone here knows what an FRS is right? Right?

At the outset, Team FRS would like to wish everyone a Happy Deepavali.

May this festival of lights…

Editor: Enough, I’m done with festival greetings

Writer group: we haven’t even started and also can we add the now popular phrase “from us to you or from ours to yours, chief?

Editor: No! (shouts)

Let’s just stick with the FRS, okay? Already our brand is too weak, we haven’t done an FRS in months.

Just begin.

-101: Annaatthe begins with a voice over. Always beware of narration boys! Funnily enough this narration is never followed through again the movie. It is only used as a lead in to take us six months back.

-45: People of Kolkata are eager to know who is Annaatthe, they are also using the hashtag #whoisannaatthe, but we know that Annaatthe beats up gangs who hold black money of the rich and famous, so pretty much an underground operation, why would the media be covering this and why would people on the street want to know who Annaatthe is?

Cut to Soorakottai.

+52: Obviously hero is village president, but he is also arbiter of local fights, deliverer of pearls of wisdom and doer of kurumbu, singer of songs and dancers of the (omkaara) koothu

No need to mention that everyone from 6 to 60 love him, because he is hero.

Do villagers really love this kurumbu doing hero or is this a Kollywood based reality?

Also also innocent and cheerful villagers are innocent and cheerful.

<Idea Moment>

How about a story where the villagers are actually irritated by the doings of the kurumbukaara hero types because their innocence and mischievousness always come in the way of you know, farming and they send him to Kolkata which is actually a place where the kurumbukara hero learns reality of life, work etc.

</Idea Moment >

+31: Rajni’s hair for being the representation of bounce, at times it seems like it is a separate organism with its own thoughts, wants, needs and ideas.

Did someone say idea?

<Idea Moment>

Rajni’s hair develops its own consciousness and starts to pick up radio signals whenever there are wrong doers around him, it’s mostly like a on the body travelling sidekick cum guide which helps him clean up crime.

</Idea Moment>

+155: Rajni himself for being the embodiment of enthusiasm, he does so much in this movie, more than all the rest of the cast, more than all the list of writers credited, more than what he is supposed to be doing.

It’s a pain to watch, but also at the same time painfully admirable that someone has so much spirit in trying to retain an audience.

But can he do it alone?

Umm

400: Paasakara Psychos

If you popped in (your mouth) popcorn every time someone says Paasam (affection?) in this movie, then you will run out of popcorn within the first few minutes, if you want to continue with eating popcorn and counting the word paasam be ready to break your FDs, because Popcorn is costly bhais.

Also, this family is full of Paasakara psychos that it is literally their affection which brings out the main conflict between Kaalaiyan (Rajni) and his sister Thanga Meenatchi (Keerthi Suresh).

Paasam is above everything and controls everything, it’s almost like Kaalaiyan and Thangam are possessed like in a horror film, also people around them are enablers, except the comedian who as usual sees the inanity of this situation?

Would you shower affection so much that they break themselves?

Disturbing to say the least.

Editor: please order more coffee, our writers need it.

Owner: no money, just publish and get done with it.

+19: But the ensuing drama for about five minutes is one of the best, Rajni also has a brilliant Siva conflict moment earlier in the movie where he needs to get his sister married but does not really want to.

As the saying goes, obstacles are good but conflict is always better.

Obstacle is when the hero needs to overcome something to accomplish something, conflict is when hero has to overcome something but doesn’t really feel like doing this.

Siva really does conflicts really well and Viswasam is one of the best mainstream movies which did this well in the last decade and we can keep typing away on the conflicts in Viswasam, but this is not that blogpost, that is a different one.

Here the conflict is small and it hardly registers. Siva has shown he could do it, but not always past experience leads to similar performance in the future.

<Cut back to Kolkata>

Editor: Wait a minute! Did you mention about how Meena ma’am and Khushboo ma’am brought in the nostalgia element and how people were transported to the 90s etc.

Writer group: were we?

Editor: get on with it.

<Cut again to Kolkata>

Kolkata the city where it is always Durga Puja.

-103: To reinstate that we are indeed in Kolata, Keerthy Suresh is asked to run on Howrah bridge and Victoria Memorial.

We mean…

-67: Something something happens and we find ourselves with our first major villain.

-50: something something happens and we find ourselves with the second major villain.

The something something here refers to the designed action sequences which technically should be fun to watch, but since we don’t have any real stakes here and since both the villains are no match for Rajni, there is no swarasyam left with us the audience.

Swarasyam, there’s a good title for the next Siva and Team movie.

Editor: Do put in a word about the villainous roles of Jagapathy Babu, the audience will like it.

Writer group (in unison): we write for ourselves, who cares what the audience like.

Editor: Waiddaminit! Something struck me, you guys were telling about the paasakara psychos right? Where affection itself becomes deadly to those involved?

Writer group (in unison): Yes!

Editor: So it could be like Siva’s reading of the Rajni phenomenon itself, so many people love him and the pressure just gets to him every time he makes the movie, the love they have for him could be a deterrent to what he could do on screen, it almost becomes a controlling force.

Maybe Siva and Team did experience this deadly affection pressure when they were writing the film and thus he put all that into the movie?

How is this interpretation?

What do you all think?

Writer group (in unison): We are not film companion, sir.

Subam

Team FRS