Categories
TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Seven

Uncharacteristic for this series, episode six begins with a camera crawling on a field after a girl. The episodes as you may remember just begins mid-scene or mid movement with the words Perry Mason in the largest of art-deco fonts that could occupy our screens.  Much like below

But here is the camera slowly following a little girl admiring nature’s beauty, it’s Sister Alice, no, it’s just Alice before she became the ‘instrument of God’. The only other time this series went back in time was to show the impact the Great War had on Perry Mason. 

Sister Alice is an odd character in the Charlie Dodson case, her story thread strain runs parallel to the case but they never seem to meet, but it’s not too far away. Our now dead George Bannon and Emily Dodson first fell in love in Sister Alice’s Radiant Assembly of God. The establishment itself was funded by Herman Baggerly, who was Charlie Dodson’s grandfather as we got to know, but the biggest trick that the series played is in the character of Alice. The trick was to focus on the grand standing assurances made by the sister and to make us question her power and circle around the drama between Alice and her mother. 

All that is broken in the pre credits sequence. 

A lot of other assurances are broken too in this episode as we approach the end of the mystery, like for instance the friendship between Perry and Pete; both have been on the street detectives from the start but I guess it’s the end of their working relationship. After Perry became a lawyer (he is more confident in his appearance in court), they are no more on equal footing and yeah Pete does “fuck it up” at the most inopportune moment. 

Perry not only loses a working friendship but also his family property which is a terrible blow considering that’s all his motivation when he was in the dumps. In these thick of things though, he fears losing the case more than losing the property. 

There’s a nice running gag about Perry Mason’s suit which attained peak when a lady threw collected garbage as he walked in to court, did we mention that he actually does feel and talk like a lawyer now? Yeah we did, but we also want to point out that Perry is also always on the side of data and points and not emotion and narrative, that’s an admirable thing especially when Della asks him to go easy on the numbers. 

The numbers do make sense, acting on a clue from the last second of the previous episode Perry builds a competent case, almost a winner if not for the misfortune mentioned earlier. What also makes sense are the answers to three of the four questions we raised, and the fourth? Well that’s reserved for the final showdown. 

Just another week. We wait, much like those outside court dangling effigies of baby Dodson, but not with terror but with bated breath. 

The episode ends as it begins, with Sister Alice. 

HBO’s Perry Mason is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar and has been renewed for a second season.

Categories
cinema

Raat Akeli Hai

As The Swivel Chair Spins #12

Fridays are better than most days. 

Particularly the ones that come with detective movies. 

Raat Akeli Hai is indeed an evocative title, more so for Bollywood buffs of the Dev Anand song, but it hardly captures the movie that follows it. We could push a little more and say it’s a romantic title, much like Inspector Jatil Yadav- who’s secret gaze of women contradicts his lofty expectations from his future wife. “Decent” & “good looking” is what he tells his mother, how difficult would that be to find? 

Later on a lonely night, somewhere in the Gangetic plain,as Jatil bhai sits down to have his reheated dinner, a gruesome muder is reported. 

A large mansion. A dead old patriarch and suspects reaching to the double digits. It’s a classic Christie setting. 

Wait! A short detour into what catapults the best Christie adaptations into classic status, hmm, it’s only five things that we really need.

  1. There’s the idiosyncratic detective (mostly accented) 
  2. There’s the avengers type collection of the best of acting talent and all of them  colorful suspects 

(Maybe you can look up the list from Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express) 

  1. Of course, who could forget multiple motives
  2. Easy deception or more deaths 
  3. Finally, climatic exposition of what happened, preferably in the drawing room. 

Netflix’s Raat Akeli Hai has all of the above! Typing this makes us very happy, to see writing that loves genre elements like we do. 

But that’s not all, if it’s classic Christie in part, writer Smitha Singh seems to have been bitten by the Chinatown bug and weaves in Radha (Radhika Apte), a shifty femme fatale and layers of social commentary. 

Hmm, mostly it works well, no one can fault Nawaz as he limps through the small lanes in the search of clues and solve the murder of Raghubeer Singh. Nawaz believably goes from frustrated to sufficiently self confident. 

Where Raat Akeli Hai loses the plot, is in its inability to differentiate the suspects, this is important in a classic Christie setting because the tension is wholly sustained on who the killer is? 

Could it be him? Could it be her? Could it be them? Or could it be one of those unbelievable sleight of hands that Christie does and stumps her reader, just for sakes. 

All of this tension comes from us knowing the characters, glimpses of their lives, their worries and motives from the interviews that the detective would take and frame the narrative. Here, after a point (the third act), it didn’t really matter who the killer really was and our characters are just names painted behind foldable film shooting chairs. 

For the viewer tired of Christie’s Mysteries, there are lots of other things to look at, like the elaborately designed rooms in Thakur saab’s mansion, mirrors and Pankaj Kumar’s effective cinematography.

Yes, but it’s hard to watch this film  and not think about Knives Out.

Raat Akeli Hai is now streaming on Netflix.

Categories
TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Six

And we are back. 

We mean from the sort of disappointment that episode five was, but this episode does not leave behind the sudden pick up of pace in the story telling. While we have stated that it could be because maybe the writers room just realized that there are not many episodes to go. 

Here we are with Perry Mason, finally taking center stage in a show that bears his name, if you would recall the last bits of chapter five where we see him get his license to law. Six begins directly at the courthouse and it promises to be a cracker. Except for our hero it is his first outing and all he outs are coughs and even the cameramen’s flash falls like lightning bolt.

It’s heartening to see the show come back to its root themes of how really tough it is to go against the system and how even justice is not about plain facts but about opinions, sentiment and circumstance. While Mason is trying his best to build up a face saving defense, he is also stuck with a client (Gayle Rankin is absolutely the best actress on the show) whose inability to be honest costs them a lot with the jury. 

The episode’s best moment comes when Perry gets to go against Matthew Dodson, now siding with the state, it makes a larger statement as to how society views differently the vices of men and women. But again, the case proceeds only around conjecture and that’s only because those who know the truth are too afraid to do so. And evidence…well that was sort of Perry’s trump card becomes futile. 

They only have two more episodes to go and what began as a single thread has now distributed into multiple strands and while old threads continue to provide more clues to Pete Strickland while he goes on a quest to connect the three brutal murders from episodes past. We of course know who did it, come on catch up soon, Mason & associates!

The scene of a frustrated Mason and his team reminded us of a similar scene from A Few Good Men. Keep at it guys, the truth presents itself to those who dig. 

It’s our job to do the recap right, so we tell you what are the questions that are still not close to being answered, 

A> We still don’t know who killed Baby Charlie and why

B> We don’t know what the Radiant Assembly of God is protecting

C> We don’t know for whom Innes is working for, but another dimension of his relationship with partner Holcomb came through

D> We don’t know if Sister Alice is doing the whole resurrection to divert the case away from its real interests

But what we do know is that Perry Mason will ultimately solve it for us. 

Categories
TV

Mondays with Mason: Chapter Five

“Having Lord Krishna in hand, but searching for butter”

Tamil drama aficionados would immediately recognize this line from Crazy Mohan’s (literally) crowning glory of dramatic achievement- Chocolate Krishna,a stage recording which is now streaming on youtube due to the pandemic. 

Yes, somehow Krishna worked himself into the Perry Mason recap too and with striking similarity to the aforementioned line. 

Somehow it seemed only last week, yes it was in last week’s Perry Mason recap was when we praised the show to the skies on how well they are doing character development and the time taken to do it, this format suits the writers well it seemed, take four episodes to paint them with detail. 

But maybe it’s the halfway point, or it’s the rush that comes towards the ending. 

Last week, we knew that this would be the last of E.B.Jonathan,as one character exits the frame, there needs to be someone who should take up his place in the story. A gentle reminder that the murder of Charlie Dodson is still ver much open and honestly this episode does little to further the investigation. 

What it does instead is fastrack changes in character which comes off as a little too easy, all along Perry had been the washed up- what-hope-do-we-even have detective, frankly we were surprised with the turn in this episode, he even gets to be with his son- like a real dad and that probably instills into him a sense of responsibility. 

Meanwhile at the church, Sister Alice with her powers is able to bail out Emily Dodson and give her hope,the best part of the episode is the miracle work that she does in the congregation and the one of the show’s most engaging storylines is about whether Sister Alice is indeed a voice of God or not. The ambiguity still remains. 

The connecting tissue of the primary characters in the series has been Della Street, she is also in some ways the moral compass and now with E.Bs demise she looks for a north star to forward the case. 

And that brings me to the opening drama quote, we all know that she is searching for butter when she has Krishna at hand. 

Slightly disappointing but, let’s get through this.

Categories
Books

Normal People by Sally Rooney

 Top of the heap # 4

Normally this tranche of the blog covers crime, mystery, thrillers and other exciting books. But these are not normal times. 

Normally, I would detail the pleasures of discovering a novel, it would be from a stray reference on the few passionate blogs that cover books in my area of preference or it would be from those well read people I stalk on goodreads. But these are abnormal times and I somehow got sucked into reading an acclaimed novel, not that it has not happened before, but never did I believe in the acclaim simply without question and completely. I would also like to point out that picking this book also stems from a small voice in my brain which keeps going on about how I should widen my reading choices which would hopefully expand my mind. I usually sneer at this part of the brain, make fun of it so much that it is ashamed to make its presence felt, but there are times when I am beyond myself and give in to such thoughts,and these are not normal times.  

Normally, I would take time reading novels, since they are of the crime, mystery and thriller genre where the structure and mechanics are as important or even more important than the turn of phrase or “feelings”, I would read a little and spend some time thinking about the author’s choices and setting, almost trying to retrace a blueprint. I know, it is the only true intellectual activity I engage in, I see if there are tricks that the author is playing or is he against a deadline to deliver yet another novel, it is because I am trained to look at structures that Sally Rooney’s work seems like a heap of fallen bricks.I finished it in a week. 

I realize this is my inability to appreciate the novel. It is plainly unfair to criticise a novel for what it is not, but I am really trying to record my experience and provide some context to my reading mind. 

Normal People follows the of the ON-AGAIN OFF-AGAIN relationship of Marianne and Connell from high school, she is the smarter and unpopular one and he is the smart and popular guy, there is some class difference in the background, his mother works as helper in her house, only for them to make some disparaging comments on how capitalism is the cause for all the ills of the world. Sigh. 

Maybe they will join a revolution, I imagine,and bring in conscious capitalism or maybe they will reinvent marxism for the millennials. Sorry but nothing of that sort happens, the characters are not so much in control of their lives to take control of word narratives. Maybe if Connell could have gone to study law and not followed Marianne to Trinity college, he would have had a shot at changing world narratives. 

Hey wait, maybe the novel is not interested in that, the world events are a background just like how social status is a background, not as much as an obstacle, chill, nothing really happens in this book. Ultimately the biggest reveal comes in the form of a fine arts course in New york, those are the stakes in Normal People. 

Page after page, I flip in the hope that maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel, light which informs these characters that most of what happens to them is a result of what they want to do and not the happenings of whole wide world, maybe I thought even Marx would make a guest appearance and tell the characters to get a life, but all I got was feelings. 

This book even got long listed for the Booker Prize. Wait, that’s not a comment on the literary novel or the Booker Prize itself, it is just an inference that the “feelings” novel is not for me. I am not evolved for it. Or maybe it was just a bad pick, I am not really shutting out that small voice in my head, because an analytical mind is always open to possibilities. 

I know there is a book out there that meets the stories glories of such fiction and helps me expand my mind, but Normal People isn’t that. 

Untill then.

Normal People cover image from here