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cinema cinema:tamil

BLOODY APPALAM

BLOODY APPALAM

Or the birth of a genre called Shankar

 

Two nights ago they showed Gentleman on TV, yes I watched it like I have always found time whenever the movie was shown; which is almost always. The movie somehow takes me back to a theatre called Udhayam, it is still there, with not even a shadow of its previous glory. It stands unattended, sign boards sagging opposite the colossus of a metro station up and coming, surely to devour the memories of Udhayam being the most favored film destination of people in and around where I live.

Gentleman was not the first film, I saw in the theatres; but is definitely the one I remember the most; that along with Jurassic Park. The umbilical cords that brought me to my love: film. There is this uncontrollable Hyde of emotions in me, whenever I watch a film; there is more of it when I watch something the second time; the uncontrollable burst of words that comes even while those pictures flicker through. Whatever the film might be, I try to write; but even these bursts would have been rubbished; called as an amateur narcissist attempt to be part of something which you can never be, these feelings are however washed away in the following morning and one more count increases in the unfinished word documents folder somewhere in this system. But Gentleman is different; I will risk any internal battle to write about a film that one has seen at different points in life; thus ends the self scribbling. Oh yes, I did really hate my previous post. #selfhate

A thing of honesty is a joy forever.

It is the year 1993, without having to attribute what world events would have influenced the making of a movie; I proceed directly to corruption; Gentleman was definitely not the first film to show  the color of the hands of the politicos and officials were; at least in the films I have seen before, there have been villains who are politicians and they are villains because they rape and plunder, how they don’t keep up promises or completely ignore the people or they have some direct confrontation with the hero. But never has the problems of the working middle class, of how they have to deal with things grudgingly done. It was a terminal shift from the problems of the poor to the problems of the people who neither belonged below nor above.

The characteristic would repeat straight from Shankar’s next film Kadhalan a middle class collegian yearns for the governor’s daughter; in Indian it was the same suffocating middle class that brought Kamal’s Chandru to the city, Mudhalvan’s Pugazhendi a TV reporter who lives in a street as narrow as an old woman’s hair center parting; even  few of the parents are the same in Boys; the exceptions only being Sivaji and Jeans: but those are different films, it is clear from above that these problems are central to the films of Shankar, but Gentleman being the first is the most striking and honest; a mould from which the others were made.

One man vs. the world.

Staying on the topic of classes, Arjun’s Kicha coming from a poor background and in a society which prevents him from becoming a doctor, so then he uses a self supporting industry; one of entrepreneurial spirit and one in keeping with a certain community’s stereotypes to give him a morning alibi; he doesn’t at once wield a revenge sword at his enemies, he waits and does nothing to them.

Instead he becomes a professional thief by night, only to give unto others what was denied to him: education, this according to me is the closest we have gotten to Batman, and there are many similarities as well; Kicha also has his own Alfred.

Also the protagonist would choose the supposedly meekest of communities to make his living, to avoid any kind of suspicion. The Brahmins are known to have distanced themselves from active society, fearing any direct contact with it; it is often perceived as indifference, it is only another representation of fear in an increasingly Dravidian political land. Shankar would develop this one man theory in the rest of his filmography to increasingly dizzying implausible heights, finally in Sivaji the character becomes a sort of Atlas on whom the world rests. It would have lost the angst and the humanism as how Arjun played it in Gentleman.

The Film itself.

The film itself was a resonating success; no first film Tamil director had yet broken into film heaven as how Shankar did; he had in short he created his own genre and it was only later that he got to work with Kamal and Rajinikanth; so his initial success can surely be attributed to the taut storyline.

It is however far from perfect, in real life nothing close to the events of Gentleman can happen, but somehow the film shortly stops our rationality but not entirely dismantling it; that kind of balance would be very tough to maintain, even for Shankar in later days.

The setting itself provides ample opportunities for humor and gross indecency with games like Dikkilona & Jalabulajung the very mention of these names expound nothing but sex, there are also close-ups to body parts which are better not shown when children are watching and a mock rape, but these too are inducted into the scheme of things (if you are one looking for explanations to quench your logical questions, these are there; but just). The film also moralizes the current generation, but not from the angle of a frustrated policeman  shooing off scantily clad girls but in an almost ‘if you do this, this only will happen’ approach.

Like most Tamil movies which couldn’t find solutions for problems it deals with, Gentleman too ends up in court, the end is no good for society but there is some hope for the individual, the do-gooder will survive.

Gentleman created a format for big budget filmmakers to fill it wither juice(or lack of) later on, so many sapling films with the same story or with a different problem cropped up covering the issues it sort to tackle, but essentially the same thing, it gave birth to the mass film with a different meaning, not like the ones made by S P Muthuraman and others in the 80s; but not completely different. It was the perfect launch pad to the starry skies and milk bath cutouts, but not all succeeded as Shankar did. It can be easily said that he is one filmmaker who uses the screen to the fullest, but succumbing under his own persona he can possibly never make a great film, all his movies will be hits, but it can never come to the closeness of being a great film is what strikes me, not even close as how close Gentleman came. His ability to draw in masses and manipulate audience to believe in a dharmic utopia for three hours is still there for people to see, but how long will he be at it? Will he fail when he or his audiences finally wake up to the truth that one man really cannot change everything for others?

The burning body of Manorama wailing running hither thither in her hut providing her son the one last shot at donning the lab coat and listening to the stethoscope, and Vineet or what is left of him is surrounded by fluttering bloody appalam are pictures that would remain with me.

After the film

Shankar continues to make big budget films, his most recent film and perhaps his weakest was the Tamil remake of 3 Idiots, one of the biggest successes of the year. Although he himself has become his archetypical hero, producing films like Veyyil, Kalloori and Eeram. Small films which aim to just to tell a story, something he could never do; something he was probably denied off. Just like the medical aspirant Kicha who steals secretly to build a ten storey hospital

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act which guarantees education for children between the ages 6 to 14 came into force on April the first, 2010. The problems of higher education discussed in the film are yet to be dealt with.

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cinema cinema:tamil

DOES THE DICE KNOW THAT IT IS BEING PLAYED?

It is only right that I saw Karnan inside the old world of AVM Rajeswari, the signage of which still displayed the stories of an era gone by, in a time where movie screens are more  about six flavors popcorn and sofa seats for couples; this Vadapalani theatre still shows only one film and sells balcony tickets at the rate in which multiplexes sell steaming cups of European coffee.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, but a necessary danger. The statement seems like an often repeated school essay topic, Technology: a necessary evil or something to that effect. That brings us to technology which was used in the re-release, the constant buzz about it being digitally re-mastered to suit the audience of now.

But should a movie released in 1964 be processed so that a few scores of the t-shirt wearing dood speaking general public of 2012? Shouldn’t it be watched as it is supposed to be?

I do not believe that an advance in technology does  directly correlate with the advancement of film, which belief holds good for ‘Karnan’ as well.

The film used to be showed on cable, not so frequently but on important weekends only to re-instate the fact that Karnan was no ordinary old film, in every Tamil movie watching family there would have been a discussion on the same, at least about the concise Gita or the ‘Ullathil Nalla Ullam’ song.

The screening last Saturday was not my first introduction to B.R.Panthulu’s pain driven epic; I use the four letter word only to signify the relation to Vyasa’s work rather than as a modern adjective used to describe the films of James Cameron.

The Mahabharatha is a known story, at least most Indians are familiar with the outline of what happens and how it all ends in battle and the complexities, numerous windings and characters make it ideal for any kind of performance art and naturally interpretations.

Karna, the first born, the one adorned with armour by default and owing to the Sun being his father, the quality of giving. For it is believed that the Sun gives all and takes none.

Left to drift in the waters, Karna falls in an age where being a Kshatriya was the greatest gift, the mystery of his birth plagues him till he falls by the wheel.

Karna was the hero who never was, the greatest warrior never to have achieved, his only known crime was his friendship with the otherwise fiendish Duryodhana, the main antagonist in the ensemble.

The whole story can be seen as a game of dice, played by opposing players in which Karnan appears to be the dice; rolled by both sides. Duryodhana who injects in him the hatred of Arjuna and by Krishna, who later plays with his emotions of unknown pedigree.

Sivaji Ganesan brings this character whose mind pencils from a supporting friend to a disillusioned warrior to life on the screen, but alas much of that is lost in the movie which tries to make a hero of him, cutting the story in the wrong place.

The character of Karna has no relevance if there are no Pandavas, the social life of the charioteer king seems to be as boring as the love stories of the recent times, and these are the most trying times for the movie watcher, saved only by the songs. Actress Devika portrays Suba, his wife while Asokan and Savithri fill in for Duryodhana and Bhanu in this socially insecure friendship quartet.

The movie only reaches the next stage when NTR comes blasting doors as the ever smiling and easy dharma quoting Lord Krishna, banking on his previous experience from the truly brilliant Maya Baazar(they should consider another re-release)is a joy to watch, the supporting characters: all big names(Muthuraman, VS Raghavan, ‘Javert’ Seetharaman, Jayanthi,Shanmugasundaram) are used adequately, but the point to be noted is the sincerity in the palace settings and outdoor locations( Saraswathi Mahal Palace and the real battlefield Kurukshetra). Many anecdotes are retold on how BR Panthulu made the mammoth of a film and it is fitting that Karnan was rereleased adjoining his centenary.

No work on Sivaji’s Karnan is complete without mentioning Viswanathan-Ramamurthy score and the wonder that is Kannadasan, whatever they did ‘digitally’ did not appeal to me, I liked it better when they played the film on Raj TV. My favorites would be ‘En Uyir Thozhi’ and ‘Iravum Nilavum’. Kannadasan is master, there is no word that could describe the happiness that he brings to songs, here he not only shortens the 18 chapter Bhagavad Gita to minutes but also provides a Tamil version of Adithya Hridayam and a final summing up in the all explaining, ”Ullathil nalla ullam” in which the dice finds its relevance.

Karnan is a classic, re-mastered or otherwise. I liked it because I have always liked it, but I cannot speak for the hundred or so school students who were brought in as an ‘educational’ trip.

It was a happy sight to see a morning show filled, for a movie released 45 years ago; one theatre man said that next show was also booked. Above him the painted face of Sivaji Ganesan looked down magnificently, just like old times.

 

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cinema cinema:tamil

HOW TO FALTER IN LOVE AND YET MAKE A BRILLIANT FILM

 

There is not much of a substitute for the word ‘Sodapify’ and its variants in the English, I did come to this conclusion after spending some time on dictionaries sieving through the words the internet threw at me.

It is a common word in Tamil, not a very classical one but somehow no word conveys despair with such light and it is indeed fittingly used in the cheekily titled ‘Kadhalil Sodapuvadhu Eppadi’

The film itself is played in the form of a self help book, but the content of such a book might not be of much use to the viewer but only make him/her laugh at their own previous misadventures; which quite a good thing. A perennial ‘You need not be ashamed of what you did’ mood pervades and that everybody has to falter in love before rising with the fluttering flag of victory.

Arun, who talks to us more than his lady love Parvathi; is a college with no apparent distinction and somehow believes that his true awakening can come with the task of real love, and achieves it momentarily.

What follows is a well chosen bouquet of one liners on life, love and friendship and existential questions such as why men and women are made such all this is accomplished while not even for a moment taking itself seriously.

Wonderfully produced and cinematographed the movie touches on love of the various generations and how little has changed as to how we have understood this abstract feeling, in a way it is a ‘Love Aaj Kal’ directed by Chandrababu complete with a umm..jazz(or jazzy) soundtrack and worthy of note are the surrounding friends and their more hilarious attempt serenades.

The film drags slowly into an expected climax and you wouldn’t earn much of virtual memorabilia while discussing the film later because the joy and humour of the film lies in that moment.

The film was also released in Telugu with an utterly uninteresting title: Love Failure.

 

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cinema cinema:tamil

Kodambakkam ka Super hero

The concept of a Tamil Super hero often shocks me and puts my plunging spirits into not so infrequent and quiet laughter, it does not fit simply. It is not that such a thing cannot exist and capture the minds of the people but it will be similar to setting “Enga Ooru Paatukaaran” in Texas and changing the tamil folk song into country music, it might work but I don’t think I can watch it without smiles. But that is just me, the thought that all stories are global and only name changes have to be done is something that does not quite appeal to me. Thus ends a piece on Velayudham

7aam Arivu harks back to the age of the Pallavas, when the tamil peoples were striding ahead in medicine and martial arts while the rest of the world engaged in barbaric pursuits. (This line is almost a word by word translation of the documentary style opening) It is an interesting premise a Pallava scion travels to China with withheld intentions, so secret that even the director (leave alone the audience) is quite clueless about it.

The Movie then drifts away into the guardians of culture mode, it seems like the entire world is trying to suppress the growth of the Tamils whether these are genuine fears or injected just to prove a point remains to be seen.At best 7aam Arivu is a cat with tiger stripes, mistaking a meow for a growl

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cinema cinema:tamil

Engeyum Eppodum

 

Friday after Friday, movies grace our theatres about people and their destinations; it is not uncommon for our heroes and their ladies to travel from one place to another, often within the period of micro-seconds where they are seen romancing with the invigorating fruits of Mother Nature (read as duets filmed in Switzerland).

But it is not often that movie deals with the journey rather than the destinations. Road/travel movie is not a new concept in Indian cinema but it is usually peppered with erratic characters usually with audacious accents to denote their place of origin. The open-armed welcome to Director M Saravanan’s Engeyum Eppodum(EE), I believe is because of the simple reality in its characters and a fresh approach at story-telling.

In recent times, there has been a rural vs. urban debate in the circles of Tamil Cinema, while movies which are shot in the violent  heartland have had the good fortune as having been hailed as classics, the urban Chennai cinema had come down to the level of patronizing bars and cigarette brands and more importantly bubble-gum college romance.

EE might just be that movie, which could bridge the rural-urban divide because it has both in considerable good portions lead by solid actors who look the part right from the person who thinks he oversleeps and wakes up every time the bus stops to the four protagonists who are in love. Requests and irritations faced by day to day travelers are picturized with adequate wit and it was happy that the film did not venture into Madhur Bhandarkarisms by showing the underbelly of public transport even though it had ample opportunities. But EE is not just about the bus drive but also the loves of the four people concerned, here Ananya scores as the engineering student from a town who comes in search of employment in the big bad city, innocent and cautious; her eyes offers very little space for her urban counterpart played by Sharvanand. While on the other side of the highway exist a dominating no-nonsense Anjali and the shy machine worker essayed by Jai. On both accounts it is the softer characters who take away the applause.

The film begins at two different bus stations and ends sadly in a hospital with a pivotal accident that turns around the story in the middle of the journey on the highway, lending credibility to the title Engeyum Eppodum i.e anyplace anytime. Delving deep one may say that the two major themes in the film: love & death being unpredictable can happen, anyplace and anytime;the applicability of life itself .

Although not without blemish, like the change in mood towards the end and the abrupt ending; these things can be overlooked for the overall greater good and lighthearted showcase of everyday life and travel. EE is a good film and a promising debut indeed, for director and the producer.

Watch the trailer here