Category: rewatch

Calling The Cops

Or what I found when I kept Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu and Thanga Pathakam side-by-side

Even the meanest of Gautam Menon critics (some of whom, write for this website-gulps) will agree that the “kanna nondi eduthaanga da” opening sequence is among his best. 

It also presents a good template for us to study hero introductions.

Hmm, then I found something, from a 1974 film. 

The Open Challenge

“Bring me the eye of DCP Raghavan!” 

Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu (VV) begins with Royapuram Mani, who would never appear again in the course of the movie – putting out an open challenge after being pushed to a corner by the police specifically Raghavan. 

He wants to run his ‘business’, but of course he cannot do it with Raghavan giving him the heat around the corner. Mani needs Raghavan dead- no, he wants more, he wants his eyes. 

Good setup, so now we know who our hero is and what his goals are without even showing him- and close. 

“Bring me the head of SP Chowdary!”

25 minutes into 1974’s Thanga Pathakkam (TP- to pronounce it properly go here); director P Madhavan is faced with a challenge- how do I reintroduce the hero? 

As I said 25 mins of the film has already run its course, the usual familial introductions have been made- including the wayward son, the doting wife and the family friend around whom the movie would revolve. 

Probably P Madhavan feels the present state does not give enough ‘weight’ to Sivaji’s character- so I hope he would have asked the writer Mahendran ( who would later make Mullum Malarum, yes that Mahendran) to come up with another introduction. 

Here too there is a character who never appears again in the form of legendary villain actor RS Manohar-but the difference is he wants SP Chowdary’s head. 

The Point Of Entry

Both Madhavan and Menon keep it simple here, just them heroes occupying the frame shot from below- memorable in each case. A point of detail is that Kamal kicks the gate open (which would again allow a nice cycle back to ‘gate a moodra’ later)

Let Them Talk  

The impact is in the action, but the build-up is always in the words. Both our heroes are unarmed when introduced, while Chowdary mentions it, Raghavan hands over the only knife he brought to Royapuram Mani. 

Normally one would expect Sivaji to win this hands down, he is after all the most gifted when it comes to dialogues, but sadly I believe as this could be a hastily written scene- it is more “Aeis and Deis”, which belong more in the cinema of today. But maybe SP Chowdary is more brute force than brain force. 

There is a half hearted attempt at humor and then Manohar gives in immediately but the good thing is, Sivaji gets to slip in a “tholachuruven badava” before the final fight.  

Raghavan on the other hand is shooting bullets like line starting from the just-like-that “en kannu venumnu kettiyam?” then easily evoking one accent from his many to give us “ romba thondru panraan” and pausing to make a lol worthy comment on Royapuram Mani’s arithmetic skills. 

My personal favorite is of course to the other assembled goons, “neengellam vera vela paathukonga pa”

Kamal is in quipping best, the dialogues and the camera always on him, half the screen is Raghavan’s face only- really makes the movie worth watching, although his quipping reduces considerably. 

And Action!

The stuff we have been waiting for, one man against an entire set- in Thanga Pathakkam it becomes a silambam fight while Vetaiyaadu keeps it hand to hand in a contained location before going for an opening song and sets the ball rolling.

Same introduction template. But two completely different movies.

Side by Side

Often we see how new filmmakers take time and pay homage to an earlier film or filmmaker, entire podcast episodes are dedicated to this, but I wouldn’t know if Menon is paying homage to Madhavan. A director cannot cross a tamil cinema police movie list without Thanga Pathakkam- it may have come to his notice or suggested by an assistant with an encyclopedic mind- and there is the question of Kamal being in the movie itself. 

But it is practically the same narrative structure for introducing a cop hero-maybe both Mahendran and Menon borrowed from a common source.

It doesn’t really matter, what matters is that these things strike out or should I say leap out from the screen and what I have left is this confidence of a slight bond. It is a difficult feeling to describe, something like discovering an entire new branch in a family tree. 

Watching movies and seeing other movies in them is by itself a rewarding feeling-makes me feel like a small shareholder in the big scheme of things. 

Anbe Sivam: What sort of design is this?

Something that I have observed during the course of this ongoing education called movie watching is that when characters are faced with loss or suffering or even an unattainable dream eventually tend to receive it in some form.

This as I see it, is to bring about balance to the character, the way in which this cycle happens can be as direct as a revenge drama or something as poetic and long drawn as Gollum losing it before the lord of the rings begins, only to hold it again in his last moments at the very end. 

It here refers to the one ring of course.

(My god what a precious arc!)

If there is loss, there is gain; unless we are watching some harrowing tragedy. Which is a different topic altogether

 

This loss and gain, of course I assumed was a part and parcel of story writing and very noticeable, and this can happen to supporting characters as well and when done well, resonates.

Let us now come to Anbe Sivam, one of the few things we know about ad filmmaker Anbarasu is that he is currently in love and had lost his brother earlier in a cricketing accident; this at face value seems like a backstory to explain his nervousness around bloodshed; the fact that a character has lost his brother and is now almost about to get a new brother didn’t strike me till today.

 (Slow mind eh)

Waitees, but Anbarasu doesn’t get a brother back!

His loss is not actually balanced, he almost gets a brother back. Difference, small yet key to this post.

Waitees again, we are still with Anbarasu; there is again a disturbance at balance. 

An unknown kid caught in a horrendous train accident and fortunately shares the same blood group as Anbu; the blood is obviously the connect here since Anbu’s brother’s bloody death was in many ways the biggest loss that Madhavan’s character has faced (or at least this is what the movie tells us)

In a usual film of course this would have been the balancing point, matching blood groups and saving the kid which will make Anbarasu overcome his fear and grow for the later part of the film.

Waitees, but Anbarasu does grow and become a different person through the course of the story but the outcome of these almost balancing points are exactly the opposite of the usual.
Nalla (Kamal) doesn’t stay and fill the void of a fallen brother nor is Anbu’s blood enough to save a boy’s life.

Summary: so you have a structure or a road-map , you almost reach the end but then turn the other way; this I see it as a way to introduce some amount of randomness, even if controlled into the story.

A point where the screen writer knows what should be done next if the film is to take its usual course, but doesn’t (want?) do it.

 I imagine at these balancing points, the writer putting down his hand on the table, hoping the pen would somehow write down the next few words.

It is amazing. Really.

AS1

I guess that this didn’t strike me on previous viewings because I was not looking for it and of course there are other very fulfilling  themes in Anbe Sivam which is why it has endured for me.

Small addition to this ‘aberration’ from usual is the name of Poun, which here denotes two characters, one of course is the street theater artist  who dies in the bus accident which also disables Kamal, and also the aforementioned small kid who mumbles the same name.

Again the lead comes close, but doesn’t quite make it.

Doesn’t quite get what he is wanting.

Important to note that Anbe Sivam is not a tragedy.

While loss is not balanced by gain, loss by itself is not tragic, whenever a character in Anbe Sivam gives away or loses something it feels heroic and it feels real because there is no return of this ‘giving away’ much like in real life.

Real life doesn’t have the comfort of a writer’s balance. Real life is really random but filled with common folk out there making choices beyond their imagination.

Maybe the film is about giving after all.How else would we experience Anbu?

Maybe, we are just over-reading as usual, let us know what you think.

 

 

 

REWATCHING: GOLDFINGER

 

This should have begun some months ago, actually it has already begun; but never continued. Some wise man said the beginning is half complete, but all that is rubbish.  It is in the follow through that the beauty lies, some time ago however we put our feet down from the chairs and decided that a series called ‘Rewatching’ to be introduced in our little magazine.  There was also a first post about this and somehow science played a part and the rate of ‘Rewatching’ and the rate of writing were not even comparable.

Why ‘Rewatch’ in the first place?

I am not a cine-phile which is a royal term thrown at innocent people most of the time scaring the living daylights out of them, movie buffs is too contemporary for my liking, then the realization struck us that we are after all people who watch movies and write a bit about it too.  There is no particular term to describe, quite group less.

Rewatching is an integral part of that experience; it does get the movie into your nerves, whether I like it or not. And so we begin.

I first watched Goldfinger in Tamil.

Vijay TV had a Bond ‘retrospective’ on Sundays; this was the time before the channel got serious with reality TV; the dubbing was close to terrible and my wandered into identifying who the voice over artists were and where I had heard them before. I did not watch it completely.

It wasn’t long before I saw it in its native language.

Goldfinger begins with the head of a bird, fittingly to the man who was named after an ornithologist; whether this was intended or purely part of the espionage gear that Bond slips into before blowing up a hash factory somewhere south of the Americas. (“At least he won’t be using heroin flavored bananas to finance revolutions” Bond says) Another attack and Shirley Bassey’s wonderful song bellows out of the screen accompanied by the trumpets like hippos in love.

The pre-song sequence or the post-barrel sequence is adequate somewhere between being fantastic From Russia with Love and completely nonexistent in Dr. No (the song just rolls out), the song of course is a paean to Goldfinger the main antagonist. Odd isn’t it?

I have never read Goldfinger,I cannot lay all my fingers on the table and say that I will never read it, but I’m not sure if I will enjoy it, with much of the scenes running in my head will render injustice to the novel.

James Bond is at an advantage, he is generic and yet unique (rhetoric #1). I will proceed to justify this by saying you need not know anything about James Bond (but the fact that almost every movie watching human being would have heard the name) to walk into the theatre, like say a Star Wars/Trek addition. One can say the mould for the franchise was smelted in Goldfinger, a mould that exists to this day, not just with EON productions but most ‘on the run’ action thrillers. The very many clones of Bond itself signify the universality of the character.

Someone said, true love comes out when you watch your loved ones suffer.

Goldfinger made Bond helpless, weaponless and without any potent, he intimidates Bond; equals him in tastes and betters him in quips. (“Choose your witticism wisely Mr. Bond, it might be your last”) Goldfinger in every way more powerful than Bond, more interesting perhaps; I don’t think he cares very much for this secret agent; such is his belief in his plans (Operation Grand slam). Bond is just an observing play thing in scheme of things, or so he thinks.

Bond may lack many things, but he has one in plenty: charm, this of course is the only thing that works (See Pussy Galore)

Worth the rewatch is not exaggerating, it works every time even when you know every corner of the frame.

Ah yes,there is also the Aston Martin DB 5 with eject seats and a mini arsenal and a man with a hat that can slice your head.