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cinema cinema:tamil cinema:tamil Essential viewing Uncategorized

Truth alone triumphs

 

(And also side characters)

andavan-kattalai

Before getting down to praising Aandavan Kattalai, let me first get down on the system; innumerable films have taken on the system, whisking out heroes who break the system, become the system even; but rarely acknowledge it.

Even in Manikandan’s film, the cheekily named Gandhi wrestles with the system and with the truth much like his Gujarati-namesake. Like everyone else, he doesn’t want to be seen as the one who is not smart enough not to take a short cut.

This mindset has served us well right from our daily commute, right up to the get rich quick plans we invest in. Short cuts have been ingrained into our skulls as an Indianism, street smartness is something even companies look for in candidates.

It is time to drive away this smartness.

The Messengers (or who says these things in the movie)

Vijay Sethupathi, in his fifth appearance on screen this year! (Surely this must be a criteria for TIME person of the Year) plays the small town guy in the big city with absolute plainness, there isn’t any special characteristic, there is no extraordinary back story, Gandhi could be anyone, Gandhi could be me or even you, maybe that’s why. So this isn’t much of a performance but more of an appearance.

But this appearance serves him well especially in the comic portions of the film, but the problems in Aandavan Kattalai is unusual because you really don’t know who to follow on screen, obviously Vijay Sethupathi drives it forward; but the supporting characters are not so much a supporting but  actually essential.

I am a supporting character sympathizer, as in if there is one movement I would like to be part of, it would be for the ethical treatment of “hero/heroine’s friend” in Tamil films.  First there is Yogi babu as the not so constant companion, he is luckier than our hero, which almost never happens in films, he gets the best lines as well; then there is the Srilankan refugee in search of his family but has to play dumb, the friends at the theatre crew and the intrepid journalist who also happens to be the heroine.

But my favorite would be the senior and junior lawyers at the family court, a truly unusual comic relationship, at least something I haven’t seen in Tamil films; the closest I could pair them to:  the similar comic duo from I heart Huckabees, totally brilliant, yet so fitting in the atmosphere.

Most of the characters seemed lived in, not just turning up for the shoot, but these aren’t serious roles which would require an entire long read on ‘method acting’, these are just everyday people in highly non everyday surroundings and that is how the humor is brought about. I could just go on about the other supporting actors as well, because this movie is a triumph in terms of casting, characters and dialogue.

A major win in a time, when giving a character a name and a job is seen as writing (something which is referenced in the movie)

Now to the message (Or what is being said)

A message movie is one troubling thing, not everyone will be empathetic enough for it to go all the way or sometimes the message itself might not be presented in a way to create impact, or hidden behind subtexts later to be brought forward by others. But there is something in every movie for everyone, it might not be the one that the director intended, but there is something; because that is why we watch a film.

Most of the times the message is lost in the telling. Here in Aandavan kattalai, the director puts first dart bulls-eye from slide one (This is a message movie #hehehe)

We (or you) can infer whatever you want, but this director is telling you not to take the short route, in fact there are no short routes, in fact (v2.0) the short route is the longer one and the one with thorns and no GPS.

No don’t take the short route.

Fill your own forms. Don’t break the line. Don’t ask your colleague if they know anyone anywhere. Don’t refer anyone from anywhere. Don’t break the process or try to bypass it. Just fill the form and wait.

Because the system might just be easier than the short cut.

Hey, I’m not saying this, the movie is.

Movie(s) of the year

Every movie blogger who thinks he/she is worth something will come up with a list of ‘movies of the year’, we are not exceptions; but we would like to do things differently.

Is Aandavan kattalai our movie of the year?

Our answer is “not quite Oru Naal Koothu” *

 

Epilogue

The movie begins with eighties style kaleidoscopic images, nice touch but I couldn’t see how they connect to the overall theme

*Pitting movie against movie is a very bad thing and I’m sure we will be punished for this.

 

 

 

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cinema:tamil cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Idhu Namma Aalu

or if you prefer

Death is just one phone call away.

or if you prefer

A Disaster (enter number of years this year was in the making) ‘in the making’

INA

It is not often that FRS writers themselves think that a movie has elevated FRS from the depths of low-brow film criticism to the palatable levels of middle brow film criticism.

OK, I mean who cares, like as if you are going to know the difference between two kinds of film writing? Yes, we are talking to you reader.

At least take a moment and thank us for convening at this unGodly hour and writing about Simbu’s latest film, if this could be called a film(i.e).

 

Although we do have to write something, don’t we? Let us pause a bit and talk about..hmm..say how ideas are born.

Idea Man 1: Hey, wont it be a great idea if we made a film with Simbu and Nayan, you know rekindle some long lost shared excitement that we all had while slyly deciphering Kumudam kisu-kisu(gossip) about their past life!*

<LIGHT BULB IDEA>

EDUCATIVE INTERMISSION: for quite sometime the Simbu-Nayantara thingy was the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie types of Kollywood, so like say Siyanthara or Nimbu.

Idea Man 2: Wow, what an idea; let them play lovers who discuss their own love life, you know…I mean…they have had at least from media reports… a long list of lovers!

<LIGHT BULB IDEA>

Whoever else who was in that room: YAAYYYYY!!!!!!!

Idea Man 3: Let’s get them to play IT people, so that we can insert generic social commentary, because this will be useful as we have nothing to shoot on screen whatsoever.

<LIGHT BULB IDEA>

Whoever else who was in that room: YAAYYYYY!!!!!!!

<Swear words used in plenty by FRS committee have been removed to suit audience>

-120: the money lost, sunk cost if you mean

-100: movie thinks IT guys and gals are sick nobodies who have lost all reasons to live, they are vacant bodies in branded shirts whose sole existence is to make telecom companies and credit card companies survive, they are also the target audience for this movie, hence director should be penalised for making excessive jibes at the industry which is basically going to pay him.

<also if anyone even has an idea about making fun of farming or farmers, you will be instantly burned>

Shows the absolute hypocrisy,We are all OK for some good fun on the expense of the IT industry, but yeah they get paid a lot and go to fancy restaurants and all buddies, but so do actors and actresses. Also there should be some background about the industry.

You are after all going to rob their money and do whatever you wanna do, this is so akin to the farmer/peasant/poor appeasement that dominates politics and hence culture as well. It also casts dark shadows on cities and those who inhabit them while easy deification of those who live in villages take place.

Movie also suggests that girls from villages do not look good in make up.

Let’s get back to the idea men.

Idea Men 4: Let’s make this an out and out comedy, let’s cast Soori in the role of the sidekick; let’s make him the hero’s friend.

Idea man 1: No no, friend has been done in so many films, let’s make him a driver, the hero’s driver!

Idea Man 2: A driver of the hero’s two wheeler

Everyone in the room: ROFLMAOs

-568K: This movie is the equivalent of absolute nothingness.

Maybe this was inspired by the teachings of Osho who is referenced in the film and we are mere writers of the FRS are not readers of spiritual teachings and hence cannot make sense about why there is so much nothingness in this movie.

There is so much nothingness in this movie that even FRS seems like a well written blog by thoughtful-aesthete-soft-spoken-gentlemen-who-listen-to-opera types.

The format of the movie is as follows.

Simbu calls Nayanthara (on the phone)….misses

Nayan calls Simbu (on the phone)…..misses

This happens close to two hundred times, sometimes there is Andrea also calling; sometimes their calls connect and they speak about how the number of missed calls have increased, seems highly philosophical to us. <revert to Osho>

-45: nayantha sings one Ilayaraaja song in the car, thankfully this only lasts a second but still we are mean people, we are not thoughtful-aesthete-soft-spoken-gentlemen-who-listen-to-opera types.

-890: Drone Photography: hey, DOP buddie! I get it you are excited about this new drone thing, you know slowly drawing up and down about cities, but Chennai and Thiruvayyaru are not like Gotham city or something, even if it is what are you establishing anyways?

Look mummy! so many drone shots!

Something, something happens and then there is a fight etc, and again this leads to some 300 phone calls, still no telecom company came forward to co-produce this movie.

Your open wikipedia tab on Director Pandiraj would remind you that he is a national award winner. As IT employees ( not proud and all, but yeah we have to make a living), we have been asked to make graphs and the one for Pandiraj would be one that shoots down nastily cutting the x-axis and shows no signs of stopping.

But, who cares, people ‘seem’ to be having ‘fun’, so it is all about fun.

‘jolly’, ‘breezy’ are the words that is often associated with these kind off films and in some dirty mind these are accepted as entertainments as well.

Who are we to question such a thing, after all the only major wish of the heroine is to be the one lady who will always fit the tie of the hero.

Hmmm.

Enough we are not going to write more about this film, a thousand words is too much, if you do not know what FRS is, please do check our previous blog posts.

An edited version of this post cannot be seen in any newspaper, because the original itself was not edited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Thozha

A note on the Fawlty Rating System (FRS)

*Initially thought about in 1934, it came to fruition only in the late 2000s.

*It is the only movie rating system in the universe to be based on a Buddhist scroll that was actually written by an Irish traveller who had been an assistant director in the movie “Birth of a nation”, the scroll was curiously titled “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari to make a Baahubali”

*The rating system is now named after the Irish Traveller, a small portion of the proceeds from this review will go to a bhel puri vendor in an undisclosed street corner for secret reasons.

*All numbers and words are arbitrary, mostly imaginary. They do not mean anything

A note on the Fawlty Rating System Ends

thozha

-10: Yet another friendship film.

<But this being a remake of a French Film which we have NOT seen, we will be even more cruel>

-10: Yet another remake film. (Oops!)

-7.5: Hero is a wastrel, like most Tamil films; the story will trace how from being unabashedly wasted the hero gains responsibility. The point is, if you begin with this premise then where else can you go? I meant with the story.

-6: yeah, where else can you go? Paris?

-3: Hero gets job because he is honest in interview

-367: Actually this is a long standing grouse, I have been HONEST in interviews and NO, you dont get jobs like that, unless of course…never mind

+13: Business magnate does not use HR professionals in the hiring of his assistant, seems to be  a good decision.

+56: Tammanaah plays a secretary in this film. Although her job profile is not clearly explained, sometimes she comes off as a matron more than a secretary, in later parts she is happy ignoring her work etc.

-196.32: What Business does Nagarjuna do? i mean we see all those boards and all, so many companies, but not once, NOT ONCE, there isnt something that he needs to attend to, no pressing matter, no consultation with the board NO? i mean you have only one staff (able Tammy) and one friend (Prakash Raj), life can’t be so easy for one of India’s Top 10 businessmen.

<We get it, the movie is not ABOUT BUSINESS, but still>

-2: Unwanted Manobala cameo supposed to evoke laughter, creates despair instead.

-10: Staying on the subject of cameos…never mind, not spoiling, but still irritating.

+150: Movies, as they tend to be; mostly like friendship movies and all, very prone to being self-aware, there is very little bonding for the sake bonding kindoff moments in the film, which is extremely interesting, because there isnt any big conflict for the characters to prove their friendship and mouth emo shizz, “yenna nee en nanban” types. Those are the kindoff movies which elevate friendship to this unattainable godliness which becomes frustrating in real life. Well done guys, no Thalapathy shizz.

-12: Thalapathy

+34: painting humor and Prakash Raj, seems like he could sleepwalk into these roles and he sleep walks like how Brando would. Also Karthi is the Go-To guy if your hero is LIG flat living-family fighting-smiling-joking-chennai youth, very well done.

-32.2: Women as dressing, right OK; this film is about two guys and their bonding, so why not make it that way, the women here are just there, neither adding any emotional depth or having anything to do on their own.

-2345.66: Money is not important, but people are. <Morals, OK>

Also as a Bonus, here is Tammy during the Batman v Superman premiere, whose side are you on?

-736 to self for using such cheap tricks.

tamz

 

 

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil Essential viewing remake

A STRANGENESS MORE THAN NIGHT

A CK and MM Review Mystery

Thoongavanam-Movie-Poster

Caustic Kumar  looking for a face he could recognize through the controlled darkness of the pub, mouthing something he had been thinking over and over again, “who keeps a meeting in such a place?”

“We do”

It was the chief, his thin frame had been accentuated by the darkness, pencil in the night. His white David Lynchian hair bent forwards when he spoke.

“Important night CK, someone just told me that the Laureate must be prepared for a hostile takeover”

“What! I can’t see any one reason anyone would want to buy The Laureate!”

“So did I”, said calmly the chief “But it is in this pub that I am to meet the informer, I had called you to tell that if things go the wrong way, let the piece on Thoongavanam be the last one you write for us”

CK did not understand, this could have been conveyed by a simple text message, an even easier free Whatsapp message, more importantly he could not come to terms with the fact that that the only establishment that thought him fit to be employed is actually being taken over, could this be the end?

He turned to convey the same to chief, but the chief had silently slipped away, a near distant light showed the location of the bar, legs moved involuntarily.

“Thoongavanam” CK repeated

MM appeared out of nowhere, like a genie waiting for a keyword, he shouldn’t be here, but CK was willing to put down everything in the disbelief component of his brain.

CK: “I’m sure you’ve seen it too Mod” (looking visibly disturbed)

MM: not once, but twice, and I absolutely loved it.

CK: this is even after seeing Nuit Blanche (the movie on which the latest Kamal movie is based)

MM: Look here, CK; we are the only ones who have seen the French film and we wouldn’t have seen it if not for the fact that Thoongavanam was in the works, but I guess I like Thoonga more.

CK: Nuit Blanche was a straight-jacketed action thriller, engrossing and feverishly cinematographed and leaving no room for extensions

MM: unless of course if Kamal Haasan takes up scripting duties…

CK: when I saw Thoonga for the first time, I was only doing mental comparisons scene by scene, how Thoonga is different but at the same time retains much of the core of Nuit Blanche.

MM: the detailing, the back stories, in NB the hero is a regular detail-less action hero, but here CK Diwakar is played by Kamal and that means that he will have issues, women, children and morals

CK: Kamal has rarely written and played any character without any noticeable motivations, remember that line from Vishwaroopam ?

(“I have a lot of emotional baggage”)

MM: Yes digging a little deeper, here in the improved screenplay there is a bit of detailing for everyone who partake in the back story of Diwakar and in that we are able to connect with the problem of the hero, like his wife, his colleagues and even his adversaries; but then again the characters Kamal play are increasingly becoming like ‘him’

CK: that is only scratching the surface type reading of a film, let us look at it this way, how much of value has been added when Kamal has taken up scripting duties, obviously you are not going to touch the action sequences

MM: which were done exceedingly well, I might add, finally had moments on screen when I was bothered who was getting hit and by whom

CK: and why is that? Because we know the characters, at least to the extent of what Kamal is willing to tell us, like say the importance of soya milk or how cell phones have replaced watches, when all this happens, when you put in characters of flesh blood in a setting much like this pub, you actually feel for their lives, dismissing them as extrusions is quite troubling for me, Kamal just uses his ‘Kamal-ness’ to get the feeling about

MM: I wouldn’t still agree to the whole self-referential for a reason argument, but there is still something that is there in Thoonga that is very much absent in Nuit Blanche, the humour.

CK: Absolutely!

MM: But then at points I thought that this was in a way dampening the overall tension, this mixing of the genres, this trying to appease different sections of the theatre

CK: Mod, my only response to you for that will be that you are forgetting that you are watching a Tamil remake of a French film. Yes maybe strictly speaking in this type of a film there must not be any place for humour, but there has been films like Die-Hard…

MM: Oh no, wait! You are bringing up Die-Hard….

CK: I thought I would bring up the Shining as well, it is not that Thoongavanam flanks these movies, but strangely yes occupies the same mind space as these two, even more so in the case of the Shining, the hallways with doors that lead to unimaginable places, the restriction of the setting itself, here a pub named Insomnia and there The Overlook; the setting does things to the main characters. Movies should remind you of other movies, if the remembrances are good, there you go, if they were bad then I really don’t know what to say…

MM: And Die-hard because of the one man in the building against the villain type, yes I do think there is quite a bit of humour in most block buster material, still strange this mixing of genres and thoonga is hardly blockbuster material

CK: yes it is quite a strange film, which kinda gets more enjoyable when you know what is going to happen, because you sit there and see the other things like how a change in radio channel is used to denote time of day, the dripping ceiling denoting time past, plush interiors that somehow feel dreamlike and characters who walk in and out, just like that?

CK: Mod? Mod?

He calls out again to see no one respond, only again it is the barman who motioned for another drink.

CK: have I been talking alone all the while?

CK’s phone lightened up the dark place, obviously it was a Whatsapp message which read as thus

“No one is buying the Lowly Laureate, that’s the bad news; but I’ll kill you if you don’t send the Thoongavanam review, as it is you have declined doing a Vedalam review, because of your principles our readership is threatened . Add few nice words on the cinematography, engrossing music by Ghibran, Hollywood style making etc etc, send them soon, I mean by tonight, SOOON- Chief”

The chief didn’t realise that he didn’t need to sign himself in a whatsapp message, this old fashioned-ness made CK smile and he went to work, and it would be a sleepless night.

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil Essay Music

IT WAS SHOT HERE

An attempt to view Madras/Chennai through its songs          

 madras1

Who knows what type of day it would have been, but trust the Madras resident to come conclude that it would have been, like every day: a very hot one. The imaginative residents would have even got to the extent of picturing a sun burned and sweating exploring officer of the East India Company, pausing at this small and then insignificant sand bar on the Coramandel coast.

He could have gone further, but then he stopped.

The officer on duty was Francis Day, one of the neglected founding fathers of the city; the city they once called Madras and now we call Chennai. There are many tales as to why Day stopped here, it wasn’t even a natural harbor, so essential for the works of the company; the story of Madras is perhaps the most cinematic one; the one never told or explored by the dream spinners who now work in what widely circulated newspapers call Kollywood, a name which sounds so odd that you would like to say something nice after you mouth it.

But there has always been the beach, the coast that made the travelling Englishman stop has churned the memories of many a Tamil filmmaker. C.V. Sridhar often heralded as the first modern Tamil director shared Day’s enchantment and used to write all his scripts on the Marina and would shoot at least one scene there, his classic comedy Kadhalikka Neramillai (No time for love) was set entirely in the southern mountain retreat of Chinnamalai but that couldn’t prevent Sridhar from shooting this opening song on the sunny beach overlooking the Madras University, it is one of the most happiest openings in Tamil film and Sridhar’s sentiment with the Marina would continue all through, not far away a bridge named after a 19th century city Governor Francis Napier, the distinctly red lighthouse and the Indo-Saracenic architecture of the university buildings has also served countless location managers, the stretch of the Marina would be the most exploited, mostly for songs providing walking space for leading couples to ad lib while the composer’s music played out.

When the Marina is used, can Elliot’s be far behind; the city’s second favorite hangout has an added advantage of having a cenotaph to decorate the panoramic shots.

 

I do agree that there has been repetition in the Madras that appeared in songs; after all there can only be so many places of interest, so we can afford to forgive Mani Ratnam (who incidentally has a company called Madras talkies) for using the Chennai Museum complex for a dance recital and as a court-house. He famously used the college of Engineering for the same, but that is another matter.

 

Repetition too has some beauty, but that lies in the mind of the reciter,  a song which begins with a sombrero wearing Manorama aptly titled Madrasa Sutti Paaka Poren (I am going to see Madras)is your quickest guide to the city, even makes fun of Lord Ripon after whom the Corporation headquarters is named; the same year (1994) also came Shankar’s Kadhalan (Lover)a song which quickened the pulse of a nation and also managed to capture Prabhu Deva taking over Madras from the top of distinctive green buses while people watch, mesmerized from the sides of the High Court and the LIC buildings, which I should take time to mention as Chennai’s Empire state, it is not much, but still it is ours.

Staying on the topic of LIC building as a symbol of the city, for years that umm…modest skyscraper and the Central Railways station has been used to the change in setting of any film, from the village to the big bad city; going to Pattinam(as Madras was called in the villages then) was considered an ill act.

Here in B&W Madras, the villager ponders over skyscrapers and how irresponsible the citizens are, the trend continues to this day; in a time where Tamil Cinema is moving southward to the raw rustic surroundings of Madurai and elsewhere; Chennai is often seen as a city of IT professionals who live fake lives and always speak English to the uneducated.

But the city silently bears all that, waiting for that rare moment where even the immigrants;  these protectors of Tamil culture pause for a moment and realize what a ladder this city has been for them, on the other hand new blood from the city have not been silent as they had to deal with inter-zonal conflicts; eternally dividing the city into one of the haves and the have-nots; after all which city does not have boundaries.

But what many cities do not posses is a tongue of its own, rumored to have borrowed equally from English, Tamil, Sanskrit and Hindi, perhaps even German (who can say) is the Madras Baashai, no Tamil film attains completeness without a Zaam Bazzar Jaggu having his bichua knife ready to slice or singing songs on the banks of the foul-smelling holy Cooum: our ever unclean-able.

But how can I finish with the Cooum, so I return one last time to the cool Marina where it all began. Sivaji Ganesan here walks past innocently in search of a better tomorrow where his majestic statue now stands; a merger of worlds of sorts.

The clips in this document is far from complete, but have been assembled to give a fleeting glimpse of the city, many great songs and sites have been left behind and there are still many corners in the city to be explored and filmed, for who would have thought that the famous banyan tree in the Theosophical Society would have given ample shade to silent lovers or that a gully cricket match between the RA Puram Sharks and the Royapuram Rockers would mete out an amusing tale, if not for cinema. We will wait.

For mine is a laid back coastal city, till only recently sprouting signs of competing with the hustle of its colleagues; but somehow maintaining the warmth and air of welcome, I have never been anywhere else; but I have always been welcome at home. Maybe that is what made Francis Day stop, he probably felt home.