Category: genres

Parking Lot Notes: Thupparivaalan

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It begins with the light of a matchstick, an aide in a search or the dispeller of darkness.

That is what essentially a detective story is about; the search for answers and the journey into the unknown.

The detective, our guide or sometimes a co-traveller.

While the opening statement might seem grandiose, this was the first thing that struck (like that match) while watching Mysskin’s Thupparivalan. A detective also fits the mould of the director’s heroes who are seekers.

Fitment is also found in the casting of Vishal (also the producer) as the tall, loner with a bent towards the martial arts as Kaniyan, the detective of the film, but movie making is not just casting.

Thinking through the course of the movie (which the movie allows you to do once you catch it by the flow,which would not be tough if you had been living with a steady supply of detective novels) made me wonder why there was something missing in this homage to the creations of Conan Doyle.

Everything seems to be in place, which by itself is a cause of worry.

While Kaniyan’s room looks like it has been vacated by the BBC and not a living room that would suit the city in which this movie is set, the detective and his trusted sidekick seem to advertising for Indian Terrain in the meanwhile.

I dwell on these extraneous factors only because the characters are flat, whether this is a conscious decision is something best left to the maker.

A character being flat in a film, which more or less depends on the interest created by that lead character, is what I deduct to be the problem.  Especially when your lead is a character that is a shade of the great detective (Sherlock, as we speak is one of the most assumed characters on the screen).

Great ‘Holmes’ of the past have been played by dramatic actors, this would include Jeremy Brett who made the role his own, portrayals since have been either variations of what Brett did or to do what Brett did not do and hence stand out.

The eccentric nature of the Holmes-ian character cries out loud for an expressive actor who can control his/her expressions, which is why I insisted on the word ‘dramatic’; that was the big miss and thus bringing down the levels of excitement.

Sensation and excitement are two keys to the same room in a detective story; Thupparivalan on the other hand is locked in another room filled with Mysskian tick-tock henchmen, beautiful pick pockets and a climax that would reiterate that we already have the best locales for filming. It could be great cinema, but is it engaging?

The Sherlock Holmes homage pool is an ever-deepening one and whether Thupparivalan enriches this pool is something that needs to be seen, but for Tamil Cinema we now have a mainstream detective and I have Arrol Corelli’s teaser music on loop.

 

The Man Who Became His Mother

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Railways.

Yes let us begin with railways.Last week when the Gatiman Express was launched and proved to be only ten minutes faster than the quickest of trains we already had, I groaned. That’s it?

MORE FASTER!!!!!

Kabir from Ki and Ka would have been amidst those who would have complained about the ever reducing experience of the rail road or how forms of transportation seem to be converging based on just one parameter: speed.

Ki and Ka is one of the most well written films in recent history, it pays to notice that their back stories don’t seem like one liners scribbled in the corners of a script; but that which actually lends character.

A standing testimony to “two good characters and it’s a movie!”

Since we have already begun with railways, let us stick with Kabir; the one who is seen crying for his dead mother in transit, no he is not the spoilt-Singhania (Bansal actually) heir but a deeply sensitive man who misses his mother whom he feels has been thoroughly under recognized for the work she has done.

So we have a mama’s boy, trying to tell the world(and his father, no mainly his father; world comes later) that home making is an under appreciated art and that women almost daily have been denied of this credit while their men work away to corporate glory which has historically been called ‘work’. If women are truly the pillars to a man’s success, then in real time they are rusting only.

Kabir also likes trains, ‘likes’ here is a severely subtle description.

Son thinks he is continuing mother’s good work (also the story of Psycho, oops!) and combines his mother’s passion with his own (art meets art) and what we get is a dinner table served by a locomotive and a bed room that resembles an 80s waiting room (wow), see layers. A really fleshy character, i mean fleshed out character.

An act of God, in Bollywood land.

It would also help to notice that Kabir also thinks, his actions are driven by thinking.

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Pillars (stambh)

Kia doesn’t want to be a pillar, she wants to be a CEO; at first she does seem like the one who would do anything to get ahead, and her back story is not as detailed as that of her better half and depends entirely on how Kareena(brilliant) plays it, she is genuinely curious and visibly tired of meeting the same old men who are seeking pillars, so meeting Kabir on an aircraft was indeed godsend.

Good movies are about two people talking and they become better when what they are talking about is more interesting than who is speaking those lines, the first set up in Ki and Ka is genuinely engaging. The characters need not be yugapurush-es( I dont know the stri-ling equivalent of yugapurush) when they are created and any sort of character development that happens during the course of a movie is like the well mixed flavored popcorn that one encounters when one reaches the very end of the basket.

Ki and Ka is a modern film for a truly modern audience, does it play around with stereotypes? Yes, but only to get to the point, I could not see this as a regular gender/role reversal film, I felt the film had risen above these problems; because it would have become a Ramany vs Ramany* episode otherwise.

To further strengthen my point, the problems that Ki and Ka puts forward are solved without much issue or drama.  This film is not about career driven women trying to not have a baby without guilt because this problem gets solved within minutes.

Films are a reflection of what our society is or what society is moving towards, there could be people like Kabir out there who needs a Kia to function and there could be many Kias running away from becoming pillars and yearning to be architectural structures of beauty by themselves. (Kia ends up becoming the CEO of a construction company, nice touch there)

Ki and Ka is not about role reversal and it is definitely not a broad comment on man and woman, but an intimate look at two individuals post marriage. This is not about who gives up what or which profession is better; this Ki and Ka is actually Yin and Yang.

A well made modern film for the modern Indian, hopefully should inspire more Kis and Kas in real life as well.

Also officially now Arjun Kapoor is my favourite Bolly hero, the kind of restraint he brings to a character that would have become a caricature is absolutely magical.

Hey! Yes, they take the train back home, so finishing with railways as well.

The End.

PS

*Ramany vs Ramany a tamil sitcom on recently married couples.

 

 

THE AGE OF EMPIRES

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There is an anecdote of how Queen Elizabeth went up a tree as a girl and came down a Queen, to put the story of Baahubali in a single line will be on similar lines, like say, the boy who went up the waterfalls and became a prince.

But stories are best told in their entirety with flourish and detail and the stories of kings and queen require something else, magnificence.

Magnificent as they may be in text, the trouble lies in the realisation of these visuals from the mind and this is where we come to the ‘is technology taking over our movies’ part of the discussion, in a film like Baahubali yes, a computer really does aid your/the director’s imagination.

From a country that routinely decries its films for not making movies with better graphics, we are very much left behind in the technology debate as well, especially in a time when StoryBrain came up with what he calls the Weta Effect last month; which is in other words that movies with better graphics do not really resonate well with the audiences.

Personally, the inability to make graphics seem seamless in only a temporary worry and can be overcome with training and investment and Baahubali is definitely a step in the right direction, the best graphics film is a film that you can sit and not worry about the graphics (remember Kochadaiiyan), also miraculous that we have moved so far away from Kochadaiiyan in a span of two years. And that is all I have to say about Baahubali’s graphics which went from non-troubling to quite spectacular, but let us first attack the mind/heart(don’t know which does which job, not a doc) of Raajamouli which I guess is filled with fascinations for the epics and long forgotten stories from Chandamama back issues.

Fifty and a half years back, we were making such movies, often large studio productions involving the matinee idols from the states below the Vindhyas, swashbuckling stories of slaves who become kings, banished princes, scheming uncles and whispering corridors, occult magicians, tender princesses and giggling harem girls and not to forget the scenes of war.

With the advent of the so-called realism and the Dravidian movement, these movies dwindled, but the spirit of the classic fantasy lived on but not quite so rightly on the shoulders of mega stars, the characterisations would only fit a mythical time: the masala film.

Somehow a hero jumping between cliffs sits well within a royal story rather than a modern entertainer. Rajamouli’s Baahubali is set in the mythical nation of Mahismathi covering diverse geographies (waterfalls, mountain avalanches, vast dry lands and imposing palaces) and populations ( tribes of different types, assassins, barbarians and royals of course) deserves mention because most of the time the mind limits, and these are how epic stories are built, it is never about one person, it is about all those who live and die in the space that you create and this is where the modern formulaic films go wrong.

Testimony to this is one scene which can also be called “the moment of realisation” , the ground is covered by all those who have shaped the hero’s life, direct and indirect, friend and foe.

While the effect of visuals has considerably increased since the times of Paathala Bhairavi, Mandirikumari and Uttama Puthiran, the excitement in telling these stories has been thankfully retained, which I think is the next greatest triumph of Baahubali (the first being the director’s bold imagination).

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Palaces made of sandstone or software are nothing without the people, here Mahismathi which resembles Minas Tirith from The Lord of the Rings is populated by a league of able actors  who mouth refreshingly well written lines.

The empty throne of Mahismati resembles a widow’s forehead” a minor character says, enough to make me sit up, the fact really was that I was wide eyed straight from the beginning, even the initial dragging set up seems justified for what is to follow.

Patience in actors like Satyaraj is truly rewarding, one of the finest Indian actors alive, catching your eye even when bowing down to someone in deference; but the film truly belongs to Ramyakrishnan, the God Mother who breast feeds both the scions of her clan, it is said that Romulus and Remus; the founders of the Roman empire were nourished by the same wild wolf and that comparison here only seems right. A performance to savour.

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Baahubali is in no means a perfect film, making a film this scale is in a sense like building an empire, but is a start, a beginning as the title loudly says. Post Gladiator, there was an active public interest in the Roman classics and the sword and sandal genre itself, if only Baahubali could do the same; then we could have a cinematic age of empires ahead of us.

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Jai Mahismati!!