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cinema FRS

FRS: Sadak 2

It’s good to be back!

So you all know what an FRS is right? Right? 

-20: Movie begins with “ millennial represent “ Alia Bhatt’s character Aarya sneaking into an Ashram of a Baba and (what else) drawing graffiti on one of his giant cut-out with the word Badla. 

Nothing innately wrong with this, millennials are often shown to be using graffiti as their preferred mode of expression, but seconds later the same millennial burns down the whole cut-out, which doesn’t make sense. 

Why vandalise if you are going to burn the whole thing down?  

I guess we will never understand millennial-represents, maybe the negative points are for us. Ok, it is for us. 

+12: Aarya uses the split second available before she is chased by the authorities to capture this flaming act of protest in an insta live. Opportunistic characters are opportunistic. 

+2: Director goes into a flash montage of the happenings of Sadak 1 , good for those who missed the first film, which includes most of the FRS writers room. The important takeaway is that Pooja (character played by Pooja Bhatt is dead) 

FRS Trivia Thagaval 

Vasanth’s tamil film Appu starring Top Star Prashant is a remake of Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak 1 which itself was based on the Martin Scoresese movie Taxi Driver, which some critics opine as being inspired by John Ford’s The Searchers

FRS Trivial Thagaval brought to you by Wikipedia 

+20: Ravi seems to have done well by himself in the last 20 years, from being a taxi driver to the co-owner of Pooja Travels which has many Audis in its fleet. They also seem to have in possession of prime real estate in Mumbai, but the movie of course doesn’t want to focus on the positive aspect of the story but more on the still depressed taxi driver Ravi. 

Does Ravi fear the rise of cab operators like Ola and Uber,which could potentially eat into his business, we will never know. Movie is not interested in such things. 

+35: Millennial Aarya instead of booking Bla Bla Car or some such ride sharing service goes back to good old Pooja travels for her trip to Kailash to be completed before she turns 21.This could be seen as a hipster thing, like people picking up board games to reduce time spent on apps.  

-35: It so happens that Driver Ravi also meets Millennial Aarya at the hospital, the day before, expected movie co-incidence is expected. 

-101: Hero will deny the journey to be taken but will somehow be convinced to go on the journey, because “screenplay”. Also the audience knows this will always happen because they know the runtime of the movie.

+56: During the course of the journey we learn that millennial Aarya is also the founder of an activist group called India Against Fake Babas, it is an awareness group that meets sometimes in cafes and tells people that they do not need interpreters and can directly speak to God. Down with blind faith boys.

-22: Unfortunately, India Against Fake Babas is not against all Fake Babas but only one, namely Gyaan Prakash, whose cut-out we wrote about earlier. 

That begs us the question, how does one know who the fake babas are? Never mind, movie is not interested in such stuff anyway, if movie tells baba is fake then we must accept it, blindly. 

+101: Millennial Meet Cute- movie is very innovative in ways to make its lead characters meet. In the age of the online trolling (of which Sadak 2 is also a victim, wait for our FRS Trivia Thagaval again) Aarya seeks out Vishal (Aditya Roy Kapoor) who is the constant web irritant to her cause, India Against Fake Babas and demands a public apology. 

This being a movie, both fall in love at first sight. 

We although fear that this would encourage twitter trolls to think that if they do keep hounding celebrities that they might actually fall in love with them. 

-25: Movie makes an attempt at equipoised storytelling that champagne liberals behind causes don’t add much to the cause other than themselves, movie then abandons this line of storytelling because hero falls in love with heroine.

-57: India Against Fake Baba’s other outreach strategy is to distribute handbills to people on the street and see if they call them back, movie itself makes fun of this strategy. LOL

-101: For a movie called Sadak, almost 90 pc of the movie takes place inside rooms, maybe they should have called it Sadak 2: Now in Kamra 

That now reminds us of Chennaiyil Oru Naal 2’s unbelievable tagline. 

-122: Movie wants us to think Ooty is some Himalayan hill station, boss

-60: Movie also wants us to believe in its blatant “screenplaying”, one girl gets a father, a father who lost a daughter gains one, a man who lost interest to live found a cause etc, yeah yeah but why do you also say it in dialogue too? 

-33: Aditya Roy Kapoor always carries a guitar on his back, this made us fear that when he will break into a song and our fears came true 

That was really the most fearful moment in the movie for us, because every obstacle introduced in the movie is resolved easily in the next scene itself. 

-24.6: usual something something twist happens and everything comes to an end and millennial Aarya makes an appeal to the government saying that bringing light to all corners of the country will not do much good, but dispelling darkness by chasing away fake Babas is the true path to greatness. 

We wondered if she would dedicate her entire fortune to fighting fake babas and mythbusting, but no such announcement was seen in the movie, which made us think about Aditya Roy Kapoors abandoned comment about Champagne Liberals. 

All the best for India Against Fake Babas

FRS Trivia Thagaval 

At the time of going to press (lool we think of ourselves as one publication), Sadak 2 was the second most disliked trailer on youtube, which is why we mentioned that it was a victim of concerted web abuse, the first most disliked video is the YouTube Rewind 2018 

FRS Trivia Thagaval brought to you by Wikipedia

A short interview with our editor about the new section FRS Trivia Thagaval 

Journalist: Why did you introduce this new section to your old review format FRS?

Editor: We believe that people should learn something when they go to the movies

Journalist: We are hearing rumors that this is because of falling traffic to your blog site

Editor: It’s not a rumor, it is the truth, but we don’t add sections for such things like web traffic

Journalist: That’s big breaking news

Editor: Lool, never blogged eh? 

End of interview 

All numbers are incidental and arbitrary , except the facts provided by our data analytics team

Subam

Team FRS

PS Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak 2 is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar

PPS Venkatesh Bhatt’s Idhayam Thotta Samayal is now streaming on his youtube channel, just saying.

Categories
TV

Mondays with Mason : Chapter Eight

In conclusion, my lord, the case is inconclusive. 

No we didn’t make that up, It’s what Mason says while he tries in vain to put down a decent concluding statement. Maybe it was also said in the writer’s room. 

We are all for revisionism, if it has a place in the story, if the ‘revisionism’ dawns on me when we later understand the workings of the story. But revisionism in place of definite endings is problematic. 

Ever since the first episode we have been doggedly pursuing every clue that this show throws at us, every week we place it with what we already know, to see who killed baby Charlie Dodson? Will they be brought to book? 

Okie yeah, we do know who killed the baby, whose horrific death on the tram car made this the most arresting case to follow on television. 

But is there a sense of satisfaction in the end? 

Partially yes. 

It’s not as neatly tied up as we would expect or as Perry would have wanted his first case to be. He’s really grown from being an investigator, but let’s call this the learning curve shall we?

We could also argue the that the writers did not give us a concrete finish to keep things open for the next season or we could also say that this is a Perry Mason for a different time, a time where there are no definites, it’s all very mixed and hence being inconclusive is not a choice but a characteristic. 

Clue trails go cold, but the series spends much time of the finale in making a statement with the character of Della Street, she not only (and rightfully) bargains her next employment with Perry (not Mason & Associates, but Mason & Street, nice touch) but she also contributes to the case taking a more emotional turn. It’s the most questionable turn the case takes, but one that provides a verdict which doesn’t seem to be a victory for any party involved. 

Our hero is really not arguing the case that he has built which we could say contributes to his inability to come up with solid concluding remarks, because it was Della’s idea to put Emily on the stand. To appeal to the sentiments and not facts. 

Perry had the case, he had Innes- the main perpetrator in our eyes, he could have squeezed the slimy detective in court, hell we even get a glimpse of it in a mock trial, but hell no, apparently no one confesses on the stand. Or so they say. It’s a brilliantly conceived scene nevertheless brought back memories of the 1973 Sivaji Ganesan film Gauravam which too had a similar mock trial, albeit a fruitful one. 

Not so neatly tied up parts linger, while the tied up parts including what happens to Emily Dodson and the trio of Drake, Street and Mason seem to stick out but promise some excitement for the future. 

You can only seek justice when you find the truth, Perry says. But what we got was just parts of the truth, and so justice is not pronounced but hanging in the air, like a thread whose holder we know not.

We enjoyed watching & writing this TV series recap, and we trust you liked our coverage. Tune in back again, hopefully. 

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

Categories
cinema Essay

Kalaai as a Service (KaaS): Siva Manasula Sakthi (SMS)

It’s time the world took note of the work of director M. Rajesh.

The other SA Chandrasekhar assistant. Especially of interest is his pentalogy of movies with comedy star Santhanam, which began with 2009s Siva Manasula Sakthi or SMS. 

A decade just went past and no one only seemed to notice. Of course SMS is a certain kind of film that would not attract revivals, it also has the misfortune (from a critical pov) of being a non-classy romantic film, a genre which seems to somehow require a film to be ‘classy’ to be revived. 

Anyway, Rajesh wouldn’t care. I don’t mean that in a wrong way.

It shows in every scene right from the start, the mock freeze frame narration and pausing to question the audience whether Jiiva would be an Olympic athlete but then insisting that he is just a normal guy running to catch a train. It’s not that he is not sincere, it’s just that he is probably bored with what is quite commonly known here as “build-up”. No pretensions. 

Cut to next scene

Siva meets Sakthi on the train. 

Seconds later he is asking her to talk to him to pass the time. 

That’s it. 

No glowing close-up to the heroine’s eyes, no hero touching his chest and kneeling to the ground, no guitar solo,no “avlo oru azhagu” types, no Harris Jayraj duolingo humming (although Rajesh would use the composer in a later film), no general wishy washy circling around for 40 mins before saying something poetic etc. 

No romance in a romance film. Boom. 

Full disclosure, we generally love all types of films, but we also tend to hate the most romantic of the romantic ones. The ones where romance is the sole soul, we mean…never mind. 

Siva can never be a movie romantic lead, his pick up line is about Anantha Vikatan (also the producers and the magazine is ‘well placed’ in the movie), it’s not much of a pick up line too, he is raw male instincts personified  he is also real. 

Our usual romantic leads are often those who just jump out of a strawberry dream in little heart situations. Unrealistic even by middle class expectations. 

Siva is just another guy, Sakthi too, just another girl. 

They remain so till the very end.

No no, this is definitely not the glib “mature understanding love story” , no no, this is even not the “poratti podra” transformational love story where one lead influences the other to change their entire life. This movie does not even fall into the taming of the shrew subgenre. 

Siva Manasula Sakthi is the most realistic love story ever made in Tamil cinema, the fact that it is told as a humorous interplay between two characters with brittle ego who cannot get enough of themselves is its differentiating point. That it also avoids unnecessary social commentary is where its brilliance lies. 

Right so, when they do first meet, both are instinctively attracted to each other and present complete fake versions of themselves, but those thin characteristics break away and the rest of the movie is just Siva and Sakthi irritating themselves to the world’s end. 

Yours Irritatingly

Love stories tend to focus on the great moments that a couple have (imagined, with the passage of time) but SMS stays on the not so great moments and more on how much can one tolerate the other, which seems to be a more practical approach to deciding on long term romance, rather than say learning guitar or that sort of thing. 

Hence, the term real.

In life or say real life, relationships are truncated or prolonged based on the mutual tolerance level and relationships include love, we think no other movie touched on this aspect and it’s a very practical way to decide. Great work Rajesh, we know you don’t care, but still. 

Again, a romance film that does not romanticise. 

But it is true that they do have their sweet moments, but it is reserved for a montage during the time Siva and Shakti are away,not as elaborate as the “Kalaai” portions. 

Making irritation scenes the mainstay is also clever while looking at it from the impact POV, when Sakthi realizes that Siva really does love him underneath all the put on contempt, sitting in a restaurant with Arya (another Rajesh trademark cameo feature) her “could have been would-be”. It’s incidents from these irritations and scheming that Siva really understands her. It hits her (and us) hard.

Not so punny, kid

‘Kalaai’ is a difficult word to translate, so is ‘Nakkal’ and ‘Kindal’, make-fun-of does not really meet the meaning, it’s a very Tamil thing and although it is not unique to Rajesh’s films, but he was the one who codified it and it becomes emblematic to the point of difficulty in his later films (maybe wait for our essay on Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga). 

Comedy films have been gauged on the amount of laughter that they provide, how many lines have been remembered, how many lines that could be repurposed for daily life. Maybe that’s a cerebral way to approach humor, but it is not the natural way. Structured dialogue comedy does not happen in real life, people rarely speak in rat-a-tat-a-tat. These are constructed screenplays based on intellect, not for normals.  

Like his practical approach to love, Rajesh also has a practical approach to comedy, he doesn’t want to pack 200 jokes in 100 minutes, he doesn’t even care if some jokes do not land (which is very true of the film) and that’s okay, because in the life of Siva or a person like Sakthi would not be able to make up smart turns of phrase. They would probably make fun of a fat person, which is what they do. But they have a good laugh.

Kalaai hence becomes both the medium for love and comedy, it was refreshing to watch this two pronged approach the first time and it is still refreshing because very few have attempted such a radically different way to tell a love story. Rajesh would, but then this is his mould from which other movies do come out. Do note that the Kalaai is not one way, the hero too gets it back (and nicely so) from the heroine (Anuya Bhagwat is a treat to watch in her debut, despite the dubbing). 

Rajesh’s films are also dubbed (not in another language) as TASMAC films (why not wait for our essay on All in All Azhagu Raja), owing to how the hero and Santhanam spend most of the time at wine shops and yes TASMAC is an important setting in SMS, it’s where Sakthi finally admits to being in love (he still thinks it’s another elaborate Kalaai), but what other outlet does Siva have in matters of the heart. Where else will he go to nurse his broken ego and who else would support him like his friend Santhanam (named Vivek [LOL] in the film). 

Santhanam’s role in Rajesh films would continue to grow even to the extent of the whole film revolving around him, but surely you can witness traces of the flow in the ever popular ‘Harry Potter Vaaya’ and the broken mobile phone gag in SMS, but it is definitely not peak Santhanam. We were surprised about how little he appears in the film.

Rajesh also believes that Kalaai is not restricted to what only the comedian says, he finds it in the RJ voice obsessed Siva’s sister, he finds it in the kindness personified Urvashi, Siva’s mother. It is here that Rajesh forged his strong family setup which would be repeated time and again. 

But it is Jiiva who takes the money to the bank, the testimony to his acting prowess is that after SMS, he is able to fit right into Neethane En Pon Vasantham too. Absolute talent, perhaps the most versatile after Kamal. 

Rajesh perfected his model in his first film while many accumulate signatures slowly over time.

Why yes how many first film directors set out to make their best film as their first?

Working under limitations of a production house (Vikatan) which was till then producing tele serials and no star magnet to put people in their seats. His advertising background probably came to help in including items that interest his core audience (the youth of 2008-9) and he went about it making it as honestly as possible and proving that excessive displays of conviction alone cannot make a good film, just being self will do. 

Do give it a watch, if you haven’t lately and we hope you would think well to include it in future anniversary revivals.  

After a top debut, where will Rajesh go from here? 

Tune into the next edition of Kalaai as a Service, where we (hopefully can) dive deep into the cinema of M Rajesh. 

Thank you for reading.

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.