On Visu

Was dreading this for sometime. Writer-director-actor Visu no more

His films were the first I could sense a real director’s touch, later I came to realize the confidence he had in his plots and characters as a screen and dialogue writer, no matter what criticism was kept against him. Like a mother he would defend his films till his death.

Visu had his own way to show the problems of the middle class even when KB was still making movies. (KB even produced some of Visu’s works). KB made ‘better’ movies (Visu would probably disagree), KB approached it from the head, while Visu would bring his bleeding heart. It wasn’t just sentimentality, but also with humor.

In a video on what makes a great movie, critic Mark Kermode noted that how words like sentimentality and humor where not used in the charitable sense by movie critics because movie criticism was purely treated as an intellectual enterprise. Emotions were not treated as part of the craft.

In my view Visu was most disadvantaged by this, he did not receive the appreciation for his craft, when he needed it the most.

Critics would carry KB to another generation, but Visu would be largely ignored by critics, but even more by his audience, whom he lost to either apathy or television.

Even at the earliest viewing of Kudumbam oru Kadambam I could see that Visu was not offering solutions- the movie was basically a debate on whether men should marry women who worked or women who stayed at home. The movie really stacks up arguments on both sides and the solution is left to the characters themselves- it depended on that family.

I still think this is one of the most mature ways to approach a domestic issue and by the time we come to the end I would have cried and laughed a dozen times.

Visu had made me see these characters as he had seen them or created them, I think this by itself is the greatest achievement for any creator. Visu sir, you rocked in your time.

The TV which depleted his audience did some good deeds by fate or design by repeatedly showing his movies which made it possible for me to catch it, enjoy it repeatedly. Yes they had some issues in quality, but never in confidence or the lack of color in characters.

Kudumbam Oru Kadambam.
Dowry Kalyanam
Varavu Nalla Uravu
Manal Kayiru

These are his movies that made an immense impact personally and of course he wrote Simla Special which for me is the gold standard in friendship movies in Tamil Cinema.

He would have liked to have read this perhaps, but alas I should have written earlier. Obits don’t matter to those for whom it is intended.

As an affected party (audience), the first duty towards a creator is a mere acknowledgment and I am guilty of being late and I will do more to write about his films.

Go well Visu sir. Om Shanti.

Vartuthapadala, vendapadala, kavalapadale, perumapadren to be your fan Visu Sir

Speaking of Endings- Star Wars:The Rise Of Skywalker

So yeah. 

When I came to the very end of the end of “The Rise of Skywalker” which is the end of this new trilogy of Star Wars films, but it is also the end of the end of all the Star Wars films so far (yet). 

Only one thing struck me, they had ONLY planned the end of the end. 

So the rest of the movie was just to get to the end of the end? 

At least they could have been honest. They could have put in a slide saying, “you know we think the best ending for this Star Wars is Rey doing a Luke and watching the binary sunset, we just don’t know how to get there”, but of course honesty is that value which is quite in shortage in this world, can’t expect much. 

They should have gotten our email address and just mailed the ending. With consent and all for GDPR.

Instead I was treated to more than two hours of lessons on finding the self, being a good leader, not seeking revenge, standing up for brethren and more importantly, never losing hope. In short the movie was trying to emulate a good twitter account and wait for the RTs to ring. 

Look now, I’m not opposed to hope; let me just make that clear,I am just tired that it is being sold again. Yeah people fall for it, deep down everyone feels they are special, of course that is why a character of Rey would appeal to everyone, a nobody who saves the universe- the last jedi- our last hope. 

I have seen this. Next one please. 

Movies can be about anything, it can be about hope, it can be about despair, it can be about friendship, it can be about tiredness; but a film about hope should evoke hopeful qualities not make me tired and a movie about tiredness should not make me hopeful.

The Dead Speak! The Audience Yawn!

The Dead Speak! Screams the familiar opening crawl, as though to make us forget the ending of the previous movie, the entire galaxy has now heard a broadcast, obviously it cannot be someone new, someone whose story we have to build from the start, someone whose exploits we need to follow over time so we get accustomed to their behaviour and then decide whether to fear him or not. 

No no no, it must be an old and familiar face whose appearance might bring some amount of excitement back into the fan bloodstream. So yeah let’s get the old main villain and try and sell the “i’m the puppet master behind everything that happened till now” narrative. 

I paused. So this is where they went a little bit like Infinity War, although without the infinity stones- they just had two-pathfinders-to the villain’s lair. Umm nothing dramatic, I have seen enough movies to know what will ultimately happen in a villain’s lair. 

Irresponsible Expectations 

Partly I am to blame, where did I think they would go with it? 

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy With More Of The Same

On the Laureate, we try to write about genre a lot, but we skipped franchises. Yes they are deeply steeped in genre lore, but also deeply bound in risk. A franchise exists only to make money. Yep. 

It’s not enough if just the fans see it, it should appeal to everyone and in the end, add more star wars fans. The movies themselves are made timed to not allow enough time for the fans to figure out why they liked it in the first place. They have to see the next one and be disappointed until they announce another series, a few years later- another series where someone’s grandson is now leading the resistance against another black robe clad father figure, I mean Vader figure. 

By this time, another enthusiastic innocent generation would have been pulled into the fandom, this fandom which will include buying t-shirts, dolls, plastic light sabers, theme parks and voice over gigs for Vijay Sethupathi. 

A new paste of slimy culture over mine, made to make me feel how my slime (now hardened) was actually better. No it wasn’t. . 

For some like, it is now a habit. I have seen the films. They are more of the same. I don’t even have the mind to say, “but in the original trilogy…” Nevermind. As someone said, these movies are about space wizards intended for children. 

Good sunset. BTW. 

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.