Categories
cinema cinema:tamil

On Vivek

(1961-2021)

1999’s Unnaruge Naan Irundhal was a marker of how Kollywood comedy would be shaped, at least for the next few years. Headlined by Parthiban, who was largehearted enough to take up roles which provided room for most supporting actors of the comedic variety as yes he could vibe well with them, being a humorist himself. Unnaruge Naan Irundhal had Vadivelu, as the village drunk who Parthiban’s character encounters, the scenes between them are indicative of their partnership which would reach peak in next year’s Vetri Kodi Kattu. 

Vivek joins the party much later, as is typical how this movie could have been made- a collection of random humorous sketches and a thin story to string it all together. As a frustrated actor-director who comes to the village to make a Rambha film (yes this is the Meena-Rambha movie ) , Vivek steals a movie really did require stealing, it was after a long time when the industry made fun of itself- he covers night schedules, late coming actors, sentiment scenes and Telugu style dance steps (Paniyaram Paniyaram Paniyaram anyone?). The short time he is on screen would earn him his first Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Comedian. 

Let’s come back to the indicative part, while Vadivelu was excelling in the comedy situations that left him feeling like fool or left him beaten black and blue; Vivek would take up an issue and deconstruct it, even within the framework of the sketch comedy that the films that was being offered to him, allowed. Unnaruge Naan Irundhal is like a fork in the road where Vadivelu and Vivek parted. 

In the new millennium, Vivek found an immediate place as the funny friend of then up and coming youth heroes, Vijay, Ajith, Vikram and Madhavan- but the frustration in his comedy remained (recollect the Shaeey! Kadhalukku silai vekkuranga, nee elai vekkure from Minnale ) and he elevated himself to the position where he could make fun of the heroes themselves (later Vivek gave up this position to Santhanam) but never would he miss out to include issues ( as in daily travails that the youth faced- ahem of the time) like mobile phone bill, petrol prices and even boring art films (Kadhal Jothi in Eyy Nee Romba Azhaga Irukke!). He strived to not reduce himself to a meme. 

A combination of factors including the multifold ‘image’ growth of the above mentioned heroes and the game changing Winner- well, we all know what happened after that. 

It is this short period between 2000 and 2003 that Vivek shone, he would talk about enrollment in caste societies (Dum Dum Dum), brahminism ( Saami) , ills of city life (Run), advertising ( Eyy Nee Romba Azhaga Irukke- Ullam Ketkume Beer) but it never seemed like he was making a statement for the sake of it, only all round good natured humor. 

Vivek couldn’t go full on into body language adi-dhadi comedy ( he tried that too for a while when we clearly see that Vivek was Vadivelu stand-in such films) , he couldn’t go into insult comedy of his predecessors, but he found his niche in the mix of pop-culture (Mission Impossible, Indecent Proposal all found a place)- harmless imitations (mostly Kamal, Sivaji, Kalaignar and Vairamuthu), social awareness and daily irritations. Sadly this golden period, like all golden periods, only lasted for a time. 

He would do them at a bigger scale (naturally) in later Shankar films which still had the smell of early 2000s in them. 

Like all good artistes,Vivek  reinvented himself by occasionally playing against type and because comedy is the most difficult of arts, he could do everything else, the most recent of which is Vellai Pookal, a well made thriller set in Seattle- an example of how he could carry a film with relatively unknown actors.

Of course, there are many Viveks (within the screen and outside) that are worth of public adulation, it could be his mission to plant one crore saplings or his quest to further the memory of APJ Abdul Kalam in the state or in general the goodness of his twitter account. 

Many will write about those facets and rightly should, but these are where my memories begin. 

No end card for you Vivek sir , this could be just another ‘Take Diversion’ and thank you for the humor.

Categories
TV

Rasbhari (2020)

As The Swivel Chair Spins #10

Yes, blame it on the virus. 

We should have gotten the warning when there was narration from the protagonist, but we went along. 

Amazon Prime’s latest series is a Meerut-set tale of teenage troubles and libidinous louts, it is one thing to generalize based on stereotypes, but it is completely another thing to reduce the entire city of Meerut into this this village of villains who are waiting for any woman (other than their wives) to appear. 

We start with the city because the narration too begins with the city, Meerut, just like every other small town in India, the voice says, now the scope of generalisation has been extended from one small town to all small towns in India. 

Ok, playing along, let’s just say we bought this narrative. Umm let’s say it’s a bit like magical realism where the entire town goes blind(!), or let’s just say it is like all the old men from the village who come to look at the teacher in Mundhanai Mudichu. 

There’s a teacher here too, an English teacher, played by Swara Bhaskar. Teachers in Indian film join the list of maligned professions owing to the inability of our makers to put pen or pencil to paper and think about writing actual characters. Teachers are either the strict and morally upright ones who teach students a thing or two or it is the generously minded and controversially dressed lady teachers who too teach students a thing or two (umm).

Swara Bhasker plays the second type, her appearance in the class creates a flutter among high school kids and her appearance in town, as discussed above, makes the men of Meerut into wolves with tongues wagging. While all this is played for comedy, we couldn’t sit and not wonder, what item of interest would follow in the rest of the seven episodes. 

Let’s try and keep it short, just because a web series is eight episodes long doesn’t mean our write-up should be too, in the remainder of the seven episodes what was truly lacking is the contrast. Not in terms of colors in the cinematography but in the colors of the characters. 

Humor and its popular uncontrollable cousin, comedy, comes from opposites, like to use an often seen example of a really large man being afraid; so if two sides to the same character do not contain these extremes then there is very little to play around with.

While the central character of Shanu Ma’am, if we could use the phrase,leaves a lot to be desired, then the series kinda makes up with the surrounding characters of Nand, Priyanka and we wanted more about them. While none of them get any close to arc, how Nand (Ayushman Saxena) and Priyanka (Rashmi Agdekar) move from awkwardness to mutual respect is one of the best transitions we have seen in sometime. The actors too are comfortable and maybe waiting for the story to turn their way. 

But alas Rasbhari, wants us to be interested in english teacher Shanu Ma’am and her sex obessed alter ego courtesan. Which is where it gets really confusing- the point where the teacher student fantasy ends and the social commentary begins. Maybe we should just applaud the makers intention to “excite” as well as “educate” us. The fantasy too doesn’t go the whole way for it to be classified as bold, but is definitely pictured in a way to be called as vague. 

If it is this type of fantasy that you are looking for over the weekend, maybe Amazon Prime Video is not the right site. 

Nevermind. 

Rasbhari in its entirety is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: AAA

AAA1 copy

 

So, you guys are quite familiar with what FRS is right? Right?

We have no idea why we keep asking this, but it cuts the cackle and come to the osses’.

Yes, that is a phrase.

It is a phrase like how AAA is a movie.

+500: This movie got made, absolutely. Like if you are screenwriter, which means you are also the director here and if you walk up to a financier and say that this is going to be my movie, we don’t know; maybe there a lot of risk hungry financiers out there or let’s just call this Avant-garde art film( we have no idea what it means, but if you are in a written quiz this phrase will fetch you part points somewhere), because none of us are equipped to even classify what AAA is.

What is AAA? Let’s find out seekers of the truth, let’s find out.

-5: above phrase has repetition, to add effect.

-389.108: narration irritations, like seventy years of movie making and people can’t kick this habit and in AAA we don’t even know who is narrating, some old fellow somewhere in dubai etc, the whole film is narrated in his POV but then again scenes are not written from his POV which means that we are shown things that he has no way of knowing, this is simple boss, why should we keep saying these things. Who is this narrator guy anyway? Troubling.

Just start with something like you guys know what FRS is right? Right? People who know will follow, others will find out, if they want.

-10: Dubai

-25: If hero goes to Dubai he will become a Don only (not oxford don, underworld don)

This is of course an extension of the rule, if hero goes to X location, he will become an underworld don only. No other occupation is worthy of the Tamil movie hero, he is either simpleton farmer, urban agitator or underworld don.

He protects the masses in all cases. Of course, gets the girl also.

Introducing let’s blame it on Godfather clause, ever since Coppola’s movie came out, every other filmmaker thinks it is the best profession for mass hero which results in over romanticising of illegal activities. Like have u guys seen Goodfellas or not?

-15: Madurai

If hero is from Madurai he will not be veterinary doctor, he will be ‘veritanama killer’ only, also obviously, he will work for a don there, like not even freelancing.

-30: Movie made with the assumption that even killing a life is justifiable, as long it is done by a hero.

+50: Hero syndrome: In AAA hero’s friends believe that Madurai Michael is special, but example of his speciality is ever displayed, yes he kills people for living, but then friends be like “Wow da dei super da, semma da”.

In real life, real friends assess you and bluntly put out your lack of talent in stuff out in the open.

Like how our friends tell us all the time that we suck at writing, but we continue to, maybe we should get some cinematic friends who praise even the shite that we write.

Nevertheless, this is becoming too emotional for us.

-10: Hero’s friends have no reason to be alive expect to sing praise of the hero.

Update to the reader: 500 words and we haven’t even come to the opening song sequence yet

We try and improve our vocabulary once in a while, like hey, we are writers you know and the new word we are using here is: demure.

-12: Demure lady falls in love with demolishing hero trope. Also, if you are contract killer in Madurai, you have enough time to do romance and all. Must be good profession.  But no work from home option available since it is an on the road job. Hmm.

+50: Opening song, hero claims that he is no one without us. (not the Laureate, us here refers to the audience at the large). Which is true because we buy tickets.

-17: Why will a town celebrate a contract killer, who like weekly kills one of their own is a big question that needs answering. Unless of course Madurai Michael and STR are used interchangeably.

-25: Heroine’s father portrayed like a stupid man who has a ‘thing’ for switches, the sad state of heroine’s father is a sorrow song in the history of tamil cinema.

Notice how Y Gee Mahendran has Bhiarava wig.

Everybody has a wig in Madurai, hair raising city.

-10: Mouth to mouth resuscitation which can bring back a life in emergencies is used for comedy effect

-10: Something something happens and we end up with an old STR who is an ex-underworld don but now in Chennai feeding pigeons under the alias Ashwin Thata.

Yes, really.

<Insert Interval Block here>

 

-12: Thata means not really thata, Simbu looks more like middle aged only, but I guess at this point in the movie they don’t really care.

-51: failed prosthetics is failed only. Gurunathar Michael Westmore will not be happy.

+34: Ashwin Thata wears good clothes that even IT employees don’t get to wear on fun Fridays.

If you don’t know fun Fridays, then you are better off not knowing.

+5: Tammanna aka Tammy plays a social worker who life mission is to bring happiness to the lives of elders.

+6: Since Tammy is doing this social service, we hope this will be followed by millions of youth

+11: Heavy duty Tammy dancing, not Devi level though

-57: All songs whenever, wherever, most mimic STRs previous films, tune setting everything

+5: veteran Nilu calling up STR and addressing him as Machi. LOL

Suddenly Tammy & thata become expert painters of portraits, when and where did they learn this art, do underworld dons go to summer camps with kids to learn water colors?

Interesting questions, no answers

A repenting ageing don, seeking to colour the rest of his life by joining a summer painting class. Now that’s a movie there. Go make it,  ideas are not only bulletproof, here we give it for free.

-91: Director thinks mere presence of Mottai Rajendran and Kovai Sarala will make us laugh like anything, like they need to do something hai na?

+100: Director gives three to four movies for the price of one, in fact AAA is an assemblage of all STR films put together, there is a monologue like VTV about love, there is the age difference love matter from Vallavan, there is the I will do anything for my friends thingy also from Vallavan, there is the “Dei all girls will ematify boys” from Manmadan, heck there is even a recreation of Thallipogadey from AYM with Mottai Rajendran and Kovai Sarala.

The last bit is a must watch for sophisticated GVM fans.

Yes, all of this is there in this one movie, in fact all of this happens in the second half which means that this movie has taken controlled randomness to a different level.

You know something is going to happen, but you don’t know what, but you can guess it is from an earlier STR film.

AAA itself is an existential film where STR lays out all his glories and worries right before the audience and asks them to choose what path he must take, it is really deep that way.

-56: Three four fights happen, but we didn’t really get what was happening

-26: Two hours into movie and director cannot decide if the movie is romance, gangster or comedy

-71: Tammy thinks (or director wants tammy character to think) Rajni+Kamal=STR (actual line, not extrapolated by FRS fact checking team)

-34: Hero spends two minutes explaining to everyone the ill effects of drinking.

Starts drinking next second

+68.91: Thikku Siva LOL Spoilers LOL

-145: General discourse on how boys and how girls are….yeppa yawn

<Insert cue for part two>

<Yes there is more>

Until then it is goodbye from

THE FRS Team

Subam

Vanakkam

Categories
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.

 

 

 

Categories
cinema Essay Essential viewing

SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE SELECTION| ESSENTIAL VIEWING: MANAL KAYIRU

“Scenes from a marriage selection”

4

I do not remember when was the first time I saw Manal Kayiru, but it must have been a very long time ago and with  some certainty I can say that it was an afternoon movie; I have since watched it multiple times at multiple points of time; classic is a word that has been tossed around as tags for many movies and is a word that should be used only after much deliberation, but Manal Kayiru has the word classic written all over it.

No one has made films relentlessly on the problems of the middle class woman like Visu, can only be compared to the nothingness and existentialism in the films of Woody Allen.(Unmeasured comparison)

And in the core of the problems of the fairer sex was marriage.

Oh but wait, weren’t Visu’s films stagey? Thoroughly dipped in the sentimentality of the time and mostly adapted from stage plays and really looked like a televised one, that they may be but, they are not without their own inventiveness.

To continue with the Woody Allen analogy, Manal Kayiru can be called the ‘Annie Hall’ of Visu’s career which began from the stage, the film in which he found the balance and his own space within Tamil film making.

It is the world of 1982, unknown and seemingly distant to the now world of shaadi and bharat matrimony; a middle class man has aspirations, not two but eight(including bizarre ones like failing in college). If you had been a daughter’s father in eighties and before, conditions is not a word that you would have wanted to hear.

2

That is the thing with comedy, it takes away that tears that go behind the thought of these jokes; and this is where Visu stands tall as a maker of socio-comedy films, he never cuts down on the seriousness of the issue; yes the eight rules seem ridiculous but by the time we reach the end, these rules represent the stupidity of ourselves and how big a deal it was to get a girl married. An achievement worth putting into your CV types.(Again now, everyone will put anything on the CV, I was talking about the eighties)

To thank God for how things have changed is being childishly optimistic, marriage selection has remained a sort of gruelling job interview, the only things that have changed has been the medium and now that both sides can do this ticking of checkboxes exercise, before thanking God reflect on Darwin and this quite unnatural selection.

3

Enter Naradar Naidu, who completely randomises this process; with Manal Kayiru, my formative thoughts about marriage has been about co-existence rather than the one of selection, and this is primarily because of Manal Kayiru, selection in this case so seems like a recruitment for a slave, but what about expectations?

Is it possible to live with someone who does not meet even one of your expectations?

Pardon my middle class movie loving brain, but the act of marriage is really much higher than fulfilling individual’s expectations and that is what the world is moving towards, bespoke dating.

Visu is like that teacher who comes back to the starting point of the lecture at the end of one, most teachers don’t. He knows his subject in depth, the lesson here is: let not your expectations bring tears to the other party.

Like the job of the ‘marriage broker’ whose occupation has been quietly replaced by the match making sites, Visu’s family dramas have been replaced by television soaps starring murderous mother in laws and wailing working women, but more so it has the generation that has been replaced, a generation that looks at marriage and family in the long run, as this India Today article puts it ‘obliquely’.

Maybe the events that happen in Manal Kayiru are exaggerated, and the days of conditions are long gone; but as number of divorce applications and new family courts suggest that there are more broken marriages than broken hearts and the saddest part is that there will be no Naradar Naidu to liven things up for you this time.

Epilogue

Dowry Kalyanam can be seen as a companion piece to Manal Kayiru, while the former deals with the struggles that happen during the course of marriage, the latter covers the pre-marriage irritations

Sve Sekar plays the fool of a groom in both these films and is tremendously effective.

While lovers of good old drama might not have anything to complain, cineastes might be pleasantly surprised by Visu’s handling of a deaf character. Gimmicky and stagey yes, but the film is not without substance and the characters hold up well even after years have piled over the film. Class apart, Manal Kayiru is an extremely easy film to love, proving again the best way to approach serious stuff is by making comedy.

PS:  The title of this column was originally called “we cannot be friends if you do not like this movie”, but changed to the more boring but just-about-doing the job “essential viewing” because the previous title was considered antagonistic to our already dwindling audience.

PS2: None on the staff of the Lowly Laureate is married, except the 86 year old printing press operator. His Facebook relationship status as of today is: I won’t tell you, go.

Xbox: Naradar Naidu is the first in a long list of typical Visu characters, a wily outsider who sets up the film’s flow and provides the solution as well, but here he faces a saddening end, not unlike the one Kamal faces during the climax of Panchatantiram(well, almost)