Categories
cinema:tamil Parking Lot Notes

Parking Lot Notes: Psycho (2020)

Mysskin’s Thupparivaalan sowed in me the fears that the director is not really interested in genre but more interested in using the genre to speak about larger themes, something I should have feared even earlier, when he released his reimagining of a ghost story in”Pisasu”. Sometimes I am late to these insightful fears and that hurts when I am sitting inside a theatre watching the movie unfold. 

Psycho is a continuation, it is really a different take on the serial killer or slasher sub genre, to the extent that it is devoid of any suspense and does not evoke any fear ( apart from my fear of this not being a true genre film). It does not even pierce into the psyche of the psycho and it is nowhere close to being a serious police investigation film. 

It paints a generic picture,oversells humanity. So now you see how far Mysskin has come away from the genre.There are still instruments from his flourish box- the calmness in the dark, the rustling of the trees (oh I wish there were more of this) but very little more. 

To understand my pain,then let’s start at the beginning. There is a serial killer on the loose in Coimbatore, he stalks, kidnaps and before our characters could enter, has killed 13 women.Our characters are introduced via a radio show discussing the recent spate of murders-one is Dahini played by Aditi Rao Hydari who somehow has the knack of finding herself in angelic roles in boring films, the other is of course Gautham played by Udhayanidhi Stalin who is introduced as her blind stalker but goes on to become the detective who solves this case. After a point, the movie becomes less and less about solving the murder and more about hero finding the heroine. 

In his efforts to paint a hyper unreal love story- Mysskin just drops the aforementioned 13 murders of women-just like that- it leaves a bad taste when the serial killer is almost portrayed as a saint by the end of the film. (breathe in deeply, hold, breathe out) 

I always return to my musings on genre, because that is what constitutes overwhelmingly to how I receive a film (also the mood) and I am amazed how uniquely Mysskin manages to make my favourite type of films dull and completely devoid of excitement. 

He did it to the detective thriller before with Thupparivalan, but Mysskin was not like this, he used to understand how important a thread is, a line of thought is, what is it to uncover a clue and how one thing leads to another- for that I should have just stayed home and watched Yuddham Sei. 

That film too had an underlying social message, but the movie by itself worked because of the right push given to these genre elements including one of Tamil cinema’s best portrayal of the obsessive detective (by Cheran). 

But am I really doing a disservice to Psycho by comparing it with other films and pushing it down by my own expectations of genre elements? Maybe I do not have the maturity to accept “subversion” in genre. 

Maybe I have begun to realize that I watch movies from the experience of watching other movies.

(Pause for reflection). 

True. There could be many reasons why the movie did not work for me at all, maybe that’s why I waited with ‘this’ languishing in the drafts for 15 days before putting out a Parking Lot Note (usually these are quick, I mean relatively). 

Honestly, I felt nothing really happens on the screen and with great difficulty I tried to keep my attention on the screen- even the later attempts at a horror thriller did not evoke my required response and I was asking myself again and again, why is it important for this director to sell this concept of “humanity” again at the cost of the story itself? So boring. 

That’s when I try to disassociate myself from the character and look for breaks in the story thread or logical holes. I couldn’t help myself but. 

But what really worked me up was that this thrill-less movie begins with the lines that they say that it is a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, it was like dedicating a movie without dialogues to Visu.  

Fin. 

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi genres oddments reviews Uncategorized

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.

 

 

Categories
cinema:tamil Music

WHAT’S MUSIC DOC? #2 POETRY MECHANICS 101

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There are some non-communicable songs, ok not some but many; it is because of these songs that many people in the song suggesting business have shut shop and gone to the comfort of their secret playlists. No one can make anyone exactly experience what one experienced, but there also some songs which go into your head from the mouth of another.

“Kaatrai Konjam” from Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Neethane En Pon Vasantham (You are my golden spring!!!) never registered in my head at first, but was forced to unconsciously memorize the lyrics from a friend who somehow managed to pass it on.

As with the purpose of writing this ‘series’, the song is placed at an important point in the film, the lovers have split for some reason and have gone their own ways, they aren’t the giggling collegians now but in their own way mature individuals, this song is the junction where the separated lovers are going to meet. Something like a ‘what you learnt in this chapter’ type segment from a textbook.

What I know of love, I know from movies; which is not much but I am able to understand the insecurities that the hero faces, the song can be divided into a long drawn rehearsal of what he is going to say when he is going to see her.

Thus as every lover who tries to impress the other he begins poetically (Kaatrai Konjam…)

“I had asked the wind to make garlands (for you),

Weave a mattress of clouds, so I can think (of you)”

It is not new for the lovers to steal excessively from nature, but then he realizes that she might be angry after all; probably the engineer in him sprinkled some practicality into him. Maybe she wants to know why he ignored him and not want him to stop the world.

Going a little on the back foot, our man provides an interesting statistic as a reason

“Many out of a 100 lovers speak face to face, but the divine (us) speak through the hearts and that alone will remain”

Then he opens out truly to how even with the distance not withstanding all he thought was her and pulls a hook to bring her into his future. They must make up for lost time.

The third stanza is perhaps the most shocking, from butterflies in his stomach prior to their meeting, his tongue suddenly is split and the song ends with snake like accusations as to how he has lost himself in the search for her (and in turn himself)

Whatever be my views on the film, this song successfully summarizes the trials of the protagonist in the film, this is not some ‘introduced’ song completely out of context, the song in effect is the scale model of relentless indecisive love.

And they say there is no use for song in films.

<What’s music doc? is an occasional short column to be put together on the influence of film music or the inability to explain the influence of film music or some such thing>

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil

FROM NOW EVERYTHING LIKE THIS ONLY

25 YEARS OF NAYAKAN

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Twenty five years is a long time, especially when public memory is only limited to what you did the previous week, this is probably the reason why actors and filmmakers are so insecure on Fridays. Films that have broken this barrier of time come to stay with us not just as preferences during a dinner conversation but as important moments of everyday life.

For those who have grown and watched Tamil films in the last twenty five years; Nayakan would be one such movie.

The film begins silently on the shores of a southern town, a town which hints of some union trouble; nothing is shown though, just that the leader has gone underground and that the police are willing to do anything to get to him, here anything means even deceiving a young boy into showing his father’s hiding place, thereby messing up with his ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

What is right and what is wrong?

Sakthivel even asks his fugitive father this, he never gets a satisfactory reply, not through the entirety of the film; but Sakthivel convinces himself of an answer which he seems best, to do right for his people he will be willing to do anything that was wrong.

An answer he derives from an ageing pious Muslim who moonlights as a smuggler at night so that the dead in his slum can have a decent burial.

Nayakan is Mani Ratnam’s first great film, some might say his only; but it is a story told with much ambition and sadness that it can only be called a classic. It is also the most popular Kamal film among people who despise Kamal Haasan, a film that owes more to the city of Mumbai and Varadaraja Mudaliyar than to Mario Puzo and Francis Coppola.

It is the much told story of the outsider, the immigrant who stands for his people in an alien land, dispensing justice; his version of justice but nevertheless justice. In one of the scenes, Kamal rues over how the oppressed cannot truly get justice from the existing system and they shall have their own route until such a time when all differences are done with.

Hero among his people he might be, but his personal life falls like a badly stacked card castle; for he is in a profession where one does not differentiate between home and external affairs, to a point such that he is made to realize that his version of justice to some might be the perfect example of cruelty to others, but he never sways away from his people or his people from him. It is the story of how runaway Sakthivelu becomes Velu Nayakan

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Mani Ratnam employs P C Sreeram’s camera which fights its way through the populous streets of Dharavi, or between two pillars relentless in search of light, it does not mind even a jail keyhole or the mosquito net that adorns Nayakan’s bed; pausing knowledgeably and letting Ilayaraja’s  masterful and timely music take over creating that special place for Kamal Haasan to live in one his memorable roles. Nayakan is the first film that said a film can have foreign sensibilities, but still be Indian in its core; like there is a love track but it doesn’t take much of the time and hindering the path of the story, it just takes one song and the love makes more impact than films which take two acts to establish it. Every song finds a place, even the derided item number has much to tell.

It is not a perfect film, but it is a film that you remember fondly and come back to it, for years I have wondered how Velu Nayakan never speaks much of Hindi for all his years in Mumbai and requires a translator when he needs to communicate or how the sub-plot involving his son somehow seem forced. But these things do not mar the viewing of the film and only discussed when the pulp of the film has been enjoyed.

Debates can be held through the night to know if Nayakan is one the greatest Indian films, leave alone Tamil films; but one can never arrive at a conclusion in these matters, but the fact of the matter is that the movie rests alongside The Godfather, its inspiration in the TIME 100 list of great movies (again a very relative things these lists). One of the three Indian movies to make it to the list and the only one made after the sixties. Nayakan is after all the Enga Oor Godfather and it seems only right we celebrate this silver jubilee especially at a time when a person’s 25th (or lesser rounded numbers) film is being is heralded as artistic achievement itself.

Incidentally Nayakan was Ilayaraja’s 400th film as composer; it is indicated in a much smaller font and within brackets, so much so one might even miss it. Such were the times.

PS

Nayakan made way for Mani Ratnam to become one of the country’s most respected directors; his later works however are open to discussion.

Kamal Haasan went on to win one more National Award for acting after his nod for Nayakan.

Maestro Ilayaraja still composes although his work with Mani Ratnam came to end a few years after Nayakan. 

Nayakan was remade into Hindi as Dayavan, best remembered for a Madhuri Dixit kiss video which has more than 1 lakh hits on youtube.

Nayakan still remains my favorite Mani film.