Tag: Mysskin

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. 

Parking Lot Notes: Thupparivaalan

TP3

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.

 

BORROWED MASK

Mugamoodi (2012)

Image 

Sometime in the near past, I made up a character called Turkey Towel Man, a man with apparently no relevance to society but exists only to satisfy my need to be part of the things I was watching at the time on TV, the turkey towel of course was the cape; you could say he was my first indigenous hero of sorts; but he existed solely within the mind, without purpose other than to be part of creation.

The setting is a well lit and brimming indoor auditorium, the kind which makes you immediately think about how much money they spent in bringing these people together, it is a Kung Fu competition of some high order, the participants are wearing different colors. The crowd erupts when one of them falls, there is one man silent amidst all this; the archetypical wise but calm, poor idealist master; the man who predicted the fall from the beginning, just by looking at the stance of the fighter.

That is exactly how I felt while watching Mysskin’s Mugamoodi. But wait, everybody knows the story; not just this one but perhaps every super hero film, especially when the director is spitting into the promotional mikes saying “yes plans for sequels are on.” The matter of any story lies in the telling and Mysskin in his fifth film has achieved that to a considerable extent while managing to combine his usual visual style to the story of the super hero.

I know and I’m tired, there are already a score of them waiting for a Blue Ray release and few more to come to the theaters, but it is the way of the world, the roll of the wheel and the squeak of the mouse.

As it is the tradition these days, these films generally begin with the villain, carefully establishing the power of the character and dropping hints on what his great plan would be, Narein plays Dragon an exponent of Kung Fu and the leader of a meticulous band of thieves; his streak of madness visible only during the time he prepares himself for murder; mouthing child like rhymes scarily and giving the opponent enough time to come to the conclusion that death is perhaps the better option.

So we now have the mad villain, we must also have the hero played by Jiiva who finds his real purpose in life, this is handled much better than the stock villain; Mysskin effectively combines the typical wayward son from many Tamil films and the ‘other’ man characters from Hollywood superhero film to create a fresh Anand alias Bruce Lee; the noms de guerre assumed not only because he has a much worshipped poster on the wall, but his inspiration in the world of Kung Fu taught by his selfless master. In the same city inhabit the duty bound police officer Gaurav who is hot on the trails of the thieving gang and his daughter with whom our hero will eventually fall in love.

There are some great themes in the origins story like how Mugamoodi thankfully isn’t a film where the hero stands for the oppressed; but gets into the suit quite accidentally and the good thought of having both the main characters on an equal footing by making them both men of martial arts, with this come the slow running shots, the movement of people like clockwork and odd ball characters typical of Mysskin’s films

It is in the events that lead up to the climax that one wonders how much the film has borrowed from its Hollywood counterparts and from Mysskin’s own stable but sadly more than it can use; in these times it is the music of K that lifts the film; one of the finest soundtracks in recent years.

Although Mugamoodi’s claim that it is Tamil Cinema’s first superhero film can be debated, but it is certainly the first to achieve an atmosphere comparable to the current Hollywood trend viz. to make the superhero look more meaningful and that at a small percentage of the cost involved; but all that withers away in the end, still making Mysskin’s previous Yuddham Sei (wage war) his most evolved work.

 

Aside, the film also makes the weirdest reference to Sherlock Holmes; the borrowing of set pieces and characters do not bother me to the extent of condemning it to plagiarist hell as it is quite understandable as references for a Tamil super hero are minimal and this made me go back to my Turkey Towel Man, a character as stated before only to fill my fantasies, maybe Mugamoodi is Mysskin’s Turkey Towel Man. The relevance of the character and film can only be known at a later date, if any. But all this seems like I am defending the director for his ordinary work.