FRS: JAGAME THANDHIRAM (2021)

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

Disclaimer: We can only begin an FRS, we can never finish it convincingly.

And so we begin, with our invocation against gangsterism

Yes it is a genre of film but we don’t have to like it.

Yes it does seem cool, but all of us here at the FRS are in this endless process of ageing, which automatically means that we are against cool stuff like coloured jackets-wearing-beedi-smoking-at-the-same-time-smirking-gangsters.

Maybe you can sense there is some hate or you can also take the logical reasoning about how when you make gangsterism the main vehicle of your film you can give any reason to justify it, where lies all our problems with gangster movies. Yes it’s a genre and we (FRS writer’s room) don’t have to like it because supposed cinematic greats have an affinity towards it and even to risk earning the wrath of all film bros.

So yes gangsterism is against the law, whatever is the reason.

+101: No Narration. Good call.

<Trivia Thagaval Sponsored by Wikipedia>

The first half (divide as you will this is a direct OTT release) is very much a reworking of ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ which itself is a remake of Yojimbo, which in turn Kurosawa said might have been inspired by the pulp novels of Dashiell Hammett.

#PulpisGood

</Trivia Thagaval Sponsored by Wikipedia>

It is the story of an outsider who comes to town where two warring gangs compete for control, the smart outsider plays one against each other, of course for personal benefit.

Here the town is London and the man with no name, actually is named Suruli.

-45: In trying to paint the character of Suruli colourfully, the director has forgotten even to sketch the rest of the characters.

Even the most paraded character of London gangster Peter, here played by James Cosmo, who unceremoniously gets added to the list of foreign powers who pose no challenge.

-34: Reinforcement max: movie, characters keep saying that Peter is a racist and white supremacist, while we already got it with his nameplate which reads “WHITE POWER” and random Ku Klux Klan outfit in his room.

His introduction too shows that how immigrants fear him, but somehow Peter is not able to face the problems posed by the gang headed by Sivadoss (Joju George)

-69: Obsession with intros: the first ten minutes of the film is just intros, some with ultra-text splashed on screen ala Tarantino- most movies take time to introduce their characters and that’s not a fault by itself. But in Jagame, with every powerful intro, the acceptability reduces proportionately.

For example, you show Peter as the most powerful gangster in town, but then in the rest of the movie he hardly does anything menacing.

We don’t know anything about his philosophy, every dialogue of his is just reinforcing that he is a xenophobe, which as pointed out, has been already established.

This begs the question, was this really the character that Karthik Subbaraj wanted Al Pacino to play?

+21.9: Reasons: While the idea to make a cross over gangster film needs to be appreciated, the reason to take Suruli from Madurai to London is one of the flimsiest even by Kollywood standards.

+30: Intelligentally Eli: Hero finds out everything including complex smuggling networks about rival gang within one week which other gangsters (who are in the same smuggling business) could not for years

Suruli can start an online course on competitive intelligence; we would surely pay for such things.

-5: But if hero could find out such things, he could have surely been able to find out why Sivadoss’ gang is smuggling gold etc.  

+78: Mahatma Gang Leader:  For a gang leader, Sivadoss is too trusting.

Boss, like your job description to not trust anyone.

-34: Movie proceeds as thus, till it becomes about immigrants and the Tamil Eelam issue.

While there is nothing wrong in trying to address larger issues in films, but maybe if they had been portrayed with more conviction or convincing actors would have helped the cause.

D is an accomplished actor, the transformation Suruli goes through in the film feels more like the character’s ego trip rather than real internal change, we really cannot say more without spoiling the film.

-450: A Host of Issues: If immigration issues are not enough, movies marries another going nowhere plot for speaking against private prisons, the need for identification and living a free life without borders.

Hmm yeah, maybe that’s why every minute of Jagame feels like two minutes.

+23: Cameron-Kanni Spotted: Movie at some point shows a burning merry-go-round which we feel is a reference to Terminator 2: Judgement Day and so we are giving positive points like these.

Yeah like random.

+91.5: Cut to the Combat: It almost feels that the director and crew only wanted to film the final blast everything in our way to the villain’s room shoot-out.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s really done well with slow motion and all that, but it almost seems that the rest of movie, the emotions of characters, are just a ruse(wink wink, nudge nudge)to get us to here.

Well atleast you enjoyed filming that.

Maybe the Thandiram in Jagame Thandiram is to get us to watch 2:40mins of uninspired filmmaking for the last few moments of inspired action, if that was the intention, then we have a winner.

<Winks winks, nudges nudges>

Subam

Team FRS

The Irregulars : An unkindness in London

Not your regular types

Stephen Fry in his introduction to the Hound of the Baskervilles (audible) observed that Conan Doyle did well to separate his preoccupations in the supernatural and the perceptive nature of his super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes. 

For Holmes, it was always logic and reason.

Eliminate all which is impossible, then what remains, however improbable, must be the truth. 

The new show, ‘The Irregulars’ aims to mix the supernatural with the super sleuth of whom we don’t see much of in the first episode. 

Just the legs, maybe the next episode might give away the hand, then a smile and then finally the eyes, much like a hero introduction from a Kodambakkam film.

But this series is not about Holmes, it’s about the struggling kids in his neighbourhood. The Irregulars be four : Bea, Jess, Billy and Spike living in a cellar, awaiting the winter and unable to pay rent. 

Bea, cool and confident, our lead is almost like a mother to the other three, but has just now turned 17. It’s the workhouses, they prepare you for anything, even being chased by an ‘unkindness’ of ravens. 

Then, there is Leo, he of royal blood (ahem) but whose blood or the non-clotting of it is why wishes to escape the stuffiness of his palace (?) and into the streets to breathe in the city air (pollution levels unknown). 

Naturally, he takes a liking to Bea, well, of course at the first instant. 

The first episode of the Netflix’s Irregulars, seems to have been written with a gun to the head of the writer, who in the lack of time uses elements from other films (Antman, Hitchcock’s The Birds) to move the story ahead. 

It isn’t much of a mystery, which is quite sad for a Sherlock based show, but there is room to explain the supernatural part. Speaking of that part, it’s when the series goes all Stephen King, a girl has the ‘gift’ and a guy who can summon ‘all the birds’ in England by thought. But I do fear that the show will take a teen love turn, it’s inevitable.

Hmm, so then it brings me back to the first Stephen Fry quote, maybe there was a reason why Conan Doyle didn’t mix the mystical with the mystery.

The Irregulars is now streaming on Netflix and it could very well be the name of our blog considering our posting schedule. 

Rebecca (2020)

As the swivel chair spins #14

The second Mrs. De Winter sighs as Mr De Winter arranges granules of sand on her back and says something to the effect that if memories are life perfume, it could be saved within a bottle and the mere smell of it could be used to recapture the moment. 

Mr De Winter, played by Armie Hammer, however wishes to forget his past. If only the unnamed second Mrs De Winter had known before being whisked away to Manderley. 

Fortunately, I had no problems remembering or forgetting here, I had not read the Daphne Du Maurier novel nor seen the Oscar winning Selznick production, famously the only time a Hitchcock film won Best Picture at the Oscars. So let’s say I could watch the new film without the weight of the past, a state that Mr. De Winter would kill to be in. 

Heroes who could never move into the present because of their past weightage is a story that is of special personal interest, it is also at the core of another Hitchcock film, Vertigo’ but I was also thinking a lot about Uyarndha Manidhan, in which Sivaji Ganesan lives a suffocated life due to a burning incident in his past. 

Yes, the new Netflix production is designed to be dull and hence over the two hours I thought about other story strains that could have been inspired by Rebecca. It’s not spooky nor it is creepy, but what it is, abrupt, but mostly it is a shame, because I love creepy mansions and the ghosts that inhabit them. 

Which brought me to Manichitrathazhu, yes, the similarities were striking, both have mansions that hide more than they show, whole wings that are out of bounds, repressed feelings, alienation and bookish heroines recreating a classical painting (literally) . Hmm that’s more similarities that I thought.

Rebecca of course doesn’t have a Sunny Joseph or  Brad Lee’s disciple Saravanan to guide us through it. Although the Netflix film does have Kristin Scott Thomas in the supposedly scene stealing role of Mrs. Danvers. 

The parallels between the two movies are an interesting rabbit hole to pursue, considering the claims that Manichitrathazhu’s origins lie firmly in the royal family histories of Travancore and not a 1930s novel by Du Maurier. It’s even more interesting when I realize that today is Durgashtami, coincidental? Is this a sign from above?

Durgashtami or not, any day is a good day to watch Manichitrathazhu. 

Rebecca is now streaming on Netflix

Manichitrathazhu is now streamin on Amazon Prime Video

The fact that Sivaji was denied Best Actor at the National Awards for Uyarndha Manithan is a reminder that best work is often unrecognized. So yeah that’s there.

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.

Extraction

As The Swivel Chair Spins #7

Minutes after the is-it-all-really one take action sequence; Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) and Ovi Mahajan (Rudraksh Jaiswal) decide to take shelter in an office room of a warehouse, the grey walls are lit in the sodium vapour shades emanating from the factory- this could be any office from the developing part of the world, yet to differentiate it and place it well within the sub continent was a pink water dispenser. Someone on set did a good job to keep it in, knowing our preference for color in these mundane objects. 

It was these things I was looking for, not really following the story, because from the get go this is a mission film. Hero gets into a mission, has a target and obstacles pile, have seen many of those before. The only differentiator was that the movie was shot in India. I have always held that India could be one of the best locations for action movies. I was also among those who were disappointed when there was news going about that Skyfall would start in Mumbai with Bond running in line with the local trains and that didn’t happen. 

For some reason or the others, previous depictions of India like in Octopussy were of an imagined nature and less involvement of Indian technicians or it would be to the other end of the realistic scale. Slumdog to an extent was a departure, it was showing the India I was familiar with but its intentions were different from those of action films. Slumdog Millionaire was trying too hard to smudge its Hollywood roots. 

What I wanted was an action thriller in the Hollywood mould set in Indian cities, like how Paris is used in Ronin or how London was used in MI:Fallout, a destination! Even the middle east. Yes, there have been attempts, including Ghost Protocol which were set in India and not shot here (so yeah).  Maybe I was asking for too much. 

But then Extraction changed all that. Maybe it’s the lockdown, but no really it is my love for live locations. Ok coming back to the Indo-Hollywood look, here cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (among his credits include the recent Bohemian Rhapsody and cult favourite Drive) kicks up a dust storm, the dust and smoke that rises from the ground merges with the yellow-orange of the sun and this is just the opening drone shot. It’s the cinematography and the production that would leave many a lesson for our future filming crews. 

Yet,I wish there was more chaos, there is a through the curving lanes car chase but it is brief. Our daily street congestion & chaos adds to the effect of the action film itself, for example there is a tight hand to hand combat fight in a street between Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda, only to be momentarily separated by a two wheeler. 

The one shot action sequence that proceeds from one apartment floor to the other and ultimately to the ground, reminded me of an enjoyable sequence in Saaho and the rooftop chase brought back Kamal doing parkour in Mylapore in Vikram (1986). 

So yeah I hope, you would have got what I meant by now, but this Extraction is not as fun as either of them.

This Netflix product is otherwise pretty basic and the only thing that could come as a shock is how Hemsworth rash driving is shocking even to the Indian kid. 

Extraction is now streaming on Netflix.  India and Thailand were used as the filming locations to portray Bangladesh in the film.