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cinema Essay

Kalaai as a Service (KaaS): Siva Manasula Sakthi (SMS)

It’s time the world took note of the work of director M. Rajesh.

The other SA Chandrasekhar assistant. Especially of interest is his pentalogy of movies with comedy star Santhanam, which began with 2009s Siva Manasula Sakthi or SMS. 

A decade just went past and no one only seemed to notice. Of course SMS is a certain kind of film that would not attract revivals, it also has the misfortune (from a critical pov) of being a non-classy romantic film, a genre which seems to somehow require a film to be ‘classy’ to be revived. 

Anyway, Rajesh wouldn’t care. I don’t mean that in a wrong way.

It shows in every scene right from the start, the mock freeze frame narration and pausing to question the audience whether Jiiva would be an Olympic athlete but then insisting that he is just a normal guy running to catch a train. It’s not that he is not sincere, it’s just that he is probably bored with what is quite commonly known here as “build-up”. No pretensions. 

Cut to next scene

Siva meets Sakthi on the train. 

Seconds later he is asking her to talk to him to pass the time. 

That’s it. 

No glowing close-up to the heroine’s eyes, no hero touching his chest and kneeling to the ground, no guitar solo,no “avlo oru azhagu” types, no Harris Jayraj duolingo humming (although Rajesh would use the composer in a later film), no general wishy washy circling around for 40 mins before saying something poetic etc. 

No romance in a romance film. Boom. 

Full disclosure, we generally love all types of films, but we also tend to hate the most romantic of the romantic ones. The ones where romance is the sole soul, we mean…never mind. 

Siva can never be a movie romantic lead, his pick up line is about Anantha Vikatan (also the producers and the magazine is ‘well placed’ in the movie), it’s not much of a pick up line too, he is raw male instincts personified  he is also real. 

Our usual romantic leads are often those who just jump out of a strawberry dream in little heart situations. Unrealistic even by middle class expectations. 

Siva is just another guy, Sakthi too, just another girl. 

They remain so till the very end.

No no, this is definitely not the glib “mature understanding love story” , no no, this is even not the “poratti podra” transformational love story where one lead influences the other to change their entire life. This movie does not even fall into the taming of the shrew subgenre. 

Siva Manasula Sakthi is the most realistic love story ever made in Tamil cinema, the fact that it is told as a humorous interplay between two characters with brittle ego who cannot get enough of themselves is its differentiating point. That it also avoids unnecessary social commentary is where its brilliance lies. 

Right so, when they do first meet, both are instinctively attracted to each other and present complete fake versions of themselves, but those thin characteristics break away and the rest of the movie is just Siva and Sakthi irritating themselves to the world’s end. 

Yours Irritatingly

Love stories tend to focus on the great moments that a couple have (imagined, with the passage of time) but SMS stays on the not so great moments and more on how much can one tolerate the other, which seems to be a more practical approach to deciding on long term romance, rather than say learning guitar or that sort of thing. 

Hence, the term real.

In life or say real life, relationships are truncated or prolonged based on the mutual tolerance level and relationships include love, we think no other movie touched on this aspect and it’s a very practical way to decide. Great work Rajesh, we know you don’t care, but still. 

Again, a romance film that does not romanticise. 

But it is true that they do have their sweet moments, but it is reserved for a montage during the time Siva and Shakti are away,not as elaborate as the “Kalaai” portions. 

Making irritation scenes the mainstay is also clever while looking at it from the impact POV, when Sakthi realizes that Siva really does love him underneath all the put on contempt, sitting in a restaurant with Arya (another Rajesh trademark cameo feature) her “could have been would-be”. It’s incidents from these irritations and scheming that Siva really understands her. It hits her (and us) hard.

Not so punny, kid

‘Kalaai’ is a difficult word to translate, so is ‘Nakkal’ and ‘Kindal’, make-fun-of does not really meet the meaning, it’s a very Tamil thing and although it is not unique to Rajesh’s films, but he was the one who codified it and it becomes emblematic to the point of difficulty in his later films (maybe wait for our essay on Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga). 

Comedy films have been gauged on the amount of laughter that they provide, how many lines have been remembered, how many lines that could be repurposed for daily life. Maybe that’s a cerebral way to approach humor, but it is not the natural way. Structured dialogue comedy does not happen in real life, people rarely speak in rat-a-tat-a-tat. These are constructed screenplays based on intellect, not for normals.  

Like his practical approach to love, Rajesh also has a practical approach to comedy, he doesn’t want to pack 200 jokes in 100 minutes, he doesn’t even care if some jokes do not land (which is very true of the film) and that’s okay, because in the life of Siva or a person like Sakthi would not be able to make up smart turns of phrase. They would probably make fun of a fat person, which is what they do. But they have a good laugh.

Kalaai hence becomes both the medium for love and comedy, it was refreshing to watch this two pronged approach the first time and it is still refreshing because very few have attempted such a radically different way to tell a love story. Rajesh would, but then this is his mould from which other movies do come out. Do note that the Kalaai is not one way, the hero too gets it back (and nicely so) from the heroine (Anuya Bhagwat is a treat to watch in her debut, despite the dubbing). 

Rajesh’s films are also dubbed (not in another language) as TASMAC films (why not wait for our essay on All in All Azhagu Raja), owing to how the hero and Santhanam spend most of the time at wine shops and yes TASMAC is an important setting in SMS, it’s where Sakthi finally admits to being in love (he still thinks it’s another elaborate Kalaai), but what other outlet does Siva have in matters of the heart. Where else will he go to nurse his broken ego and who else would support him like his friend Santhanam (named Vivek [LOL] in the film). 

Santhanam’s role in Rajesh films would continue to grow even to the extent of the whole film revolving around him, but surely you can witness traces of the flow in the ever popular ‘Harry Potter Vaaya’ and the broken mobile phone gag in SMS, but it is definitely not peak Santhanam. We were surprised about how little he appears in the film.

Rajesh also believes that Kalaai is not restricted to what only the comedian says, he finds it in the RJ voice obsessed Siva’s sister, he finds it in the kindness personified Urvashi, Siva’s mother. It is here that Rajesh forged his strong family setup which would be repeated time and again. 

But it is Jiiva who takes the money to the bank, the testimony to his acting prowess is that after SMS, he is able to fit right into Neethane En Pon Vasantham too. Absolute talent, perhaps the most versatile after Kamal. 

Rajesh perfected his model in his first film while many accumulate signatures slowly over time.

Why yes how many first film directors set out to make their best film as their first?

Working under limitations of a production house (Vikatan) which was till then producing tele serials and no star magnet to put people in their seats. His advertising background probably came to help in including items that interest his core audience (the youth of 2008-9) and he went about it making it as honestly as possible and proving that excessive displays of conviction alone cannot make a good film, just being self will do. 

Do give it a watch, if you haven’t lately and we hope you would think well to include it in future anniversary revivals.  

After a top debut, where will Rajesh go from here? 

Tune into the next edition of Kalaai as a Service, where we (hopefully can) dive deep into the cinema of M Rajesh. 

Thank you for reading.

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil Uncategorized

FRS: Accham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada(AYM)

aym2

Hi

So we all know what FRS is right? right?

-213.33333: Narration.

It ain’t a GVM movie if it doesn’t have narration. STR in Auro 3D

-140: Hero is a wastrel, MBA but still a wastrel

+52: Potential rise in the sales of already rising sales of Royal Enfield bikes, because impression-ables will think “Yo man, that’s who I am, a wanderer” which is good for Royal Enfield, but we are kind.

-17: Movie prances around a bit before getting into a “bikes vs babes” song in which hero explains as to why bikes are true love and life of boys are better without them and all this love shizz. Yo! Boys Im a biker bro.

-1.2K: Hero falls in love exactly 2 seconds later.

-320: Absolutely nothing happens in the first half, absolutely. Ok this is how it goes.

Girl and Boy will be in same room as in TV room, we think they might discuss something which could be interesting, but then we don’t hear it. Why?

Narration

Cut to scene with Hero playing carrom with buddies, who does narration again in real time.

Many movies talk about this kind of love, this love in which the interesting bits are left out and we have to, in good faith of the lead actors cuteness believe that they are love.

-5: F.R.I.E.N.D.S

-10: Actual friends who just rally around hero, nothing to speak also.

-63: Like all heroines, here also made to play cute, but since this is a different film here an extra component of ‘elegance’ is added. No one really knows what elegance means, maybe it is best explained by Conjeevarams and FabIndia kurtas.

+80: Heroine and her friend want to be a writer duo who will make scripts for Kollywood, yet director does not utilize this opportunity.

-29: Hero contemplates on going on a bike trip for 300 days before going on one, hero is worse than me in planning, should he be the hero?

-271: And Number One in our Unbelieveability Index: Girl will keep talking to one guy on daily basis for what seems like almost a year but still will not know his name. DEI and this is the biggest suspense in the movie. #yeppa

-90: Road Trippin

-457: In course of Road Trippin, hero knocks on a villagers house to ask for one night stay which they provide, hero then goes into social commentary on how people in villagers have a big heart and cities are filled with narrow minded folks who will buy tickets to movie which will call them narrow minded.

Has the director not heard of stayzilla?

-15: Forced comedy, based on the fact that girl eats a lot, heroine also puts her ‘elegance’ on hold so that she can lend herself to this joke.

-16: Hero washing his face directly from bisleri bottle sequence which aims to be well shot but actually doesn really make sense, because hero has just come out of upscale road themed dhabba which will surely have well maintained restrooms where hero can wash face. These things, I tell you.

-17: when they finally reach kanyakumari, seems they have reached Antartica only, soooo long the road trip also interspersed with 120 songs

+56: Girl and Boy go to lands end to wait for sun to rise. This is key cinematic event because, first time in Indian history of cinema, both characters on screen and in the theatre are waiting, of course for different reasons.

-2: Couple go to Kanyakumari, but do not go to Vivekananda Rock. I mean why wont you?

+32: Director Favorite Alert: It ain’t GVM movie, if it does not feature Kerala.

+15: Movie features Udupi_Manipal for a fleeting second. #rockkit

-20: heroine stands in Honnavar and says she in Maharastra.

-71: To every reviewer who said the first half is breezy romantic. Dei.

Yah Yah now only we are coming to second half.

Raymond Chandler, the pulp fictionist who fought all his later life for the recognition of his genre once said in a screenwriting TEDx, “when in doubt, have a man come in with a gun”

We can infer that the director of this film attended the TEDx

-20: Something something happens, then we find hero with gun.

-45: Gun has more bullets than my office parking lot (see what i did there)

+22: baba sehgal as raging but clueless villain. First time in history of Indian cinema that both audience and villain dont know what is happening on screen, I meant together.

+100: Whenever Baba Sehgal says Aata Maaji Satakli. Three times i think.

+120: Birth of a new style. In the middle of a high octane chase sequence we get to know that the hero actually had learnt to drive in this chase only, this is what we call the ‘make it up while you go in goa’ type of filmmaking. Very meta reference.

-119: Hero becomes more self aware, almost yogic in his self awareness, his narrations become deep messages to the soul that has lost its way and how it must fight back against the universe, if hero had a bigger beard, maybe they would have called him Sadhguru. Heroine is riding pillion, loss of elegance because now in chase mode.

-40: Tom Cruise method acting type of bruising, hero will get cuts and scars on his face which will never affect his handsomeness, in fact these scars enhance the handsomeness. Heroine is still riding pillion. Not commenting on elegance anymore because it is boring for us only.

-2: dei reviewer boy why using handsomeness again and again

+10: Hero’s name is still a suspense at this point in the movie, we are more frustrated than Baba Sehgal but kudos to the director for keeping up the suspense. Surgical Strike on our curiosity.

OoooooOoooooOoooo

+40: Birth of a new style: last ten minutes of the movie seem to be directed by someone else , is this the birth of outsourcing in direction? Who directed the last ten minutes, was it Hari or Suraaj, nation wants to know.

Also heavy narration at this point and Baba Sehgal looking like the most troubled soul on the  planet.

+5: For us for not giving away the suspense and writing such a post.

-900: Movie actually puts 900 days later as subtitle, hence messing up with my arithmetic while i try to convert it to years, movie still does not end in the time take by my stupid mind to do this basic calculation. Movie also uses days as metric in the first half of the film, sometimes it uses years also.

Damn it, why cant you use one standard unit of time. So problematic.

-100: The End.  Hero plans second road trip. Heroine still riding pillion, refraining from commenting on elegance.

-50: Director says movie inspired by a moment in ‘The Godfather’, but director does not mention if it is the Malayalam film or some other film.

Aata Maaji Satakli MAX

All numbers are irrelevant and arbitrary. All spelling and grammar mistakes are intentional, because we dont know grammar only. Semi-colon. LOL;

The FRS team

Subam

Categories
cinema:tamil reviews

WHAT THEY DO UNDER THE BLANKETS

CK AND MM AT THE MOVIES: O KADHAL KANMANI

Okay_Kanmani_film_poster

Moderate Manohar approached the end of the corridor with much hesitation, in his hands was an envelope, the fine-ness of it indicated its foreign nature. As the door creaked to an open, he could see Caustic head down on the table, the room only filled with the soft electronic buzz of an unsaved word document.

“CK, the appointment has come….” Began Mod quite loudly.

MM: CK, the appointment has come!

CK: huh…what?

MM: the appointment from Chicago Sun Times, it came in the mail just now.

CK< widens smile>: IS it? Wow when are we leaving?

MM: Not we.

CK: huh?

MM: It’s only me they want, as in…they can only accommodate me right now.

<A little background here, CK and MM quite fed up with their lives in Chennai had applied for the post of resident movie reviewers in Chicago, although CK was sceptical about working abroad, he finally realised its importance and was quite looking forward to it, now everything had just fallen flat for him>

CK took a moment, or maybe even shorter than that to recover and went ahead and patted MM on the shoulder.

CK: “Great, you are taking this up right?”

The room was again filled with MM’s hesitation and the soft electronic buzz.

Some higher power intervened in the form of the editor who barged in unannounced like he owned the place, in fact he did.

Aye Sinamika Tamil Lyrics – OK Kanmani

“CK!MM!, OKK review on my table, fifteen minutes, already every major media and everyone with a Facebook account has already written a lot about it. We shouldn’t miss out.” The editor walked out with the same pace.

MM: Let’s discuss the movie first, later perhaps…

CK: Nevermind…whenever it suits you.

MM: Should we start with the bit about how bold Mani Ratnam is, making a film on live-in relationships?

CK: No….this isn’t about that, I mean at least I feel so, it isn’t.

MM: Should I wait for you to tell what’s it about?

CK: It is about validation of love, this whole live in relationship thing is to keep it all contemporary and all that… you know like that skype call and the iPad song

MM: So contemporary that they have T.M Krishna’s latest book “A Southern Music” in the shelf somewhere in PrakashRaj’s house

CK: Understandable, considering the fact that Leela Samson plays an Alzheimer’s affected Carnatic singer, oh my god their walls are the same colour as the zari of the Kanchipuram sarees that these singers wear for concerts, so much richness. Also Thanjavur painting, it is the stuff upper middle class dreams are made of

MM: let’s come to the production design bits later, let us get back to the validation of love part, I think that this is a new concept, the exploration of live-ins

CK: No..no ..Mod, that’s what the director wants you to believe, to linger on the surface, the whole movie is about Tara and nobody else. Tara is the updated version of the Mouna Raagam Revathy.

MM: hmm..wild, willing to break rules and attracted to rash lover boy types and bored with domesticity etc…

CK: exactly, but she is also in a way the Agni Nakshatram Nirosha, not giving a damn because of a troubled past. Tara here hates marriage because her parent’s divorce affects her even now.

MM: But she falls for Aadi….they both fall for each other.

CK: Yes, but she never thinks much of him, atleast he is thankfully never full of himself, he just says “he will become rich like Gates etc”, she doesn’t think much of his game development career also when compared to her overtly passion filled love for architecture, she really doesn’t want anything serious.

MM: so when she really does realise she loves him anyway, he is about to go and he has already done something, but still she will only want him to say it. < “Marriage”>

CK: Yes enough instances to prove that this is a Tara fuelled relationship and not a flirty boy meets serious girl cute love story. First call back, first kiss even, all initiated by Tara.

MM: I see…where this is going, but what about Bhavani and Ganapathy, where do they actually fit in?

CK: they are clear examples for Tara to believe that a traditional relationship can work, she seems to be the one who is most affected by the happenings in their lives. Again a validation that she requires for secure love, in the end she isn’t clear about her career.

MM: So this is how is it going to be written? I mean this line of thought?

CK: What other is there? Isn’t this plain as daylight?

MM: No…no…what about the actors? The setting…the music and PC’s camera work, he seems to have let out this beast of a camera on this couple and the writing itself?

CK: Isn’t it what the others will also be saying? Mumbai trains and rains, mornings with pigeons flying, tastefully lighted blanket interiors and characters who alternate between sophistication and words of yore (“ummanamoonji! Kadavul”), the director’s insistence that friends of protagonists be as beautiful as them, etc, isn’t it what the others will also be writing or already written? OK we can write such stuff as well.

MM: Hmm..yes I think, I haven’t read any of them…in totality I liked the film, even from this love-validation-security angle you are coming from

CK: that’s the only angle I like the film from, and also Nitya Menen’s eyes.

MM: Surely we will throw in a bit about Nitya Menen’s eyes and what about Mani Ratnam’s comeback?

CK: What about it?

The editor walked in again, looked at the manuscript and said, “Throw in a few words about Nitya Menen’s eyes and about Mani Ratnam’s comeback, also meet-cute love story of our times etc”

MM: Yes sir, it’s there

Editor: Good, good Manohar, so this will be your final filing for my magazine…congrats on your appointment in Chicago. As for you CK, you are stuck with me for life.

CK: That, I am, sir.

CK went back to his table to file the final copy, but in the ruckus that the foreign appointment had created, he forgot to mention that the video game within the movie had a more interesting storyline than the movie itself and about The Shining reference he had caught in the film.

It was at this time MM said, “We need to talk”