Likeable Wannabeism : Project Agni from Navarasa (2021)

Of all the films in the new Netflix anthology series that I’ve seen (yet to see them all), the only one that does some justice to it’s rasa theme is Karthick Naren’s Project Agni. 

It’s the rasa of wonder and it works for me because it is not an all encompassing wonder theme of something beautiful which is hard to dislike, but a specific wonder that only wannabes experience.

Technically everyone is a wannabe, so the wonder in Project Agni should work for all; but then even those genuinely experience wannabeism are chided for behaving like wannabes and then are forced to lose it to put on the garb of refined taste and culture. Cursed to consume pretentious content for the rest of their lives.

While I have lost my early wannabe animal to growing pains, that animal still lurks and takes more pains when I call out on other peoples wannabeism- like we did when we did the FRS of Mafia, Karthik Naren’s previous film. 

That’s how people drop their wannabe avatars, their curious instincts lost to ex-wannabes constantly telling them so, it is in a way a loss of innocence. 

I am not asking you to embrace wannabeism here, I am well aware of its pitfalls- like not growing an own voice and constantly in awe of any swaying ‘in-thing’. I’m just trying to say that there are levels of wannabeism which are tolerable, when it does not go along for long, when it is really not on the nose- it is likeable wannabeism. 

Likeable Wannabeism is a group of friends (not more than four) sitting in a restaurant talking about the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs (I mean), but of course not for hours but just the right length until one ex-wannabe can groan (predictably) on how Tarantino is overrated (yawn) and then switch on to Scorsese or Antonioni or some such etc. 

Likeable Wannabeism is the goldilocks of Wannabeism and in the realm of cinema, in recent times, it is usually spent in the discussions of films of Kubrick, Nolan, Tarantino. It’s talking about references to and inspirations from, it is looking at important concepts of life, universe and everything through the lens of movies. Obviously it cannot go on for long, because probably your peer group has only seen Inception and the more you go on talking about it, the more they are going to order the main course. 

All I’m saying is, just allow the wannabe their time, don’t call them out on it (always, only when on the nose) and with age and when life happens to them, they too will read the Russian classics, watch Kurosawa movies and listen to Mozart or Beethoven, the generally accepted boring trifecta of books, movies and music or in other words culture. 

But when it is short and snappy, there is nothing like Likeable Wannabeism, it could actually get you noticed, it might actually make the Wannabe an interesting person and not a self suffering movie nerd.

For example, in Project Agni, when Karthick Naren’s short-movie is how we shouldn’t totally chase our obsessions because going too far could lead to tragic consequences and then he name drops a thread from Room 237, the Shining documentary where people almost spend their entire life studying the Kubrick’s movie for meanings to their life and losing it completely: some hair stood on end. 

The connection. The goosebumps. The wonder. 

The wonder that Project Agni goes for is not the general perception of what beauty is or what wonder is, but just speaking to a small subset of movie nerds (not cineastes- urgh what a term) who watch movies not as entertainment or as dinner conversation fodder (although they do end up talking all about movies at dinner- I meant in a non transactional way) or as means to acquire high culture cred but simply as a channel to understand things. Movies as a means to higher purpose. 

It’s why they (movie nerds) go into the details, the set designs, screenplay structures and director interviews- they really want to know what all this is about. Please don’t confuse this with the thala-thalapathy first look poster trailer decoding that things are reduced to on youtube today, what I’m talking about is something in the lines of NerdWriter or Patrick Willems (whose long videos ofc becomes unlikeable Wannabeisms- exactly the point). 

An obsession becomes wonder- when something is figured out and that is the wonder I feel Karthick Naren is going for and he even does some flexes by making the right references and combining genres all within 30 mins while others in Navrasa are not even able to maintain one single mood for ten mins. 

Yes the acting really does help, Arvind Swamy was born to give to exposition dumps and most of the movie is just Arvind Swamy and Prasanna sitting down and talking about the stuff they are obsessed about (another movie nerd attribute of being meta comes to the fore, it’s something we like). And Prasanna is so good that you wonder how good he will be with twice the screen time. 

Also admirable that Karthik Naren chose to go with almost all english dialogue, which the story does demand- try translating ‘subconscious world’ in Tamil and inserting it 25 times in the script, then you’ll know. For some subjects english really works and kudos for Karthik Naren for being himself, it’s a brave thing to be oneself, especially in Kollywood. 


Blue Sattai Maran refused to review the film because it was mostly an English film, maybe this is the solution that the industry has been waiting for to get Maran to stop talking about things he doesn’t understand- just make movies in english, he won’t review. But we would rob the world of much humor.

I know Project Agni won’t appeal to a lot of people, but that is the point of it. We have already killed culture by making it so that it will appeal to all folks. Let this one be.  

So instead of commissioning the usual FRS for Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru, I thought I’ll just write about the stuff I liked. 

cinema cinema:english Essay





While the subtitle clearly explains what this piece is going to be about, it shouldn’t be treated as one specifically but more like an opening of a door or say a slight window of opportunity into what obsessions mean or lead into.

While the heading as a whole might sound like a paper left behind at a medical seminar, this writer thinks that these two documentaries are in fact quite similar on things that this writer holds close and is yet quite unclear about. The products of Obession, if there are any.

Passion is a word that is heard almost every day, it is the pretty sister of Obsession whom everybody somehow wants to marry, while poor Obsession is forced to settle for bearded men with complex thoughts.

Stating passion in your CV would get you a job, may be even earn you some amount of momentary admiration, but obsession is a sort of practising the dark art, to delve deep into the abyss and may not come back.

In a sense, obsessions are not about results; to put it further the result of your obsessions is not the concern, it is more about why one is taken to some things so quickly.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is about one such obsession of one man to make a film on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, ok it is more about how he could never make it.

While viewers may be concerned with the fact that this project goes under fancy tags like “the greatest movie never made” and how even prototypes created by Jodorowsky’s team still continue to inspire the movies that we continue to see on screen.

It is a year, well before Star Wars was even thought about; Alejandro Jodorowsky goes all over the world on a spiritual quest recruiting artists and actors for Dune. It isn’t about the spiritual nature of the content, but what strikes is that Jodo really believes that this movie is his calling, more than once calling it a messiah and not a movie.

And this is when he hasn’t even read the source material, one can only wonder from where such conviction comes from in a creative process.

It also leads to questions like how perfect were Jodorovsky’s visions in his head as part of this creative process, surely there must have been some moment that would have brought out that conviction, now that the movie has never been made and that a vision is lost forever; what use is a creativity then?

The only inference that I can relate to is that beyond the real life limitations stated explicitly in the documentary (like studio executives, money etc) there was some limiting factor that has not been accounted for, this non-starter of a project was big blow for the director and he could hardly make the movies he wanted to.

While the passionate rant against money in the movie is infectious, the director has still not been able to recover personally (even if he does say he has); also the fact about how great a film could have been, can never be taken for granted when the movie has never been made.

It is always a problem when there is one man and his emotions is in the center of it all, it also does not help when one thinks that this amount of obsession has gone into a mass of nothing.



The background research is staggering and all well to see, now being contained to about a thousand page picture books which details shot by shot drawings by the artist Moebius.

While Jodorovsky’s might be the center of his obsession (he does call it his Dune and not Herbert’s), here is another documentary on the reflections of a film made by a man who wanted anonymity a good part of his life.


Rodney Asher’s Room 237 is something like nothing this writer has seen before, a compendium of theories put out by viewers on seeing Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film The Shining.

These aren’t the superficial ‘like and don’t like’ movie writings that we get to see on social media, but by people who have slotted part of their lives to watching the Shining again and again and again…and again.

While it is easy to argue that too much of repetition ultimately leads to theorising, it cannot be done so while you are dealing with a film by Kubrick.

Theories range from stringing a collection of visual in jokes and the way how Kubrick has played around with our head, but then you keep going a level deeper and deeper after every viewing.

For one person, The Shining is a lament on the killing of American Indians to establish ‘civilisation’ in the USA.

For another it is Kubrick’s never ending preoccupation on the holocaust and that Shining is an even more fitting movie about it than Schindler’s List.

The Shining also is viewed from multiple points as a comment on history itself and the collecting remembering and forgetting of history, Room 237 is about all these things and much more, but a common thread that resonates is that The Shining is no mere shocker.

Let’s leave all that and come to how beautiful to see these anonymous men and women all over the world for which this movie means something that is undefineable, an obsession here but also a pointer towards their lives or how they want to live.

A rare art that means so many different things to so many different people, a rare occasion in which a movie can actually turn your thinking process by the head; Room 237 is not about how great a movie The Shining is, but really about what Kubrick was trying to say by making it, which no one really has any clues about

The makers of the documentary also acknowledge that this might be a search in the dark, but by trying to uncover the mind of the maker these people have found new meanings for themselves and more new questions.

It is also telling about how good you are when your real genius lies in elevating the thinking of countless unconnected people by really not trying other than making a movie in 1980.

As the tagline of Room 237 goes “Some movies stay with you forever and ever…and ever.”