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cinema:tamil

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. 

PS

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. 

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cinema:tamil

FRS: Eeswaran (2021)

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

FRS: Eeswaran

+120: For the director for keeping the movie to a runtime of just 2 hours and that’s perfect, without the songs this would be the ideal Tamil movie length standard.

Let us explain, deep down there is a hole in the OTT watcher’s heart to watch these template big hero films, call it the comfort of the familiar or just Stockholm syndrome or Madras day celebrations, but while watching it rationality kicks in (irrespective of which stock we are from) and us FRS writers especially worry about the time that we spend on these things. 

2 hours is perfect. Let’s save this and give it to the next generation as heirloom. 

<Auto Pinnadi Ottalam Stuffs- segment sponsored Vivek & Co>

Any Big hero movie above 120 mins, must be miniseries. 

</Auto Pinnadi Ottalam Stuffs> 

-45: Narration, director begins by introducing the entire Periyasamy (Bharatiraja) clan,again and again we have told bhai, why make movies when you can make audiobook types. 

This syndrome comes from “basically all humans are storytellers” type romantix. Please. 

+11: inspired casting of Manoj Bharatiraja as the young version of the legendary directory

+22: Infact Manoj and senior B are few of the good things in Eeswaran.

-13: Hero has the tendency to slap someone inadvertently.

Hey watch your hand buddy

-70.9: No amount of justification will make you believe why a hero is so hyped in his village, in fact when you get to know the reason you question the hype even more. 

But we do agree, this is a slight improvement in writing from the other films in which hero is hyped in his village/town/city/nation/gated community just because he is hero. 

+101: Josier Ex Machina 

Raymond Chandler used to have a tip for writers which went like, “if you don’t know what to do next, have someone with a gun come in.” 

Suseendran replaces the man with the gun to the astrologer with the cowrie shells, who sets things in motion 

All this provides a good setup, but when the director does it again, it felt like this was the only idea in the film. 

-45: Movie uses Covid as a setup to get the main characters together but the pressing reality and need for social distancing and masks are reduced to comedy, it almost as though feels that the characters are not serious about the pandemic.

Josier has more influence than the doctors, that should tell us something about society bhais.  

Example: heroine believes that hero will not get covid because he is hero and in effect their kids wont too. 

Example 2: Family closely interacts with covid positive patients but miraculously, all of them, test negative

Yes, the movie was made after the first wave, and it is still a movie, but thought we should point it out. 

-101: Pandemic movie has no characters wearing masks

-67: Romance as character detail: Heroine has nothing to do in her character sketch, hence she falls in love with the hero.

+98: Movie is a callback of all movies which are callbacks of the times when all family members lived together, the times when cousins played yard games and the men drank their way to happiness and women toiled in kitchens to put up feasts. Those times, yes. 

-40.6: Eeswaran seems to have some kind of nervous issue, is it Tourette’s syndrome? He shakes his head and fingers with vigor before he says anything important like a punch dialogue, but mostly the negative points are for taking such medical conditions seriously. 

But we cannot help but ignore such things in a film which was shot during the pandemic and has a comedy sequence literally on the symptoms of covid 19

+33: It’s not an STR movie unless someone makes a reference to his coming late in films. 

+22: Hero and his friends think that speaking fast is comedy.

-92: Snakes are not going to like this film. 

-43: Nolan brothers are not going to like this film, we mean… they spend years to come up with ultra complicated plots and other visual elements to get us to the theatre, here’s Susi just saying a simple revenge is plot enough to make a film. 

Send a man to jail and he will come back to kill your family, all the rest is just STRisms and a Dsir bait scene in the trailer. 

Eeswaran help us all! 

Subam. 

Team FRS

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cinema cinema:tamil

Sulthan (2021)

As the swivel chair spins #16

So someone in Kodambakkam finally took director Myskkin’s advice to heart and sought inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. 

Just think of Sulthan as Seven Samurai written by Baahubali writer Vijayendra Prasad, which would mean that it would increase in scale (seven samurais become eighty loveable thugs) and that the focal point of the film will always rest on the hero (in spite of the eighty loveable thugs) . 

The set-up is also a fertile ground for Kollywood  to preach to the world about agriculture (pardon our pun). 

It’s the kind of movie you know will begin with the mythical birth of the hero (here in between a fight between two rival gangs) and how his arrival is supposed to change everything. 

It’s the kind of movie that makes you see the frame over which it operates, in a way it feels like the movie itself is smirking at you, this is what you asked right? 

Kollywood continues to, in my opinion, errantly glorify thugs, rowdies and gangsters and presents them as an alternate justice system, while I am not making a social comment on the presence or absence of such a system, I merely want to point out that this is a residual Godfather effect. Like since Hero belongs to a certain gang, it is seen as an affable gang of alternative justice seekers but not as violent killers, this by itself is not wrong; but the enemy (who shares the same characteristics) is the enemy just because the hero is not born into them. 

To give credit where it is due, Sulthan does go into the effects of living a violent lawless life and actually presents a way of life (agriculture) for the waywards. 

 The initial humor and general likeability of the Hero’s gang is established by the fact that they bring him up (teach him fighting and take him to school type of thing) but yet he grows up to become a Robotics engineer but his foster dads (?) continue to be knife wielding thugs for his real father. The montage of him growing up with the gang is interspersed with the gang doing unspeakable things including murder, but all this played with a joyful BGM, so that we recognize that these are the good guys. 

Or relatively, good guys. 

Loyalty too, as is often the case, an underlying pressure point, the fact that the 80+ rowdies listen and play-act in the presence of Sulthan because they pledged their allegiance to his father is even more backward than the dismal affairs of the village that this group wants to set right. The person who wants to break away from this loyalty prison is portrayed as a secondary villain. 

There are things that Sulthan does well, it too takes the video game format (done so well in KGF) and makes into the movie, each villain is a level, unfortunately there are only two levels in Sulthan. There is also an insistence that efforts take time to achieve (like agriculture) rather than resorting to the often followed immediate success template. 

But after a point it does not matter, if you do not really connect with ‘the gang’ or see through the frame, as I did. Movie creates and defeats the purpose of pitting one person against the other when I don’t know who to really root for. 

The director expects me to root for ‘this gang’ because Hero is part of it, but then I have seen a lot of movies and like how Velan says in Singaravelan, I have seen a lot of the same type of movies. 

Sulthan is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar

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cinema cinema:tamil Movie Notes

Vishwaroopam II: Tinkered Tailored Older Spy

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Let’s start with the ending
The thing that struck me about the first Vishwaroopam, a film for which I crossed state borders covertly to watch(much like an espionage operation) was the abruptness in the ending.


It ends with Wisam telling that there is more to the story and what we witnessed is not really ‘the end’, but it did not have the niggling hook that would keep me guessing on what the next part would explore and moreover it did not really help that Kamal himself is delivering this as exposition and not a visually striking image of say a (too use the often used) Kattappa killing Baahubali.


Even looking at the first part in a facile manner which is a spy navigating between complexities and saving the world; the film did provide enough closure.
{Bad guys plans a series of attacks on a city and a team of spies unearth and thwart the operation.}
But Vishwaroopam is not a superficial spy thriller, at least it aims to do more.

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At the core of it all is Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri, a spy who believes in his cause someone who does not treat his license to kill as target practice and is empathetic to those he might have to kill.


Case in point is the friendship between Omar Khureshi, Salim and Wisam which takes up much of the middle of the first movie and these threads need to be addressed.
(not necessary a universal requirement, but more like universal hero’s requirement)


That brings us to Vishwaroopam II, which works more as a companion piece to the first film and not as a sequel; filling in for things that better explain the Indian spy’s motivations.


While the movie does go deeper into things that were throwaways in the first film, especially effective is Wisam’s relationship with his mother.(Waheeda Rehman in a brief role, last seen in Tamil cinema in the 1956 film Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum). Wiz temporarily returns to being Vishwanath in a teary moment dominated by Alzheimer’s (second medical ailment in the franchise after killer cancer in the Roopam I), when the movie is just about casting away the role of the dancer.


Needless to say, Kamal is on top form or is it like displaying all these nuances in half-awake mode now? The other story machinations like how Wisam became Viz are less successful, a London mission before the intermission seems like a very long stop-over before Wisam and team reach the national capital.


I love the spy films in all forms, they lend themselves to the multi dimensional entertainment, the genre comfortably accommodates modern action films like the Bourne movies, cinephile-treasures like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the wink-winks like The Kingsman, send-ups like Paul Feig’s Spy and Oscar favourites like Argo and these are only from recent memory. All of them add to and derive from the construct of the spy thriller.


Vishwaroopam II draws from all the aforementioned sub-genres and naturally the result is not a satisfying mix; for a moment it a mission-driven-race-against-the-ticking -bomb-action-film, a few scenes later it is a musing on the futility of war and even further down the run-time it is an examination of loyalty and nationalism.


There’s isn’t time for all this, boss. Omar waits with one more bomb around the corner. (A bomb around the corner would have a been a better title to this piece, #justsaying)


There simply isn’t time and it shows, the action seems too rushed and the globe-hopping locations which usually adds to the excitement and romance to these spy films here are just tailored to suit exposition dumps.


The lack of resources too very evident, with the actors limited to performing in moving cars or in an uncharacteristic hotel suite and the number of times toilets conveniently appear in this film only made me think about how constrained the production would have been ; a stark opposite to the expanse of Afghanistan which was reiterated multiple times in the first film.


As though to make up for all the above, there are genuine fun sequences in the film and director Kamal draws me in with a cracker of a title sequence which is a crash course of things past in freeze time played to new version of Nyagabagam Varugiradha.

The story is also in the telling, the nonlinearity is intact and Wisam still gets to sweat about his past. Packed with multiple “woohoo!” moments and timely call-backs to the first film (Namaz panna poriya!). In Kamal’s world even a blood splatter can dissolve into a map.

5

But Omar bhai takes precedence over everything and Rahul Bose is absolutely fantastic as the villain who thinks he is the hero and wait a minute, he isn’t even in the movie till the third act.


I loved how the movie returned to the outrageous-ness of Roopam I, when he came back on screen giving Wisam something really challenging to work with, because until then Wisam was just putting bureaucrats in place with his wit.


Yes yes, I also know that the movie tries to deal with larger issues like how education is important, how war creates more problems than it can solve etc, how nationalism cannot be ‘instilled’ etc but OK this is not the blog site for all that boring stuff.

But this is the kind-off blog which will stand-up and applaud at the inane moment of the villain’s glass eye popping out and rolling on the streets of Delhi. Movies like these are hard to come by and need to be savoured probably with steaming jilebis.

Good luck Wisam! Hat-tip to Munnavar!

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cinema cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: AAA

AAA1 copy

 

So, you guys are quite familiar with what FRS is right? Right?

We have no idea why we keep asking this, but it cuts the cackle and come to the osses’.

Yes, that is a phrase.

It is a phrase like how AAA is a movie.

+500: This movie got made, absolutely. Like if you are screenwriter, which means you are also the director here and if you walk up to a financier and say that this is going to be my movie, we don’t know; maybe there a lot of risk hungry financiers out there or let’s just call this Avant-garde art film( we have no idea what it means, but if you are in a written quiz this phrase will fetch you part points somewhere), because none of us are equipped to even classify what AAA is.

What is AAA? Let’s find out seekers of the truth, let’s find out.

-5: above phrase has repetition, to add effect.

-389.108: narration irritations, like seventy years of movie making and people can’t kick this habit and in AAA we don’t even know who is narrating, some old fellow somewhere in dubai etc, the whole film is narrated in his POV but then again scenes are not written from his POV which means that we are shown things that he has no way of knowing, this is simple boss, why should we keep saying these things. Who is this narrator guy anyway? Troubling.

Just start with something like you guys know what FRS is right? Right? People who know will follow, others will find out, if they want.

-10: Dubai

-25: If hero goes to Dubai he will become a Don only (not oxford don, underworld don)

This is of course an extension of the rule, if hero goes to X location, he will become an underworld don only. No other occupation is worthy of the Tamil movie hero, he is either simpleton farmer, urban agitator or underworld don.

He protects the masses in all cases. Of course, gets the girl also.

Introducing let’s blame it on Godfather clause, ever since Coppola’s movie came out, every other filmmaker thinks it is the best profession for mass hero which results in over romanticising of illegal activities. Like have u guys seen Goodfellas or not?

-15: Madurai

If hero is from Madurai he will not be veterinary doctor, he will be ‘veritanama killer’ only, also obviously, he will work for a don there, like not even freelancing.

-30: Movie made with the assumption that even killing a life is justifiable, as long it is done by a hero.

+50: Hero syndrome: In AAA hero’s friends believe that Madurai Michael is special, but example of his speciality is ever displayed, yes he kills people for living, but then friends be like “Wow da dei super da, semma da”.

In real life, real friends assess you and bluntly put out your lack of talent in stuff out in the open.

Like how our friends tell us all the time that we suck at writing, but we continue to, maybe we should get some cinematic friends who praise even the shite that we write.

Nevertheless, this is becoming too emotional for us.

-10: Hero’s friends have no reason to be alive expect to sing praise of the hero.

Update to the reader: 500 words and we haven’t even come to the opening song sequence yet

We try and improve our vocabulary once in a while, like hey, we are writers you know and the new word we are using here is: demure.

-12: Demure lady falls in love with demolishing hero trope. Also, if you are contract killer in Madurai, you have enough time to do romance and all. Must be good profession.  But no work from home option available since it is an on the road job. Hmm.

+50: Opening song, hero claims that he is no one without us. (not the Laureate, us here refers to the audience at the large). Which is true because we buy tickets.

-17: Why will a town celebrate a contract killer, who like weekly kills one of their own is a big question that needs answering. Unless of course Madurai Michael and STR are used interchangeably.

-25: Heroine’s father portrayed like a stupid man who has a ‘thing’ for switches, the sad state of heroine’s father is a sorrow song in the history of tamil cinema.

Notice how Y Gee Mahendran has Bhiarava wig.

Everybody has a wig in Madurai, hair raising city.

-10: Mouth to mouth resuscitation which can bring back a life in emergencies is used for comedy effect

-10: Something something happens and we end up with an old STR who is an ex-underworld don but now in Chennai feeding pigeons under the alias Ashwin Thata.

Yes, really.

<Insert Interval Block here>

 

-12: Thata means not really thata, Simbu looks more like middle aged only, but I guess at this point in the movie they don’t really care.

-51: failed prosthetics is failed only. Gurunathar Michael Westmore will not be happy.

+34: Ashwin Thata wears good clothes that even IT employees don’t get to wear on fun Fridays.

If you don’t know fun Fridays, then you are better off not knowing.

+5: Tammanna aka Tammy plays a social worker who life mission is to bring happiness to the lives of elders.

+6: Since Tammy is doing this social service, we hope this will be followed by millions of youth

+11: Heavy duty Tammy dancing, not Devi level though

-57: All songs whenever, wherever, most mimic STRs previous films, tune setting everything

+5: veteran Nilu calling up STR and addressing him as Machi. LOL

Suddenly Tammy & thata become expert painters of portraits, when and where did they learn this art, do underworld dons go to summer camps with kids to learn water colors?

Interesting questions, no answers

A repenting ageing don, seeking to colour the rest of his life by joining a summer painting class. Now that’s a movie there. Go make it,  ideas are not only bulletproof, here we give it for free.

-91: Director thinks mere presence of Mottai Rajendran and Kovai Sarala will make us laugh like anything, like they need to do something hai na?

+100: Director gives three to four movies for the price of one, in fact AAA is an assemblage of all STR films put together, there is a monologue like VTV about love, there is the age difference love matter from Vallavan, there is the I will do anything for my friends thingy also from Vallavan, there is the “Dei all girls will ematify boys” from Manmadan, heck there is even a recreation of Thallipogadey from AYM with Mottai Rajendran and Kovai Sarala.

The last bit is a must watch for sophisticated GVM fans.

Yes, all of this is there in this one movie, in fact all of this happens in the second half which means that this movie has taken controlled randomness to a different level.

You know something is going to happen, but you don’t know what, but you can guess it is from an earlier STR film.

AAA itself is an existential film where STR lays out all his glories and worries right before the audience and asks them to choose what path he must take, it is really deep that way.

-56: Three four fights happen, but we didn’t really get what was happening

-26: Two hours into movie and director cannot decide if the movie is romance, gangster or comedy

-71: Tammy thinks (or director wants tammy character to think) Rajni+Kamal=STR (actual line, not extrapolated by FRS fact checking team)

-34: Hero spends two minutes explaining to everyone the ill effects of drinking.

Starts drinking next second

+68.91: Thikku Siva LOL Spoilers LOL

-145: General discourse on how boys and how girls are….yeppa yawn

<Insert cue for part two>

<Yes there is more>

Until then it is goodbye from

THE FRS Team

Subam

Vanakkam