Categories
cinema

COBRA (2022)

There would have been a time when I would have loved a movie like Cobra. 

There would have been a time when I would have contributed to the FRS of a movie like Cobra. So you all know what an FRS is right?

Now is not that time. 

There would have been a time when I would have loved a movie like Cobra, that would have been in 1993. 

In 1993, Gentleman released and for long stretches of growing up, it was my favorite movie. 

A series of mysterious crimes happen-an unknown hero-an officer is on his tail -their lives intersect and then we learn of the hero’s backstory and his motivation to be involved in these crimes. 

Will the hero succeed? 

Ascribing any sort of invention in cinema is usually wrong, but Shanker really did re-invent this sub-genre for the Tamil screens and he doesn’t usually get credit much.

Gentleman, Indian, Anniyan, Ai even 2.0 have the same story structure, it provided the perfect skeleton to warrant a big star and Shankar smartly could also up the budget and indulge in indulgences. 

There would have been a time when I would have contributed to the FRS of a movie like Cobra, that would have been in 2015.

Guess it’s not a subgenre after all, it is only one if others too are able to make effective additions. 

Movies in the above class made by those who are not Shanker, somehow feel very derivative and uninspiring. 

Shanker himself effectively killed it with Ai, but like after Sati’s death, her body was scattered all across the country, elements from this subgenre make their place in other Tamil films.

I can also see why Vikram would have had no problem in agreeing to Cobra, not only does it have an interrogation scene which is reminiscent of Anniyan, there is the noble motivation of helping orphans along the way, even though he has to assassinate many state heads in outrageous costumes. 

No hero has never turned down an orphanage helping hero. It’s our version of saving the cat.

Now that’s a trope when done badly gives the viewer a headache. 

I got a headache, paused the movie and reached out to get my Amrutanjan.

When the movie began again, even Vikram’s character had a headache, it was because the heroine was in love with him- she was also a math teacher. 

Okay, so if you start playing Cobra bingo every time someone says “Math Genius” in this movie, you might have to shell out more money to print more bingo cards. 

I was almost convinced that this was a Shanker clone, till I found that director Ajay Gnanamuthu had his fingerprints all over the film. If you remember an annoying kid from his previous movie, there’s an annoying student in this one. 

Before I realized why the student is in the picture, I applied some more Amrutanjan. Yes, the girl stays in the picture to give a circuitous connection as to why the movie is called Cobra. 

Just before mid-way, the director discovered hackers can also be geniuses and introduces another character and the movie turns into one brother protecting the other much like Aalavandhan. 

By that time I was out. I fell into a black pool along with my Amrutanjan bottle, mathematical formulas danced to the tune of Thumbi Thumbi as they chased me. 

I kept falling till I reached the Cobra’s lair. I was not surprised that it spoke, because nothing would surprise me more than Irfan Pathan playing an interpol officer called Aslan in a tamil movie called Cobra.

The Cobra spoke. I asked it to stop and bite me instead. It understood that I needed sleep, deep sleep and it granted me the gift of dreamless sleep. 

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cinema:tamil ck and mm

CK and MM watch Mahaan (2022)

Ext- Jil Jung Juk Bar + Garden Restaurant

It was just another pretentious bar with fuzzy neon lights where underpaid mid-life professionals pretended to act like low-life gangsters in the hope of gaining street cred or breakthrough into screenwriting.

All the inhabitants however knew, both goals are impossible.

There’s an 80s Rajni song playing in the background, it’s an otherwise forgettable song, made unforgettable only by the Thalaivar fan urge to never let such things die.

It’s not an immediately recognizable song, if it had been then this would have not been a pretentious bar named after a pretentious movie.

Enter Moderate Manohar or MM in slow motion

Moderate Manohar is now 40 years, obviously he has put on weight, he still tucks in his t-shirt and replies to messages in his family WhatsApp group. There is nothing inherently wrong with him, except of course the fact that he is a foreign film critic for the Chicago Sun Times. His specialty is writing about the intersection of gender, culture, politics and religion- which was a nice way of saying that he could write about anything.

Nobody really liked MM, but he was polite, so people didn’t tell him openly that they didn’t like him. They had separate WhatsApp groups to make fun of him, however.

Enter Caustic Kumar or CK in slow motion

CK is 37 years old, but he looks like he is 52. On his Aadhar card he looks 55, because it’s his father picture instead of his. The government didn’t care, father-son, all the same.

CK is not a Gandhian, but is known to speak his mind. Nobody really likes CK too, but they enjoyed telling him that. He is now immune to such comments and often takes it with a smile, later he would run such people to the ground through his secret twitter account.  

Years ago, CK and MM were a duo of sorts, under the Chief, they were allowed to publish anything under the column: movie reviews.

It came as a shock to the Chief that when the publication was sold off to a corporate house with the promise of ‘repurposing’ content, the company left out all the movies CK and MM covered.

After selling the publication for a small fortune, the Chief turned to drinking, MM had secured a cushy review job and CK was left on the streets, while he returned to his roots: cooking. He came from a family of Cook-u Kumars, including the one who had made a Dosa for Queen Elizabeth when she had come to Chennai for the launch of Marudanayagam.

He now was the parotta master at Jil Jung Juk Bar, he was surprised that it was more comfortable than his previous job, paid well and his customers didn’t complain.

MM Meets the Chief (and CK)

Chief: I want you guys to unite, we can do the reviews again, we had a vision, a dream, we can make it big again.

The Chief was an exceedingly positive person, especially for a person who resorted to drinking after making a small fortune.

MM: Let’s be practical chief, nobody reads reviews anymore and to be honest, you cannot afford me.

CK: He can’t afford me neither.

MM: CK!

CK: Oh, hi MM! I read your piece on the loss of innocence in Pandiarajan films of the 2000s midway…and…

MM: And?

CK: Oh, before I finished it, the boys in the kitchen used it for wrapping vadais, pandemic you see, we are using whatever we get.

MM: Umm, you seem to have done well for yourself (MM was surprised)

CK: There’s no business like Manchow business! Try our soups.

Chief: No guys, seriously, we can publish on those new newsletter sites and accumulate and audience and ask them readers to pay for our reviews. You have no idea the kind of things people pay for nowadays, surely, they will pay for reviews.

MM: Well…

CK: Hmm…

Chief: Oh, come on, you are not the Beatles and there is this new movie called Mahaan that you will surely want to write about.

CK and MM Get Back Together in slow motion

MM: So…

CK: Yeah…

MM: Do you want to go first and give us a peek of your Mahaan Vanmam

CK: But how did you. But of course, you follow me on twitter.

MM: No, I generally guessed based on past experience that you hate 99% of all things.

CK: Well, done, MM. Good to see you thinking. Good to see anyone thinking these days.

MM: What do you mean?

CK: I mean… if someone had thought about it, Maahan would not have been made.

MM: Seriously, it’s not that bad

CK: Good, now you accept that it is not good and I only have to convince you that it’s bad. A small tilt. But I have to get back to being the parotta master.

Let’s continue in the kitchen

CK and MM in the kitchen, various others going about their cooking business, ambient cooking noise and Tamil FM music

MM: So, you were going to say that the movie was longer than it should have been?

CK: No MM, my observations are often on point and not general, that’s one of the reasons I didn’t do well as a movie critic.

For example, I would say stuff like, Karthik Subbaraj, we get the irony, we get the irony like a Gandhian being a liquor baron, it’s there in your script, you didn’t have to spell it out to us in the form of dialogue especially after driving home the point that hero’s name is Gandhi Mahaan.

MM: That is true, sometimes too on the nose.

CK: Yeah, just like the Gandhi glasses, I thought like that was pushing too much. Gandhians wearing caps okay, but wearing same glasses, especially were those for sight or you know something like cos-play.

MM: These are like the points the FRS writers would come up with. I was thinking more like this was a critique of those who follow any ideology intensely, hence they were the butt of the jokes.

CK: Exactly MM, you found the point. Always look at what they are making fun of, that’s the easiest way to find intent from a creator.

There are obviously different levels to this and some critics might say that intent does not really matter; but all along I was feeling that this ideology extremists vs let me just be free and have a drink is not thought through well.

It assumes that ideology has ruined more people than alcohol has, well of course the director does not want to engage in more research, he has made it with the stance that ideology is somehow more dangerous.

MM: Well, I wouldn’t blame him, anything in the extreme is bad

CK: Typical of something you would say isn’t it; well, I would like to differ to know something you really have to be fully into it. The idea must consume you for you to completely believe in it. I’m not saying that we should overlook the downsides of ideology, but to say that it is better to be a liquor baron than be committed to ideology is like elementary school level logic.

MM: But intent itself does not the drive the movie, these are inferences that you make.

CK: I’m trying to say it plainly here, Karthik Subbaraj’s Mahaan is just another film which pushes the one life live it large philosophy, he tries to bolster this by saying that people who are committed to ideologies are dangerous and it is better to have a drink and ruin your life and those who depend on you.

MM: You’re reading too much; this is just a film about repressed desires of a guy who’s been caged for 40 years.

CK: So, the dream of this freedom seeker is to wear color clothes and have a drink.

Wait, this movie is more dangerous in the way it defines freedom: which is the pursuit of local pleasures which is drinking.

By defining freedom as just the freedom to drink, it is another throw of the hammer at family, in fact that is what happens to Gandhi Mahaan’s family.

MM: No wait, don’t you think that how Nachi reacted to her husband’s one night of drinking too much? It’s not realistic.

CK: Wait on one hand, we talk about having relationships wherein we don’t have to tolerate each other and that people should move away from such relationships, while you feel that Nachi is over reacting?

MM: But hasn’t she brought up her son with vengeance in his heart?

CK: Again, Nachi is the only one in the movie who has brought up a son who has amounted to anything, to become a police officer; it’s only because the director feels that this vengeance drives him to psychopathic acts, we feel he is wrong.

Movies are always from the POV of the director, like how many movies had the only motivation as vengeance and we did not even bat an eyelid.

Wait a minute, even Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta was about vengeance across generations.

MM: But that was when Nawazuddin gunned down an entire clan

CK: Here too Mahaan orders a killing of an IAS officer

MM: But you cannot seek lessons for life from movies, they are movies CK, they are meant to be enjoyed. I agree, we do see from the point of view of the director.

CK: Isn’t that an easy argument? My inference is that in Karthik Subbaraj films, morals do not matter and those with any sort of those are mocked. Even Satyavan who has a telling scene and answers to God and realizes that there are defined things such as good and bad and not everything is grey, is made fun of.

Always look at who they make fun of, the intent is revealed there.

MM: And you still have problems with grey characters

CK: Mahaan is not a grey character, he kills for business and runs illegal gambling bars, he kills seven other police officers, he does not even a have a moral reason to get into this ‘business’ like how Velu Nayakan does.

All this exists only to satisfy slow motion fetishes of the makers, to make us believe that this kind of life is actually freedom and we should pursue it.

MM: See this is why, we cannot have any fun, everything is brought within a moral framework.

CK: In that case the movie should not opine on ideology vs freedom, it should probably openly say that I am really fascinated by gangster growth and I will shoot it the best way and idolize it.

MM: Umm…it’s not like that

CK: Only to make the bad guy look cooler and in control, the ones with ideologies are made fun of. And only coolness sells, if Mahaan had been cooler by himself.

MM: Is that your final take? You barely went past the core idea that the movie deals with and I believe the movie is much more than that, for me how the thread of how three friends are connected through life’s ups and downs very interesting and the devadoothan fight had real punch in a Tamil movie fight scene in a long time. The ending of course is too constructed to the point you can see the name of the TMT bars used in the construction.

CK: Yeah, the Daylight Devadoothan fight scene was really something, will have to watch that alone multiple times, but the rest of it I could never go past and marvel at the way the film was told when I could not buy the central idea of it. It seemed unusually light at moments of great weight, almost insincere.

CK turns around another Parotta and MM calls it a night, so that he can go home and listen to Nino Rota. The chief as usual didn’t know what to make of their conversation, but he published it anyway.

At the time of publishing, he wore an Editor’s Guild T shirt which said, “Find someone who can reject you”

CK and MM will return with another movie conversation.

Mahaan starring Chiyaan Vikram and directed by Karthik Subbaraj is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Categories
cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Anbarivu (2022)

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

We would like to start by wishing all our readers a very Happy New Year, let’s just hope there are less movies with narration this year.

-10: Narration, there goes our new year wish, all the best to us. This is not a complex story, as in, this is just another village vs village story and there are at least 3000 ways to tell this without having to have narration.

Since we are blog that does not just raise questions but also provides solutions: makers can actually name the movies with the same premise so that audience can directly connect

-5: Narration by Vidarth, who is kind of like the principal antagonist, beginning with his narration almost feels right as the movie progresses, but then this narration comes to nothing and his narration is also not followed through.

I wish to start a new business by sending a daily whatsapp/text reminders to directors and writers on set, it would just read the following.

Daily Reminder: People are not dumb.

That seems like a good segue to our next point

-50: Twins

If you thought that the village vs village was a done to death in Tamil cinema then you are in store for another repetitive story jumping off point- separated twins.

It doesn’t bother us that Anbarivu picks up familiar themes, it only bothers us that the director is brazen with the- “yeah yeah, we know you have seen these movies before, but did it have Hip Hop in them?”

Yes Hip Hop is the differentiating factor in the film, but not always differentiating factors are good. And this time he comes in twos.

-300: Napoleon plays a quote-unquote majestic village headman, where people ‘respect’ him for what he is, his weekend hobby is to fight in riots with neighboring village folk.

There is undeniably a caste angle here and an intent to show that caste violence is a sickening thing and slip in a message about equality, but how does the director think that a two hour 45 min film which glorifies such violence for two hours and 20 mins expect us to believe that such a transformation can happen in the last 25 mins?

Hehe, it can, possibly with powerful filmmaking. Run time is not an indicator of impact, but here it seems almost like a casual turn the movie takes towards the end.

Also the Napoleon character is applauded in the end, because he ‘accepts’ that he was wrong etc. Boss he must also be in Jail, so must the Anbu character.

-120: Generic Maduraikarans: funny like one specific thing becomes relatively mainstream it completely loses its specificity, ever since Maduraikaranisms were taken up as major characters in tamil films, they have ever since been reduced to stereotypes who spout words like Sambavam, Rathabhoomi etc

Tiring.

-60: Ragging in Canada university

-23: Hero’s dad becomes president of IDFC or something in Canada and this is celebrated by Canadians on TVs and billboards etc

-101: Hero gets slow motion entry because he is hero and most of the village cheer him because he is hero, do educate us city types, do villages like these exist?

Also village celebrates hero’s birthday with Jallikattu, of course there was going to be Jallikattu in this movie

+45: Murattu Kaalai Ex Machina

If you know, you know

-25: Heroine thinks that all foreigners are in open relationships, hero thinks that all village love is true and pyoor etc, so he must marry a pucca tamil girl etc

+56: Irritation as a plot propulsion device

Somewhere I feel that the director is very perceptive, he understands that the material at hand can bring about much irritation to the audience, so much so that he incorporates this as a theme

Arivu irritates his thatha in the village

Anbu irritates his appa in Canada

So yeah, that’s about it.

-20.9: Delayed Thaai Paasam Gratification + with Amma song

-59: Movie is confused max, it believes that it needs to be a commercial film and hence needs to add commercial elements but also realized that these commercial elements are also regressive, so movie cannot make up it’s mind, so it makes one of the twins a woke reformer (something of the sort)

+30: But I would also like to come clean, that on a Saturday with an impending lockdown, the second half of this movie was quite calming even though the first half (my division not the movie’s) was quite aggravating.

The second half gives chance for all the characters that were introduced to come together and in their own ways complete their respective arc. It’s not the most organic of stories but somehow seemed “well-set”, Anbarivu also benefits from a good supporting cast who can sell this story and make up for whatever is lost by the casting of the leads.

And in this Vidarth really was interesting.

-87: It’s not a village movie unless there is a foreign corporate power trying to take over the lands of the people

Etc

Yeah I know.

Subam

Team FRS

Anbarivu is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar

Categories
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. 

Categories
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