Monday, May 21, 2018

Nadigaiyar Thilagam - Movie review

The movie based on the life story of yesteryear super star actress Savitri, is already making waves in both Kollywood and Tollywood. First thought that came to mind while watching was, though touted as a bi-lingual, it felt more like a telugu movie dubbed in Tamil. Some of the dialogues from Savitri’s initial years were purely in telugu. Though not difficult to follow, the cast and the conversations, give it more of a telugu movie feel, which would’ve been intended I guess, considering that she came to Chennai and then only picked up the language. The story begins with the death of the Superstar and traces back her origins as a bubbly little girl and how fate took her all the way only to be bashed down to earth on a gloriously tragic fall. The narration grows as analyzed by Samantha, the reporter and through her conversations with her journalist colleague. The movie runs the risk of being a documentary and is saved by the screenplay.

Coming to the characterizations, the biggest let down to me was Dulqur as Gemini Ganesan. The fact that, he has managed to hold on to his own in depicting someone who has loose morals (as dictated by the society), a charmer all through, a ladies man harboring chauvinism bordering on villainy. Brining the real life Gemini Ganesan onscreen is no mean task for that person has several different shades to his character. Dulqur does it on his own style and considering that he is depicting a real life person, the comparison is inevitable and that is where he falls short. Especially his lady counterpart, the heart and soul of the movie, who has an even bigger un-enviable task of playing the lady superstar, not just aces her role, but sets so much high expectations on the rest of the cast. Pretty sure, Gemini ganesan’s family wouldn’t be thrilled by his portrayal and the makers can expect a few law suits already. Samantha, as the stammering reporter, who does all the digging around the rise and fall of Savitri, has underplayed her role to such an extent that, it felt as if she is already aware, even if she cries her heart out, the performance portions of the movie are already owned and the focus will never fully be on her. The rest of the characters gets blurred and are lost in the whirlwind of the legacy portrayed with such brilliance by Keerthy Suresh. I’ve to admit. I had never high hopes of her performance and despite all the reviews going gaga over her, was still under the impression that they would be paid reviews. But from the moment she comes on screen, I forgot that it was someone else portraying Savitri the superstar, but a candid camera act by the lady herself. Such is the visual similarity that, one can’t be faulted for thinking she is related to the superstar. She has bulked up for the character and for a mainstream commercial movie star, has bravely played the role of an alcoholic mom of a kid. Everyone else in her presence simply doesn’t register and what could’ve become a caricature of an effort, gets a new life on screen. Though the face cut match helps to a huge extent, be it the scenes  where she has to lash out or those tear jerkers typical of yesteryear films, Keerthy suresh has done an extraordinary job and deserves all accolades. She owes a major chunk of the credit to the star she has portrayed on screen, though. To me the stand out scenes where the confidence with which she asks “how many drops of tears” and the boisterous way she play acts in Mayabazar. Savitiri would’ve been proud.

Everyone remembers, “Singaravelane Deva” song from Konjum Salangai, for the magical voice of Janaki and the musical arrangements that compete with each other. There is a shot in the song, where Savitri, with a big bunch of jasmine bundled on her hair, gets up from her place, walks to the lamp and adjusts the wick, dubbing for the song in all sincerity with a warm smile on her face. If at all there is a need for picture perfect grace, one need not look any further. There is a shot from another song “Mayangugiraal oru maadhu”, which talks about the swaying mindset of a lady, caught in the whirlwind of love for her fiancé. Not sure if it was her swaying to the lyrics or the camera, it would be perfect symphony - of the song, the artist, the lyrics and the camerawork. Her face is one that can launch a million platitudes just for its grace. Though almost all of her movies are tear jerkers and full of melodrama, I couldn’t quite watch them fully, despite the million times it played on DoorDarshan, it’s her songs that I find unforgettable. Be it the way she play acts Ranga Rao in Mayabazar or her feigned anger in Missiamma, she is one lady who can hold on to herself amidst a galaxy of male superstars. As a kid I used to wonder why my parents cried their heart out whenever “Paasamalar” played on tv. As much they tried to brave it out, there will be tears and not just for them, anyone who could hold on to their own without breaking down watching the climax was touted as stone hearted. Guess human mind is really weird when it knows for sure that those on screen are acting and when such is the credibility that not just the first time, every time when it’s played it evokes similar response, says volumes about the capability of the actors. Being a superstar, her private life was hardly private and credit to the director for having the guts to bring it out on screen.

Gils verdict – A rags to riches to rags life story, of a lady superstar, married to an equally well known, but shown as highly insecure, philanderer of a movie star and their tumultuous married life adorned with cute heartwarming moments and plagued with ego clashes, leading to the ultimate fall, has all the ingredients of an Oscar winner of a script. Considering that it’s a real life story, only goes to prove that, fact is stranger than fiction. The Telugu title felt more appropriate for Tamil as well. Mahanadi - she is and will remain.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Bat by Jo Nesbo - Book review

Finally managed to grab a copy of the first book of the Harry Hole series. As I keep mentioning on the other book reviews of the series, there is a lingering sense of a drama series that grows and matures in front of our eyes as one ploughs through the lot. In a typical drama series turnaround where some of the mid-season storyline traces back to the “origins” and where it all started kind of a setup, reading “Bat” gives the exact same feel.

From what I understand, despite being the first book of the series, it was translated into English pretty late. But it’s probably the best translated of the lot and the smallest as well, running a shade over 340 pages in size. Not just the title for the book, even the chapter headings have weird titles across all the books in the series. In Bat its even funnier. Harry Hole is addressed as Harry Holy by everyone and even by himself as well !!! Somehow, the character who gets projected as a morbid, solemn, mature and arrogant across the rest of the series, comes across as a young and impulsive lad in this book. I can’t put a finger on what made me think like that, but somehow in the course of narration, this was the picture that emerged. As a highlighter to many such alcoholic binges, Harry gets drunk to his heart and liver’s content and makes a mess, of many more to follow on subsequent novels. Despite relatively shorter running span of under 350 pages, there are still so many sections and discussions, that could’ve been chopped off to make the book even lighter. The serial killer from this initial novel, finds mention on almost every single one of the subsequent books. But never felt worth the hype. Even the supposedly  shocker of a twist on who the villain is felt watered down. What starts as a single murder investigation which drags Harry all the way to Australia, digresses as a plot across so many themes, ranging from cultural identity of Aborigines, LGBT demography of Sydney and how “white” Australians deals with such a potpourri of cultures and ethnicities.

As an investigative thriller, Bat is hardly inspiring. But as an origin story, it ticks all the right boxes of how Harry the famed detective of Oslo, started to grew into the “legend” that he is being addressed as. Moving on to the final book of the series for me, which is the second one in sequence from start – Cockroaches.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Thirst by Jo Nesbo -book review

I had been warned, even before starting the book that it would be boring. But, like all those dull drab movies that, despite your friends blasting it to oblivion in their reviews, you still take a peek at it, out of curiosity, I wanted to have a go at this book and also more of OCD to complete the series. With luck, I’ve been stumbling upon the series in almost the right sequence and the more I read it the more I am sure that, it has all the ingredients of a good action drama series. Probably it is already in Norway, maybe.

Thirst, begins as a proper continuation to Police. It has a brutal murder, with the setup resembling a vampire attack, to start with that sets the ball rolling for more such similar murders to follow. Like all drama series, that have matured into their 5th season, the hero introduction, happens pretty late. Kat Bratt, who started off as a psycho lady, hell bent on avenging her dad in SNOWMAN, who is later touted as a computer Wizard in subsequent novels, is shown taking over Harry’s role as lead detective. There are some typical glass ceiling related references and situations and finally Harry does gets dragged into the muddle, this time under threat from the very police chief, who detests Harry on all the previous novels. The cliffhanger ending from POLICE, has a nauseating continuance and the villain is all glee in his acts of violence. There are way too much of discussion and debate around vampirism that would put anyone to sleep, despite them having caffeine as their blood group. After the usual Jim Beam whiskey and Camel sticks, it’s the coffee machine that is a constant across all the novels. The villain is revealed much early in the book, rather he reveals about himself and much early towards the close of the book, the villain gets killed. To stick to the pattern of throwing in twists, there are several neck breaking twists that prolong the climax by almost 75 pages. For those who are regulars of Nesbo, Harry hole series, they know for sure that, even in case of a nuclear attack, Harry would never die, for its his series, for god’s sake. So all those pages, not mentioning who survived and who shot what/whom were needless and could’ve been made much simpler. Guess, this may not been the end of the series after all with the villain’s dad, preparing himself for an assault on Harry towards the end that sets the story up for the next installment. Other than the odd reasoning behind the Title, the translation is much better as compared to some of the previous instances.

Gils verdict – Thirst is not the best of the lot, yet not as bad either. For those who are binge reading Nesbo, it might feel like a natural extension and more like comic book supervillains, who trouble the superhero only to be vanquished in the end. I’ve started with BAT, which is supposedly the first book of the series and had I started with that one, wouldn’t quite have imagined the change in characterization for Harry. More to follow.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Police and Phantom Jo Nesbo book review

I actually had started off with Phantom, after completing Leopard. But the book was so dragging and boring that, would’ve skipped closed to half of it. Didn’t feel like posting a separate review for the book. In fact thought of stop reading the series any further, but luckily stumbled on to Police, the next in the list. After reading about 8 books in this 11 book series, I can safely say that, Police is the best of the lot. Best in the sense that, it is more contemporary in its pace and setting and is more of pulp fiction variety. It has violence, murder, decent good police investigation, emotion, sentiment and some really good twists with a cliff hanger of an ending. Had Jo Nesbo’s Harry hole books been an action drama series, ending for Police and Phantom would’ve been blockbuster series finale. For all its dull and drab and dragging storyline, Phantom does ends in a bang and sets it up perfectly for a humdinger of a follow up in Police.

Phantom – for a person who translates over 500 pages per book from Norwegian to English, the translator hardly comes up with decent titles for the book. It is anyone’s guess as to why the book is named Phantom. Unlike other stories where Harry has to be dragged into the plot, here it starts off with him volunteering for a murder case involving Oleg, his girlfriend’s kid. Before you know it, he is neck deep into the investigation on his own and somehow manages to connect non-existing links on age old murder investigation. In between, the story goes back and forth in the form of narration by the guy killed by Oleg. There are some wise words by a rat that makes an occasional appearance. The storyline deals majorly with drugs and how its transported and sold on the streets of Norway. Narcotic based storylines are anathema of mine. Maybe that is another reason why I skipped most parts. But the plot also involves certain carryover characters from previous series who are corrupt police officials. Harry not just manages to kill the drug overlord, he also saves Oleg’s girlfriend from their clutches and finally gets shot at as well. Perfect masala script for tamil movies of the 90’s.

Police – while Phantom would’ve left repeat readers of Harry series, wondering if the guy survived, the suspense is maintained for quite a while in Police. There is an interesting twist at the beginning itself, which throws us off the track and with immediate entry of Harry post that incident, its nothing short of our mass hero entry in Kollywood movies. He finds obvious link unseen to seasoned policemen hell bent on trying to solve a string of murders of ex-policemen, on the very scene of crime, which they failed to solve, with the exact same setup for kill. The story moves at breakneck speed and Nesbo keeps you guessing till the end as to whodunit. When you finally follow the crumbs and settle on two possible characters, he further twists the plot and proves us wrong. When it is finally revealed, though it’s a surprise, there is hardly any logic. Same goes for the reason with which Harry identifies the killer. For such a good thriller, wish the reveal could’ve been bit more nuanced. There is one “Aalavanthan” kamal movie, like scene, where a convict escapes from prison and another femme fatale who has her eye on Harry but couldn’t get her needs. The story ends in a cliffhanger with the, otherwise forgotten, villain stalking and reaching his delicate prey, the near psychotic lady missing in reference and Harry entering into marital bliss. Had it been a drama series, this ending would’ve rivalled many a season finale top ranks. Almost missed the brutal death of probably my most favourite character of the lot. Now I realize how Potter maniacs must have felt while reading about Dumbledore's demise.

Currently into the last book of the series, Thirst. Have been told not to have high hopes of it. Would probably be winding up with the first two part of the series – Bat and Cockroaches.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Leopard by Jo Nesbo - book review

Luckily, I am stumbling in sequence, while reading this series till now. The story takes over from SNOWMAN and probably was written with the same flow and thought process I guess. Pretty racy and the story moves so fast that, before you realize there are 3 murders already and the initial setup and with a villain on maniac mode, it all leads up for an interesting climax. The story begins with a SAW (psycho killer movie) like setup where a lady is killed by Leopold’s Apple. Probably Nesbo spent quite some research about this torture device I guess. Its referenced multiple times and is almost mentioned in reverence(!!) There is another rifle that makes constant appearance across many stories. It works if you read the series in continuance, for it reiterates the similar setup, be it the bar they frequent, the repeated characterizations like smoking, alcoholic behavior, climate, above all – how tall Harry is(which is a near constant trivia in all the books!!) over a period of time, you get yourself familiarized with the landscape and the kind of characters involved. For those who read the series back to back, it is a tough ask to start with and when persisted, it eases out.

Why the title Leopard is anybody’s guess. Maybe there is no direct meaning for the original title and the closest it could be matched on translation was this animal. But the translation, for good parts of the book was pretty decent and racy. As with all his books, Nesbo stretches the limit in this one as well and a good portion of around 100 pages could’ve been chopped off without hindering the flow or the storyline. In SNOWMAN there was a strong motive behind those serial killings, which is absent in this edition. The actual reason behind all those murders sounds childish to say the least. Not that you need to have a brain tingling reason to kill anyone, but the extent to which the villain goes in eliminating the people, the reason felt a huge let down. Also, the ending was pretty confusing as to what was happening. The ease with which the investigative team tracks someone to and fro from another nation, tracing them to the very doorstep where they bought the murder weapon is laughably simple as compared to the painstaking detective work done by police in Higashino novels. But having said all these, the novel does have its moments and makes a better read as compared to some really slow and boring stories in the series. One constant feedback that I find about the series is its sheer size. Having it as a paperback and finishing it would be a herculean task I would believe!! Considering that there are repeat characters and setup, ideally, the volume should only go down and not increase. At times, the conversations threads lead nowhere and most of the grand reveals and break through are out of sheer luck than any interesting investigative approach.

I am into the next one in this series – Phantom and its much worse as compared against any of them in the series. Probably would put stop to this pretty soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Snowman by Jo Nesbo - book review

I would never know if I am in binge reading mode of pending books from 2014 or I really do want to finish this Harry hole series. But with 5th book on the trot in this series, should say, I am much more comfortable reading this author now as compared to book one. There is a general familiarity about the repeat characters and even the places and newspaper that are referenced. The cold climate, the regular pub which Harry visits, his dormitory like house and its greyish hue, his nicotine addicted chain smoking drive and his off-on relation with alcohol and his girlfriend, most of the setup carry a sense of familiarity and luckily, even though I boarded the series halfway, have been almost reading it in a sequence. With that background, I can safely say, Snowman is the best of the lot till now.

This one is much unlike the other novels. Its fast- for a change and is quite racy. Though there were still many chapters (read murders) that could’ve been chopped off/edited and it still wouldn’t have made any difference to the ending and would’ve only made it racier, it was still at a manageable level. The parallel story track was almost non-evident, except for the initial portion where Rakel (his girlfriend) splits up and meets someone else and even that has been threaded into main storyline and for the fact that it leads up till the climax is simply brilliant. The storyline is maybe a Norwegian equivalent of Jack the ripper myth, only in this case, the villain is quite closer to the hero. But the twist would hardly be surprising if one sees too much logic into a thriller novel. When the key informant is found to be lying about one of the various who-dun-it’s he should’ve been a suspect halfway into the book and not so late. It robs off the surprise factor in the end. Other than that, it’s quite interesting and with so many murders happening and with each murder a new suspect being identified and with each of those suspects ends up getting killed, it’s a bloodbath out there. Wonder why the chief never complaints to Harry after each time he comes up with a  suspect (and the sureness with which they claim him to be the villain) only to end up being wrong. No one says a thing about how sure Harry always is and how unsure he becomes once the suspect is either caught or about to be caught. The most lenient of police chief character ever I would guess.

Gils verdict – Snowan, I feel, is the best book of the series so far and as compared the previous books the translation was much better and crisp or maybe I am getting used to the flow. Either way, this book would be a delight to thriller genre fans.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Linkedin Park

“Harivarasanam..vishvamohanam”
Gilsbert is seen channeling his inner KJY, belting out the devotional song in all his splendor, passion plus-sed.
The reason for such a travesty being, junior had taken to listening YouTube song videos and by chance had stumbled upon the video of KJY singing the song and had taken an immediate liking to it.
He always try to sing the song with his own lyrics and would be seen humming it during all his play time.
Gilsbert, was doing the lyric correction, telling junior about the right pronunciation when he saw the next door neighbor, who usually pass by, stopping near his house.
“Unga paiyana paaditrunthaan?” asked him with a curious look.
Gilsbert, beaming with that “Eendra pozhuthil perithu uvakkum than maganai chaandron ena kaetta thanthai” look (en thaai thaan peruma padanuma..naangalum paduvom. Ennelaam padaporengarathu poga poga theriyum!!)
“aamaanga. Intha song ivanuku romba pudikum”
The moment he heard the word “song” that guy gave a look as if I had uttered bad word. Avaru avlo peria Aiyappa baktharnu how will I know.
“Mazhalaiya paadran. Aanalum lyrics cleara solran..paatu classla serthu vidunga”
Having said that, the gentleman left. Aprum thaan gilsbertku mandaiku mela mentos bulb erinjuthu.
“mazhalaiya paadraan ok. Aana lyrics seria paadraannu solitu poraaray” nu. Then only the realization came that, thaan paadinatha thaan kuzhantha thanama irukunu that guy sollama sollitu poirukaarunu.
All poramai pudicha ulagam I say.