Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Kaala - movie review

By now the verdict on the movie is already out and what would be spoilers in this post are common knowledge. Still, for the benefit of those who are yet to watch the movie, watch out for spoilers, which I would rather want to call as highlighters for the reason why the movie is disappointing. Oops.

For those who have seen Kabali – the previous venture between Ranjith and Rajini, The first half of the Kaala would feel like scenes that are Kabali discards. The story simply refuses to take off and keeps roaming on the runway. Even from the few cuts in trailer, it was very clear that this is going to be a fight between Dharavi Rajini against political bigwig Nana Patekar over the land where the chawl is setup. With the basic premise set clearly on the two minute trailer itself, the movie takes almost a whole hour to reach to that confrontation point. Ranjith, to give him the benefit of doubt, is just 5 movies old and 2 of them are with Rajini. For a commercial star of Rajini’s caliber, it requires specific fine tuning in screenplay, which is clearly lacking with Ranjith. On one hand, people make no mistake in pointing out the folly of dancing around trees with heroines younger than his grand-children, forcing Rajini to play his age, it simply cannot be half baked in attempt like Kabali. There are 2 scenes that could’ve brought down the roof in mass effect, one is the police station scene, where Rajini mocks the sitting MLA asking who the hell he is. It could’ve been Kaala’s equivalent of “Ennaku innoru per iruku” from Baasha and ends up as a comic squib. The other scene that had potential to be a blockbuster on the lines of Rajini’s confrontation with Ramya Krishnan in padayappa where he pulls the swing from ceiling and stylishly sits on it, was his interaction with Nana at Nana’s den. “Such a waste“ was the feeling after the scene got over.  A Ravikumar or any other regular of Rajini, would’ve made it into a memorabilia of the millennium. Even the much touted ”Kya re..setting ah” from the trailer fizzles out. Those three scenes would’ve been enough for paisa vasool moments for Rajini fans who’ve to make do with the flyover fight alone. The final straw that fails the movie is that Rajini actually dies. Right from MGR days, very rarely have movies succeeded in tamil where the hero dies. I don’t recollect the last movie where Rajini dies and none that’ve gone on to be successful. The much touted climax, full of colors, brings back the dead don, metaphor-morphically and the violent end of the villain is shown as a colorful as Nippon paint would possibly allow.

During many scenes In the movie, it felt as if, Ranjith play acts in giving some leeway to the superstar in Rajini only to reign him back into a normal character. In fact, it is one of the lamest and weakest don roles ever to have hit the tamil screens and considering its Rajini who has played it, only has made it look even weaker. Consider this – during the police station scene, Rajini gets beaten and doesn’t fight back (Yup. You read it right). He even playfully lies to his wife on the way back that he gave it back doubly to those who beat him at the station only to watch her and his son in the next few minutes. The don doesn’t take any action but only visits the villain’s den alone to show his gethu. The villains create chaos and beat up his Kith and kin, during the protests and all the don does is again look angrily onto the camera. It was so 1980’s-ish and atypical to sivakumar may be, but not for superstar Rajini. The first half, showcasing the family life of the Don are nothing but dead weights to the storyline and his ex-love interest angle might’ve just been added to show case Rajini’s acting chops which does nothing to the overall pace of the movie. They could mercilessly chop of 45 minutes of first half and still the movie would make sense or not. The other off putting aspect being, there were way too many hindi/Marathi dialogues that it felt like a dubbed movie at many places, especially with Nana patekar doing his own dubbing in tamil. There were scenes that were clear bait traps for political parties to pick up and protest to ensure backup publicity for the movie, post release. If the movie is about glorifying Kaala, the Raavan of the masses, why degrade hindu deities? If ranjith had put in bit more effort to understand the story of Raavan, he won Lanka from his brother and chased away his own brother from Lanka for siding with Raam, his enemy. Considering that land is the basis for the movie, this section of Raavan’s story would’ve made more sense. Off late it has become fashion statement of fringe in TN that anything related to Hindu gods, if denigrated, would give them leadership status and wisdom to blabber about anything under the sun. Surprised to see that Rajini, an aspiring politician, has been gullible enough to be “tricked” by Ranjith into this situation. The movie might very well be the platform for Ranjith to launch his political outfit than Rajni, if at all that was the reason behind the attempt.

Gils verdict - as mentioned on paid reviews, it's not 51% rajini and 49% Ranjith movie. But out and out ranjith's film. It would have stood out on its own had the hero been anyone but rajini. It has nothing for the fans and is a total disappointment from that perspective. And it's not a shade on Nayagan just because it has Dharavi as setup. Biggest and only beneficiary is Ranjith alone.

Monday, June 11, 2018

1001

As the title states, this is a major milestone post in this space – having completed 1000 blog posts. What started as a whim, 12 and a half years back, when many of my peers where posting things left right and center, had outlived most of them, shows much about my producti”vetti”. Many a times in between, I had thought, this would be the end of this blog space. It has overcome restrictions in the form of proxy servers, mind blocks, lack of time and simply being lazy most of the times.

All through, one person who has stood by through thick and thin and has commented on almost every single post of mine, ever since he started visiting this space. He is truly “aayirathil oruvar” and deserves special mention. I make it a point to mention him on every milestone post, to not just put “maska” for getting comments (aaiaioa unmaiya sollitene) but also as the only way to express my gratitude. He is like Sadayappa vallal to Kambar for me. When Kambar was writing his Ramayanam, he made it a point to include a line in praise of his patron every 100 songs. When there were objection from the crowd that there are way too much mention about the patron in line with the god himself, Kambar moved the mention to every 1000 songs and said, truly it matches his patron as he is one in 1000. Naan Kambarum illa. Inga posta varathulaam ramayananum ila J But he is one true patron for this blog space and it is none other than “Thala Ramesh”. As much as I see if the post has been uploaded correctly, the next closest thing that I keep checking for are his comments, probably the only saving grace on/about the post. Even for the mokkaiest of them, he would grace it with his presence and even for those points he is dead against, he would still ooze grace in the way he puts forth his point of view.

The next person would be one of the reason behind majority of the book review posts in this space – Bragz. He is like book curator for me and always is kind enough to drop me with specific books, that he feels I might enjoy and needless to say, has a more better understanding for my taste in books. Majority of the book reviews in this space are credit to him. Till few years back, when I was still watching movies in theaters, it was Aarti who was my partner in crime. Most of the movie reviews are attributed to her undying spirit of watching movies and the bug had rubbed on big time on me, except that the theater watching experience is off late replaced with home experience. Many thanks to her indirect contributions to most of the movie reviews in this space. There is Athivasi madam who drops by occasionally and has memory rivalling only Sheldon cooper in pointing out for aracha mavu posts, when I repeat myself. And to any other person whom I’ve missed out, my sincere thanks for enabling this space to clock 1000 posts.

Innum evlo naal odum therila. But it has been such a wonderful journey to meet so many interesting folks across all these years and indirectly the space being an record of some of the events, it has nostalgia written all over it and credit to all of you for making it happen.

Mikka nanri.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

To new beginnings

It was junior’s first day at play school.

( Play school - An oxymoron of an institution, made necessary by our current life style. They claim to teach the kids to have fun and interact. In the age of “made to order” even innocence comes with a price)

All the while, during the commute, he was repeating that he is going to school to learn ABCD, thanks to his Paati who had told him that. She was the most vigorous and vociferous opponent to the idea of putting the kid in playschool. But with no kids to play in our apartment and junior crossing the 2.5 age mark, we felt it was the right time to introduce him to the concept of school.

The moment he stepped out of the auto, he took both our hands into his tiny ones and started leading us inside the campus. There were already lot other parents and kids who had formed mini groups and while the parents were chatting, the kids were running around on the play area. I was closely watching junior to see his reactions, for he doesn’t like the usual see-saw’s and swings. Till then, his playmates have all been several decades elder to him and his other form of time pass being watching devotional songs and rhymes on YouTube. Soon the school buzzer ringed and we were all asked to join the first day first session , involving prayer songs and class teacher introduction. I could sense that he was super tensed at all these strange happenings as he couldn’t quite fathom if it was for good or trouble.  There were some kids who were natural to the surroundings and immediately picked whatever the teachers asked them to do like touching their toes or doing sit-ups and clapping hands. Junior clung to his mom like a kangaroo and never got down.

When they were all paraded to the classes accompanied by the parents, he kind of relaxed a bit. He started moving around and found something interesting to play, when a kid slightly bigger than him came and tried to take the toy from him. Unexcitingly to the big kid, junior gave away the toy and sat down. The big kid tried to push junior to sit on him. He wiggled away and went the sanctuary of his mom. Looking at my reaction and before I could say anything a stern warning was issued in the form “don’t even think about it look” by wifey. She almost rejected me to be present, on the first day, as there was a threat that I would pull an “Abhiyum Naanum” Prakash Raj. I never have any fond memories of school or school days and have very strong reservations against the way in which our education system is setup. Looking at the “classroom” in that play school, an image of how junior prances around the house running headlong, cropped up, as against that “room”. The main difference was that, it was filled with lot of kids and the exposure to other kids, would have an impact on his ways and end of the day that’s what makes and moulds personalities.

I am pretty sure he would be afraid to be left alone in that place, to start with at least and hopefully, definitely, he would adapt and would proceed to have a life of his own. There would be tears, anger, sense of being lost, happiness, joy and new relationships (for a moment I lost track of who I was describing about, him or myself) and he would become a different and much more better person. He is definitely going to surprise all his teachers with his range of knowledge on shapes, colors and things and rhymes, if at all they can reach out to him ( I know I sound quite obnoxious when it comes to teachers. Can’t help it). It’s a grind which everyone goes through and surely he would have lot many adventures and a whole new bunch of experiences. Someday, down the line, I might show him this post, for him to laugh at how tense and nervous I was on his first day at school.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo - book review

Considering that this was the second in the list of 11 (till now), I guess, probably this is the book that formed the strong template for the other novels in the Harry hole series. It has everything that the rest of the series borrows into, probably the only few of the lot with actual deduction scope for Harry, the repeated twists towards the end which hurriedly try to hoodwink the reader and rest of the characters to believe that they’ve found the villain only to be fooled further and the James Bond like womanizing character of Harry, only change being, he really falls in love with the lady characters who only end up getting murdered, fueling his alcoholic rage. There is a racist undertone as well, which propagates across his other novels too, especially when it comes to referencing the only muslim character from Pakistan or the way the detailing about Thailand and Thai people being addressed in this novel. It may not be intentional and those characters could originally be factual representations of real life situations and people. But considering that as an author, he not only trashes the flesh trade industry of Thai but balances out by painting most of the perps as peads, who are Norwegians, makes the presentation ambiguous.

Is the intent and theme of the series, especially this novel, is to explore the dark underbelly of the forgotten people of the society? If that is the case, why make the setup all the way across to Thailand when the same can be based out of Oslo? In the first book, Bat, also similar dilemma arises. Nesbo goes to great details in explaining about the rainbow culture of Sydney and accepted racist lifestyles of Australians and their ill treatment to aborigines. While the latter part is mentioned at a fleeting reference, how aborigines misuse their freedom is explained in as much detailed manner possible. If one has to treat the novel as just another crime story with the setup in just another region, it may not mean much. But considering that from book 3 onwards his entire series rests and revolves around Oslo alone, makes one wonder, was it a forced change or where Australia and Thailand the only foreign countries Nesbo ever visited.

Story wise, it begins like an Oscar movie, tracing the backstory of an young girl, forced into flesh trade by her own parents. The casualness and the sheer lack of any melodrama in those portions lead to the first paragraph. Its constructed in a way as if, that is the accepted norm in Thai society. The girl’s customer, the Norwegian ambassador, ends up dead and enter Harry as the man of the moment to solve the case. Despite all the power struggles at home front and people being shady and not so forthcoming with information, the knotty thread of deceit and lies slowly untangle and ends in Harry knocking out the villain. There are some serious logic flaws in the investigation but all things considering that this is one of those novels, where harry actually does some investigation and deduction work, those loopholes can be forgiven. The storyline deals with nauseating setup of children being forced into this kind of unmentionables and thankfully Nesbo spares us of the details.

Gils verdict – unless you are binge reading the series, would never recommend this book. Boring for most part of it and singularly uninteresting set of characters. With this the 11 part series comes to end. I still have some more of Nesbo’s other novels to finish. Hope to find sometime down the line for them as well.

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.