Monday, June 17, 2019

Game over - movie review

A pakka Hollywoodish movie. For those who crib that our guys slow up the movie with songs and dance this movie would be the answer. A very bold attempt to say the least. No unnecessary scenes – be it humour or romance or sentiment. With a running time of under 2 hours, it felt like a slightly extended short film. But credit to the director for ensuring that, the impact, would’ve been created by a short film, has been maintained and ensured.

The movie starts with probably, the most violent beginning ever witnessed in tamil or Indian cinema I would say. Makes one wonder, whether the UA rating was justified. May be they went by the logic(!!) that, you simply don’t rate a movie on one scene alone, even if it involves a beheading, with the head being kicked around like a football and burning the rest of the body. But considering that, as the movie progresses, it could all be diabolically symbolic, could’ve been the reason(?) for a more accommodative rating. It is a dark movie to say the least, literally and figuratively. But considering that there are multiple interpretations possible, some may think, it is somewhat a different take on liberation and female empowerment as well !! Wonder, should all these have to be wrapped up so much into so many layers. For a casual movie watcher like me, who just watches movies for the thrill of it, the movie wouldn’t make immediate sense. Since the premise was intriguing, I googled across multiple reviews and got some idea about the way in which it has been depicted. Not sure if such a level of thought process went on the minds of the makers themselves, but some of the reviews would put HBR analysis to shame. Literalla room poattu yosipanga pola!!! Symbolism rules the roost and its left for open interpretation of the viewers. What happens on that new year? Was Tapsee assaulted along with her friend or was it an isolated incident? Is that entire house set up an illusion or real? Is the story happening in real time or dream? Is it actually a ghost taking revenge story masquerading as a mean thriller? Answer as you wish and the movie would fit in the genre you want it to be.

Very few characters and except for the policeman, who has a 2 minute appearance, rest are all women, who count to 5. The story has only Tapsee (heroine and laddu performance. Wonder why she doesn’t do much in tamil) for major portions of second half and that too with hardly any dialogue. BGM more than makes up for it, sufficiently supported by good acting. I like the lady who plays the maid. She is effortlessly original across all the movies, she has played so far- aandavan kattalai, va.va.sangam, etc. Vijay TV Ramya has a thakkunundu role. But possibly the game changer from story line perspective. With most of the scenes happening overnight time, second half would’ve been the cheapest movie section ever filmed I guess. Oray oru veedu. No lighting. No dialogue. Just Tapsee and the maid lady, screaming and rushing scared. But on big screen, it would surely raise some jump scare moments.

Gils verdict – Tapsee is Topsy in the movie. Semma performance. Aana, Chennai thaandi padam oduma therila. Definitely meant for multiplex and mall theater audience. But very well executed for the target audience. An original attempt that could become a cult classic down the line.

To New Beginnings

As the day broke, for a change, without any alarm or anyone beating/shouting, I woke up on my own!!! Yes. It was nothing short of a medical miracle that me getting up on my own, even after so many years of having gone through the. When your nervousness crosses an invisible threshold, body clock starts ticking in explosive sound that, you can’t keep your eyes close, even if try to shut them tight. I was fidgety to say the least and went on autopilot mode to get the morning chores completed.
It was Junior’s first day of school re-opening.
I was getting tensed as if I myself was the one, who was starting his school life, again!! Junior, though, was at his sprightly best and was all laughing and playing. He was extra chirpy and got ready in no time. All the way from home, I was holding tight on to the auto, with my wife mentioning something to junior, repeatedly, about which I couldn’t quite figure, for I was mentally elsewhere. We both took him inside, to his class room and he waved us off. She was so happy that he didn’t create any fuss and wasn’t crying. We decided to hang back late to watch the proceedings as we had reached the class early. The prayer was about to begin and off marched the kids, with their arms folded back, walking on a stringy straight line. Some of them where crying, not just the kids(!!), some rushing, some came casually strolling, while some were wondering in amazement at the huge playground full of people of all shapes and sizes. Junior was observing everything with his usual curiosity and was noting a huge Ganesha mural on the building. I was pretty sure what would be next on the shopping list, when he came out. Having already screwed up his dance performance, by making myself visible to him, I had been strictly warned, never to show my head, till the time he went back to class. We both were literally hiding behind a wall, watching his every step with a sense of eagerness and dare. After the prayer got over, he was looking around and slowly walked back to his class. Didn’t even realize I was holding back my breath all the while. I slowly started noticing other kids. They were all looking alike, just like my junior and not just because of their uniforms. It felt as if I was standing on a garden, full of beautiful flowers of all possible colors, about to bloom and I was right there in the middle, witnessing the whole event. I felt like gathering all of those kids into my arms and hug them tightly. None of the kids knew what they were up against and each of them were enjoying and living the moment on their own sweet way. On a cynical note, if not that, then what is it worth, felt as if they are all getting ready to be straitjacketed into the societal norms, harnessing their wild, raw spirit and making them all factory ready. Nothing but my own reflections on our schooling system. But, going with the tide has always been the way to go.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Missing crazy

“Gala gala gala vena siri
Andraada kavalaiyai kadaasi eri

Pasiyai maranthaan saappaatu raaman
Pakkathil irunthaan thenali raaman

Pasiyai maranthaan saappaatu raaman
Pakkathile thenali raaman

Crazy..Crazy”

My earliest memory of “Crazy” connect was this title song for one of the Madhu cheenu series, from Doordarshan. The tune was very catchy and “Gold Spot” cool drinks had something similar I guess. Wasn’t sure whether we had TV at home then, but never got to see the programme. Our neighbours, used to keep their TV volume very high and I was the Ekalavyan, who heard just the title song for those awesome laughathons. It was a weekly series I guess and the day after, in school, friends would be discussing, laughing out loud about the wisecracks from the previous day. I would be nodding off, laughing along with them, without even knowing the context. More like Joey from the Encyclopedia episode in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Many of my friends, regularly visited Narada gana sabha, where his troupe played regularly. Even though I had never seen any of his plays live, the next day commentary from friends, where more than a motivation to keep my interest growing. They were always awe struck by the wit and the non-stop jokes that I often used to run those shows on my imagination. One day while coming back from school, I saw a bald uncle, driving past my house on a kinetic majestic scooter. My neighbor who was standing nearby was mentioning to someone that it was Crazy Mohan. I immediately turned to see him again, only for him to have crossed over onto the next street. I felt so happy and proud that, I saw the great crazy mohan, in person. Next day, when I went and told it to my friends, they weren’t quite enthused. Then only realized that they might’ve seen him already numerous times on his plays. At last I felt, I had something to proudly share, which got buzzkilled. I used to see him very regularly from then on and occasionally when he would drive past on his blue Hyundai i 10, he would get stuck in traffic on our narrow lanes and I would be watching him to my heart’s content. Never had the guts to go and talk to him, even though he was just a few meters away from me. Unlike north India, where you can pray to the deity and perform your pooja by touching the idol, down south, there is always a respectful distance, even while standing within the sanctum sanctorum. It is applicable in this case as well.

I always used to read through the ad sections on Hindu paper, that listed all those dramas of S.Ve. Sekar and Crazy mohan, just for checking whether there were any new drams up coming from those two. During college days, one my class mate was a big time S.Ve.Sekar fan and used to recite most of his dialogues by heart. Once I got introduced to mp3 files, soon all their dramas found permanent residence on my play lists. I made up for the lost occasions during my school days, with a vengeance J Once when I was listening to “Meesai aanalum manaivi” on my regular commute, I literally laughed out loud on hearing the chaos around “dead body” manavaalan and how it sabotages the ongoing engagement. The way the jollu mama says “Pillyaar pithaji enna kai vidala” will make any go rolling with laughter. Whenever I see Panchathanthiram, Pammal K Sambandham, Thenali, Sadhi Leelavathi, Vasool Raja, there are always jokes that I would’ve missed, while laughing. “Poovellam kettu paar” would’ve played as many times on our house as KTV would’ve telecasted. It is a strong favorite of my mom and we never miss watching it. His “Echumi paati” , Kicha characterization on his magazine stints will remain forever waiting for their next script. After listening to the audio innumerable times, I got so much used to his word plays that it became part of my vocabulary. If I’ve to write any quip, I would hear some of his dramas, couple of times and would get into the mindset. My lifetime ambition, bucket list, call it whatever, was to meet him in person. Wasn’t sure what would be on the agenda. May be do a “Saashtaanga namaskaaram”, stand in silence in front of him and watch him talk. If I could ever manage a word out, might’ve possibly spoken about our common interest – Mylapore. His brother, Maadhu Balaji, was my college senior by several decades. Would’ve loved to hear about Mylapore of their times and how things have changed in the college of today. His relation with Cho and S.Ve.Sekar and some interesting titbits about their interactions. It gives me thrills to even think of such a meeting, which will never happen now L

Maadhu Balaji’s granddaughter is junior’s class mate. I met him yesterday, during school reopening, just couple of hours before the news broke in. When I told my family about the news, they were also equally shocked. Felt as if someone very close has passed away. It is very hard to imagine his face other than being smiley. I posted yesterday about how I idolize him yesterday and today’s one is more like a requiem!! But, as the little big man would’ve put it, take it easy, life is crazy.

Thank you sir for all the laughs.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Being Crazy

I have often wondered, how people can idolize someone and show such blind faith. The fandom and the craziness with which they defend their heroes and literally worship them, I’ve often felt bad for not being able to enjoy such unbridled passion and love. I have always been nitpicking and choosy, going only by the performances and not on the individual. May be that is why I can never actually have a “favorite” actor/singer/musician whom I can blindly follow. If at all I’ve to break my norms and choose someone, it would be Sujatha, whose books I would ready any day any time, without bothering on a review. The next would be Crazy Mohan. I always felt, the person whom one idolizes, should be acceptable without controversy and should be relatable for general public. Of course, that is the baseline with which every hero worship begins. But without even realizing, Crazy Mohan had been such a great influence on my thoughts and words. I unabashedly and shamelessly try to imitate and copy his word play. More than copying, his style of timing and playing with words, have imbibed so much on me that, nowadays I’ve lulled myself into thinking that its original!!! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to his plays, on repeat modes, during my long commutes, to the extent that, I can quote the dialogues of most of his plays by heart.

I love watching his interviews. Most of the content would be so philosophical yet so funnily told that, anyone can grasp the depth of the point being put forth easily and it would stay with you forever. Some of his anecdotes may sound a repeat, especially about his interactions with Kamal, his teacher and how he ended up naming his characters after them, his family setup and its contribution to his plays etc. But there are certain key points and reasons behind reiterating them time and again. It shows his unshakeable faith on the people in his life. It shows his loyalty bordering on devotion towards those who helped him to be what he is at the moment. It shows sincerity beyond belief to praise and mention those who have mentored and shaped his life, never forgetting about it ever, despite it being told numerous times already, insisting the point that, if someone does good to you, it is not to be measured or quantified over a period of time, but to be remembered for life. The last video I remember of him, has a run time of close to 30 minutes. He mentions how his grandparents shaped his career and higher studies, at least once every 3 minutes and how his family is his pillar of strength, once every 5 minutes. Literally, repeating the same that he loves his family and he owes everything to his grandparents. In between there are humorous bits strewn in about his studies and other stuff in general. One may even be faulted for thinking, why is this guy telling the same thing so many times. But such is the earnestness with which he speaks that, one can never doubt that they are words directly from his heart.

He is such a versatile personality that, he is a master of the “Venba” form of poetry, a brilliant artist who has painted so many portraits, awesome world renown writer who churns out plays and short stories at drop of a hat, dialogue writer for movies and he knows a bit of magic as well, as evident from his “Chocolate Krishna” play!!! He is such an inspiration for so many that, beyond his plays and humor, as an out and out family man, he is probably the last of the Mohicans, who still believe in the concept of joint family and have enjoyed its benefits as well.

P.S: Strangely, by the time this post moved from drafts to live – he has breathed his last!! L

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Of songs and situations

Movie songs are always a source of amazement for me. How did the director, conceive the situation or a particular scene to be followed or preceded by a song? How they finalize the lyrics and the tune? Are the scenes for the song decided before or after composing? Certain songs have some situational sounds being included, like whistling, yodeling, birds chirping etc. Are they decided during the first stage itself or the music director added them out of his choice?
Chatur nar badi hoshiyar song from hindi movie Padosan, Sangeetha swarangal from Azhagan, chinnachiru vayathil from Meendum Kokila – whenever I listen to these three songs, I keep repeating them a few times. Never fails to lift my spirits and make me smile. And each of these songs add up to the above list of questions with no answer J

Especially the hindi song.  What an amazing setup!!
That, it is absolutely racist and demeaning to south Indians, is a sure dampener for many. But for that fact, it is a song which is lifted to a different level by combined brilliance of the director (for having conceived such a situation), the lyricist (what a way with his lines and wonder if it was tune to words or words improvised to tune), the redoubtable Kishore kumar (probably at the peak of his skill), Mehmood (for being unapologetically racist. Wonder how many abused and protested over his performance, yet silently laughed their hearts out) and above all the composer (should I say R.D Burman or the lady who composed it originally, is a topic on which I’ve little info). It starts as a regular song based on Carnatic tune and the moment Kishore kumar enters, its chaos and cacophony. He grunts and cackles his way into the song and swiftly changes the tune and track into his own style. Manna dey, who has play backed for Mehmood, seems to be an exponent on both Hindustani and Carnatic styles. Some of his songs from other movies, are way too brilliant. He tries his best to win back the control of the song and poses a valiant challenge. Kishore confuses the tune and lyrics so much that, the final notes ends up with who has the loudest voice of the duo. Even without a video or tv in front of you, the song is an aural delight and sets your visual imagination on fire. You can’t help smile at the antics and probably the best funny song ever from Bollywood.

K.Balachander and his directorial touch are two sides of the same coin. I’ve seldom seen anyone refer to him through anything but his passionate profession. The man responsible for so many quirky storylines, characters and weird, but likeable, heroines also has a penchant for conceiving song situations. Of all the numerous instances one may quote, Sangeetha swarangal song, has become part of urban lexicon ever since the song got released. The concept of lovers, yakking over phone, has been shown in every movie scene that has a phone. But never in the manner, that has made itself, the bench mark for such scenes. Like Vadivelu, Koundamani’s comedy punchlines, that’ve almost become, regular phrases in daily life, talking non-stop over sweet nothings is often addressed by this song. It brings back nostalgia of TV channel shutting stop around 12 and the omnipresent (rather only-am-present) Doordarshan, which was the only channel, logo with its sad sounding music, silent night with hardly any traffic, with last of the Pallavan buses heading shed-wards and with approaching dawn the sound of milkmen on their cycles, newspapers making crash landing at doorsteps and the good old DD making a comeback the next day, all this happening in the foreground with the love birds chatting away the whole night. The lyrics of the song making a perfect blend even better. It goes like a conversation between the male and female singers, at one stage even complaining about unable to sleep. The excitement of having such conversations over landline, when having telephones itself was luxury and basically having someone to talk to, about everything under the sun, literally, sets the song apart. The accompanying instruments and the tune, never broaches onto the flow and mood and is simply perfect. Couldn’t think of a more romantic song, picturized and conceived ever – till date.

I saw chinnanchiru vayathil song in Oliyum Oliyum decades back. Never liked it first and used to switch channels even recently, whenever it came up. My dad used to like this song I guess for he would always laugh when the kid, who sits on Kamal’s lap, wets his veshti. Some time back, I happened to stumble on this song, while on commute. Without even realizing, I had crossed halfway into the song and then only it hit me. It was quite a  pleasant hear and when I googled about the song, I was surprised to see that, the master lyricist, Kannadasan has penned the song. All throughout, I was under the impression that it was a Bharathiyar song that had been picturized. It became an immediate favorite from then onwards. The picturisation of a “penn paarkum padalam” scene, involving lot of folks from the girl’s side, her shyness and nervousness with which she starts singing, forgetting the lyrics midway and how the prospective groom picks up the song for her are all amazingly realistic. In between, you get sounds of the old lady grinding her betel nut, some other noises as well and to top it all, the kid who sits on the lap of kamal, urinates at the exact line of the song “velli pani urugi mele veezhvathu pol unarthen”. It was a mischievous take on such a beautiful line and kamal’s reaction would be very realistic. The maestro being the composer, it would’ve been cake walk for him. The way he mixes all the accompanying noises in that situation on to the song is as awesome as the song itself.

There are many other songs as well that I want to list down here. Probably some other time, down the line.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Paarkadal by La.Sa.Ra - book review

Sometimes, even to mention the post as a review, when such a big doyen’s work is involved, sounds pompous. La.Sa.Ra is such a reputed person on the tamil literary circles that it is almost given that any of his work would be a classic. Paarkadal (Ocean of Milk) is the first and only book of his that I’ve ever read. Typically, I’ve a prejudice against tamil novels/works, that they dwell too much into layering/metaphors/similes, that some of the work, that I had read, felt more like poetry on prose form and that too not your usual easy going verses type, but more complex ones, which are total bouncers for pulp fiction fans like me. Every time, I resist the temptation to put the book down and pick up a simple English one, I’ve always benefited in unearthing or rather shattering my own belief, by picking one up, which have resulted in enjoying such remarkable creations like this novel.

This book must’ve been a work from the 70’s maybe, but the format is so current – in almost blog post style. May be the easy free flowing format, made it such a relish. It’s nothing but a full scale letter, from a newly wed to her husband. He has left her alone at his place, along with his family members and has been on official assignment, missing out on their first deepavali. She has poured her anguish on the letter, mentioning about, how women have little say in things like this, restrictions on them calling out to their husbands, how society views women who are “outspoken”, unwritten and non-spoken rules at in-law’s place, how being subservience is expected as given from everyone, role of elders in the family and it goes on and on about lack of privacy in joint family setup. The household is typically Brahmin and the lingo and rules are aptly jotted. I am no expert on that, but could relate to many of the mentions. The flow of thoughts, slowly take a turn, like a turbulent water, subduing into a silent yet deep stream, onto the members of the household. The MIL, whom I thought would be villi-fied like typical mega serials, is shown as the star of the story, with the focus totally turning onto her and how she shines as a DIL herself for her MIL and how she competes with her DIL’s in getting things done, despite cribbing and ribbing about it. There are certain practical scenarios, which are genuine laugh worthy moments, where in the newly wed DIL’s are caught in catch-22 situation – neither being able to voice out nor able to digest the ribbing. But when the lady of the letter, sees her MIL and FIL (finds bare minimal mention and is touted as an adamant rude) takes care of the eldest in the family, describes the event of witnessing her elder MIL, making an appearance at the top of the stairs, comparing it to the temple festivals and equating her own in-laws akin to god, the rush of positivity, despite all the misgivings is unmistakable. The story or the letter, rather ends with how one of the fellow DIL’s, who is often shown as moody and hysterical, beats the crap out of her kid for a small prank and how the MIL, wanting to chastise her, ends up understanding her plight and cuddles her in tears, is one of the highlights of the story.

I’ve never been part of joint family and have often yearned for one, looking at my friends with envy, who often resembled Vikraman movie cast. This story, may not find many takers in present world. It talks of something, that has become extinct long back, with the rise of individualism. It shows the strength of our family structure, which is no longer present. It shows that, despite every single member being different, being not correct all the time, are also not wrong all the time and can be alike as well. It shows, how the families are the microcosm of the society as a whole, where there would be wastrels, extremely successful siblings, hateful and lovable relatives, rude yet emotionally childish people. And above all, what a title!!! Its significance is mentioned right at the beginning, where, when the ocean was churned, goddess Lakshmi came along with nectar and so was the most poisonous of all – Alakala visham. Just like that, family comprises of everything and we cannot wish away one for other.

If you love your family, you would love this story.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Avengers End game - a review that isn't

By this time, the movie would’ve already become the all-time highest grossing movie, overtaking Avatar. So, review podalaina saami kutham aaidum endra kaaranthinaal..here you go.

The movie starts from where it got left off from previous one – Infinity war, with more people vanishing without trace, the case in point being one of the Avenger family, that turns him into a vigilante/contract bully. As predicted from the trailer, Ant man comes to the rescue, with his suggestion for time travel. Even though Iron man refuses, he finally relents and the micha socha Avenger team, create a machine, travel across times, collects all stones. All with the aim to revert the, life altering gauntlet snap by Thanos, the super villain. That they fail miserably, as Thanos gets to know of the plan and attacks them ruthlessly this time and how they come up trumps over him, with the loss of Iron man and Black widow, forms the rest of the story and climax.

Egapatta logical loop holes and so many questions unanswered. Yet, you cannot deny the fact that, the movie is a pakka masala mass entertainer, more like tamil/hindi blockbusters. It has gut wrenching drama, emotions, humour, mind boggling actions and romance. Perfect potpourri. Considering that every super hero gets his/her fair deal, the screenplay is nothing short of a miracle. Would probably deserve an Oscar for fusing, so many stories into one finale. Also, no one would want to be the editor for these kind of movies. For the very essence, make or break, depends on the final cut from their room. Way too much responsibility and beautifully done. Give that team an Oscar already. With Iron man dead, finally there wouldn’t be any more series for next ten years I guess, unless someone plans to re-start afresh. But RDJ has literally owned that suit and character that it is impossible to believe anyone else will even consider playing that role ever!! Captain America, is glorified to the extent possible that he rivals Thor in his Hammer wielding episode. Pretty sure, the whistles would’ve bought the house down, during that scene. Pakka mass cinema set up at its best.
Hulk looks the odd one out. I felt his characterization, was somewhat confusedly portrayed. May be because, usually it is two people – one the green monster and other the nerdy scientist. With the merged look it didn’t made sense. Star Lord could fit in only so much. Probably another episode in offing on Guardians of Galaxy -3 along with Thor?

Above all, for Comics fans, this movie is a treasure house. For die hard comics fans, nothing could ever satisfy them, unless every strip of comic is made into a movie. For general movie lovers, this is 3 hours of solid entertainment. No wonder, it’s earning the big bucks. Probably, there to stay at the top for a really long while, by the time, they are done playing the movie across the world.

Game over - movie review

A pakka Hollywoodish movie. For those who crib that our guys slow up the movie with songs and dance this movie would be the answer. A very b...