Wednesday, July 27, 2016

About Kabali and Societal themes in films

Around seven years ago, I watched James Cameron’s Avatar with a bunch of school buddies and happily walked home, thinking about the CG grandeur and visual effects of the film. When I was discussing the film with my close friend, a visual communication student, he asked me.

‘Did you get the concealed theme of the movie’? 

I stared at him for a second and asked.

‘What? Do you mean the ritual practice scene, afterlife and the spirit transfer concepts that resonated with Hinduism and Tibetan beliefs?’. 

My friend: ‘Well it's good that you noticed it but more than that it talks about….’

He went on and on for hours about the underlying themes on Avatar that he had noticed such as militarism, capitalism, conservatism, Imperialism, environmental preservation, the importance of one’s roots, cultural beliefs and lots. I was flabbergasted, to the say the least. It was absorbing to hear him and comprehend the themes he had explained me about. It was confounding to know how a CG-loaded, sci-fi film can speak volumes about appealing societal issues even though it catered the same platter to a fellow like me, a regular movie goer and my friend who is a critic, art student and more than all a socially conscious person than myself. I kept on thinking how I missed or failed to see these elements in the film. The more I thought about it, I understood, it’s not that I’ve failed to notice these themes in the movie but I neither had the fundamental understanding or concerns on some of the themes nor the communal awareness to consume them in the first place.

The more I started watching films coming across all borders, I learned how critical, important and global an art form such as a film is and how responsible and aware a filmmaker must be to put forward the same. Fast forward to 2012, Titanic was re-released in 3D format. I took the girlfriend to see it at a theater. What was supposed a to be a romantic movie date watching a classic movie with fun talks, holding hands and gulping sugar garbage turned out to be a dedicated 3-hour gyaan, focus session for me. I was utter silent during the whole runtime of the movie. I had seen Titanic for countless times in TV earlier but this time, I saw the movie in a different outlook altogether. Just around the corner of its romance and emotions tied the themes of the class divide, Marxism, inequality etc. Now, few more mainstream Hollywood movies have started carrying undercurrent themes concerning civil issues. The creators are even taking big beef from the fans on the portrayal of Black and Mexican characters in films and TV, gender stereotype in animation films, LGBT portrayal, Bechdel test, feminism, white actors playing non-white, Asian and European characters etc. 

Though the number of films is less, Indian cinema is no exception in the forte of films on social issues. The recent Hansal Mehta's Aligarh on LGBT laws in India, Nagraj Manjule's Fandry about the life of a young Dalit boy and Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court on how screwed up and totalitarian a judicial case can get are the some of the best examples. In Tamil cinema, off late, we can notice some of the mainstream films that had stirred a debate or a conversation on critical communal topics. Siddharth’s Enakkul Oruvan, the mercilessly butchered remake of the famous Kannada film Lucia, was criticized for the actor’s portrayal of an uneducated theater usher with a black/ mud makeup. Vetrimaaran’s Visaaranai voiced about police brutality and human rights violation, Karthik Subbaraj’s Iraivi, well, not totally about feminism but more about women’s stand in men’s world, Manikandan’s Kakka Muttai on the problems of globalization, alienation and the role of news media, Bramma's Kuttram Kadithal on the topics of school corporal punishment and the necessity of sex education for kids and Vijay Kumar's Uriyadi on caste-based politics. After a long period, Tamil film industry is churning out some of the best films in the mainstream, on collective issues. When was the last time a mainstream Tamil film had stirred a debate? Meaningful or not, impactful or not, worthwhile or not, an art starts a conversation, a healthy one rather. Its purpose has been achieved here and its creator’s core vision of the art has surfaced the daylight of the masses. And, that’s all it matters.

I didn’t like Pa Ranjith’s debut Attakathi in the first watch but I loved how the director handled a coming-of-age, rom-com story of a roadside romeo, set in semi-urban outskirts of the city. I loved his second work, Madras. Madras spoke the Dravidian politics on the Dalit on the basis of land. In a way, Madras voiced about Dalit's plight and the politics on a higher note than Kabali. Kabali speaks oppressed Tamil people’s issue in Malaysia on the basis of their skin color, dress, and other community-based dogma. A film starring superstar Rajinikanth is being debated for its political theme and social context. The man who shied away from acting in Shankar’s Gentleman and Mudhalvan, for its cast divide and political undertones, had finally dared to act his age and do a film that speaks about an oppressed community and the political concerns surrounding them. Yes, Kabali is bit of a weak film. It has its own flaws, pitfalls in the execution and it could’ve been definitely better but without a doubt, Kabali has arrived with a bang and Pa Ranjith’s deed is done.

The central theme of Oscar-winning film, The Revenant, directed by my most favorite director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s is a man’s quest for survival in the wilderness but it evokes lots of connotations on wildlife poaching, capitalism, colonization, magical realism, westerner’s injustice to the native folks of the land and some leitmotifs that one can notice in Iñárritu’s works such as death, loss, survival, human suffering etc. In the movie, there is a conversation between Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his mixed-race son Hawk.

Hugh Glass: I told you to be invisible, son! 
Hawk: At least he... 
Hugh Glass: If you want to survive, keep your mouth shut! 
Hawk: At least he heard me. 
Hugh Glass: They don't hear your voice! They just see the color of your face. You understand? You understand? 
Hawk: Yes.

In his Oscar speech for winning the Best Direction for The Revenant, Iñárritu said “So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and, you know, this tribal thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”

In every art form, symbolism, motifs, creator’s motives, nuanced themes can be noticed, reviewed, spoken about by critically analyzing and dissecting them into every granular bit. Films are no different. The need for assimilating an art is not a requirement to enjoy it but one can try assimilating it at least to hate less, No? I see so many vicious posts online thrashing Pa Ranjith and Kabali. Tear down a creator for his work of art but not for his personal moral, ideologies and political stand. 

With Kabali, Pa Ranjith has donned a prestigious suit and suited himself in a majestic chair, amidst some of the important, socially responsible filmmakers from Tamilnadu. Let’s respect and welcome Pa Ranjith with open arms and that’s exactly the same thing he envisions to happen for the very people he speaks about in his films. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

'Award winning Tamil short film' - Based on multiple true stories₹


An idea for a short film struck Saravana Subramani after he walked out from a bar. No, after a night show at Sathyam theater. No, after a DVD watch of a foreign film by Flickard Flinklater. He is a bored techie with a broken love life and currently dealing with a quarter life crisis. He reads lots of film reviews online in and an active participant of Sajith vs. Sijay fan rants in twitter. Thanks to his roommate’s 500 GB Seagate HDD, he delved into the films of Darantino, Zcorsese, Hong Kar Woi and of course, Guy Mirchi. One fine day, he realized he can direct a film now.

He called his friend Camerapal, proud owner of the Facebook page Santo Fotography with 172 likes and 220 HD pictures that includes flowing tap water, metro train crossing Tambaram, the broken bridge near Puzhal, Royal Enfield headlight, Mahabalipuram rocks etc.. Camerapal owns an 22700 Canon autofocus DSLR, which already qualified him to be the cinematographer of this untitled short film project. They discussed this project over a beer and prepared to make an award winning, romantic, cult comedy, Tamil short film.

He called his childhood buddy, the charmer, Arjun Arvind who is still friends with him in WhatsApp & messenger. Arjun, a big fan of Sheath Sledger & Sajith, is highly passionate about acting and stardom. Right from his 8th standard annual day dance event, Arjun knew that he always wanted to be a star, a performer, a method actor and all at once. His rugged beard traits and the ability to do the chest press with 125 kg load showed his commitment and passion for his acting craft. Arjun instantly agreed to do the lead.

Subramani was always afraid to make the first move with his yesteryear, super hot, first year, college crush Aishwarya Nandhini Iyer.  He took a bold move and dropped a text to Aishwarya and asked if she is interested in starring as the female lead in his award winning short film. Aishwarya was already busy with her GRE classes but spared some time to do the role, without her father’s knowledge, after our Camerapal made an offer for shooting her 27 profile pictures in a beach backdrop

Subramani’s friend from 'Sunday Rockerz' cricket team Aaron Paul is good in piano and had taken lessons in his Sacred Hearts school. He was appointed as the composer and his junior Vimal Anand, who had made a couple of Macromedia flash video presentation for college symposium has been appointed as the editor.

Subramani told about this short film project to his friends from work and convinced them to help him. They planned to do this short film with a shoestring budget of 3 lakh rupees. The colleagues chipped in a couple of thousand bucks each with a hope of getting cast in the film as extras.

Subramani had to sell his Royal Enfield and settle for a TVS Star. He also convinced his parents for burning his father's savings a little bit. Camerapal managed to rent an EOS 5D camera for a steal deal price of ₹12000 a day. They rented an ECR beach house for 7 days and shot the film mostly in the same spot and the street used in the tamil horror, slasher film Thinnaiyathaandi Tharuvaaya. They shot the film mostly on the weekend for 4 months. They edited it in 3 weeks, followed by a ten days dubbing session. They spent 4 days in a post production lab and finally cut a 27 min short film in a 41.7GB output size.

Thanks to the power cut and Internet speeds of Chennai, Subramani took a flight to Bangalore to upload the film on YouTube, from his uncle’s apartment at Whitefields. He shared the YouTube link of the film in an email, facebook, twitter, google talk, google maps, Quora, Pornhub, reddit and what not.

‘Kaadhal Koffee', the fantasy love story short film directed by Saravana Subramani, milked 9.2 lakhs in total to be made. It broke the internet with 1012 views on YouTube, counting 301 likes,  278 dislikes and 42 shares. Praises flowed from everywhere with lot of polarized comments like ‘Machan kalakkita... sir, super love story.. mams gethu pannita da you are the next Gotham Basudev Meghan.. boring film not worth the time.. timepass short film all the best do well.., the heroine is sexy plz share her phone number.. free Airtel recharge 4G click here.. camera angles good  but stupid romance story... what is ur next film bro.. click here to download hot sunny leone pictures' etc...

Subramani sent it to 25-30 short film festivals spending one more lakh. With a million INR mark, the Tamil short won the prestigious ‘Best romantic short film of the month’ award, finally, ending up as a real award winning short film, in an online poll event conducted by visual communication department of Zapollo arts college.

A year later..

Saravana Subramani flew to Australia for a long term onsite project. He is currently engaged to his cousin.

Camerapal is still passionate about photography. He frequently shoots and uploads HD pics online. His recent project is ‘My unforgettable honeymoon in Maldives – 34 pictures’.

Arjun Arvind recently ran a 10k TZS Marathon. He dedicatedly shares diet related posts & movie quotes in WhatsApp. He still supports Haam Haadmi party Hejiriwal.

Aishwarya Nandhini Iyer moved to Dallas for her master’s degree and often checks into Chipotle for a Vegan Burrito. Now a budding feminist, she enjoys Gossip Girl and a big fan Game of Thrones.

The colleagues & friends who helped to chip in money for the film are still paying back their ICICI, HDFC, and Canara Bank personal loans.

Reflecting on this process and talking about it over Skype, Subramani once told me, ‘Maybe, I should’ve written the idea as a script first’.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thoughts on Dileesh Pothan's 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram'

Full Spoiler Alert. Don't read this if you haven't seen the movie yet. 

The frame opens. We witness Mahesh cleaning his slipper and soaping himself and jumping into the small water body. We as the audience dive into in the life of Mahesh, his life, daily routine, town, home, dad, photo studio, buddies etc. All of this is rendered in a sequence of montages with a beautiful opening song that sets comfortable as niche edited initial pages of the first draft in a pleasant novel which you luckily happen to chosen and flip on a warm Sunday evening. This is a surprise, fresh breeze of the wind for someone like me who come across so many mundane regional movies and every ‘award winning Tamil short film' ever with an opening sequence nauseatingly voiced mostly by the director or one of his film buddies that go like …. 'Alarm clock sound while suprabatham plays in another side. A fellow wakes up slowly and a disgusting voice-over begins… Idhu dhaanga Mahesh. Namba Hero. Idhu avanga appa and amma. Appa: Ne urupadave maata da. Tharudhala. Amma: Appa solra interview ku po pa. Voice over continues.. Idhu avanga udhavadha close friends. Idhu Mahesh oda girl friend Priya. Priya: Ne eppayumey late dhaan da Mahesh. A phone conversation montage followed by the voice over Parunglen namba hero Mahesh phone la epdi kadala podran.  Mahesh love enna aachu. Mahesh enna aana nu namba paaklama.' Why don't you cut the audience throat already? We don't see any of this in Maheshinte Prathikaram or stumble upon an opening sequence with the hero sitting in a bike outside a tea shop mocking his dad and eyeing a girl in the opposite bus stand. Hence, this is indeed new to folks like me. You see where I'm going right. As Mahesh says to his customers in the studio, I adjusted my posture, chin up, shoulder down, eyes open and ready to be genuinely clicked and moved by the art itself over the next few hours. 

After this brief sneak peak into Mahesh's life, we immediately go back to the current time. As a routine, he prepares a drink for him and his father in the night and finds his dad missing. We meet his 2-3 close buddies who help him out in this situation and take him to the police station to file a complaint about the missing father. From his buddies, he learns how odd his father's behavior changed off late. Something that Mahesh hasn't noticed being in the same house with his dad. Just like the fact we realize about our own family/ close one's change in character or behavior from someone else, though we live under the same roof. Disappointed Mahesh comes back home with his friends and finds his father in his own garden taking pictures in the night with a camera. 

After the briefing of Mahesh's life in a song, we see this ‘Daddy is missing' sequence as a guest moved into Mahesh's home and we feel that we were indeed with Mahesh right at this home where all this happened that night. We moved little close to Mahesh now. 

A character named Crispin comes in as a Photoshop assistant for a flex printing shop next to Mahesh's photo studio. Crispin was more like a meta reference to us, the audience. We move even further closer to Mahesh's life and his studio and this is a sign that we are going to meet Mahesh often and get to know him better along with his life circumstances, as the film progresses. 

We then hear about a death of a farmer who Mahesh and his adjacent shop owner were just talking about over their lunch. Mahesh figures out that he is going to meet his childhood crush/ girlfriend at the death ceremony. We get to know more about Mahesh's interest on her, their long distance relationship and the cute romance they share between them. This actually reminded me of the over dramatic Emdan Magan sequence when Barath shouts in joy as if he is now free from his chastity and is all set ready to meet his girl after ages. Now we slowly start to realize how every character, event happenings, actions, and choices are well connected and how everything in the movie has a command and an impact in the film and Mahesh's life in general. 

Mahesh's girlfriend gets a proposal from a financially well off guy. She makes rather a rational decision over an emotional choice and decides to marry that guy. We're left wondering how Mahesh is going to know about this and take it. 

A scene opens on a comedy note, leading to a funny brawl between two folks and a middleman who finally takes the beating in the fight. This scene blows up in a grand way to a whole cause and effect scene leading to a big embarrassment for Mahesh and he ends up getting his arse kicked by a fellow named Jimson in front of everyone in the center of his town. He vows not to wear his slipper again until he beat the hell out his bully. Here, right here, I waited for the frame to freeze and fade to interview card but It didn't. Mahesh comes back home and a news awaits to get his heart kicked out cold now. He learns that his girlfriend has chosen someone else. He hears her breaking down in the phone and saying ‘I am a coward but this is good for both of us'. Mahesh understands her rational choice and situation and realizes she moved on already quick and quiet. He doesn't frown upon days and days and ends up drunk in his father's lap. We don't see his father bathing him clean from his own vomit and advising him to move on like Autograph Cheran's father. Mahesh does not sing ‘Ava enna enna thedi vandha anjala' over few beer with his friends. Mahesh definitely goes through pain. Of course, a huge traumatic one after a heartbreak from his childhood crush, but he handles it smooth, gentle and matured. Perhaps, he was always emotionally prepared for this unfair reality and knew that his heart would be crushed someday, maybe. He decides and prepares to move on. He tries to mend his emotional self and on the pursuit of mending his physical self too, by kicking the bully Jimson's arse. He gears up for a brawl but it's too late that Jimson moved to a foreign country. We all left puzzled now and the frame with Mahesh's barefoot fades to Intermission card. 

This whole sequence, the core of the film, reminded me of Ship of Theseus fame Anand Gandhi's decade old short film Right Here, Right now based on the whole paradigm synchronization of our life choices, the cause-effect of our moods and behavior, and the impact it has on others elements around us. More like a Chaos theory butterfly effect ideology. It would sound funny but I highly advise you to watch it, if not. It's totally magical, how it unfolds, just like life itself. 

The first half alone is so alluring. A lot of events occurred organically in Mahesh's life and you are cliff hanged in the present situation without any reason or answer and you just stand there barefooted, physically and emotionally, with your spirit and existence shocked and staring a plain wall right in front of you. You can choose to end this and leave right here if you are a Nihilist. If you aren't, please continue. 

Just hold on there, still.

The spiritual connection with different characters and factors continues. We get to know that Mahesh has now joined in a Kungfu class to train and beat his bully. He is still in his routine but without a slipper now, a loyal oath keeper. He meets Jimson's sister Jimsy. Jimsy is undoubtedly a special one in Mahesh's life.  We realize this not after a complete character focus on her in the story but by the way she emerges in Mahesh's environment. They fall in love eventually. This is not a typical love at first sight, followed by a rain and Engeyo paartha mayakkam' song sequence. It happened after a cause and effect sequence again but not after a casual meet and greet at Jimson's home. They don't even get to see each other at Jimson's home during Mahesh's visit. 

Her question and remark on Mahesh's profession and his knowledge of the craft shakes his ego deeply. Why did he not just pass her comment as a casual claim on his stereotypic profession and shake it off but takes seriously? Of course, he would've encountered this scenario earlier. But why Jimsy's question is so personal to him.? A result of a cosmic connection he has with her, maybe.  

He learns more about his profession and himself in the next few days. It doesn't happen like a sudden spark of an idea or a brain freeze. He naturally liberates his traditional perspective and gets a better understanding of his craft's potential and senses an artistic awakening. All of this unwraps beautifully in a soulful sequence where his dog, who was always chained in the first half of the film, breaks free and runs in front of him, turns and gives him a stare. We understand how important the dog is to Mahesh, even though we aren't spoon fed in any scene about Mahesh's affection for his dog by hugging him or playing Frisbee with him or practice a romantic proposal or poem in front of him like our actors from other regional films does. Remember, every character and object in the movie has a significance and purpose. 

He then encounters a Mayakam Enna esque realization in the woods. He tries to create a similar magic with his craft on Jimsy and it works. He gets her picture published in the cover of a local magazine. He finds a small, sweet victory and a pat on the back. A little win that we all expect and necessarily want in the dire times of our lives. Jimsy understands his life situation from her friend and sorts out a big conviction between them over a phone and suggests to talk to her on the face if he is okay with her hard truth of being Jimson's sister. All of this quickly over a phone, you see, and not in a dramatic scene built up with tight close-ups and emotional bursts and vigilante promises in a rain backdrop. Mahesh ultimately chose love. The angst to avenge Jimsy's brother still lies within and in a dramatic fight he wins Jimson and wears his favorite slipper back. He goes to hospital meets Jimson and asks for his sister's hand and wins her. All of this happens and we feel nothing here as clichéd. Just like Mahesh we and walk away but we realize and understand that all of this is part of a grand design. Everything happens here for a reason solely based on an outcome of an event or a previous choice by another entity in one's ecosystem. 

Every one of us is Mahesh in our town, own comfort zone, with our little happiness, joy, anger, limitations and worst fears. Even a slight disturbance in this ecology has an impact, creates a story and it changes us for the better or worse. We see the movie not just from Mahesh's axis but also from the other dimensions too. We laugh, feel sad, left puzzled and finally share a win along with Mahesh. For someone who is obsessed with catching up details in every frame of a movie and embrace every character in a film, Maheshinte Prathikaaram is a treat and a visual delight to watch. The blend of realism in a mainstream commercial film is nothing new to some exceptional Indian films especially the Malayalam ones. Even Fahad Fazil's earlier films like North 24 Kaatham and Annayum Rasoolum are a testimony for the same. We need more films like this in Tamil and a Kaaka Muttai and Visaaranai alone cannot satisfy our immense appetite for the art.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thoughts on Anurag Kashyap's 'Bombay Velvet'

The frame opens with a few historical facts and anecdotes in post independent India and Bombay in particular. You see a kid (Johnny Balraj) and his mom just landed in the port of Bombay and struggling to m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶start a living and ready to take any odd jobs. Johnny scales his way up by committing crimes, loves a girl, fights the city, makes loads of enemies, loses everything and breaks totally bad in the end. For cinephiles this wouldn’t be something new but a dejavu of Sergio Leone’s 4.5 hour epic ‘Once upon a time in America’ or AL Pacino’s Scarface or Brando’s The Godfather or Scorsese’s Casino or Goodfellas or Gangs of New York or EVERY FUCKIN GANGSTER MOVIE PLOT.

With so many plot elements taken up, awaiting in the movie table for a well-balanced, perfect alchemy, they all ended up getting aimlessly sprinkled in a broken furnace boiling at a lukewarm temperature. There’s nothing more special, twisted, non-linear or highly cerebral in Bombay Velvet. Everything in the plot is set plain, laid out straight and happens so smooth and linear.

As a Kashyap’s fan, I would love to see the madness in the characters, their untouched and unexplored villainous gray matter, their hilarious black matter, the translucence in their shyness, steamy awkwardness in their sexual arousal, not punch dialogues, but day-to-day use powerful lines of the characters that you can quote and remember on top of your head. Do you remember the countless, memorable scenes from Gangs of Wasseypur with Sardar Khan and Faizal or the pain, remorse and redemption seeking part of Dev D or every single character in Ugly or the investigation room sequences from Black Friday…. Even now, the stabs in the Pehalwan killing scene, and the Dubstep to which the characters in UGLY move and groove, gives me a shiver.  That Kashyap’s magic touch is totally missing in this movie just like a totally lost, non-cohesive, non-impactful plot in the film. Largely, it seemed like a wannabe film made by an amateur who was so obsessed with making a period, rise and fall gangster film and brand/ affix his version of ‘Bombay’ in it.

I feel that Kashyap was too passionate and obsessed with this film project that seeing its final outcome itself was way too overwhelming for him and that had engrossed and overshadowed in witnessing all the pits and shortcomings in the project. Like, how I got so absorbed with the disappointment of this movie experience that I keep on writing its flaws here rather a wee bit mention of the best performances and the movie’s brilliance in its making process.  

As I write this, I try to remember how drenched my ears were to the sweetness of Hindi Jazz and the glitz, glamour and glory of Noir-esque, 60s Newyork-esque Bombay, which has been spectacularly recreated and captured in the frames that audaciously trumpeted Kashyap’s passion and creativity in the making of Bombay Velvet, but I standup lost at some point. The experience that I wanted to take away from Kashyap’s film has been totally robbed, I feel, in spite of all this grandeur in the film.  Emotional chord hasn’t been stricken, to say the least.

Most of us largely loved Kashyap’s earlier works, as a whole, and appreciated them by observing the small nuances and moments that stole our hearts. In case of Bombay Velvet, one should try to forget the pitfalls and shortcomings, which is way too hard, and somehow cope up with it. Hey, after all, this young lad, Anurag Kashyap, had reached Bombay years back, struggled to make a living, stood up against the traditional movie business, broke or at least shook and questioned the monopoly and quality of Bollywood films and blazed us all with so many  brilliant movies like a powerhouse Tommy gun on a leash. This boy had stridden against high tides so many times and this one time he deeply bruised an ice rock but didn’t hit a rock bottom. Let’s give him a hand, put this behind us and wait to see what else he has in store for us. I’m sure he will be back with a bang, once again. After all, he is our Johnny who loves to take a beating, every now and then, but doesn’t wait long to give back one.

P.S. As a hardcore Pudupettai fan, most of the time, I couldn’t stop myself thinking and comparing few scenes and dialogues of Bombay Velvet with Pudupettai. Kokki Kumaru character and Pudupettai will never fail to amaze and amuse me. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Interstellar - A letter to my future self

To my future self,

How’re you feeling now, my little ghost? On 8th Nov 2014, you’d watched Interstellar, the latest baby of Nolan brothers. It’s one of the memorable day in your life. You can very well ask,

‘Did you understand each and every aspect of the film?’ No.

‘Do you give a righteous fuck and have the IQ to dissect and explain the scientific accuracy in the film?’ No, you idiot, you flunked in the high school physics test that involved escape velocity and Kip Thorne’s theories, you remember.

Since its first trailer release, you’ve waited a year for this day and went through random wiki pages and blogs on time dilation, light years, wormhole, singularity, theory of relativity, five dimensional space, black hole, quantum physics and even attempted reading Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ etc... And ended up confused like the time when you failed to understand Binary to Hexadecimal conversion in 7th grade computer class or when your 9th grade math teacher, that arrogant bastard, explained cos^2 θ + sin^2 θ = 1. You felt that there is no point in even trying to understand all these concepts in one read. So, you went and watched/ re watched your favorite sci-fi and time travel films like films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact, Solaris, Gravity, Moon, Blade Runner, Sunshine, Inception, 12 Monkeys, Time crimes, Back to the future, Dark City, Another Earth etc...You even watched that 3 hour long ‘The Right stuff’ that Nolan had mentioned as one of his biggest inspiration for making this film. You did all this for no reason but for the profound love of films, especially the Nolan ones.  Remember how you were feeling so happy and proud while watching and grasping even the tiniest bit from Nolan’s earlier films.

During the movie’s release, you have thought about it quite often, even in your dreams. You heard it OST underwater, during your melancholic long swims. You geared up for the weekend with a few buddies, entered the theatre and found your favorite S.P.O.T. in the dark screen, yes, that same old middle row middle seat of yours. You’d always felt a movie experience so complete, while you sat there and watched a film without hearing any lewd comments, mobile flashes and the never ending cries of small babies. Those little rowdies, where do their parents get the faintest idea of bringing them to theatres? Morons.

The frame opened, there was a flash of light in your eyes. It prevailed and remained undisturbed for the entire runtime, except when it’s clouded with the occasional tears. The earth and dusty apocalypse scenes scared you. You felt that it’s not that far, while the images of Beijing Air pollution scenes flashed in your mind. There were even some scenes where people talk about their life and holocaust, like the interviews from the 8 hour epic Shoah, which you were procrastinating to watch it in a stretch, for ages, you lazy idiot.

The space scenes not just took your breath away but left you dumbfounded. Like the Alfonso Cuaron fellow from ‘Gravity’, our Nolan didn’t just showed the vast space from the top angle or aerial shots. Can I call it aerial shot when it’s shot altogether in space? What about Supreme aerial or aura shots? Something similar to the god-camera that Terrence Mallick uses? You see, Nolan could’ve very well blow you away by showing the vast space, all the time, but he rather treated his IMAX and the regular camera like a GoPro camera and captured the haunting emptiness with tight, intense, close-up shots. When the crew in film left earth and reaches space, looks at how lone the earth is and starts hearing the sounds of nature in space, you related it to how everyone wants to explore life outside their comfort zone, reach a point, feel lonely and try hard to remember and admire their own roots. How ironic, no?

People are drawing comparisons and conclusions to do their best at showing off their IQ and knowledge. They’re stereotyping the father-daughter relationship from Contact and the limbo, aging, locked up state from Inception and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even they are drawing references from Nolan’s earlier films on how the Spacecraft looked like a Batmobile, the spherical cooper station, like the ones from Inception universe. Well, Nolan has prepared himself and his audience all these years for this one film. Inception, The Prestige, Memento and other films of his now looks like a decade long foreplay for Interstellar. He has even said it in an interview on how close the film is to him. Most of them are giving loads of reasons to hate the film and they fail to harbor the beauty of it. The same approach to life and existence, no? We worry, suffer, complain and quarrel loads and miserably fail to understand life, its reality and that it’s a gigantic puzzle which we can never fit all of its parts cohesively at any given instance of time. You seriously felt bad when someone debated about this movie by consuming so little inside and try to learn/ know more to hate it better. Oh, you poor humans.  

You always tried and understood art in your own personal way, my ghost. To you, the perception and conclusion on an art or science or technology is an ever changing phenomenon, but the only advantage of art is, today, one will enjoy it in one view, tomorrow an another one altogether. You might love it or even hate it more in any given day, but still, it will definitely stay closer to you in a more personal way than the ever debated science, with its never ending accuracy or anomaly. Art can never be quantified or equated. Oh dear, to you, science is always like this ‘hot girlfriend’ material that always fights, quarrels and tries hard to fool itself and advance its presence, but art, on the other hand, is like a ‘wife material’, the  last oasis resort to your soul and well-being. This Nolan here has pushed his bounds and limits, did his best and converted his ‘GF material to wife material’. It’s such a beautiful marriage, you see. How could one not see this, but picture the 'art and science' marriage like Mal and Cobb’s marriage from Inception?  

Now you’ll go back and try reading all the blogs and dissection posts that will be up online by geeks, nerds and also assholes. Don’t worry, read it. Unlike many, you are not going to dislike this movie ever in your life. You need to understand more and love it loads. Each and every time, you are going to cherish watching it and think about how it moved you, shocked you, jolted your emotions, left you with a heavy heart and made you cry in many moments, especially the final 20 minutes. Holy!

Do you still feel lost, after finding and reading this? Don’t be. You’ve loads of moments engraved in your mind that you can think and feel lively all over again.  As a fellow Twitterati says ‘If you didn't enjoy Interstellar, the loss is entirely yours. We are lucky that way’. We truly are, my adorable ghost. I don’t know if there could be a next time, but until then, adios.

P.S. Don’t ever knock the window glass ever again. It scares the shit outta me, you dumbfuck.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Anjaan - A passionate LGBT revenge saga that none understood

In these recent years, lot of genre breaking Tamil cinema has been released, right from Soodhu Kaavum to the most recent Jigarthanda. Young filmmakers are on a roll and mission to change the system which has been polluted, populated, pissed, puked, corrupted, drugged, seduced, BDSMd by assholes with money and cinema background. Young filmmakers, and the awareness that they’d created, are a potential threat to mainstream filmmakers and star actors who are making desperate attempts to make a brainless, commercial, money making film.

I watched Anjaan in a European city where very few Tamil films gets released. The last release was Irandam Ulagam. The tamil distributor at my place become almost homeless after releasing the movie it seems. After that disaster, he tried to release Anjaan but poor fellow, I guess, is homeless now.

Anjaan is a revelation in tamil cinema. No, in Indian cinema. No, in world cinema. I guess the audience didn't understood the story and plot line exactly. We don’t have an innovative, knowledgeable tamil crowd, you see. Let me break down the story for you.

Raju bhai and Chandru are a passionate, homosexual gangsta couple. They’d fallen in love after moving to Mumbai, even before turning as gangsters. They workout, go to male salon, do whole body waxing, pedicure, manicure, eye brow threading, lip job, nose job, blo and everything together. Raju bhai is greatly feared by the entire city but loved passionately by Chandru. Raju bhai, Chandru and his gangster aren’t like the typical Mumbai gangsters or India or Pandora or Mars planet gangsters. They are cool, hi-fi dudes, successful modelling stars and Gold gym platinum card members who drive Range Rover, Mini cooper and use Apple Mac laptop, iPhone, do roof top barbecue, use GRE vocabulary and all in their regular conversation (clumsy crowd).

Raju bhai come across Jeeva, the heroine, who resists and avoids marriage as she is not sure about her own gender, sexuality and existence. This 10th grade, bikini, barbie girl from Mean girls movie hits on our Raju bhai without realizing that he is gay. Raju bhai gets confused of his own sexual orientation, after the heroine’s encounter and approach towards him. He plans to turn straight or bisexual or whatever.

The villain, the CEO gangster of the city, dislikes the popularity and attention that these gay gangsters had got themselves. He despises them and uses a P word (Panni meaning pig, which is even worse than N word nigga) on Chandru. As his gay partner was cursed, Raju bhai kidnaps the villain and strips him in front of Chandru for a pole/ lap dance. Chandru gets deeply touched, not physically but emotionally, because of this act. There was almost a close, up tight sexual encounter and a steamy lip lock in a scene where Chandru gifts Raju, his boyfriend/ husband (or whatever role play they are into) a Mini Cooper. I told you know, they were hi-fi gangsters bitches! I guess the sex scene was censored or trimmed for U certificate. The villain gets irritated and kills both Chandru and Raju.

BANG BANG BANG!! Intermission. A Short break for taking the guy/ girl next to your movie seat to loo and BANG BANG BANG!!

Raju escapes the shootout and comes back to find the villain and the traitors of his gang who were responsible for the death of his Juliet, Chandru. Raju disguises himself as Krishna and claims himself as brother of Raju, with a clean shave, spectacles and a walk stick. This makeover is something similar to the twin or negative double in MGR movies where a character wears a small mole or lungi or mud/ black make up and performs the role of the hero’s twin. The changeover from Raju to Krishna is remarkable. Screw these make-up artists from Cloud Atlas, Hobbit and The curious case of Benjamin Button, I say. The make up man who had made a Photoshop make up to the kid version of Surya in Aadhavan might've done this film. 

Later, we were shown a flashback where the heroine finds the homo stuff between Chandru and Raju and asks them about it. She even tries for a threesome, but, as Raju bhai and Chandru gets intimate and avoids her in their conversation and sexual act, she leaves the scene with despair and broken heart. She even acknowledges Raju bhai's love for Chandru and blesses them to live happily ever after. As she couldn’t change Raju’s sexual orientation, she converts her religion and wears a Purdha. Please don’t ask me why.

Krishna finds the killers and traitors by roaming from Bar to club, pub, Whore house, Real estate office, Merriot hotel, Car parking etc.. He almost kills the villain by shooting at the holographic projection of villain., Remember the one made for Tupac and NaMo?. Yeah, Science bitch!! After missing the chance he finally kills the villain and settles with heroine. This is Anjaan’s real story.

I guess the director, editor, musician, actor, producer and everybody associated with the project were either high with weed and marijuana, the whole time, or simply wanted to make fun of the audience and society. No sane or conscious person can pull off a script (not sure if they’d one) or a movie like this. This is a benchmark in Indian cinema and a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) awareness film that nobody has had the patience, guts, passion, ambition and knowledge to create and understand in our society. The makers must consider sending this to Cannes or Busan or Toronto or Tribeca film festival. They celebrate movies with homosexual context and it wins so many awards at lot of International film festivals. Sex sells in film festivals, man, and only that intellectual crowd can decode and dissect the inner meanings of films of these sorts.

The entire movie is so unreal. The story happens in a whole different universe. You’ll never come across any of these characters in any world. May be, there is a less possibility to find them in Irandam or Moondram ulagam. I was surprised to know that the marketing team of Chennai express movie is still promoting and advertising their movie, even after a year from its release. Pepsi, Apple, CAT boots, Rayban, Range Rover, BIG Cinemas were also sponsors of the film, it seems. The second half of the movie gives a big tribute/ ode to Hans Zimmer, Slumdog Millionaire OST Dreams on fire, 70s exploitation and Blaxploitation films, their music, Hologram etc.. I guess this is the spoof comedy movie Azhuguni Kumar directed by Karthik (Siddarrth) in Jigarthanda, starring Bobby Simha.

Rather than Anjaan, they should’ve titled this film rhyming something similar to Blue is the Warmest color or Strangers by the Lake, two great films about the topics on homosexuality and love, that I’d watched recently. How about renaming the title to Mumbai is the warmest city or G(h)ay by the Shore? Oh, poor me, English title means no tax exemption, right? But boobs, cleavage, booty, brothel, violence, bloodshed and vulgarity are allowed for U Certificate? Whatever man.

I wonder why no one yet had found out or made a claim that this violent, gay, gangster, revenge saga is copied from the 2012 South Korean film Ambalaingalin Gajagajavo by Jing-Jangke Jhuk. Drop me a message for torrent link of this Korean film, if you need. I am also looking forward a success party by the makers, titled "'Firstu girl from Pammal to wear bikini: SUCCESS MEET" (Courtesy: @WothaDei).

If you still haven’t seen Ahhhhhhhhhhnnnnjhhhaaaaannnnnn, go watch this masterpiece, a fine work of art from director marijuana funded by modern day corporate #$%#$^!$^!$^!$^%^&$#!@!#~#.

P.S. The next time, if you enter a gay bar and find a tattoo or entry stamp sealed ‘Raju Bhai’, Please don’t be surprised, and a guy with toothpick basically passes you an erotic signal for giving you a blo… *BEEEEEEP*

There goes my €10 down the drain. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thoughts on 'Boyhood' and the films of Richard Linklater

Before Sunrise introduced Richard Linklater to me. I watched it 8 years back by the time I started to break free from mainstream movies and delved into foreign films, period films, Art and Independent cinema. Actually, Mr. IMDB recommended it to me (People who liked Notting Hill also like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset). It was unlike any other films that I’d seen. Yes, I’d seen our Woody Allen’s films where he always talk and talk and blabber and talk right from psychology to nature to religion to relationship to ‘men are from mars and women are from venus to communism to world war to dating to French women to Italian artistry to film making to smoking to claustrophobia to kids to anarchism to narcissism to nihilism to New York to Manhattan till life. Either Woody or his lead actor/ actress will be dominant on-screen and make the other party numb/ dumb/ weak in the conversation. Here, in Linklater’s films, two lives talk their heart and soul out. This is what makes his movies (Linklater’s artistic works aren’t just movies, but yeah, I don’t have a term to suit up for this argument) a special one. A man and a woman just don’t talk about love and relationship. They talk life itself.

Now, my fellow movie buffs will wage a war against me for leaving out the films of Jean Luc Godard where the male-female conversation has always had a huge part. The conversation between the Hero and Heroine, right from the road to her apartment room in Breathless (1960), the silent stands scene of the trio from Bande à part (1964) and Post-sex/ sleepover conversation between the writer and his girlfriend in Le mépris (1963) are classic without a doubt. On a deeper perspective, the dialogues, conversation and the theme of their speech would be way too abstract, sketched, impulsive, highly cerebral, Kafkaesque or tough to connect. I feel, maybe, the French-to-English subtitle translation of Godard films might’ve lost/ added a different context to the narration. Isn’t it? But we all owe a big time to these French folks for many things. The Inception of subtitling, Coffee& Cigarettes combination, new cinematic frames, wonderful filmmakers and last but not least their film noir.

Back to Linklater, from his popular Before series, I moved to Dazed and Confused. It came to me as surprise package in a period where I was watching classic coming-of-age films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, The 400 Blows, Stand by me,  Rushmore, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Dead Poets Society etc.. The life lessons that one can take from the coming-of-age films, man, it’s unexplained. They must be termed as a coming-of-life films, I say. This is applicable to Boyhood too.

And then his Tape, a typical high school reunion of three friends that builds up to heated, traumatic conversation and drastic actions. It’s similar to the type of domestic trauma, tension and heat that develops amongst the characters from Asghar Farhadi’s films like A Separation, About Elly, Fireworks Wednesday and The Past.

Next comes School of Rock, which I’d seen on HBO and thoroughly enjoyed. It made me to watch Linklater and Jack Black combo again in Bernie, a wonderful ‘based on a true story’, black comedy about a charming criminal and a murderer. Bernie is Linklater’s take on black comedy at its best. I progressed to Waking life, next. Even though it was thematically, philosophically, morally inclined at heights beyond my consciousness and understanding, the grasp and sniff of it, like a dope, made me go high and elated. Must re watch it again, someday.

All this led to my 5-year hunt for a good print of Slacker (1991), the film that mapped Linklater at Sundance and the film world, which was unavailable for years, until our dear, beloved, doer of good deeds, grand Uncle Mr. Criterion Collection restored it in a gorgeous Blu-ray. Sudden encounters, hookup, walk by, pop-in, drop-in, checking up, going-out etchappen amidst the Texan population and the characters discuss right from poop to weed to accident to love to death to science to Scooby Doo to Meta physics to mattress to burglary to world war to what not. Slacker is a full course meal which will make your stomach and mind full for months.

Coming to Boyhood, 12 years in the making, it traces the life of a boy from age 6 to 18. We witness not just this boy, but his father, guardian, mother, friend, sister, grandma, grandpa and various important folks in the boy’s life, for the entire 12 years. Like us, he experiences everything that one needs to experience in their 6 to 18s. Right from pestering elder sister, childhood friend, new school, shifting homes, first crush, mom-dad fights, first porn, kiss, night out, party, inspiring school teacher, finding the true calling and passion, junior school, senior school and college etc... Linklater loves to play with them.

Unlike the movies where we witness characters unfolding over time (In films like Cameron Crowe’s Almost famous, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Anurag Kashypa’s Gangs of Wasseypur, Jim Carrey’s Truman Show, to name a few) in Linklater’s films we see time unfolding the characters. Time revolves at the apex of his narrative content and everything / everyone ( including the plot / story ) around it. All his films are such a piece of art.

One might say that Boyhood doesn't have a proper story, but yo!, the movie unfolding right in front of your eyes and trailing these characters life itself is a one helluva story, I say. Right from the Coldplay track, Beatles reference, life lessons from father Hawke, emotional outburst of busy/ working mom, Gameboy, Nintendo, Wii, Big ass desktop computer, flip mobile phones, long hair style, retro t-shirts, film roll camera, faded denims, art obsession, the traces from his life’s early 2000 till 2013 were aesthetically captured.

Being a late 80s kid, I would already feel nostalgic with 90s reference, but Linklater made me even more sad and nostalgic by showing early 2000s and 2010s as a flash of sweet memory and dejavu. This make me wonder, yell and ask myself ‘Man, Am I getting fucking old and aged?’ Dammit. Fuck You Linklater. I am in my prime 25s and your films makes me to feel old already and think like mid-30s. Fuck you, seriously.

One must see Boyhood as the gateway to Linklater’s films. Watch it first and then move on to his other films. As discussed above, Linklater has a foot print in coming of a̶g̶e̶ life, romance, Life philosophy, dark comedy, animation (A Scanner darkly & Waking life) and what not. So enter Boyhood and pick your favorite department/ DVD later on.  I would like to discuss more and more about Boyhood and the profound impact it had on me, but at the same time I don’t want to spoil your movie watching experience.

Boyhood is a new landmark and a remarkable achievement, not just in film making, but on the whole cinematic process itself. There is a little piece of life in every poem, art, essay, music and movies. And there is Richard Linklater's Boyhood as the collective sum. Experience this delicatessen that will serve you the real meaning of existence with a cocktail blend of time, life and emotions, unveiling right in front of your very eyes and get lost in its serenity and gargantuan beauty.

Not really, but miiiiiiiiild mild plot spoiler alert, in the following lines. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your morale so read on.

Now that I’d seen Boyhood from 6 to 18 and the frames ceased out right when he enters the college, 2 decades from now I would love to sit in front of my home theatre and watch Boyhood sequel that traces his life from college to adult to relationship to marriage to kids. Oh wait. I’d already seen that in his Before Sunrise, Sunset & Midnight Trilogy. Holy, You fucking Linklater. What, man? Is this a prequel to Before trilogy?

And Hey, the only thing that I’d missed witnessing or I would’ve loved watching in Boyhood is his pet and a death of his closed one. Had Linklater touched upon the Pet and human/animal loss, would that have been even better or worse or Clichéd?... And that’s how I start/ strike a random conversation, with you, my stranger/friend/reader, like a character from Linklater’s films.