Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inglourious Basterds, Very Glorious

Now if you have watched Kill Bill, you would know what a stylish director Quentin Tarantino is. But the real strength of his movies is the depth in the script and the performance that he extracts from the cast.

Inglourious Basterds is certainly a must watch. Don't be deterred by the fact that it is another movie about World War 2 and that it is as much French and German as it is English, it makes a great watch.

The movie is about two parallel plots being hatched by disconnect groups to assassinate Hitler. While one is hatched by a French Jewish girl whose family is executed by Germans, the other is led by a team of Jewish Allied soldiers. Incidentally, both plan to assassinate Hitler and important German officers during the premier of a German movie at the theater owned by girl.

I personally loved the movie because of Christoph Waltz. He plays the role of SS Colonel Hans Landa who also was responsible for the death of the girl's family. Waltz excels as a The Jew Hunter. While one can easily hate the person, it is an actors nightmare, as Tarantino himself has acknowledged. As mentioned in Wikipedia, "...character who is courteous and speaks four languages but is self serving, cunning and callous, Tarantino feared he "might have written a part that was un-playable".

No wonder, Christoph Waltz won the Oscars in the Best Supporting Actor's category. Very nice!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Hate Luv Stories, Puppy Love

We are so prejudiced. And as far as Hindi films go, I, certainly, am. I believe that there is more style than substance in Hindi movies.

When I Hate Luv Stories was released, I told myself that this would be another one of those meaningless stupid Hindi movies. So, like I do all the time, decided to skip it.

But thanks to the in-flight entertainment on Kingfisher flight I took to Mumbai, couple of weeks back, I chose the movie over the book I was carrying to read. Before I begin on what I thought, let me say that I didn't get to watch the climax as the in-flight announcements and duration of the flight cut it short.

I hate to admit it, but I was giggling away to glory on those juvenile humor. Though Om Shanthi Om also takes a dig at the film industry, this movie is more comprehensive in the way it ridicules the love stories films. Of course, there is nothing new in the storyline. Boy meets girl, they both fight and then fall in love. Of course, there are too many twists that kept me hooked.

Well, by the way, IHLS is quite stupid movie with little intelligence, but then not everyone may want to watch serious movies all the time. If you are young at heart, this may keep you occupied and giggling.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Udaan, Parental Guidance

Mata Pita Guru Deivam!

This was something that I had heard from my parents often when I was a kid.

Indian culture and mythology is full of lessons in respect for parents. School books reinforce it. There is enough literature and other content which has depiction of parents as strict disciplinarians.

But when in Udaan the psychotic Father instructs his son to call him Sir, just like a junior would refer to his senior in college during ragging days, I thought it was a bit too much.

But then movies are often inspired by life, it is said.

The wristwatch stands testimony to the tyranny that is being passed from one generation to the other in the movie. With your own parents being the biggest influence and with no proper education on parenthood, it is only but natural for a human being to imitate what has been experienced.  

Actually the movie is not as much about the son who suffers, but it is about the father who is caught up with the old-world child rearing. Though he appears callous, there are scenes which have subtle expressions of love for his children. The tormented soul is never able to break the shackles, though.

A very different movie which not everyone will be able to appreciate. Since, I have my own experiences to refer to, I am able to appreciate what has been portrayed.

There are some nice performances. Especially, the tiny younger son!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kamal Hassan: Self Obssessed?

Women have very strong opinions. Especially, the erudite.

Here is this lady at office, fanatically devoted to Rajinikanth, who commented that Kamal is narcissistic (not the exact words). She accused him of occupying every frame in the movies that he acts. In particular, she referred to Dasavatharam. It is very difficult to refute this statement.

But after spending a little time over this accusation of hers, I realized that Indian film industry is all about the male actor. Make no mistake, I mean the lead male actor. So what's wrong in Kamal hogging the screen, I thought? Then I began to think more and I realized that contrary to the popular opinion held by anti-Kamal group, the legend is probably the only actor of that stature to share the screen with various actors. Unlike movies of Rajini or any other actor for that matter, Kamal's movies provide ample space for his co-actors, in fact, quite often they steal the thunder.

  • Sathi Leelavathi: The movie about extra-marital affair was a super duper hit. If you remember, the lead in the movie is not even another male actor but it is Kalpana, not a typical heroine material, if I may say so. But what was path breaking was that Kamal paired with Kovai Sarala, a comedian! I remember it caused a bit of an uproar that Kamal. Can any other actor even think about it?
  • Magalir Mattum: Like the previous movie, Magalir Mattum was also his home production. The movie is about sexual harassment in office set up. Three women (Revathy, Urvashi and Rohini) gang-up against their conniving boss (played by Nasser). Kamal does make an appearance in the movie but only for a brief period and that too towards the end. It was certainly the female trio and Nasser who carry the movie through.
  • Kurudi Punnal: A remake of Govind Nihlani's Drohkaal, the movie was known for Arjun and Nasser's performance. In fact, Gowthami is still remembered for a particular scene where she persuades a naxal to not harass Arjun's daughter by 'offering herself'. Was numbed. Kamal, if you think about it, took a rather weaker role for himself. A character that compromises.
  • Tenali: This movie is remembered as much for Kamal's Sri Lankan Tamil as for Jairam who plays the role of a hassled doctor.
  • Anbey Sivam: This is certainly a Kamal movie but honestly I think there was enough meat from Nasser and Madhavan. 
  • Virumandi has Pasupathi and Abhirami dazzle. Madhavan is the lead in Kamal's home production - Nala Damayanthi. And this is not a recent phenomenon. Ages ago, Sathyaraj was the protagonist in Kadamai Kanniyam Kattupadu, a Rajkamal productions.
And those listed above is not the comprehensive list of movies where Kamal shared the screen equally with other actors, big or small. Further, women always have a great opportunity to perform in his movies. If you would remember Revathy in Devar Magan.

I believe that Kamal has a penchant for talent. He has always promoted those who have potential. I think he is a strong believer in casting for the role.

During schoold days, my friend Manoj made a comment that hurt me quite a bit. He said that women who act in Kamal's movies have a shorter life span on the screen, meaning they flop after that. For a long time, I believed it. But now I realize that there is a strong reason for it. Most heroes have female leads who are rather young and novice in the field of acting. They are chosen for the glamour quotient. On the other hand, Kamal's heroines are high up in their learning curve. High on acting prowess and less on baby doll quotient. Manoj, what do you have to say now? :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Aandhi, A Turmoil

I have already watched Avishkaar (starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore) and Anubhav (starring Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja). And I wondered how these 70s films were so ahead of time. They dealt with complex husband-wife relationships. They are such mature films that they put the contemporary Hindi films to shame by their depth.

Aandhi is a film by Gulzar starring Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen. Supposed to be 'inspired' by Indira Gandhi's married life, the film is about the strain in relationship due to an ambitious wife and a man caught up in the traditional old world life. Aarti is daughter of a business man who wants the daughter to achieve something in life. Join politics, precisely, so that it would help him in business. But she falls in love and gets married to JK, a hotel manager.

But a desire to enter politics, fueled by father, leads to a strain in her married life. JK prefers his wife to be at home, do the chores and take care of the kid. Aarti decides not to be a typical housewife and moves out.

9 years thence, fate brings them together when Aarti comes to the town for an election campaign and stays at the hotel headed by JK. How they come together represents the change in Indian society. Emancipation of women and an acknowledgement by men that wife is not necessarily for the house.

You will love each and every song. They will haunt you for long time. Sanjeev Kumar is fantastic in the role and plays it with such elan, persona dignified.

I think the Indian society and marraige has long moved from the state that is portrayed in the movie, but still it has a lot of meaning even in the changed circumstances. Must watch.

On a side note, the one thing common to Aandhi and Anubhav is AK Hangal. He plays to servant in both the movies and has almost very similar dialogue. Watch for it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hannah And Her Sisters, A Mess

Must say, this wasn't all that funny for a Woody Allen movie. Not that it wasn't, but it was slightly more serious but not uncomfortably heavy.

I think when Woody Allen thought about the script, he was under depression and had many thoughts running in his mind. The movie has many themes, each quite suitably handled by the actors.

Hannah's husband Elliot gets entangled in a relationship with her sister, Lee. He seems to have lost it for Hannah because of self-sufficiency and resentment of her emotional strength (picked from Wikipedia). Lee, herself, is living-in with a reclusive artist, Frederick. And seems like she has lost it for him as she doesn't feel equal.

Then there is the third sister, Holly, who is not too sure what she wants in life. She is contemptuous of Hannah despite the financial dependency.

The only comic relief in the entire set-up is neurotic Mickey, Hannah's ex-husband. Of course, Allen plays that role, so you can be rest assured that he is funnily irritating. Now, his part in the movie explores life, death religion and spiritual awakening.

It is a typical Woody Allen movie, albeit a bit serious.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Purple Rose Of Cairo, The Real & The Reel

Woody Allen never disappoints. If you are looking for meaningful cinema about serious issues without getting a headache but certainly that can exercise muscles in the face and gut, chose any one of his flicks. You will never be disappointed.

The Purple Rose of Cairo is a very interesting film with an innovative treatment.

The movie, set in the Great Depression era, is  about a Cecilia (Mia Farrow) who is married to an abusive Monk (Danny Aiello). She makes many failed attempts at moving out of the marriage but returns, finding no place to go. The only solace in her life is movies.

While watching The Purple Rose of Cairo for the fifth time, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), a character in the movie breaks the fourth wall, and runs away with Cecilia. They begin to like each other and fall in love. A pandemonium breaks out as the cast in the movie are now not sure what to do with Baxter gone and movie goers are puzzled with how the movie will proceed.

Gil Shepherd (Jeff Daniels) who plays Baxter on the screen is brought into solve this peculiar situation. In the process, he also falls in love with Cecilia. An interesting scenario.

This is a very intelligent movie that keeps you entertained in every scene. I loved the scenes involving Baxter in the real world and the cast of the movie on the screen conversing with people in the real world. Must watch!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Rajinikanth Is A Superstar?

That Rajinikanth can still command a salary more than any other Indian star can only imagine and that in the recent past his movies evoke strong interest across the nation and many other countries, despite being a Tamil film hero, is pretty intriguing. As a Tamilian, I do feel very proud about that.

I have been a Kamal Hassan fan since I was a kid. I have had fights with my mother, classmates and cousins over who is a bigger/better hero. There would be extreme excitement and nervousness during every Diwali and Pongal to figure out whose movie would be a bigger hit. And most of the times, I would end up with bitterness, as the dark skinned and ugly hero would romp the box office.

Rajini to his fans is demigod.

Interestingly, some ignorant lady tweeted saying that Rajinikanth is only about style and smoking. Or something to that effect. In fact, to many, and even to me for a long time, Rajini was all about style. He has a very weird way of doing things. Whether it was wearing glasses or smoking a cigarette or just a simple walk, his style element has become legendary.

He cannot dance. His range of emotions is limited. Most importantly, as I said earlier, he is anything but good looking. He doesn't even possess a well built body, a must for all the new age actors. Then what is it that makes Rajini a phenomenon?

  • The vacant spot: Before the Rajini-Kamal era, it was MGR-Shivaji period. Quintessentially, while one entertains the masses, the other takes up the cudgels for performance.  Kamal and Rajini were fighting for the dominance till a point came when consolidation of turf became inevitable. And it was during this period that the two stars decided to chart out a different course for each other. With a grounding in the film industry, Kamal naturally filled in for Shivaji Ganesan. And Rajini became the mass hero. But just as Kamal is different from Shivaji, Rajini is completely different from MGR.
  • The style element: There is no denying that style was and is Rajini's differentiating factor. I would be only look stupid if I even elaborate further on this. I have, despite my devotion for Kamal, always attempted Rajini stunts, often failing in it. I especially love the cigarette flick and wearing the glasses. In an industry that has always been crowded with many aspiring for the glamour and fame, his signature styles helped him establish and make a mark for himself.
  • The look: It has often been said that people like Rajinikanth resembles the common man, hence the masses love him. They are able to relate to him, it is often said. Well, it does sound true. But then, MGR was anything but dark. While I don't think it is incorrect, I cannot agree with it completely.
Long time back, when I was servicing Lason India, the then President of the company, Mr. Pradeep Nevatia, said that the more a person grows up the ladder, the more one has to be humble. He went on to explain that a person reaches the top because there are many supporting from below. Losing humbleness, is akin to kicking the very ladder in which one is standing. In Rajini's case, the glamour and fame never got into his head. Rajini's fans hold him in respectful veneration. He is very approachable. I can vouch for it, myself.

While what I have pointed out certainly contributed to his success, I think it is his own story that people like. It's well known that Rajini's is that of rags to riches. He was a bus conductor who, through dedication, perseverance and hard work, grew to stardom. People relate to him, because he is one of them. Not just in real life, but also on the screen. His movies are always, almost always, about a humble poor man who through hardwork and struggle succeeds. It is a recurrent theme. Dharma Durai, Padikadavan, Panakkaran, Velaikaran, Veera, Muthu, Annamalai, Arunachalam, Basha, Padayappa and Sivaji. There may be slight differences but at the core is the story of struggle and success.

Rajini is not a superstar because of his acting skills. He is, because he is a symbol for an ordinary man. He gives hope. He represents struggle. He is a beacon of light for those who want to succeed. In Public Relations, there is a concept called perception reality dissonance. In Rajini's reel and real life, there is just no dissonance. And that makes him the phenomenon, that he is!

Coming this from a die hard Kamal fan, means a lot! :)

PS: A note to Ilaya Thalapathi Vijay and Simbu. You may fancy occupying the space that Rajini might vacate. And I think you are already imitating him. Remember you can easily copy what he does on the screen. But it would be better if you learn more from the true self.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Luck By Chance: Shades of Grey

Javed Akhtar must be a really proud father. Farhan-Zoya Akhtar, the twins, are probably the most talented Directors in Bollywood today. Farhan, of course, excels in acting department with his subtle underplays, too.

I loved watching Luck By Chance and advice people who love intelligent films not to miss it.

The movie revolves largely around Farhan Akhtar and Konkana Sen. While Farhan who has just passed out of an acting school is aspiring to make it big, Konkana is an actor whose stars are fading. But believe me, the movie does justice to every character in the film. Be it Rishi Kapoor who acts as a hassled producer or Hrithik, a super star, or Dimple Kapadia, an ex-star and mother. The film is complete.

Every character's life is interconnected with others in some way or the other. It is also pretty realistic in the sense that every character has shades of grey. Especially, the way Farhan makes his moves. In one scene you may hate a particular character, but in another scene you realize that it was fine and empathize.

While the movie is set in the film industry, it could easily be in any industry. Though it is close to reality, it wasn't a bit nauseating which is often the trademark of Madhur Bhandarkar.

Hoping to see from Zoya.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge: Soaked In Culture

This is like a Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie set in contemporary times. Ashwni Dhir, the director, does a nice job in giving lessons in Indian cultural, capture the urban lifestyle and all the while tickle the funny bone. Maybe, just maybe, a few moments, it was bordering preachy, but it never crosses the limits.

All the three main cast - Konkana, Ajay and Paresh - have given a nice measured performance.

The movie is about a couple with small kid who receive an unannounced guest. Everything seems fine, till the couple realize that the guest is in no hurry to leave. To add to their misery, he is a simpleton with no exposure to urban sophistication. The couple use a variety of methods to eject the guest out, but meet with failure every time. However, in the end they realize their folly and understand the valuable contributions he has made.

If you are looking for a movie that will entertain you and also teach a lesson about hospitality, watch it. I particularly loved the bit where Ajay takes Paresh to the shooting spot where the latter takes fascination for Viju Khote! Athithi Tum Kab Dekhoge!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Baton Baton Mein: Fall In Love

The smile you acquire when watching this movie gets fixed long after it gets over. Set in 1970s in Anglo-Indian community in Mumbai, the movie is about mature apprehensive people falling in love with each other.

Baton Baton MeinTina Munim has bad experience because of which she is apprehensive about men. Amol Palekar, who is just settling into a career, doesn't want to rush into marriage and commitment. He is also finding his ground and wanting to come out of his mother's shadow.

The innocent comedy apart, every song in this movie is beautiful. All characters stand out.

I wouldn't mind watching the movie again for the songs and ravishing Tina Munim. Falling in love with her. Of course, now she isn't what she was then. :(

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Karthik Calling Karthik: A Pep Talk

Karthik Calling Karthik (New Farhan Akhtar Hindi Film / Bollywood Movie / Indian Cinema / DVD)

The movie is about a submissive pushover Karthik. Pushed to an extreme, he decides to take his own life. Just at that moment, he receives a call. A call from himself! The story moves with the Karthik-over-phone (KOP) mentoring the real-life-Karthik (RLK) on how to redeem his honor and win.

Life changes completely and the new Karthik seems invincible. The twist comes when he has to admit that he receives calls from himself to Shonali (Deepika), the lady love. Despite being warned against it by KOP, RLK commits the blunder. An angry KOP is now determined to 'finish' RLK. And thus begins the nose dive for the latter.

What happens to RLK, thereafter? Who is KOP? That's the story.

The treatment for a serious subject like Schizophrenia, I must say, is shallow. But that doesn't mean the movie is bad. The trademark muted performance of Farhan Akhtar and pretty Deepika keep your eyes glued. Though I felt the chemistry was lacking between the two. The movie is certainly not for the masses. Though it is not gripping, it certainly doesn't bore you.

Ninja Assasin: Disgruntled Employee

Blood on the dance floor. Errrr...sorry, blood all over the screen. People get cut as if they were birthday cakes and blood splashes as from an exploded undersea oil well.

A visual treat, this movie is nothing else. Raizo, an orphan, is raised in a Ninja training centre. The godfather is strict task master with no heart. Interestingly, this movie starts with reference to a heart and ends with a similar note.

Disgruntled by the attachment-less life, brutal life and watching his girl-friend die in the centre, Raizo chooses a different path.

It's strictly for martial arts and graphic fans.

3:10 To Yuma, Miss It

3:10 to Yuma (Widescreen Edition)
Unless you are a fan of Russell Crowe or Christian Bale or love Western, you may conveniently miss it.

Ben Wade (Crowe) is a famous outlaw. Dan Evans (Bale) on the other hand is an impoverished rancher and Civil War veteran who is seeking some honor.

Upon Wade's capture, Evans joins a group of men to deliver him for arrest on the 3:10 to Yuma. The movie is about Wade's attempt to flee and Evan's resolve him to deliver. Both fight and save each other from different difficult situations.

Finally, emotionally attached Wade helps Evans redeem his honor.

Usually, I would have cried, but I kept wondering why did everyone have to go through so much difficulty. Either the concept of encounter killing was unknown in that period or common sense was missing. Despite the fact that Wade kills two of the group during their journey, he still has almost complete freedom. Were people so naive, then.

The movie has received positive ratings, I am not sure why. Watch it without any expectations.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is Kamal Hassan An Atheist Iyengar?

Those who have read a previous post of mine know, by now, that I am a Kamal fan.

It is quite well know that he is an atheist. For those who have seen Anbey Sivam, which is probably Kamal's best movie, would have noticed this. There is one particular scene where Kamal revisits the place where the accident, which changes his life, takes place. Because he is the only one who survives in the accident, people gather and take 'aarthi'. Kamal rubs away the 'tilak' as soon as it is applied.

But over the last few months, since the launch of Dasavathaaram to be exact, a thought has been recurring in my mind. I have been forced to wonder whether Kamal is in fact an atheist or is he making it up? Or he is an atheist but has not been able to break the Iyengar upbringing? Or maybe I have become too cynical. Now, I do understand that this wondering of mine is of no use to the society and it is unwanted in a world which already has enough complexities. Still, let me make my case.

In Dasavathaaram, one of the roles that Kamal Hassan dons is of Rangarajan Nambi, a staunch Iyengar (Vaishnavite Brahmins), in Chidambaram (near) Tanjore ruled by Kulothunga Chola II, a fanatic Saivite. Kulothunga intends to get rid of Vishnu's idol from the Big Temple. Angered by Rangarajan's resistance, the King gets him tied to Vishnu's idol and drowns him in the Bay of Bengal. A lot of cruelty is committed upon him as he is taken to the sea.

I cannot ascertain the historical veracity of this event. It could have happened or it may be Kamal's figment of imagination, he is one of the story writers. Do watch the movie, I loved it.

Now after watching the movie, it occurred to me that Kamal Hassan, despite his claims of being an atheist, seems to be using a lot of God in his movies. And then I mulled over this thought, it occurred to me that Kamal may actually be still an Iyengar at heart. And consciously or otherwise, he seems to demean Saivites.

Another movie of Kamal Hassan, which is one of my all time favourite comedy flick, is Kadhala Kadhala. Now, an important role in this movie is played by MS Viswanathan, legendary Music Director. In the movie he is a Lord Murugan devotee. The scenes where he dreams about Murugan are funny, not glorifying. In fact, there is a song with Prabhu Deva and Kamal as Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan is a Saivite God. In fact, He is the younger son of Lord Siva himself. Blimey!

No, it doesn't stop there. Pammal K Sambandam, the movie based on which the super sexy but extraordinary flop Kambhakth Ishq was made. This time direct dig on Lord Siva. In the movie, Kamal plays the role of a stunt master and a side actor. In a particular scene, he dons the role of Lord Siva. Do watch it, you may get my point.

Then coming back to Anbey Sivam, again, the negative role played by Nasser is of a staunch Saivite. But then Kamal himself plays the role of a Saivite with a name Nalla Sivam. So it's not the best example.

All these make me seriously doubt Kamal's claims. But after a point, my wondering became introspection. I am an Iyer, Saivite Brahmin. Now, agnostic tending to atheism. I think I have already jumped to the other side of the wall! But then, despite all the disbelief, I still, jokingly or otherwise, say that I am an Iyer. I would be lying if I say that I don't feel proud about being one. Or for that matter, I do feel Hindu, deep down. No, I am not the Right-Wing, types! The point I am trying to make is that despite claiming to be an atheist, I haven't broken away from religious shackles, yet. But then India is a religious country. Irrespective of which religion, we are brought up with a strong grounding in religion.

So, it can be overlooked that Kamal cannot do away with what he has imbibed in his DNA. But then is he actually taking a dig at Shiva and glorifying Vishnu? Could it be Mohan 'Crazy' Rangachari, who was the script and dialogue writer for Kadhala Kadhala and Pammal K Sambandham, behind this portrayal? Oh God, he also wrote the story of Dasavathaaram along with Kamal!

Blimey, Kamal, please, prove me wrong!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Casting, Ouch!

Oceans' Eleven was released about 9 years back. I loved the movie. I envied and idolised George Clooney at the same time. I had instantly fallen in love with him when I had, earlier, watched One Fine Day. He has such an infectious charm and smile, it is hard not to like him.

I read reviews of the movie thereafter. Many of the reviews wondered why Julia Roberts was wasted in the movie. True, it struck me thereafter that she had very little role in the movie.

Later, I discussed this point with Swaran Kumar, an award winning copy writer with whom I worked for a very short period in an ad agency. Swaran was nurturing dreams of directing a movie himself that time. And I really loved the way he explained the importance of casting. He said that any other actor with less star value would have never fitted into the role. Though the role was short with very little to do, no other star could have justified the character who is the object of George Clooney's desire.

Wow, so true!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Raavanan, Epic Failed!

Dear Mani,

You create movies in a unique and inimitable style. The cinematography is always classy and contemporary. Never mind that people always joked that you shot in only in the dark.

In an age of melodramatic dialogues, your characters spoke only in monosylables, yet conveyed the emotion and meaning.

Of course, music in your movies was always, as a Tamilian would say, a plus.

Yesterday, I went to Ravanan. Yes, I was put off by too much of negative publicity through this damn Twitter and blogs. I wanted the dust to settle. I wanted to be fair, not influenced by the negativity.

It was all there, your usual style of cinematography, music and the dialogues. But like that model in Tata Manza ad says, something was missing. It just didn't appeal. It didn't touch my heart. I couldn't feel anything for any character. Not for Vikram, who in Sethu wrenched my heart. Not for Aishwarya. Forget her, I have never liked her as I think she is plastic and fake-y. Maybe a bit for Prithviraj, though I don't like him much. And Priyamani! You know I always thought she won the National Award for the climax rape scene in Paruthiveeran. No, despite the fact that she gets gang-raped in Ravanan, too, didn't get any sympathy. 

Actually, it is not about these actors, it is how you have etched the characters in this movie. Quite shallow!

I know you are an MBA graduate. Am sure you must have heard about the power of feedback. Here are some which you may want to consider. No, I am not an expert, just a consumer of your product.

  1. There are four Ps in Marketing, you must have read. Remember, product comes before packaging. Stylish packaging doesn't help a poor product. Like in chemistry, the elements must react with each other. But in your film, the characters stood out, aloof, like the elements on the extreme right side of periodic table of the chemical elements. This problem is faced when actors attain larger than character profile. Exception to a small extent was Prithviraj.
  2. New Brand Ambassadors: I know you seem to have a liking for certain actors. Aishwarya, as I have already said, looks plastic. Revathy, Manisha Koirala, Shalini, Saranya, Madhubala, Shobana, Bhanupriya...were not as beautiful as the former Miss World but they looked true. Ok, Aishwarya may have a larger visibility and you may 'like' her. You have used her in three movies, now. See even MF Hussain's taste change. There are new beauties in market. Considering your choice, I think Deepika Padukone will fit your taste best. Actually, you don't need big stars to work your magic. Arvind Swamy, Raghuvaran and Madhavan were not big stars when you used them. I don't have a solid data to back-up but my intuition says avoid Junior B and his wife for sometime.
  3. I tend to agree with the Telegraph reviewer who said that you tend to fail when you try to make a pan-India movie. As long as you made Tamil movies you had a pull effect. Now, you try to push hard and movies are failing. Roja and Mumbai are glowing examples.
But I realize you are just a human being and cannot be expected to not fumble. See, now I know that from observing your fascination with the breasts of your leading ladies. Or at least know what men get attracted by. You are just like I am or for that matter any other man. You have in a way immortalized Manisha Koirala. She will always be remembered for her 'bumpy' run. Now, I love all those, but there was this too much unwanted panning to Aishwarya's chest. Do try to avoid those in your next movie. 

At this juncture remember the strategy of consolidation and stick to your strengths.

I was reading this interview of Viswanathan Anand by Chandra Ranganathan of ET NOW. Very nice read. I want you to read the Question No. 3 and Vishy's response. It has profound message for you, for me and for everyone who strives to be successful.

And finally, we know you are a thinker and you resolve to deliver movies with a lot of depth. And I am very sure you wanted Ravanan also to be one such. It's ok, if your dream didn't fructify into a concrete reality. You still are the most talented Director in the country and no one can deny that. I have nothing much more to say.

Wishing you very the best.

Ganesh, the consumer and a loyalist

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is it a DVD Movie or Theater Movie?

Going to theaters to watch a movie was an event. I still remember as a kid the excitement would start much in advance. For a long time, maybe due to innocence or ignorance, no movie was good or bad. I just loved watching movies. Going to theater with parents or friends or relatives was always desired.

There were times when I was willing to pay a premium (black tickets). While on the others, I would be quite satisfied with the front row seats that cost a fraction of the normal tickets.

Over a period of time, due to changes in technology and economics, the business of watching a movie has changed drastically.

I recently watched watched Kalavaani at the newly opened PVR Cinemas at the Ampa SkyWalk Mall in Chennai. While I loved the movie, I thought it wasn't worth watching it in theater.

What does that mean?

Before I articulate, let me clarify that watching a movie in theater is still in many parts of the country and sections of society an event. But then the following developments are important to consider:

  1. Continuous improvements in TV technologies, boom in TV channels and rapid adoption of Cable & Satellite
  2. Ability to record and distribute content: While it was difficult in the VCR and VCP days, it wasn't impossible. But with the arrival of digital age, any content is, today, available to any one. Storage devices (earlier floppy disks to CDs to external hard disks, today) have made distribution easy; Internet just broke all the shackles in distribution.
  3. The growth and improvement in the area of acoustics and home theater.
A combination of the above makes watching content in the comforts of homes a better option than visiting theaters. And thus began the downfall of theaters. Many theaters, at least in Chennai, have closed. Or have evolved, like the Sathyam Theater. The economics of ticket pricing also hasn't helped. And piracy has become rampant.

Blimey, like a very bad film scriptwriter and a very good Soap Opera story writer, I have digressed so much from the subject. But then such a detailed explanation was necessary to come to the central point.

Now back to the difference between theater movie and DVD movie is quite simple. DVD movie is any movie that doesn't require mega infrastructure and technology to enjoy it. For example, Kalavaani was a good movie. But it wasn't spectacular. Neither sound nor visual. It was plain simple. Now, to watch this movie in theater, even if it's just two persons, would be an expensive proposition. Even in Chennai where the highest ticket price is only Rs. (sorry, my keyboard is still not equipped with the new Rupee symbol) 120, it would cost minimum Rs. 250. Online booking charges, parking, let alone the snacks. With large screen TV and a good home theatre watching the movie at home makes more sense. Movies like Kalavaani are DVD movies.

On the other hand, think about Avataar. You can never relish this Magnum Opus in the confines of the four wall of your home. The movie is meant for theaters. That it was 3D was just an additional reason.

Am I thinking too much about it or do people, in general, are selective?

As I have articulated in my previous blogs, would it help if movie producers become practical and consider launching movies in DVD and Internet?

Or do you think theaters will remain as favorite destination to watch movie, forever? Will going to movie remain an occasion, just like going out to eat, going to beach or holidays are?

How do you like to watch a movie?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kalavaani, Life Cycle Reversed

Usually, Indian parents advise children to settle in life before setting up a family. And that is also what youth, educated or otherwise, who nurse ambitions do.

But then not everyone has ambition or aspirations in life. Many prefer to set up a family even before they stand up on their legs. Kalavaani is story of one such youth.

A romantic comedy, the movie is set in rural Tamil Nadu. While the hero's father slogs in Dubai, son invests the resources and time in drinking with his friends and flirting with almost every other women. Then it happens, true love. Our man falls for a girl from the neighbouring village. Unfortunately for him, his nemesis happens to be the brother of the girl.

To make the matters worse, under the influence of alcohol, hero makes a failed attempt to kidnap a girl who also happens to be related to the girl's family. The movie thereafter is the attempts made by the hero to transform. The movie ends with how he manages to elope and get married to the girl. And finally, thinks about settling down in life.

The movie has nothing new to offer except for the fact that it holds your attention and makes you laugh. And I think that is good enough.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tragedies I Avoid!

It was 1982, I was only about 5. I was already a Kamal Hassan fan. I still remember that evening when I watched Moondram Pirai which was later dubbed and release in Hindi as Sadma. I was disturbed. I couldn't digest Kamal's transformation in the climax. After returning home, I kept asking my dad if Kamal would get well. I dreamt about it for the next two days and finally fell sick. I didn't go to school for a week but Kamal went on to win a National Award!

Now after so many years, I still don't have the courage to get myself to watch the climax. In fact, I avoid the movie all together. No, the movie is brilliant. Sridevi is fantastic. But it is Kamal. Interestingly, he has a very subdued and subtle role till the very end. But that one scene in the end, he shows what he is capable of. And I hate that part.

The other movie that I avoid watching is Ek Duuje Ke Liye, a Hindi movie directed by K. Balachander, starring Kamal Haasan, Rati Agnihotri. It was a remake of the Telugu movie Mano Charithra. Ah, there's Kamal again.

Is it the bitter end? Or is it the actors to whom we get 'attached' to?

Is there a tragedy that you don't like to watch?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Red Beard, the Guru

Dreams by Akira Kurosawa was a movie of abstract dreams of different people. While Red  Beard is also a movie of abstracts that form part of a concrete storyline. The lives of people touched by Red Beard and that which mould the character of a young doctor. 

Akira's movies amaze me. Having been fed on Indian movies where the protagonist always has a larger than life image and the movie revolves around just one character, mostly, Akira Kurosawa's movies have an unparalleled depth. Unlike High & Low, this movie has lots of strong tangential subplots but each contributing the main plot. 

It's a story about a young and brash Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yūzō Kayama) who against his wishes is made to intern in a rural clinic under the guidance of Akahige ("Red Beard"), Dr. Kyojō Niide (played by Toshirō Mifune).

Red Beard is introduced to Young Yasumoto by others as a character who is tyrannical and a task master. But I, in the entire movie, didn't see a sign of this.

The story is about metamorphosis of Yasumoto with each experience in the clinic. His interactions with characters in the movie chisel his ego and make him a compassionate doctor. Every patient has a story to tell and make an impression. Despite the so many sub-plots, the movie doesn't lose its direction.

The movie of the young patient saved from brothel who is nursed back to health by Yasumoto is interesting and touching. Because of gratitude or the age, she falls in love with the doctor. Her reaction and behavior when she finds another lady vying for Doctor's attention, is not only natural but also brilliant.

The movie is also about the role of a Guru in one's life. The movie reminded me of my own experiences with Naru. Interestingly, Naru's description made to me by others had striking semblance to Red Beard's. And as I figured out, he was as congenial as the character in the movie, at least towards me. Role of a Guru and my experiences in another post on Stupid Thoughts, some other time.

It is a long movie with short sad stories peppered with feel good factor and a very positive ending. Do watch it!

Side note, on research I found that Mifune who was probably Akria's favorite actor had financial stress as he had to maintain the beard for two years. Due to this, he couldn't take up any other assignment. This is sighted as one of the causes between the director and actor. The two of them never worked together again.

Monday, June 28, 2010

'Crash' Course On Racism

Directed by Paul Haggis, Crash was release in 2004. The subjects mirrors the reality of life. Discrimination and the divide in the society. A strong lacing of Racism that intertwines the lives of all the characters in the movie. Brilliant!

There are these two young black boys who are on the streets to teach the white a lesson. Mugging, car jacking. It doesn't seem that they themselves would have been subjected to racism, but are skewed by legacy effect.

There is a District Attorney who like a good politician wants to keep his vote bank intact. Going an extra mile to ensure that 'minorities' are happy. His wife on the other hand is very uncomfortable with the minorities to the extent that she despises them.

A cop who finds it difficult to get his father, suffering from Urinary Tract Infection, treated thanks to a very unaccepting black HMO administrator. Upset, the cop molests, in the name of enforcing law, a black lady right infront of her Director husband.

The Director, though black, has grown to be accepted by the 'white' society. His wife unable to bear the humiliation caused to her, chides him that he has forgotten his 'roots'.

Then there is this Persian family (not Arab). With a probable risk of their store being looted the man buys a gun. When the locksmith advises him to change the door instead of complaining about lock, he abuses the person only to find that his shop has been looted in the night. As insurance company rejects his claim sighting negligence, he wants a revenge on the locksmith.

The locksmith probably has been a criminal, though reformed now. He is very attached to his family, his daughter in particular. They have recently move out of a bad neighbourhood but the daughter is scared of the experiences. I loved the scene where the father to comfort his daughter tells a story about fairy and invisible impenetrable cloak.

And then there is this black detective who while being successful professionally loses his mother's love as he is not able to find his younger brother. While he is upright, he does make compromise for personal reasons.

Despite so much of intertwining, the plot is very clear and the movie moves symmetrically. I told Savitha after watching the movie that while the movie was good, it wasn't great. But overnight the movie grew on me. Having written a blog on racism, myself, I realized that I wasn't wrong in my observation that everyone practices discrimination, in some form or the other. Our experiences as an individual or as community defines our actions. By the way the movie isn't negative. In fact, it is very positive. It's about human behavior.

Watch it and feel it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

High and Low! Realistic

Every movie of Akira Kurosawa that I have watched seem to be different. But one thing that is common to all is that I have loved each one of them.

High and Low, released in 1963, is a movie about the fight between the mind and heart, if I can say so. Of course, it also happens to be a thriller.

The movie is about Kingo Gondo played by Toshirô Mifune. He heads the factories at National Shoes. He raises money by mortgaging his every asset to take over National Shoes. Just on the day that he is to finalize the deal, a telephone call wrecks his future. The caller informs him that he has kidnapped his son and demands a ransom of 30 million Yen. Fortunately, it is soon discovered that it's only the chauffeur's son who is kidnapped due to mistaken identity. An immediate sigh of relief leads to a profound dilemma. The forces within him battle. One, lobbies with him to pursue his dream of owning the company that he works at. The other, with emotional pressure from wife and chauffeur, nags him to be a good human being and save the kid.

After having decided to be a good human, sacrifice his dreams and risk his fortunes, Gondo decides to save the kid.

The movie, thereafter, is about the police investigation leading to nabbing the kidnapper. This part of the movie, as it is in other parts, very realistic and detailed. I was, often in between, reminded to Indian movies or for that matter Hollywood movies. The investigation was team work with no larger than life characters.

The movie is about details which kept me engaged. Must watch!

Friday, June 18, 2010

GI Jane, lovely and brutal!

G.I. Jane is an American action film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Demi Moore. The movie held my attention from the start till about the end. But the end doesn't matter much and it is in quite expected lines.

The movie is about the first woman to undergo training in U.S. Navy Special Warfare Group. Fictional, of course. The movie deals with the experiences of the lady. It's also about how overconfident men deal with a beautiful woman thrown in their midst. And to their astonishment, she outperforms them. If not outperform, at least, is as determined as they are.

I am not sure how far the SEAL/CRT (Combined Reconnaissance Team) course depicted is true, bu it must be. Churned my gut. Demi Moore impresses in the role. She equals, if not beats, the Hollywood hulks. The other aspect that is covered very subtly in the movie is the relationship between the husband and wife. How does the husband feel when he knows that his wife may have to be surrounded by some of the toughest and roughest men on earth? How does it feel if wife does something even men don't dare to do? How does it feel when your wife is on the verge of being a celebirty and you are still some unknown guy?

Not being a male chauvinist but does the gentler sex need such training? Do women prefer to get into such roles? The answer may be a big YES! The inclusion of women in the armed forces is not new. Women have proven themselves in the roles which were traditionally believed to be in the men domain.

But yes, the training program depicted in the movie tests the boundaries of human beings' physical and mental strength.

The movie is a good watch.

Monday, June 14, 2010

10,000 BC: Outdated! No Apocalypse About It!

Full of violence and gore, Mel Gibson's Apocalypse is a lovely movie. By the way, Apocalypse means any revelation or prophecy, for those who, like me, didn't know what the word meant.

So, I watched 10,000 BC, yesterday. The only good thing about the movie is Camilla Belle. She looks very desirable. Otherwise the movie lacks anything exciting to hold the attention. The storyline is pretty much like Apocalypse's. David Vs. Goliath. Both movies are set in 'pre-historic' periods though Mel Gibson's movie is supposed to be Mayan era. While in Apocalypse, the protagonist fights for his own survival and helps save his family and clan, 10,000 BC is about saving the loved one and in the process uniting different clans to fight against the 'advanced' society.

The negative camp in these movies are strikingly similar!

While Apocalypse is a brilliant film, 10,000 BC is a cheap B-grade movie that failed to evoke any interest. Wish there was an apocalypse about 10,000 BC before I had ordered the discs!

PS: In addition to Camilla, the other thing that I managed to like about 10,000 BC is the dialogue about how great men differ from good men. Reminded me of Gandhi Ji.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thin Red Line, A Long One

Was it that I started watching it little late in the evening that too after a strenous session of yoga and active game of tennis in the morning?

The movie with an impressive star cast and seemingly good story line, just didn't keep me glued. Just when I thought, it got over, it didn't. Then, finally, I just didn't watch it fully.

The IMDB review is pretty positive but despite having a decent home theatre, many words were missed. Maybe it was some micro-accent.

Set in the second world war, it is about American soldiers fight with Japan to the capture of an island. This island apparently would provide strategic advantage. The movie that way is pretty realistic, as IMDB review put it. The characters had real and varied emotions. Some dealt with the pains of war, others lose it.

I lost it after Americans win the first battle. You can check how long you last!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shrek, No More

Like it is said 'All Good Things Must Come To An End!', Shrek & Gang will also not be seen again.

In the fourth edition Shrek tells Fiona, his beautiful ogress wife, that he understood what he had only after losing it. Holds true for the franchise, too. Principle of diminishing marginal utility derived would have applied and continuously eroded the liking.

One good friend told me that she was quite disappointed by the movie. But for me the brand pull was huge. And I certainly came out of the theatre very happy and holistically entertained.

Actually, the problem with many sequels is that they aren't managed well. But Shrek goes through the life cycle quite graciously. While the first was a love story, the second was about test of relationship and the third about moving to the next level in that relationship (read parenting). The fourth is extension of responsibilities. The resultant mine over I; monotony caused by the daily chores of life. Shrek desires for a break, petty much like the way I dream of a sabbatical.

Ah, there it goes. My wife and that friend rightly captured it. I, probably, was relating to the movie as I, like Shrek, was experiencing mid-life crisis.

Shrek, too, desires in the movie to go back to his old life. When he was carefree and didn't have to bother about anything or anyone. Where life moved at a pace that he set. The movie is about what Shrek does to do reverse his timeline. It is his (mis)adventure, thereafter. As all the previous editions, it has loads of fun and twists. But, of course, the movie ends with the reinforcement of love in life. Shrek 4 is about letting go and adapting to the 'new' change.

Yes, it may not be necessarily a children's movie.  They may not be able to decipher it and analyze it as much as I have done. But it has all the fun to keep them occupied. For adults, it is a must watch.

There is a different incarnation of all the important characters in the movie. Most importantly, Puss in Boots! I loved the scene where Puss begs Donkey to lend its tongue.

Don't miss it! And keep an open mind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Songs & Nostalgia

Digressing from reviews but not deviating from movies. Have you ever wondered the effect of songs, especially movie songs, on our lives? For example, Pudhu Vellai Mazhai from Maniratnam's superhit flick Roja which also was the debut for Oscar winner AR Rahman reminds me of my stay in Tanjore. It was in 1992 that we moved from Tanjore to Chennai. So everytime its played, I am reminded of my friends, the house we stayed in, the street and times in the town of Big Temple.

Not necessary that it has to be a film song. Way back when I was in 4th grade, my best friend that time, Sanjay Kumar Yadav, left Delhi to Ranikhet upon his father's transfer. The vacuum created by his absence in the class haunted me badly. So much so that I used to cry in the class. That point of time, my parents had bought a cassette of devotional songs sung by TMS. Pullanguzhal Kodutha Moongilgale was hot favourite. Though a nice song, it distrubs me badly. The song makes me feel very sad. It reminds me of the terrible time I had in my life.

On the positive note, AR Rahman's composition Hey Hey Enna Achu Unakku for the Tamil flick Kadhal Virus was my favourite during the time I was dating my Savitha. The song was picturised on a group of girls, one of whom, reminded me of her.

Little before that, during my MBA days, I fell for a girl. Unfortunately, the girl already had a boyfriend and I never figured out how to handle the situation. And to lighten up, I would sing the song from Kamal Hasan's superhit movie Aboorva Sagodargal, Unna Ninaichen, Paatu Padichen, to myself and to my friends. When a friend became closer to her during that period, I used to sing Dost Dost Na Raha, Pyaar Pyaar Na Raha. Reflecting back, it all looks funny to me, now.

Then there are songs that connects me to my parents. Not living with them, now, songs like Amma Endru Azhaikatha Uyir Illiye from Superstar Rajnikanth's Mannan and Kaalaiyil Dhinamum Kan Vizhithaal from SJ Suriya's New, constantly remind me of their presence and their contributions to my life.

Dil Chahta Hai was certainly a cult movie and I have nothing more to add that. But the song Dil Chahta Hai where the trio go on a road trip kindled the desire to own a car and go on a long drive with friends. Thankfully, Manoj bought an old Premier Padmini pretty soon and along with Navin, we did go to Pondy. The fact that it broke down during our return and we drove at a menacing speed of 20 kmph from outskirts of Pondy till Mahabalipuram is a different story. That one journey can never be forgotten.

There is a song for every emotion. Some songs make me go sad while others charge me up. There are some which help relax. Makes me think what would life be without film songs!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Segmentation Practised

A quick glance at the tag clouds in my blog, Stupid Thoughts, revealed that, despite being a Marketing enthusiast, I was not practising segmentation. I was writing on diverse topics. While that, I quite shamelessly acclaim, indicates a complex and well-developed grey matter, can or already does confuse a reader. Someone would have been drawn to my blog due to a technology post and might be expecting to read another of my 'stupid' thoughts, only to be disappointed to read about public relations or human behavior or telecom.

So while I was thinking about it, Deepak Chopra, my friend and colleague, shocked me by suggesting that I should have segmented blogs.

Yes, that makes sense.

So, here it is. 'Cinema-Kaaram-Coffee' will be about movies. This blog will not be necessarily about only new movies. It will be about movies that I have just watched; new or old; English, Tamil, Hindi, Telugu or Iranian. With a DVD club membership, first with Seventy MM and then, now, with Big Flix, Savitha and I are watching too many movies. And as 'evolved' beings we have an intellectual discussions on what we watch. Cinema-Kaaram-Coffee will be the place to pour them out.

By the way, the blog url is 'inspired' by the title of a show that used to appear in Stay Vijay channel. And while the name certainly has Tamil influence, the title 'Movies, no bar!' will prevail.

Hope you like the reviews! Happy Watching!