Mouna Ragam Chase

One of the things that makes me extremely sad is this – the fact that digital recording, technologies like Dolby and theatres with amazing audio setups weren’t there when we had Ilayaraja music. Especially those background scores that has so much depth in them. While without Digital recording and Dolby mixing we were able to get so impacted through his background scores, imagine the level of impact those would have had on us with such a setup. I have always wondered how would it his BGMs sound if we are to completely record them today, digitally remaster the film, mix them again and watch it in theatres such as Satyam Cinemas or Jazz Cinemas in Chennai.

I recently stumbled upon a Youtube video by High Octavez where there was a live performance of the Mouna Ragam chase sequence. Here’s the video (do listen in a good quality headphones):

That was some awesome live performance of the BGM. What a depth when you re-create it today, capture the sound digitally and listen through a headphone.

I was wondering how the scene would have been in theatre if you are to mix these today. So here we go. The first one is the original – sourced through Youtube. And the second one is the same sequence mixed with the version that High Octavez live performed. If you listen to the second version, you would be able to appreciate the depth of the background score – the magic that Ilayaraja creates with all those voilins, the double base and the cello.

So, plug in your headphones and get into the wonderland of Ilayaraja. And once you finish seeing the second video, imagine for a moment watching the movie again in a theatre like Satyam, with this kind of digital recording. We would have laughed so much with all the pranks that Karthik does and when this sequence finishes in the screen, we would be in a mix of emotions – the magical writing from Mani Ratnam and an amazing score from Ilayaraja.

The original:

And the version mixed with audio from High Octavez’ recreation:

Interstellar

By now, I have lost count of number of times I have watched this movie. And somehow I cannot resist myself going back to watch this one whenever I get a chance. I saw this again in the theatre (thanks to Jazz Cinemas to bring this back in IMAX). When the movie was released, there were lot of discussions about how close the movie was with respect to the science of Interstellar travel. And even the scientific community went crazy about the visualization of the wormhole and the Gargantua (the black hole). Apparently Kip Thorne, the renowned Physicist provided the math and the special effects team turned that math visually (and here we are calling Shankar as India’s sci-fi director, India’s James Cameron and all!!!)

Beyond all the science and the fiction in the movie, I went back to this movie multiple times because of how “emotional” this movie is. Towards the end of the movie, Murph (the grown up one trying to solve the equation), hugs her brother and says “Daddy’s gonna save us!!!” after looking at the data being passed through the watch given by Cooper.

inter-daddys-gonna-save-us

To me, that was the defining moment in the movie, even though it comes towards the end of the movie. It’s that love between the daugther and the father that really makes this movie so good and so different. She has always been so connected to her father that she could feel something in that room!!! Cooper, on the other hand, always wants to go back to his kids (I think its just Murph, he doesn’t care a damn about his son :)) and has always prioritized that before everything else. Every decision that he makes in the mision (including choosing Dr.Mann’s planet which causes less time delay vs Dr.Edmunds which is closer to the black hole) is backed by some data and more importantly the urge to go back to his daughter.

There are so many such examples throughout the movie. Take for instance the scene where Cooper leaves on his car to get on to the mission without able to convince Murph enough. He lifts those clothes on the passenger side of the car to check if Murph is hiding inside.

inter-cooper-checks-murph

Or the scene where Cooper comes back from Miller’s planet having wasted 23 years, plays all the video messages from his kids and starts crying – I literally cried along!!!

inter-cooper-crying

 

The scene where Cooper is trapped inside the Tesseract and goes back to the timeline of him walking out of Murph’s bedroom when Murph is showing that she deciphered the ghost saying as “Stay”. Cooper, caught behind the bookshelf, cries “Make him stay Murph”, “Dont let me leave, Murph!!!” and keeps crying helplessly. My heart was so heavy by this time and may be I cried again in the theatre!!!

inter-stay

What about the dialogues?

Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your children’s future.” – has such a deep connect with every parent and Cooper was literally Murph’s ghost in the bookshelf 🙂

Love is the one thing that transcends time and space” – Amelia says this in the ship and explains how she has a connect with Dr.Edmunds who is somewhere out there and she doesn’t even know if Dr.Edmunds is alive or not. All of us have some kind of connect with people who have passed away!!! While the NASA folks in the movie explained it as a gravitational anamoly and how gravity can transcend space-time, a layman like me do not understand all these. However, how brilliant it was of Nolan to translate that into something like “Love” which all of us can instinctly understand!!!

The very scene where Cooper plays 23 years of video tapes, he is listening to updates from his son. The last message from his son goes something like “You are not listening to this. Aren’t you. All these messages are just sent into darkness“. While it just sounds fairly logical, there is this deep aspect of human lives in it. Isn’t it? How many times have we looked up the sky and spoken to lost loved ones. We do want to talk to them and be connected only to come back in time and realize that it was just meaningless. Something that we just spoke to someone who didn’t exist anymore and was just sent into a void!!!

I love Nolan’s movies for this emotional aspect of his movies. Beyond the fiction and the larger than life aspects, almost every movie that he has made has this emotional aspect that connects so deeply with the audience. If you think of Inception, Dark Knight series, the emotional aspect runs throughout these movies. And its probaby the reason why I would consider Nolan as one of the best directors of our time. Spielberg used to do it – I cried for E.T as a kid 🙂 But in the recent times, and the times when I had the maturity to understand movies deeper, I would say Nolan does it better for me these days!!!

I would keep going back to Interstellar, Inception, Dark Knight series – I don’t think I will ever be “done” with these movies in this life. And if at all, “they”, the fifth dimension people choose me, I request them to fill the Tesseract with these movies

Vetri Nichayam

I think this is easily the best “inspiration” song for me. Every other time I stumble upon this song, it instantly lifts off my mood and inspires. And I definitely listen to this song more than once. I am fairly confident that for many people who grew up in the 80s “Annamalai” is one of their all time favorites – definitely for Rajini fans.

As the music starts off in Vetri Nichayam, you can instantly imagine the conversation between “Vinu Chakravarthy” and “Rajini” just before the start of the song. The scene cuts into the next one where the banker (who had originally rejected Rajini’s loan request) provides the money due to pressure from “Vinu Chakravarthy”. Till this moment it’s no big deal. These are some of the typical scenes that has appeared in umpteen Tamil movies. It’s the cut that happens now and the next scene that unfolds in front of us.

Rajini gets up from a chair. The camera starts zooming into his eyes. For about 3 seconds, Rajini stares at the camera with a look. Instantly he gives a look that has a mix of vengeance, the war that he is going to unleash on his best friend. The music (one of Deva’s best) is absolutely lifting the scene. It’s a little wonder if it’s simple writing of Suresh Krishna, or the music or Rajini – I would personally attribute it to Rajini. He just takes over that scene. Anybody would miss this one – just watch Rajini’s reaction when he smashes the coconut at the beginning – he shows the vengeance, the “veri” there. These are the small moments that shows Rajini’s acting, his involvement in the script – though for us his walk is just enough. 

The song has very powerful lyrics that instantly connects with you when you feel that you were taken for a ride, feeling low in life or just feeling helpless. While the lyrics are powerful enough, you got to give due credits to SPB on this one – It is the singing by SPB that takes it to a completely different level. The emotions that he brings in his singing is simply mind blowing – just listen to the way he sings “Raththamum Vervaiyum enadhu raajaangamae…” and “Adaee Nanba…”

And the “WOWness” in this song wouldn’t be complete without this – Rajini’s walk at “Enadhu nadaiyil unadhu padaigal podi padumae”. I mean, literally he just walked. The director would have probably said “Sir, neenga nadandhu vareenga…” and Rajini would have just walked. But look at what has transpired on screen and the impact that it creates on you – the goosebump moment that only Rajini can create. Hence the Super Star 🙂

Go ahead. Watch this one. A few times. Get inspired. Do not miss 4:07.

Vada Chennai

As the end credits rolled over and I started walking down the stairs to exit the theatre, I had a “wierd” feeling. I wanted to probably stay for a few more mins till the credits completed to “consume” the movie completely. But at the same time I felt there was something missing in the movie that wanted me to start walking out. When I reflect after a day now, I think I would probably say this: Vada Chennai is a tipping point for Tamil Cinema and would even go one step further and say “Tamil Cinema has arrived”.

I had always felt bad that I was not old enough when directors like Mani Ratnam and Balu Mahendra were young enough making movies like Anjali, Nayagan, Moondram Pirai that fundamentally changed the movie landscape back in late 80s and early 90s. I missed seeing those movies in theatre (I was just old enough to watch Mowgli in DD :)) and I still imagine what it would have been to be immersed in those movies for 3 hours in a theatre. With Vada Chennai, I now have a sense of satisfaction that I am witnessing that fundamental change again. And I can imagine 30 years from now, someone is going to say “How I wish I was in the times when Vada Chennai and Vetrimaran was happening”.

Towards the middle of first half, I felt I was completely lost. The narrative was non-linear and I was wondering where all these are going and if I came to another “hyped” movie. It was in the second half I realized what Vetrimaran was doing – he was laying out a vast landscape in front of us and beautifully connected everything in the second half. That’s when you feel that there was not even a single shot that existed in the movie without a reason. That’s when you pause for a moment and you are not able to digest how he would have written all of these and what would have gone through in his mind. And suddenly the respect for this writer just goes up manyfolds. He is different, a great thinker and a great writer and is slowly changing the landscape of Tamil cinema.

Another reason why I feel that we are witnessing a tipping point in Tamil cinema is because of the “A” certificate for the film. Unlike every other Tamil cinema which looks for a “U/UA” certificate for producer’s tax benefits and attracting famil audience, here’s a movie which is for the Adults (I would rather say “grown ups”). Hats off for the production house (Dhanush in this case) for not comprimising on this one – this movie will not have certain type of audience and the producer/director is OK with it and its a big deal today.

Beyond the producer/director, I have huge respect for the censor board on this one. You typically get a U/A for uttering a “cuss” word (which also gets muted) or showing a murder scene with blood/body blurred. However in Vada Chennai, the opening scene itself had enough explicit blood (and I think I saw skin too) that indicated that this movie is definitely “A”. And then you hear the characters frequently using a cuss word that refers to mother. It’s when the female lead uses the same cuss word (I think it’s the first or second word she utters in the movie) you settle down and accept the fact that this movie is going to be a different experience altogether. Btw, the audience (including me) went crazy when she said that word 🙂 And just to be clear, I am not celebrating citation of cuss words in mainstream cinema just for the sake of it. But what was more satisfying was that here’s a movie which did not compromise anything.

Dhanush: Let me admit this. When I he did movies like “Sullan”, I was like “Here’s an example of what industry background can do. If you have money, you can back anybody and make them a star”. But as he did movies like Kadhal Kondaen, Pudhupettai and later Mayakkam Enna, there were signs about his potential. But I was thinking it as more like the “Selvaraghavan” effect. With Aadukalam and commercial ones like VIP, it really showed up that this guy has some genuine talent as an actor. And Vada Chennai, really brings that talent out. There are many scenes where he has pulled off effortlessly. Specifically, the scene where Kishore’s wife and Samuthrakani’s wife (Andrea) have a conversation in a family function about revealing the identity of the person (Dhanush) who stabbed Kishore. Dhanush is in the backdrop and figures what’s actually going on around him. He has no dialogue and just silently emotes. That was just enough. I would watch that scene many times over; what a true performance that was.

It isn’t that I don’t have complaints about this movie. One of my major complaints is about the length. I felt the movie “rushed” things. With a running length of close to 3 hours, it still wasn’t enough to consume the movie. For example, there were so many characters introduced in the jail episode that you didn’t have time to put all of them in your mind. Similarly in the second half when things are explained by Andrea, it was rushed (with pretty bad dubbing too). I wish this movie had another 30-45 minutes of runtime (Vetrimaran says it was originally shot for 5.5hours!) like GodFather. I am sure Vetrimaran would have loved too but had to remain within the constraints of theatres (they need to run 4 shows with breaks and all). May be in near distant future, someone will break this too.

I and my friend are great fans of Martin Scorcese and Tarantino movies and the collaboration he had with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Leonardo Di Caprio. We had always discussed how Scorcese and De Niro would have collaborated, what it would have been between them, how it would have been in the sets. Well, I didnt live in those times, but I think they changed Hollywood movies forever. I think Vetrimaran + Dhanush + Kishore combination is doing something very similar for Tamil movies now. Something tells me that this is a beginning of a different era where movies that are “raw”, that doesn’t even have one wasted scene, that does full justification for the script are going to be made. We are going to respect the writers more than the actors. And sense will prevail in the movies. And personally, I am going to go back to theatres more 🙂

Mersal – not a review

I knew its been a long time since I blogged. But looks like its been close to 5 years since that last post. Plenty of things happened since then both on the personal and professional front that kinda kept me busy. I have been wanting to resume blogging for a while now. But nothing really pushed me hard enough to sit back and spend some time composing a post. Until last week. Until Mersal happened.

A quick disclaimer before I continue. I am not a fan of a particular actor. Neither a hater. I like movies. I fall in love with movies. Despite many entertainment options available today, I still like going to the movies (or watching them at home) because nothing else provides that long lasting, soul filling experience like movies. It is still truly the medium that can transport you to a different world in those 2/3 hours of time.

Over the last few years, I have been very selective in terms of watching movies in general. Especially tamil movies. I have a 4 year old daughter – so you should be able to understand how precious it is to get 3 hours of time. And where you want to spend that time. I generally follow tamiltalkies (fondly called as Blue Sattai) and Prasanth in Youtube and Baradwaj Rangan’s blog for reviews. My taste for movies typically go well with them, especially Prasanth (where he tends to call spade a spade) and a lot with BR (only exception being recent ManiRatnam reviews of his where he goes deep in to Mani’s thought process that I cannot relate to and suffered watching movies like Kadal and Raavanan).

The day next to Deepavali. The roads weren’t that crowded. So, turned on Youtube while driving to office and listened to reviews of both Blue Sattai and Prasanth. I was actually expecting pretty negative reviews (given Vijay’s recent track records) and I was taken aback. Blue Sattai, though in the first couple of minutes called out negative aspects of the film, quickly jumped in to a different track and ended the review saying something close to a one time family watch type of movie. Prasanth on the other hand went to the extent of praising the movie a lot, especially Vijay’s performance, voice modulation, efforts in stunts/dance and I think he gave like some 80/100 kinda score. Most importantly he praised Atlee a lot in terms of direction and rightfully using folks like Vadivelu, Kovai Sarala and Sathyaraj.

When I reached office it was pretty low turn out of folks and people were still in Deepavali mood – or so I thought. One of my friend actually had an additional day of holiday. So, I was also like taking it easy. I quickly checked for tickets and it was all completely booked. After an hour so, I had left the spicinemas browser tab open and refreshed it to find a new screen in Escape open up and the entire screen was available. I called up my friend (ex theevira Vijay fan), confirmed his availability, selected nice seats and booked tickets in 100 milliseconds (Think of a typical fast forward scene (rather any scene) in Singam movies).

I was going to a Vijay movie in a theatre after many many years and I was definitely excited; given the reviews. And what followed was a complete disaster. 10 minutes in to the movie, both me and my friend realized what a terrible decision it was. I am not going to slice and dice the entire movie here but wanted to call out few things:

  • The first 30 minutes are so – it was completely confusing (may be a deliberate attempt by Atlee) as we see Vijay doing completely disconnected things. I knew that there is triple action in the movie and the scenes were probably done by two Vijay. I get that. The problem is not with the screenplay for that portion. But rather the scenes themselves – read below
  • About 10 minutes gets wasted in France airport where Vijay gets interrogated because he landed wearing a Dhoti. And then that ends with a dialogue: “Amma-va maatha mudiyadhu” – meaning tamil culture. There is another 20 minutes of footage in France (including a dance sequence) and everywhere Vijay is seen wearing ultra modern clothes. Later in the movie, in Chennai, Vijay is never seen wearing Dhoti (except in the Flashback. Adhukku apram varraen) #MeLookingForPrasanth
  • Apparently one of the dream of the magician Vijay is to perform at the capital for magic (something like that) and he performs in front of white audience in France. The camera shows the audience wow-ing and getting amazed at the magic sequences which are things like knives being pierced through a box where a person is present inside. And you know what, nothing happens to that person. Something that P.C.Sorkar senior had done you remember? Of course, folks in France wouldn’t have seen a P.C.Sorkar show right? #PrasanthDei
  • Kovai Sarala. What an amazing actor she is. I have always admired her in terms of her acting skills (SathiLeelavathy anybody?) and thought after Manorama she is the one who can potentially survive as a woman performer in this male dominated industry. Off late, I have hated her so much because of the kind of roles she gets in movies. I don’t know who told our beloved directors that Sarala can only do the type of character she does in the Kanchana movies. I am talking about the voice modulation she started doing in Kanchana. The way she utters every dialogue in an elevated, fake Kongu accent with a fake laughter. The 5 minutes of screen time she gets in this movie, she just repeats that and gets going. The larger point is, if I completely delete the scenes where Kovai Sarala appears on screen, it still wouldn’t do anything to the movie
  • Vadivelu. The only time you smile for various jokes that he attempts is when he jokes about Cashless India. That too I was wondering if my smile was for his joke or for our reality. None of his jokes bring any kind of smile on anybody in the theatre and here we have another actor who has been completely wasted
  • Sathyaraj. The only purpose of this role is to be a placeholder for a flashback scene
  • Haryana. I still don’t understand that connection of the movie with Haryana. May be I am too low to understand Atlee’s plot. However, what I definitely don’t understand is why our tamil directors are hell bent on getting folks in the North to sing and dance for tamil songs #revengeforlungidance?
  • A.R.Rehman. I heard couple of songs before the release of the movie because it was Rehman. I had a feeling that it cannot be Rehman. Few minutes of listening to background score in the movie, I realized it was definitely not Rehman. Rehman had somehow managed to license his name to appear as composer for the movie. A small request Rehman: This is not the first time you had done this. I remember Varaluru. I vaguely remember an Arjun movie too. And of course Azhagiya Tamizh Magan. It shows. It outrightly shows you weren’t involved in the project. What I still wonder is: Why do you agree? I am sure its not the money
  • #Prasanth #Dei
  • And the last scene. Vijay is in jail and the person next to him is having a conversation with him. A TV in the background is announcing about yet another medical related scam/error. Vijay is holding a newspaper with his complete body being hidden behind the newspaper. The entire theatre was at the edge of the seat to figure out what Vijay will do. To everyone’s surprise, Vijay disappears. Tamil cinema is always about opening sequence. But I am sure this is the best ending sequence ever shot in tamil cinema #wearein2017 #Prasanth #NeeEngaDaIrukka
Like I mentioned earlier, I am not a fan of any specific actor. Nor a hater. What I refuse to tolerate is low bar for movies. And such movies being glorified. I went to this movie, not expecting something like VikramVedha (which I loved). I wanted to be entertained. Entertained as part of the festival mood. But I literally came out with a lot of frustration. There is a lot of controversies now with respect to the politics of the movie, religious sentiments being hurt and so on. I didn’t see any of those things in the movies. I just wanted to be entertained. And that’s where I learnt my biggest lessons:
  • Actor Vijay has moved in to a different dimension. His political ambitions are very clear (the MGR/Vijay slow mo scene in the flashback is a testament) and this movie simply was a vehicle.  May be an experiment by him to understand the pulse of the people in the state. Now that’s what I missed and went as a normal cinema goer. There is absolutely nothing wrong in what Vijay is doing. He seems to be absolutely clear with what he wants out of his movies. And its fine
  • It is super important to have reality distortion field like Steve Jobs’ when it comes to movies these days. Couple of years back, producers and directors were worried about how social media and things like instant review, twitter posts are distorting films performances. It is clear now that they have figured out how to use these to make sure they are making money. The way teasers and trailers are released, teaser reviews, trailer reviews, blocking every theatre to release only one movie over the weekend make sure that enough money is made before word spreads out
  • As Goundamani says in a movie where Senthil asks for a chance to prove him that he has changed: “Ungala thirutharadhu ennoda vela illa da. Naan enna thiruthikkaraen”
  • And as Kamal says in Kurudhi Punal “Yengayum safety illa. Yaarkum safety illa”. I echo:  “Yavanayum namba mudiyala”
PS: Please do not compare this movie with Aboorva Sagodharargal. That was a movie which had the guts to have the flashback told at the beginning of the movie and still kept you in your seats for the next 2.5hours

Leaving behind…tamil cinema and the consumers

I love the movies. For movies are the medium that can transport one in to a different world altogether. And I love going to the theatres. The large screen viewing and most importantly the sound effects gives me more high than anything else in this world. OK, next to Filter Kaapi and South Indian food 🙂

I am in Chennai and I want to catch a movie that’s released this weekend. Let’s see what the options are for me

  • Try to get a ticket in Sathyam – for me, this is the theatre that provides the best movie experience in Chennai. But very hard to get tickets on the opening weekend since I am not the only one who thinks so :). Including the online booking charge, seat selection charges and parking charge (two wheeler) the average ticket price is about 150 for two (2*120 per ticket + 40 booking charge + 10 seat selection + 10 parking). But getting a ticket is next to impossible since there is a huge demand to watch movies at Sathyam from celebrities to politicians to the general public. And Sathyam is the first theatre to open up bookings
  • Devi – This theatre is very closest to my heart. I mean, this is the theatre where I watched Speed. A theatre which showed what Dolby and DTS is. On the largest screen projection (till date). I mean, you get in to Devi Paradise and sit in the middle. The way the whole theatre is designed and with the huge screen takes you in to that different world that I spoke about. But then this is a theatre which has the following
    • Power Cut – Yes, if power cut for that area is during any show, then there will be a disruption in the movie. You will have one “Yellow Bulb” glowing in the middle of a movie
    • 90’s Projection – I am bound to compare projection quality to Sathyam. At least have a projection quality as close to Inox and PVR. If you can increase your ticket prices, can’t you invest in a digital projector?
    • Hopeless Parking – one of the worst parking facilities in the city and the worst exit a theatre can have. I mean, this is the largest theatre in the city – both Devi and Devi Paradise can accomodate 2100 people for a single show. And you have an exit in to a single lane at the back side of the theatre. In case of any emergency, it is actually better to stay inside the theatre than getting out. And how much do they charge for a bike parking? A whooping Rs. 20
    • And then there are very normal seats, rest room having a single door entrance, over priced food (for the quality), etc…
  • Despite all those, I still some times visit Devi because she is like your first love. Cant really get rid off 🙂
  • PVR and Inox – they are the ones that are next to Sathyam in terms of the movie experience. The projection quality and sound systems are good but not as great as Sathyam. But since both are in malls, you are bound by the parking rules of the mall and not a theatre. The parking time-slot is not in-line with movie length (for Indian movies).The parking problem is also with Escape in Express Avenue and that has been a reason for me not visiting Escape. Inox is also famous for the website where it is ridiculously useless. It is not just slow (even Sathyam gets slower during any new release)  but is just stupid when you keep getting server errors. PVR is definitely better than Inox in these aspects
  • I don’t even want to talk about theatres / malls like Mayajaal, Abirami and AGS. The thought of these theatres bring in a lot of negative energy in me that its very hard to control the filth coming out of my mouth
  • And then, you have these small theatres all around the city which are not able to attract crowd because of these large multiplexes. But do they have any of the qualities to give a good cinema experience? But their prices? Nothing is less than 95 + taxes. Just go to ticketnew.com and try to reserve in any of the theatres such as Kamala, SSR Pankajam, Sangam, Kasi, etc..And even Abirami Mega Mall. The only exception is AVM Rajeswari which still has ticket prices at around Rs.45. The question here is if AVM Rajeswari an NGO or running a business?
And it doesn’t end there.
  • Mayajaal can price its tickets in its own way – 200, 300 during the first two days of a movie. Rest of the days it depends
  • The online booking of Inox is crap. But let’s say you want to try booking in person. You got to use the mall parking which you will end up paying anyhow even if you don’t get tickets in person

For some detailed analysis of what’s the ground reality of the theatres and malls, please read this, this, this, this and this.

I, as a consumer, would like to see the Viswaroopam DTH issue only from that background. For a family of four, if I need to catch a good movie in a theatre, the expense would easily touch around Rs. 1000. And with that you don’t even get a good movie experience. So why will I come to theatres? All these theatres which are doing business with the Rs. 120 ticket pricing are doing because of the floating young population in the city. For a couple working in an IT company, may be it doesn’t matter or probably they don’t realize about it.  But it is not a matter of affordability but about the value for money. And the main factor that we forget here is  that it’s for entertainment. You have to get entertained not stressed out.

Note: If you look at Bangalore, the ticket prices are even higher. Tickets are at least Rs.150 on a week day and on week ends its about Rs. 200. That way it is better in TamilNadu at least. But that can’t be a justification for not providing value for money. TamilNadu has more number of theatres – it ranks second in India, next to Andhra. So the volume is huge and there is a potential to make good amount of money if you do the business right
As I said earlier, I have a huge liking for the movies and the experience a theatre provides. It is completely indistinguishable from watching a movie online, TV, laptop or for that matter a Home Theatre. But that’s only for movies which have that technological marvel. I mean, movies like Life of Pi, Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, Die Hard, Enthiran, Sivaji, Yudham Sei are amazing to be seen in the big screen. Why Yudham Sei in that list? Because of the background score. The impact that it can create in a theatre with good sound system. But then what about movies like Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum, Pizza, Attakathi, Boss Engira Baskaran, OK OK? They are casual movies right? I am OK to see them on TV or online. I am willing to pay and watch them. An year or so back, I still had the interest to catch every movie in theatre and in the first weekend itself. But not anymore. I am inclined to see any movie in Sathyam only and to get a ticket there is pretty difficult. But I am willing to wait. I am willing to wait for even couple of weeks and enjoy the movie wholly instead of catching up in a useless theatre.
Here are few points that I want to raise
  • When a big star’s movie is released, all the theatres are going ahead and buying them. They are not willing to take other movies even if they may be good. How do the theatre owners justify that? For example, when Billa-2 was released, “Naan-E” did not find any screens. But later when people realized Billa-2’s box office, the theatres started giving more screens to “Naan-E”. This includes Sathyam Cinemas as well. As a consumer I am OK with this. But you got to remember that there is a producer / distributor behind “Naan-E” as well. Who is going to cover their losses?
  • If the answer to the above question is “Big star’s movies have big opening and we can do business”, then you gotta let Kamal do his business. If he is not asking for any Minimum Guarantee and as a producer if he is willing to take the risk of releasing the movie ahead in DTH, what is your problem? If people do not come to theatres because the movie is a flop, then give more screens for Alex Pandian and “Kanna Laddu” and run them. But you cannot stop Kamal from releasing it in DTH
  • I read couple of other point of view about this issue here and here. The sad thing about that is there is nowhere consumer is in picture. Like producers want to be happy, distributors want to be happy, theatre wants to be happy. But what about us? Who cares man? This is what you get here. If you want, you watch it. Otherwise shut up
  • Abirami Ramanthan seems to be interested in solving all theatre owners problems. I am just wishing that he can spend few minutes every day to think about removing the “Mall” from Abirami Mega Mall, for it is not one
  • Somehow, every time I think of Tamil movie’s state, the movie Aaranya Kaandam figures in it. For it is one of the awesome movies ever made in Tamil. But what happened to the producer and director? Because of the then government which had a media house, the producer (SPB Charan) bleeded losses. The media house wanted to distribute the movie and the producer restrained. Because of that the movie never got released for close to 6 months (that’s the story I hear). The movie released only in few screens and was taken out of theatres within couple of weeks. The producer never had any money to market the film and eventually ended up selling an audio lab (Kodandapani Audio Labs) that’s next to my house. There is a multi-storey apartment coming up there. How do the theatre owners justify this?
If you have this new medium, movies like Aaranya Kaandam, Ammavin Kaipesi, Neerparavai, etc…may even directly release in DTH if the theatres are busy releasing big star movies. Now with that Tamil movies would be better. If these movies get more audience, naturally every other director would be forced to provide good movies and not crap. I am somehow not able to digest the fact that Siruthai was made a hit and these good movies don’t even run for few days. And now looks like Alex Pandiyan would follow suit (I have nothing against Alex but just that the trailer suggest the movie to be in lines of Siruthai and Saguni. If it’s a good movie I have no qualms about it).
The theatre owners are just scared that there is a new competitor for them in the way of DTH operators. But they are wrong. Either they are unaware or they refuse to accept the fact that Netflix in India is not long way. But then will I watch Avatar or Hobbit or Iron man 3 in Netflix or at Sathyam? I would any day come and watch it in Sathyam. And Viswaroopam too.

The mask and the man behind it

The Super Hero Within. Super hero movies are misconceived by people with concepts having really super powers to save the world. Like some one who can fly or some one who can defy gravity and go all out against the evil. Well that’s what hollywood has taught us. But then you have movies like Batman Trilogy (by Christopher Nolan) where the true identity of super heroes are shown. People do not need super heroes who can fly and fulfill their fantasies. When things are real bad, they need inspiration. They need hope that things will be better. They need some one who can re-kindle their motivation to go against evil. Some times all they need is some one to show them a path, a person, an ideology that goodwill always triumphs. The mask is only to hide the fact that there is a real, ordinary person behind it. An ordinary person who has got that will. The man behind the mask does not matter. But the man behind a super hero movie matters a lot. When all the previous versions showed Batman comically, Nolan really managed to build the true super hero that every one relates to. That, not just in movies, even in our world when things go wrong, a super hero can emerge. Like an Anna Hazare. An Abdul Kalam. And turn things around.

Well, I am no big time movie buff. And what said above was my version of a super hero. Mysskin who has claimed to be watching world movies and has given some of the best tamil movies ever certainly cannot go wrong with that. And in all the pre-release interviews, Mysskin has repeatedly conveyed that “Mugamoodi” is not a regular super hero movie. Well, at the end of the movie, one feels at least he could have taken a normal super hero movie. But the budget requirements would require Rajini to be part of it and that would be mean a different script that will suit Rajini. I have watched “Anjadhae” and “Yudham Sei” umpteen times. What really stands apart in these movies is the characterization. Mysskin’s movies have lot of characters and each will make a distinct impact on you by the time you leave the movie hall. The visualization and background scores will create that impact. The amputated friend in “Anjadhae”, the father who gets shot and his son who just runs sideways towards the climax in Anjadhae, the two obese on a bullet in “Nandalala” and “Yudham Sei” is full of such characters. “Mugamoodi” doesn’t have any of them. May be a couple which don’t make much of an impact.

  • With Mysskin, you expect even the title card to be different. You do not want to waste time spent on the title card and want to get straight in to the movie. Why spend the first couple of minutes in the title card display and that too designed in older hollywood sci-fi movie style?
  • And why design scenes like flipping through the pages of a comic book? Something that we have seen in batman movies? Nothing wrong in showing a comic book style scene. But why like an English comic book?
  • When a character in the song itself plays a gimmic on the director saying “Manja saree la oru dance”, why be a stereotype and have a bar song? That too the steps and sequences almost similar to “Kannadasan Karaikudi” in “Anjadhae”. “Kannadasan” was definitely a differently choreographed song but why again?
  • The movie looks heavily inspired from “Batman” series with Girish Karnad playing the role of Fox and the other old man playing the role of Alfred. And scenes where the Mugamoodi stands on top of buildings and the suit sums it up. You almost feel that you are watching an imitation. But then Mysskin doesn’t make those characters strong. Just because he has said this is not like your other super hero movies
  • With his other movies, each character had a role to play and their characters are “created”. May be except the heroine. When I mean created, they are born out the brains of the man behind it – Mysskin. But here every character looks weak – be it the old guys, the police, the Villian or the Super Hero himself
  • The interrogation scene where Nasser gets hold of a bad guy and how he makes that person open his mouth was brilliant. But the same Nasser is made to appeal to “Mugamoodi” saying “we need your help”. You could have got the guy who played as inspector in “Sivaji” movie and get away. Why build a character only to waste it?
  • Of course, the name “Mugamoodi” was coined by the hero out of an accident. He didn’t intend to become  a super hero but when gets caught in a scene where he is scene as a funny super man he just picks a name called “Mugamoodi”. But he really becomes one and when Selva (as the Kung Fu master) calls out “Mugamoodi. Nillu”, it looks funny. Same goes with how Nasser saying “Mugamoodi. Unga help engalukku vaenum”. You gotta watch it and you will feel miserable
  • Mugamoodi asking the master “22 varusham munnadi neenga yaaru”, master saying “22 varusham munnadi” and the scene transforms to a flashback. “Angusamy” (the villain) repeatedly saying “Unga master epapdi setharu theriyuma” and narrating the past. I mean, this is not the way we expect a flashback from you Mysskin. We are used to this kind of flashback in Tamil cinema for so many years
  • And the super hero. With a tag line of “The Super Hero Within”? You don’t even feel that there was a hero in the movie. Great. That’s how Mysskin’s movies are. But you will feel the character. Which doesn’t happen here. If you wanted to inspire people, you gotta have a scene like how Judas narrates to JK in Yudham Sei and asks “Unga thambi tangachingalukku nadandha summa irupeengala”?. Where are dialogues like “Aal balathalum, pana balathalum thoratharan. Evvalavu dhaan da odradhu. Ippo naan thoratharaen. Nee odu”? “Konjundu moolai vechuttu nee ivvalavu pannum bodhu. Yaen da dei. Neraya moolai vechu naanga evvalavu pannuvom”
  • The villain? Again looks like inspired from “Joker” in Batman but deliberately made not to look like one. You are only hoping that it would end soon when he tries to show the psycho side of his in the climax
  • K seems to be repeating the same type of background score as Yudham Sei. Period.
Of course, there are couple of Mysskin “touch” in the movie as well. Like Jiva’s friend Viji who keeps saying “Paathu da”. And says the same when  he dies as well. A very short romantic interlude in the middle of a chase. Well that’s about it. A couple. In the end, it looks like some one asked Mysskin, if he can ever make a masala movie and this looks like his attempt. Yes, it is not a regular super movie. It is a masala movie attempted from a director who cannot make one.

Mayakkam Enna…

  • Your best friends for life need not always be in good terms with you. They can be completely pissed off with you when you introduce your girl friend to them. They soon can accept that girl in to the gang. Your best friend can be your worst enemy when you realize that he and your girl friend are in love. You can then come back to terms with them over a booze calling that girl as “galeej” and the girl would split them  up. You will even curse them on their marriage “en girl friend-ayae correct panni kalyanam panran” and yet superficially wish them good luck in their marriage. And few years later when there is a huge mess up in your life, the same best friend will be the first one to show up
    • Selva has probably shown a very realistic picture of friendship. This is not the “nanbaen da”, “surya nna yaaru theriyuma, natpu nna enna theriyuma” kind of friendship. But something that we are used to in our lives
  • When Dhanush walks out on the streets after getting rejected from the advertisement agency and seems the old lady sitting in the platform the entire scene is shown with a glow around the lady. There is sunlight from the left side of the frame, that diamond ring glitters and there is an element of beauty in those wrinkles of old age
    • The scene is completely from the eyes of Dhanush where his immense interest is in photography is not within the four walls of advertising photography but rather out there in the world. And he can see beauty in normal lives where even the husband of that lady says he hasn’t scene his wife so beautiful in all these years. And for that compliment, its a simple “OK” reaction from Dhanush
  • When Dhanush meets his “God” Mathesh Krishnamoorthy with the photographs taken from the forest, he has a “Vibhoodhi” on his forehead. And that’s the only scene where he has it in the entire picture
    • That’s probably the most important moment that he has been waiting for. He has been shown as a simple, sensitive and probably little emotionally weak person who is desperately looking for a break. Something that a very normal person will do even if he is completely not used having a “Vibhoodhi”
  • The scene where Richa breaks down to Shankar in the car after the wedding mess up, she sums it up saying that her husband is a genius. To that complaining neighbor she says “en purushan kirukkana irukkalam aana nallavan”. Dhanush’s number is stored as “Genius’ in her mobile phone. “Pirai Thedum” song has the following lines sung by the female voice “Vizhiyin andha thaedalum, alayum undhan nenjamum purindhaalae podhumae yeazhun jenmam thaanguvaen”
    • Shows how much she believes on him and just that she doesn’t understand him completely. The reason why she never gives up on him. And a woman like that, a woman who is that strong, can definitely make a huge difference on any man’s life – however messed up he can be
  • The climax where Dhanush comes back and says that he needs to speak few more words. He starts saying about Richa. After the first word that he utters he clears his throat and continues. The most emotional moment for him where he was not able to continue without clearing his throat.
    • For a moment I thought Dhanush was kind of an asshole when he thanked only his friends and didn’t even mention about his wife. Probably it’s one of the brilliant climax by Selva where when the friends were all on tears and proud about the achievement and few even say “He is so smart”, “Such a lovely couple”, “So sweet right”, both the lead characters display amazing maturity in the relationship. When the friends start hugging Richa, she would just peep over them to look a the TV and Dhanush would be looking straight in to her eyes. I think that just sums it all
  • “Kaadhal en Kaadhal” song was probably wrongly placed in the film. I don’t think at that moment, Dhanush was so pissed off with they way the relationship is. The song goes by Dhanush completely pissed of with the girl and the relationship and wants to get out of it and the friend consoling him saying that it is not worth worrying off and just move on. Dhanush and Richa aren’t completely into it and its just starting to build up and more importantly the friend doesn’t know that Dhanush is into something. If this song was placed right after the scene where Sundar’s father offers a drink for both of them it would have been brilliant
    • Having said that, may be the song is not about Sundar actually consoling Dhanush but rather its Dhanush consoling himself – showing what he is going through in his head. In middle of the song when the lyric goes by “Aayiram Sonniyae Kaadhula Vaangala”, you can see Dhanush hitting his heart and then pointing his head. And after the song is over when both of the were completely drunk Dhanush says “Ulla vechukkavum mudiyala, Sollavum mudiyala”. Same goes to “Oda Oda” song where the comic character jumps out of his ear all of a sudden and alternatively displays the other world that he is in. It even spits on him showing the times where one would be at the weakest moments of their life. So may be it is all about himself

Of course there are numerous brilliant individual scenes all over the movie. One of the weirdest editing to the marriage scene right after the fight between the two – with a brilliantly placed long shot where you will wonder if it is Dhanush or Sundar getting married.  Dhanush saying with a sarcastic smile “Goyya bayangara kaduppula irukkaen” in the bar when someone asks “Thambi love failure-a”. The scene where Sundar is sitting in the forest room with Richa in the bathroom, Dhanush enters in to the room and you will actually see Sundar’s feet on the fingers and not firmly placed – 🙂

And I don’t want to mention about Dhanush or Richa’s acting and GV’s BGM, its all over the place that they have done a wonderful job. I personally liked GV’s silence in the background scores. It just gives you that additional time to capture the emotions on the screen and this is in line with the tricks that Ilayaraja played for years to give you that feel of the film. GV definitely has got wonderful years ahead if he continues like and it holds true if he has not lifted the scores of this film from somewhere else.

My respect for Selva has completely multiplied by this movie and this movie is just a reflection of what went on Selva’s head. And not everything would be explicitly put across as dialogues or scenes but you would just need to feel it – easier if you had been in similar situations. I still keep wondering what really went on in Selva’s head because lyrics like “Aaathadi aadu mekka raasa vandhaaram…Aadu thinna yechi pull maeya vandharam”, “Karu naakum kaara pulla, karupatti nerathu mulla, yedupatta nerathu tholla, nee kalavani” sounds brilliant and still keeps me wondering.

And women – of course, you are the emotionally strong species here. If you decide and be firm on a decision, you can completely ridicule a situation as if everything is OK when there actually is a storm around. And it would simply show on men’s face. It is this simple thing for which we will never understand you. And the very same reason why we need you as well (though we may never accept it in front of you).

Kanchana…

The movie “Kanchana” seems to be a runaway hit with huge crowds flowing in the cinema halls. The movie seems to be a hit mostly in the towns and rural areas and moderately in the cities as well. I saw couple of reviews (online and in the print) which claimed the movie to be good and particularly they mentioned about the comedy sequences. It seems that “Kovai Sarala” (as mom to Lawrence) and “Devadharshini” (as “anni” to Lawrence) have done a very good job in the comedy scenes. This definitely kindled my interest and I started seeing the clips shown in TV and online.

The scenes that were claimed to be humorous definitely didn’t even bring a smile in my face – I don’t think I have a bad sense of humor. The so called scenes involved Lawrence going to “choo choo” and asking Kovai Sarala to come along since he is a kid at heart. Other scene was the introduction of Lakshmi Rai where they mock about the length of her skirt. Cut there and the next scene will be Lawrence jumping and being carried as a kid by Kovai Sarala, Devadharshini and yeah guessed it Lakshmi Rai too. And Devadharshini all through the scenes speaks in a worst possible modulation thinking it is actually funny.

I haven’t scene the entire movie and mostly will not after seeing these scenes. People do say that Sarath Kumar has performed well. So may be those portions of the film is actually better. But what is irritating is the fact that these scenes are actually being projected as the most funniest scenes in the recent times. Add to that, today, being independence day, Sun TV is airing some special program on this movie. The interviewer is actually very intelligent in asking questions like “How did Kovai Sarala manage to hold Lawrence in her iduppu?”. For which the Lawrence kept on explaining things and everybody were ROFL.

It was so disheartening to see where these guys are taking Tamil cinema to. What is currently happening is that the industry is giving all possible crappy movies and in between a little better one (read not-so-crappy amongst the crappiest ones) becomes a run away hit. This is what one of my friend told me – “dei…Venghai laam compare pannum bodhu paravala da”. That’s where we are now instead of comparing against “Yudham Sei”, “Aaranya Kaandam”, “Nandha Lala”, etc…

I firmly believe on a quote by Kamal Haasan “You cannot blame the audience saying that they are not mature to enjoy high quality cinema”. The audience are actually well matured and they definitely appreciate good movies. All you need these days is that little bit extra promotion for these good movies. If Kamal has thought about the same and did only the typical masala movies we wouldn’t have had “Kuruthi Punal”, “Virumaandi”, “Anbe Sivam”. Though there are so many other movies of his that can be mentioned, the reason for mentioning the above is that these movies paved way for some of the good movies that we see today. Ameer, Bala, Sasikumar and the likes saw and grew with these kind of movies and resulted in Paruthiveeran, Naan Kadavul, Subramaniyapuram, etc…

Let’s not get in to a debate if Kamal copied / inspired from Hollywood or Korea or whatever. But, I would say that he was at least 10 years ahead of what the rest of the industry was thinking. And those were days where you did not have internet. Probably people didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate through his script. Probably he was bad at the script. Probably he gets confused and can’t give a clean screenplay. But he tried. He pushed things. If I look back now, even Alavandhan was an amazing movie.The movie introduced camera technology for close double action sequences, some of the amazing stunts and visual effects.

What if Alavandhan, Kuruthi Punal, Virumandi were released now? These would have been blockbusters for sure. From my view it’s probably a loss for Kamal from the timing point of view. But I immediately get reminded of the dialogue in Devar Magan by Sivaji Ganesan: “Vedhai vedhacha udanae pazham saapadanum nna mudiyuma…innaiku naan vedhaikkaraen…nee pazham saapduva…apram un payan saapduvan…apram avan payan saapduvan…idhellam paaka naan irukka maataen…aana vedhachadhu…naan…idhellam enakku enna perumaya…?”

God Father…

Like most of the people out there, I am a big fan of Hollywood films and I like to watch a lot of action and Sci-fi movies. I go to these movies more for the visual and sound effects. And I never enjoyed comedy, romantic comedies and drama kind of movies – the slower ones I mean. One of my friend started watching some of the classic movies and kept telling me about them. Had always heard about Al Pacino and Robert de Niro as one of the greats but never managed to see their movies.

Everybody told me about God Father as a must watch movie. A year back, I managed to get the DVD and put it on. I stopped it after 30 mins since it was very slow for me. But recently I started seeing some of the classic – as told by my friend. Started seeing movies like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, “Good Fellas”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Heat”, etc… I kinda started liking Al Pacino’s performances and started seeing his recent movies like “Insomnia”, “88 minutes”, “Devil’s Advocate”. I thought he was doing little bit of over acting – comparable to Sivaji Ganesan in his late 80’s movies. But I started like this Gangsta, Mafjavascript:void(0)ia movies.

One fine day I happened to see “ScarFace” and that’s when Al Pacino completely blew me over. A story of a Cuban refugee rising as a Mafia leader, Al simply gave an outstanding performance in this movie – his slang, body language and everything. I am not gonna get in to details about this movie but this one made me watch God Father again. I just finished watching till Part II of it and now I know why it is #2 in IMDB top 250 movies of all time.

The first part shows an aging Don (Marlon Brando) handing over the control to his reluctant son (Al Pacino). The movie runs for close to 3 hours and it was a wholesome movie. It shows the life of the Mafia leader, their families, enemies, how the govt plays with them, how they are ruthless. Wonderful performance by Marlon Brando, the movie shows how Al Pacino transforms from a young war hero to a Don. The music adds a lot to the movie and if you happen to patiently sit through the movie – at the end of it you get the feeling of watching a wholesome movie…Al Pacino underplays a lot in this movie and he didn’t really wow me in this one. But the last scene where he takes control of everything, sits in the chair and one of the guy kisses on his forehand and the door of his room closes – wow, one of the best endings for a movie and it creates that impact on you.

The second part…its completely Al Pacino all over, though Robert De Niro gives his best performance in his first movie itself. Towards the end of the first part only Al Pacino takes control of the family and becomes the Don. In the second part he is an experienced Don now and completely controls the family, business and Nevada. With complete under play of his character he manages to show the power the Don has. For example,

1. When the Senator visits Al and stands up in front of him and points his index finger and gives order to Al Pacino, Al is sitting crossed legs and looks at the finger and moves his eye ball for direct eye contact with the Senator. That shows the power he has and in one eye ball movement he scares you off saying “Nobody points finger at me”. Marlon Brando shows it in the opening scene of first part in a different way by saying “Why do you come to me now? You do not offer your friendship anymore”.

2. When Al Pacino learns from his wife that she actually got an abortion done and it wasn’t a miscarriage, he shows his anger growing inside and gives a slap to his wife. Till this moment he would have talked very patiently with his wife telling that he is making changes in his life.

3. Scenes where he reunites with is sister and forgives is brother (who was a traitor to him) were so heavy with Al showing how much family means to a man and the background score that adds more fuel to the fire.

The characterization was just too good in the entire movie. All the brothers were contrast to each other – Michael(Al) being calm, composed and cool, Sonny is the hot headed guy and Fredo is the stupid, dumb guy. But the best part is that these characters live in the movie and they undergo changes in the due course of the movie. In 5 plus hours of the two parts the director shows the life of the main characters and how they evolve.

And yeah, in the second part, Robert De Niro plays the young Vito Corleone. I heard this is his first movie – but it doesn’t look like. Simply pulled it through wonderfully. Almost everybody plays their role with perfection in this movie – Kay(Diane Keaton), Tom, Roth, Frankie, Fredo, the Senator…

One can clearly find out that Kamal and Mani Ratnam were greatly inspired by this movie and had some of the scenes straight into Nayagan. Scenes where the old Kamal runs his hand over his oiled hair, the DIG telling Kamal about his molested girl are direct lift-off from this movie. And yeah, the scene where Kamal successfully unloads the “stuff” and comes and gives it off as a gift to Reddy brothers – it is from ScarFace.

I am actually not able to express fully after watching these two parts – it is more of a feeling. It definitely would test your patience initially. But it is just a matter of time – once you cross that hurdle this movie would just amaze you. In fact towards the end of second part I was looking at the time left and was upset that the movie was going to end soon (after watching a 3.15 hours hollywood movie). I heard the third part isn’t this great – but having watched this much, I don’t think I would skip it.

And yeah, the sub titles made a lot of difference this time.