Posted in Pictures Desi

Padmavat (Hindi)

Every Hindu child in India grows up listening to the heroic and self sacrificing tale of the ethereal beauty Chittore Rani Padmini (Padmaavathi). Of Alauddin Khilji’s avarice, cunning and barbarity. As for me, I had my granny tell me about Padmini a million/billion times perhaps when I was a little girl.

Wonder why the picture drew criticisms for positive portrayal of the historical event. The film also justifies why Sati was indeed practised in India for a few centuries. Notably, it was prevalent in border states of today’s India that were prone to mogul/arab/turk/afghan/mongol invasions.

A typical Sanjay Leela Bansali production, it must have been a grand watch in IMAX cinemas.  I must be the last to review the film. Watching pictures at home comes with a cost: missing out scenes thanks to domestic chores. Despite disclaimer, Hindu India knows better. ‘Padmaavat’ also is the costliest celluloid picture to be made in Indian history to date. (Catching up with lost bits in Tamil version, it comes as no surprise that dubbed ones can never come like the originals).

Numbers may vary from 14,000 to 70,000 from account to account – but that many Rajput Hindu women were believed to have jumped into fire igniting themselves, committing mass suicide  (Jauhar) (Sati) when Mewar was defeated by the Sultan of Delhi (sic) (cannot even come to terms with actual history that these savages once ran a reign of terror in my Punya Bhoomi Bharat), saving themselves from capture by islamists. The historic Sati was led by the queen Padmavat herself when Maharaja Ratan Singh was defeated in the sly in the battle by Malik Kafur. (Malik Kafur the slave himself was reportedly a bisexual as Khilji was, and was in relationship with Khilji).

If not for Padmavat and her fellow Rajput women (as well as other brave Hindu warrior kings like Chatrapathi Shivaji of the Maratha and Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara Kingdom), India could be more islamic today and less Hindu in character. Who knows we could have been a sultanate. Hindu kings and warriors who fought by their own ‘dharmic’ traditions saved us from worst fates. Unfortunately and ironically, the native Hindu bravado is played down in Indian history text books and India’s invaders are portrayed the heroes. This is like viewing Hitler and Nazis as heroses and the victimized jews as oppressors. The price one pays for democracy and secularism. Irony is, in India today, if we talk about our traumatic past, we will be accused of hurting the sensitivities of our minorities (who were in all probability force-converted by our invaders at the point of sword).

The one last picturization of the Sati was good enough for me. Salute my Hindu ancestors for their selfless sacrifices and bravery. Hindu dharma forbids backstabbing. War ethics are a separate dharma by themselves. Aliens from Afghanistan unfortunately were less civilized, most brutal as India has witnessed in last 14 traumatic centuries. Hindus are staunch believers in Karma. Karma has been playing out in Af-Pak for decades now, can’t you see. Anything taken from the Hindu – will have to be paid back by tens of hundreds of thousand times with interest. For the simple reason, Hindus do not disturb others on their will.

Bow my head to the queen of Mewar and the bravest Rajputs who resisted surrender and conversion to Islam with their very lives, and defended the Sanatana Dharma until their last breath, owing to whom India today is still majority Hindu!

Dharma won over Adharm in Mewar, even if Khilji’s psychotic army ran over Chittor.

May be the exact sequence of history was not recorded (as it can never be with Period films) and there are naturally quite some artistic exaggerations here and there, but in spite of these superfluous flaws, the picture is extremely well made with attention paid to intricate details – from hand block designed costumes to period jewelry of Rajastan. Filming entirely limited to Rajastan forts. Outstanding cinematography. As I have never been to this part of the country, I have not much knowledge about India’s north west state. Deepika Padukone lived up to her character, doing justice to the role of Chittore Rani Padmini as Padmavat is widely referred to. Good and apt casting with Ranveer Singh playing the bloodcurdling Khilji and Pankaj Kapoor as the dharmic, valiant king of Chittor. Prior to the picture, I was not aware that Rani Padmaavat was Sinhalese. Speaks a lot about marital relations between India and the island nation Sri Lanka over centuries – starting with the times of Ram and Sita and Ravana?

Hurts when old wounds are reopened. MY HEART BLEEDS… Delhiites may be comfortable with forts and mausoleums, but coming from south, most of us like me cannot come to accept India’s turbulent past. Cannot come to terms with the Taj Mahal representing India. If you ask me, we must have Tanjore Brahadeshwara or Madurai Meenakshi or Hampi in Karnataka or the Kailasa temple in Ajanta or the Sun temple of Konark for India’s mascot in our tourism brochures or whatever. It is time to slowly ease out Taj from our conscience and replace it with a monument of our native pride and self-respect.

A symbol of bloody invasion and tyranny and genocide of my own fellow Hindus simply cannot represent my beloved Bharat. BIG NO TO TAJ !

 

Posted in Pictures Desi

Review: 96 (Tamil)

Some great low budget but delightfully watchable Tamil flicks that are running to packed houses, this season:

Checka Chivandha Vaanam (reddish red sky)

96

Paraiyerum Perumal

Merku Thodarchi Malai (western ghats)

Immaikka Nodigal (the seconds that did not tick)

U Turn

No hyped Diwali release. No school summer vacation.  No big banners either. No superheroes. The one big name is Mani Ratnam (Checka Chivandha Vaanam). Others like Vijay Sethupathi, Sashi Kumar etc., are still legends in the making – outstanding unconventional heroes cum directors. With Siva Karthikeyan, the two truly make up the winning formula for Tamil cinema. Add to them Prasanna and Siddharth and Madhavan (although the latter two share their time with Bollywood). Thanks to these new age heroes, one is taken back to K Balanchander’s times of 1970s (though I was a pre-teen then), when Tamil cinema was all about substance.

For, the strength of Tamil cinema lies in storytelling and wonderful characterization. Story-screenplay-dialogue. Dusky heroes and heroines of native skin script a realistic stage setting for the plots to unfold. Witty and satirist, the films are a fine and hitherto unexplored ground in Indian screen. There have been some in recent past like Jigarthanda, Kidari, Bale Velaiyatheva etc., which were a new genre moving away from outright Kamal Hasan humours like Pammal K Sambandam and Pancha Tantram. Now humour seems to be interwoven in the story. Screenplay-direction merits a thunderous applause. Highlight is, low budget but good content. Commercial success! (Although one cannot underestimate Kamal Hasan socials like Virumaandi or Devar Magan (re-made as Virasat in Hindi starring Anil Kapoor). Only that, what is trending is good, better! A different kind of story telling, a new dimension, a fresh perspective, fascinating imagination.

There have been a couple of ground-breakers like Aruvi (on TRP the television rating points system that drives the media), Kalyana Samayal Saadham (on male impotence) and OK Kanmani (on live-in relationships) (Mani Ratnam), but Thiruttu Payale 2 (the rascal 2) starring Prasanna and Bobby Simha was a tech nail-biter to the finish. Robot (Shankar) with Rajni Kanth could have been the ultimate tech production (with 2.0 trailer now played in cinemas – Diwali release?), but Thiruttu Payale was like math assignment or video game.

Except for U Turn and Chekka Chivandha Vaanam that are racy thrillers, the recent most crop are slow paced (not yet watched all) one believes.

96 Stands out as urban chick yet relaxing like a calm ocean. This is my second Vijay Sethupathi film, first being ‘Rummy’ in tv popular for its number ‘kooda mela kooda vechu.’ One word to describe Vijay is ‘yadhaartham.’ With this he (as well as Sashi Kumar and the tribe) move away from the league of Kamal Hasan, Rajnikanth, Ajith and Vijay who are icons in the film industry mostly thanks to their histrionics (Vikram and Surya only slightly better).

96 is a breather as it flows without a ripple, soothing and unmarred by violence or vulgarity. NO CONFLICT IN THE PICTURE, NO AGITATION OF THE MIND. Over estimation has cost those like Kamal Hasan dearer as we see already with his junk called ‘Vishwaroopam’ series. Sometimes, the pros bite the dust and it takes fresh talent to take the lead. A very neat and easy and uncomplicated script is a huge plus for 96. Trisha is elegant as ever as Janu and Vijay Sethupathi is ‘yadhaartham’ personified. Together they strike an odd but interesting pair. As the drama is day-to-day life of the current Whatsapp generation, it is naturally a runaway hit in both urban and rural centers.

96 reminds me of our school batch 86 (84-86 board batch, 84 – 10th standard and 86 12th standard boards). Only, our school was all-girls school! Reunions are happening ever since Facebook got us connected to our long lost friends.  Intelligent of the director to cash in on a contemporary phenomenon.

The subject treated with a delicate direction, kudos! Male virgin at 37 is not strange in Indian/Hindu society. Coming in the heels of Sabarimala, as someone caught between the two worlds of modernity and traditions, I do not know how to react to this in present times. Is it naive of the hero Ram played by Vijay Sethupathi or is this characteristic is what defines the society we live in. Surprisingly, the same India is now hitting headlines in global media for rapes. My nation is a land of contradictions. To come to grips with our inherent nature is our greatest challenge.

Watching 96 was like reading a Mills & Boon paperback to me – used to finish one book per day in back bench in school days. Addicted to TDH – the tall, dark, handsome heroes of M & B women authors! 96 though sees a reversal of roles. Janu (Trisha) is the leading lady – who takes the charge!

Rerecording by Ilayaraja, a musical treat to ears. Unobtrusive (demanded by script of course) unlike today’s loud and brash BGM these days typical with AR Rahman’s.

The review will be incomplete without a mention on budget: only 1 set of clothes for Trisha mostly (total 3), a plain kurta-dupatta suit. Four local locations in all: a hotel in Chennai (Accord), a flat in uptown apartment block in the city, a resort in ECR (East coast road), some traffic scenes/airport/underground Chennai metro rail. Other than that, some shots are filmed in Tanjore streets and a local temple with a distant view of the millennia old Brahadeshwara. Most Tanjore picturization is within the four walls of a matric school. Trying to figure out the budget cost ever since, especially against the super-duper big time bombers like Vishwaroopam! No glamour content, no comedian track, no melodrama, no fist fight or use of abusive language or double meaning dialogue. Touches a chord without making you emotional. Simply beautiful and as I said, ‘yadhaartham.’ Reminds one of ‘Dil ek mandir’ from 1950-60s, made within four hospital walls which was later remade in Tamil as ‘Nenjil or aalayam.’

The after-taste of cinema must be the ‘feel good’ factor. Felt good going to sleep on 96. Fell headlong into a deep and dreamless slumber late last evening, with a smile on my lips even if the film ended on a heavy note. The characters have my respect!

 

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: War For The Planet Of Apes

Can’t figure out why film channels from India are beaming pictures like ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Planet of Apes’ for our Independence day!

Anyway, as a fierce wildlife lover, I couldn’t have bargained for more.

I hate to bring the Hindu factor into everything but can’t help mentioning here.

I grew up in a home/culture where before we ate a morsel of food everyday, we offered it to Goddess Annapoorna first and then the crows in our terrace next. The crows we see as our pitrus (forefathers) waiting to be fed every morning.

Cows are everywhere in India because we think they are divine. Same for monkeys. Our temples also have snakes !

Every Hindu God (we have a galaxy of them, each for a different department) has a pet animal attached (very much like in Avatar picture – the word Avatar being the Sanskrit word for reincarnation) (reincarnation by itself is another Hindu philosophy). Every Hindu temple has a ‘thala vriksha’ – the temple tree.

All trees in India are sacred and considered divine.

I recall when we had to fell the four tall standing and overgrown Ashoka trees in our house because their roots were damaging the structure.

The day before, the crew came with their tools and machinery and performed an earnest Puja (akin to Christian service) offering the septuagenarian trees ‘Neivedyam’ (food meant for the divine) and pleading for their pardon for cutting their lives short.

The next day morning before chopping of the trees using machines and saws (for the top most branches), there were again fervent prayers for the souls of the trees. The woodcutters were labourers who routinely felled trees hindering highways. But they said, cutting old trees was like murdering wise old men.

Which other culture of earth would think the way we Hindus do. Who will even bother about the souls of trees. Some trees we Hindus believe may house ‘Muneeshwar’ for one thing, the saviour god of little children! And He is believed to be an unforgiving angry old man, not wanting to be disturbed! Better not provoke Him!

The Ashoka trees in our compound were  taller than three-four floors and home to a handful species of birds. Cutting them down was no easy task. In spite of machinery and good amount of manual sawing, the street had to be cordoned off for the day for safety purposes. The way the trees fell! Unforgettable even today. For years you assume they are one among you, they are like a family member, but then you chop them down one fine day!

If you think Ashoka trees had no branches, you are wrong. How the birds had intelligently built their nests in the crooks and nooks in the Ashoka trees was amazing.

I couldn’t help wailing out in agony as the trees were taken down one by one. As they were huge, they took two whole days. The base never yielded. Not quite possible to completely uproot them. Acid was poured on their roots to snuff out whatever life could possibly still sprout from them at a later date.

The evenings were the worst. I remember it vividly because my son was still a primary school boy then. I have fed him food pointing out the birds to him and the nests and eggs.

The birds were back for their nests at sun down and were clearly disoriented not finding their homes. Their screeches in pain and shock rented the night air – the crow families, the cuckoo families, the pigeon families and the sparrow families were all flying in circles. I wondered how much curses must have been heaped on us by the voiceless and helpless bird parents looking for their nests and nestlings. After a week of encircling our house, they stopped coming back eventually. Where in the city they took refuge was something I thought about for a long time.

Urban Chennai has no place any more for tall old trees. Every inch of space is worth in millions of rupees, sadly. I forgot the squirrels. I didn’t know until then how many squirrel families had holed up in the trees.

The trees had to go still. It was practical solution with neighbours complaining from next street about the intruding roots damaging their foundations.

But the love and respect we Hindus have for all living creatures is immense. Our temples house the cows, the snakes, the trees… In fact this is the main conflict between the majority native Hindus of the nation and the converted muslims who cull cattle and relish beef. The Middle eastern culture does not sync with the ten thousand year Hindu civilization which is too strong and deep rooted in spite of a thousand year invasion.

So as a wildlife lover and lover of nature, it gave me ample satisfaction to watch the latest ‘Planet of Apes’ picture today that saw the mutilation of Human race back to their fifth sense (of the Ape world) and the Apes ultimately ruling the world gaining an upperhand inadvertently.

Return to the Nature. That’s simply wonderful. Back to the basics.

Foreign ideologues like the Churches (on conversion spree) and the Islamists have always poked fun at the Hindu way of life for living close to nature, demeaning and disrespecting our love for birds and animals and trees, and even rivers.

Hindus are the only race in the world to have elevated the flora and fauna and the five elements of nature – the Agni (fire), the Wayu (wind), the Jal (water). Bhoomi (soil) the Akaash (sky) to divine status. All these are living Gods for us. Every christian and every muslim I have come across in my life has only ridiculed our cultural belief. The Hindu belief system has been worshiping nature for tens of thousands of years, being the oldest civilization in the world.

 

In Hindu temples, we marry the Neem tree with the Peepal tree (!). If a woman goes childless, all she is advised by the elders is to do is, to circumambulate the wedded trees every morning and evening. The reason is pretty scientific. Neem is a natural pest and infection controller. Together with the Peepal, the oxygen level in the air gets maximum purifying the environment. Who knows how, but it has been working for Hindu women.

In Mylapore, in the Kapaleeshwara temple where i literally grew up in, the ‘thala vriksha’ (the local shrine tree) was the Punnai tree. The temple bird was peacock. As it was a Shiva temple, we also had the Vilvam tree inevitably. And a cowshed where they reared a dozen high breed cows and bulls as tall as six feet. It would be a glorious sight to watch peacocks dancing with unfolded feathers before the onset of the monsoons.

All that is disappearing even in India now. Every single custom, belief and tradition from Hindu culture is degraded first, then copied and looted by the followers of Abrahamic folds. Simultaneous attack from multiple sides, i do not know how we are still ticking as a nation. Both the Middle east and the West are bent on their agenda: to either make us into world’s largest terror nation or another Latin America – at any cost. Hindus today are endangered species!

Watching a picture where mankind perishes from planet Earth totally leaving the world to the wildlife (in this case the Apes) felt good really. Hopefully this turns into reality!

Barring that, the human gene in the Ape Caesar is remarkably captured by the direction as the Ape leader’s face registers a variety of conflicting emotions coming face to face with humans in extra ordinary circumstances. The humane face of the merciless general doing his duty is another case in point. It is a battle between emotions and wit. For an ape leader, Caesar is a good characterization. I remember ‘him’ from his earliest movies – from the time he is a baby.

With this film, i have watched the entire series of the Planet of Apes. Whoever conceived the idea merits the highest awards, no wonder the latest picture bagged Academy awards last year.

May be not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a nature lover like me, you will appreciate the Ape flicks.

In spite of ridicule, we Hindus must never give up our love and reverence for the wild life and domesticated animals and for birds, insects, trees and rivers – in general, for all that is natural. All rivers of India are goddesses going by names Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Kaveri… the only boy is Brahmaputra, the son of creator Brahma Himself, among the trinity of Male Hindu Gods of Creation, Nurturing and Destruction.

When visiting the Thala Kaveri in the state of Karnataka, the origin of river Kaveri, I offered a Puja to Mother Goddess Kaveri, the lifeline of south India, who nurtures life to the south of Vindhyas. Thanked Her for the rice we eat, the water we drink, for the earth we slept on. Emotional moment for us. Dozens of Hindu families offered Puja (prayers) to Mother (river) Kaveri anointing her with flowers at Her source.

I am a Hindu. I am proud we worship our rivers. I am proud the Neem trees and Banyan trees and Crows and Snakes and Rivers and even the Seas are gods for us. There is no other culture like ours. The more I see such films, the more I love my culture and the more I refuse to let India be converted.

Apes are all the more special to us Hindus because, monkeys are the family of our god Hanuman. Hanuman we believe, still lives eternally somewhere, watching out the world. No other better custodian for planet Earth than Hanuman. We have exclusive Hanuman temples, dedicated to the monkey god. He is our protector god against all things evil. He is god for sharpness, alertness of brain. He is god for godspeed success.

The Hindu Monkey God Hanuman from the Kingdom of Kishkinta, the monkey world of ancient India, as per Ramayan

Something like the planet of Apes within India is already described in our Historic epic Ramayan. It is called ‘Kishkinta’ – the kingdom of monkeys. Lord Ram helps ruler Sugriva defeat Vaali and consolidate the monkey kingdom.

After ‘Avatar’ a total lift of the Hindu philosophy of reincarnation (from one body to another), i have always felt that the Planet of Apes is another copy of Kishkinta, the ancient monkey kingdom believed to have existed in India by Hindus over tens of thousands of years ago. (At least director James Cameroon titled the picture ‘Avatar’ acknowledging its Hindu inspiration).

 

 

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Queen of Katwe

It so happened that I heard about the book and real life story of ‘The boy who harnessed the wind’ from Malawi, in Toastmasters Meet just yesterday. The day before, I had watched ‘Queen of Katwe’ – based on real life story of a Ugandan girl who went on to become a legend in Chess.

The glaring and depressing squalor of the girl’s society throws light on tough life and survival conditions in African countries. Uganda is supposedly better off, I reminded myself.

The first shocker for me was something like ‘culture shock.’ I am ashamed to admit that before this picture, I hardly got to watch a full length film with cast predominantly black. Or overwhelmingly black ,with not a single exception. A fight in my mind started … whether to continue watching or stop. I clicked on the ‘info’ on my tv remote and discovered that the story was that of a chess prodigy. That helped.

I have watched of course some Will Smith pictures like ‘the Pursuit of happiness’ and some of Morgan Freeman’s but they are basically set in America. Somehow my mind classified African Americans as different species compared to native Africans. Watching a full length picture set entirely in Africa was like a challenge i set to myself.

We Indians accuse others of racism always, for the first time I found that even watching a picture totally centered in Africa was like difficult home assignment for me. Looking at the streets in screen where only black heads bobbed felt different. By no way I mean insult to anyone. Everything, everyone is God’s creation. I respect that. Until now, I am just not exposed to this kind of crowd.

I remember the first time I landed in Malaysia over 20 years back. More than the slight culture shock, what I felt immediately was my new status as ‘minority.’ It was impossible to come to terms with accepting this basic fact: that outside India, I am minority. I despised the tv adverts there where the models were either Malay or Chinese. Indian skin could/would not sell a beauty cream or soap or shampoo. Frankly, it was a humbling experience.

My days in Middle East are far better. Now I am more mature, and here there are mixed nationalities.

Europe too is increasingly a mixed society and America, a melting pot of cultures, even if both may be predominantly Caucasian. At least nobody moved away from me or stared at me. I won’t say I felt exactly at home, but I was relieved nobody paid me attention. I wasn’t a freak. Indian skin was regular.

Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria are popular tourist/work destinations with flourishing game business and oil trade. Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia may have Arab influence while South Africa, Zimbabwe may still boast of a residual white population to balance. But Katwe comes across as 100% purely ethnic African-Ugandan. It is a small rundown shanty town perhaps or some forgotten rural picket where our girl Phiona (played by Madhina), nurtures a passion for chess. Encouraged by her coach and his wife, Phiona surmounts uphill tasks both in personal and social life and carves a niche for herself in the world of chess at African summit.  She aims to become a Grand Master. The dilemma Phiona faces as she goes places (literally), with confused emotions, reflects to me somehow what every middle class Indian who climbs up the social ladder may identify with. Phiona’s family circumstances are typical African where crime and poverty go hand in hand. It is not easy to escape this vicious circle. It requires greatest courage and determination to beat out of the corrupt system and emerge a winner. Phiona makes her village proud as she reigns supreme as the Queen of Katwe, crowned the chess champion.

After I finished watching the picture, I asked myself if as a routine film buff I had had second thoughts beforehand, how film critics around the world would receive a picture filmed in Africa. It is unfair. Even a trained and educated mind like mine took a while to adjust.

Personally to me, Queen of Katwe proved to be cathartic … the experience has molded me. My cinema world has been so far limited to Hollywood, Bollywood and Tamil filmdom. The glitz and glamour of these fake film industries probably blinded me to bare essential truths.

However, I couldn’t help thinking how entire Africa is completely either christianized or islamized. The new missionaries are no more the Europeans. Now the conversion mafia are Africans themselves. The present day African native/tribal travesty is troubling. Strip them off their indigenousness , what is left of them.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: The Reader

Watched this rare love story in tv but happened to miss the title and opening scene that I managed to find in You Tube. It was from Berg (the hero)’s bath tub scene that I watched the picture in the idiot box. Catching up with the first couple of reels on internet, I was amazed to discover how our censor board continues to edit steamy scenes for us Indian viewers!!! One would think by 2018, things must be different!

Anyway, having watched over a hundred times the debut picture of Kate Winslet the Titanic (of which I never tire), nothing prepared me for her middle-aged mature looks in ‘The Reader.’ She looks her age. The second part of hero character is played by Ralph Fiennes. I like him from his ‘Maid in Manhattan’ with Jennifer Lopez, another Hollywood romance favourite of mine. Like Richard Gere, Fiennes seems to have compassion written in his eyes… How important cast selection is, is something I learned from his role. Why do directors pick on certain actors. Why not others. Ralph Fiennes, from two of his films i have watched, seems to have an answer.

Googled Kate Winslet and found her to be born 1975. Not too young.

Powerful and bold script but totally understandable. I don’t know how I missed this one all these days. (Obvious reason: i watch most Hollywood films at home, in tv, never in cinemas. Cinemas are reserved for watching local Tamil ‘masalas’ with unruly and non-stop whistling Chennai ‘machis’ hahaha) ‘The Reader’ looks like an Academy award winner. No memory of it but I could guess right away that this one was different and well made.

We speak of unconditional love, but when you come across one it totally bowls you over. Such a rare gem to find.

As for Hanna Schmitz played by Kate Winslet, her obsession with perfection is baffling. OCD, the obsessive compulsive disorder. Could it be that? It is easy to hold her in contempt if not for her honesty and forthrightness and the false pride that convicts her for life.

In spite of the gravity (literally) of the crime she is tried for, one can deeply empathize with Hanna-Kate. The bubbly Irish tap-dancing Titanic girl has come a long way. Ralph Fiennes’s Micheal Berg character is equally crafted with care. I fell in love with this man. His sensitivity to Hanna moved me to near tears. Respect for the man who wouldn’t judge Hanna. The way Berg reads his love to Hanna is poetry. How Hanna matches his imagination teaching herself to read is a love letter by itself. The proud woman leaves a proud woman.

The Jewish daughter refusing absolution is understandable.  May be here, we Hindus can take cue. May be this is the steely Jewish resolve.

The one who has played the junior Berg is perfect.

War movies have somehow been touchy : ‘The Schindler’s List’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’ .

Looking forward to watching this beauty  a second time. Felt like reading a good book. Few films leave you with such a lingering after taste. Melancholy can be sweet.

Posted in Pictures Desi

Review: Aruvi (Tamil)

Watched this mindblowing Tamil picture ‘Aruvi’ (waterfall). Only this Aruvi happened to be the name of a girl of 25 years. Brand new picture to hit the silver screen only in 2017. Very apt title because, that is how the character flows: at times bouncy and bubbly, at times listless and subdued. But Aruvi does make one hell of a sound: roaring sound. And the message is heard clear.

Debutante Aditi Balan plays the lead as Aruvi. The director Arun Prabhu Purushothaman’s debut venture couldn’t have been better. A  star is born. Two stars really. Incidentally, learned of the director and heroine from Wiki. Missed the titles and the opening scene. The director has unwittingly set a very high bar for his second project.

Kudos to the director once more and the producer for daring to produce a film without a hero. Our heroine is the hero of the film.

Secondly, rare to come across such a flipping script… back and forth, back and forth, frames from the present juxtaposed against frames from memories(past) weaving an interesting and complex story. A dozen or so scattered life events captured in snatches spin a beautiful yarn of solid story of a middle-class family girl. The way it is done is what makes it different. This is a hitherto unexplored technique. The flashbacks become something you look forward to for any idea on what is about to come. The mystery lingers for a while.

The online reviews describe the story as a socio-political drama and I guess I can borrow their words here. I can elaborate more but prefer to hold, unwilling to give away the plot. I am hardly the type to turn to the last page to read first like some do. Reviews I skim barely not to get prejudiced about a film (or even a book) before I get to watch (or read) it without a clue. It was while watching the picture, I wanted to grab some vital info that I decided to read reviews. Wanted to catch up with the opening scene.

The picture is also refreshing in that, we get to see a real Tamil girl (or probably Mallu) playing the lead instead of a light skinned north Indian star. I have no problem with a Hindi speaking dubbing artiste from Bollywood heartland cast in a Tamil picture but it is good (and probably relief) to hear free flow of Tamil from a local heroine for a change – who looks dusky or tanned like Tamil people!!! Tamannah or Samantha or whoever can hardly fit into urban Madarasi role!

Tamil cinema audience are not new to satires-sarcasms from magazines (Tuglaq of Cho’s times not now) to films, but Aruvi takes you to a whole new level. It is an unbelievable mix of satire, sarcasm, humour, despair, helplessness, compassion, inclusiveness everything. Three cheers to the director for exposing the sham that the media is. Everything revolves around TRP ratings these days. No scruples. The script does not judge characters. The forgiving and somewhat cynic attitude when it comes to the heroine is a breather. Aditi Balan has done proper justice to the character she has played, with her immaculately perfect dialogue delivery.  Tamil diction is too good. Absolutely no fancy costumes or make-up or any aggravated scene of violence or nonsense in the script. The heroine is like your girl next door. One can’t believe Aditi is a new comer. She has virtually lived the role and is reported to have shed some significant kilos before the final shoot for the closing scenes for a credible story line (with her emaciated looks).  The make-over is out of the world, scored without a foreign make-up artist (unlike our Kamal Hasan’s who may come very pricey). The supporting cast have done a remarkable job to make the picture wholesome and truly entertaining.

Rarely we get to see pictures of this genre. Every time I lose hope about Indian film industry, something like this crops up like a promise for future.

The current breed of Tamil directors is awesome. Their story-screenplay-dialogue seem to be realistic. Hopefully they don’t remain the ‘one-film-wonder’ or become the casualty of ‘early burn-out syndrome.’

Aruvi is reported to have been shot entirely in a digital camera to cut costs to bare minimum levels which is something like a world record! This is not internet news. This was snippet news in between ads in the tv. A commercial hit, which goes on to prove that good scripts will find takers any day. Aruvi is a trendsetter of sorts. A treat to watch, lagging not for a second. Not your normal range film yet with the fast pace manages to make a lasting impression on you. I wish I had watched the picture in cinemas. The effect would have been even better. Very low production costs, high entertainment value, women-centric, with NO MALE LEAD/HERO, convincing, compelling story without unnecessary ‘add-ons’  and tags … these could make Aruvi, a strong contender for both national and international film awards. The rare intriguing picture that made me double up rolling with guffaws one minute and weep quietly the next.

Highly recommended.

A class apart.

Posted in Pictures Desi

As She Was: Sri Devi

Sri Devi from my hometown Madras aka Chennai, starred in a Tamil picture for the first time when she was barely 4 years old.  From child artiste, she went on to become leading lady and superstar not only down south but also in Bollywood. Rather than remembering her for ‘Hawa hawaiii’ and ‘Chandni’ , this is what I will remember her always for:  Sri Devi from Tamil films. Can you believe this Sri Devi. Almost no make-up, no glam costumes, none of the farces like nose job… The innocence and dignity of character called Sri Devi. Unlike the diva who banished her true self into oblivion once she set foot in Bollywood. Every single picture of hers was epic. Tamil people mostly do not speak Hindi and know of only her Tamil pictures.  This list is not exhaustive. I have compiled whatever came to my mind.

This is my tribute to the legendary star who passed away last night in Dubai. Untimely death. I doubt whether even her daughters know  the other side of her the way the Tamil audience may.

However i do not underrate her tryst with Bollywood. Daughter of Chennai may be, but bahu of Mumbai. Bombay made her phenomenal, the first all India lady superstar that she was. If not for Bollywood, she would have remained a hidden jewel to the world.

This first number is from her debut picture opposite both Rajni Kanth and Kamal Hasan, directed by thespian director K Balachander. Sri Devi is 13 years in this film.

 

A crime story, Gayathri must have been a heavy subject to handle for 15 year Sri Devi with anti-hero Rajni Kanth but she managed it admirably well.

A cute Jolly Abraham song which was my pre-teen favourite.

 

Also a pre-teen favourite, this is a film where Sri plays village belle.

The landmark and award winning ’16 Vayathinile’ which went on to create 3 superheroes in Indian film industry: Sri Devi, Kamal Hasan and Rajni Kanth. Bharathi Raja became ace film director and Ilaya Raja became south India’s no.1 composer. Village story. Cannot see a classic like this until today, down to earth. A peek into rural Tamil Nad.

This song was a rare mistake of Sri Devi’s in Tamil films but it went on to become a runaway superhit with its catchy tune. I happened to watch the video only in You Tube and was relieved I only listened to this one in radio in my teenage:

Another award winning and thought provoking picture with director K Balachander who was belatedly awarded Dada Saheb Phalke award as if as an afterthought.

Award winning ‘Moondram Pirai’ which was dubbed into ‘Sadma’ in Hindi. My school screened a single film for us every year. That is how I got to watch this picture with my entire school gang in our school’s huge LV Hall, in the second floor. The dozens of lining doors were closed and the hall was darkened before the projector started running. Every time Cheenu (played by Kamal) called ‘Viji’ (Sri Devi character), my friends called me back ‘Viji’ a dozen times! It was also the first time I ever saw a picture with my school friends/friends without adult companionship/supervision. Unforgettable memories about the film. Every girl in my class remembers it even today therefore. Although we did not know then that the Balu Mahendra picture would forever take Sri Devi away from Madras, once it was dubbed into Hindi.

Beautiful melodies from Johny:

 

The cutest one and my all time favourite of Sri Devi. This was also my mother’s favourite (my mother passed away in 1982).

Vaazhve Maayam presented a stylish Sri Devi for the first time to Tamil audience. Sri Devi was changing.

 

 

Crime-Horror film like none other:

 

Priya: Sri Devi in her first foreign shoot in Singapore.

Another favourite of mine: