Posted in Pictures Desi

Review: Queen (Tamil Web Series)

Queen (Tamil Web Series) is on MX Player.

Directed by Gautam Menon (No.1 copycat and idea thief from Hollywood and crypto (?) christian allegedly responsible for maximum conversion to Christianity along with actor Joseph Vijay in Tamil film industry), starring Ramya Krishnan as Jayalalitha…. yes, this is supposedly the life story of the most beloved woman from Tamil Nadu by the masses, our ex-CM Jayalalitha Jayaram, who died an untimely (and an unnatural?) death just a couple or more years ago…

Eyes pregnant with tears, i am glued to my screen even though most of JJ’s private life was public as well. Her rise from stardom to the state politics. Her topping the entire state in the school final SSLC board exams, her reluctance to join the showbiz world, her short lived love story, her gradual climb to power with authority and strength… We will never see a woman like her for a long time… I missed Indira Gandhi mostly. In fact it was a working day for us in our school when Mrs. Gandhi got assassinated. But what I missed about Indira Ji, I caught up with in JJ. She was the one and only queen. Queen of the masses. Intelligent, shrewd, with an inborn compassion for fellow women. She did not bow down to anybody. May be that cost her her life who knows.

As ever, I got my first opinion on JJ from my maternal granny. I think she attended JJ’s ‘Bharatnatyam’ arangetram (south classical dance debut stage performance) at RR Sabha in Mylapore. The function was presided over by thespian Tamil actor Shivaji Ganesan, reigning hero of silver screens at par with MGR in those days. Shivaji referred to Jayalalitha, the 15 year old, as ‘thanga padhumai’ (golden doll) that made to headlines in Tamil dailies like ‘Dina Thanthi’ then. Her first film happened almost immediately. This interesting snippet was missing in Queen although i do not expect the director to cover all grounds. Supposedly, JJ’s dance recital pictures in black & white were splashed in Tamil magazines and newspapers that won her her entry into the tinsel world.

Jayalalitha was a contracted actor working with M G Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, who became Tamil Nadu’s chief minister in 1977. Before her for MGR, there was Saroja Devi, and after her there were Manjula and Latha. MGR’s ‘contracts’ were ‘popular’ indeed. It was also common knowledge that Jayalalitha’s impending marriage to Shobhan Babu, Andhra actor, was done away by MGR. JJ was manipulated throughout her life. First it was her mother who stage-managed her, then it was her co-actor MGR before she fell into the hands of some ‘vested interests.’

Shobhan Babu passed away a few years before JJ. Every time I pass his house and his bust (what for??), i can’t help thinking of his love affair with Jayalalitha in the ’70s. In fact on his demise, I half-expected JJ to turn up for his funeral. No chance, still. There was and is a secret love child, now into her 40s, as grapevines had/have it. Shobhan became one more man who hardened Jayalalitha into toughest woman with his cowardice.

JJ’s relationship with MGR may have been an open book but looking at the old black & white and colour pictures that came later, the bond that they shared is pretty evident. There is more than hero worship in JJ’s eyes for MGR. True, she had none to blame. Much of her pain and suffering was self-inflicted. After Vaijayanthi Mala, Rekha and Hema Malini from Tamil Nadu who graced Bollywood, it should have been Jayalalitha next before Sri Devi’s turn. Reportedly she turned down a Raj Kapoor offer on MGR’s diktat. MGR could have made a star out of JJ, but she also in turn seems to have paid a heavy price. A stint in Bollywood could have changed Jayalalitha’s life completely freeing her from MGR’s clutches.

I have no memory of JJ’s film life. By mid ’70s she was already out of films entering the next phase of her life. But it was the time when I discovered pictures. The earliest memory of mine about Jayalalitha is her appointment as propaganda secretary for ADMK. We had a maid in our house when I was a little girl. She was smitten with MGR those days. I remember her spinning colourful tales to me and my sis from MGR picture stories as she hounded the cinemas almost every week. Almost always the heroine of the subject would be Jayalalitha. My fondest memory is pleading our teenage maid to tell us the story of ‘Kannithai’ (virgin mother). Many many more films of those times. This might have been between 1972-1978 )ofcourse by 1978 MGR was already the CM and JJ had quit films since long). This is how Jayalalitha became familiar to me at a very young age. I hadn’t watched a single film of her until we bought our own tv (in 1977) but I had listened to her film stories from a huge fan of hers describing to me scene by scene, dialogue by dialogue. The on-screen and off-screen pair’s unbeatable winning combo was also JJ’s debut film ‘Aayirathil oruvan’ (one in a thousand). They went on to dazzle the silver screens for a decade almost as lead hero and heroine.

I don’t remember having any political opinion on JJ therefore when she entered politics somewhat backdoor. Jayalalitha became a part of active memory for most of us only since she became our chief minister for the first time in 1991. I remember watching live her oath taking in tv. This is however for the next series.

The series closes with a rising Jayalalitha, pushed from MGR’s funeral cortege by Janaki Ramachandran’s kith and kin. Her phenomenal rise in Tamil Nadu politics is national news. The single shove that sent her reeling down the carriage forever uplifted her in public memory as the still was played repeatedly in tv winning JJ public sympathy. That combined with the sympathy wave for Congress after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination (ADMK had tied up with congress for 1991 elections) saw her becoming the state’s first woman chief minister. She was only 43 then. The next series will hopefully start with her ascension to power and her way of conducting administration.

We Tamils have felt safest and securest when Jayalalitha was around. Civic administration was its best – long before Swachch Bharat got enforced. Every ten foot stood a cop on patrol day and night around the city. I was once surprised to find two women constables in Aalaiamman temple in T. Nagar where I had gone visiting (2003 or 2004) for cooking and offering sweet jaggery pongal for Mother Goddess within the temple premises. The temple, even if at the heart of the city, was deserted that noon. Two women cops gave me and my aunt some interesting company. They even drew water with us from the temple well for cooking ‘pongal’. May be that kind of overt security was not the need of the hour but there was not a square inch of the metro that was not under police surveillance in Jayalalitha period. Impeccable law and order. CCTVs arrived later. I have a lot to say on JJ. I have blogged much in the past about her. But nothing is concise enough to put down here. I will keep some info for the next series of Queen. I have seen JJ touch women’s life. In this part of the world, it mattered. It is such a basic but powerful thing that couldn’t be missed. Health center physicians met regularly every week in Rippon Building in JJ’s times. I came to know of this through the car driver of a lady gynaec who used to have an easy time in DMK reign. New born girl babies’ health and infant mortality stats were high on agenda, as JJ took a personal interest in women’s affairs. Never were the health centers run with such an efficacy as in JJ’s period. Even today if you walk into govt primary health centers run by state govt in Tamil Nadu, you can see how well it is run and managed and how hygiene is maintained. And it is almost free or heavily subsidized. Rare to see corporation/govt run clinics on their toes. She put into place a good and functional system regularizing the basics. Hopefully the set-up holds good after her.

Watching Queen, I reminded myself the reason why JJ accorded priority to women’s issues. She became the one true ‘kannithai.’ – the unwed Amma.

Jayalalitha passed away in power on her fourth term as the state’s CM. She returned to power effortlessly not even battling it out tough the final time as her deteriorating health took a heavy toll on her after her brief spell in Bangalore prison. The masses were aware, how much of her wealth was self-earned. Long before she joined politics, JJ was already a star. She was born with silver spoon and attended the finest convent in the city. If JJ had to suffer a sentence for corruption, I wonder what must be the case of EVERY SINGLE INDIAN POLITICIAN. Vendetta politics killed Jayalalitha. Disloyalty  shadowed JJ right through her life. What a tragedy. Not having a single human being to love or trust being so powerful, so beautiful, so successful, so classy, so wealthy. The unfairness of her Bangalore prison stint still hurts me and millions of Tamils. She did not deserve it. Okay, let me wait for the next series.

Ramya Krishnan is trying her best to justify her role as Jayalalitha in Queen but she has large shoes to fill in. I don’t have the names of those who have played the roles of younger JJ – first as a pre-teen and upto 15 years first and then as JJ in her twenties. They both have done a stupendous job. The MGR character selection is also good. It is possible that the actors have been chosen for their resemblance to original characters and also for their good mimicking of the stars’ mannerisms. JJ’s pout especially with her slightly upturned lower lip. Very characteristic of her and the one who played JJ in her twenties has tried her best. Still has not got it! Okay almost there.

Back in 1960s or 70s we had no mass media. Only by late 70s and early 80s, most of us got home even a black & white tv set. So it is interesting to watch the MGR JJ scenes being played out. Not much of info on Sandhya, also an actress and JJ’s mother. Not a happy childhood for JJ. Her whole life was an untold tragedy even if she was too good for the state. How could someone have lived such a lonely life entirely, yet become the CM of a male chauvinist province. Who cried for Jayalalitha when she lay lifeless. Which kith and kin. Her loneliness from the start is what breaks my heart.

Jayalalitha Jayaram will always be my heroine No.1. Bollywood did not have the fortune of having her because she was destined for greater glory. Although I became aware of her from the 1990s only, ever since i had paid her great attention. Her upright governance, how she took things head on and made the men squirm at her foot – won her accolades from every quarter. She toughed it out bravely and singly in an all-male world. Not even in my wildest dreams did i think that her chapter would draw to a close so soon. I will wait for the next series of Queen.

There is no point in making this biopic if it is not going to be true or honest enough. I hope the director-producer keep this vital point in mind. I have nothing to say on screenplay/direction because this is a known script. You know what is coming.

Posted in Pictures Desi

Who cares whether Tiger is Zinda or not.

Can’t be making a more stupid film.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/how-sushma-swarajs-intervention-led-to-evacuation-of-kerala-nurses-from-iraq/articleshow/70578015.cms

The thing is, only women from non Islamic countries serve as field nurses or nursing assistants in any part of the world. Right there the Paki nurse concept fails in the picture Tiger Zinda Hai. Islamic field nurses serving kafir patients must be blasphemy, right! Did the makers of ‘Tiger zinda hai’ realize that. You just committed a grievous one misters. Women nurses from islamic countries may be restricted to serving their own hospitals, and who knows in fact to only female patients. Mostly in Middle East, we see either Indian nurses or Filipino nurses or at least Sri Lankan nurses, none other. Even in India, it is rare to come across a muslim female nurse for the simple reason, the community may not be permitting them to serve non muslim patients. So 99.99% of the broadminded serving Indian nurses are either Hindu or Christian. I am yet to come across a muslim female nurse working for a medical hospital in India. I have to laud the Christian community in India for their service mindedness when it comes to working with the sick. As far as it comes to serving humanity in the most earnest way, I doubt whether muslims have such a generous big heart. To touch and clean a kafir male patient, hold his bedpan. Will a trained islamic field woman nurse do it. Can she do it. Can she change his dress and dressings.. Can she give him a sponge bath. Whole body bath. Just who are you kidding guys. Hindu Dharma and even Christianity for that matter, do not set boundaries when it comes to serving humanity. There is just no limit to serving mankind for us. Producer-director of ‘Tiger zinda hai’ – you made a complete and cruel mockery of one of the noblest professions of the world serving fellow humans who are suffering and who need a healing touch. Show me a single muslim woman staff nurse doing the kind of motherly-sisterly selfless humanitarian service to a kafir male patient. Interestingly, the contrary holds true. Non kafir male or female assistants and paramedics can nurse muslim men or women when they may be sick. One way road.

It is upsetting therefore to watch such white lies like: (praying) (here too!)(Tableeghi jamaat or what) Pakistani muslim women nurses cast on EQUAL FOOTING with serving Indian nurses working in a hospital in war torn region of Middle East. You cannot ridicule the sisterhood of Indian nursing community more. Outright assault on our entire medical fraternity and principles. Pakistanis are world renowned for taking lives, never for gifting life.

Secondly, our intelligence agency doing a job with theirs is insane, an insult to my India and especially our Kashmiris. Just read about a Kashmiri Hindu woman’s travails. How the Pathans came down in 1947 from Pakistan raping from home to home any and every Hindu Kashmiri little girl to granny. India has had a Mumbai 26/11 not long ago. A Kargil before that when our soldiers were captured, tortured to death with their bodies mutilated beyond recognition. India has also suffered multiple bomb blasts orchestrated by ISI in various cities including in our Stock Exchange and in business districts of busy metros. Even for making money across the border, one should not be making such thoughtless films. Oh, ‘Tiger zinda hai’ is not a thoughtless film. Probably it was made after considerable and careful thought to portray terrorists as good samaritans and plant a seed of self doubt and mistrust in the minds of the Indian masses. By whom? I am coming to that.

Thirdly, Cannot digest Pakistan flag flying level with ours. In a real life incident our ex Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj did rescue some 45 Indian nurses stranded in war torn parts of middle east. In which Pak had zero role to play. It is reckless and demeaning to credit Pak with anything as good as this one, even if this is just a picture.

Fourthly it means, the film must have been funded by the D gang from across the border, no second thoughts on that. You can guess from the casting crew: Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif. To paint a rosy picture of their terrorist intelligence agency, one must be hand in gloves with them. One of them. Why was the picture even released in India. How did our sensor board approve it.

What is the need to project our adversaries to this extent is what I cannot understand. More than trying to show them as THE BEST, the producers have gone to the length of showcasing their spies in good light.

You have to be sick for producing such a trash film, it’s an assault on our intelligence and I felt like puking. Bastards.

Finally showing our own Indian muslim in Salman’s team to be the ultimate sacrificing patriotic guy is the last straw. I do respect some (not all) Indian muslims, but any trust, I will not put in them. I am not comfortable with them. I tolerate because we have to be polite and civil to each other for the nation’s sake. Where such a decorum has to be maintained, and/or if situation demands, I will play up to my expected role.

As far as India is concerned, no combined effort on any front with Pakistan. Pak lies in history. We don’t want to have anything to do with them. Never.

‘Tiger zinda hai’  is out and out a terror project. I regret I had to see it.  I regret watching this nonsense. GLORIFICATION OF TERRORISTAN, TERROR AND TERRORISM at its best.

 

Posted in Pictures Desi

Pariyerum Perumal (Tamil) and Petta (Tamil)

Close on the heels of Petta, the Rajni Kanth superhit in the cinemas, happened to watch the Pongal screening of Pariyerum Perumal in tv. Nothing to write about Petta except that you see the young Rajni of his 30s-40s from late 80s and 90s with the same inimitable hairstyle, body and action of his. Why, Rajni even goes the extra mile to reenact the cigarette trick for his fans, his trademark style from 1970s which catapulted him to instant fame in Tamil cinema. That brings to your eyes the Rajni who we all fell in love with as school/college kids. He was such a fun in those days (no more now)! Well, Petta is somewhat an attempt to recapture that lost magic for Tamil audience. To some extent I must say, the production team succeeded. The picture is a reminder why Rajni became legend Rajnikanth the Superstar. And now touching 70, he has made the junior actor-directors Sashi Kumar and Vijay Sethupathi look pale and insignificant which is incredulous! I have always loved these two and I admire their current works. They are the best that could be happening to present day Tamil cinema, and yet how Rajni overshot them to cult status is unbelievable OMG! Nawazuddin Siddique’s first Tamil role I hope? He must know he will have to only play second fiddle in south stories yet he has made a brave attempt speaking Tamil without a dubbing artist’s help? The heroines Simran and Trisha are not even in the game! Such is the powerful screen presence of Rajni Kanth that all other stars fade in his presence! Neither has Rajni lost touch with his most natural acting form, that which pulled him to the forefront. In comparison, how unfit and pathetic the bloated heroes of today look! Weak and insufficient – that goes for Nawazuddin Siddhiqui! This is the only point I want to make about Petta: Age is just a number. The vigour and vitality called Rajni Kanth remains with you long after you leave the IMAX studios. Many language people watched the picture, different nationalities. How the crowds come to their feet when the Thalaivaa makes his first screen appearance!!! Kudos to new director Karthik Subburaj for not letting the film drag for a single moment. No time even for humour and romance in the considerably lengthy picture. You don’t fidget for 2.5 hours in your seat at all anytime which could be the greatest scoring point for the director. And finally the cinematography merits a standing ovation: Uttar Pradesh captured at its best. Overhead shots of locations known and imprinted in the memory of Indian masses given a fresh and interesting look and angle. Really appreciate that!

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I was aware Pariyerum Perumal received critical acclaim. Because it was screened yesterday the day of Pongal, I was busy and so happened to miss the opening scene and one or two more scenes. Caught up with that mostly in You Tube, yet waiting for a repeat watch.

One of the best of 2018, a clear contender for national/international Awards this year, you cannot relate a story better. Mari Selvaraj who has penned the screen play and dialogues is a man to watch out for. Directed by Pa Ranjith now known for this genre of scripts, the film still meets more than your expectations. I haven’t heard a story told more earnestly. At the end of day, I found myself shedding quiet tears in shame. Rather than vengeance as sought by Petta Rajnikanth, Pariyan seeks introspection. His character is solid. I grew up watching KB films, but I reckon, this generation of film makers is a different breed and their powerful way of storytelling may not subscribe to conventional norms yet their message reaches you across the most impressive way it can. It is not always the sophisticated Mani Ratnam way or KB way but it is raw and bare naked truth that we cannot overlook. Compulsive and lingering.

About the film content, it is tight script with not a single frame wasted. For a reasonably new team this is commendable. No loose ends untied. Not a single extra word spoken. Just what is necessary.

And what a timing! We have just had the 10% reservation quota for FCs passed in both houses in the Parliament which I view as darkest day in Indian democracy. I wish those who pushed for the bill happened to watch the picture.

Wouldn’t want to discuss it anymore. The film comes with subtitles. It has to be viewed with an open and fresh mind. And an unbiased one.

Just that the questions asked by Kadhir who plays the lead role Pari keep ringing in my ears:

Why should I not (come here)?

What is that you (people) want?

I will be here and I will learn what I want to . You can do nothing about it and I will do what I want to do.

Translated into English, the dialogues lose their intended effect. They come out so well in native Thamizh. The hero’s indignation for the injustice he suffers is substantiated and appreciable, still he abstains from nurturing vengeance. Something our communal political parties must take note of. Distinct demarcation between the two emotions that could very well overlap is the highlight of the script. The biggest strength of the story and character.

What a powerful medium Cinema can be. You cannot make every Indian read a book, but you can make them watch a film with a little success. It is only very recently I completed reading the ‘controversial (?!)’ Tamil novel ‘Madhorubhagan’ authored by Perumal Murugan (blog post pending) The author was forced to edit his original script and I got to read only the edited version. The book is now out in English titled ‘One part woman.’

It is heartening to see these new age Tamil film directors emerge bold from shadows. At the same time a word of caution: do not allow yourselves to be carried away or be used as a pawn in any political game by vested interests. Nobody is your friend. I would want our PM Modi to see the picture as well. To really understand what is Indian culture, how basic it is and how it is not the prerogative of the upper caste Hindu. Indian/Hindu culture also thrives at grass roots level: in our villages. Which is why Gandhi called some of us ‘Harijan’ – the children of Hari, Maha Vishnu.

Another well crafted character in the picture: Pariyan’s father. No comedy track but Yogi Babu seems to have taken the place of Vadivel in Tamil Cinema. Way to go! Love his innocence. Jo’s father and the climax of the picture and the final closing note almost like a post script give the story a beautiful and heart warming finish. I was bracing myself for a sadistic twisted end like some of them do: director Ameer of Paruthi Veeran has that cruel streak. Pa Ranjith has resisted it, hats off! Very wise of Mari Selvaraj and Ranjith to end the picture the way they did. This is why the Ameers of the world never win our sympathy. You don’t have to do like Bharathi Raja with his ‘Alaigal Oivadhillai’ kind of ‘they lived happily forever after’ thing. To leave you with the question hanging in mid air is brilliant direction.

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 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: