The Aunty Terror Squad

FYC: Spyder


Has there been any Hollywood movie that has influenced so many Indian filmmakers within a short while than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? Maybe it is about the obsession with creating an antagonist.

Oh but I’m only thinking out loud, but it could really be the next on the ‘movies-we-look-up to-for-immediate-inspiration’ after Coppola’s The Godfather.

But the Batman and Joker are already part of larger conscious because of decades of multimodal existence, making it easier for writers to evoke invested past strands and bring to life the characters; it is not the same case in a Telugu-Tamil bilingual; a genre where a master in the culinary arts would not feel out of place.

Such movies are not called masala for nothing.

The Dark Knight is a (dark) blockbuster superhero movie, the near equivalent from what we have is the south Indian mass masala.  While some of it can be considered as comic, but here the word does not refer to periodicals out of which characters leap out of.

Mass masala by itself depends much on its leading man and the story gives into him. By that very statement it means that these films are meant to work only for those who buy into the charms (or lack-of) of the star.

Which means that for the most part the writer-directors are restricted in their choice of ingredients, sometimes they have to make do with just one condiment, more often than not trick the audience by throwing garam masala in our eyes.

AR Murugadoss seems to, in my eyes at least an expert chef who can find different uses for the same ingredient.

(I am really overdoing this samayal-cinema analogy, must come to the point before things get over cooked)

Under The Influence


I believe more than the act of being inspired by another work, it is more important to know why that particular inspirational moment worked and think before replicating it.

Spyder’s hero does what Batman wanted Lucius Fox to do, listen in on people; while the ethical ramifications of spying are superficially dealt, they provide a convincing motivation for the lead; to prevent crime before it happens.

Yes, this could be the pre-crime from Minority Report but it could also be the inversion that is seen in ARM films like making a Vijaykanth film without making a Vijaykanth film?

The hero becomes a mass hero as a reaction to personal tragedies or societal atrocities, but can he/she really still be called a hero by preventing events from happening and not let the world know?

But it isn’t really an inversion unless you follow through with the act of an unseen hero, ultimately compulsions prevail and there is a love track and so there must be songs and an overblown climactic fight which makes you forget the questions that the film tried to raise earlier.

Especially notable is when Madan Karky rhymes mosam with awesome and concludes love is eternal much like plastic.

But Spyder is still somewhere there and even these commercial elements are not without joy.

Who Wants To Be A Hero?


Earlier in the Spyder, a scene made me reflect on an underlying theme in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, that every person is capable of heroism, Bruce obviously states this in the concluding chapter but there are enough visual examples.

The way the common folk are involved in the events that happen to the city, not just as observers but as  active participants, they are not alienated in the good vs. evil battle nor are they just used as bait for the hero to rescue.

But why?

In Spyder’s best segment which lasts about 20 minutes, has nothing to do with Mahesh Babu  or the antagonist S J Suryah, but about common people (middle aged ladies in this case) finding courage to do what they would not normally do and lend a helping hand beyond possible imagination.

It worked totally for me and convinced that this involvement of the nameless with whom we can identify, add to how we receive a film.

Yes yes, S J Suryah character and how he seems to have played it tries to match Heath Ledger’s Joker in every step, but then there is more to the Dark Knight trilogy.

Only if we choose to see, hence for your consideration.





Parking Lot Notes: Thupparivaalan


It begins with the light of a matchstick, an aide in a search or the dispeller of darkness.

That is what essentially a detective story is about; the search for answers and the journey into the unknown.

The detective, our guide or sometimes a co-traveller.

While the opening statement might seem grandiose, this was the first thing that struck (like that match) while watching Mysskin’s Thupparivalan. A detective also fits the mould of the director’s heroes who are seekers.

Fitment is also found in the casting of Vishal (also the producer) as the tall, loner with a bent towards the martial arts as Kaniyan, the detective of the film, but movie making is not just casting.

Thinking through the course of the movie (which the movie allows you to do once you catch it by the flow,which would not be tough if you had been living with a steady supply of detective novels) made me wonder why there was something missing in this homage to the creations of Conan Doyle.

Everything seems to be in place, which by itself is a cause of worry.

While Kaniyan’s room looks like it has been vacated by the BBC and not a living room that would suit the city in which this movie is set, the detective and his trusted sidekick seem to advertising for Indian Terrain in the meanwhile.

I dwell on these extraneous factors only because the characters are flat, whether this is a conscious decision is something best left to the maker.

A character being flat in a film, which more or less depends on the interest created by that lead character, is what I deduct to be the problem.  Especially when your lead is a character that is a shade of the great detective (Sherlock, as we speak is one of the most assumed characters on the screen).

Great ‘Holmes’ of the past have been played by dramatic actors, this would include Jeremy Brett who made the role his own, portrayals since have been either variations of what Brett did or to do what Brett did not do and hence stand out.

The eccentric nature of the Holmes-ian character cries out loud for an expressive actor who can control his/her expressions, which is why I insisted on the word ‘dramatic’; that was the big miss and thus bringing down the levels of excitement.

Sensation and excitement are two keys to the same room in a detective story; Thupparivalan on the other hand is locked in another room filled with Mysskian tick-tock henchmen, beautiful pick pockets and a climax that would reiterate that we already have the best locales for filming. It could be great cinema, but is it engaging?

The Sherlock Holmes homage pool is an ever-deepening one and whether Thupparivalan enriches this pool is something that needs to be seen, but for Tamil Cinema we now have a mainstream detective and I have Arrol Corelli’s teaser music on loop.


Out of The Past: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)


FML6 copyI have concluded that reading Raymond Chandler at an impressionable age has contributed the most to my further life choices, be it ‘literature’, movies, terse sentences and of course typing in the ‘courier new’ font.

Chandler started writing when the oil industry crashed and he had nothing much left to do, his creation reflects himself; being weary is his core competence.

If I could go back and play the irritating game invented for social engagement, ‘describe your creation in just one word’, Chandler would have said “tired”. If he was kind, he would add, “I’m tired. Enough!” As always breaking the rules.

So when there is a delay in our usual blog posts, it is probably because we are generally tired. Tired of ourselves, tired of the world, tired and yet careful not to add the growing empty mass that is film writing.  Readers must be thankful in that case.

We forgot to add one word to the above: growing boring empty mass that is film writing.



 “You’re a very good-looking man to be in this kinda business”

Enter Robert Mitchum

Marlowe is supposed to be in his mid-thirties in the works, curiously but not unnatural the best portrayals of the private eye has come from very old ‘has-seen-it-all’ men.

Bogart was in his forties and Robert Mitchum almost touching sixty, it’s that kind of a role. It requires that kind of experience, it is the ‘hamlet’ of all detective roles, no I’m not joking. A sequel to the Big Sleep was called ‘Perchance to Dream’ which is from the famous of all famous soliloquies.

People and war have made our hero tired, and out of this tiredness comes sparkling wisdom.

Why does Marlowe still do it?


For the much quoted “25 dollars a day plus expenses?”

Nah, Marlowe doesn’t snoop around for money, but he doesn’t evoke moral mightiness too, he certainly doesn’t identify with a cause or putting criminal behind bars. Thankfully he is not insufferable with his ‘genius’ and actually very funny, like a real person.

I guess he just likes looking at people and what they do.

Looking brings us to Robert Mitchum, in many ways the spiritual remnant of Bogart’s distant masculinity, but looking at Mitchum’s eyes we know that this present sadness had once seen sparkle, that alone makes me feel that Mitchum is truer as Marlowe.

Marlowe watches because he knows that deep down all the depravity there is some tenderness, that’s all he looks for in a client, not money, not name, not fame. And he will do anything to look at that tiny true part of yourself.

Evil doesn’t startle him as much as innocence and goodness

People first, plot go to hell


For Chandler, the plot was secondary, the characters weren’t, he would never describe anyone unfairly nor would he puncture them for the sake of plot.

An open opponent of this whole locked room plotting business made him see people as people and not as clues or alibi to get going to the next page.

Marlowe is the same wise-ass to the police as he is to the crooks. An ending in a Chandler story is not its logical conclusion or hurrah for its hero, but the acceptance of reality.

The thread of Farewell My Lovely the film is very simple and it follows the book closely, just out of jail thug Moose Malloy wants to get his girl back. Will Marlowe do it or not?

And the hits keep on coming


Marlowe is always narrating his tale, when we meet him he is just out of a case, naturally tired; Mitchum looks like he just wants to go home but cannot when confronted by his innocent of a thug client.

Within moments Marlowe becomes the centre-piece of a worm caught in a web, and all he does is just give a sideward glance.

Very easy to be dismissed as non-acting, especially in the age that we live in (as in the golden age of non-acting); but I think tiredness is difficult to bring out as an emotion without being dramatic.

Mitchum gets hit on the head, shot at, danced with, seduced by, but all through the film but he plays it like a detective who knows the ending every single time, people will be people.

I don’t really care about the twist in the end

There is a twist in the end, but the film (naturally the novel) is not moving towards it a big reveal way, for fans of detective fiction and crime thrillers this could prove dampening.

Many things happen and so does a twist.

Detection truly could be one of the most boring jobs if not for the humongous amounts of exciting literature written about it.

<pause for reflection>

Maybe all jobs are boring or it is the nature of them to become boring. But somehow Marlowe and hence Mitchum(because of his ability to understand the character) seem to have cracked it.

This detective is a seeker of the intangible, something remote and indescribable as human kindness, that is his spiritual quest, something not even the thighs of a femme fatale or the muzzle of a gun could distract him from.

Hamlet of the detective class, indeed.

That’s an admirable state to be in and this is an admirable movie.



Out of the past is our series on movies that are anything but current,new,fresh etc; we find the idea of film writing just for the sake of a movie release distressing and also it demeans the timelessness of film itself. Mad or what, we won’t be reviewing old films,just writing about them.