The Aunty Terror Squad

FYC: Spyder

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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

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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?

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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.

 

 

 

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IT’S THE SAME THING, MR SIVAM!

HOW KURUTHIPUNAL AND THE DARK KNIGHT ARE ONE AND THE SAME

Well, almost the same. An essay.

“The mind sees what it wants to see”

The Da Vinci Code, 2006

The choice of opening quote from the Da Vinci Code might put you into a lot of worry, I know, but I simply love that movie. Nevertheless the movie has this brilliant quote which is so close to what I am trying to do here.

When you keep seeing a lot of movies, ok let me refine that, when you keep seeing a lot of movies, a lot of times; things just strike you, you begin to see things that you wouldn’t have cared about during your first viewing, you start to make assumptions based on thin connections, this article is a voice of all that goes into a head which makes these connections.

It could be frivolous to many who have reached this page, and this is what that gives me the nervousness.

Nevertheless, I begin.

Sometime after Inception was released, there was a Disney comic that was doing the rounds, written of course years and years ago which had the exact structure as that of Inception (A dream within a dream within a dream), we can hardly accuse Christopher Nolan of theft, but the interesting point here is the similarities in structure and how some things are quite universal.

Let’s now get to the wonderful police film Kuruthipunal, released in 1995 is actually based on a Govind Nihlani film Drohkaal which was released the previous year.

Then why doesn’t your article cite Drohkaal? You are bound to ask, I’ll come to that in a bit.

The starting point is of these kind of these connections are of course the interrogation scenes from Kuruthipunal.

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FEAR AS AN INSTRUMENT OF TERROR

The above subtitle would have been a better title for this whole piece, because that is what these two movies are essentially about. Two men; one with an ideology (Badri-Nasser) and another seemingly without (The Joker- Heath Ledger) make up the main antagonists, so critical to both the films

While the joker constantly plays on the subject fear and loss, not only on the main characters of the film, but also on the inhabitants of the city; similarly do Badri and his gang unleash terror on the common public and the honest police officers.

Interestingly both movies begin with an incident involving a school bus.

Well, all this too generic to see, every terrorist group will aim to do just that.

But Wait.

In the Dark Knight, the token of Harvey Dent is a coin, he keeps referring it to as chance- the fairest of all things in the world, but just look at it from here, a flip of a coin can indicate many things and among them is the change of sides.

WE ARE NOT AS STRONG AS WE THINK

The Joker keeps referring to himself and the Batman are one and the same, just on different sides, he also strangely says that he is able to understand the freakiness that is the Batman character and that Batman would do better on his side.

This is again exactly what Badri says to Adi (Kamal Haasan), but here it is not the freakiness that is in question, but honesty.

Both films have characters that have been lured by the tricks of the antagonist and cross over to the other side, Harvey Dent even asks “why me?”, but it was the Joker’s trick with everyone, only Harvey was not as strong as he seemed to be, similarly the case with Adi who accepts to become a terrorist informer for the sake of his family and friends.

Shake your belief to an extent that you topple and fall from grace, the death of Harvey Dent had far reaching consequences including a major cover up, similarly in Kuruthipunal, Kamal makes a last ditch attempt at honour even when fully realising that he can live no more without his honesty.

Thematically these movies are so similar because of the below: fear and faith, and most of the conversations in Kuruthipunal are about the same, while only the scale of events are different.

In the Dark Knight, as with most Batman lore is about the city, while Kuruthipunal is interestingly anonymous about the whole setting of the movie, there are few references to other places in the country, but invariably the setting seems anonymous, to imply what I believe is the universality of terror.

The terror groups in the film also represent the threat of the times in the south, although that could be reading into it too deeply.

Something which Kamal again touches upon in Unnai Pol Oruvan (again a remake, improved if I might add)

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The Dark Knight has three pivot characters around which the Joker operates, the Batman: The Dark Knight who as we know has many issues including one childhood girlfriend, Harvey Dent: The White Knight who also has girlfriend issue and then there is Commissioner Gordon who fears for the life of his family.

Ok, Kuruthipunal too has three central characters whose life is turned upside down by Badri, DCPs Adi and Abbas and Commissioner Sreenivasan (Director K Vishwanath). The transformations that these characters undergo because of the activities of the antagonist are what I think the most common element amongst them.

There can be no private life of a public protector

The Dark Knight however has this advantage of having a symbol that is incorruptible and hope giving, while Kuruthipunal and Drohkaal manage to bring the same story out with real life characters as opposed to comic book heroes.

That brings us to Drohkaal and why Kuruthipunal is more closer to the Dark Knight than its predecessor, on casual viewing you can say that Kuruthipunal is really better made, there are so many things that are added to the Tamil version that is not there in the Nihlani film, like for example extending the role of Abbas (Arjun) and involved action sequence on the platforms of the dimly lit Egmore Station, which still remains as chilling as I saw it the first time, cinematic differences aside which are many and bound to be when a film is being helmed by one Mr PC Sreeram, the structural similarities between the Dark Knight and Kuruthipunal is only heightened because the screenplay and dialogues (John and Kamal Haasan), because only through dialogue character motivations are completely brought out.

Drohkaal on the other hand brings it down to a more corrupt police vs good police generic concept.  But there is no denying what Kuruthipunal owes Drohkaal, the basic story.

While Kuruthipunal makes it a clash of cultures and ideologies as shown through the conversations between Kamal and Nasser, and this is what the Dark Knight tries to achieve by letting off the Joker against the Batman.

Both scenarios end with a sacrifice.

ENDING NOTE

All this analysis is for what? Any movie can be compared to anyone and with a convincing writer, connections can be established.

I am hardly a convincing writer and this is not a post of revelation, it is just a thought that has been doing the rounds for quite some time in my head, to look at the ideas that make these films as one fluid entity and that may be the reason for the similarities, ideas that flow from one person to another. But the explanations might be even simpler for this, a common movie that has inspired these both, putting this entire post to waste bin. But that is a risk I am willing to take.

I have always seen Nolan’s Batman films as police films that comment on terrorism and maybe that is also one of the reasons for this post.

The stories of both progress differently, Kuruthipunal with a strong grounding towards the families of the policemen involved, while it is only a sub-element in the Dark Knight.

The relationship between the three characters in both the movies oscillates between absolute trust and just working relationships which as mentioned before is exploited by the villain.

Did not want to put this up as points and reduce it to a scoop whoop/buzzfeed release, because this is more involved and needs more discussion. Both are great movies even without these similarities: taut and exciting thrillers which deliver one good scene after the other.

Both films are elevated to a different level by their villains, although Heath Ledger has been lauded posthumously, Nasser’s chilling portrayal towering over the leads and that to in a Kamal film has sadly been forgotten, like most of his roles.

Interestingly Ashish Vidyarthi whose role Nasser assumed for the Tamil version won a National Award.

Kuruthipunal and not Drohkaal was India’s official entry to the Oscars in corresponding year, while the Dark Knight was nominated for every other major category except Best Film, which it would have, had it not been a super hero film.

PC Sreeram has just made one film after Kuruthipunal as director; Nolan came to the theatres with yet another terrorist film called the Dark Knight Rises.

It is also interesting to note that Kuruthipunal begins with a phrase that contains the word Kuruthipunal which translates to River of Blood, while the Dark Knight literally ends with the words: the Dark Knight.

#justsaying

The title of this post, if you haven’t figured out is a direct reference to another Kamal film called Anbe Sivam

This post also marks 20 years since the release of Kuruthipunal.

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Thank you for reading.

WATCHING BUILDINGS CRUMBLE

Man of Steel can easily be divided into two films, the quiet epic and the mindless summer action outing. It is the case of the quiet epic losing out to the cash register.

The story of this hero’s birth is very well known, a certain genesis chamber in the planet Krypton can be compared to the more famous in Bethlehem. The baby of Lara and Jor-El, a natural born after many centuries in a planet that is not so slowly eating into itself, Krypton would not survive.

Krypton, far away in a distant galaxy accommodated a far evolved civilisation completely devoid of choice where every new born has his entire life charted out before him slash her <something equivalent to the sons and daughters who choose engineering on our planet #notsnide>

Understanding Krypton is essential to understanding its chosen one. The chosen one is the chosen because he has no choice but to accept the heroism thrust upon on him. A hero due to circumstances, Kal-El son of Jor-El is mostly at odss with himself whether to embrace his greatness or sweep the floors of merchant ships on his foster planet.

Foster planet and foster parents, Kal-El’s childhood now called Clark is seen as a sequence that have been borrowed out a Terrence Mallick teaser, high resolution nature shots of wheat fields, sleeping dogs, slowing filling buckets, women putting out dried clothes etc. This is the phase of hiding the hero, till he must reach ‘that moment of reckoning’.

The moment of reckoning is fast tracked by manic co-planetary military commander General Zod played by Michael Shannon, closely resembling a futuristic version of the villainous character played by Prakash Raj in the films of Hari.

Man of Steel: Unfeeling origins

Then there is the usual understanding love interest, mildly advising and understanding parents, the journey to self discovery, hopeless military agencies inept in handling humongous dung beetle shaped extra planetary objects.

Then comes the unending fights, extremely controlled to the extent of which debris should fall where, the third act of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel goes into ‘look i know you love explosions’ mode and super powers of both the main characters demand these fights, making earth look like a boxing ring. There are sequences in mid air, ice sheets, alley ways and sky scraper tops. The movie descends into video game madness.

Adapting the action from comic books is no mean task people tell me, but I do not read comic books and I really want to know if we are to be amazed at buildings being blown up to the tune of Hans Zimmer’s addictive percussion for an hour.

In these battle of fists, Man of Steel loses its heart and with sketchier supporting characters there is really nothing to root for. Henry Cavill looks like he has trained alongside Hercules and makes his run in the suit likeable.

With shallow thought of hope<Hollywood’s biggest export> and overtly reminiscent plotlines, Man of Steel mid-wifed by Christopher Nolan from a script by David S Goyer takes off well, but gets lost in the turbulence, which makes wonder and appreciate how great Batman Begins really is.<which they wrote together>

<Batman Begins is the greatest super hero film ever type quote>

Mostly it is just watching how buildings crumble.

Yes yes, there is promise of Justice League also, ok quite boring