Arrival

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Where to begin a story which has no beginnings, or an end?

An arrival is often followed with a marker for when, but here it is why. Under the hands of a director comfortable with blockbuster cinema, Arrival has the maximum potential; 12 alien ships arrive on earth, no one knows why; except of course America. Yes, this too is an ‘America-saves-humanity’ movie. Only that it was directed by Denis Villeneuve.

And it is bound to frustrate those seeking blockbuster entertainment, because of the very visible slowness, take for example the usual money shot of earth realizing that it has guests, showed here simply by Amy Adams(she is simply brilliant here!) walking away from a group of students crowding around the television. Absolutely no hurry, even when there enough opportunity to create tension, something like a Dr. Strangelove kind of situation; Villeneuve refrains.

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Why?

Arrival is adapted from a short story titled ‘Story of Your Life’, not Armageddon or Apocalypse, this is one of the most personal films I have seen and maybe the slowness is to make us understand there is no concept of time; where there is no such concept of time; slow and fast are deprived of their meanings. Even beginnings and endings are just empty words.

Arrival is about being alone and being together, about being human and alien, about the teacher and the taught and about the nature of knowledge itself, and how we are all going about in circles, literally. Denis covers all this and without hurry and completely removing drama, treating aliens and humans with respect, the movie is neither dark nor filled with popcorn aggression (again much scope for this is there when a world prepares for war), nor does it squeeze the aliens into blobs of horror or sentiment.

Arrival is perhaps the most tranquil of alien invasions.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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Truth alone triumphs

 

(And also side characters)

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Before getting down to praising Aandavan Kattalai, let me first get down on the system; innumerable films have taken on the system, whisking out heroes who break the system, become the system even; but rarely acknowledge it.

Even in Manikandan’s film, the cheekily named Gandhi wrestles with the system and with the truth much like his Gujarati-namesake. Like everyone else, he doesn’t want to be seen as the one who is not smart enough not to take a short cut.

This mindset has served us well right from our daily commute, right up to the get rich quick plans we invest in. Short cuts have been ingrained into our skulls as an Indianism, street smartness is something even companies look for in candidates.

It is time to drive away this smartness.

The Messengers (or who says these things in the movie)

Vijay Sethupathi, in his fifth appearance on screen this year! (Surely this must be a criteria for TIME person of the Year) plays the small town guy in the big city with absolute plainness, there isn’t any special characteristic, there is no extraordinary back story, Gandhi could be anyone, Gandhi could be me or even you, maybe that’s why. So this isn’t much of a performance but more of an appearance.

But this appearance serves him well especially in the comic portions of the film, but the problems in Aandavan Kattalai is unusual because you really don’t know who to follow on screen, obviously Vijay Sethupathi drives it forward; but the supporting characters are not so much a supporting but  actually essential.

I am a supporting character sympathizer, as in if there is one movement I would like to be part of, it would be for the ethical treatment of “hero/heroine’s friend” in Tamil films.  First there is Yogi babu as the not so constant companion, he is luckier than our hero, which almost never happens in films, he gets the best lines as well; then there is the Srilankan refugee in search of his family but has to play dumb, the friends at the theatre crew and the intrepid journalist who also happens to be the heroine.

But my favorite would be the senior and junior lawyers at the family court, a truly unusual comic relationship, at least something I haven’t seen in Tamil films; the closest I could pair them to:  the similar comic duo from I heart Huckabees, totally brilliant, yet so fitting in the atmosphere.

Most of the characters seemed lived in, not just turning up for the shoot, but these aren’t serious roles which would require an entire long read on ‘method acting’, these are just everyday people in highly non everyday surroundings and that is how the humor is brought about. I could just go on about the other supporting actors as well, because this movie is a triumph in terms of casting, characters and dialogue.

A major win in a time, when giving a character a name and a job is seen as writing (something which is referenced in the movie)

Now to the message (Or what is being said)

A message movie is one troubling thing, not everyone will be empathetic enough for it to go all the way or sometimes the message itself might not be presented in a way to create impact, or hidden behind subtexts later to be brought forward by others. But there is something in every movie for everyone, it might not be the one that the director intended, but there is something; because that is why we watch a film.

Most of the times the message is lost in the telling. Here in Aandavan kattalai, the director puts first dart bulls-eye from slide one (This is a message movie #hehehe)

We (or you) can infer whatever you want, but this director is telling you not to take the short route, in fact there are no short routes, in fact (v2.0) the short route is the longer one and the one with thorns and no GPS.

No don’t take the short route.

Fill your own forms. Don’t break the line. Don’t ask your colleague if they know anyone anywhere. Don’t refer anyone from anywhere. Don’t break the process or try to bypass it. Just fill the form and wait.

Because the system might just be easier than the short cut.

Hey, I’m not saying this, the movie is.

Movie(s) of the year

Every movie blogger who thinks he/she is worth something will come up with a list of ‘movies of the year’, we are not exceptions; but we would like to do things differently.

Is Aandavan kattalai our movie of the year?

Our answer is “not quite Oru Naal Koothu” *

 

Epilogue

The movie begins with eighties style kaleidoscopic images, nice touch but I couldn’t see how they connect to the overall theme

*Pitting movie against movie is a very bad thing and I’m sure we will be punished for this.

 

 

 

The Man Who Became His Mother

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Railways.

Yes let us begin with railways.Last week when the Gatiman Express was launched and proved to be only ten minutes faster than the quickest of trains we already had, I groaned. That’s it?

MORE FASTER!!!!!

Kabir from Ki and Ka would have been amidst those who would have complained about the ever reducing experience of the rail road or how forms of transportation seem to be converging based on just one parameter: speed.

Ki and Ka is one of the most well written films in recent history, it pays to notice that their back stories don’t seem like one liners scribbled in the corners of a script; but that which actually lends character.

A standing testimony to “two good characters and it’s a movie!”

Since we have already begun with railways, let us stick with Kabir; the one who is seen crying for his dead mother in transit, no he is not the spoilt-Singhania (Bansal actually) heir but a deeply sensitive man who misses his mother whom he feels has been thoroughly under recognized for the work she has done.

So we have a mama’s boy, trying to tell the world(and his father, no mainly his father; world comes later) that home making is an under appreciated art and that women almost daily have been denied of this credit while their men work away to corporate glory which has historically been called ‘work’. If women are truly the pillars to a man’s success, then in real time they are rusting only.

Kabir also likes trains, ‘likes’ here is a severely subtle description.

Son thinks he is continuing mother’s good work (also the story of Psycho, oops!) and combines his mother’s passion with his own (art meets art) and what we get is a dinner table served by a locomotive and a bed room that resembles an 80s waiting room (wow), see layers. A really fleshy character, i mean fleshed out character.

An act of God, in Bollywood land.

It would also help to notice that Kabir also thinks, his actions are driven by thinking.

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Pillars (stambh)

Kia doesn’t want to be a pillar, she wants to be a CEO; at first she does seem like the one who would do anything to get ahead, and her back story is not as detailed as that of her better half and depends entirely on how Kareena(brilliant) plays it, she is genuinely curious and visibly tired of meeting the same old men who are seeking pillars, so meeting Kabir on an aircraft was indeed godsend.

Good movies are about two people talking and they become better when what they are talking about is more interesting than who is speaking those lines, the first set up in Ki and Ka is genuinely engaging. The characters need not be yugapurush-es( I dont know the stri-ling equivalent of yugapurush) when they are created and any sort of character development that happens during the course of a movie is like the well mixed flavored popcorn that one encounters when one reaches the very end of the basket.

Ki and Ka is a modern film for a truly modern audience, does it play around with stereotypes? Yes, but only to get to the point, I could not see this as a regular gender/role reversal film, I felt the film had risen above these problems; because it would have become a Ramany vs Ramany* episode otherwise.

To further strengthen my point, the problems that Ki and Ka puts forward are solved without much issue or drama.  This film is not about career driven women trying to not have a baby without guilt because this problem gets solved within minutes.

Films are a reflection of what our society is or what society is moving towards, there could be people like Kabir out there who needs a Kia to function and there could be many Kias running away from becoming pillars and yearning to be architectural structures of beauty by themselves. (Kia ends up becoming the CEO of a construction company, nice touch there)

Ki and Ka is not about role reversal and it is definitely not a broad comment on man and woman, but an intimate look at two individuals post marriage. This is not about who gives up what or which profession is better; this Ki and Ka is actually Yin and Yang.

A well made modern film for the modern Indian, hopefully should inspire more Kis and Kas in real life as well.

Also officially now Arjun Kapoor is my favourite Bolly hero, the kind of restraint he brings to a character that would have become a caricature is absolutely magical.

Hey! Yes, they take the train back home, so finishing with railways as well.

The End.

PS

*Ramany vs Ramany a tamil sitcom on recently married couples.