Parking Lot Notes: Thupparivaalan

TP3

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.

 

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Tableaux: The Village (2004)

Dir: M Night Shyamalan

English

The Village.mp4_000236069Imagine if you are suddenly dropped from above into the paintings gallery of a museum, of course you do not have the time to self-learn on what paintings are going to be there; naturally you are going to be worried. But be prepared to be startled even, because in Night Shyamalan’s Village the paintings themselves are not stationary and no amount of art reading is going to prepare you for it.

This is definitely not about how beautifully God of Light’s favourite son Deakins (which undoubtedly he does) captures the entirety of The Village, but come to think of it, paintings are a momentary thing, one second of a tale, not its entirety. That in a sense a limitation of the medium when it comes to telling a story, we can only view it in a way the artist wants us to and not all of us gifted with imagination.

But don’t we watch a movie (in this case, the village) the same as we see a painting?

A movie screen/theatre is in a sense a moving image museum; but then we can see a lot more, the reaction to action is immediate. Most of the times we provide the reaction, the time which is spent in understanding what is happening on screen is so fractional, that one moment we believe we are inside the movie. This I do not know if a painting can offer, at best it offers an artist’s account of what happened at one moment.

The Village is one such moving gallery, but it as much (or more so) about the people in these paintings than the landscape.

The Village.mp4_000138013Death is a good place to start, and on the coffin of a dead boy a father weeps, while his village watches this poignant moment (along with them us), the commune that restricts itself to the edge of a forest.

Paintings often to speak to us in light and shadows, and the Covington Woods are the shadows to the light of their lives, unspeakable things exist in the woods; but for years there has been a truce, until now. That’s where Shyamalan drops us, and it is a brilliant place to be.

The Village.mp4_002728896To be surrounded by joyous people who speak lines such as “Whose breath shall I listen to…so that I may sleep?” It is not only the rural setting that is poetic, it is the folk as well, a tribe that has lost sense of time but has retained in them a child-like quality, to play with trees and run through meadows proclaiming the different types of love and for whom the holding of hands conveys so much.

People without malice.

The Village.mp4_000562437But the setting also betrays a sense of utopia, an unachievable society built not on trust but on fear and with no inclusiveness or future. In fact the movie’s biggest question lies in whether such a commune can continue.

Fear invites mystery, so it is understandable for the village folk to view Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) with discomfort for he knows no fear of the creatures, but it is a strain of genius to have a blind protagonist in a film that has so much to see (Bryce Dallas Howard).

The Village.mp4_003961503A twist ending is an indication that the expected reaction is of shock and awe, but I do not recall any twist that blended so well with the theme of the film, in creating such a climax Night Shyamalan has in fact bettered his inspiration: Agatha Christie.

The Village transcends the normal whodunit, because most of the questions pop up after the final reveal. The Village also transcends its constituent paintings because its artist is not consumed by the beauty.

But I can be.

 

SAY HELLO TO THE MURDERER

 

ATHEY KANGAL(1967)

AVM PRODUCTIONS

AC TRILOKCHANDER

It would be a dark and stormy night, many members assemble in a decadent mansion; there is murder; a shot in the dark, a cry for help; a fallen man, multiple suspects and one relentless detective.

I spent school reading Agatha Christie alone, to be specific I believed in Poirot and his little grey cells. Much of what I would read till today would be based on the foundation that Christie had so neatly cemented. She poured her fears into those novels each and every time.

Unknown to dame Christie herself, I was introduced to the genre before reading the books.

The growth of Tamil film programming esp Sun TV and Raj TV is not yet documented with flourish as much as the numerous early Doordarshan tributes onets to read once in a while. These channels brought to my screen movies old and middle age; that serve as my reservoir of knowledge and help me get by in daily life. I watched Vikram before the Bond films; Devar films before Disney films and led to many flash in the pan moments like when I realized that the Karthik movie ‘Charkravathy’ had much in common with Carol Reed’s ‘The Third Man’; it even goes a little further than the original by making Goundamani the villain in the final act. And so it goes.

It was one of those nights when the mysterious but now familiar voice announced “Digil Vaaram” (Thriller Week) and the shadowy voice of Major Sundarrajan boomed out of the screen advising me against sharing the ending of the movie to others who haven’t seen; naturally I folded hands and legs and watched. The film was Athey Kangal.

In some dark corner of Bangalore, stands a haunting yet inhabited house. Movement, there is movement in the hallway and a door is opened; lighting shows us that it is the face of a lady ready to go out, there she finds her husband; brilliantly showed in shadow.

Now that the first murder has been announced, the draught board is unveiled with each of the characters taking their place and each having their own involved back stories; including a beautiful girl (Kanchana) who along with her friends have come to the garden city with hope to do some social service; it is not exactly what a contemporary female activist would expect.

Kanchana’s suitor is played by Ravichandran a jazz singer at a hotel; a rather unusual choice of profession for a protagonist, even more so considering the subject matter of the film. But then it reasons out well, when the party breaks out into songs once in a while.

But the most intriguing/shocking aspect of the film is the murderer itself; the one with those red eyes who also lends his eyes to the title but also his voice to threat calls which propel this story forward, on viewing the movie recently; these parts created the tension for I already knew what was happening on screen.

“Considering those times” is a phrase I hate to use, you have no idea how I hate it. It is the complete embodiment of how lowly we look back at our past and at a maker who took the pains to make an engaging film and honest as he much as he(A.C.Trilokchander) could. Athey Kangal respects the viewer, gives him/her clues, doesn’t leave loose strings and never confuses. It even takes the time to take itself quite lightly too, in the form of songs and Nagesh who plays the friend who impersonates an Anglo Indian wife. It also manages to scare a bit. It is in every bit a mystery film, something Christie would have loved. <Speculating>

Respecting Major Sundarajan’s request, I will not divulge what happens henceforth. But there is one parting tip, when you know it is the killer calling; pick up the phone and say, “hello”.

 

Aside

  • The subplot involving Nagesh was then drawn out into what I feel is a fully horrible feature film called “Aan Azhagan”, yes you guessed it right; it did star Top Star Prashant.
  • Vedha, Athey Kangal’s music director reimagined(to use the intellectual term)or copied(and other unsavory words) the James Bond theme at key points in the film.