Movies As Two Different Things

Part One: Movies As Personal Things

On youtube (and mostly in life), one thing leads to another.

The first thing was a video of Y G Mahendran listing his favourite Sivaji Ganesan films as part of the 90th birthday celebrations of the actor; the video makes for interesting viewing even if you do not know that Y G Mahendran takes pride in calling himself a Sivaji Veriyan.

He throws into the mix, a set of acclaimed ( Deiva Magan, Thevar Magan ), popular ( Bale Pandiya, Navaratri) and overlooked (Motor Sundaram Pillai) but finally settles for a very personal film for his top pick; I guess I’ll leave that in suspense, you can enjoy the video here.

One is more often than one would like, asked to choose the best or favorite among a set.

To choose the best, one must have considerable technical knowledge to compare things on pure metrics. To choose a favorite is to tilt towards a generally accepted work highly endorsed within the community.

YGM does well in spite of the fanboism, because he is a cinephile and deep down-the movie that he reserves for the last is the film that affected him the most, personally. A film, when he watches every time makes him feel as though Sivaji is standing next to him, vacating the screen.

Great movies like great art (I always think before using the word art, because it has already been abused so much) is something that affects the person internally, resulting in some change to the person. This may or may not be the intention of the filmmaker, but the viewer forms a unique relationship with the film and this relationship strengthens on every rewatch. To put it in short, great movies for me are the ones that affect me personally.

Yes, I do not believe that movies are a communal experience; although there is an effect of watching movies in the theatre with strangers, it is not a lasting effect. When someone says that such a film is best enjoyed in such and such format in a specific theatre, it means that the movie takes second place over the medium.

A great movie should stand on its own, irrespective of how and where and to whom it is projected; and with that we have raised the stakes for what a great movie is. Stay with me as I summarize.

My great movie

  1. Brings about internal change
  2. Stands on its own, not dependent on medium/ message

Looking for the greatness of movies internally; gives me a sense of what I truly like and what affects me and this unending quest excites me. Although I would also like to add that this search for greatness is hard work and observations only manifests after a long time.

Part Two: Movies As Public Things

Coming back to the unseen force that makes us conform to a select crowd, that results in fanboism.

As stated earlier one thing leads to another on youtube and the second thing is also a Y G Mahendran video.


This was, as industry people would like to call it, a success meet celebration. Nevertheless interesting, because the movie Karnan was released in 1964 and its digitized re-release had exceeded expectations in 2012, running more than a hundred days.

Karnan is grand in scale, because the story demands it; and yes it has immense re-watch potential not only because it has Sivaji in it but also other appreciable parts.

Karnan is not a signature Sivaji film, like the ones YGM mentioned in his first video. Interesting to note that Karnan is not there in his top 10.

But here, YGM is before an audience, it is his core group, a selection of the choicest of Sivaji Veriyargal (who of course will have their own top 10, when asked to pick) who would do anything for the thespian, in fact one of them did the crazy act of re-releasing Karnan after 48 years!

YGM is in his fanboi-est best, in fact his aggression can be compared to the fanboisms of Thala-Thalapathy that populate tamil social media today.

Utterance after utterance is to establish that Sivaji Ganesan is the greatest actor to have walked the earth and how actors who came after, have ruined the field and hence movies themselves.

It is. by defintion peak fanboism.

When YGM and his group seek pleasure, it is not just the raising of Sivaji’s flag high but also garners relevance when their fandom is acknowledged by successive generations.

In effect, Sivaji’s legacy becomes the life’s work of the Veriyargal, because of course they cannot accept anybody else other than Sivaji.  

It is something like that quote from the Jungle book, for the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Without the community, fanboism has no meaning; but there is an obvious downside to this as it heavily depends on finding common ground in an individual and not entire works which leads to unwanted superlatives and the time lost in countering or defending them.

The upside is that, their craziness preserves a good part of the legacy.

Part Three: The Conclusion

No this is not a point against fanboism, but it is certainly a post to remind viewers that comments made by people in the fanboi mode should not be taken seriously.

‘Movie-public’ and ‘Movie-personal’ are the modes that we operate in, and increasingly the word ‘great’ as used by fanbois is being mistaken for the meaning that an exceptional film provides, yes there is a difference and it should be noted.

Additional reading

You can also read an earlier Laureate piece on Karnan here. 

I don’t have a Sivaji Top 10, but would have put in Gowravam, Moondru Deivangal, Sivandha Mann, Ooty Varai Uravu, Thiruvarutselvar and the such.

But I do have a favourite song from Karnan, thank you for reading.


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A New Beginning

AnbeSivam1Kamal Haasan (KH) announced that he would retire from films from barring Vishwaroopam 2 and Indian 2, not surprising at all. The fact to be noted is that both are extensions of his previous works and sadly not something new.

‘Something new’ would be the murmur of those who walked out of a Kamal film, even for the truest of fans, the films would be things that couldn’t be described at a moment’s notice.

Notice that KH has been very cautious about his late career, not wanting to be another curd rice eating lion (his phrase for the later phase of Nadigar Thilagam) but somewhere along the line he too had realized that it was time.

Time is of the essence, something that resonates in Kamal’s cinematic swan song “Uttama Villain” in which an ageing superstar has to balance between his final act to right his wrongs and his final act (in a movie) with his mentor.  For me the last Kamal consummate performance.

Performance that has no end is of interest, one song from the film claims. Yes we have finally reached the point in the universe that there would be no more waiting for a Kamal film. Waiting and patience, the two characteristics that binds even unlike Kamal fans of which there are many.

Many careers come to an end, but few leave a lasting impact; while in fields which are driven by statistics (hi sports), achievements  which will always be broken. Performance artists on the other hand achieve near immortality thanks to their craft and can comfortably disregard numbers.

AnbeSivam3

Numbers too are surprisingly in Kamal’s favour; in a career spanning almost sixty years he has played from camp to class and what lies between.  Take 1982 for instance which gave the Tamil movie going public both Sakalakalavallavan and Moondram Pirai. This is not a singular occurrence Sagara Sangamam came with Sattam, Nayagan came with AVM’s Paer Sollum Pillai, Virumandi and Vasoolist etc etc etc and it is hard to imagine any other actor who can withstand this stretch consistently and still look natural.

Naturally, his multifaceted nature attracted different kind of fans. His long career has ensured that there was a constant churn in admiration, old fans becoming disillusioned allowing new ones to take their  place. An example would be a generation that still believes that KH was the coolest in the 80s, while another set claim he peaked in the 90s, some say he should just direct and not act, others don’t want him behind a megaphone, some want him to even work with youth directors (LOL). Personally, it is KH’s ability to be all this and more that makes me revisit the films.

Films (of his) are all that we will have of him in the future (not discounting the interviews), and it is surely exciting to revisit them not just as a fan, but as an explorer of the medium. Especially now, when there very little to expect. You have given me a lot to work with and all the best for your future endeavors, Kamal.

AnbeSivam4

 

FRS: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

jackreacher2

Well by now, you what this FRS is all about. It is basically a movie rating system which has striven to be unscientific and hence is fun, we hope.

-30: Tom Cruise never seems to age, he is doing something.

-10: Thus critics can never accuse him of ‘not playing his age’ because he  is not ageing only

-5: Critics

Anyways

+26: Makers actually came up with a title, instead of calling it Jack Reacher 2

-15.7: But title seems to be telling audience that this film does not need a rewatch, seriously yeah we know it is from the book title and all, but then you didnt called the first movie One Shot (which was the book it was based on, why start now? )

+1 : No Narration, yes it helps

+42: To Lee Child, for actually creating a character who doesn’t use a smart phone and hence is actually smart, it’s not like you walk up to Reacher and ask “Hey Reacher, where is the closest laundry place from here”,  and Reacher wont be like “hey, wait let me google that for you”. Geez, he will actually tell you where the closest laundry is, wherever in the world. He also will beat up anyone. Cool no? Take that Marvel/DC.

Whenever Reacher uses a cellphone it is a feature phone and not a smart phone and he seems to have a peaceful life, I mean apart from being chased by the military police.

-10: to the reader who would have mind voice “hey buddy, this was same in first movie as well, so why giving extra points now”; we didn’t review the first one that’s why

+4: Reacher takes public transport, good for health

-30: Hero who doesn’t want to be seen, or does not want any company will do casual flirting with one army major, also note, no whatsapp

+3: that’s what anyone would do if the major is being played by Cobie Smulders, but then Reaccher doesn’t know that because he doesn’t use skype or anything, I’m confused either to give or take points.

Live and let live.

-90: This is actually the plainest of all action films, even the action isn’t pulsating like Cruise’s MI films which we can just watch for the jumps, this looks like a Kathadi Ramamurthy family drama compared to that. Nothing cinematic, see first five mins of part one and you will fall in love with Chris Macquarrie.

-10: Tom Cruise escaping from prison cliche

-8: CCTV camera will capture everything except hero escaping from prison. Dei!!

-34: Tom Cruise running away from bad guys

-6: High school girl outruns two army majors, ok one ex-major, shows US army training, Indians will be happy.

-23: Whatever happens to hero, however he gets hit, in the end he will have only one cut on the face, and that too strategically placed so as to enhance his handsomeness

-109: Main characters will always discuss important plot details while undressing, because….

+10: Even in USA, low cost airlines will not even give water until you ask for it

+10: Even in USA, aadar card xerox and original self will be absolutely different

-670: One more time we use, Even in the USA you can burn down our blog, dei learn new phrases (to self)

-34: For a movie that has military espionage as its core, has very little excitement, ending feels like “ok…hmm”

+39: Female characters out shine male character (here Cruise), most of the plot progresses because of them, Cruise looks up to them but then also accepting that he is not used to being worked with

+7: The Girl, really very very good. funny .

-6: Typical senior officer shouting dialogues like “I wanna know what he eats, where he eats, where he sleeps and i need all these details by yesterday”. Dei dei how many days, also why being unreasonable, give them 48 hrs, this movie is not so much into world saving. It is an intimate thriller.

-20: henchmen dont realise what Reacher can do, which means they haven’t seen the first film. and he hits them very bad.

-83.9: Always during Black Ops operation or any other operation, team leader will say “Go!Go! Go!”, dei

-45.1: A good part of the movie is set in New Orleans which means surely they will show that parade and have a chase in it, esp in this it seems like low budget.

I know these fellows want to be subtle about acting and all, which comes down to much of jaw clenching again and again to express what shouldn’t be, Cruise does this well; but I can see that Sivaji would have had a tough time in Hollywood, especially in scenes where he is supposed to embrace his daughter or is she? Sivaji Ganeshan would have teared down the streets of Washington crying. Cruise just walks down cooly.

-6: Americans don’t give lift to Tom Cruise. Which is sad.

As always all numbers are totally arbitrary and absolutely irrelevant.

Nandri. Vanakkam.

FRS  Desk,

The Lowly Laureate.