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.

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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

 

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FRS: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

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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.

DOES THE DICE KNOW THAT IT IS BEING PLAYED?

It is only right that I saw Karnan inside the old world of AVM Rajeswari, the signage of which still displayed the stories of an era gone by, in a time where movie screens are more  about six flavors popcorn and sofa seats for couples; this Vadapalani theatre still shows only one film and sells balcony tickets at the rate in which multiplexes sell steaming cups of European coffee.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, but a necessary danger. The statement seems like an often repeated school essay topic, Technology: a necessary evil or something to that effect. That brings us to technology which was used in the re-release, the constant buzz about it being digitally re-mastered to suit the audience of now.

But should a movie released in 1964 be processed so that a few scores of the t-shirt wearing dood speaking general public of 2012? Shouldn’t it be watched as it is supposed to be?

I do not believe that an advance in technology does  directly correlate with the advancement of film, which belief holds good for ‘Karnan’ as well.

The film used to be showed on cable, not so frequently but on important weekends only to re-instate the fact that Karnan was no ordinary old film, in every Tamil movie watching family there would have been a discussion on the same, at least about the concise Gita or the ‘Ullathil Nalla Ullam’ song.

The screening last Saturday was not my first introduction to B.R.Panthulu’s pain driven epic; I use the four letter word only to signify the relation to Vyasa’s work rather than as a modern adjective used to describe the films of James Cameron.

The Mahabharatha is a known story, at least most Indians are familiar with the outline of what happens and how it all ends in battle and the complexities, numerous windings and characters make it ideal for any kind of performance art and naturally interpretations.

Karna, the first born, the one adorned with armour by default and owing to the Sun being his father, the quality of giving. For it is believed that the Sun gives all and takes none.

Left to drift in the waters, Karna falls in an age where being a Kshatriya was the greatest gift, the mystery of his birth plagues him till he falls by the wheel.

Karna was the hero who never was, the greatest warrior never to have achieved, his only known crime was his friendship with the otherwise fiendish Duryodhana, the main antagonist in the ensemble.

The whole story can be seen as a game of dice, played by opposing players in which Karnan appears to be the dice; rolled by both sides. Duryodhana who injects in him the hatred of Arjuna and by Krishna, who later plays with his emotions of unknown pedigree.

Sivaji Ganesan brings this character whose mind pencils from a supporting friend to a disillusioned warrior to life on the screen, but alas much of that is lost in the movie which tries to make a hero of him, cutting the story in the wrong place.

The character of Karna has no relevance if there are no Pandavas, the social life of the charioteer king seems to be as boring as the love stories of the recent times, and these are the most trying times for the movie watcher, saved only by the songs. Actress Devika portrays Suba, his wife while Asokan and Savithri fill in for Duryodhana and Bhanu in this socially insecure friendship quartet.

The movie only reaches the next stage when NTR comes blasting doors as the ever smiling and easy dharma quoting Lord Krishna, banking on his previous experience from the truly brilliant Maya Baazar(they should consider another re-release)is a joy to watch, the supporting characters: all big names(Muthuraman, VS Raghavan, ‘Javert’ Seetharaman, Jayanthi,Shanmugasundaram) are used adequately, but the point to be noted is the sincerity in the palace settings and outdoor locations( Saraswathi Mahal Palace and the real battlefield Kurukshetra). Many anecdotes are retold on how BR Panthulu made the mammoth of a film and it is fitting that Karnan was rereleased adjoining his centenary.

No work on Sivaji’s Karnan is complete without mentioning Viswanathan-Ramamurthy score and the wonder that is Kannadasan, whatever they did ‘digitally’ did not appeal to me, I liked it better when they played the film on Raj TV. My favorites would be ‘En Uyir Thozhi’ and ‘Iravum Nilavum’. Kannadasan is master, there is no word that could describe the happiness that he brings to songs, here he not only shortens the 18 chapter Bhagavad Gita to minutes but also provides a Tamil version of Adithya Hridayam and a final summing up in the all explaining, ”Ullathil nalla ullam” in which the dice finds its relevance.

Karnan is a classic, re-mastered or otherwise. I liked it because I have always liked it, but I cannot speak for the hundred or so school students who were brought in as an ‘educational’ trip.

It was a happy sight to see a morning show filled, for a movie released 45 years ago; one theatre man said that next show was also booked. Above him the painted face of Sivaji Ganesan looked down magnificently, just like old times.