They Who Need Not Be Named

Parking Lot Notes 2: Maanagaram

Maanagaram

Adhavadhu(that is…),
humanity’s greatest achievement is not the great wall of china or moon landing or the moon landing tapes, but cities.

We weren’t meant to live in caves, or in forests or spend our lifetimes working with crops and pests and pesticides, notice how we came from all that into this density of human life, simply called the city.
(Density, city rhymes, +5 marks, self evaluation as they say in some industries)

But not everyone, mostly not those originally from a city seem to like life in one, they prefer rural silence to urban violence, the slow pace to a rat race. Also non-citizens (here meant to denote those not from a city) tend to think that there is some sort of moral loss that happens in a city and that this loss is communicable.

Mainly this idea has been spread by Tamil(also others?) cinema.

Innumerable movies talk about the helping tendencies of the rural-ites, their hardworking-ness and their ever helpful nature. Cities however are the polar opposite, if a village can be compared to the character of a hero, then a city is the serial rapist villain who has bald thug named ‘Peter’ who spits Pan Parag in railway ticket counter corners.

Nevermind.

Like all things in reality, cities are inescapable, for me they represent human life at its aggregated best; a place where differences blur because everyone is pushing against each other towards an unknown center.

Without cities, we would be even distant islands of self image and comfort. Without cities we would still be somebody. See, because one of the best things that a city offers you is anonymity!

Like rain water, sewage etc etc making it to the sea, we all make it to the city.

It doesn’t matter who we are and where we are from.

Maanagaram is what knowledgeable people call a hyperlink film in which multiple characters pursue their own stories but are united in the core theme of the film, which is ofcourse about the city.

But wait, this is not Ayutha Ezhuthu, this is better( hi to all Madras Talkies), with much likeable characters, pulsating music, open your mouth in amazing disbelief kind off opening titles, swear words and their social context, broken beer bottle into your neck kind off action and generally Chennai by night( which is the biggest plus)

Underneath all this is a thread of that of the kindness of strangers, how far will someone go for another man(or woman); invisibly connecting all the characters that inhabit this city, I mean film.

Maanagaram, one of the best films out there this year ( coughs and says Gaudam, “what does your instict say”) not only because of its extreme filmmaking and exciting characters but also because Maangaram gives the best that every big city offers: anonymity

Untill next time.

 

{Parking Lot notes initially appeared as a Facebook post somewhere}

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KOCHADAIIYAN: A DOLL’S GROUSE

<The world’s first photorealistic review>

 

Amitabh Bachchan: When the history of Indian Cinema is written, it will be before Kochadaiiyan and after Kochadaiiyan.

Us: hehe.

This review is not to hurt the sentiments of countless movie goers, this review is written by countable movie goers with hurt sentiments.

Dedicated to the living memory of Nagesh who was not offered any role for his immeasurable talents went to waste when he was alive, the decision to animate him has further pained those who still look upon him fondly. Also it was not funny.

We are also dedicating this review to technology. We liked to dedicate this review to animation, photo realism etc, since the makers have stated that the audience have no knowledge of such, we will stick to dedicating this review to technology, which doesn’t make sense.

To the future type dedication.

We would also like to dedicate this review to… oh never mind.

Where do we begin? Should we being at the beginning of it all? The purpose of such a film?

We only offer you one directive, people who have seen the film/ going to see the film and are hoping to like it and are getting the feeling that they are encouraging something new, please do read the words which are in the slightly bigger font-italics (as this paragraph).

So that’s all we are asking.

Should animation standards be the only object of discussion?

No

Definitely no, but if it is not good then we must be bold enough to say that is not enough, although we have faced with opinions that with the available budget only so much is possible. Hmm but then by giving they themselves are making it easy for us fault finders.

If you are so keen, then you should watch only Hollywood films!

That works for us, with our limited knowledge of animated films and such, we have liked what we have seen on screen, we did not require extensive “how we shot the shizz reels” to relate to the characters and involve ourselves in the story.

We had problems with the animation because it was more of a disabler, the thought that these are not the things we should be watching kept our minds blocked the whole time and we couldn’t really care for the film or its story (if any, as applicable)

On the contrary, we have seen a lot of movies, look we love to watch movies, we would like to see what goes on screen than on what goes behind it, so technically if u ignore what we said above and we go with an “OPEN MIND” (which again is quite impossible, because we are humans, we have feelings, expectations etc, not cardboard based…never mind)

Where were we?

Ah yes open mind, even with an open mind there must be something in the story that should make us happy, no fireworks in that department too, usual stuff.

Good man has great dad (both warriors), good man and great dad makes the king jealous. Then what follows etc.

Now wait, this makes the king the villain. Yes but never really does anything bad for his country, just wants to expand his boundaries, just like..hmm..any other king. All kings want to expand territories except of course ASOKA, oh wait he fought wars too—- yes, to expand his territories.

Ok we forgive all this and accept the kings as villains, because they are rich, ambitious and jealous of their generals, because somebody has to be a villain so that the hero can say something nice right, some good sayings, some everyday couplets etc etc.

Are these things anything new? Well that is subjective and we are not going into that, just that we will imply that they were quite dull is what we felt.

Oops, you don’t imply like that! Be more subtle.

Subtle like Rana? Who clearly says to us the whole plot in a line and expect us to watch a film in which we know what is going to happen so well that even the twists don’t matter? Never mind.

Arrogant fools! If you keep comparing films like this then no one will have the guts to make anything different, no new technology will come into Tamil.

In the first year of movie review school (yes there is one) we were thought of only one thing, that only the movie matters, only! This is what they teach in review school.

So you can even add on and say that most of the people here might not be exposed to the levels of animation from outside and they might really find the move enthralling.

That maybe true, but then again you are underestimating your audience and feeding them stuff thinking they will not know of any higher thing and also asking them morally to support something just for the effort.

But! That’s a bloody lot of effort!! Do you guys have any idea how much time and money have been spent on this film!!

Of course we applaud the effort and all that, no we don’t exactly know how many hours and how much was spent on this film and we don’t think that should be a big factor in liking or not liking a movie.

You have no idea what type of films are made here, just watching some Hollywood films without understanding and saying something in dassu-bussu English, you don’t even need to see our films again, we are quite happy of this film and we will make this a very big hit and from next year on every third movie will be an animation movie.

Cool, we are happy to be wrong, we know we are wrong most of the time.

We also agree on the fact that we don’t understand the Hollywood films we see entirely, but we like them.

We like Tamil films too, we watch them a lot, more than the dassu bussu films, we like to watch Tamil films more than most, we only wish there better movies made and only wish the right films get the attention of the audience.

If they don’t, it is not our failure, because…well never mind.

We have also seen quite a few Tamil movies with the same theme, MGR’s Aayirathil Oruvan which was recently released and thanks to some forces is still running in theatres had a similar plot of a hero put in a rough situation because he has to defend his men for whom he is responsible, the recent Tenali Raman too had a similar revenge theme.

As it is quite common knowledge that the avenging theme is nothing new…the beauty lies in the execution.

For example in Aboorva Sagodarargal (1989), the motive for the protagonist is very early established (revenge again), but still it keeps us hooked as to how things proceed.

Never mind.

You are only nit-picking, the film is total entertainment for full families, all shows housefull, sure hundred days, full mass dialogues, amazing songs and pictures! You have no right to even review films, let alone talk about them, you are undermining the choice of crores of people with your bird brain perspectives.

Nit-picking is often under-rated, it shows that how keenly we have seen the film, how involved we were in the film.

As we have said, in not so many words, we found the film dull and hence we were not really looking hard to find fault barring few glaring points.

So in this case we weren’t nit-picking but just stating the overall disconnect that we felt, some of you might have felt otherwise, which is understandable, considering this is a Rajini film after all.

Nit-picking would mean to state things like why were the cave dwellers in the opening song were predominantly dark skinned? Is the director implying that cave dwellers are dark skinned? Hmm

Or how did Deepika Padukone know the exact steps as the white peacock? Did they go to the same dance class?

This only nit-picking.

Shut up, out thalaivar is mass and we dont need your opinions, you are like sand which he steps on.

Oh yes finally to the performances. Rajini is everything, as if you didn’t know that.

All characters are replaceable, mostly inconsequential, actors like Shobana are hardly given lines to speak. So pretty much this film should work for people who were expecting the such.

Also we think in some film you keep the sand thalaivar steps, on your forehead.

We pretty much know that our opinions don’t matter and it is quite known that nobody really reads our blog, our meetings by self, have existential crisis.

That is only answered by our love for movies which trumps all agendas, we don’t take claim of high ground and state that we will tell you what a good movie is, we are just telling you how we could not really feel or connect with this film.

Amidst all the noise, I don’t think our feeble whisper will make a difference, but then again we write so as to make a whisper.

We really wish this film would a window to better things, if the claimed things do happen then the names you are calling us right now will turn out to be true then.

We also realise that movies are purely subjective and their criticism have no meaning beyond a point when the audience is able to make a personal connect to the film.

Just that this film did not have it.

All the best, and to the future.

<Tell us what you thought about this film and our review, you can also tell us how many packets of milk did you all buy for the celebrations right below in the comments.>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mistresses of Disguise

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Often one is faced with a sort of conundrum while talking with friends and arguing with adversaries, this is of course not idle talk; but most discussions on regional films are put down as a pale imitation or a perfect carbon copy of some other film from some corner of the world; this is of course true. Sadly there are many such films which can be down under the ‘lack of originality’ column, but wait should there be a ‘lack of originality’ column in the first place or in other words should originality be a parameter of necessity. In liking a film? I do not think so.

1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire is the spirit around which K.S. Ravikumar’s 1996 Avvai Shanmugi is built, a story about a dad dressing up as a nanny so that he could meet his children(child in the latter) who have been whisked away from him by court proceedings.

The preceding paragraph sums up both films for those who are yet to see it and will make more sense in the following ones where points are made for and against.

Firstly both are big family films, comedic takes on fragility of the family, sexist at times when the till-then underachieving protagonist instructs (at times by use of song and dance) the ex-lady of the house as to how families run on compromises etc and wins back a place into the family; but then which is more funnier?

Pierce Brosnan a good two years away from Goldeneye, plays a dashing man out to fill the place vacated by idealist<?> voice-over artist Robin Williams and the film progresses with Williams’ attempts to thwart these advances, if you will notice that there is no such character present in Avvai.

 Heera Rajagopal plays the sex-opposite character of Pierce in Avvai, obviously made out as a second romantic lead to suit the star Kamal Haasan.

This is just the first of the things that Avvai doesn’t get right (in a manner of truthful adaptation), the lead heroine played by Meena is not career driven as Sally Field is, to say even more she does not even have a career; there is no particular reason for her to employ a nanny in the first place unless of course you give in to the reason that she assists her father (Gemini Ganesan) in the leather business and is too tied up to look after her daughter.

While Robin Williams’ feminine histrionics can be justified as his career as a voice over artist, Kamal Haasan plays a guy on the fringe of the entertainment industry (a dance assistant) but Doubtfire is a meticulously plain and not entirely funny account of an emotional man trying to win back his children.

Ok funny is a relative thing, what is funnier to you might not move a muscle on my lips; but what is inspiring about Avvai is that it is absolutely outrageous, a full-out attack to make you laugh so much so that it makes Mrs. Doubtfire looks like a tired old mouse saving up cheese.

This outrageousness alone makes Avvai a far better film, while Doubtfire entirely rests on the talent of Williams to make up the humour: a task he never fails; Avvai is filled with seriously funny actors upping the laughs per minute rate. There is the drunken make-up man Joseph who could make a parrot into a monkey, the dumb cook Pasha or Palavakkam Swaminathan with dreams of acting, the much-in love house owner Mudhaliyar, the ever snooping Sethurama Iyer ( Delhi Ganesh in a role like no other) as said above there are not even sketches of any such characters in Doubtfire, with introductions which are so diverse <Avvai> swirls around in madness finally elevating this film to comedic greatness.

My attempts fall in vain, as I will try to explain a sequence as follows: there are two people in love with Kamal Haasan as Avvai Shanmugi while he tries to pitch one against each other by claiming things one normally shouldn’t, at one point it is really difficult for the protagonist to keep track of what lies were said to whom, Avvai willingly finds itself in such hilarious situations from which there is no visible escape route except a deadly end.

Not only the final moments after the big reveal (in true sense) are but a big drag in Mrs Doubtfire, there is also the thread of the Robin Williams character trying to get better in his career(hmmm), which completely lacks the punch and the fulfilment that Avvai’s madness provides.

I agree that I am being unfair to Doubtfire for wanting it to be something which it is not, it is by its own standing a likeable children’s comedy and that’s about it; but that is the only way I get to show how different Avvai is different from Doubtfire and how it appeals to me more, how the seed of the cross dressing dad is borrowed and made into something bizarre, a lesson in uncontrollable madness, the screw-ball to end all screwballs. Avvai is not funny because it is complex, it is complex and funny and improves with every viewing.

All this of course will not matter to those who have never heard of Avvai Shanmugi (or ever will) and those who will find it difficult to appreciate it even with Tamil subtitles, but for those who few, those very few who have seen both movies  are more likely to genuflect to the complete comic madness (again!) of Avvai , so much so that originality arguments are thrown out of the window and down comes the blinds.

So next time, when you state something in the lines of “this film is a frame by frame of that”, make sure you have seen ‘that’ film first and how similar or how different it is, nopes you will have to do more than read the IMDB summary to bring down a movie.

 

PS: Avvai Shanmugi released to roaring reception on Diwali day 1996, the film’s credits do not acknowledge the writers of Mrs. Doubtfire which it rightly should have, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from liking the film.