Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Raavan reminds me of Kamal Hassan's 'Guna'

After my experience of 'Raavan', I was wondering what Maniratnam possibly could have attempted before ending up with this product. It is not unusual for serious filmmakers to envision something on paper and end up failing to convey the same on the celluloid. But as far as I know, this is first such case for MR. After all he is supposed to be a dictator on the sets while shooting who wouldn't just let unless he gets the desired sequence and frame to the T. So what possibly did MR attempt?

I am now reminded about the yesteryear Kamal Hassan starred 'Guna' in a odd way. The protagonist there was mentally unsound. He kidnaps a lady to the hills of Kodaikanal and the lady who initially finds him repelling later knowing him changes and even gets married to him. The police who were in search of the lady with all their good intentions play spoiler for the couple and end up harming them. I still remember watching that movie and in the end feeling something deep inside. An irony that a socially unacceptable guy melts our hearts with his emotions while the police with their brute power and our mandate are unfit to comprehend the emotions and play anti-hero. This concept I guess served as a sub-plot in quite a few movies. Here, I guess MR planned to make something like this a main plot on a lavish scale with the Bachchans, AR Rahman's score.

As said in my previous post, I thought MR started with a backdrop of anti-government forces like the so-called Maoists in the the jungles. He could have possibly thought of personifying the deep jungles and its Beera analogically with Lanka and Raavan of the mythology. Beera was supposed to evoke fear. AB Jr didn't.

The Ram-like character Dev is supposed to be strict law-enforcing officer. His uniform itself was supposed to imply his Ram-like characteristics and his actions are supposed to add grey shades. But this didn't translate and he ended up a card board character in RayBans.

is a very ambitious project and it is such a tragedy that it does not even remotely look like one now. This is in the series of project like Kannathil Muthamittal, Ayutha Ezuthu, Guru and as an idea clearly reflected Maniratnam's ambition. This is what I think is Maniratnam's second innings and I am yet to see him score.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Raavan: Maniratnam's most uninspiring work

For someone who grew up watching and enjoying Maniratnam's movies, it is difficult to like his latest - 'Raavan'. Steadily over the years, the nuances and silences of his Tamil movies disappeared to make way for painstaking Hindi dialogue and loud background scores. And gone with them are the fleshed out characters and we now see the cardboarded ones in 'Raavan'. For an analogy, Raavan is far too simplistic. Ironically, the Ram like character of Vikram shows little benevolence while the Bachchan Jr.'s Raavan has little if not no evil. The movies does not explain why the 'Raavan' is a feared lot and what drives him. Instead the character dishes silly antics, as sillier as most of the dialogues in the movie.

In fact the movie would have made more sense if it stressed on the conflict between forces of establishment and anti-establishment and how the lines between good and evil blur. The movie's excellent camerawork in the hinterlands would have wonderfully reflected the turf war between these forces as does the background score. But all the technical work has been wasted on a confused plot. The award winning editor Sreekar Prasad looks completely uninspired in the first half. He just let the boat sail. I really hope this is Mani's last work with AB Jr. It was a pain watching him in almost every frame in the first half, trying to interpret his character and act. This is a casting blunder. I understand that the Bachchan brand is the only factor in Maniratnam repeating AB Jr. for marketing his movies. This is turning as nightmarish as RGV' stint with Big B.

I hope Vikram did a better job in the Tamil version as 'Raavanan'. Would like to catch up with that sometime and see if Maniratnam indeed had a plot which could have been lost in translation from Tamil to Hindi!

I seriously think Hindi movies are weighing down Maniratnam as his style of making changed adversely in this transition. His movies have now become dialogue driven in Hindi, a language he is not too comfortable with. Maybe his ideas does not quite translate coherently in this scenario and so we get to see a mishmash. Compare the character graphs of Sooriya in 'Ayutha Ezhuthu' (Yuva in Telugu) and Ajay Devgan's in 'Yuva' and you will understand my point. I just wish Mani takes a break now as he did after 'Dil Se' to make a Tamil movie like 'Alaipayuthey' and get his bearings right before he ties himself into another Hindi movie project. This is from an admirer of his.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Vedam: One of the best ever Telugu movies

Krish's 'Vedam' is an apt follow-up to his debut 'Gamyam'. As honest as his earlier work, 'Vedam' is more ambitious in content and succeeds too to a large extent. Adapting the multiple story thread narration, Krish narrates about five parallel lives, their ambitions and conflicts in this appropriately titled 'Vedam' (Literally meaning 'Knowledge') and reveals how in this one big world people live in their own life bubbles grappling their own ambitions, problems and vulnerabilities. Despite this being the first attempt at a multiple story narrative in Telugu movies, Krish manages to keep the soul of the movie stay atop the narrative style. All credit goes to Krish for being such a thinker and a filmmaker with heart.

If at all I felt something amiss, it is only in the last half hour. After managing the content and screenplay wonderfully till then, the movie seem to be forced towards the 'action' in hospital. While clearly the Mumbai siege inspired that part, it lacked the depth the movie had all through in its characters. While all characters we saw till then are fleshed out so wonderfully with their human vulnerabilities, the bad guys who arrive announced in the climax are cardboard cutouts. The climax could have been put up to make the movie commercially viable. And honestly it would have been quite a task to imagine a climax for 5 parallel story threads whether the threads converge or not. So this standard action climax could have been employed as it is 'safe'.

Nevertheless, long after you leave the theatres, you still have the very real characters and the emotions they evoke lingering around. Whether it is the poor weaver from Sircilla, the humiliated Muslim or the bigoted police officer, you cant help but admire the casting, the acting and their lines. The authenticity seen in the language, dialect, costumes employed in these threads depicting diverse cultures show that lots of thinking went into the movie. Contrast this with how the same 'Sircilla' lingo was depicted in 'Jalsa' or how Muslim customs are portrayed in general. Allu Arjun, Manoj and Anushka for once played the characters asked for and not acted like stars. However what was surprising is that Manoj was credited for a 'Guest Appearance' while he is in there all through from opening scene to closing scene! Was that because his 'senior' co-star felt insecure? And that after all the self-congratulatory noises from the stars about ushering in 'multi-starrers' keeping aside their king-size egos! Well, lets hope some of the abundant wisdom in the movie rubs onto the stars!

'Vedam' also has some wonderful and timely songs that adds flavor to the theme. The lyrics are great depicting realities of our lives and the background score is superb switching between the five threads. The editing and photography is top-notch. The movie of course would ignite the debate about 'sad ending' in Telugu film industry. As blogged earlier, I never thought Telugu viewers are particularly averse to so-called 'sad endings'. But we can debate that another day. For now, let us cheer 'Vedam'. Let us also hope it will wake up the Telugu movie industry from its delusional world and make more meaningful movies.