രംഗീല മുതൽ മിഖായിൽ വരെ.

രംഗീല കണ്ടിട്ടു വന്ന കൂട്ടുകാരനോട് ഇടിയുണ്ടോ എന്ന് ചോദിച്ച എന്നെ നിരാശപെടുത്താതിരിക്കാനായിരിക്കണം ഇടിയില്ല പക്ഷേ അമീർ ഖാനെ ജാക്കി ഷ്രോഫ് പിടിച്ചു തള്ളുന്നുണ്ട് എന്ന് അവൻ മറുപടി പറഞ്ഞത്. ഇനിയിപ്പോ ഇടി ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നേലും രംഗീലക്ക് പോകാൻ പറ്റുമായിരുന്നില്ല. അയ്യോ അത് കൊണ്ടല്ല. പത്താം ക്‌ളാസ്സ് കഴിയുന്ന വരെ ഒറ്റയ്ക്ക് പടത്തിനു പോകാൻ പെർമിഷൻ ഇല്ലാരുന്നു. ഞാൻ ആണേൽ മറ്റേ ടീമാരുന്നു റെഢി ടു…പറഞ്ഞു പറഞ്ഞു വന്നത് അന്നൊക്കെ ഇടിടെ എണ്ണം വെച്ചാരുന്നു ഞാൻ സിനിമ വിലയിരുത്തിയുരുന്നത്. വീട്ടിൽ ഭിത്തിൽ അർണോൾഡ് തോക്കും പിടിച്ചോണ്ട് നിക്കുന്ന ഒരു പോസ്റ്ററും ഉണ്ടാരുന്നു. പ്രെഡറ്ററിലെ ഒരു സ്റ്റില്ല് മുല്ലക്കൽ ചിറപ്പിന് റോട്ടിന്നു വാങ്ങിച്ചത്. യെസ് ഗ്ലോബലൈസേഷൻ താങ്ക്സ് ടു മിസ്റ്റർ മൻമോഹൻ. ഇപ്പോ നരേറ്റീവ്‌ സബ്‌ടെക്‌സ്റ്റ് ഓലക്കേടെ മൂട് എന്നൊക്കെ ഞാൻ തള്ളുമ്പോ എനിക്ക് എന്നോട് തന്നെ ഒരു ബഹുമാനം തോന്നാറുണ്ട്. അയ്യോ അഹങ്കാരം അല്ല സെൽഫ് റെസ്‌പെക്ട് …സെൽഫ് റെസ്‌പെക്ട്. അത് വേണം എന്നാണല്ലോ എല്ലാ എച് ആർ മനുവലിലും പറയുന്നത്. അതോ വേണ്ടന്നാണോ. ആ അതെന്തായാലും ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞു വന്നത് ഇപ്പോഴും ഇടി കണ്ടാൽ എന്റെ മനസ് ഒന്ന് ചാഞ്ചാടാറുണ്ട്. പക്ഷെ ഇതിപ്പോ ആ ഹനീഫ് അദെയ്‌നി ഏങ്ങനെ മനസ്സിലാക്കി എന്ന് എനിക്ക് ഒരു എത്തും പിടിം കിട്ടുന്നില്ല. ഇനി പുള്ളിം എന്നെ പോലെ ഒരു ഇടിപ്രേമി ആണോ? സാധ്യതയില്ലാതില്ലാതില്ല. അല്ലേ പിന്നേ പുള്ളി നിവിൻ പോളിയെകൊണ്ട് ഒരു പോലീസുകാരന് മരുന്ന് എഴുതിപ്പിക്കും എന്നൊക്കെ പറയിപ്പിച്ചു ഒരു ഞെരിപ് ടീസറും പിന്നെ ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദൻ നിവിൻ പോളിയെ പറന്നടിക്കുന്ന ഒരു

ട്രെയ്ലറും ഒക്കെ ഇറക്കി എന്നെ കൊണ്ട് ടിക്കറ്റും ബുക്ക് ചെയ്യിപ്പിച്ചു തിയറ്ററിൽ കൊണ്ടെ ഇരുത്തുമോ. ഇടി കൊള്ളാം വല്യ കുഴപ്പമില്ല . പിന്നെ ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദന്റെ ഇടി കൊണ്ട മിക്കവരുടെയും സമയം തെളിഞ്ഞിട്ടുണ്ട്.അയ്യോ അതല്ല. വിക്രമാദിത്യനിൽ ദുൽക്കർ പുള്ളിമായിട്ടു മുട്ടി. പിന്നെ ടോവിനോ ഒരു പടത്തിൽ പുള്ളിടെ ഇടി കൊണ്ടു.ദേ ഇപ്പോ നിവിനും. ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദനെ ഇടിച്ചാ സ്വർണം കിട്ടുമോ…ഉറപ്പിക്കട്ടെ ?അതൊക്കെ പോട്ട് ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദനെ കൊണ്ട് വെല്ല ബ്ലഡ് ടെസ്റ്റിനും വന്നതാണ് എന്ന് പറയിപ്പിച്ചാ പോരാരുന്നോ എന്റെ ഹനീഫ് അഥേനി? ഷാജി കൈലാസിന്റെ അവിടുന്ന്‌ ഇറങ്ങേ ചെയ്‌തു അമൽ നീരദിന്റെ അവടെ എത്തിയേം ചെയ്‌തില്ല എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞ പോലെയാണ് പുള്ളിടെ ഏർപ്പാട്. എന്തരായാലും എന്റെ ശതം സമർപ്പയാമിയായി.

When Sabarimala Kept Me Up.

A decade and couple of years back, half a dozen women lawyers moved the apex court in the country against a practise that they found to be a “socio-religious malady in a place of worship managed by a state run body partially funded by public money”. The State Government, the high priest, the Dewaswom Board and the District Magistrate of Pathanamitha were impleaded as parties in the PIL filed by the ladies in question. The temple’s tryst with the law prior to this in the same context was another decade and a half before the one in 2006 when the High Court of Kerala upheld the ban in response to another PIL filed by a male citizen. The issue was never a bone of major contention otherwise in our collective conscience. There were of course other cases in court filed by local communities linked to the legend of the deity who wanted their rights to the many customs which were taken over by the priestly class to be restored. But how many of us were actually bothered by this ban on mensturating women to be honest? It was something that we were conditioned to accept as normalcy, as we do with most things in our puny little lives. If there were indeed people who saw this for what it was like the Supreme Court did in September of the year past, they never thought to act on their thoughts. It took a Barkha Dutt article and a bunch of women from the other half of the country to do that for us. No, not me or you with all our enlightment and sophistication. Even the Left government under E.K Nayanar left it to the Dewasom Board to decide the matter according to the usage of practises in their affidavit in court in response to the PIL of 1991.

Fastforward to 2018 and we have a Left government again at the helm and under the microscope like never before thanks to the rise of the far right in the North and the demise of the centre-left since 2014. The government was doing fairly well and gaining popularity under an able leadership that threatened both the Opposition and the right wingers who were trying everything within their limited powers to gain political traction in the state. The state showed reslience, literally in the face of a deadly epidemic. Then came the floods and the state’s response as a people and a government to it. The Sabarimala imbroglio is definitely something that was not on the menu when the government came into power and it certainly wasn’t looking forward to be in the position it has found itself as I write this. But that’s not to say it isn’t capable of handling it. The governments in power at various junctures during the decade long litigation had filed affidavits that were in lieu of their core principles and ideologies. The Left had always maintained that it’s outlook was progressive on the issue but that it would maintain the status quo if the court ruled otherwise. The Congress government in the interim had filed in opposition. Came the verdict in September in the wake of the havoc that the floods wreaked with a storm of another kind under it’s wings. Rest is history as we are witnessing it.

The State welcomed the verdict and promised to uphold the constituitional rights of citizens as directed by the Supreme Court. The right wingers welcomed it too, in principle. To any independent observer worth his salt, this was just the calm before the storm. In the first few days that followed, almost all major political stakeholders watched and waited to gauge the public reaction. There were other interested parties who expected the verdict and had been strategising during the days that ran up to the verdict. These were mostly non political enitities with interests and claims to the operations of the temple itself. Once the political potential of the crisis unveiled itself in totality to the aspirants in the thick of the game, the tables literally turned. What followed was days of perpetual unrest and dilemma. The Left in Kerala is the only entity that is politically capable of handling a situation as delicate and suicidal as this if you ask me. Unlike the Congress that’s scattered across groups that revolve like satellites around individuals and initials, the Left draws it’s strength from it’s cadre and structure. The Left also has a think tank who formulate strategies to tackle any political crisis that’s thrown their way. They’re almost rigid in that aspect when it comes to resolves which is in fact both a forte and foible at the same time.

The right wingers had cornered and further pushed the State into a spot that it did not like stay for long in. It had to push back with all might and it did just that. It lifted the veils on the rift and the faultlines that ran deep in the psyche of the residents. Identity politics took a centrestage as a counter strategy. Even the Chief Minister wasn’t spared casteist slurs. We saw the Left working a multi pronged approach to deal with the hypocrisy of the organisations that opposed the verdict. There were contradictory statements every other day. Women who came forward initially failed to make it to seat of the deity. At times the State played mute spectator to the antics of the right wingers who had literally fortified the temple premises with their presence. Then after a period of brief lull came a time of turbulence again. If the right wingers had envisaged a battle between Communists and believers, the Left in their reaction had driven a sledgehammer clean into the caste faultines of the state’s social fabric and the usual suspects were only too happy to oblige, on either sides. After much delibertations and negotiations the government was able to bring influential community organisations together and hold a show of resolution and solidarity, literally flexing it’s muscles. Then overnight came the bolt from the blue, the announcement about the entry of two women who laid claim to their rights, finally. This has upped the ante for all the powers that be. Politically too, there are only winners here, mostly. The far right finally has the opportunity it always longed for. The Left has ensured a place in the annals for it’s leadership as heroes of renaissance. The Congress is looking at a bleak future in terms of their customary return to the assembly every five years, which is why they are reeling in contradictions under an uninspiring leadership, if one may call it that. The far right who have used polarising tacticts to gain political foothold in the rest of the country time and again have met their match in this southernmost state, it’s safe to say.

Sabarimala for the longest time has remained a bastion of faith that reached out to people beyond the barriers of religion.The pilgrimage took one on a personal journey of atonement. The legends told tales of camaraderie between a Hindu warrior and his Muslim ally to whom the devotees paid respects in his shrine before they arrived at the famed eighteen steps. Despite being such a timeless symbol of secularism and tolerance, when the temple makes headlines across the globe for the wrong reasons, it’s not the emperor who’s naked, it’s the subjects.

Petta : What A Man !

Yes, that’s Abbas’s line from Padayappa. Not necessarily the best Rajni ” moment” that by any stretch of imagination, in fact the scene might look downright funny to any soul a stranger to RCU, that’s yes Rajni Cinematic Universe and Karthik Subbaraj the director of Petta has made a film which proves that he is stuck in a cinematic time warp of sorts where that dialogue from Padayappa is played over and over again. But he wouldn’t be alone there, considering the fact that the Superstar has a fan base in lands as far as Japan. Rajnikanth might very well be the only import to that country. Okay, maybe I did exaggerate a bit there, but we are talking Rajnikanth and his films where everything is larger than life. The last time a director paid tribute to Rajnikanth was with Sivaji when Shankar finally got to work with him, though one can’t help sigh wondering how Mudhalvan would have turned out had the star said yes to Shankar. Bygones are bygones  and a decade since, a young filmmaker has brought the Rajnikanth every fan yearned for, back to the screen.

Rajnikanth is 68 and he is most probably the only star his size in our part of the world who is the least bothered about looking his age off the screen, he can afford to do that simply because the energy and charisma he brings to his characters on the screen is something even his younger peers cannot match. In Petta he plays a college warden who appears to be more than just that and there’s a hint of mystery to everything he does and says. You know something’s brewing because you have watched him do that in the first half of Bhaasha too. But this time, he is not taking any blows, he’s only delivering them, verbal and physical to anyone who stands in his way. The first half of the movie is essentially a walk in the museum of all things Rajnikanth. Karthik Subbaraj uses everything from silhouettes to shadows to the sound of the star whislting to drive the fans into frenzy. Rajnikanth gets another introduction scene just before the interval which takes us into a narrative totally removed from the fun and frolic of the first half. But before he gets serious Karthik Subbaraj ensures that the fan in every viewer is fed well. Rajnikanth channels his inner Bruce Lee more than once and there’s even a scene where he displays his nunchak skills, obviously a throwback to his Paayumpuli days. Then there’s a song set on the hostel grounds where Rajnikanth shows us that he hasn’t lost his groove. The only time the audience erupted for a scene without the star was when Vijay Sethupathi appeared on the screen. Vijay Sethupathi again sleepwalks in a film where he has little else to do other than being a satellite to the star at the centre. Other Karthik Subbaraj regulars are splattered across the canvas, namely Bobby Simha. Simran makes a breezy comeback and Rajnikanth again gets to show that his charisma hasn’t faded in romantic scenes and songs. But in the second half it’s an entirely different film and these characters disappear. We do not miss them because another set of actors take their place. Sasikumar appears in a role that has shades of more than one buddy character from Rajnikanth films of yore. Nawazzudin Siddiqui in his Tamil debut is in a role that is essentially what we identify him with the most thanks to popular cinema, the nonchalant gangster with a hint of psychopathy.

Kabaali and Kaala were films where the director used Rajnikanth as a medium to sell his politics but unlike Pa. Ranjith, Karthik Subbaraj has done what the likes of  K.S Ravikumar, Suresh Krishna has done in the past, build a shrine for the Thalaiva. Apart from that he has also done something clever here, I feel. Despite Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi playing bad guys to Rajnikanth, Karthik Subbaraj who is also the writer has written a character for his favorite actor which almost makes a statement that in the ultimate Rajnikanth film, it’s the star who plays both the hero and the villain. Interestingly this is the second time in a row where a Rajnikanth film references Ramayana, given Tamil Naud’s love-hate relationship historically with the mythological epic. If you see Rajnikanth as a Christ figure against a cross in the first half, he is almost Krishna justifying the means to a win when pitted against opponents who are kin in the second half. Karthik Subbaraj also has taken a subtle jab at the hard right politics here. The only time the film drags a bit is when it ceases to a Rajnikanth film somehere in the middle of the second half and tries to take a serious tone but Karthik Subbaraj, I think it’s to safe to say, saves the film from an inevitable mediocre ending with a cinematic sleight of hand of sorts that will leave the audience stunned, much like the characters on the screen.  After two back to back movies laden heavily with political themes, Petta is just what the doctor ordered for the Superstar and his fans. Rajnified indeed, to the dot.

 

 

Selection Day | S01 | Netflix

Yet another Indian Original has debuted on Netflix and is based on Aravind Adiga’s eponymous novel. A Booker prize winner, cricket and Netflix, sounds like a match made in Indian binge-heaven. I haven’t read Adiga’s work and knew little of the book when I slouched on the couch and decided to netflix (v) the other day. For a nation obsessed with anything related to cricket, it’s a bit surprising that we do not have as many movies or shows based on this favorite sport of ours as we would have liked to have had. I mean, considering the number of movies that the Americans have made on Baseball and Football and Basketball and Boxing, we pale in comparsion given the fact that we are equally obsessed with the showbiz too. If I must name one, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal is the only film that did justice to the true spirit of the game I feel.

Selection Day chronicles the lives of two young boys from a village in Madhya Pradhesh, who are groomed by their father to be the best batsmen cricket has ever seen. Rajesh Tailang plays the father and you see him telling another  character early on that he married the mother of his children because she was a star hockey player who could mother champion sons for him. Grooming is a subtle word, considering his obsession with the cause and that being the Under- 16 selections for Mumbai. The show starts with him moving the kids to Mumbai as the day edges closer. Yash Doyle and Mohammad Samad play the champions to be. Samad was seen in the rage of the season, Tumbaad recently and is one actor to watch out for. Karanvir Malhotra is another new face. Mahesh Manjrekar reinvents himself as the reluctant coach Tommy Sir. Giving him company is television and stage veteran Ratna Pathak Shah. Shiv Pandit appears and disappears, literally. Akshay Oberoi plays an industrialist chasing dreams of a different kind. Making an impression in a couple of scenes as “Gulshan” is Dibyendu Battacharya and something tells me we are going to see more of him in the industry. The strength of the show is perfect casting and earnest performances from these actors with some great writing to help them do that too. I have to read the book before Season 2 comes out to tell you if it’s Adiga or the writers who have done the work here.

Much like the T20 version of cricket that’s being marketed  by cricket boards these days, Selection Day too keeps the episodes short, this helps when you binge on a regular weekend. In fact the whole running time is lesser than that of a Bollywood film. But that doesn’t take away any of the fun or the charm of the series. I think it’s safe to call it the Malgudi Days of our times. You’d infact find yourself wanting Selection Day to return faster than you want Sacred Games to. Adiga’s writing has been branded Dickensian by critics I’m told and Selection Day is no different from what I have witnessed. Udayan Prasad, the director has done a fine job of translating Adiga’s vision on to the screen. I’m divided now though, like a batsman eyeing the fielder and looking for that second run. I could wait for Season 2 to find out the fate of the characters or I could go get the book off the closest shelf and something tells me I’m not the only one in that predicament.

 

 

Njan Prakashan : Sreenivasan And Sathyan Anthikad Go On A Walk Down The Memory Lane, Take Fahadh Faasil Along.

The writer-director duo of Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan need no introduction in Malayalam Cinema. They have been keen observers of, and commentators on the  conundrum that Kerala  society is, for over three decades and their movies have made the average Malayali laugh their hearts out and think, to an extent. Not that anyone sane would expect Cinema of all things to bring about change in a Malayali. The best of both artists have come to the fore when they have collaborated, with Sandesham being hailed as their magnum opus. They teamed up for the first time in T.P Balagopalan M.A and have delivered some of the most memorable films of our times. One of the most talked about rather lamented “Mohanlals” of yesteryear is the one from the films by this duo, the “quintessential face of the common man” as you would have it in Malayalam Cinema, before the “other” Mohanlal, the one from another school of filmmaking entirely, that of Ranjith took over. Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan went on to make movies cast in the same dye with another actor who fit their bill, Jayaram. That grew old on the audience quickly thanks to the recurring themes in those movies. Sathyan Anthikad  found gold again recently, on his own though, with Fahadh Faasil. Oru Indian Pranayakadha  presented Fahadh in a previously unseen light and Sathyan Anthikad must have been as delighted as the audience with the results. Here was an actor who could finally carry the burden of their creative expectations with ease. It was only a matter of time before Sathyan dialed his pal and told him the news. Looks like he did that and hence, Njan Prakashan.

Njan Prakashan is basically an ensemble of all plot situations that we have come across in Sreenivasan- Sathyan Anthikad films to date. I think it is even safe to call it a self tribute of sorts that the duo have paid themselves here. It starts off with the Poland reference yes, though the joke has been over done in every other Malayalam film from the new crop I guess they still hold the right to use it. Then of course there’s the nod to the change of name from Mazha Peyunnu Madhalam Kottunnu. And the political party in town is still called RDP, saw that in at least two other recent films that I can count of. I could also count at least one  plot reference from their first collaboration  T.P Balagopalan M.A, that being Prakashan’s bonding with Salomi’s family and the subsequent rejection which reminded one of Mohanlal’s interaction with Balan.K.Nair who played dad to Shobhana’s character in T.P. The next significant re-enactment featured Sreenivasan himself where he managed to successfully infuse the scenes from Gandhinagar Second Street in which his character gets embrassed before the public and has a tryst with the law and gets branded a thief when goes out of his way to help his friend, into Njan Prakashan. This evoked some genuine lingering laughter in the audience in my part of the world and yes, me too. That brings us to the female characters in the film who serve as teachers in life lessons to Prakashan. They again bear shades of all Sathyan Anthikad leading ladies we have seen in the recent past, hard working young women who shoulder the burden of the family in the absence of a patriarch. The only surprise is the character played by Nikhila Vimal which is a first in Sathyan Anthikad films if I’m not wrong. I could still go on about the recurring themes but don’t get me wrong here, Njan Prakashan is indeed one of the better cinema experiences of the season still and the film has none other than Fahadh Faasil to thank for it. The man is easily the finest actor in the country today and in the hands of the right filmmaker he simply revels. He was a revelation in comedy scenes in Oru Indian Pranayakadha and he has picked up from where he left off in that film here in Njan Prakashan. When it comes to nuanced transformations and expressions, I would go so far as to say that even Mohanlal of the yore would pale in comparison when Fahadh is on a roll.

Sreenivasan has always been looked upon as a sympathiser of the Communist cause in the State though it’s with cynicism that he has portayed his leanings in his films. Here too he doesn’t hesitate to poke with a single line and that’s almost the only original tribute to vintage Sreenivasan, who in my book is the Woody Allen of Malayalam Cinema. Now this could be speculation entirely on my part but I can’t but help assuming that maybe Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan have had help from the younger generation to stay relevant with the jokes and the interests of the youth of the present, especially the women. This thought came to me because I noticed the name of Sreebala.K.Menon who made her debut after a stint in the Anthikad stable in the titles. Sreenivasan has also found space for his pet themes which have put him in the seat of controversy in the recent past. We get to see the Sreenivasan take on social issues from the migrant labor phenomenon to the waning interest in agriculture amongst the populace of the State but he makes sure that he doesn’t indulge in these personal themes which helps the film too. And the one statement that I would like to make the most here is that when a film that tickles your funny bones for most parts shifts shapes and transforms itself into a tearjerker with a couple of brilliant performers  like K.P.A.C Lalitha and Fahadh Faasil hell bent on working your tear ducts, just before the lights are about to come on, it’s simply not fair. I mean it’s not a pretty sight is it, seeing a fully grown man sporting a beard sitting there with tears rolling down his cheeks. Please, Mr.Sreenivasan and Mr.Anthikad, do everything but that.Nah, I’m just messing with you.

 

 

 

KGF Chapter 1 : A Visual Spectacle That Guns For Your Adrenal Glands.

KGF had people raving about it early on, making it one of the most anticipated films of the year so much so that it had even SRK looking over his shoulders. SRK’s only release of the year was up against a film that featured a star from regional cinema down south and the fact that it had him sweating was a sign that KGF was indeed worth the wait. So it was hardly surprising that KGF had it’s release delayed by a week here in the UAE. Despite it’s ambitions KGF was in fact the underdog here and there’s always that human impulse to root for the underdog. Here, it was also a case of art imitating life given the fact that the movie chronicled the life of a boy who grew up in the streets of Mumbai and went on to rise as the most dreaded gangster of the 80’s, the period which the movie unfolds in. I was unaware of the existence of Yash until the trailers of KGF popped up all over the social media speaking almost all major languages that we watch our films in. This is only the first chapter of the two part film franchise and KGF has only set the stage now, a pretty decent job at that too, I must say.

KGF is short for Kolar Gold Fields, the age old gold mines next to Bangalore and is set in the 80s though it starts off in the 1950s which shows the birth of the mines coinciding with the birth of its leading man. The film would safely fall into the historical fantasy genre though there’s more of fantasy than history here. You do get to see references to prominent historical figures and events that shaped the nation, namely Indira Gandhi though they have used a different name, and the global conflicts of the era. KGF is compared to the mythical El Dorado early on by the narrator, a journalist played by veteran stalwart Anant Nag. KGF belongs to the stable of the graphic novels that were made into films in the west like 300 and Sin City, only here there was no novel for the director to go by. The narration by Anant Nag is how the story unfolds and is one factor which brings 300 to mind apart from the visual style. KGF is sheer imagination and vision of a director, at work. The frames are rich in terms of texture and imagery. The early exchanges between characters are literally comic book stuff. The graphic novel style is maintained throughout and is deliberate. Some initial sequences felt like a Telugu movie directed by Zack Snyder. Some frames with Yash in it reminded me of Samurai Jack, the cult animated series. The scenes in Mumbai with the younger Rocky, the main protagonist felt like a tribute to the umpteen Amitabh Bachchan starres from the 70’s where he played a gangster. In fact, now that I think about it, the mother- son character dynamics of KGF draws comparisions with that of Deewar indeed. The pace at which the film moves fits the scale of the tale being told though you can’t help wonder at the sheer amount of scenes that must have been chopped at the editing table. The writing does take a back seat when the focus is on the visuals but you hardly notice because the whole movie is an experiement in fludity of motion and coherence of sequences, cinematically. Once the movie switches gears in the second half, there’s no stopping it and you can watch only in awe.

Every myth and tales of salvation from all cultures across the globe has a recurring theme, that of the promised saviour, the messiah who is destined to fight for the oppressed. We find  this narrative in our written history, our religious texts, our comics and our movies. Baahubali  and The Matrix Trilogy used this motif and KGF is no different. Writer – Director Prashant Neel has used his brilliant vision that puts him right up there the best in the business, globally to overcome the cliches that are associated with the theme. Aiding Yash in this process is a plethora of supporting actors and if you do not stay focused you would literally end up losing the plot. The writing gets better too towards the end and the makers have tried to innovate even with the most cliched of situations. There are constant references to cinematic heroes and their time old antics by a bunch of kids who  basically acts as prompts for the viewers, a cIever ploy again, by the director. There’s a self- awareness in it’s most outrageous moments.It’s these tiny tweaks the makes KGF worth your money and time. Remember this is not Marvel or DC, this is the Indian superhero and that would be any star you cheer for in your part of the country, in your language. Yash is the star who has dared to make you do that across the barriers of language and KGF is the film helping him do that. Now, I am indeed wondering if the tale of the gold fields and the oppression depitcted are allegories to the social and economic histories of the region but that remians to be seen in Chapter 2.

Dogs Of Berlin | S01 | Netflix

The  90s opened the Hollywood floodgates to India thanks to Mr.Manmohan Singh and his policies. Major American movies were hitting local cinemas without much delay. The advent of Cable TV that followed soon ensured that you were hooked early on with the trailers that popped up on the Star Network. No, teasers weren’t a thing back then. Con Air was released in 1997 and was a personal favorite for a long time. Nicolas Cage it seemed, was done with serious Cinema and was trying to turn himself into an action hero. Wouldn’t blame him, something as intense as Leaving Las Vegas could do that to any actor. There was a slew of action films that starred Cage in his macho avatar from The Rock to Face-Off to Gone in Sixty Seconds and they remain favorites from a time when everything awed me. Cable TV back then was the internet, to put things in perspective. Con Air even had me taking upside down push ups, yeah. The movie had a lot of bad guys who said a lot of cool lines, at least it sounded cool to me back then. But I was in for a shock when I watched the film recently, two decades later. The movie reeked of racism and prejudice. I guess this is what happens when your world view changes. You don’t actually need to look for “subtexts” in Con Air to see all that’s wrong with the film, it’s been laid out blatantly, unapologetically. If Con Air was criticised for its racist content at the time of it’s release, it didn’t reach my part of the world. These days everything is scrutinised, some deservingly, some not. Irrespective of intentions, the scanner is working round the clock. If you are a serious student of Cinema and the society, you tend to look for it, at times it hits you right away. And I don’t take upside down push ups anymore either.

Now, the reason why I deliberated extensively on Con Air is because I chanced upon Dogs Of Berlin, a German Original on Nefltix the other day and was mid way into the first episode when I found myself asking if this too was biased and it bothered me because I liked what I had seen already. I didn’t want the urge to read into the subtexts to ruin this for me. More than being just a source of entertainment the most important aspect of cinema that fascinates me is the fact that it is the universal language that connects us human beings despite the geographic, genetic and cultural differences that we use to differentiate and identify eachother with, on a daily basis. I have said this aloud more than once. This is even more true in this age of unlimited exposure thanks to the internet. Netflix, Prime and other streaming portals have magnfiied this exposure by facilitating access to innumerable shows from other countries too. Dogs Of Berlin, which debuted on Netflix this month is the second German series to catch my eye, the other being Dark. Run Lola Run, The Lives Of Others and Der Baader Meinhoff Komplex are the only German films that I have watched and they were fine examples of German Cinema. Dogs Of Berlin showed promise early on and hence my apprehensions too.

Dogs Of Berlin looked different and relevant even with the minimal understanding I had of the present day German society. Cars and football are what comes to mind first when one thinks of Germany and of course it’s Nazi past. In stark contrast to that chequered past, Germany under Angela Merkel has had a different approach towards migrants and asylum seekers, especially in the wake of the Syrian crisis. Merkel’s policies were even blamed for having triggered the migrant crisis in Europe. Though it doesn’t exactly unfold against the backdrop of this migration, Dogs Of Berlin does deal with the German society that’s now a melting pot of cultures and the conflicts that are inevitable in such a scenario. The series is about an investigation into the death of a German footballer of Turkish origin on the eve of a football match between Turkey and Germany. There are multiple narratives woven into the story and they function in perfect cohesion as the series progresses, with the precision of a BMW engine. The death is discovered by a German police officer who has a gambling problem and is essentially the bad cop of the tale here. It does’nt help that he used to be a neo-nazi and that his brother who sports a moustache and a Hitler haircut and estranged mother are still very much a part of the organisation in Berlin. The good cop is another German, but of Turkish origin and is a representative of the Turkish diaspora in German, which I later found out, was substantial. The investigation is essentially a tour of the German underworld. We are introduced to the Lebanese Mafia in Berlin early on and they are the drug pushers, the Yugoslavs are not far behind with their grip on the football bookkeeping, there’s a Turkish biker gang who lament that they had to settle for  the protection racket and of course there’s the Neo-Nazis who hate everything that’s not German by heritage.

The German Turk and the German German are forced to team up due to political reasons but they have no love lost for each other. The investigators have their own agendas and  their share of personal problems which ultimately catch up with their professional lives as the tale progresses. The German cop’s wife has her set of  demons that she is forced to deal with on her own, which doesn’t end well for him or her. The cop on the other hand is having an affair with his childhood friend. The Turk is gay and has daddy issues. His father refuses to accept him for what he is and he is an emotional wreck. His ex on the other hand is dating the Lebanese Mafia kingpin who in turn is  dealing with a  younger brother who wants to be top dog in the organisation. This brother also wants a piece of the betting business run by the Slavs and is tyring to turn a promising player of African origin who just debuted on the national team. Thrown in the midst of these are a couple of  other characters  who have a story of their own but they fit perfectly into the jigsaw that this series is. The series is highly provocative and even hints at corruption and coercion that goes up to the highest echelons of the German football administraion. Initially you cant but  help notice that the makers have portrayed the outsiders as the ones on the wrong side of the law  mostly or as the ones who are tempted to stray. The Neo-Nazis get a rather sympathetic portrayal I coudn’t but help notice and the series justifies their existence by the pitching them as a reaction to the menace the immigrant gangs have become. Though the series takes the Dan Brown way out of this web of deceit and deception at the end, what’s  commendable is fact that despite the staggering number of parallel narratives, the series stays on course for most part. Apart from getting to know a bunch of talented German actors, thanks to the series, I did end up learning the German word for migrant workers, Gastarbeiter. One man’s Bengali is another man’s Gastarbeiter, to put things in perspective.