Continental Drift and Cinema

They looked at the fossils to prove the continental drift theory, if people are still not convinced they could just start watching world cinema to help drive home the fact that differences in looks and outlooks notwithstanding, all of us started out from that one place, originally.Cinema is rightly called the universal language and it reminds us that the basic human condition and experience is the more or less the same, all around the world.The twitch of a brow or the curl of a lip on a Korean,Spanish,French or Iranian face on the screen stir the same emotions in audiences irrespective of their countries of origin.Cannes, Venice and Berlin have been proof enough for decades now and our own IFFK too.

The Magnificent Seven: The Review.

Few other movies have inspired filmmakers the world over the way Kurosawa’s Seven Samuari and Coppola’s The Godfather did, to come up with their own versions and continue to do so even today.Kurosawa’s timeless classic found its perfect setting in the wild west of John Sturges’s Magnificent Seven and the source material was duly credited in the titles too.

Indian film industry also had its versions, Sholay notably, though Feroz Khan had his curry western Khotey Sikkey out an year ahead where he even wore a black shirt throughout, playing the Indian Yul Brynner.The plot was revisited by Rajkumar Santoshi later in China Gate with a bunch of veteran “character actors”, as they are labelled in our cinema.It’s when you watch these versions that you realise that they are all remakes of The Magnificent Seven and have little in common with Seven Samurai, the original except for the plot.

Denzel Washington dons the black shirt in Antoine Fuqua’s version of the Seven and he even spins and holster the gun exactly the way Brynner did too, if you care to notice.The western, as a genre lost its charm a while back and it’s been over two decades since even Clint Eastwood, the quintessential American cowboy hung up his boots and moved on.Fuqua relies on the action element heavily to keep the movie afloat and he borrows more than one dialogue from the original too.

Chris Pratt is supposed to fill the shoes of Steve McQueen in this movie, one gets a feeling and when Fuqua is looking for his seven, Ethan Hawke would be an obvious choice for sure.Vincent D’Onofrio plays a hairier version of his Daredevil role here.For the sake the diversity there’s a Korean actor, none other than Byung-hun Lee playing a “Chinaman” and giving him company is an Indian warrior and a Mexican outlaw.Finding replacement for the likes of Bronson and Coburn is not an easy task, one would agree.Peter Skarsgard’s crazed violence is hardly a match for Eli Wallach’s Calvera.But It’s not everyday that you get to see Denzel drawing a quick one atop a galloping horse which was reason enough for me to go watch The Magnificent Seven, i admit.

Pink: The Review

You know some movies are going to work for you irrespective of what the general public would think about it,right when you catch a glimpse of it in the form of a trailer .For me Pink was one of those movies and the theme was as much a reason for anticipation as the presence Amitabh Bachchan and in fact it lived up to it’s promise too, on both counts.

Rajnikanth once said that in the world of movies he’s a King probably but that Amitabh Bachchan is in fact an Emperor.If you wonder why The Superstar made that statement, Pink is the movie for you.Legal thrillers are almost unheard of in this industry and all of us have grown up watching the same age old dramatized court room sequence in every other bollywood movie over and over,but when the title credits start rolling without any background music on a pitch black screen in white font, you have an inkling that the filmmakers mean business here and that you’re in for some serious cinema.There are moments when the film falls back to it’s bollywood roots though, but it does little damage at the end of the day.

Amitabh Bachchan makes his entry pretty early and though it takes another thirty minutes or so for him to utter a proper dialogue, in that time, using just his lanky frame and eyes he gives you one hell of a crash course on what screen presence is all about.The intensity that he brings to every scene is the soul of this film and that’s exactly what the theme demands too.Tapsee and the girls translate the vulnerabilities and anger of a group of women subjected to harassment and ridicule for standing up to oppressors, convincingly to the screen.

It’s a coincidence that the movie is released around the same time when the verdict is out for one of the most brutal rape murders reported in Kerala and the apex court’s judgement was under intense scrutiny and criticism.This movie is a slap in the face of the patriarchal system that ensures everyday that the women are always the victims and tells them that they’re at it’s mercy,that they will be judged relentlessly in the name of morality and that even justice is not a right but an elusive gift based on terms set by the society.It essentially tries to drive home a simple point, that when a girl says no to a boy that’s exactly what it means, No.I rest my case.

Snowden: The Review.

You have seen actors physically transforming into characters but in Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes the extra mile and does a perfect voice impression too.The movie has been called a biopic,it switches to docudrama and almost into a documentary in the final scenes but the fact is it’s actually a horror movie that would make The Conjuring look like a musical.At least you knew that what you saw in Conjuring wasn’t for real.Facebook’s my bitch says the NSA hacker when he tells an uninitiated Snowden that he can access cams on shut laptops,in one particular scene and you feel a chill down your spine that you know is not the AC in the cinema hall.

The movie starts off pretty much like the Guardian article which describes his first contact as a whistleblower and some of the scenes are right out of the documentary Citizenfour.You feel that you’re almost in fact watching the making of Citizenfour in the first few scenes.Oliver Stone pays tribute to his magnum opus JFK in the form of portraits on walls, more than once.Stone expresses his dislike for the “military industrial complex” and it’s reach in the congress and policy making here too and I don’t think it was a coincidence that this was almost in the same scene as the JFK tribute.
From Nicolas Cage to Tom Wilkinson to Timothy Olyphant, a slew of actors make extended cameos in this film which is a Gordon-Levitt show at the end of the day.Offering him some semblance of competition is Rhys Evans who is one of the most versatile actors out there today and personally i believe that he deserved an Oscar for his turn as “Shakespeare” in Anonymous of 2011.

Stone takes you through Snowden’s journey from a true blue patriot and soldier who took orders without questions to a soul torn between his mentors,his values and of course love.America is a business, said Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, this is not about terrorism, this is about economics, the supreme power of your government and social control, terrorism is an excuse says Gordon-Levitt in this movie about the NSA whistleblower. And no Oliver Stone movie would be complete without a moving monologue by the lead actor,we watched Kevin Costner doing that in JFK and Gordon-Levitt gets his due here or, should i say Snowden?

പിള്ള മനസ്സിൽ കള്ളമില്ല.

സ്റ്റോക്ക് ക്ലിയറൻസിൽ പുട്ട് കുറ്റി തൊട്ടു ന്യുക്ലിയർ റിയാക്ടർ വരെ വാങ്ങിക്കുന്ന നാട്ടുകാരനായ ഞാൻ ഒരു ടീവിയുമായി ചെന്ന് പെട്ടത് കസ്റ്റംസ് ഡെസ്കിൽ.മൂന്ന് ചോദ്യം,ഏത് ബ്രാൻഡ്,എത്ര ഇഞ്ച് ,സ്മാർട്ട് ആണോ ,ഈ മൂന്ന് ചോദ്യങ്ങളും ഒരുമിച്ച് കേൾക്കുന്നത് ആദ്യം ആയ കൊണ്ടാണോ അതോ ഒരു മണിക്കൂർ ലഗേജ്‌ വരാൻ ഉറക്കച്ചവിടിന് നിന്ന കൊണ്ടാണോ അതോ ഇനി അവന്മാരുടെ ഇടിയൻ പോലീസ് നയം ആണോ അതോ എന്റെ ട്രേഡ്മാർക് മൊട ആണോ എന്നറിയില്ല ഞാൻ അത്ര നല്ല മൂഡിലായിരുന്നില്ല .മൂന്ന് ചോദ്യങ്ങൾക്കുമുള്ള ഉത്തരം കേട്ട് ഓഫീസർ ആരെയോ മനസ്സിൽ ധ്യാനിച്ചു എഴുതിയ ഡ്യൂട്ടി ബില്ല് വാങ്ങി ഞാൻ പുല്ല് എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു നിൽക്കുംബോൾ വീണ്ടും അതെ ചോദ്യം പിന്നിൽ നിൽക്കുന്ന ആളോട് .പുള്ളി 40 ഇഞ്ച് എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞതും ഒരു അശരീരി ,അല്ല അച്ഛാ നമ്മുടെ ടീവി 43 ആണ്‌ .അച്ഛൻ ഡെസ്പ് കസ്റ്റംസ്കാരൻ ഹാപ്പി.മോനോട് ഓഫീസർ ,സത്യം പറ ഇനിം കൂടുമോ ?പിള്ള മനസ്സിൽ കള്ളം ഇല്ലെന്നു ഇവർക്കൊന്നും അറിഞ്ഞു കൂടെ?

Stranger Things.

Enid Blyton meets Spielberg in this latest offering from Netflix about a missing boy in small town Indiana.Now,this might sound cliched thanks to the internet, but if you are an 80’s or a 90’s kid this series would definitely connect with you and take you on a trip down the memory lane for sure and this is exactly what the makers are trying to cash in on i guess.Kids on bikes seeking adventure, bullies at school,evil scientists, monsters, a good cop and a techno music bgm right out of late 80s that just feeds on your nostalgia, it’s got it all.If The Famous Five,The Secret Seven ,ET or close home Manu Uncle worked for you back then in a way that’s beyond explanation, you’re going to end up loving this show.

Kabali: The Review

Radhika Apte deserves nothing less than the National Film Award for that single scene in the second half of Kabali.Yes, it was a deliberate decision on my part to start with her and not The Superstar or Pa.Ranjith,but that’s not to take anything away from either of them.It’s not the first time that a female actor has held her own in a Rajnikanth film either.Remya Krishna did it aplomb in Padayappa.But then again Kabali is not the regular Rajni potboiler you have been used to.
Baradwaj Rangan of The Hindu went live on FB to speak about Kabali, i was a tad late to catch up and by the time i typed up my question he had wound up already.This was before i had watched the movie and i wasn’t hearing the best of things about it.I had intended to ask Mr.Rangan how Kabali compared to Sivaji, where a director of mass entertainers and a superstar came together as opposed to this movie where a new wave director just two films old, with a totally different style of filmmaking had to deal with the star,the actor and expectations of Himalayan proportions and to answer my own question,fairly well i would say.In fact i would go so far as to say that Kabali is the most significant Rajnikanth movie to have come out since Thalapathi.
Pa.Ranjith has bravely gone where no director has in recent times and has taken Rajni along too.Ranjith deserves a round just for accepting the challenge and unlike Shankar who aspired for long to make a movie with Rajni, Ranjith as he clearly states in his interview with The Hindu, never in his wildest dreams had any such desires simply because of the fact that his style of film making was rooted in reality and in stark contrast to the kind of films Rajni had associated himself with,for the later part of his career.
A few of the initial reports about the movie went on to say that it was a typical gangster movie ,a run of the mill revenge saga.
I for one felt that the movie is anything but typical considering the popular notion of what a Rajnikanth movie should be like of late,post the Baasha years to be specific.
We get to see Rajnikanth the actor after a long time in Kabali and Ranjith has tried to marry the elements of a commercial entertainer with his kind of serious cinema without compromising his core sensibilities as a film maker.There are quite a few metaphors too,the most significant one being the shot of the flock of birds flying across the sky in the scene where Kabali steps out of the Jail door, on his release after 25 years.The movie is not without flaws, most evident in the climactic showdown between Kabali and his villains and it played out like something reluctantly written for the masses and the fans.But Pa.Ranjith had to go ahead with the sequence i believe so that he could pull off his originally intended climax, which turned out to be his riskiest and bravest move as a writer and director,something as the urban legend goes, even Maniratnam did not dare to do.Ranjith has essentially shown us that there is more to Rajnikanth than a “Lakalaka” or a “Mwehhhh” and Kabali is nothing less than a rebirth for Rajni the actor.He reminds us that filmmaking is a director’s craft at the end of the day and star power and the audience doesn’t get to dictate the rules, all the time.#Magizhchi