Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy with a shrug

Slumdog Millionaire bagged 8 awards. ARRahman as music director won two. Super!

But was it ARR's best work?

No, I think.

Let's face it, slumdog millionaire was a good platform (British director) to give the world a glimpse of Indian talent, that's all. Of course, ARR has given us much fab music. And great that he got away with two big ones at the Oscars and created history. Good for him too. Sure, we are proud and thrilled for him. It's like winning a major competition.

But why are Oscars so important to us?

Filmy talk -- 'Naan Kadavul'

"Aham Brahmasmi" is the protagonist's refrain in the film 'Naan Kadavul'. Don't ask me what that means exactly, but I think it means 'I am God' because that's what Naan Kadavul means!

I am sure I cannot elucidate as I should about this film because I am not very knowledgeable on the subject involved. But since this is my blog, I am going to say it like it feels to me.;)

The film is not particularly enjoyable because it revolves around beggars and a sect of sanyasis or sadhus (is there a difference?) called agoris, who are apparently equipped with superior knowledge and insight, as they seem to know how to differentiate the evil from the good with the naked eye. i.e. just by looking at the person. They also believe they have the power to eliminate the evil person. They also believe that they can help a much-suffered soul to attain moksha -- and free him from this life and all future births if they deem fit.

The part of the film that focusses on the agoris is most interesting. The part of the film that focusses on beggar rings, the heartless monsters who run them and the beggars themselves, takes you from depression to anxiety to fear to hatred to repulsion and then to feeling very very sorry for the pathetic victims -- the beggars, that is. The humour that the director (Bala) brings out from the general characters of the film as opposed to usual, 'designated comedians' is commendable and somewhat incongruous (because the beggars seem to enjoy a wonderful sense of humour), but utterly believable.

Then comes a revelation -- the actress Pooja. Honestly, I thought she was only fit to run around trees like a mindless glam girl. But in this film where she plays a blind and most pathetic beggar, she has done very very well. Damn near steals the show. I just hope she dubbed for herself. This is something that always bugs me about many of the Tamil heroines. Anyway, she is no 'heroine' in this film. Just a blind girl to whom a viewer's heart can not only go out to, but in the process, get as battered and broken as the character does! Sigh.

It also had many scenes that say 'accept the disabled into your picture'...as we should. As we had better, rather!

Then comes my favourite -- Arya. This guy is 'wow'. He has always been a good actor(in the few films he has acted in), but in this film, he really gets into the groove and plays his role to the hilt. He has readied his physical appearance for the role and manages many scenes with aplomb in spite of wearing the barest minimum clothing. This takes him nowhere near a pin up boy or anything (!!) because this is simply not that type of film and I am sure there are hardly any other actors who would dare to bare as he does. Male or female, we are not in the garden of Eden & so, this attempt to shed clothes and extra weight, grow hair and maintain it as unkempt, etc. etc. is commendable as it lends a great deal of crediblity to the role. And the scenes where he stands on his head are simply mindblowing. Serious admiration in progress...

This is not a film for those who love sweeping 'unpleasantries' under the carpet or for those who prefer to stay away from films that contain no romance or flowery scenes, show of riches and unnecessary fights. It is also not for people who cannot stand violence or bloodshed.

This is a film for those who appreciate Bala with all his obsession for depression and gloom (!) because he is a director who I think has substance, etches superb characters however sad or pathetic, and executes a neat film with apt music. Ilayarajai scores as usual. Maestro na maestro dhaan.

That said, there were (I am sure) many scenes missing from this film. Seems to have been cut like nobody's business. I believe it was said to have some 'cannabalism' involved as well. Ugh. But did n't get to see it. It was gory enough anyway!

Still, it would have been more interesting to see the full version and find out all that Bala had to say. (Yikes)

Oh and the comedy scenes involving Shivaji-MGR immitating side-actors was really one of the few 'enjoyable' portions of the film.

I don't however think I would want to see it again and again. The pathetic scenes remain fresh in the mind, you see...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hello, please, thank you and good bye

Why did my parents bother teaching me manners? From good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night to sorry, please, thank you, I had it up to my ears whilst growing up. Watch how you speak to people. Wish them. Be polite. The same story in school. Good manners apparently, were drilled into our small brains.

When it comes to present day usage of good manners, I have found that politeness comes at a price. When most courteous and pleasant, often, you are considered an ilichavai (grinning mouth -- a push over?). If you are polite, it does not necessarily mean you will get politeness back. In fact, people may even snap or be curt or take you for a ride.

So I have learned to test the waters. I will be polite at first as I have been taught to be and then when I see the waters are rippled or choppy, I do some choppy talk of my own. Speaking then becomes barking with an odd snap here and there. Very dog like behaviour. Can't say it helps matters as such. But it sure does get people's attention and they know that they need to watch their mouths with me.

However, downright losing of temper never never helps. That never accomplishes anything. But if people know that you are on the verge of losing it or are terribly capable of losing it, you can get things done.

Sad but true. Being grouchy helps in many areas. But I am an optimist. I will stay pleasant until pushed. It is after all so easy to be snappy and more tough to be sweet.

Oh, and sarcasm helps. A relief for yourself while the mannerless one is stumped ...at least temporarily!

Thanking you,

Yours truly.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Just a memory

I was around 6 or seven years old (wild guess) then, and was just getting into a car with my mother on ...some road (Har, har, some memory mine is, eh?). There was this beggar woman who was obviously standing on the platform for money. But she was a beggar woman with a small difference -- she seemed quite upbeat. Even as my mother hurriedly pulled some change out of her handbag to give her, the woman looked at me. To me then, she looked to be around 50 or so -- give or take how many ever years (!).

As a child you are naturally curious, inquisitive and don't hesitate to stare even when you know people are watching you stare. So I stared at her first and then at what was in her hand. It was a stainless steel plate and it had some amazingly comforting, home made-looking food on it. It was obvious that that day was the lady's lucky day. The food comprised paruppu saadham and sambar (rice and gravy). I stared at the food and then at her. She smiled at me, happy. She was probably seconds away from beginning her tasty-looking meal. I smiled widely back, happy too.

I don't know how that food got onto her plate, but I was happy for her. Innocently happy, because I was a just a child then, who did not know more, or better.

I am not sure why this memory stuck in my brain (am sure my being a foodie is irrelevant here for once!), but I recall this exchange of smiles clearly and even remember she was wearing a sari with a shawl like thing draped over it, perhaps because of tears here and there?:(

I guess it was a comfort that she got comfort food on her plate at least that day.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Every (slum)dog has its day.

Kuppamnaai Latshaadhipathi

'Slumdog Millionaire' -- that's what I said above in Tamil. Worth a post so here I am.

Went for a night show with my usual 'kick' of anticipation, being a movie buff and all that. Did n't even want my usual popcorn right in the beginning. The experience began with angry tears -- mine. It's just that I stood in line to get a bottle of water and when my turn came, the twit behind the counter coolly attended another oaf instead of me, who extended his hand with cash (same as I did)...and the twit did the same with the NEXT guy too. I was outraged and asked the twit whether he knew what a queue was...and should he as the guy behind the counter not be the one to acknowledge a queue...??No answer is what I got. 'GRR' was followed by angry tears which I did NOT shed. Blinked them away.

Enough already with the rant, get on with the movie experience, Teesu. Got it.

The movie is about a boy from the slums of Mumbai -- rather, it is about 2 little boys and a little girl from the slums. The boys are brothers and the older one's name is Salim while the younger one is Jamal and the girl is Lathika (in the film). By a twist of fate (Mumbai riots), the three kids are orphaned and end up together because Jamal takes 'specially' to Lathika. They are conned into ending up in a sort of begging ring by a rogue, and face a dubious future there with a strong likelihood of some terrible atrocities and eventually flee from there just in the nick of time. However, Lathika does not make it with the boys and while Jamal is broken hearted about it, Salim's main interest is always shown as his little bro and not Lathika. Well, the rest of the story is about how Jamal can never forget or give up on Lathika and I suppose she loved him too although in a defeatist kind of way! Jamal gets himself onto a Q&A game show based on the popular 'Who wants to be a millionaire / Kaun banega Crorepati' show, again, all for love. (I used to watch the show here years before, just to soak in Amitabh Bachchan's charm:).
In this film, the show's smug, taunting host is Anil Kapoor while Irfan Khan plays the inspector who questions Jamal on his astonishing knowledge that made him answer all the questions, putting him in a position to become a millionaire overnight.

The film is good, no doubt. The characters seem pretty real as do the situations they find themselves in. I suppose British directors have got a penchant for starkness. Still, this film is not overly stark. The actors are brilliant right from the little children to the young men and women they become. And by actors, I mean to include Anil Kapoor (MAN, that guy is trim and does not seem to know the meaning of the verb 'age'!), Irfan Khan (plays an Indian cop to the hilt), the 3 protagonists, etc. But the thing is, we Indians have seen so much more from Anil Kapoor that this role is like 'jujubee' (trivial) for him/us. Naturally, he played the part well. Irfan Khan on the other hand is damn good usually, and in this, he seems to have underplayed it a bit which is brilliant I suppose, considering that the Indian cop generally speaking, is used to seeing the worst of life, and then some! Therefore, he goes from agitated to angry, to rude, to calm, to shrewd and observing, to being understanding, borders on compassionate and finally, to believing. Very nicely done.

AR Rahman. I may get booed for saying this, but we Indians already knew he is a fabulous composer / music director. The rest of the world is just catching on. To me, that's what this noise about Golden Globes and Oscars means. C'mon... how many marvellous creations of ARR's have we enjoyed? In this film sure, the songs are good, but nothing that steps out to be outstanding in the LONG list of great songs he has composed. Still, if it is the first for an Indian at the Oscars / Golden Globes, it IS great, but it is also true that India has not been appreciated enough for all that she has. Now's her time, eh? I would say that India has merely got a platform at the 'elite-global' level with Slumdog Millionaire, to show off the 'tip of the iceberg'. This of course, I mean in a positive way.

Some have criticised the film for portraying India 'slummily'. I beg to differ. Easy for us commonfolk leading cushy lives to be miffed that the poor side of our country has been 'shown up' on an international scale. But, the film shows how even people from the slums have a code they live life by, which I believe is sometimes far superior to us with the well cushioned butts -- literally and figuratively!;) ... Salim's love for his younger brother, Jamal's love for Lathika, the TV host's contempt and condescending tone (slightly overdone I thought), the police inspector lending Jamal a fairly fair ear, the really good acting by the villains, all these deserve a mention.

I like dogs but not slums, for obvious reasons. I strongly object to demeaning a person by calling him a slumdog. But I suppose, it can happen. The chilling scene where the beggar ring rogues prepare to blind a little boy and proceed with the ghastly act left me feeling deeply disturbed, horrified and terribly depressed, even if it is just a movie. I suppose we all know this happens in real life but we are so far removed from it that we are lulled into a happy and comfortable zone.

This film pokes you in the ribs and makes you feel the pain of a 'slum dog'. And then, it also tends towards fairly happy endings. So, watch it. We are going to win some never-before awards, so you have to watch it!
Cheers! Jai Ho and Jai Hind;).