Friday, January 11, 2019

Petta: Rajinism Unplugged

(Mild Spoilers ahead)

For a schizophrenic view of this movie in Tamil - read this.

8 reasons why Petta was less powerful than what it could have been...

1. How much have we missed 'that' Rajini who showed what 'Maaasss' can be and what 'tough' means? #NostalgiaPower

2. How is it possible that we are still able to lap up mashed up 'Main Hoon Na', 'Aegan', 'Baadsha' & even 'Lingaa' (in certain places) as a new dish? #RehashPower

3. How is it that a downright ruffian/rowdy/Robinhood/Misa_detainee from boondocks, gets access to the Prime Minister of India (well, his secretary at least!)? #InvisiblePower

4. How is it that despite a star-cast worthy of three movies still rides on one man - Rajini? Vijay Sethupathy is an exception 😉 #ThalaivaPower

5. How is it that the innocuous nunchaku can take such a lethal avatar? That interval action block was a scream! (And is it true that Rajini taught Kung Fu to Bruce Lee?😂)  #MartialPower

6. By showing Uttar Pradesh as a lawless land, is Karthik Subbaraj (and Rajini) sending a not-so-subtle message to the Yogi and BJP? #BrutePower

7. How is it that the mandatory Karthik Subbaraj twist-of-twist at the end is still fresh? #FreshPower

8. Is the message of the movie: "Don't leave accounts unsettled." OR "Keep Calm. Rajini will save you."? #ConfusedPower

Usually tributes are paid to people who are retiring. Here KS seems to have done it to Rajini even when he is active. A clear case of wonder-struck #FanBoy dedication. So much so, even the make-up artist is credited as 'Bhanu (for Rajini Sir)'!!
Rajini carries the movie oh so, nonchalantly. For his millions of fans, this will be the nostalgia trip that they had missed in the last few offerings. Therefore it will be a hit.
Vijay Sethupathy manages to eke out some screen space in the melee. Rest follow the pattern of recent Rajini movies - just caricatures.
KS has a few good touches (having the intro fight in the chapel/prayer hall with the candelabra & blowing off the candles; வீழ்வேனென்று நினைத்தாயோ as opening dialogue of Rajini; the clear professional skill & expertise being displayed by the Pranic healer, the warden and even the rowdies; subtle touches of cow-slaughter; Valentine's day atrocities, the neat chess game in the end...

But he has failed in the character mapping - even Rajini's Petta Velan/Kaali fails to evoke sympathy/antipathy, let alone others.
Music - Ullaala worked for me. Otherwise, it was a noisy 'Marana Maas' all the way through!
Surelly, 'Kolai Gaandu' (கொலை காண்டு) & 'Sweet Saapida Porom' (ஸ்வீட் சாப்பிடப் போறோம்) will become the next set of punch dialogues among the aficionados. 👍
So there it goes. One-and-a-half time watch. (One time in theatre & when it happens on any of the pay-tv channels, fast forward the slow portions!)
Definitely, you do not have to call PETA complaining that PETTA is torturing poor animals i.e. human beings!
No change to my Top-5 Rajini movies.

PS1: Children went for #Viswasam & the #ThalaFan of our household is all teary-eyed - So much of granny/mother/father/daughter sentiment I believe. Even the villain gets sentimental... #meh 😳
Well, that is for another day!

PS2: You think that I was writing the review? Nah, I was playing #CandyCrush)

Friday, November 30, 2018

2.0 - A Satiating Upgrade!

9 Reasons why I am flying after watching 2.0? (mild-spoilers)

For a schizophrenic version of this movie in Tamil, please go here.

  1. You know your wife has watched 2.0, if she says that her phone has flown away after misplacing it amongst the vegetables #NewExcuse
  2. If you are reading this on your mobile phones, then thou shall be fried through radiation tomorrow morning by Pakshirajan. May be you might find the phone in your tummy! #PakshiFries
  3. There are sparrows, parrots, Arctic Terns, cuckoos and all kinds of birds in this world. Be kind to them. They can wreak revenge quite badly. #BirdHit
  4. If Endhran had 500 Rajinis, here you have 5000 Rajinis and a few thousand more mini-Rajinis! #3pointO
  5. Why should a female robot have such huge mammaries? #RobotsObjectified
  6. How can the VFX be so good in an Indian movie? #500CrSecret
  7. Rahman’s songs were… wait, were there songs in the movie? Oh, are you referring to the song that was on during the credits (20 Cr spent apparently for that psychedelic eye-hurter!)? ‘Pullinangal’ written by Na Muthukumar was pleasing. By the way, who is #Qutub_E_Kripa?
  8. Is Pakshirajan a ghost or an aura or a birdman or… With Rajini around #WhoCares ?
  9. And remember: one can kill negative energy only through positive energy #GreatInvention

Rajini as Vasi, Chitti, Chitti2.0 Reloaded and Kutti minibot has ruled the screen. While his age shows as Vasi (may be due to his long distance relationship with Sana!), his effort as the robots has to be lauded.

Shankar has worked hard to create reasonable amount of magic through a taut screenplay (with some pardonable holes & repeats from Endhiran, Anniyan and Ai) & a fantastic conceptualization of VFX. May be he overdid it a tad, IMHO. #HollywoodTechnicals

Akshay Kumar’s role as the goodie-turned-baddie impresses; Amy as the female robot (with only an 8 digit IMEI number?) spouts movie dialogues including ‘Vada Poche!’ & pines for Chitti 😊

And the rest of the cast are just 80,000 extras! And of course, you don’t have any character maps either!

But then, with Rajini around, what else do you need?

Must watch in theatres! (Important)
On 3D. (Very Important)
Go Ku Ku with kids. (Very Very Important)


PS1: For those who clamour for a numerical rating… I usually don’t rate movies digitally; but couldn't resist it this time around - 1.4/2.0 😊 Having said that this has not changed my top-5 Rajini movies list. Better than Kaala though.

PS2: While we monkeyed around in the first photo, the second photo is a shot of the credits; there were at least 25 such screens that flowed endlessly. Imagine the hardwork! #FamiliesToSupport

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Kaala: A Monochrome Rainbow

For a schizophrenic look at the same movie in Tamil, please visit here...

(Mild Spoilers Alert)

Ever since our dear Lord created us (or is it evolution of?) human beings, there have been the oppressors and the oppressed. And shortly thereafter, the oppressed were fighting against the oppressors for their rights.

Kaala (Rajinikanth starrer; produced by his son-in-law Dhanush and directed by Pa Ranjith) is yet another offering which can be added to the list of zillion art works that have espoused the cause of the oppressed.

Ranjith's previous movies also talked about them in a touch-and-go fashion and it took someone to tell me that Attakathi and Madras were talking about not the economically 'oppressed' but the socially oppressed Dalits. #IgnorantMe

Kabali was bolder and talked about the same set of people albeit from a different nation. Ambedkar and other leaders of his ilk featured reasonably strongly there; Ranjith even made some not-so-disguised statements about the sartorial choice of the hero (to be in a suit) - and educated us about how a simple suit carried the huge message of self-dignity to the people.

Kaala also picks up a similar theme.

Oppressed live in the 3rd largest slum in the world - Dharavi, where on an average, a dozen people live in a hut(?) the size of which is the same as a typical living room of yours!

Such close proximity can be a fertile ground of great camaraderie, enterprise, numbness, angst, dissatisfaction, revolutionary ideas etc., Of course the ubiquitous health issues are a bonus!

Rajini is the local dada in Dharavi.
Rules the place.
Someone wants to usurp the place (Rajini himself values it at 40,000 Cr INR)
Rajini resists.
Loses some.Gains some.
Finally villain  gets vanquished.

You have been there and done this some 734 times.
So, what is the reason that you should do this for the 735th time?


At close to 70, (68 did you say?), he rules the screen. The scene when he suddenly runs into his ex-girlfriend and the subsequent scene when he plays with his eyes and the associated body language then... Tamil movie industry has lost a very good actor. #SayThatAgain

Of course, his comic sense is impeccable. Whether it is to crack inane jokes to his sidekicks/family or that riotous scene in the police station, he brings the house down with his charm.

What the average fan missed out in Kabali was the WWE kind of stunts - Pa Ra has found space to introduce a few such action-blocks to pander to their needs. There again, Rajini goes hyper and people will now talk about the brolly-stunt for some time.

It does help that Samuthirakkani (social-media savvy, boozy sidekick), Easwari Rao (loud-mouthed, love bundle) his son Lenin (who is the actor? great screen presence), Nana Patekar (as the whiter-than-white Hari dada) and Huma Qureshi (as Rajini's ex) - all of them have worked to enhance the colour of black (Sorry! Could not resist that! :-))

What differentiates this with the other 'Dharavi' type of dada movies is that Pa Ra has created whole host of visual and audio subtexts that talks about (a) the greatness of Oppressed (read as Dalits) and (b) so-called followers of purity (read as fanatical Aryans/Hindus).

  1. Rajini and his family are Buddhists. His car number ends with BR 1956 (Ambedkar's death year)
  2. There is reference to him eating beef.
  3. Someone calls someone the black panther/just panther.
  4. There are repeated references to Bheem Nagar, Bheem Chawl, Bheem this...
  5. BR Ambedkar's pictures/murals happen in so many frames that it almost causes a screen burn!
  6. Villain's company is called 'Manu Builders' after Manu Neethi & his fetish towards everything white and making people fall at his feet.
  7. Rajini reads the book Ravana Kaviyam (a book citing Ravana as the hero & Ram as the villain)
  8. When the final riot scene happens, how the villain is listening to the portion of Ravana-being-killed at the temple, while his henchmen go about killing Rajini's people. #ReverseSubtext
  9. Ambedkar's axiom Educate Agitate Organize is referenced over and over - either as dialogues, or deeds or lyrics. 
  10. If dressing up well was the rebel cause in Kabali, it is shaking hands and not falling at someone's feet here.
Oh, the list is endless.

So, after some time, one was more interested in finding these hidden messages than the movie in itself (not that one lost anything by digressing this way!)

There were a couple of things that impressed me and the missus.

  • The immense pain that has gone in recreating Dharavi - right down to the sets (makeshift staircases inside the house), the pottery - making of which is a key small-scale industry in Dharavi, the lanes, the toilets - I have been in some crazy ones in Varanasi; but these take the cake! #GreatArtWork
  •  The scene in which Nana Patekar and Rajini meet in the second half, where both men do not given an inch away 
R: Land is my right
N: Power is my right
R: What are you going to do with so much land? You are going to be buried over 6-feet!
N: Don't preach me what Krishna has preached me already. Even if it is for a day, I need that land!
Despite the fact that Nana Patekar's Tamil was yucky, (dubbed by himself), he managed to convey the emotions beautifully in this scene.

  • The climax scene and the interpretation of Black morphing into a rainbow of colours. Very nice imagination & a beautiful way of creating a legacy.
  • The fact that there is a group of hip-hop street dancers who break into a song in Tamil/Hindi/Marathi for any occasion - it was novel.
Well, that just about sums up the good! ;-)

Naturally, since we have seen this 734 times before, one gets bored fast. One succumbed to ennui quite quickly & the yawns could not stop for sometime, especially when Rajini over a lengthy sequence tries to tell his ex- to stay away. (It is a delightful sequence alright, as he wants to rekindle it; but he loves his wife dearly too...So, that trishanku effect comes out nicely albeit slooowly!)

Pa Ra does try to draw out the characters in the first half & decides to throw them into the Mahim Creek in the second half - only to be substituted by a Tuticorin-type violence with a little bit of redemption in the climax. #NotEnough

Someone told me that Rajini wanted Pa Ra to make such a movie. Bad choice.

Since the movie talks about Politics & was supposedly leaving a political message, I was intrigued by Rajini's portrayal as an agitator where he organizes the agitation.

He organizes the people.
Instructs them about how to agitate.
Someone from the public even calls his agitators as '60% criminals!'
Violent skirmishes between the agitators and the police erupt.
Police atrocities follow suit.
Shooting happens.

People die.
TV footage comes to rescue.
Thankfully, no press conference! :-)

Heard this somewhere recently?

Only that in the reel life, the police are from Mumbai and therefore evil!

But in real life, the TamilNadu police are epitome of goodness and the anti-socials were the only reason for the shooting! That #BloodVersusKetchup moment!

And somewhere in Tuticorin 13 families are mourning still.

PS: My Top-5 Rajini movies stay intact. No, Kaala has not even broken into the Top-10.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Anjaneyam: Peak of Research!


On 17/11, there were 2017 lucky people who got to watch Anjaneyam.

Such was the quality of the programme, many a people wondered how such a mammoth production hung together. So, when Aravinth Kumarasamy , the brain behind Anjaneyam invited for the Anjaneyam - Post Performance Dialogue, one kind of grabbed at it :-)
A group of like-minded art aficionados gathered last Sunday to understand how this mammoth production could have been staged.

And we were not disappointed.

Aravinth answered a number of questions about the genesis of Anjaneyam, the trials and tribulations - at least parts of it, its impact on art scene and practitioners and the support that the groups get from people so on and so forth.

Starting from the fact that Anjaneyam took its ideas from the different Ramayanas written by Valmiki, Kambar, Tulsidas and Java's very own Kakawin Ramayana + that reference by Kalidasa who is supposed to have deciphered Hanumad Ramayana - scrumptious research that started 3.5 years ago!

Then there was the significant influence of Javanese stylized dance form of Ramayana - who are still supported by the royal courts of Java (Yogyakarta and Surakarta) still dancing to the Kakawin Ramayana written in the ninth century AD.

Aravinth did touch upon the value that a dramaturge added to the production in terms of acting as the real sounding board, providing valuable inputs from conception through production.

When asked about the different dance forms in the production and whether it was a difficult task to bring dancers from different schools & styles, both Aravinth and one of the choreographers Mohanapriyan Thavarajah (also the chief costume designer for Anjaneyam), felt that it wasn't the case. They elaborated by drawing attention to the fact that almost everyone was a character rather than a pure-dancer. Even the gandarva nymphs had to act as the divine ladies rather than as dancers; in fact, the only time the dancers were on stage as dancers was in the Ravana's court! Else, they were trees, sea monsters, fire maidens, citizens of Ayodhya etc. So, the dance vocabulary created in Anjaneyam was more around the characters rather than the dancers themselves. Yes, the tree dance, the sea-monster dance, the fire dance sequences were having elements of Bharatanatyam - but they borrowed heavily from contemporary dance forms as well.

Not to mention the seamless interaction with the Javenese dance form - especially the Trijada sequence where the Javanese dancers would gracefully go about interacting with Sita (to the Gamelan music) who will be responding through Bharatanatyam movements.

Another integration highlight was the performance of Ravana – who though not conversant with the Bharatanatyam movements, was at ease with handling a Veena (a traditional lute like instrument used in Carnatic music concerts) including mimicking the hand/finger movements during a particular dance sequence.

As much as he was happy about the positive reception that the programme received, Aravinth was seemed to be more happy and passionate when he brought in the aspects of watch-and-learn as a key teaching method as used in the oriental learning circles. He quoted the example of the kid-Hanuman so ably portrayed by Karthi. Karthi was a gymnastics student who was auditioned and chosen for the role. Though he would have known that his is the central character, he probably would not have known that his character will grow within the production and be performed by such doyens of Bharatanatyam such as Atul Babu, Hari Padman and Balagopal. No pressure! But the fact that the boy was at the rehearsals day in and day out, the interest that he showed to watch others dance even though his portions were done and the reality that even today, he is able to repeat the portions of many other dancers from the production without any formal dance training – all of these bear testimony that art is as much technique and skill as Attitude!

Oh, little Karthi did surprise everyone with a nice memento to all the dance participants towards the end of the session.

Image result for Anjaneyam Ravana

It was while discussing about the costumes, the research quotient of Anjaneyam went up a few notches in my mind. Each of the costumes – right from the Apsaras to the trees, to the monsters, to Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sita, Trijada, Ravana, Jatayu – had a huge amount of research imprinted (pun intended!) on them. It was a clever and innovative mix of the traditional dresses with the Javanese batik (Rama has a batik when in the forest and a different one when in the palace! Such was the meticulous nature of the preparation!) All costumes were hand-drawn, discarded, redrawn, discarded and redrawn until the final product came up. To me the pièce de résistance was Ravana’s headgear. Instead of a horizontal depiction of Ravana’s ten heads (yes, he must have had tough time when suffering from headaches!), the deca-heads were depicted vertically through an intricate crown made of rubber (less weight, doesn’t move!). Aravinth says that it is an inspiration from Thai/Cambodian Ravana; I say that is painstaking research 😊

 If it was all sound, light and costumes where the research went in, pat comes the answer: No! The script (written over more than 12 months – music composed over 18 months – rehearsals over 18 months with a couple of acts performed in June 2018) drew heavily from Valmiki, Tulsidas and Kambar – especially the genius of Kambar when he came to Aravinth’s rescue many a time including the humorous rejoinder by Hanuman to Ravana (that is a good enough material for a separate post in itself!)

When responding to a question on the financial outlay for the production, Aravinth was quite forthright; it is easy to get the audience to watch the programme. But what is critical is to get the businesses to support the art productions such as Anjaneyam. While there are a number of institutions in town to produce shows, it is important that they are all supported ably by the art sponsors to produce quality. Better co-operation amongst the practitioners? Perhaps, that is the medicine of the day!

Talking about co-operation, it was heartening to see tutors and office-bearers from other institutions attending the session including Vidhya Nair and Subina Khaneja from SIFAS. Vidhya even suggested an extraction and deep-dive performance of Bala-Hanuman to portray the pre-Rama Hanuman – a colourful character I believe!

All in all, it was a stimulating couple of hours which gave an insight into the creative process that went into Anjaneyam.

Oh, forgot about one thing. They say charity starts at home. In Aravinth’s case, critiquing starts at home, perhaps 😊! The last question of the day was from his daughter who asked him about what the areas of improvement would be! So much for producing a great show!

#Anjaneyam #ResearchQuotient100 

Photos Courtesy: Apsaras Arts

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Take My Breath Away! - Part 1

So, after a long time, I am back to blogging.

Some of you might have heard about it or seen it on Insta (or on FB for precisely 30 seconds before it was taken down 😊).

I was diagnosed of Deep Vein Thrombosis/Pulmonary Embolism a few weeks back.

In layman terms this is blood clots travelling all the way from the legs to the lungs and causing blockages. Symptoms are typically severe breathlessness, sweating, dizziness ++, a la heart attack. Yes, I had them & kinda played with fire. But that is for a different day and different party regaling.

This is the first of the status updates that I had shared with friends after a couple days of the incident.


I reached the hospital in time on Monday (14/5) for a quick angiogram (as the symptoms were similar to heart attack). Heart is clear (நல்ல மனசு!)

But a CT scan showed that both the lungs were severely blocked due to blood clots - thankfully in the branches and not the main trunk.

Three things happened:
1. I have been put on blood thinners to prevent further clotting
2. A small stainless steel filter called Gunther Tulip (picture below) has been placed in the biggest blood gutter in the bottom part of the body - also known as Inferior Vena Cava. This filter will act like our சாக்கடை சல்லடை by preventing the clots from reaching the lungs.

3. In a few days from now, the clots from the left leg (which has the clots) will be removed by another simple plumbing work (small tube inserted and clots will be sucked out)

These three steps will ensure that the immediate stuff is addressed.

If you are with me so far, then you will ask the question, 'What about the clots in the lungs?' Good question.

Our human body is a marvel. Normally there will be clots in everyone of us. They will be small and minute and the sheer speed of the blood flow in itself will break these clots and thus we can have our laddus.

Only when the clot is big OR where the flow is not that great - such as the calves (கணுக்கால் ஆடுசதை), this problem can arise. I know I am kind of over-simplifying; but the gist is this.

Reasons for such clots to be formed (also known as Deep Vein Thrombosis) are varied: sedentary lifestyle - sitting for long duration like in long-haul flights, standing for too long (umpiring, you say!?) or other internal reasons. Doctors have eliminated most of the reasons and in all probability it is the lifestyle that is the culprit - pending a few more tests.

I will be in the hospital for the next few days; will be out of the high-dependency-ward and move to the general ward this afternoon, which is good news.

Step 3 above is the next action to be finalised.

Breathlessness has improved. Heart rate, which was in 120s, has come down to 90s after Bhuvana rushed back from Chennai 😂(normal about 72)

Still under oxygen tube; with a pocket cardiac monitor attached - again as a precaution.

The funny thing is that we all crib about allopathy - but the fact of the matter this time around is, except for the blood thinner medicine, it is all plumbing and sewerage cleaning work only!

Thanks for all your wishes, consultancy and advices.

Special thanks to Vignesh (my mama Mali's Son) who showed that they have taught him well in TMC and he has learnt better than their teaching by readily rattling out the symptoms, actions etc. He also went out of his way to check with senior surgeons and provided valuable inputs. Thanks boy!!

PS1: Six months ago when I was in the hospital, Trump was elected the president. Now it seems he might be impeached. #goodsign

1. What happens to the clots in the lungs?
They get cleaned by the normal blood flow thru natural process. It will take some time - a few days to weeks.
2. Can the clots be broken thru chemicals?
Yes, in extreme situations! But not normally. Since these medicines can cause internal bleeding, they are not advisable as standard treatment. One went through that as well. More in the next instalments.