Thursday, January 24, 2008

Action!

Recently saw Shoot 'Em Up with Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci and Paul Giamatti(surprisingly good as a really bad guy). That was a movie that sure lived up to its name! It was packed with shoot-outs and chases from beginning to end and the entire movie was an adrenaline rush. More to the point of this post though, the stunts were completely preposterous and over-the-top. One stunt saw Owen shoot down his car's windshield, drive the car straight at a van, leap through both windshields, roll down the van's aisle and shoot the gangsters in the van. Another saw him involved in a gunfight in mid-air as he and the bad guys jumped off a plane. And yet another saw him give Bellucci an orgasm even as he is shooting at the gangsters who have interrupted their passion play! But the point is I enjoyed the stunts the same way I enjoyed the stunts in movies like The Transporter and Crank. Law of physics were rarely obeyed and frequently broken but the stunt sequences were a lot of fun and kept me smiling and thrilled.

Which begs the question why the action sequences in Tamil films don't elicit the same reaction. It can't be the fact that our stunts are unrealistic since that description would fit all the above-mentioned stunts. It can't be that our heroes use stunt doubles since I'm pretty sure it wasn't Clive Owen doing all those stunts in Shoot 'Em Up. So why is it that our stunt sequences more often than not elicit groans and chuckles from us? Is it because we use stunt doubles who look nothing like the stars they are doubling for(like the double used in the Binny Mills fight sequence in Sivaji). Is it the unhurried picturization that allows us to see the stunt doubles more clearly (unlike, say, Matt Damon's motorcycle ride in The Bourne Ultimatum, where it is clearly a stunt double but fast editing and the focus on the bike except for the close-up shots hide it for the most part)? Is it our actors' insistence that they be filmed performing stunts they clearly can't do (like Vikram's awkward run across those urinal separation thingies in Bheema)? Is it the use of graphics to create some patently absurd stunts(like Vijay's jumps between those windows in Gilli)? Is it a combination of two or more of the above?

While on the topic, I think the slot of a real action hero is open in Tamil cinema right now. We see a number of new heroes but while some of them act well or fight well or dance well, none of them presents something unique that catches our attention right away. What we need is someone who does his own stunts, like Jackie Chan or Tony Jaa. Since we go ga-ga over a few leaps or jumps done by our heroes, I think we would be really thrilled to see a Tamil hero do a real Parkour sequence like the one in Casino Royale or District B13(and there's no dearth of obstacles in our cities and villages). And it wouldn't matter that the hero is a new face. Just the fact that he is the hero will be enough to get our pulses racing as he does his own stunts, wouldn't it? After all, I had no idea who Tony Jaa was before I saw Ong-Bak but it was still exhilarating seeing him do all those stunts.

15 Comments:

At 1:43 AM, Anonymous Senthil said...

The problem with the fight sequences in Tamil films is being unimaginative and predictable. How many times we have seen baddies spiralling in the air before falling down??!!!. I tried hard to find who started that but in vain.

You can easily count the stunts in Tamil cinema that stood out.

 
At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many years ago, when both agility and daredevilry was still very much intact, one may have caught Kamal doing a few stunt sequences on his own. Not spectacularly jaw dropping stuff but unusual in Tamil movie-type ones like riding his own bikes, close hand to hand combat, riding on top of a bus, swinging off a ladder off a fire engine etc. More for laugh effects than anything else, I suppose.

O

 
At 6:54 AM, Anonymous APALA said...

Hi Balaji:

A lot of action scenes with serious effects were done by Kamal (like that "jumping" in Viram to Alavandan!).

But Rajini made "fun" of all "action" stunts!! (Some might say what Jackie Chan does is fun - but Bruce Lee (& martial arts) fans always find it offensive, you know!!)

Anyway, if our young heros decide not to "follow" what Rajini did ("swishing" the air with their hands!!) and build up some real muscles (like that in Pollathavan climax fight - that you enjoyed a lot!!) - they can fill that slot easily!!

On a completely different note: I stumbled across this "unseen" interview of Kamal (in full form!!) given during the Viramandi/Sandiyar episode!!!
You can see his sarcastis dig at the politician (Krishnamurthy), his passion in STUNTS, music and direction!! Do watch it here!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5uHxcSga5U

 
At 8:04 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

"Which begs the question why the action sequences in Tamil films don't elicit the same reaction. It can't be the fact that our stunts are unrealistic since that description would fit all the above-mentioned stunts."

Yeah, but Hollywood is capable of producting realistic stunts too. I am hearing raves about Eastern promises which has released recently. The foot chase in the last Bond film was done well. So many other endless examples(Bourne series). Maybe this particular film that you are talking about was intended to be unrealistic or outrageous, filmed with a wink at the audience, I dont know. Being internally consistent is also important. We know that nothing in Matrix is plausible, yet given the premise the execution was pretty good and original, within the logical framework of the movie.

The stunts in Tamil movies are unoriginal, sometimes comical and for the most part predictable. Consider the time slice, Matrix style stunts that have been done to death by Shankar and everyone else who followed. Shankar himself has overdone it(and the laughable car stunt in Sivaji). The stunt in Anniyan with those Chinese fighters was ridiculous. Also the fact that the actors are sometimes drawn up in the air by strings(which are later removed during editing) is obvious thanks to the lack of smoothness in movements. Some of Kamal's graphics in Virumandi(in that taming the bull scene) were ridiculous too. If Shankar, who has access to the best resources and makes the biggest movies money-wise cant get it right, those on a medium-budget are'nt going to get it right too(unless the fight scenes themselves are conceived in a simpler way).

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Naren's said...

Hi Apala...on your words "But Rajini made "fun" of all "action" stunts!!"...ekjaaaktly itz the truth that he made immense fun of stunts and extended his funny things to a whole lot of things that we all loved him and love him like anything...if anybody else doesn't get as much love and accolade itz their problem and not that of rajini or the one who loves rajini...

Balaji,

The Jackie chanie sunt can be easily executed in any array of buildings in chennai or for that matter any stunt can be as such executed...but budget was always a constraint...but now that Rajini, Kamal and a few fledglings are garnering so much interest across the globe budgeting problems should ease out and laviciuos stunts should be on cards...may be Dasavatharam or a Robot could be the trump?......But in general i guess itz more about the inclusiveness functioanlity of the director and actor....jackie directs his own stunts and films...but the hue and cry of actors interference into a directors forte is as much persistent here..so it is a entirely dfferent set up that indian cinema is....but there is a definite change happening...may be it may not be too late we get to see some Real action stuff.....

 
At 10:02 AM, Blogger Karthik Sriram said...

I thought the stunts in Billa were executed quite realistically... the nayanthara stunt did seem quite good and ther Aero Bridge jump was also an original and not a body double... And as ever, Kamal Haasan, in majority of his stunts tries to make it realistic.... Rajni was bad in Sivaji and BABA - but then his age has caught up with him long back..


LKS

 
At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Indira said...

its a case of defining a boundary and experimenting within it. our films (tamil) stick to what has gone before or maybe the last / recent hit and try to experiment within the sameness. Even if a peter hain comes into the picture pretty soon our directors must be pulling him down to our (fighting)frame of reference :) maybe if we had a few action directors who have worked in classic films elsewhere then we would have different results.

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I thought Arjun did his own stunts?.. though most of hismovies are duds, i dont think anyone cares anymore haha...

 
At 2:50 PM, Anonymous ram said...

i like stunts that look a little realistic. sure, the whole concept of "stunts" itself is just in the realm of fantasy but its always nice to see stunts that at least give u the impression that they're real - Vijaykanth's stunt sequences in the early 90s all fit this category. u could see that he was performing most of the stunts (which doesnt really matter as long as u can mask it skillfully, as u pointed it out) and doing it with such flair. the fight sequences in shathriyan, captain prabhakaran and pulan visaranai are all eye popping...
even Shankar, who's slipped so much in Anniyan and Shivaji, had some breathtaking stunts (expertly choreographed by the late. Vikram Dharma) in "Gentleman."
i think the reliance on graphics has brought about a certain degree of laziness in the actors and stunt directors. the stunts have not only lost all sense of gravity and realism, but also have lacked any kinda tension...
i wanna pop in my old video cassette of pulan visaranai today and watch the vijaykanth-sarat kumar duel! now, thats real classy stunt work!

 
At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which kinda begs the question how does one define stunts?? For instance, Nayakan - an excellent premise for stunts but what we got was realistic scenes in which the assasinations, car bombs, Velu killing the inspector etc leaving undentable impressions. Let's compare say, Anniyan - another premise for stunts and what we got was swirling graphics and "super-stunts" that defied all reasonable logic of physics.

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger skanda said...

Didint Surya and Mahdevan do thier own stunts in "Ayudha elathu". i think those were quite realiztic the actor took a lot of risk in the filmong of those stunts. I think so many people have overlooked that.

Even in "Rishi", i heard that sarath did his own stunts thought most of the action were copied from foreign films. Vijay did his own stunts in "Badri" and the bugee jump in "kushi". But i wish there more of these kind of stunts around. Tamil actor odviously dunt wanna take the risk. we dunt have that kind of safety measures that hollywood takes to do it.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

senthil, "unimaginative and predictable" - i can think of a few more adjectives :)

anon, yeah kamal had some good stunts in movies like 'sakalakalavallavan'. he also had a lot of stunts using props. one of my favs at that time was the teastall fight in 'thoongaathey thambi thoongathey' where he fought with those benches :)

apala, i think rajni's earlier stunts were serious too. it was only after he hit upon the action-comedy route(in 'thambikku endha ooru') that the fun element entered the fight sequences too.

yeah, among recent stunt sequences, the 'pollaadhavan' climax fight really stood out :)

vijay, "within the logical framework of the movie" - i think u hit the nail on the head here. while fights themselves r completely cinematic, they can be realistic within the framework of the movie. our guys try to ape the western stunts with no concern about how it fits into the movie. my fav example is in 'citizen' where a stunt scene was ripped off from 'blade'. the flying, the baring of fangs, etc. that made sense considering blade was half-vampire looked ridiculous when ajith did them!

"actors are sometimes drawn up in the air by strings(which are later removed during editing) is obvious thanks to the lack of smoothness in movements" - that was exactly what i was referring to in that scene from 'bheemaa' where vikram runs across those urinal separation walls :)

naren, yes u're right that some fantastic foot chases can be filmed in chennai. in fact, the chase in 'vikram' still rates as 1 of the best.

i hope ur last sentence is true :)

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Sivaji Deleted Scenes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xqoKe56prs

 
At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the whole point of "stunts" is unrealistic and make-believe. Can someone really ever beat up 20 people? I hope NOT! seriously!!!! Anyways... talking of stunts.... SandaKozhi comes to mind. The stunts were expertly choreographed.. the one in the night especially. So were the stunts in RUN. On that note, I was watching Daredevil on TV and the fight sequences sucked, to say the least. A movie where the sequences were supposed to me more "hands-on". Happened to also catch up on Rambo and although I liked the movie guns were used a lot more than I would have liked. I guess fight sequences can be screwed up anywhere but the reason it is a little more obvious is probably because Tamil movie begin with the premise that the heroes are normal human beings whereas English movies (most of them, not all) start with a premise that the heroes are superheroes (the fight sequence in the Karate school would not have been ridiculous if Vikram had been a superhero in the movie, i think!).

 
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is difficult to take stunts in Tamil movies seriously because they simply don't fit in with the rest of the movie's atmosphere or casting. They stand out like an awkwardly inserted duet. I still think that the fight scene between Sarath and Vijayakanth in Pulan Visaranai was a lot better made than some of the "super-stunt" scenes of today because in that movie, there was anticipation> of vijayakanth meeting Sarath at some point. The opening fight in Vettri Vizha was somewhat successful simply because nobody expected the movie to open like that. Then there was the college fight scene in Minnale where an exasperated Madhavan beats up some baddies. I imagine the scene would have appeared more effective had someone other than Madhavan been cast in that role (perhaps a Vishal). Simbu's stunts were somehow believable in Thotti Jaya but that same actor's stunts in his other movies aren't as believable...

 

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