The Kite Runner
On movies, books, music, technology, family, humor, travel and everything in between
As I mentioned, the question about the 70s B&W film about widow remarriage came from a reader. I passed on the answer(Oru Veedu Oru Ulagam) to Mark and this is what he had to say.
Saravanan(Prithviraj) is an assistant director who feels he has written a script that only he, as a director, can do justice to. Mythili(Gopika), a leading heroine, is in love with Saravanan but is willing to wait until he gets his big break as a director. Kanniah(Prakashraj), who has been looking for a break as an actor for even longer than Saravanan, becomes Saravanan's roommate. When Saravanan goes to Hyderabad, Kanniah copies his script and pitches it a producer, under the condition that he has to play the hero in the film. Impressed by the script, the producer agrees to the condition. The movie turns Kanniah, now rechristened Dilipkanth, into a star and Saravanan, who now has another story, finds that he can't make his film unless Dilipkanth plays he hero.
Films set in the film industry are rare and so hold a special appeal since they give us a behind-the-scenes look at the industry. While we look at the glamor and the glitz of films everyday, such films give us a peek into what goes on in the background. Vellithirai too has this appeal. The stuggles of Prithviraj and Prakashraj show us the stark reality of how difficult it is to break into cinema. At the same time, the movie can almost be termed inspirational with some of its positive dialogs("there are no non-actors; just people who haven't gotten the chance yet") and its message that if one tries hard, one will definitely get that all-important break.
Udhayanaanu Thaaram worked as a satire on the Malayalam film industry and its stars with the script taking potshots at almost all the big stars as well as the workings of the industry itself. The inability of our Tamil cinema stars - and their fans - to take a joke has been showcased pretty clearly in the past and so director Viji understandably shies away from repeating that aspect of the original. So a major part of the film's appeal is blunted. A couple of throwaway lines(like on the longevity of our heroes and their affinity for titles) apart, the film plays it safe and leaves our heroes unscathed. Prakashraj, once he becomes a star, is pretty much a caricature and so his actions and dialogs are too over-the-top(asked what he would have become if he hadn't entered cinema, his response is to ask what would cinema have become without him!) to be realistic and considered as veiled attacks on our real stars.
There are no such complaints about the climax though. With Prithviraj suffering for almost the entire film and Prakashraj earning our dislike, the film makes us wait for Prithviraj to get his revenge. So it is delicious when he gets it and doubly so when he gets it in an intelligent, crowd-pleasing fashion. His plan is clever and it is nice that even after knowing Prithviraj's plan, we don't see all parts fall into place(with the help of some clever editing) until the very end and even if we are not as stunned as Prakashraj is, we are a little surprised too. Prithviraj's plan has been seen twice before - in the English original as well as in the Malayalam version - but it still hasn't lost its appeal and makes us cheer whole-heartedly.
Prithviraj is the perfect choice to play the good-hearted, idealistic assistant director. He is able to put aside the humorous side that we saw in all his roles so far and convey his passion and strong ambition of making it as a good director. But there are times, before the climax, when we feel he has underplayed his role a bit too much and is almost a doormat. Prakashraj bites into his character with relish. Characters who hide their villainy under a smile are always more easy to dislike and he uses that to full effect. Gopika looks surprisingly jaded, especially since she plays a top actress. I'm not sure if she acted without make-up or something like that but it hasn't worked. Lakshmirai makes a rather late appearance but gets to play an important role after that. Kumaravel is impressive as Prithviraj's friend while Baskar gets a few laughs as Prakashraj's manager. 'Jayam' Ravi, Trisha and Sandhya make cameo appearances. Uyirile... is a melodious number while Suriyanai... is an energetic number and is picturized with gusto on Prakashraj.
Actresses have enough on their minds with the nervousness of facing the camera, being in the public eye constantly and hoping that their next film becomes a hit and extends their career. So all those interviews they have to give to the press just add to the stress. The more popular they are, the more carefully their words are analyzed and a single statement could put the brakes on their careers(or get women with brooms lined up outside their houses!). There are a number of books and cheatsheets out there with tips on attending interviews for other careers but none(as far as I know) that tell actresses how to attend these all-important interviews. So, to fill that void, here are tips for actresses on how to safely respond to the most common questions asked in interviews.
Who is your favorite actress?
What is your dream role?
Sridevi's role in Moondraam Pirai.
Will you do glamorous roles?
I don't mind being glamorous if the character demands it but I will not act vulgarly.
What about those sexy stills from your current film?
That is just 1 song sequence - or sequences - and it has been aesthetically picturized by the director.
Are you ready to do only glamorous roles?
One needs glamor to get one's foot in the door in Tamil cinema but after establishing myself, I will get more substantial roles that prove my acting potential.
What do think of actor X?
(If X is a senior actor) He is so popular but still simple and down-to-earth. I learned so much from him.
(If X is a younger actor) He is always teasing and playing practical jokes
He is quiet and doesn't talk much. He is a perfect professional
What about those rumors with actor X?
One has to be prepared for rumors when one enters cinema. But we are just good friends.
If he is married you can also add
I am good friends with his wife too and we laugh about these rumors.
What do you think about actress X?
There is no competition between us and we are very good friends.
Do you think you are the No. 1 actress?
I have no desire for a tag like that. When I quit, I just want to look back and be happy that I did many good roles.
How do you pick your roles?
Most important is the story and the scope of my role. They help me decide.
Tell us about your current film
(If it is a romance) It is a fresh and charming love story that is different from all love stories so far.
(If it is an action film) It is an action film but it has a sweet romance and I'm the pivot around which the story revolves.
Tell us about your role in the film
I play a bubbly, talkative, loveable character who is sure to be loved by everyone. It has shaped up very well.
Reviews for Indhiralogathil Naa Azhagappan and Thotta are now online @ bbreviews.
That definitely doesn't look like Surya in the first pic and I certainly wouldn't have identified the actress in the second photo as Tamanna, the girl from movies like Kedi and Kalloori. But those are who they are since these are two of the stills from Ayan, where the two are coming together for the first time. Apart from the leads, the film has quite an exciting team behind it. It is directed by K.V.Anand, who last gave us the good thriller Kanaa Kanden and has worked as the cinematographer for some high-profile films including Sivaji. Music is by Harris Jayaraj, who hasn't had a bad album in a really long time and who last gave us the fabulous Bheemaa. And the film is produced by AVM, who must've had their coffers filled to the brim after Sivaji.
After Ajith's Raju Sundaram-directed Aegan, I guess we can now add one more to the list of movies to look forward to in the second half of 2008.
1. Saw the Amitabh-Rani-Salman-John Abraham starrer Baabul over the weekend. The title song below gives us glimpses of a bride going through the wedding rituals? She looks a lot like Shreya to me. Its been awhile since I saw Sivaji and so I think I'm past the every-actress-looks-like-Shreya effect :) So, is this really Shreya?
As I mentioned after last week's opening episode, Sun TV's Superstars grabbed my interest enough to make me look forward to the second episode. The promise of watching interesting acting performances rather than the now-stale imitation of other actors and the idea that we could be watching the birth of a star captured my interest. So I watched Episode II on Sunday. While it didn't turn me away from the next episode, it didn't particularly thrill me either. The only consolation was that we got see more Simran than in the 1st episode.
If we want to teach kids anything, all we have to do is to make it a game! So I usually have a quiz for Kavya where I ask her questions from her current syllabus. Karthik being the copycat that he is, seats himself right next to big sister and wants to be involved in the quiz too. So I started feeding him questions about whatever came to mind. With presidential elections coming up, most of my questions tended to revolve around that and pretty soon, as this clip shows, Karthik became one well-informed kid! He gets a li'l help from big sis towards the end but the rest is all him :)
Reviews for Pudichirukku, Nenjathai Killaadhey and Anjaathey are now online @ bbreviews.
Friday, March 7, was this blog's 3-year anniversary, with my first post being recorded on the rather unremarkable date of March 7, 2005. I definitely didn't think I'd be blogging for 3 years when I started blogging. After all, I started this blog simply because everybody else seemed to be doing it and not because I possessed some extraordinary, useful knowledge that I just had to share with the rest of the world! So I admit with no hesitation whatsoever that hitting this 3-year mark is solely because of you readers. Even with my love of movies(Tamil, in particular) and love of writing, its doubtful if I'd have continued blogging for 3 years without the enthusiastic comments, interesting discussions, entertaining arguments and fun trivia. And its been a lot of fun. So once again, a big 'Thank You' for visiting inspite of the site's staunch policy to focus on the trivial and the frivolous.
Scenes from The Matrix set to Sivaji's trailer's soundtrack. Imaginative and hilarious :)
Satyavan(Narain) and Kirupakaran(Ajmal) have been friends since childhood. Both have passed out of college in first class but their ambitions are different. Kirupa is focussed on becoming a Sub-Inspector while Satya's ambition only goes as high as owning an auto. After a particularly harsh tongue-lash from his father, Satya approaches his uncle, a minister's PA, for help on becoming an SI. He succeeds but ironically, Kirupa fails. Meanwhile, a gang led by Logu(Pandiarajan) and his right-hand man Dhaya(Prasanna) is on a kidnapping spree, targetting young girls.
Anjaathey could be seen as a lot of things. It could be seen as a policeman's coming-of-age story, a tale about a friendship gone bad or a cops-and-robbers crime thriller. And then there are the parts about a son finding redemption in his father's eyes and a love story! Inspite of a few missteps in all of them, the individual segments are handled well by Mysskin and its to his credit that none of them feels tacked-on. Ofcourse, considering that any one of these tracks is strong enough to carry an entire movie, some narrative jerkiness is inevitable when they are merged together. But these cracks at the seams are not wide enough to damage the movie as a whole.
One of the reasons these tracks merge well together is that Mysskin handles all of them with a ober, realistic touch (after all, a person's life is not a one-track story and and when the movie is realistic, it is easy to accept that it simply reflects life's complexities). He conveys things through low-key, simple sequences rather than loud, cinematic actions and this makes the proceedings believable. Like for example, Narain's character arc. The fact that he is not serious about his new job is conveyed through his body language and a couple of comments about bribes rather than overt acts that turn him into a poster boy for corruption in the police. So when he develops a onscience, its completely believable and his sincerity from then on is convincing. The same goes for the friendship between Narain and Ajmal or the relationship between Narain and his father. They are developed naturally and so the changes they undergo, though significant, seem natural too.
The other common thread between these tracks is that Mysskin never loses sight of the human side of things, like for instance, in Narain's first experiences as a cop. We are used to seeing two kinds of cops in Tamil cinema - the honest, upright do-gooder or the corrupt lackey of the local politician. While Narain eventually morphs into the former, the transformation process - one could call it his rite of passage - is not easy and in a few scenes, lays out the difficulties associated with a policeman's job. In the same way, by making the girls and their parents important parts of the proceedings, Mysskin makes sure that the kidnappings invoke a genuine reaction from us rather than just seeming like convenient plot points.
Considering that it was a purely commercial insertion - the Vaazha Meenukkum... item number - that propelled Chithiram Pesudhadi to success, the duet and the item number here, though completely unnecessary speed-breakers, don't surprise us. What is surprising though is Mysskin leaning towards silliness in what should otherwise have been powerful sequences. For instance, Narain's finest scene, where he first realizes his inner hero, is marred by the silly actions of the goons he goes up against as they walk up to him one by one to get bashed up. Not as silly but still damaging are Vijayalakshmi's completely ill-timed declaration of love and Ajmal's realization of Narain's friendship in the climax. Sequences like these would have hardly merited a mention in a commercial pot-boiler but in an otherwise solid, involving movie like Anjaathey, they stand out rather clearly.
The movie's look matches its theme and topic. There are no bright colors in its palette and Mysskin doesn't shy away from setting many sequences in the dark. There are quite a few long shots and novel camera angles, especially in the climax, where the top shots exploit the location of the dense sugarcane field perfectly. There are some nice visual touches like an extended, superb sequence where all we see are the participants' feet(an act by Prasanna, that once again reveals his perverse mind, caps off this sequence and lends reason to the technique). There are a few gimmicks too (like, for instance, the fact that we never see one villain's face) but amidst movies where the camera - and the director's vision itself - is static, even such gimmicks are welcome.
Narain slips into the cop's uniform well enough but falls short in a few places. His shock(like when he sees Ajmal in the bar) or indignation(like when he stands up to a superior officer) seem manufactured and his body language is inhibited. He is convincing in the action sequences and though, like Vikram in Bheemaa, he is made out to be superhuman, he manages to make the stunts seem believable. New face Ajmal gets a meaty role since he plays two extremes of the same character and does it well. Pandiarajan and Prasanna play are surprising choices to play the bad guys. Their willingness to play against type is admirable but they don't bring anything new to the table. Bhaskar and Livingston are very believable with the former in particular being very realistic in his cliched role of a father disappointed in his no-good son.