Tag: bollywood


Marathi film ‘Court’ : Pure & Rare

The film moves at such a slow pace and every scene takes its own time. But there is a deep rooted intention that surfaces out once the film anchors you inside. The slow pace reflects the reality of the inefficient & bureaucratic Indian judicial system and the pace is indeed a critique of the speed at which the cases move in the system.

An elderly social activist, Narayan Kamble, is accused and arrested for inciting the suicide of a Mumbai sewage cleaner, Vasudev Pawar. The film tracks the trial of the case with scene after scene in the court rooms that involves two lawyers, Vinay Vohra and Nutan along with the Judge. In addition, it showcases the personal sides of the lawyers and the judge. The movement between the courtroom and the lawyer’s dining rooms exposes the flaws in the judicial system and the larger system.


Language: Marathi

The public prosecutor, Nutan, is from a middle class family who goes to pick up her kids from school at the end of the day’s work, cooks dinner for the family and then spends some time working on her case. She reads out long sentences from the law, gets convinced by a witness presented by the police officer and asks questions that reveal her already conclusive mindset. She watches a Marathi drama that has regressive views on migrant workers and thoroughly enjoys the ideas presented in the drama. She presents the ‘bookish’ class toppers that we see in schools who end up being an ordinary guy in the work place. Nutan’s character is a critique of the Indian education system that prepares ‘bookish’ people with no empathy and no worldly views.

The judge shows his fixated mindset through his questions and conclusions. One example is when he asks the accused to pay Rs.100,000 for bail and when the lawyer explains that he is not from such a financial background to pay this amount, the judge doesn’t listen. When the lawyer points out that there is one month holiday for the courts and that it is important to give him bail on the last working day, he says that the accused can go to the high court which is open during the time.

The young lawyer, Vinay, is from a wealthy family who goes to a high end bar that has singers performing Brazilian songs, shops for wine & cheese and even, attends a session on social responsibility. He is the ‘rebel’ in the Indian sense who gets angry when his parents talk of finding the right girl for his marriage and one who goes beyond his boundaries to understand the problem. For example, he visits the victim’s house, drops the victim’s wife after she presents herself at court and even, pays a large amount for the bail to support his client.

As the trial drags on, it becomes increasingly clear that there is no clear evidence against Narayan Kamble. The deceased’s wife presents herself in the court and she helps to understand that there is less likelihood of a suicide. The deceased was not provided any protective gear when he entered the gutter to clean it and he used to drink alcohol before he entered the gutter to overcome the strong stench inside. After the court hearing, the young lawyer drives her back to her place and she asks him to help her find a job.

It was an outstanding sequence that exposes so many layers in the society with such finesse and detail. When the judge is taking to the deceased’s wife, his assistant is using her cell phone and when the judge turns to her with his notes, she puts the phone down and starts typing the notes. In the background, one can see people walking in the hall and it presents a realistic court scene. The wife of the deceased shares a shocking insight into her husband’s work where he will check whether cockroaches are coming out of the gutter which is his indicator that there is oxygen inside the gutter. When he drives her back to home, he asks her to wear seatbelt which she doesn’t know what it is and she asks her for work showcasing her hapless life that was fully dependent on her husband before. It was full of contrasts.

The camera is fixed and offers a panoramic view of every scene. It is almost like a window into that world in the script, be it the courtroom or the lawyers’ dining with the families or visiting the deceased person’s house. It allows the viewers to see the world around the characters to understand the characters and their attitude towards life. There is no music, no heroism, no negative shades and it is a narrative that allows you to see the world as it is without any pretensions.

Even when it is fully clear that there is no evidence against the accused, the police frame him in another case of sedition and the whole process gets restarted where the public prosecutor reads out a long paragraph on sedition charges. The scene ends with the camera completely still till every character leaves the courtroom and then, there is a 3 – 5 sec pause to demonstrate how slow this case is going to be in the future. With 10 minutes left for the climax, the director shows the personal side of the judge who goes for a vacation with his relative. The personal side reveals an opinionated person who is obsessed with numerology and who is so intolerant that he beats up one of his relative kids for playfully disturbing him. The film ends there and leaves it to us to evaluate the system and its shortcomings.

I am surprised to learn that this is the 28 year old director, Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut film. He delivers one of the most powerful scripts through such an unconventional narrative that will leave you spellbound. The characters live in front of you, thanks to the cinematographer, who allows the frame to bring out the various hues in the characters, society and the system. There is no music which makes the film even more compelling and all the actors deliver such a subtle, realistic performance. At no point, you will feel that someone is acting and every character is beautifully designed. Without melodrama, the director has made a film that is focused on serving your brain.

Films usually demonstrate violence through blood and gory scenes. This movie has more violence than any other movies – The judge cancels a hearing citing that the lady accused was wearing a sleeveless dress sans blood and gory scenes — it shows the societal violence in our everyday lives and how it manifests in every form. Even the idea that such judges and lawyers with regressive views decide the fate of the accused will cause so much anger and violence inside the viewer which is the success of this film.

This Marathi film is a pride to Indian cinema and these kind of films need to be taken all over India to educate people on what film making is all about – bringing a world in its most original form so that we can experience it even when we cannot live in it.

Court – What Maldives is for nature, Court is for film making. PURE!

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Visaranai Review : Regional films need to be taken to the national masses

The spectacular growth of Tamil films can be attributed to the passionate audience. Almost every ordinary citizen is able to effortlessly dissect cinematography, screenplay, direction, background score and editing after watching a movie and not get carried away by the lead actors alone. It also explains why dubbed English films do extremely well in this part of India. And while stars such as Rajnikanth are indeed demi-gods, you’ll also witness audiences clap and whistle they see the names of music director Ilayaraja or cinematographer PC Sreeram in the title credits. The recent trend over the last 10 years is that directors like Bala, Myskin and Vetrimaran are also getting claps and whistles when their names come on screen.

It is this shift that has led to the evolution of Tamil cinema, with recent outstanding films including Pithamagan, Subramaniapuram, Aadukalam, Paruthi Veeran, Onaayum Aatukuttium, Pisasu and Kaaaka Muttai. The latest and indeed mightiest of all has been delivered by Vetrimaran through the nerve-wracking and spine-chilling Visaranai (watch the trailer here).

Vetrimaran is one director who is known for his ability to make reality even more ‘real’ and hard-hitting. In the 2007 Dhanush starrer Polladhavan, Vetrimaran took the audience to a low-income urban Chennai neighbourhood, capturing all its flavours beautifully. In Aadukalam, for which he won a National Award for Best Director, he moved to semi-urban Madurai, making it spring to life on screen. InVisaranai, he takes up a border town in Andhra where the lead characters from Tamil Nadu live as migrant workers. The story is based on real life incidents from M Chandrakumar’s novel Lock Up.

Visaranai’ means ‘interrogation’ in Tamil. Four Tamil migrant workers go through brutal assaults and torture in the name of interrogation by the local police, who want to force them into confessing their culpability in a high-profile robbery. After getting released from this torturous incarceration, they get caught in a helpless situation through the same person who helped them out of their first ordeal. What happens to them is told through a masterful screenplay by Vetrimaran.

The first half of the film establishes the two lead characters masterfully, setting the tone for the film.

Protagonist Pandi’s character is beautifully established through three scenes. He is a loyal servant who goes to open his shop even after working late the previous night. He is also intelligent, quickly figuring out when people come to his shop bearing weapons. He demonstrates his raw power to his newly found lover, who works as a maid in a rich family, by giving her a loud assurance in the middle of the road. This also helps to understand why he takes some confusing decisions, including cleaning the station and helping the locked up political sidekick, in the second half.

The other lead ‘character’ is the ruthless and corrupt system that shows how power affects the powerless. The system is laid bare in all its darkness as the film progresses to the second half. Even though the police guys act extremely tough, they also sound real when they explain their helplessness in completing a robbery case and how the system is forcing them to do certain things.

Every scene in the first half was gut-wrenching. One stand out scene:

The cops prepare a green lathi and Pandi is told that he needs to keep quiet and get up without falling when getting hit. If he falls, then his friends will get hit. The editing was top notch in that scene and when they show a close up of Pandi getting hit, the audience can almost feel the pain.

At the end of the first half, if the audience doesn’t feel a bit battered, I would be surprised. I flinched every time the lathi hit flesh, so immersed was I in that world inside the police station.

Ultimately, the workers decide to help the police inspector who saved them in the court and as a result, they get into another scary saga. The second half explores the system, showing its darkest and scariest side. The film demonstrates how you are essentially trapped unless you have the experience or power to navigate the system.

One stand out scene in the second half was the meeting between a top cop, the inspector and the police constables. The experienced police constable teaches everyone, including the top cop, how to navigate the system and the top cop then uses his power to orchestrate the system with the hapless inspector, brilliantly portrayed by Samudrakani, caught between the two. In the end, the system ends up changing the good to the bad.

Finally, it boils down to a fight between two underdogs–an inspector within the system and the four workers who are outside the system. Who wins is told through a spine-chilling and nail-biting climax.

Dinesh as Pandi and his three friends bring out the plight of migrant workers effortlessly. Samudrakani, as the inspector, was outstanding and all the actors who played the cops deserve special mention.

The art director and cinematographer bring the mood of a police station to life with their brilliant work. The editing was crisp and it is refreshing to see an Indian movie with a running time of 106 minutes. I wish the makeup was given more attention and investment. One would expect swollen faces and blood clots in wounds after such torture.

Vetrimaran, of course, is the true hero. He is a master storyteller who crafted a screenplay that captivates, and frightens, utterly. He proves that a gripping and entertaining film can be made without songs, dance sequences, big heroes and commercial elements. I watch movies from almost all regions of India on a regular basis and I don’t remember seeing a film of this kind ever.

It is a pity that such world-class films tend to go unnoticed at the national level. How many people in India know acting talents like Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan? Or films like Subramaniapuram, Onaayum Aatukuttium, Pisasu, Kaaka Muttai,Bangalore Days? How many people know the work of outstanding directors likeMyskin , Jeethu Joseph,and Bala? It is my sincere hope that movies from all regions in India reach every part of the country. After all, good movies have the power to take us to places that we have never been to and to invest us in worlds that we could never live in.

My friend Kartik who lives in Florida sent this message to me after watching the film: “Watched Visaranai. It’s 3am already. I don’t think I will be able to sleep today.” That says it all about the film.

You can read the article via Huffington Post India


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Baahubali – Movie review

I wasn’t very sure whether this movie will release in Geneva but thanks to the small Telugu community in Geneva, the movie got released. Telugu is such a sweet language and I enjoy listening to Telugu songs. This is my first Telugu movie in a theater.

We have seen many times in the past where a big build up and hype will be created around a movie that it is the first of its kind ever made in India with such a grand scale and that the movie was the answer to Hollywood. Finally, when you watch the film, you will end up complaining about the poor quality visual effects, shaky storyline and waste of money spent for the ticket. Later, the same hype creators will come and explain how they had limited budget and with that budget, this was the best they could offer. But Baahubali lives up to the hype and Director SS Rajamouli doesn’t offer any excuses.

After watching Kaakamuttai, I was convinced that storytelling doesn’t require ‘grandeur’ and ‘glitter’. But within two weeks, SS Rajamouli proved me wrong. If you are telling a ‘Raja Rani’ story, then you need a gargantuan stage and a pompous show. It is not just any show. It is THE show and it is the biggest SHOW Indian cinema has ever seen.For the first time, I felt that this movie is really the answer to Hollywood war movies and you can proudly show to your international friends that India can produce such films of the highest quality.

The film starts with a brilliant opening sequence involving Ramya Krishnan as the queen trying to escape with a baby in hand and when it stops with her hand holding the baby in storming river, you are already into the movie. The first half sails smoothly establishing the characters and the plot with some tasteful scenes. The hero, Prabhas, is unconventionally good. When he unearths the linga and walks by carrying it in his shoulders, his physique makes you believe that he can carry something of that size. Rana Daggubati looks majestic and with Prabhas, they make you feel that kings are indeed strong and macho. Great selection! It was heartbreaking to see my favourite heroine Anushka as the incarcerated queen but she is good as usual. Ramya Krishnan gives a commanding performance as the queen while Tamannah, Sathyaraj and Nasser play convincing roles in the film.

The second half was magic on the screen. The war strategies that they adopt have not been seen in any international war movie and the visual effects plus art direction was top notch. I was in the industry for 7 years and this work is by far the best I have seen in Indian cinema. Also, the war scenes are day light shots which gives little room to ‘mask’ things. The Art director deserves special appreciation for creating that imaginary world with such detail. The scale, the set design, the texture and the props were very appropriate and they immerse you into the world. The camerawork needs mention especially the scale that he created for the waterfalls and for the war sequence. The VFX team has done an exceptional job giving life to the art director’s vision to create the kingdom. The editor and VFX team deliver the best war sequence ever seen on Indian cinema and it was mind blowing.

SS Rajamouli, the maker stands out. He stands tall with his vision and ambition and he executed his vision with such finesse. With Eega, he showed his storytelling abilities using a technology medium and in this movie, he showed what is possible with the technology. He held a fine balance between getting the grandeur through CG while keeping a decently tight storyline. With all the complexities that would naturally force you to get lost, as we have seen in the past, SS Rajamouli stays firmly put keeping his story-line not dominated by CG. He delivered world class quality with a shoe string budget for a movie of this scale.

The climax scene was beautifully shot and Prabhas roars like a lion in Silhouette. I am waiting for Part 2 but this movie has already made me feel proud about the possibilities created by this wonderful director.

Telugu cinema has given Indian cinema a renewed hope and belief that sky is the limit provided one has the audacity to dream and deliver. SS Rajamouli has shown how a regional film, if made well, can capture the minds of audiences across the world. He has re-defined himself as one of the finest directors in the world who can tell convincing stories in such grand scale and defined that the maker is bigger than everyone when it comes to film-making.

Bāgā jarugutundi! బాగా జరుగుతుంది (used google translator)

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Kaaka Muttai – Movie Review

Packed with nuance and equal parts uplifting and thought-provoking Kaaka Muttai (The Crow’s Egg) is a game-changer for Indian cinema. Released in June this year, the Tamil film tells the story of two slum children and their quest to eat a slice of pizza. It is a tale of globalisation, poverty and resilience told with the utmost purity and soulfulness.

I live in Switzerland and have two kids. My son, while watching the film, asked me, “Appa, can we live in this place (referring to the slum where the film’s protagonists stay with their family)? They have everything – a dog, goats and everything.” I had no words. Here was a kid living in Switzerland aspiring to live a humbler life that contains not a trace of iPads or computer games. This is one half of the success of the film – it makes you question the consumerist ideals of society. The other success is that it makes you question your own choices and contributions to the world. I felt guilty as I thought about the fact that millions of children cannot afford simple pleasures such as pizza and that I never once thought of perhaps just getting them a slice.

“The film shows a world that looks dirty, yet is made beautiful by the people populating it.”

The film shows a world that looks dirty, yet is made beautiful by the people populating it. A plastic toy watch in a waste collection shop gives so much happiness to the lead character; the kids use a polythene bag to fetch water so that their grandmother can take a bath; a coke pet bottle is cut and used as a lamp shade – things that we take for granted are luxuries for these kids and their community.

Some truly magical scenes mark the journey of the kids as they go in search for their pizza. You should watch the film to truly appreciate these scenes, but here are a few that despite their subtlety speak volumes:

– The scene in which the grandmother tries to replicate a pizza for her grandsons using dosa mix; the kids happily support the process only to realise that the result doesn’t look like the delicacy they have been aspiring for.

– The scene in which the gatekeeper of the pizza shop doesn’t allow the kids to enter the premises. This is the moment in which the children realise that money isn’t enough and that society is not equal.

– The scene in which Pazharasam, a railway worker, opens the coal warehouse so that the kids can take the coal and sell it to make money for the pizza. One child asks Pazharasam, “Are we stealing?” To this Pazharasam replies, “We are taking.” We can call it corruption but we know where it stems from.

– The scenes in which the slum children meet a child who lives in an upscale locality. There is a fence between them, creating the impression that while the poor kids roam free the rich one is caged in.

– The scene in which two rich kids ask their father for pani puri and complain that they are getting shirts which they never wanted. In contrast, the young protagonists get so much love and affection from their grandma and mother – a priceless experience rather than a pricey gadget or treat.

The kids finally manage to save enough money, get good clothes and go to the pizza shop but the manager of the shop slaps one of them and kicks him out. The kids leave puzzled, not understanding why they weren’t let inside the shop. The story doesn’t end there, of course, and the kids eventually get the pizza they so crave but to tell you how and to what effect would be too much of a spoiler!

Director N Manikandan is the real hero of this film and he ensures simplicity from the start to the end which is the most difficult thing to do. The two kids make the story so real for the audience through their effortless acting and Iyshwarya Rajesh, as the mother of the kids, delivers a stunning performance. Special credit needs to be given to the art director for showing the world of a slum with gritty realism, particularly in the mood he created in the scene where the dead grandmother is kept outside the house.

The film is a journey that helps us to question the world – to ask “why” – through the eyes of the kids. When I was a small child, I used to look at Western tourists and wonder what they’d done, other than being born in a different country, to deserve such a high standard of life. Inequality is the root of all conflicts and this movie shows us how it enters a child’s world.

Big budget and good looks don’t make a great film. Director Manikandan has elevated Tamil Cinema, hence Indian cinema, to a new level. See it and you’ll understand why the film has been such a box office smash and has attracted so much international acclaim as well.

You can also read the review via @Huffingtonpost



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