Sunday, December 19, 2010

Easan - some thoughts ...

So many spoilers !

Easan, for the most part, expresses the wrath and fury of Sasikumar towards the city youth and the pub/ discotheque culture. We couldn't quite ascertain if it is "personal" but the kind of turbulence with which the title character Easan is charged with, stands proof for the above. As Easan clobbers Chezhian's (Vaibhav) head and spine with a huge jack hammer/gear rod or whatsoever, you feel that chill down your spine and that moment summarises the movie for you. Sasikumar's eye in detailing blood/gore/flesh finds an expression in Easan too. 

There is a very natural dimension to the political/capital power - the contagiousness. A mere existence in its environment is sufficient enough for one to fancy power. Yes, I am very much referring to that tricky and elusive feeling - being the son of a big-shot, be it a big businessman or a politician, affordable only by the Mallyas and Marans though. It's something that has been exploited to a good extent in rendering a dramatic value to the script, with the characterization of Chezhian and his dudeism. That said, the acting and the dialogues in these areas are pathetic - the dudes are not cool and the dialogues are very artificial. The dudes could only manage constipated looks on their faces, trying to project themselves as ultramodern studs. 

Easan, in the first half, exhibits a lot of promise, picking up a lot of engrossing stuff on it's way - business lobbying, corporatisation of politics, politicization of business, the night life in Chennai, a helpless and desperate policeman etc but when it all boiled down to an individual vendetta in the second half, you just feel a bit let down. Many a scenes hang in the air when you try to sync the first and second halves of the narration - especially, the Vijay Mallya stunt. Still, the aspiration itself, to depict the nexus between business and politics, is very much valid and appreciable. A couple of interesting diaogues were floated upon, during the conversations between Deivanayagam, the politician and Shivaraj, the businessman.

Abhinaya - being a handicapped woman, there has been (or will be) an intentional bias with which Abhinaya's performances has been (or will be) approached, which kinda makes sense. There will always be a "constant of integration" summed up with her personality while evaluating her performances. She plays a mute girl who becomes a rape victim in the movie. There is always a serenity and gloominess in her face even during the "happy-family" sequences. There is a fundamental dynamics based on which the anti-hero/villain & victim characterizations are constructed in movies - the differentiation in characterizations - they will be portrayed as completely alternate psyche's. The victim, who is a woman almost all the time, will be an embodiment of good virtues and will be associated as somebody who is pure, divine and beautiful.  The anti-hero/villain will be presented with a sharp contrast with the former - with an unconventional/ awkward face, stern/rough voice, drinker/womaniser etc. To put it simple, the victim is 100% good and the offender is 100% bad. This is very important so as to invoke an intrinsic sympathy from the audience and to justify the hero's final combat with the villain. The victim's character need to be very strong to reinforce this and the quintessential examples of this phenomenon are Sridevi in "Sigappu Rojakkal" and "Moondru Mudichu", Ashwini in Uthiripookkal, Shobana in Mahanadhi etc. Abhinaya's character in Easan is one such portrayal.

There is an age-old sacred rule in tamil cinema - with respect to the physical assault on the female protagonist or any female character for that matter - Any degree of verbal or physical   aggression on the rapist is simply justified by itself. In a patriarchal society, where all the socio-economic powers are vested with the men, men intentionally attached a "larger-than-life" importance and sanctity to the virginity of a woman. It not only helped men confine women within the houses but also let men free of these rules. Easan is the latest entrant reinforcing this social psyche - all those horrendous flesh-mashing by Easan on Chezhiyan is justified by itself.

That Sasikumar is severely critical of the pub and discotheque culture is evident at many places in the film. During the first half, the camera spins into a pub every tenth minute and it's a kind of condescending outlook that Sasikumar stamps on the western way of life and the modern youth. DJ, drugs, lust, moral degradation is all he portrays. Contrastingly, in a true Mahanadhi style, he shows how the life in a village is so calm, peaceful and satisfying in a flashback narrative. And, the "Nattar theivangal" are to be seen extensively in tamil cinema these days. It provides ample scope for detailing in a village atmosphere for the film makers. Vamsam did a whole lot of it recently and Easan budgets a good deal of time for the same.

The film also reinforces the healthy chemistry between Samuthirakani and Sasikumar. Still, what Easan lacks, for me, is that clarity in narration and good performances. For atleast the first half of the film, you keep yourself engaged in trying to identify the direction of the drama - you simply can't single out a protagonist-antagonist pair. Though its not mandatory to have the same, it has been the way our cinema has worked all these years and on the negative side, it will only diminish the curiosity that the audience has on the narration. You follow the engrossing drama on-screen and realise that Chezhian is a dude, Sangaiyah is the frustrated but helpless policeman, Reshma is a good looking babe, Deivanayagam is a kingmaker politician etc. But, that "so-what, what-next" feeling lingers. 

Sasikumar commands a good fan following for himself which itself is a healthy trend - fans for a film director sounds good .. right ?. Of late, he is being viewed as the Midas of the tamil filmdom - all his previous ventures - as director, producer and actor are all stupendous successes both commercially and critically. Easan would be a tiny speed-bump on his otherwise illustrious career so far. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vetty Post #2

Sweet fumes of Nostalghia

A trip back to the Alma Mater is always special. It's been just 22 months away from her but the intensity of the Nostalgia was already sky-high. Six of us decided to make it to the "Waves", the cultural festival of the Institute ... If not all of us, I was not bothered much about the culturals. You just need a pretext to be there again - The very idea of walking through those familiar frontiers is always an excitement. 

There is something very strange about Nostalgia - Only Nostalgia can transform the most mundane of the memories into very special remembrances, Only Nostalgia can render that special halo romanticizing the dullest moments of the past. Nostalgia, in a way is a very "selective" memory - You tend to relive and relish things which with some reason (for that particular individual atleast) are meaningful, sentimental or inspiring or whatsoever.

For me, Nostalgia about the institute was multi-diamensional ... Personal, Nostalgia about the places, the sense of social cohesion which the whole setup provided etc. Visit to the library, being under the Insti-roof , walks through the Shopping complex and the hostel corridors, breakfast at the Monginis - Very special moments they are - Longing for the past was just aggravating over time. As always during the "odd-sems", the campus was sparkling green.

Vasco da Gama occupies just three parallel streets and will look very ordinary in terms of the tourism value and the social life it offers but the kind of experience and memory that each of us carry with respect to Vasco is enormous. Dining at the Vasco Inn and Ginza's, snack at "The Temptations" were a part of the wish-list of all of us ... We ticked the boxes one-by-one. How can you travel to Goa all the way and not visit a beach at all ? - Bogmalo it was and a carefree four hours there.

This will well be incomplete if it doesn't carry a reference towards the perennial raconteur of the group - Cheenu. Cheenu's storytelling expertise is something which will age like wine - He did recall some of the evergreen bullet-points of our times there. We covered everything starting from Physics 1, Computer Programming exams, Mechanics of Solids project submission, duels with the profs, notoriousness at the labs, check-posts infront of BH1, Birthday parties and so much more  - we had an additional audience for the above - the junior guys.

Those are "Good old days" ... {Read the paragraph 2 aloud again}  :)

PS: "Nostalghia" is a 1983 film by Andrei Tarkovsky, one of my personal favourites.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rajinikanth and his Endhiran


Not a complete Review.


Rajinikanth is not a mere mortal cinema actor - he is a fantasy, he is an emotion, he is an impact, he is an impression, he is an experience, he is a perception, he is a sensation, he is a marvel, he is a mystery, he is a phenomenon in himself. His movies are not mere 24 frames per second shot with a digital video camera - they are an event, they are a festivity, they are a celebration, they are a detailed revelry to be relished. The moment a Rajinikanth project is announced, Tamilnadu tunes itself for an extravaganza. Everything "Rajini" makes news - still releases, trailer release, audio release - anything Rajini is consumed upon with a reverent devotion and authentic enthusiasm, which only Rajinikanth commands. The fanfare and the mass adulation submitted at this particular individual will be relevant at only one context - Rajinikanth. The fundamental rules of cinema, its narrative structure, its impact on the emotional system of the audience, its effect on the psyche of the spectator - all these seem to work different in this context - Rajinikanth.

"Cinema from an Idea" and "Cinema around a star" - each work in a distinct manner. During the studio days, when independent cinema was a distant idea, the studios required some kind of assurance and minimum guarantee at the box office. This is where the relevance of the "star system" emerges, the idea of the fan clubs and fan devotion arises. In the panorama of the "star system", the way a film works with its audience is altogetherly different. The audience, first of all tries to establish a one to one relationship with his favorite star and only after this, the settings of the story and the actual cinema walks into him. The production houses encouraged this idea with mass publicity campaigns and the actors endorsed the "fan activity" in large scales. There is an important drawback with the system though - How-much ever effort a particular actor invests in his performance, the audience will always perceive the personality above the performance. Thus, the idea of "fantasy acting" packs the final punch and the actual acting in a puristic sense - the "method acting" loses out in the race.

Rajini's collaboration with Shankar has marked a significant departure from the star-fan dynamics that Rajini has set in motion somewhere at the dawn of his film career. Rajini as a star was an altogetherly new phenomenon in the tamil social milieu. Stars who garnered mass adulation in the previous generations like M.G.Ramachandran and M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar had "attractive" physical appearances (in a conventional sense), their roles were tailored in such a way that at no point of time the audience will develop a sense of aversion or uneasiness with their behaviour on-screen. More importantly, MGR and MKT had a huge following and popularity amongst women. Rajini broke all these conventions when he emerged - he had a rough angry man look, his complexion was dark, he smoked on-screen for almost 100 movies, he did spine-chilling villainy when he set out as an actor - Still, he naturally was the toast of the town with his active prompts and charismatic styles. But, it was the subalterns and the masses who initially were the patrons of the Rajini phenomenon, his popularity and stardom among the elites and women was something that happened at a much later stage. Coming to the star-fan dynamics - it was a totally different ball game those days - Rajini mostly played an angry young man who stood for the people, he fought for the poor in a simulated feudalistic society, he smoked lavishly on-screen, his characters were developed with cues of misogynistic and male chauvinistic behavior (in many movies). The audience enjoyed everything he did on-screens ... those were the audience who inculcated a sense of loyalty and integrity in them towards their "Thalaivar" and were the first generation fans of Rajinikanth. 

Shankar has brought about a whole new shift in the way Rajini is perceived by his fans. Rajini stopped smoking on-screen (for a different reason though), he has started doing roles of a software engineer and Robotics scientist these days, he wears wonderful clothes, lives in rich bungalows - In all, he is portrayed as somebody whose standard of living is very high. This is in stark contrast with what Rajini has been doing all  his career. How many times before "Sivaji" have you seen Rajini trying to woo a girl in all those details ?, How many times before "Endhiran" have you seen Rajini running away with his girl as somebody (Kalabhavan Mani) chase him ?. We all knew Rajini who used to say, "A Man shouldn't be in pursuit of a woman" and "Thaedi vandha kadhal" etc, we only saw him thrash tens of baddies. This is the "image makeover" I am trying to convey. "Endhiran" was an all new standard towards this particular idea - "Endhiran" carries no identity of a "Rajini movie", no styles, no punch dialogues, no intro song with the message to the audience, no freaking introduction scene. Its a Shankar film, its a Sci-fi film, Period.

Over to Endhiran: More than Vaseegaran - the scientist it was Chitti - the Robot who garnered all possible attention and applause. Wickedness and Villainy are the real "bread and butter" of Rajini's histrionics with which he started with. He does villainy right from his instincts ( "Mottae boss" of Sivaji is one more example on this light ). It is because of this intuitive performance, Chitti's character has come out so well that it looks almost effortless. Mufflers, pronounced collars, bandages - the costumes to hide Rajini's ageing neck serve the purpose but still, Vaseegaran does look older especially when he is seen alongside with the vibrant Chitti.

In Sivaji, we had Vivek seen with Rajini all the time which kinda irritated. This movie is full of Rajini - the presense of either Vaseegaran or Chitti is guaranteed in almost every frame. After Chitti Version 2.0's arrival, there are more Rajini's - 100s of them all through the frame - Satisfaction. The dialogues discussing Fibonacci series, Neural schema, medical terminologies etc provide a scientific feel but the songs' lyrics were over-stuffed with science tit-bits, I feel. The train stunt sequence and the final animation spectacle were real long - warrants choppings. 

Though the film looks rich, I still can't find 160+crores on-screen. The "Machu pichu" song - "Kilimanjaro" was the most visually appealing. Resul Pookutty, AR.Rahman, the animation experts from the west, Rathnavelu - all are felt. 

The commercial value of Rajinikanth, the star seem to be on a rise, there's no waning of his star value in the recent future - If an individual can set in motion so much commercial activity, If a cinema star can guarantee so much excitement to so many people, why should he ever retire from cinema ?

One important critic on the big budget productions involving stars of the stature of Rajinikanth is that, it heralds the arrogance of "Capitalism" in cinema production. Just observe - one or two weeks before and after the release of "Endhiran", you won't find any high profile film releases - Who wants their film to be washed away in the frenzy that "Endhiran" generates. Calculations are on - 2500 prints * 4 shows a day * 150 rupees per ticket - How many days does it take for the "Sun Pictures" to gross all the money that they have invested in. With all the media under their control and the kind of intense promo campaigns that they can manage, its a juggernaut of influence that "Sun Pictures" manages over the creativity industry of the state. And, it is the small scale productions and indie ventures that are promptly crushed on the way. Arguments discussing "consumer driven economy" will ultimately project capitalistic undertones only - Quoting Rajini himself from Sivaji - "Rich get richer and poor get poorer".

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vamsam - Review

After delivering a path-breaking film as "Pasanga", Pandiraj would have indulged himself in a stream of thoughts if he should pick a so familiar one-liner for his next film. The sheer confidence that he would have had with his script and the kind of homework & research that has gone into it are apparent in the output as "Vamsam" stands apart way ahead of the films of this genre, with the fresh perspective it brings in. If the film's line has to be expressed with minimum spoilers, it would be - A clash between two individuals (belonging to two different lineages of a particular community) in a rural setting. 

The film is set in a rustic & rural upcountry in southern Tamilnadu, which has a significant population of the "devar" community. There are eleven lineages in the village each of which is supposed to have a distinct occupation or skillset. The film's script is mostly engrossed with the antipathy & vengeance that  brews between the descendants of two lineages (Arulnidhi, the protagonist and Jayaprakash). So much detailing & specifications are presented in depicting the 11 day revelry (thiruvizha held on an annual basis) and the murders that are meticulously planned & executed during the gala. There's a social dictum in place at the village that any death that happens during the above period shouldn't disturb the festivities and hence if somebody is unfortunate enough to die/to be murdered during the period, they will be cremated without the last rites and ceremonies, earning them a bad reputation after death.

The film opens with the display of various cultural mores in a thiruvizha setting (much similar to that of "Paruthi Veeran") with a hint of hostility between Arulnidhi and Jayaprakash. There is so much details left with the thiruvizha itself that Pandiraj chooses to narrate the entire proceedings (of the thiruvizha) via a police constable to his chief. The way the romantic sequences are narrated (with Asin) and the picturisation of songs are applaudable. The flash-back episode with Kishore as the rekhla specialist was a cracker of a sequence. The comedy track with the mobile conversations on the rooftops and treetops are interspersed well through the script.

The focal selling point of the movie, in my opinion, is the exquisite "anthropological detailing" that has been interwoven throughout the movie. Various social and cultural aspects of the community life are brought on screen in a vivid manner. Efforts worth a documentary on the ethnography of the community has gone in and the movie was an interesting ride on this aspect. The names of the lineages, thiruvizha sequences, arrack & pork, the aloe dagger, varieties of "Silambam" offer some examples of the details depicted. One another movie which can be discussed here with respect to the "detailing" part (only) is Selvaraghavan's "Pudhupettai". "Pudhupettai" presented various first-on-screen details on the life in the Chennai underworld and the ascendancy in the political stature of the Mafioso.  

One concern which may require a consideration is - the celebration of Casteism and violence seen extensively in our movies these days. In a modern day context where we are discussing whether or not to include "Caste" in the Census, movies featuring explicit names of the castes and communities may collaterally create a "halo" around it, glamorising the whole idea. I can certainly remember the impact that the titles of the movies like "Chinna Gounder", "Devar Magan" etc had in me and my friends during the school days. So, it (caste politics in cinema) actually matters !. Ofcourse, cinema mirrors the society (in a way) and casteism is something so deep-rooted that cinema can't quite manage to keep it off-topic. And, the movie certainly underscores the folklore surrounding the bravery of the Devars and Maravars, connoting a profound charm around the physical chivalry which carry little or no significance in a post-feudalistic society.

Speaking about the performances - the debutant Arulnidhi, if not way too impressive, will certainly pass the ordeal. Sunaina, the village belle looks in perfect sync with the character. The characterization has been impressive with all the gallantry it is coded with. I  somehow couldn't conform with all those roles of an urban-modern chic which she had donned in her previous movies and this role looks tailor-made for her. Jayaprakash and Kishore are shaping up well as the next-gen character artistes (with men like Nasser & Radharavi  in the twilight of their careers) - stellar performances from both of them. Ganja Karuppu and Anupama Kumar were also impressive. 

The music was by the debutant Taj Noor. Two songs "Maruthani Poova" and "En Nenje" were impressive for me. The cinematography and editing departments were also handled by debutants, Mahesh and Yogabhaskar respectively  - Inspiring effort from both of them especially the editing with the "thiruvizha" sequence deserves a special appreciation. 

Dialogues - not too much effort has gone in presenting the dialect of the region ... The leads were both Botany graduates and that explains it though. The celebration of agriculture as a profession was stressed at more instances than one and kudos for that.

One criticism that has to be lodged with Pandiraj's scripts is that they tend to become so much "cinematic-n-filmy" towards the end. The entire hospital hoopla of "Pasanga" and the one on one duel here at "Vamsam" both share this very weakness. With all the novelty in storytelling he tries to employ throughout the movie, the build-up towards the climax loses the punch and becomes way too predictable. Pandiraj somehow yields to the sacred rules of "masala cinema" that prevail, as the film draws a close.

In an industry where one-film-wonders are not scarce, there will always be a considerable "pressure-to-perform" irk on a director (unless your dad is a producer). On those lines, Pandiraj has definitely lived up to the expectations, displaying a genuine ability in filmmaking with his latest offering. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vetty Post #1

Free Free Free !!!
I found myself engulfed with a "WTF" question mark as I bought this week's issue of the tamil magazine "Anantha Vikatan". Well, the reason is there for yourself.


The caption stated thus, "இந்த இதழுடன் ஸ்டேப்ரீ செக்யூர் அல்ட்ரா தின் கேட்டு வாங்குங்கள்". 

A mainstream magazine that is typically targeting people of all age groups of both the sexes, offers a freebie (i.e) Sanitary pad. 

Have they gone insane ? Had this been a women's magazine like "Aval Vikatan" or "Mangayar Malar" or "Penmani", I can understand the intent. While I am not trying to bring in here any sexist or gender connotations (with respect to the popular culture), I am trying to understand the very "purpose" of the product offered for "free". Has Vikatan received any statistical information that the "only" subscribers of their magazine are women of the age-group 15 to 45 ?

##########

Got to view Anand Patwardhan's riveting documentary "Prisoners of Conscience", which features interview footage with some of the "Political prisoners" who were imprisoned during India's Emergency  (1975 to 1977). The visual imagery and the credibility it offers (for only 41 minutes though) is definitely no match to volumes and volumes of print literature that may exist.

You actually find it difficult to understand and accept the facts that are presented - the kind of gross disenfranchisement of civil rights, the devoidness of social justice, political and social unrest, arrest without trials, MISA, "Tortures" in the prison etc. 
Is this India ?, Is this the country which is hailed the Greatest democracy ?.

While the cinema and press of the period have remained largely "silent" (Or they were silenced ?), the original archival footage this documentary offers will stand as an important political record of a traumatic period in India's history. While the film has limited it's scope largely by just presenting a series of edited montages featuring interviews with the "victims", it has an interview with Jayaprakash Narayan and hence for me, is worth the time and effort. That said, the presentation of the documentary is neither lucid nor cogent and will not serve somebody to actually understand the whole mess (i.e) India during Emergency.

A tiny photo essay with the screenshots from the documentary.







Indira Gandhi, the Ironhand

JP.Narayan, the firebrand
As long as there are "Prisoners of Conscience" or the "Political prisoners" in jail, the expectations from the Janata party haven't been fulfilled and I think there should be a continuous pressure on the Janata party government .. Also, I believe the time might come when some kind of a mass movement (of the people) might become neccessary ... the public opinion, young people, Sarvodaya movement, the press - all these should help in this process.
- Jayaprakash Narayan (in 1978)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vintage Madras

Madharasapattinam – Review

Period films are not a usual fare in the Tamil milieu. If we can survey the entire annals of our cinema, we would most likely end up with less than 20 pieces. History as history films like "Siraichaalai" and "Iruvar", Biopics like "Periyar", "Bharathi" and "Kamaraj", Period fictions like "Hey Ram" and “Kanchivaram” are some of the "serious" period flicks that we had. Films like "Vaaranam Aayiram" and "Subramaniapuram" used the period settings only as a part of their narrative veins. And, (with no disrespect to the film, per se) “Subramaniapuram” only required 80s Ilayaraja songs on loud speakers and the cinema wall posters of "Kaali" and "Murattu Kaalai", to evoke a period sense. The most recent of the list, Cheran's "Pokkisham" (2009) is a very important work from Madharasapattinam's point- of-view, because it shares a lot of similarities (in terms of the plot) with "Pokkisham".

Genre - This is not a "patriotic" film that is going to preach you those "truisms of Nationalism" and offer those goosebump moments. This is romance and romance only set in a different period, as India was getting ready for her "tryst with destiny". Even as the whole country was devotionally chanting "Vande Maataram" and "Bharat mata ki jai" on the night of 14th August - 1947, the protagonist is actually running for his love & life and for that of his ladylove.

The storyline - is not blasphemically novel. A Brit lady (daughter of the governor) falls in love with a tamil washerman, as she visits the pre-independent India (Madharas). All those obstacles and impediments for her love from her cruel and un-understanding parents - 100% present, her engagement with a Brit Nobleman - No doubts, In place. Secret meetings and troubles with communication - naturally present. Inspite of so much cliches, the movie definitely appeals and engages you. And, like “Titanic” - the movie opens on the present-day life of a british old lady and narrates into a flash back from her Point-of-view.

The seamless narrative structure is something I liked so much. Its definitely not a "love-at-first-sight" between Parithi (Arya) and Amy (Amy Jackson) - the first half of the movie was so loooong even for the Indian cinema standards, almost 100 minutes. Ample time and a good number of scenes were spent to register that they were in love. The second half features an interesting and racy chase sequence, as Parithi and Amy elope to escape from a whole police battalion - very professionally done. Parithi is also a "Kusthi" expert and there's a particular scene featuring a "one-on-one" combat with a English police officer. It is definitely a scene (or the only scene) that very well feeds our Anti-British instincts.

Cast - Arya is the post-"Naan Kadavul" fella who does act. I always have some problems with his tamil deliverance (but, let it be with me only) and it was more a "measured" performance - Not great. Amy Jackson is beautiful and immaculate, personifies innocence. wow, what a graceful screen presence she holds ! .. Special note - for the "Aaruyire" song, she does some amazing lip-syncs with the lyrics. The support cast is again amazing - hosts a good variety of characters. The "Kusthi" teacher (Nasser) and "school" teacher, Parithi's friend-faction, his sister, the English officials - all deliver. Nasser (Is there a character on the planet that he can't do) and Cochin Hanefa (who died as the movie was being shot) deserve a special mention.

Period - The film is set to happen at Chennai of the yesteryears, circa 1945 to 1947. The Art director should be very thankful to the film's producer who should be gracious enough in sanctioning all the finance, that Madharas in all its ancient pristine glory is brought live on screen. The Tram vehicles, coovam (the actual clean canal in which boating was possible then), the washermen "thurai", vintage cars and guns, policemen's uniforms etc - the period props were all in place. Even "Sudhesa Mithran" newspaper carrying the news of India's independence was used.

The conversations were written in a way that encompasses the spirit and culture of the period. Japan's bombing of Madras (1942) and Netaji's death in a plane crash etc, are covered across everyday colloquial conversations of the people. One thing that kept me thinking was the absence of the "Dravida naadu demand" during the period, by the Dravidian politicians Periyar and C.N.Annadurai in the movie. While I completely admit that it will have no room in the script, I just wanted to register my preoccupation with these ideas, at the cinema hall.

Vijay, the director - proves that he's got some "serious" talent - after "remaking" the scripts (that should have been "alien" to him) two times before, he comes up with his "original" work and does it laudably. While at the cinema hall, you can't really avert your mind lingering back to tested blockbusters like "Titanic" and "Lagaan", yeah - "Pokkisham" also. But, the good part is that, it doesn't last long. I was actually happy in attributing this "reminiscence" to the commercial popularity of the above ventures and would like to grant the whole credit to Vijay. With the kind of professionalism portrayed by him with respect to the "handling" of the script, you can actually say, Vijay should have consciously tried (with his film making) manipulating the audience that he is really not inspired by the above films.

G.V.Prakash Kumar matures as a composer. His BGM and scores for the songs were definitely admirable. Nirav Shah is awesome yet again – captures the period with “that” special eye. Indian Cinema will always be oozing with master cinematographers !

The film is not completely devoid of flaws - there are a good number of stereotypes in characterization, coupled with hackeneyed & predictable scenes. Computer Graphics (CG) used in certain places expose themselves that they are not "real" and are "engineered" by Graphics professionals. The period props falter at certain junctures such as, the "fresh" black and white paintings on the platforms and zebra crossings. Add to them, Arya can't speak good tamil but thankfully there's no lengthier chunks of dialogues that he has to recite. But, you only wish to forgive them all and admire all the hard work that has gone into the conceptualization and production. Must watch !

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mani Ratnam and his Raavanan (2010)

When Mani Ratnam makes a new movie and you don't like it, there are various layers of practical constraints in voicing out your honest concerns on the movie. Mani, being the favourite film-maker of this generation's audience (including me), in the limits of tamil cinema, you will be literally swarmed with his aficionados ridiculing you and your taste for cinema. Well, "No artiste stands above the artistry itself" and hence "Raavanan" is a bad piece of cinema, exhibiting (only) the technical expertise towards cinematography and art direction, while showcasing some stunning & exotic locales. You easily find them all in the movie, Santosh Sivan - the ace cinematographer from FTII - Pune, A.R.Rahman - the master musician and Samir Chanda - the art director but Mani Ratnam - the filmmaker and his stamp is an abysmal miss in his latest offering. And, yeah - Vikram can act and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan is stunning.

That tamil cinema churns out loads of trash through out the year and the scenario being truly devoid of inspiring film-makers, the onus naturally falls on the seasoned campaigners like Mani Ratnam or Bala in tossing up quality entertainment to an audience which literally craves in look towards good cinema. The expectations hit sky-high and alas, sometimes the film fails to strike a chord in the audience. For almost three decades now, Mani Ratnam, though not exactly a commercially viable filmmaker (his last big box-office success was "Alaipaayuthe" and before that it is "Roja"), has always delivered some quality stock that invariably offered enough fodder for the ruminations of a urban cinema audience and the film intelligentsia.

Into Raavanan now. The characterisation of Veeraiya should be one of the famous character assassinations seen in the recent times, that concerns me - more than all other possible insights that "Raavanan" offers.

Veeraiya (Vikram) sings in the songs,

"En Porappa Nee Kanda
En Paathai Nee Kadantha
En Yutham Nee Senja
Nee Raamandaen Raavanandaen" and

"Kodu Poata.. Konnu Podu..
Vaeli Poata.. Hey Vetti Podu..
Nethuvaraikum Unga Sattam Innaikirunthu Enga Sattam"

Sending across clear cues of the issues of Malaivaashis/Aadivaashis/tribal people, the lyrics are in turn suggestive of the Naxalite insurgency. That, Veeraiya is an outlaw and anti-state (as his men set fire the policemen alive) is only concretising this undertone. But, like all his previous attempts (with political contexts), Mani just touches and goes this political issue, jeopardising the mammoth potential the topic offers and exposing his superficial understanding of the Naxal politics. Mani has never exhibited any kind of satirical take on any issue he picks up and his political orientations are always well with in the lines of a Moral Science/Civics textbook. His movies, thus tone a presumptuous image and hence become outlandishly pretentious.

Who the people are, what their problems are, How they have been kept under a blanket of institutionalised backwardness for generations, what do they struggle for, what is the source of their hatred towards the state/police - Never touch these things and Suhasini anyways effortlessly condenses them all in one/two short monologue exchanges. Nothing but poor conception and poor execution. Over simplification of the actual issue to shy away the controversies works a bane for the movie. Centuries-long life of the tribes in the mountains, the mountains and the associated mineral wealth becoming a part of the Indian nation as India became a republic (refer "Kodu potta" song), Mineral ore mining, shackles of capitalism - Every damn thing is skimmed over and the closest idea that ever gets discussed in the movie is when Veeraiya calls himself "Odukkappattavan" differentiating himself with the privileged "Mettukkudi". I sincerely recommend some Arundhati Roy writings to Mr and Mrs. Mani Ratnam. 

And, attributing Veeraiah's antagonism towards Dev (Police officer played by Prithiviraj) "only" to the rape/death of his sister, should be the worst possible scheme that not only liquidates Veera's character but also alienates us all from the actual issue (the socio-political issues of the tribes).
"பல தலைமுறைகளாக ஒடுக்கப்பட்டமை, உரிமைகள் மறுக்கப்பட்டமை, மலைவாழ் மக்களுக்கான வாழ்வியல் ஆதாரங்களை அரசு கையகப்படுத்தியமை, சமூகத்தில் பிற்படுத்தப்படமை முதலிய சமூகக்கூறுகளை விடுத்து - தங்கையின் மீதான வன்புணர்ச்சி மற்றும் அவளுடைய மரணம் மட்டுமே வீரய்யனின் கோபம் மற்றும் போராட்டத்திற்கான காரணங்களாக காட்சிப்படுத்தப்பட்டிருக்கின்றது. ஒரு இனத்தின் போராட்டமாக, ஒரு வர்க்கத்தின் போராட்டமாக முன்னிறுத்தப்படவேண்டிய சமூக அவலம், தனிமனிதக்காழ்ப்புணர்ச்சியின் வெளிப்பாடாக சித்தரிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கின்றது, சிதறடிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கின்றது"
This only reminds us of the character of the terrorist (Liaquat) played by Pankaj Kapoor in "Roja". Liaquat, with all the builds of his character, finally renounces everything he can - his theological beliefs, jihadi basis and the ideology of his group - to figuratively surrender himself to the Indian Nationalism (to Rishi played by Arvindsaamy). All these inconsistencies and incoherences stem up because of Mani's attempts to oversimplify his narrative seam, presenting dishonest portrayals.

Much has been said and discussed in relation to the performances of the lead actors. That Vikram does all possible hard work (Be it Pithamagan / Kandasaamy) to present a character in a memorable fashion is well known. Astounding performance - his beasty looks and "dandandanaaanadan" cohere well. Aishwarya Rai, with all her bollywood assignments should have, by now, forgot "acting" ... she shouts her dialogues aloud and tries to pose a "Bharathiyaar's pethi", whenever and wherever she is supposed to be bold and brave. Her assignment is quite simple in a way, that she wields only two emotions in the whole of the movie - plain face (pensiveness and the love for Veera, sometimes) and the angry face (Bharathiyaar's lineage portions). A third variant could possibly be, plain face + glycerine. Prithviraj is an adoringly smart and cunning policeman. Prabhu and Karthik (carries all possible symbolisms for being the "Hanuman", except the tail) are talented and director-friendly character actors.

Dialogues - Suhasini has put herself in the context and penned down the dialogues. Her "Brahmin" lingo coupled with post-fixes like "la" is not providing a feel for authentic nativity of the tribals. Though Ragini (Aishwarya) is a suave, educated and brave lady - she will certainly not question - "Enna kolla unakku enna urimai irukku?" (what rights you own in killing me ?), when she is freaking kidnapped and gagged. Dissonance all the way and more research on the dialect would have sharpened the dialogues. 

Locations - Mani, sure has unearthed some of the fascinating locales and has picturised them all in an awesome fashion. But, still the inconsistency looms large actually - the actual living place of the tribals, the place where Vennila (Priyamani) is getting married, the marriage ceremony and the kind of culture portrayed in the wedding - the coherence is lost. 

The first five minutes of the movie will form a part of the lecture on "How not to edit a movie ?" - I don't know what kind of "non-linearity in narration", Mani wishes to achieve here.

Veeraiah getting ready for a dive - somebody creating a blockade for the police van - policemen beat somebody in the police station - Veeraiah pokes a stone into the falls, with his leg - a village festival - Veeraiyah's dive - policemen following a chic - sabotage of a police van - Veeraiah with the "parai" (percussion instrument) - Ragini on a boat

Yeah, we are not comfortable with fights and mass-opening songs for the hero - but still, what the above sequence intends to achieve is to simultaneously let us all know that Veeraiah and his men are anti-social, anti-state, cunning, powerful etc. And, the sequence with all its discontinuities in editing and poor placement of the montages, is quite amateurish. The movie is actually devoid of that "seamless" flow and technical finesse, trademark of Mani's films.

Rahman's score for the songs doesn't quite coalesce with the kind of culture (that of the tribals) depicted on-screen. That magical sync between the picturisation of a song and the musical score, is somehow missing. Santosh Sivan and Manikandan transcend you into a whole new site and it drizzles pleasant in the cinema hall.

On a final note, the film definitely keeps you engaged (during the first viewing, atleast) with all its technical grandeur and hence an aesthetical superiority is assured but it doesn't seem to work beyond this layer. The film, like some of his earlier political cinema, certainly lacks them all - an academician's depth in the study of an issue, a documentary maker's "detailing" in the presentation of a problem and a humanitarian's understanding of the issue. It just hangs as a vestigial piece of graphical images, mocking a sect of the society, still active on the fight for their survival.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Singam - Review

Spoiler-alert !!!

Lets get the governing dynamics clear - 
Saamy + Vettaikkaran = Singam --> Equation 1 

If all the Vijay films are turning out to be colossal disasters under the pretext of "No novelty in the storyline and performances", then why pick Vettaikkaran in the above equation ?. Because, it is the most recent Sun Pictures - Vijay combo, I watched on screens.

One can actually enter a bet to find six differences between "Vettaikkaran" and "Singam" - and can come up with points like, Aspiring police officer - Established police officer, the anti-social activity committed by the villains of the scripts etc. Anushka and Sun Pictures will contribute to the similarities list.


Well, the substantiation for Equation 1 needs to be presented.
Now, have a look at the following template (for the first half of the movie only) and just match with how many ever movies you want. Saamy, Arul, Vettaikaran, Singam are some notorious titles which will readily sit-into it with some minor tweaks.

- Villain's introduction - during and before title cards

- Hero
's introduction - Fight and opening song compulsory

- Comedian
's introduction (Association of the comedian with either the hero or the heroine)

- Heroine
's introduction (naughty, sportive, beauty)

- Villain
's family (the whole TN will know how bad the villain is, but the villain's wife is still not aware of it - the only job she seems to have is to serve breakfast for him)

- Comedy scene 1

- Heroine
's family (the heroine is the darling of the 10-odd people in her family, she is offered all freedom but to choose her guy)

- The villain is a bad guy - Instance 1 (committing some horrendous murders)

- Hero
's family (one more serial-family - this is optional)

- The hero is an epitome of goodness - Instance 1

- Villain's younger brother is a cheap rogue - womaniser, most of the times (turned on by the worker-maid or some shopping mall chic)

- Hero-heroine look at each other, sometime some place (But, the heroine still haven't reserved some real-estate in her heart for him)

- Comedy Scene 2

- The villain is a bad guy - Instance 2 (So many crimes in the Indian penal code - Pick one here)

- Hero catches a sight of the above (Trembling shoulders and boiling blood, he is not involving himself into the mess and stays away as he is not directly impacted by the "The villain is a bad guy - Instance 2" )

- Villain's younger brother commits a heinous crime (related to his innate womaniser instinct or some acts of rowdism)

- The hero unknowingly bumps into the Villain's brother and thrashes him (and 20-odd "office room boys") aside.

- Heroine, fortunately gets a glimpse of the above - fall in love

- Duet 1 in foreign locales.

- Hero - villain main encounter - No punch dialogues here. The hero shows his intentions to shy-away from the mess but the villain is not letting him to do so.

- Comedy Scene 3

- Romance followed by Duet 2

- Hero-Villain Head-on collision followed by the challenge - Punch dialogue guaranteed.

- Freeze the frame as the hero concluded the punch - Spin the letters of I-N-T-E-R-M-I-S-S-I-O-N and deposit it on screen.


Hari - what more can be expected of the Master-Masala-Maker who invariably - will pick up a town/city, have a powerful villain dictating the story, eyecandy heroine reserved for the duets and a mean "meanwhile" style screenplay interspersed with comedy pieces. Hari has started maintaining a police-template also, I believe and "Singam" is the latest output of the template. Dialogues - "I ll make you run out of Tamilnadu", "Chivalry, courage, intelligence of the Tamilnadu Police" - Yappa !!! Enough of it man ... starting from Sethupathi IPS, many police officers have uttered these stuff out.

What is this "meanwhile" stuff, anyways ? - Pick the first 40 minutes of any masala movie - the hero, villain, heroine and comedian will be doing things on their own with zero correlation coefficient. The villain is doing some anti-social activity - "meanwhile" the heroine is playing around merrily in her home - "meanwhile" the hero is doing some good deed to the society - "meanwhile" the buffoon is doing something somewhere. Scenes follow one by one, like the above ... Don't dare to call this "screenplay" ever. Kamal Haasan, who has been conducting screenplay workshops should do one for these guys and inculcate some sense of screen writing in them. 

When the first half was shot, well in lines with the above template, "Saamy" came to the rescue in the second half, in terms of screenplay. The hero - Romancing while in duty at check-posts, leading the ruffians to a lonely place to clobber them, losing some of his kins in the last 20 minutes, smartly follows the villain as he escapes to Andhra, delivers the final monologue message to the villain - are you not reminded of "Saamy" ?.

Surya - His 25th film this is. While I am very much happy with his resume thus far (starting out as a shy-ridden, seemingly resourceless and a naive youngster in "Nerukku Ner", whose only credential then was that - he was the son of the veteran actor Sivakumar), I am not full-of-praise for his 25th film. But, there were enough films in his kitty which will speak of his value as a performer to the present day tamil cinema. With his penchant for performances and an undeniable panache, Surya seems to be the only actor whom you can bank upon in look for good cinema. Way to go Surya and if he is inclined more to be a "hero" like his contemporaries (like in "Singam"), he is disappointing many in our camp.

Coming to Surya's performance in "Singam" - He just exhibits an animated, arrogant, powerful, adrenalin-ridden police officer, pulverising the jumbo-looking "office room boys" (like "Vettaikkaran" Vijay) in a few strokes. While speaking to his adversaries, Surya stands with his legs-apart ("stable equilibrium", probably) and shouts-aloud the dialogues (a bit irritating and monotonous mannerism, it becomes). He is soft-spoken only to Anushka and his family-people. There's a remarkable improvement in his dancing abilities as well, no doubts. The fight sequences should be loads-of-work for the film editor - so many shots - Juggernaut-like Surya thrashing the baddies, exploding tata-sumos, flying rowdies, slashing glass pieces - so much to cover and add to that a racy speed with which the sequence is enacted. 

Though one can be easily critical of Surya's performance in the movie, owing only to the monotone of a masala movie, you can only admire his crackerly-attitude in whatever he does on screen. His body language evokes an unconditional strictness (of a police officer) through-out and his fit 'n' trim physique add a special punch for the role, he enacts. Now, on a comparative note, there is a substantial difference in characterisations, displayed by Anbuchelvan (Kaakha Kaakha) and Durai Singam (Singam). The former sounds more driven by intuitions & smartness and the latter by emotions & raw physical abilities (of course, there is a lot of cognitive smartness as a police officer, exhibited by Durai Singam also). Nevertheless, Anbuchelvan is a calm-n-composed urbane police officer whereas Durai Singam articulates pages of punches in high pitches. Gautham Menon and Hari !!!


Anushka Shetty - Has she got some meat in the script to chew upon ?

- This is a masala/mass/entertainer
- This is a hero-centric Hari film
- This is from Sun Pictures

She is reserved for songs, precisely. Especially, in the second half, where the hero's itinerary is really filled up with appointments-with-villains, Anushka should have tried keeping herself busy with her dance master and the wardrobe-expert for the upcoming duet sequences (Hari has already sent her lines in several SMSes). Her cleavage-friendly attires in the songs successfully received many a "oohs" and claps from the audience. And yeah, she is tall and gorgeous. 

And, I wanted to mention this - There's this atrocious sequence which would lead Surya (Durai Sngam) to nick-name the heroine "Puli" in line with "Singam", which Hari also uses to get them introduced to each other - absolute lack of creativity, I felt.

Prakash Raj - looks aged - made up for the role, probably. Nothing special here - he has tossed up tons of performances like this, on us. For the umpteenth time, he is the Big Dada of the city with the police and politicians under his belt - owns many Tata sumos and elephantine "office room" boys. Loses out finally to Durai  Singam, the untouchable tough cop. 

Support Cast - It looks like, there has been an ordinance in effect at the Tamilnadu Film Artistes Association that atleast two from the following set {Vijaya Kumar, Radha Ravi, Manorama, Nizhalgal Ravi, Nasser}, should be a part of the support cast in any big budget production. Hari, so graciously includes the entire band here. No offence meant on the extremely talented artistes above, but we have got so much used to these guys' body language, dialogue delivery and mode of emotions that nothing new is in store for us. Support cast, on the other hand, is only horribly typecasted, thus trashing the real "potential" in these wonderful actors. They, like countless other occasions, deliver a cliched but balanced performance. we should feel sorry for talented thespians like Nasser, Girish Karnad who were always picked for petty malefactor roles. On a welcome note, our cinema these days, is actually getting progressive in sorting out the support artistes from the "society".

Vivek - should consult a good doctor - His "Mokkais" are turning pathetic. The concept of "Sirippu Police" has been tested by time but the comedy track just sucks here. Same old "Injury between legs" man !! ... When Murali and Vadivelu pole-vaulted and Vadivelu hurt his "%^&*" (for the first time, I believe), it was moderately funny with his facial expressions. Enough of it, Vivek tries to sound funny calling it by different names - Mani, Sombu, bulb - Not funny any more.

Songs were actually a let down. But, Sun pictures can make Dindukkal Sarathy's songs popular. Sun Music will take care of the rest. This has been in light for some time now - tamil pronunciations by North Indian singers - Shaan sings "Oru Vaarthai MoLiyaale" - Unbearable. "En Idhayam" was shot well in some ravishing foreign locales. And, according to Sun pictures rules, there was a real kuthu number 20 minutes before the close of the movie - Surya did a almost-Vijay here, dancing really well. 

I have this feeling that we turn a bit hypocritical when it comes to Surya and very much hypercritical to Vijay. Of course, Surya has proved his capability as a performer many a times before while the latter has never done so. Surya should, in future, choose his scripts judiciously to not to fall into "that" category.

Singam - Tamed circus lion performing routine stuff.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nostalghia - School Annual day Memoirs

This post is an explicit compilation of those memories which I have been incubating in my brain cells over a long period of time. Since the events and insights, I am bringing about are very much with reference to my school and it's culture, I don't know if everybody were able to identify themselves with this post. The names and events described are not fictitious and are absolutely true. I have tried to be utmostly honest about things and what I felt about them, then and now. I made it a point not to discuss this with people and recall stuff. I stole things only from my own memory and again, this is to provide this post, the much required authenticity. This looong post (the lengthiest I have ever written) is more like a diary for me to tackle my fading memory.

After the winter holidays are over, you enter the school in the first week of January. January is the absolute dream month for any school kid, I believe. It already opens up after the half-yearly vacation, you attend school for around 1 to 2 weeks and you get a mini vacation of atleast 4 days for Pongal, then republic day holiday follows etc. You hardly attend 17-18 days of school in Jan. And, Every year, amidst this happy atmosphere, begins the annual day (or the school day) frenzy and euphoria. School day will usually be held in the third week of Feb in our school and the training sessions for the culturals (drama and dance events) will begin as early in January. Classes used to be half empty as people would be busy with practice & rehearsals and this is the absolute timepass season of any academic year, that you can dream of.
 
There were these two Aasthana heroes of my school's drama scenario, whom I can never forget - Vij and ArKu. Vij was that "typical" Shakespearean thespian of our stage-play arena. The school had this tradition of staging one of Shakespeare's plays every year and as long as Vij was there, he was the hero. I don't know when he started out at the stage but by the time I started consciously following the plays, he always held the title roles. The play will change every year - King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, The Tempest etc but the role of the protagonist was customarily reserved for him.

Most of Vij's performances were staged when I was in the high school and I was never sophisticated in understanding and admiring the dialogues and performances in English plays. Like the male protagonist, there will again be a regular cast to fill in the roles of Ophelias and Desdemonas. You get to see these faces regularly again and again, year after year. Shakespearean plays, naturally oozing with intriguing romance would be let through a thorough censor-filter and "Love" would be one aspect that will be safely dismantled from the plays (for obvious reasons). But, the conduct of the Shakespeare's plays every year was really awesome that those "lengthy" plays with all those sonnets and soliloquies would be prosi-fied and brought down to 10 to 15 minutes. But, I can't recall if the actual integrity of the play was preserved in the process of shorting them down. English plays though looked rich and stylish never attracted a substantial section of the audience.

One more insight which I developed is, among the Shakespeare's plays, mostly tragedies were enacted and "Celebration of masculine valour" was the focal point in the enaction. Other aspects of Shakespearean theatre like Comedy and Romance were not touched upon, I believe.  The female characters of the plays were literally dummified as you remove the romance flavour out from the plays, keeping in mind the "dignity" and "sanctity" of a high school drama stage. And, plays with female-centric themes were never staged, as far as I remember (Shakespeare's Cleopatra, for example). 

ArKu was someone who did an awesome work with the tamil plays. He played a variety of roles from mythologicals to epics to social themes. I have seen him from close-proximity and I can call him "the actor", I saw in my school. He had a good tamil accent and clear pronunciations and I can recall more than one instance where he used to suggest new and better ways of presenting a dialogue, to the teacher. He had a fierce and majestic dialogue delivery when he played the king Ashoka and also excelled with comical timing when he played Tenalirama in one of the plays. I have acted with him in two or three plays.

I had been on stage as a drama artiste for five continuous years, from Class 5 to 9. I can successfully recollect my tamil teachers Seetha miss and Kalaichelvi miss, who hand-picked me for a tamil drama when I was in Class 5. For me, performing on stage those days always meant loud and bold deliverance of lines with the waver of arms. That's it ... I still remember some of the comments I received during rehearsals like, "He doesn't need a mike at all". But, during my 9th Class, I did the role of Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet, and my English teacher Loganathan wanted me to largely underplay that role. Remember, for me "Playing" means delivering lines aloud (I was regularly with tamil drama troops before and tamil plays required a loud deliverance with right intonations and punctuations stuff). I remember, I found it difficult to keep my volume down and actually speak soft. He used to instruct me frequently, "Mike irukkunda ... en ipdi kathare" ... "gentle aa pesu paakkalam" (Which means "You'll have a mike dude, why do you shout like this ? Can you speak gentle ?).

After all, You can't expect "method acting" from a school kid right ??. I still believe the criteria that would be looked upon a sixth class kid to actually appear on-stage would be, stage courageousness, a good memory to deliver the lines by-heart and a not-so-funny voice to identify and sync with the character you play. Memorising the dialogues by-heart was something, I was naturally interested in, those days. I used to take a special interest in memorising the entire script of the play and whenever somebody is absent for the day, I used to double-play his role also, along with mine, during the training sessions. I remember, I used to enact the entire play to my mom at home, playing all the characters.

The drama training sessions will impart the necessary stage aesthetics like, Don't show-off your back as you perform on the stage, approximate positions of the mikes (there used to be three mikes and you need to walk into the mike and speak, for you to be heard), you shouldn't walk on stage like you are in explicit pursuit of the mike, Coping up with the wardrobe malfunctions (like the breakage of cardboard swords etc). You get to learn a lot many nuances of the art during those sessions, I remember.

The annual day function will start with speeches and prize distributions followed by culturals. They used to be held in the evening and we used to spend the morning in preparation of the props with cardboad and golden-paper stuff. One important thing, I liked with the stage performances is the "Arithaaram" (in tamil), which would be applied on your face before you are made up for the role. There used to be a single sponge which the make-up man will use to apply this stuff (Arithaaram) on the faces of so many people. The sponge used to stink bad but getting yourself made up for that role is always a special feeling (you literally are a different entity & character, now). I had a special liking for this, I remember.

Tamil plays were always the center of audience's applause and appreciation (because they are the ones which will be actually understood by everybody out there) and hence they would invariably be pushed back to the final stages of the school day culturals, to keep the crowd in. So, I always had an opportunity to witness everything going on, from the backstage. Goof-ups, teacher providing the dialogue-leads if somebody forgets his lines, scoldings between the scenes, the busy-ness of the props-setting-people between the scenes, musicians playing the BGM tunes for the drama etc - I've had a first hand experience.


Apart from the dramas, the culturals would feature a good number of dance performances - again there were regular entries - Though I remember a lot of names, I skip them here so as to preserve their identities. Songs for the dance events were chosen with utmost care, such that they don't feature any controversial terms (you got it right ??). If there's one, they used to switch to a hindi version of the song, if available or even chop-off that particular line from the song. Apart from that, we used to have a few hindi songs for dance events. For example, when "Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna" from DDLJ (which literally translated to "Put your henna on and keep the wedding palanquin decorated beautiful girl, your beloved will come to take you away ...") was staged, nobody had a problem, because the song was in hindi and nobody can decipher the sense, the song made.

Some of the famous dance numbers which I can recall are ARR's Vandemataram, Alisha's Made in India, Cheranenna Chozhanenna, Nooraandu kaalam vaazhga, Margazhi thingalallava, Poo pookum osai, Pulveli pulveli etc. The dance performances were mostly by girls and there were boy-girl mixed dance sequences with atleast five feet distance between each of them. During the Annual day seasons, some songs would be universally popular that they will find an entry into the school day culturals of almost all the schools during that year. Made in India, Vandemataram by ARR are classic examples of this particular aspect. I was never interested in dances during my school days, though I believed and still believe that, dancing was always tougher than playing a character in plays.

Kids' rhymes dance sequences would be awesomely cute and equally funny. When there are 10 to 15 kids (the number will always be so high so that the flaws wouldn't be apparently visible), there would be atleast 2 to 4 kids dumbstruck at the stage amused by the people in front and they will forget all the dance sequences and stand-still the whole time on the stage. Some will even start weeping. Yeah, there are instances even the kids will perform flawless - such training and rehearsals they would have gone into.


And, the best part about performing on stage is, you get some fans ... Right ?. I remember one of the conversations I had with a fifth grader (FG) after my performance in a stage play. I should be in Class 8, I believe and this was during the lunch break or something. I pretty much remember the matter and the following is somewhat fictitious.

FG: Anna ...
Me: Ennappa ...
(Someone calling you "Anna" itself is great, when you already have to call so many people "Anna", in school)
FG: Nethikku ungala paathen ...(I saw you yesterday)
Me: Apdiya pa thambi? kandupidichittiya ? (Oh dude !! glad that you identified me)
FG: Aamanna .. Sirippa irundhuchu ... (Yes Bro ... The play was comic)

You can't forget your first fan ... right ??. And, it always feels great to be a senior. 

It was undoubtedly a social status kinda thing to be performing on stages in school, I believe. Layers of Condescension were apparently present. You act in a play or dance to a number on a school day culturals, you achieve some kinda Prima-donna-ish image in the class or school. Everybody likes attention and everybody seek attention - and you get attention when you are performing on stage. Attention seeking is one of those human instincts that will prominently feature somewhere in our Emotional Intelligence pyramid.There are a lot of sociological and psychological aspects to be looked upon here. Thinking over this aspect, will present a lot of insights about how one's personality and social outlook has been shaped and sculpted during the formative years at school.

If somebody has really come this far, reading all the above, I appreciate your patience and indulgence into this. Hope you liked this.