Sunday, December 30, 2012

For Cinephilia, Cheers !

 I was one of the insatiables. The ones you'd always find sitting closest to the screen. Why do we sit so close? Maybe it was because we wanted to receive the images first. When they were still new, still fresh. Before they cleared the hurdles of the rows behind us. Before they'd been relayed back from row to row, spectator to spectator; until worn out, secondhand, the size of a postage stamp, it returned to the projectionist's cabin. Maybe, too, the screen was really a screen. It screened us... from the world.
- The Dreamers (2003), Bernardo Bertolucci

Caught this during the second watch. The film made such an indelible impression the first time about three years back ... Cinephilia, Paris student revolts, Eva Green's tits, to name a few. Call it confusion or confluence, there's not another work of art that is going to see such a flawless amalgamation of all those romantic ingredients - eroticism, politics and cinema.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indhu (1994), Prabhudeva and the 'Gaana' genre

The title, I realize, sounds a bit presumptuous but this is not going to be a comprehensive post on the Gaana music or Prabhudeva. I just set out to register things that struck me while I was checking out the 1994 Prabhudeva starrer 'Indhu'.

It can be safely said that I was drawn towards the movie purely by my nostalgia for its songs, otherwise the movie's plot is so awfully all over the place. Youtube watching of all the song videos would have sufficed !. Deva's album for Indhu has a special fascination for me, I have very vivid memories of listening to them as a 8-9 year old and I knew all those lyrics by-heart back then. We were living in a close-knit neighborhood those days and our neighbor with a tape recorder played the album so many times that i practically sang along those lines with the speakers all the time. I remember that my mom always disapproved me of singing those verses aloud and now I understand why !. References to female body & sexual overtones are an essential feature of all the songs in the album. Almost all the songs in the album (except may be 'Metro channel') can be categorized under the filmy Gaana genre.

'Gaana' as a musical genre was born in urban slums and it even has a certain plausible dalit origin. When 'Gaana' songs made it into the cinema, they were tempered a bit to suit mainstream consumption. Even on that level, Vaali's lyrics for Indhu's album are so much over the board (pointing 'mainstream' again) making misogyny in filmy gaana an understatement. A few examples would be 'Ulla theriyum Nayudu hall', 'back a paatha bens car', 'nellu kutha edam kodutha maatikkuva oralukulla' etc. Films usually had one gaana song, usually shot as an item number but with so many gaana songs in the album, Indhu gains a representative significance. I think tamil cinema is well past its gaana glory .. gone are the days of Deva, the most prominent filmy gaana composer of the 90s.

Going back to Indhu the film, somebody should have been thinking of a good launch vehicle to sell Prabhudeva's excellent dancing abilities and forged together this particular film. By 1994, 'Chikku bukku Rayile (Gentleman)' and 'Lalaakku dol dappi ma (Suriyan)' have made Prabhudeva a familiar face among the tamil audience and hence somebody was encouraged to really invest in a whole movie selling his dance repertoire. 'Indhu' is his first movie in a lead role and he had a decent acting career to show off following this film. If we were to put in some kind of detailed research into all those songs that Prabhudeva danced to, we might be able to theorize the (urban ?!) youth culture of the 90s in Tamilnadu. More than Rajinis, Kamals or any other film stars during his times, I think these will offer a lot of insight in that direction. Just think of the long list we will have - Indhu, Raasaiya, Mr Romeo, Kaathalan etc. I also always thought his dance moves carried a certain trashiness (can't put forward with a better word - i actually mean inelegant), they were quite fast & hence difficult to follow, may be they were choreographed intentionally to be inimitable, at least in the most famous numbers that i could recall he wore baggies or lungi-pattapatti combo when he danced. I would like to associate these with the specific audience his songs (and movies) addressed, thereby pointing again to the youth culture of the 90s.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Deutschland Bleiche Mutter (1980)

Some spoilers ahead !

Deutschland Bleiche Mutter (DBM) as a film has to be placed firmly in context. The viewer has to be aware of a little bit of history - the Nazi Germany, post-war trauma and the Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung - for instance. The film was made in 1980 - the German unification was still a decade away and the east-west division was fully in place. DBM is directed by a female director, Helma Sanders-Brahms and that adds a different dimension to the film's perspective concerning agony of the war and motherhood.

The film is not objective at all and thus is very slow paced. The first half of the film extends as a road film with Lene (Eva Mettes) walking through the forests & seasons with her new born infant. While on a casual stroll, my actual connect with the film came when Lene gets raped by the allied soldiers and when she remarks "the victors' right, little girl". From that point on my entire perception of the film had a whole new notion that, Lene (as the mother) is the metaphor for Deutschland herself. While I am not sure if it was intended, the film made much more sense on an abstract level after that point. Lene's paralysis on one side of the face, Lene losing all her teeth to avoid the spread of the paralysis, Lene covering one side of the face with a dark veil, her troubled relationship with her husband, her unexplained anger on her daughter - all suggested the disarmament, the east-west division and the mental trauma that the war brought to the society.

Eva Mettes' stupendous performance stands-out and she obviously carries the film almost single-handedly. Her face conveys an infectious gloominess right from frame one preparing us for that epic tragedy - the climax.