IndiBlogger - The Indian Blogger Community Vilakudy Days: April 2007

Vilakudy Days

Friday, April 27, 2007


Reviewing is an art. Especially, movies. A great critique need not be a great filmmaker. In most cases, it is not. In most media organisations, KIDS have donned the critics lobes. Most of them fail to understand what a movie is all about. They just write stories. And the plot – the worst thing one can do to a film. It essentially kills the film. And any interest left in a prospective movie-goer.

Many don’t have even a clue about its cinematic pluses or minuses. Either they get carried by the leading actor and actress. Or by the director. Or by the big production houses. Filmmakers are livid when they read or watch or listen to the reviews. Most reviewers don’t even touch on the direction, or its technicians who would have spent sleepless nights before the movie’s release date.

Take this example. Director Bala, who rewrote the Tamil cinema’s characters, with his brilliant Sethu, Nanda and Pithamagan, told me in an interview that he could not sleep for seven days prior to the release of Pithamagan. The tension was visible on his face though he tried his best to hide it. We had a three-hour chat at his Chennai residence two days before Pithamagan's release. He told me about the perils filmmaking. Though he enjoyed every bit of it, he said, it was too stressful, especially before the release. I could not believe that such a master technician could have such a nervous period. I could understand Bala. I have seen what he did and what he does. Like our Bharatan or the matchless Satyajit Ray, he has drawn the entire scenes on a sheet of paper and made it a log-book. Every frame is a result of a thousand thoughts. Such was his passion to cinema. The Outlook magazine called him Lord of Crypts. Later after the release when I met him, Bala was all smiles – for obvious reasons.
Sorry for deviating from the topic. That is the pain that filmmakers take. It is their blood. So when some kids (some elders as well) who sit in glasshouses tear apart a movie, directors will not agree. And will feel hurt. Of late, the bloggers too toe the line. It is rare to read good reviews.
Which is why when one of my friends Don Sebastian mailed me the afterthoughts of Tamil film, Veyil, I read it with pleasure. To me, it is the best ‘review ‘in recent times. The interesting part is that he did not write the piece for a media (though he works for one) or a blog. He just scribbled it down as self-impressions. The observation of capturing light and the sun-burnt lives was brilliant. And Veyil being a character itself. And the reference to Tornatore's epic Cinema Paradiso. Don said, it is not a review, but just impressions. It was, really.

The review is here for you:

NO word could embody so much of Tamil Nadu as Veyil does. (Veyil is sun, sunrays, light and heat.) When Vasanthabalan chose the word for his debut movie's title, it has to be about sunburnt lives. From the first scene, the movie tries to capture the blinding sun of tropical Tamil Nadu. Light gives birth to photography, but Tamil Nadu's light is a challenge for photographers, who opt for the soft light of Pollachi and Theni.
Virudhu Nagar in southern Tamil Nadu epitomizes everything that puts off cameramen. Barren landscapes, parched riverbeds, dry bushes and an overexposed sky. Still sun and cinema are living characters in Vasanthabalan's movie. Veyilodu vilayadi, Veyilodu uravadi…Muthukumar's theme song and Vasanthabalan's visualization sizzles the air-conditioned auditorium. It's the free, raw, vibrant, innocent spirit of the land.
Consider this fleeting frame: Boys eating stolen corns by the shadow of a lone palm tree.
The tagline says, 'Life journey of two men'. These men raided cornfields, chased moon and bunked class to watch movies as little boys. Adult idealism and corporal punishment followed and the elder brother elopes with his mother's ornaments. Midway, MG Ramachandran's smile waylays him. Here, in a small-town talkies, he finds his destiny. The projector operator is a hero in a land full of matinee idols.
Like all wannabe filmmakers, Vasanthabalan must have dreamt of making a movie like Cinema Paradiso when he was assisting Shankar the director. (Veyil is the third movie from Shankar the producer.) His protagonist Murugeshan travels through MGR, Rajnikanth, Vijayakanth and Karthik. He finds and loses life and love in Kaniappan talkies, like Salvatore in Guiseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso.
The inspiration turned into brilliant evocation of Tamil Nadu's endless fascination with celluloid. Reel and real merge here. Light, like sunrays, creates and manipulates lives. But the movie refuses to rise to the league of Paradiso. True to Indian tradition, the filmmaker kills his protagonist. We still need a death or wedding for a climax of our movies, when the protagonist is not a superman out to eliminate the evil ones.
Yet Veyil lets in the light to the stagnant cinema. Balan joins the league of Thankar Bachan, Cheran and Bala who keep good cinema afloat amid all those hysteric flicks. In a one-liner, the movie may be unimpressive. But the detailing, so true to life, makes it a memorable movie. Pasupathi's Murugeshan, who takes beatings after beatings from life, is a poignant portrayal of longing for love. A man's search for his space in life.
The scene: Pasupathi's Murugeshan hides the soap so that his long-lost mother comes to bathe him. Wonder anyone bothered to depict a grown-up man's yearning to lie on his mother's lap. (Not to forget Ram.)