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Vilakudy Days

Friday, April 27, 2007

THE ART OF RE-VIEWING

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.)
By DON SEBASTIAN

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12 Comments:

Blogger ganesh said...

Vasanthabalan brings autobiographical elements into his second film Veyil and impresses us in the process. The helpless onlooker at his sister's marriage, when his younger brother runs the show, is the director himself, as he himself puts it.
It's a small film, and the total budget it was reported, came to around Rs 58 lakhs, not even 1/12th of the sum its producer Shankar (producer: Director Shankar, the titles show) spent for one of the songs in his next movie, Shivaji.
But the small movie, Veyil, came almost at the start of the summer brought along with it a lot of freshness.
The initial scenes were quite brilliant and the directors from down South are exploiting the dry, dusty and brownish neighbourhoods in the southern districts, quite successfully.
Vasanthabalan, with his reletively new faces, the one came as hero's father deserves a mention, on the screen takes us into the rural settings and the kids' performance served his purpose well in the opening scenes.
Pasupathy was just awesome, he had three looks, as the real operator, as the romantic hero and the all-lost Murugesan towards the end.
Soo too was Priyanka, who never looked to be making her debut.
The music by G.V. Prakash Kumar, the nephew of A.R. Rahaman, too satnds out. Especially the brilliantly-shot Veyilodu Vilayadi, which reminds us of the classic City of God with its picturisation.
Then there is the melodious Uruguthe. The director promises us much. He disappointed in winding it up, and gave it all the melodrama and other unwanted colours. The mourning at the death was the last thing we wanted.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Thulasi said...

ഡോണ്‍,വിലകുടി,

പച്ച നിറത്തില്‍ പൊതിഞ്ഞ ജീവിതങ്ങള്‍ ഇതിനുള്ളില്‍ എല്ലാം ഭദ്രമാണെന്നൊരു തോന്നാല്‍ ഉണ്ടാക്കും.വരണ്ട മണ്ണിന്റെ നിറത്തില്‍ ചാലിച്ച ജീവിതങ്ങള്‍ കൈവിട്ടുകളിക്കുന്ന കുട്ടികളാണ്.അവരുടെ ജീവിത്തെക്കുറിച്ച് പറഞ്ഞു ഫലിപ്പിക്കല്‍ പാടുള്ള പണി തന്നെ.

വെയില്‍ കാണണം.
അല്ല,
തമിഴ് മണ്ണില്‍ വെയിലില്‍ നനഞ്ഞു വരണം.

1:44 AM  
Blogger vilakudy said...

DON SEBASTIAN REACTS:
"I wouldn't thank you. It would be silly. But I got a kick seeing my jottings published, even after getting bylines in three national dailies. It's different. It's a different recognition. The last time I felt a similar kick was when KB Venu asked me to write a piece on Walter Salles' Motorcycle Diaries, which we had seen in Goa a couple of years ago, to be published with his translation of the movie's script.

But I don't agree to you defending the filmmakers for the effort they put into every work. It's their work and we dont have any obligation to them. The best way to be fair to them is to go to a movie with an open mind, without taking reviewers too seriously. We, who yearn for slapsticks and guns, still go to a movie for the sheer experience of it. And we idolises those artists who leaves an impression on us and forget the others."

8:55 AM  
Blogger vilakudy said...

DON't be modest. Please watch Ameer's Paruthiveeran and leave your impressions.

9:05 AM  
Blogger vilakudy said...

Incidentally, there was a good article in the Sunday Times of India on the critics. It was aptly titled ‘The Death of Critic’. Read:

THE DEATH OF CRITIC.
When the noted film critic David Lardner was asked his opinion on Hollywood's Panama Hattie, he said, "This film needs a certain something, possibly burial."
The Bollywood critic is so much kinder. No film critic in India, in the last fifty years, has actually proved to be the nemesis of the puerile produce offered up in the name of commercial cinema. Critics might have ripped into David Dhawan, Sangeeth Sivan and other purveyors of kitsch, but the box-office has remained gloriously unaffected by editorial sarcasm. This immunity, however, is not reflected in the thin-skinned attitude of film-makers and actors, who hate this tribe of men and women with their easy ability to poke fun at their plots, script and multicrore productions.
So what do a bunch of film-makers do when they get a platform like a television show to air their views on this breed of pen pushers? They belittle the critic, question his intelligence, integrity and knowledge of cinema. "I never read reviews," declared Raakesh Roshan on Koffee With Karan. "I call up my exhibitor in the morning and ask him about audience reactions. Which songs did they walk out in? When did they clap? That's my feedback." Equally disingenuous was Kunal Kohli, who said that a waiter praising his film meant more than what someone from his high horse had to dish out. Logic as implausible as Fanaa.
A Sunday before this, Jaya Bachchan had bristled, "Are there any?" when Karan Johar asked her in the rapid-fire round to respond to 'film critics'. Her contention, which many will agree with, is that those who claim to write criticism are often posers who do little more than detail the storyline, something anyone can do. Their reviews have no informed comments on camera work or lighting. Critics are also accused of not really having the pulse of the people. What better example than Sholay, which a prominent critic of the time dismissed as "a mishmash of East and West, neither here nor there". It was also pointed out that no matter how scathing the critic is about the film, the actors are always eulogised for their brilliant turns, so what if the performance in question gave a log of wood a serious complex.
"If film-makers don't care for our opinions I can perfectly understand it," says Mayank Shekhar, whose reviews in Mumbai Mirror can be unsparing. "My reviews are not meant for the makers. They are meant to tell the public what the maker has done." Yes, agrees Shekhar, some critics are biased and unfair "but a few rotten eggs don't allow you to attack the entire tribe. When I write my review I have no agenda, nor am I looking to monetise my film contacts."
DNA movie correspondent Indu Mirani says that film critics don't need exhaustive cinema studies to do their job. "If I have the sensibilities of a keen cineaste and if I put my point across effectively, I think I'm qualified. And of course one must touch on something obvious like the storyline because the audience need to know what they're letting themselves in for."
Trade analyst Amod Mehra is less generous. With the exception of senior critics like Khalid Mohamed few others have a sound knowledge of cinema, he says. "Most of the current lot are film buffs who are given fancy designations by their employers. They aren't really qualified," says Mehra.
Freelance critic Deepa Gahlot, known for her candour, says that the big boys like the Chopras, Johar and Roshan are critic-proof. They get their initial anyway, says Gahlot, but there are scores of others who have no cinema lineage and who have benefited from good reviews. Nagesh Kukunoor is a case in point. Consistently good reviews from Hyderabad Blues to Dor have certainly helped him.
Asked what she thought of Jaya Bachchan's disparaging remark, Gahlot says, "To this would I say, are there are film-makers who matter today?" BY MEENA IYER

5:23 AM  
Blogger Haree | ഹരീ said...

Thank you for giving me the link. I cant comment on Veyil as I don't see the film. But I like to tell some points:
• Yes, it is painful to make a movie, but when we see a film as a reviewer who loves the industry, the reviewers too undergo some pressure. It is no more an entertainment, not a time-pass.

• Dont tell all film producer, directors, actors go under pressure. There are people who take the audience for granted.

• There's no harm giving a clue about the plot in reviews, but don't make it a spoiler. Now a days, the plot is even available in previews and in various location news. Eg: The plot for 'Hello' Mohanlal's new movie is available in NowRunning. But I dont think reading it will kill the interest, at least in my case. Because how it is taken, how Mohanlal casted that character... those are the things really matter.
--

9:15 AM  
Blogger vilakudy said...

Thanks, Haree.

5:54 AM  
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4:29 AM  
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thats quite some food for thought.. hmmm...
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4:49 PM  
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