While idly looking through my blog I discovered that my last 6 posts were all book reviews or about books. Suddenly I realized that my blog was becoming too bookish for even myself and hence this post on few movies. I have seen quite few good old Tamil movies of late and wanted to comment on them, but that would be on a different post. Since I like comparing, I would comment on two pairs of films – similar in their themes, but starkly different in the way they were produced, one of them is ‘big’ and the other is ‘small’.
To keep the discussion as global as possible I would start with a recent Hindi movie – “Kaal”. Boasting some leading actors, good locations and a ‘different’ script this was, I guess, released with quite a lot of hype. But through out the movie I could only pity the technicians who had worked for the good locations, different camera angles and background score (which though too loud, would have been good if used properly) on essentially trying to prop up a weak story and screenplay. In fact, I feel that if all these technical elements were under played or at least limitedly used the movie would have been more tolerable. There was absolutely no scene in the movie which was truly terrifying and there was not even much thrill. Of course I didn’t know who the murderer was, but I didn’t care! And the ending was as insipid as it could be - a murder mystery conveniently blaming a ghost!
The sharp turning camera angles, the unnecessarily loud background score and the skimpily clad ladies (why do you wear such a dress in a forest - to get more mosquito bites?) were all constant irritations. It was the Hindi movie I was seeing after quite some time and I thoroughly regretted the choice. More irritating was that it was being hyped as a new generation Hindi movie! (I had felt the same about “Bhoot” though to a much lesser extent). The movie seems to have deservedly flopped in box office, proving that people can’t be cheated too much by glitz and glamour (of course they can be cheated to some extent, which is proved by the success of “big budget” masala movies).
Coming to this movie’s counterpart it is a relatively little known Tamil movie called “Whistle”. I saw this in television recently. I think it was released very normally and succeeded to some extent. Now I don’t claim this as a classic thriller movie. But it was thrilling and thrilling till the end. And it didn’t have to resort to stupid techniques like a ghost being a murderer (in fact this is ridiculed in the movie). Surprisingly, for all those who regard genre movies very highly, this wasn’t a pure thriller – but had a college group and romance as a background. I can’t comment much on the romance part since I missed something like first 30 minutes of the movie and anyway most of the characters were dead in the end! But it didn’t obstruct the thrill at all. The songs did spoil the thrill somewhat and at least two could have been cut down (there are also some nice and popular songs in the movie). But the last half an hour or so was totally focused and thrilling.
What I expect in a thriller movie is that the identity of the killer (or any aggressor) should be a surprise not easily guessable but still should be logically justifiable (match with all the clues in the movie). This was quite well done here, since any one person being killer would be too difficult here, two people are shown as killers. And their motive is justified by a rather chilling flashback, which also justifies the title and which reminds me of “Kudaikkul Mazhai”, but that is a digression. In “Kaal” this has no meaning since the aggressor is a ghost who can do anything! Sound effects are very well used in the movie, with something happening in silence producing the most shock. All the actors were new, but did seem to perform their roles well. The director(s) are JD-Jerry, faintly familiar, but I don’t recall how. In short, another “small” movie which wins hands down over a “big” movie.
My next comparison would be much more critical and may not be liked by many Shankar fans. It is between his movie, the over-hyped “Boys” (which did very average in the box office) and “Thullavatho Ilamai” (title is hard to translate literally, but one try is Springing youth), which was a relatively unknown film when released, but became a huge hit. Both are concerned about pangs of growing up, difficulties a set of youth face and the how they finally overcome all this. Both were accused as being almost soft porn movies. But there ends the similarity. Now I would like to exclude one factor from this comparison – sex in both these movies. Personally I believe that, sex is shown in a much more subtle and mature way in “Thullavatho Ilamai” than “Boys”, but this may be wrong since I saw the latter in theatre and the former in television.
“Boys” shows the travails faced by the youngsters when they run away from home, but finally they are heroes and hence triumph in a short time after facing all the hurdles. The love story here is quite silly, being based on such silly scenes like hero running naked in Anna salai for proving his love and earthquake helping the lovers to unite! But still they are the hero and heroine and must unite and live happily in the end. In short I feel it romanticizes infatuation as love and chance success as success gained by hard work. How many singers have come up so quickly in life and how many of us have such special talents like singing? Basing such things to show that a group of runaway teenagers are successful only shows the eagerness of the director to have a happy ending, even if it is unrealistic. I dislike Shankar’s movies mainly for these – in fact I would say “Indian” was the only good movie he has done. “Mudhalvan” and “Gentleman” are movies with a good theme but messed up throughout and in climax, respectively. The other three including “Boys” don’t even warrant a mention, as they have nothing more than an average movie.
In contrast “Thullavatho Ilamai” is starkly realistic. Here also youngsters run away from home and get to discover themselves and the world. But both these experiences are not pleasant, so they return back to their homes – and the movie effectively ends there. This also has lead pair who are initially friends, but due to their parents’ suspicion and due to their close stay when running away, have sex. But the movie clearly shows that this is the result of their momentary lust and hence they live as before when they return home. In fact to add emphasis it is shown that the boy, not wanting to face her, left the school and hasn’t met her since. And the rest of the youngsters stay in their homes and come up in life the hard way. In fact the climax of hero and heroine not meeting ever after surprised me, as I thought the climax of a commercially successful Tamil movie can’t be so realistic. On the down side, the movie happens to be a bit didactic with some messages for both parents and children (not that Boys didn’t have this). The movie blames the parents for most of the faults, but that is justifiable for the parents shown. Though it doesn’t have the glitz of “Boys”, it has a very good musical score by Yuvan Shankar Raja and of course direction and screenplay are most impressive of all. Kasturiraja is the director, though it is said that his son, Selvaraghavan, now a popular director played more than a helping hand in this. The lead pair was unknown then, but now Danush is a leading hero.
One reason for matured handling here could be that these youngsters are school final year students and are hence younger than even those shown in “Boys”. But even this can’t justify the totally unrealistic manner in which script is handled in “Boys”. As an aside, I finally confirmed that the beautiful song “Theenda Theenda” was in fact during love making of the lead pair. It was of course cut off in television, but I got the initial music in the scene. Without doubt, it is the most decent, subtle and pleasant song I have heard for a love making scene. No wonder that when I am asked as to what is wrong in showing sex and glamour in movies, my only refrain is to show them only when important to the story and in an enjoyable and not repelling manner.
There are some more movies on which I want to comment and I would list them down so that at least I can remember them – K.B’s “Arangettram” – though I didn’t see this fully, it was already bold enough to shake me, “Pagalil Oru Iravu” - a good climax, K.B’s “Sindhu Bairavi” – a good but controversial movie, Bharathiraja’s “Padhinaaru Vaidhinile” - a good movie worth its reputation as a classic. I am trying desperately to watch classics like “Nizhalgal”, “Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiraal”(An actress sees a play - what a title! It's self-referential!) and all Jayakanthan story movies, “Mogamul”, but I am not able to rent or even buy these VCDs or DVDs in Bangalore (or are they available in Chennai?). Can somebody help me please!!