Saturday, 30 April 2011


2011 by Madhav Ramdas

A soldier who was guarding his regiment opened fire at two superior officers killing one and seriously injuring the other. He is to be Court Marshalled. By his own statement and by that of the witnesses he has nil chance to save himself, but one officer pleads for him, not to save him, but to bring forth the motive behind the murder.

This was adapted from a famous drama directed by Surya Krishnamoorthy. It is quite a first attempt for Malayalam movie that the camera doesn't go out of the court room (There was a similar kind of effort earlier, Galelio, if my memory is right, but it was not just inside a room) and all the characters are male Military officials, except for a cameo by a little girl. In that way, this is a novel and brave effort for a Malayalam movie.

But as a movie, I am afraid, it is rather a failure. The script (in fact it is all just one scene) is still like a drama and the dialogues are perfect for a drama version, rather than for a movie. Still the director could have done something to modulate the dialogue deliveries to suit it for a movie. But... The movie begins in an excellent way. The title shots are really good. And then you have a wide angle shot of the court room. The moment some soldiers walk in and start talking, we realise this is going to be a terrible experience. The characters, all of them except the convict, are screaming out their dialogues as if they are been told that the recording power of the mike is poor. (Of course, this is dubbed, but then that makes it even worse)  I thought, the plot is quite interesting and we too feel like knowing the motive behind the murder and there are also some good points, which unfurl as the motive is clear (which are rather truth behind the upper caste controlled Indian military), but we feel rather like watching a drama than a movie.

If only the dialogue delivery were more muted or more subtle, this would have been a better watch. It doesnt mean, there are no other problems. But I would rather like to look at the good things, than nit picking, especially when its a different attempt, that too from a debutant director. But I am afraid, there isnt much to praise. Parthipan, as the convict does his role well. Suresh Gopi as his pleader is doing the same thing that he does always.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Mimì metallurgico ferito nell'onore - Mimi the metal worker wounded in honor

1972 by Lina Wertmuller

Mimi lose his job, when he votes for a communist representative, instead of the Mafia rep. He leaves his family and goes to Turin. He was not very fond of his wife as she is unresponsive or not passionate about sex. He becomes a metal worker and also meets Fiore, who doesnt mind him being married, but wants him to be faithful to her and doesnt want him to even sleep with his wife. They have a baby and soon he is transferred back to his home region, the south of Italy. He still doesnt make any love with his wife, for the fear of losing Fiore. But one day comes to know that Rosalla, his wife is pregnant from a police man, married with 5 children. He wants to revenge and pretends to love and seduce the wife of the police man and seduce her to bed. ...

The most horrible thing to happen, did happen to me. The dvd got stuck. It wont play anymore, not in my player, nor in my lap top or anywhere. I have searched a lot for finishing it, but no use. It was very cruel that I didnt see may be the last 15 or 20 minutes of this movie. What a pity.

It started out more like a political movie, but it was turning out to be a great comedy. A beautiful way of looking at the hypocrasy of men, who feel it ok to cheat, but find it a crime, when their wife do it. The way Mimi seduced the police man's wife - a really fat middle aged woman - un attractive in all ways - was very funny and his first love making with her simply hilarious.

Beautiful acting and beautiful photography. Above all a wonderfully directed movie.

I long to watch those final 15 minutes. 

Thursday, 28 April 2011


1998 by Christopher Nolan

An unemployed youth, aspiring to be a writer, start following strangers on the street. He has set forth his own rules for following, which he starts breaking too. He is confronted by a man, who understood he was being followed, who introduces as Cobb. Cobb is a different kind of burglar, who just breaks into others apartments or flats, not really to steal anything valuable, but just to intrude into the private life's of the house owner. He would drink their wine, misplace objects and may be take with him private objects, invaluable for others or even the owner, even womens under clothes etc. He wants to make the owner realise what they had, when they lose it. Our aspiring writer is some what thrilled by this and he is nearly like an apprentice for Cobb. He even attempts his own Cobb style house breaking. He meets a woman in a bar, who seems to be obliged to be the girl friend of a local gangster. He realises that they have broken to her apartment earlier. Cobb gives him a credit card with the name Daniel Loyd for his use. The woman wants him to steal some photographs from the Gangster, as she is being black mailed, which he promptly does. But he ends up attacking a man who arrives, just when he is ready to leave the place. He also finds that the photographs he has stolen are nothing special to be worried about. When he confronts her, he realises that she and Cobb have set him up. Cobb had to kill somebody during one of his burglar attempts and wanted to share the doubts upon him with somebody else. When our writer recognises that he has been cheated by the woman and Cobb he goes to the police and confesses everything. Cobb kills the woman, as she was a witness to one murder committed by the gangster. After the confession to the police, the young man is perplexed by the truth that the whole thing was a drama , scripted by Cobb, as he is now responsible also for the death of the woman, another murder by Cobb.

This is a brilliant movie. Simply brilliant. I actually wanted to watch the 3rd El Classico - the semi final of Champions league - between Barcelona and Real Madrid and wanted to see the pre match discussions as always. So had thought, ok no movie today, but just played the file to check if it was allright and from the very first shots - in black and white - I got hooked. Luckily for me, the movie is only a little more than one hour, it finished a few minutes before the kick off. But I have to confess, I got involved so much that I completely forgot about my match, this is a big credit for this movie.

The movie is told through the confession of the young man to the police and its brilliant. Only towards the end do we realise this but then the final surprise is still not completed. The surprise, that Cobb had set him up to be responsible for the murders, comes out through the final talks between the young man and the police officer, talks which are very brief and precise, is an intelligent master stroke. It is so brilliant that it is a revelation not just for the young man but for the viewers too. There might be some viewers, who might have guessed this, but not me. I was so involved with the writer that I forgot to think about anything else. It is very seldom that you feel yourselves in the shoes of the character. I felt admiring Cobb, I felt falling for the woman and wanted to emulate Cobb and so and so, and the last revelation was stunning. Brilliant.

A brilliant script supported by a brilliant director. Kudos also to the camera work, which is classic in black and white. We never think about the camera actually. But this is not a simple work, I would say.

I dont know if anybody considers this movie as a master piece of Mr. Nolan. But I surely will.

I remember seeing Nolan's Memento some time back. I want to see it once again. Just like that. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Maria Ilena eres de gracia - Maria you are full of grace

2004 by Joshua Marston

17 year old Maria has to support her family with her work. However, she decide to quit her job, against her family wish, as she felt she didnt get any respect at her job. She also realise that she is pregnant. The teenager who is responsible, is ready to marry her, but Maria really doesn't have any love for him. She meets Franklin, who sets her up with drug traffickers, from Columbia to America, and is offered a great sum to work as a mule. She accepts this offer and meets Lucy who has already done it twice. When she is on her way, Maria realises that her friend, Blanca who is even younger than her, has also been lured by Franklin into this job. Pellets of heroine, are given to the mules who have to swallow it. Maria has about 66 of them in her stomache. She is promptly caught for check up, in the New York airport. She escapes the final X ray check, just because she was pregnant. Maria, Lucy and Blanca are collected by some guys who take them to a hotel room and wait for the girls to pass out all the pellets. Maria finds out at night, that Lucy is missing, and she prompts Blanca to escape from the hotel. They do not have any place to go and finally reach the flat of Lucy's sister. Maria is unable to confess the danger that has occured with Lucy. Soon she finds out that Lucy's body was found out, with her stomache cut open. When Lucy's sister finds this out, she evicts Maria and her friend out. Maria still manages to find the traffickers and hands over the pellets and collect her money. A part of which she uses to send Lucy's body back to Columbia. On their way back, at the check in counter Maria decides against going back to her country.

In spite of being slow paced, neo realistic kind, I would say Marai Ilena.. is  a thrilling movie. From the moment Maria is lured by the drug traffickers, we feel tensed, may be more than Maria herself, and feels for her. That is the real success of this movie. Luckily for Maria, she is not hurt, and decides against going back to Columbia - as this would mean she will have to work as a mule again until she is caught or is killed like Lucy - but this does not happen without taking us through a lot of nervous moments. The scene where she swallows the pellets, the moments inside the flight including the one inside the toilet, the one with the customs officials in the airport and all are brilliantly shot that we can feel the tension so much to make ourselves feel nervous. Simple but brilliant, that is what I would say.

A very interesting aspect of the film, unlike other similar movies on drug trafficking, is that except when Maria is questioned in the airport, we do not come across any men in uniform at all. That was a great idea, and that makes this movie completely different too. The whole drama is built around the mental state of Maria. Brilliant.

It also made me think about some politics around the South and North, which I am afraid is not appropriate to discuss here.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Furyo Anego Den: Inochika Ocho - Female boss - Ocho Inochika

1973 by Norifumi Suzuki

Ocho witnesses her father getting killed, as a very young girl. The only way to recognise the killers are three cards similar to the tattoos on the back of the three killers. Ocho grows up as a skilled gambler, pick pocketer and swords woman. As per her promise to a dying gambler to save his sister from a brothel, she arrives into the region where the 3 killers reign in. Therein its all about her revenge.

Watching this movie, I was thinking how this movie was similar to many so called revenge movies of Hindi, Tamill and Malayalam in the early 80's. Japaneese movies were infamous for their so called Pinky violence of the 70's. This one is a master piece of that genre. Lots of nudity and fights. Thats it. May be the film has past its time, but for me it was not a good watch.

I will still have to talk about the high light of this film, Ocho walks out of her bath tub, completely nude, and fights a group of killers. This scene was incredible. I have never seen anything like that. Its not about just the central fighter being nude, its about the overall picturisation and the final impression this scene creates on us.  The camera doesnt shy away from the nude woman initially but towards the end of the fight it just follows only her legs and it was excellent how the fight ends. Also about the actress Reiko Ike. Salutes to her. That was a terrific effort. She is so bold to have done that nude fight. I cannot imagine how she managed it, being nude amongst so many men, all well dressed.

This movie is popular as Sex and Fury in the west. 

City of God

2011 by Lijo Jose Pellisserry

Has nothing to do with the Brazilian movie.

A Tamilian, Swarnavel, working at construction sites in Kochi city is attracted towards another Tamil woman Marathakam. Marathakam had actually eloped away from her abusing husband, leaving her little child under the care of a grand mother. There is also another guy who would like to marry Marathakam. When Swarnavel is just about to settle his life with Marathakam, her husband arrives. Swarnvel and Marathakam is running away from this  cruel husband who is also a policeman in Tamil Nadu.

Jyothilal is a close friend and henchman for Sony, a real estate don in the city, who will do anything for Sony. Sony  was reluctant to marry his love, Surya prabha, and left her, but when Surya turns into an upcoming film star, he want to reinvent their love. But Surya is married to another guy, who is be friended by Sony. Sony doesnt mind Surya being a wife, but just want to continue his love life with her and Surya is not for it.

When a business man from Dubai, who promised to sell a prominent land to Sony, change his mind Sony asks Jyothilal to kill him. The business man's wife, Viji, wants to revenge her husband's death and takes the help of Shameen, another real estate don.

Basically there are three main characters, Swarnavel, Jyothilal and Viji. Jyothilal's and Viji's lifes are connected because of the killing of Viji's husband, but the life of Swarnavel has nothing to do with these two, except that he is working in a site owned by Sony. However, at different points they cross each other and the movie is about these three characters, especially Swarnavel and Jyothilal, who come across incidents which are inter connected to others. Still Swarnavel, Jyothilal and Viji, even at the end of the movie, doesnt have a direct eye contact on each other is a good element on the script.

Lijo Jose showed some promise as a director with his first movie Nayakan. He wanted to take his second attempt to another level and he did have a good plot and script. But one matter that he chose to create a feeling of difference, is to show the same incident from the versions of two or three major characters. I simply didnt understand why he chose this way, because this is not a new style at all for most cine goers. Ameros Perros, Michael Clayton and there are many other famous movies which tried this. And even in South Indian languages, Virumandi and Yuva and even the recent Traffic used this style. I am not sure he used this style for a difference or for something novel or he thought that was the best way to say this story. Whatever, he has over done it, is the major draw back for City of God, which otherways is a very good movie. If he had used this style, showing  the same scene from the angles of various characters, only for a couple of major incidents, it would have been still good. But he used it even for some very silly scene and that really created a negative impact on the movie is beyond doubt.

Another point which was a set back was the shaky camera. It is an excellent technique, but it goes to a level enough to stress your eyes. But otherways the cinematography is really good and this is one movie which can  claim back the credit that settings of Malayalam movies are the most realistic, in Indian cinema, even in main stream movies.

I would have also preferred if the roles of Swarnavel and Marathakam were done by some real Tamil actors. Whatever, Malayalam is still poor when it comes to casting. Our directors are unable to look the otherway as far as actors are considered. Inspite of that, Indrajith who played Swarnavel deserves some award for the way in which he has done his job. He is more than excellent. Most actors did their job well, but three small characters, for me, requires special mention. Rohini, who played the midlle aged Tamil woman in the slum, the actor who played Shameen and the actor who played the thief, who wanted to marry Marathakam. Out of these it was Shameen who really surprised me. His is a very small role, nothing to do at all, but his subtle seductive looks at Viji were brilliant.

I would still say Rima Kallingal, playing Surya prabha, might have to improve her Malayalam accent, if she wants to look at Malayalam movies seriously. Right now she is just fine with her expressions. But the moment she speaks, it sounds like a funny TV anchor who speaks Malayalam with English accent.

Except for all th e above points, I would say, City of God is an excellent attempt and a good watch. In fact I was happy to see a contemporary story picturised nicely, in Malayalam. Some of the scenes; the problem in the cinema theatre, the scenes in the bar where Swarnavel is pursued to agree for Marathakam's marriage, the fight scene in the hotel parking etc were so brilliant that I am sure Lijo Jose Pellisserri is the most promising young director Malayalam have seen.

I just wish, the movie had tried a bit more straight forward style of story telling in some of those scenes where the scenes are repeated from different angles.

Also, the movie could have used a different title. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011


2011 by K V Anand

Ashwin is a young and daring photographer for a leading news paper. He doesn't mind taking extreme risks for a relevant cause or to even help out a colleague. The two leading political parties are fighting it out for the upcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. A new group of educated young professionals, lead by Vasanthan, who wish to see some change in the system also are contesting the elections. Ashwin and his colleagues helps to promote these youngsters, impressed by their sincerity, through their news paper. As the youngsters gather public support, there are many hurdles thrown on their path, possibly by the leading parties, which climaxes in a bomb explosion under the stage during their election campaign. Many of the young leaders are dead and Ashwin also lose one of his colleagues in the explosion. However, this off course pave the way to the victory of the young group. Vasanthan is the new chief minister.  Ashwin who was shocked by the lose of his colleague is still probing the incident and that leads into an interesting climax.

If not for some logical issues in the story, especially during the latter half, this would have been a perfect entertainer. It is still a good entertainer, provided we would ignore some of the questions that may arise towards the end of the second half.

The movie looks at politicians and their campaigns with some sarcasm, which is very good. Some of the ugly works by politicians, especially during the election campaign, is shown nicely. Offering money to voters, which is a common part of many Indian elections, is shown in a very practically possible way. It goes into detail about some struggles of news reporters and also takes a dig at some reporters who always have stupid questions, irrespective of the occasion. Then there is an interesting love triangle between Ashwin and his two lady reporters which draws some simple humour in the first half. The campaign of the young group is quite nice too, though similar things have occured more than a few times in the recent past. But the script and the director manages to keep it interesting.

I thought the script went ordinary, when it tries to bring out Ashwin as a super photo reporter, in the second half. Plus the many logical issues running into the climax also takes some credit out of the movie. But still, if we can over see that, we will still enjoy the climax. I also thought, trying to find unnecessary twists, like the history of Ashwin and Vasanthan, also took away some attraction of the movie. Even without this history behind, the tension between the two characters in the end would have remained in tact. More than anything, some time could have been gained and the movie would have been sleek.

Jeeva as Ashwin is charming and very good. However, it is Ajmal as Vasanthan who has done an excellent job. Here is a different character, with some out of the ordinary kind of scenes, and he has been very successful. After Anjathe and Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru, Ajmal again proves he holds a lot of promise. Piya Baajpai, as the bubbly Saro was also very good. A very very special mention to Prakash Raj as the chief minister. This man is definitely one of the best actors India have ever seen. Even in such a cameo role, he is brilliant. What an actor.

Music by Harris Jayaraj, was excellent. Almost all the songs are really good and are wonderfully picturised. Just that, at least one or two could have been avoided. Especially the one song which falls not much later after the bomb explosion, is a must cut as it broke the whole pace of the movie. But once again the songs are so beautifully picturised.

Ko is a good entertainer for any one wanting some good time in the theatre, and I am sure it is going to be a hit. 

Friday, 22 April 2011

Volkodav iz roda Serykh Psov - Wolfhound of the tribe of Grey Hounds

2007 Nikolay Lebedev

As a child Volkodav has to witness his father and pregnant mother and their whole tribe being massacred by an evil priest Zhadoba and his hench man, the man eater. Vokodav grow up as a slave in mines and his only goal is revenge. Zhadoba is a devotee of the goddess of Morana, who was imprisoned by the rulers of Galirad. Zhadoba needs goddess Morana to be back to ascertain his supremeness amongst the humans. For this he needs the blood of the princess of Galirad to be spilled on the key at the ancient shrine near the gates to heaven. Zhadoba is on a plan to attack Galirad to capture the princess. Vokodav manages to reach the castle of the Man eater and kill him. From here he also frees a slave woman and a blind sage with some special vision and healing powers. On the way back, he stops an attempt of Zhadoba to kidnap the princess. Promptly he is asked to accompany the princess to the Galirad and soon becomes the body guard of the princess. King of Galirad is wary of the attack of Zhadoba and in an attempt to bring in some peace has betrothed princess to the son of the Man eater. Princess has to go to the Man eaters castle and Volkodav travels with the party. There are cheaters amongst the princess entourage and they manage to drug Volkodav and this night Zhadoba attacks and kidnaps the princess. Volkodav follows, to the ancient shrine and rescues the princess and kills Zhadoba.

This story happens at a time when Gods walked among the humans and man wanted to be as powerful as the Gods. A beautiful story, like the ones we would love to hear from our grand parents, is made into a beautiful fantasy movie.

It is the settings of this movie that impressed me so much. Excellent. Especially the city of Galirad is being made to look like a city made of wooden logs, exactly how a tribal clan would have done it, is brilliantly set up. There is a kind of realistic feeling behind all these settings, without any gloss, and this is wonderful. There are beautiful shots of the landscapes and the low light scenes are excellent too. The ancient shrine at the gates to heavens is also a magnificient setting and I really doubt, Magadheera the Telugu movie has taken some inspiration from here.

The actress who played the princess, Oksana Akinshina, is lovely. Aleksandr Bukharov as Volkodav also impressed.

It was a real pity that I watch this movie on TV. This is a movie for the big screen. I had felt that the CG used was not brilliant towards the climax. But this could also be the effect of TV. This could have been grandeur on the big screen.

I must admit, I have never enjoyed the Lord of the rings or the Harry Potter kind of fantasy movies. I never understood the plot and always thought they were kind of computerised movies. Volkodav, I think, I would have enjoyed even without the subtitles. Because the story is simple and it is told in a simple way too. And the CG is never imposed on the viewer, except during the climax.

I was very curious about this movie and now I understand that this movie was made on a shoe string budget compared with the budget of similar fantasies from Hollywood. And this could be one reason why the director decided to picturise the movie in a kind of realistic settings mostly. But still the city of Galirad, the castle of Man eater and the ancient shrine settings , they all will hugely impress us.

When will Indians be able to watch main stream Russian movies in the theatre? Knowing that Magadheera became a huge hit in Andhra Pradesh, a movie like Volkodav will be a huge success in India. 

Thursday, 21 April 2011


2011 by Suraj

Tamil cinema going back to its stupid entertainer stuff of the 90's.

It has everything that you expect from a mediocre Tamil entertainer, comedians and comedy which has nothing to do with the main plot, hero and heroine with lot of difference between their standard of life, songs, fights and 'no questions please' kind of story and script. The only aim is to give some stupid fun to the viewer.

A big backwards step for Dhanush after Aadukalam. His charm is still unquestionable.

A friend told me, that Maapilai, still was a better watch than the two latest Malayalam entertainers - China Town & Doubles. For he didnt feel like cursing those behind this movie while watching.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Les Miserables - The Miserables

1998 by Bille August

Jean Valjean, a young man is arrested for stealing bread, and spends 20 years in a jail. While on Parole he promises to change to a new man, because of the kindness of a Bishop. 9 years later, he turns up as a wealthy industrialist and mayor of a small town. The new police officer to the town, Javert, had earlier worked in the jail and has doubts about the Mayor and has pledged to bring out the truth. Javert, though sincere, is too uptight and performs as a perfect employee for the system, without any kindness for even the suffering. Valjean promises to take care of the young daughter of a poor woman,who had worked in his factory. When an innocent man is arrested as Jean Valjean, mayor himself announces in the court that the man is innocent and the court should be checking on him. Valjean leaves the town with all his savings, finds the daughter of the dead woman, Cocette, and sneaks into Paris, where he works in a Convent and brings up his daughter. Javert is always on the look out of Valjean, who actually will not leave the convent at all and protects Cocette like his own daughter. In 10 years, when Cocette grows up into a beautiful young woman, she falls in love with a young revolutionary, Marius, whose group has big plans against the King. Javert is working to thwart their attempts, but still has plans to find out Valjean and through his informers finds all about Cocette and Valjean. Valjean wants to leave to England with Cocette, who actually is worried for Marius. Valjean goes to the riot site and asks Marius to return to Cocette, but is finally caught by Javert. Valjean pleads to Javert to arrest him and leave Marius. He promises to Javert to come back to him, after taking the injured Marius to safety. When Valjean returns, Javert is impressed by his honesty, lets him free and then kills himself. Valjean walks back as a happy man.

Based on the famous Victor Hugo novel, I am not really sure if the movie turned out great. Of course, I havent read the original novel. But I was sure that something was missing, when Javert commits suicide after letting Valjean free. That scene lacked any backing of the story or script. I was thinking, why should he do that. He is still a great police officer and by leaving him free, he finally show some kindness, can pretend nothing has happened, letting Valjean and daughter to escape to England etc. After all the mistake of Valjean is not a big crime, just stealing bread, and nobody other than him shows any interest in finding Valjean. But he kills himself. But then, this is the failure of the movie may be. Sure this must have been well explained in the novel.

Having said that, Les Miserables is still very good, excellent settings, photography and some beautiful acting, especially by Jeoffrey Rush as Javert and Liam Neeson as Valjean. Jeoffrey Rush is so good that we really start hating his character. Excellent performance. But Uma Thurman, as the mother of Cocette, was a poor choice.

However, I got really curious about this story and hence did some search and understand now, that there are many changes on the script from the original novel. Anyways, Les Miserables is a good watch. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Zorba the Greek

1964 by Michael Cacoyannis

Basil is a half English - half Greek writer, an uptight English man, on his way to Crete. He meets Zorba, a typical peasant to whom he says he wants to take care of an unused mine in his father's land. Zorba is confident of doing anything that is possible with his hands and legs and has some experience with mines too. He joins Basil on his way to Crete. They are welcome by the villagers and they spend their night at a hotel owned by a French war widow Madame Hortense. With his charming and kind nature Zorba gets  into a relationship with her soon. They also come across another young war widow who seems to be the centre of attraction of the whole village and because of her reluctance to entertain any man, she is looked at with both desire and contempt at the same time. A young man is really after her, but she doesnt respond to him at all. They also start working on their mine. There are some obstacles, like the availability of good wood, which is actually available high up on the mountain and brining it down to the mine region is quite a job. Zorba seems to have some vague plans for this. Zorba push Basil to go for the young widow who seems to have a liking for him, but Basil is too uptight to make any such moves. Zorba has to go to the nearby town to buy some materials for their project. He enjoys his time during these days too. Madame Hortense is very sad so Basil nearly convinces her that Zorba will come back to her and marry her. When Zorba is back he is not happy about what Basil promised to Hortense. Basil, finally took some courage and went to the young widow in a night. The young man who was desperate for the widow kills himself knowing about this. The village is so angry with the young widow and inspite of the efforts of Zorba and Basil, kills her. Madame Hortense also gets really sick and she dies and the villagers steal all her belongings. Zorba's plans for moving the forest wood to the mine is ready but it doesnt stand. Luckily there is no mis haps but the villagers flee the mine site. Basil is so disappointed and Zorba teaches him how to make his special dance. Zorba has changed the uptight British man to live and enjoy life and take the failures in its stride.

This movie, based on a novel, I would say is all about life. Zorba is a beautiful character who believes life is there to enjoy and one should never take any hesitation in enjoying anything that come across. Zorba is charming, clever, kind, adorable, strong and has a great flair for dancing too. He is excellent in making friends with anybody, even more so with women who will instantly fall for his sweet and kind demeanor. Zorba tells Basil, if a woman sleeps alone, that is the mistake of the men around. Zorba is a great character and it is brilliantly played by Anthony Quinn. What a performance from this amazing character. His enthusiasm is so much that it can spill across the screen to us viewers. Brilliant. Young Alan Bates as Basil has well under performed his role, which actually even increases the contrast between these two characters.

From the moment Zorba meets Basil, until they go into a dance, they both take us through many beautiful moments in this film. Madame Hortense is also a very interesting character, living on the thoughts of her past partners.

I have heard a lot about Crete and have a friend who actually owns a house there. They are supposed to be great people. However in this movie the villagers are quite horrible. The way they treat the young widow and kills her, was horrible. And the whole story continues as if nothing happened was quite beyond my sensibilities . The same when madame Hortense is sick. The old woman sneaking in, waiting for her death, so that they can take her belongings, was beautifully shot, but that picturises the Cretans in a very bad way and I cannot understand that.

Watch this movie for a brilliant performance from Anthony Quinn. What a great actor. He is also a wonderful dancer. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

Don't Look Now

1973  by Nicolas Roeg

John and Laura loses their daughter Christine in a tragic accident. John is now working in Venice, trying to restore an old church, and Laura accompanies him. In a restaurant, they meet two elderly sisters, one of whom, Heather, is blind. Heather tells Laura that she could see a little girl sitting between them and the girl was very happy. From the descriptions, Laura realises that Heather is talking about Christine and this actually brings back her happiness. She talks about this to John who doesnt believe all this but is happy to see the good mood with Laura. Laura again meets Heather, who warns her that John's life is in danger in Venice. She also tells her that John is actually gifted with the kind of second vision, she has. John is really angry as Laura looks so silly believing all this. They receive a call that their son is sick and Laura leaves for England. Later, John sees Laura and the two sisters on a boat and thinks Laura is in danger. Occassionally there are dead bodies found in the city which means a serial killer is present somewhere. John goes to police and informs them about the sisters. He contacts his sons school and is then pleasantly surprised to talk to Laura on the phone, who is getting ready to fly back to Italy. Police had by then arrested the sisters but John goes back to Police, apologises and helps Heather, back to her hotel. As John leaves Heather goes into a trance. Laura, guided by Police, arrive into Heather's room. Heather asks her to stop John. John, for the last many days have found the presence of a person in a red coat some where around, and as he comes out of Heather's hotel, spots this person again and decides to follow. Together with John, we too relaise then that John had this second visions and all along he was being warned about his own future.

After watching this brilliant movie, my first thought was, should this movie be released now I, by Indian standards, would have thought this movie is ahead of time. The fact that this one came out in 1973, makes it a super brilliant movie. I am so curious how people reacted to this movie then.

It is not a real horror movie, nor is it a real thriller or a drama about the grief of the parents who lost their loving daughter. It is a unique mix of all this and even more. I feel terribly sorry that I dont have the talent or vocabulary or anything that will help me write all my thoughts about this movie. Such a pity. So let me just note down some of the most brilliant aspects of this film.

A feeling of grief, horror and suspense through out the movie, which is told in an incredibly good and consistent pace.

The description of the serial killings, like routine elements in the city life, and how the person with the red coat is shown at the end, is brilliant. A master stroke, no words to explain. See it to believe it.

Brilliantly scripted and directed. I must specifically say about one important point. John sees Laura, after she has gone to London, with the sisters, in a moving boat which creates a lot of doubts for both him and the viewers. Later at the climax we see the same shot again and realise that Laura is actually on the funeral boat, standing together with the sisters. Without any difficulties, so simple actually, we are told that John was looking at his own future through out. Brilliant and beautiful, I must say.

Cinematography for the mood - excellent. Hardly will we think about the camera ever, while watching. An excellent and unique portrayal of Venice.

May be the best edited movie I have ever seen. From the very beginning of the movie we know that this is excellent but by the end we realise that the Editor Graeme Clifford is a maestro in his art. He did something , the quality of which was decades ahead of his time. Brilliant, Brilliant and Brilliant. It is unbelievable that this kind of a master class perfection was attained in the 1970's. No student of editing will want to miss this movie.

Excellent performance by all actors, especially by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.

I have heard many people talking about Shining, with that brilliant performance by Jack Nicholson, whenever they talk about horror and thriller movies. I am surprised why Dont Look now is never mentioned at all. May be it could be because of that explicit love making scene, which was beautifully shot and edited. True, it is not real horror nor is it a real thriller, but this movie can be all. It carries a very special atomosphere, which is quite chilling, making you to watch it even without blinking your eye. This doesnt mean you expect a horror scene at each turn or anything. But its different. As I said, I dont have enough talent to write about this movie. You have to see it to beleive it.

One of the best cinematic experiences, one may have, thats what I would say. A classic of an intelligent movie. Watch it, please, if you haven't already.

Many of those Hollywood flicks, we would not have appreciated as much, if we had watched this movie first. I can see where many of those 'world box office conquering' suspenses and surprises were inspired from. 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Brestskaya krepost - Brest Fortress

2010 by Alexander Kott

The Fortress which was about 100 years old by second world war changed hands of ownership many times before it was rested by Soviets. 22 June, 1941, on the very first day of the German invasion of USSR, the fort came under attack as Brest fort housed many Soviet military units and their families. They knew war was around but it all started suddenly with huge aerial bombing by the Germans. The whole army are seperated into few small units and this make their task of fighting back even difficult. Still, all got together put in a great fight for about 9 days. They did not have any back up, electricity, food or even water, but they fought unto death.

The movie is told through a child, who was part of the military orchestra, who witnessed the whole war and grow into a war veteran visiting the memorial at Brest.

Some would say, the story is very similar to Pearl Harbour, which I thought was a very bad movie, only smokes and flames and people running around, I could not complete that movie in theatre. But, Bestskaya Krepost, is one of the very best war movies I have ever seen. Excellent depiction of everything the script come across. Brilliant scenes unfold one after another that as the British would say it is bloody brilliant.

Brilliant settings, cinematography which can be told poetic inspite of shooting war mostly, all supported by excellent production values, and some brilliant performances by some of the recognisable faces who keeps repeating on the script, all brilliantly directed. A negative is that, other than for the fact that the fort is being attacked and the people are fighting the enemy and getting killed, there is no further development on the story. It is all about the valiant efforts of the people inside the fort. Nothing else. But at the same time, that is exactly what makes this movie even special. It still keeps you engaged through out for the whole length, slightly long by European standards - 130+ minutes, is a great achievement. Brestskaya Krepost does not show any drama or love with just war as the back ground, it is just showing the struggle of the human beings, forced to be engaged actively, in war.

I am not even able to list a couple of brilliant scenes, as I think there are too many of them.

When I was lead to this movie, I read comments by many, especially fellow Americans and British that this movie is well taken but is Soviet propaganda. I thought it has little propaganda than most western war movies.  I find American propaganda, sometimes even in their romantic comedies, that they accuse soviet propaganda on this movie, was quite funny. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Simple Plan

1998 by Sam Raimi

Two brothers - Hank and Jacob - and Jacob's friend Lou accidentally come across a downed plane. To their shock they find a bag with 4 million dollars inside. On the insistence of Lou, Hank didnt want this at all, they decide to take the money and wait to see if somebody come for it. If not, they will divide it between the three. Hank is the only univeristy graduate in the locality and has a peaceful life with his Expecting wife Sarah. Jacob is not a normal person, kind of dim witted, and Lou lives with his wife. It all looks quite simple but then surprises unfolds and the three end up killing a villager to protect their secret. And to make things even worse, Hank and Jacob kills Lou and his wife too. Finally, the local police officer too is killed. By this time Jacob gets quite fed up of all the made up stories he has to live with, upon Hank's insistence, and feels he have had enough and wants to kill himself if Hank doesnt do that. Hank escapes the law, but he is told by the FBI officers that they are waiting for somebody to start spending some of the marked bills from the 4 million. This shatters him and he burns the whole money and continues with his normal life, but without any peace of mind.

A very interesting plot for a movie and it has been developed into a good watch. The way money can change human nature, characters and relations is well brought out. But still one wonders about the lack of common sense among the characters, not always but at least a couple of times, especially for Hank, his wife and Lou. Since Jacob is portrayed as special, he can escape this though. And that, I thought, was the only major negative for this nice portrayal of human characters going mad, lured by the prospects of easy money.

If I had not watched 'Bowling for Columbine' , I would have also wondered about how easy it is for Americans to use guns. But that is how it is in America and this movie, I think, also points to the dangers that are just around, just because everybody can have a gun. Human beings can act terribly in split seconds and the availability of a gun makes them bloody killers, un intended. The scene where Lou and his wife are killed is very well shot and points to this aspect.

The performances are quite good, but I especially liked Billy Bob Thornton as Jacob. Excellent performance.

It is the setting and the photography which takes this movie to a different level from a normal good Hollywood experience. So many beautiful frames with the Whites. Excellent.

A Simple Plan is a very good dramatic thriller from Hollywood, quite different from the normal ones.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


2010 by Erik Skjoldbjaerg

On 5 April 2004, 11 men robbed the Nokas (a Nowegian Cash counting centre in Stavenger). They dressed themselves up like SWAT team and were armed. 7 men went inside the building collecting the cash in their bags and the rest guarded outside. They had blocked the police station entry with a burning trek, only a few minutes away from Nokas, delaying the arrival of the police. A real shoot out occured in the public square between the robbers and police in which a police chief was killed. The robbers manage to escape with 57.4 million Kroners.

This robbery was the largest in the history of Norway and this movie captures the incident just like it occured. Brilliant. The movie starts at 0310 hrs when the robbers are getting ready for the operation and ends at around 0830 hours when they manage to escape. In between it looks at the state of three groups of people, the robbers, the police and the bank staff. The robbers planning, nervousness and anticipation of the job is so nicely shot. The  situation with the police, who are short of staff and who really get caught because of the burning trek at their gate is even more well shot. Then there are the staff who manages to inform the police and sneak their way out of the bank.

I especially liked how the movie begins and carries forward until the shoot out. The robbers expected to break the glass wall on the back side of the bank with a sledge hammer and they thought the whole job will be done in 8 minutes. But the glass wall is so strong that it took more than 8 minutes just trying to break this wall. The scenes here itself take this movie to another level. Brilliant. However, this gives enough time for the staff to lock one of the locker rooms and escape. The disappointment of the robbers, unable to open a cash room, but just looking at the stacked cash across iron bars, was simply brilliant. So was the hapless situation of the police who were blocked by the clever idea to place a burning trek at their gate. But the final shoot out, I thought was rather unclear. Sure, the script is based on the real incidents and words from all those who were involved, but still I thought this was a very slight draw back. But may be that was how it worked on that day. Nobody seemed to know to whom or where they were shooting. And it is a miracle that only one got killed in this shoot out in a public place, where buses and public move between the robbers and police, amidst firing.

And almost all over the world the Police is not really equipped to meet a surprise situation.

All points to the script and director to make us feel for all three groups of people involved. That is excellent.

I really wonder how they managed to catch these robbers, later.

Nokas is a very different and excellent watch. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Jusan nin no Shikaku - 13 Assassins

2010 by Takashi Miike

Year 1844. The Samurai era is coming to an end. The Shogun's younger brother Lord Naritsugu is an out of this world sadist who rapes and kills just for pleasure. A government official commits suicide in protest on the news of his latest drama and an influential Govt. official, Sir Doi feels it is time to act. He asks a former Samurai officer Shinzaemon to assassinate Lord Naritsugu for the social cause. Shinzaemon makes a team of excellent samurais which itself is not an easy procedure and finally settles for a team of 12 inlcuding himself. They decide to attack Naritsugu and his entourage enroute his journey to home land. A chief Samurai officer, who had earlier worked under Shinzaemon has doubts about the conspiracy and he strengthens the security for the Lord. Shinzaemon and his team is joined by another man in the forest who makes the total of 13. Naritsugu and his entourage is cleverly trapped in a village and in the following battle almost everybody is killed, inlcuding 12 samurais.

For people like me, who watch a Japaneese movie occassionally, initially it felt like this is another Seven Samurais , but actually this movie is a remake of a 60's movie, which was inspired by the Seven Samurais. I havent seen the 60's version, but this is a very good movie.

The movie starts with a low pace, detailing some of the cruelties of Naritsugu. The scene where a woman whose limbs and toungue were cut off by the Lord, is presented to motivate Shinzaemon to accept the job was brilliant and touching. Finally here is a villain in all sense of that word, if given a chance even the audience would jump up and kill. From there on the script and director really make us crave for a win for the Samurais and keep us anticipating till the battle scene. The final battle is excellent, if not brilliant, except for a couple of shots where the CG, may be the only time it was done for the whole battle, looked quite mediocre. Having said that this is one of the best battle scenes we have seen, beautifully captured. Other than the martial art powers of the Samurais we would also appreciate their intelligence.

The movie is beautifully shot and I have to specify the quality of the sound recording in this one. Brilliant.

All the actors did very well but a few did stand out. First of all the actor who played Lord Naritsagu. Then the chief Samurai officer to the Lord.  Quite a different role here as he himselves is convinced abou the cruelty of Nartisugu but as a true Samurai he has to protect his Lord though and would give his life for a man who is not worth living.

There is a Ronin in the group of 13 Samurais who is shown as a master of sword work and who is capable of killing a very very large number of people. In the final battle, there is one particular scene where he is beautifully picturised as doing what is expected of him. May be scenes or shots were edited out as I thought this character was not really used. His role in the battle was a kind of diminished one.

This is a work from a director who was famous for his horror kind of movies, but I am sure he must have impressed a lot of critics with this classic entertainer.  

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Tom Yum Goong

2005 by Prachya Pinkaew

Kham belongs to a warrior clan who used to protect the Kings elephants during war. His father now has an elephant Por Yai and its calf Khorn. Kham treats these elephants like family. These elephants are stolen during a festival and smuggled to Australia. Kham arrives in Sydney in search of them and has to find the elephants. He finds some help from a Thai origin police officer. His enemies are from a huge mafia, led by a Eunuch with some deadly, massive body guards.

Just like the Jackie chan movies of 80's, its not about the story here, its all about martial art, Muay Thai. This young man, Tony Jaa, is a genius, brave, powerful and what not. Brilliant is not a word to describe some of the fights in this movie. We know for sure that there is no computer graphics, or wires or dupes used in Tony Jaa's fights. In fact he has even co choreographed the fights. Forget about the weak story or the script or the characters or the loop holes or the director. This is all about fights.

There is one particular fight scene, which is shot in a single shot. I think it must be about 4-5 minutes, where Jaa walks up a many storeyed building and fights with many people. This is taken in a single shot and I dont remember seeing any thing like that in my whole experience with movies. How to think about the possibility, plan it, choreograph it and execute it and it has come out perfect, I will salute Jaa and his team for this scene alone. I remember the Russian movie where the whole movie was taken in a single shot, which I thought was superb choreography. But to have a whole scene of fight sequence where one man takes on so many (destroying many props) others in a single shot is 100 times more difficult than what we see in Russian Ark, with all respects to the makers of Russian Ark. I could not resist looking up in the net, and I found this - According to the director, on the special edition DVD, the continuous fight scene took five full takes for a variety of reasons, including stunt objects not breaking and the stunt mat not being in place in time. The five takes were filmed over a one-month period.

Again, there were few more other fights which were brilliant, especially one in a budhist temple. I must admit this was may be the best one on one fights I have ever seen in any movies. 

I have to also say a word about the co fighters in this movie. Tony Jaa's action look so fast and precise and powerful that I cannot imagine how the co fighters could bear it. Sure, many must have felt the heat and pain during the shoots.

Watch Tom Yum Goong, if you are really interested in action, un adulterered action.

Apart from the action scenes, there are also some beautiful shots of Kham with the elephants. Very nicely shot.

I salute Tony Jaa. I can imagine the kind of hard work he has put behind this role. Brilliant.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Secret of Santa Vittoria

1969 by Stanley Kramer

Its second world war time. Mussolini is just been deposed and Germans are occupying most of Italy. Santa Vittoria is a small village/town where Wine is the back bone of the society. Bombolini is considered a drunken clown, as he is always drunk and his wife Rosa treats him like a worker or dog. She has utter contempt for the man who is just drunk all the time, a useless husband and father. Bombolini climbs up the huge water tank to earse the words praising Mussolini, but he is too drunk that he is just weak to do anything. Villagers think he is going to kill himself and Fabio, the only university student in the village, climbs up the tank to bring him down. Villagers chant the name of Bombolini, just to motivate him, while he is climbing down the tank. The fascist members of the council, who are in the town hall, afraid to go out, hear these chants and thinks the villagers have selected Bombolini as the next mayor. To save themselves from the mob (fascists have treated the peasants really bad during Mussolini's reign) they come out of the hall and announces Bombolini will be the new Mayor. Bombolini is shocked, but accepts this chance without a second thought. He reads Machiavilli's Prince and earms some weird idea about administration and manipulation. To appease the villagers, he select the most prominent people in the village as his council of ministers. He hope all this will find him some credit in his home, but Rosa is a strong woman and treats him even harder than earlier.

Fabio brings in the news that Germans will come to Santo Vittario to take their wine. The village is shocked. Tufa, a fascist soldier, who left the army, advise Bombolini to keep all the wine in the tunnels in the ancient Roman cave and cover up the tunnels. More than a million bottle of wine are transfered by hand, by the Santa Vittorians, to the tunnels in the Roman cave and are covered with double brick walls. They leave about 300000 bottles in the cooperative cellar, to deceive the Germans. They now wait for the Germans and a small team of Germans led by Captain Von Prum arrives in Santa Vittoria. Bombolini have decided to butter the German noses so that no harm is done to any villagers. When Von prum asks for the wine, Bombolini negotiates with him desperately for some percentage of the wine, in the cooperative cellar, to be left for the villagers, if not that would be a disaster for the village. Von Prum beleives him. However, from the records of the company, who used to buy the wine from Santa Vittoria, German special services understand that there were more than a million bottles of wine in Santa Vittoria and the villagers are cheating. Von Prum asks for 36 hours, before the special services can torture some villagers to find out the truth about the wine. His troups search the whole village but they cannot find the wine. At the end of 36 hours, Bombolini, intelligently, presents two ex fascists as the villagers to the special services to torture. Finally the special services are sure that there is no more wine in the village and agrees with the Captain that its time to leave the village. Von Prum, by now, is sure that Bombolini is cheating him and as a last ditch effort, announces Tufa would be shot at 06 am, the day when the Germans have to leave the village, if the secret is not revealed. In the morning, he points a gun at Tufa and screams for the whereabouts of the wine, but Tufa, Bombolini and the whole village keep on saying there is no wine. Von prum sets Tufa free and just before he leaves, pleads to Bombolini to reveal the secret, only the secret he doesnt need the wine, but to no avail. Bombolini then presents a bottle of wine to Von Prum and as the Germans leave he dances out his joy with the whole village. Even Rosa appreciates him now and joins him.

What a beautiful movie. Here is a movie where within few minutes we know that we are watching a great movie and as time pass our appreciation for the movie only grows. Brilliant scenes follow one after another that by the end, we would like to join the dancing Santa Vittorians. The scene where Fabio saves Bombolini is well taken and I thought excellent. But the scenes that follow are even more excellent. This movie can be treated as a comedy or even an adventure, it offers everything. Most scenes inlcuding Bombolini, and he is there in almost all the scenes, are so funny but towards the end when Bombolini acts more like a responsible Mayor the movie is kind of a thriller and there is enough drama too through the characters of Tufa, Catarina and Von Prum. The love between Tufa and Catarina and the forceful intrusion by Von Prum is an excellent sub plot which makes the final scenes more dramatic in this comic thriller. This sub plot is still not permitted to take away the attention from the major plot. Excellent script and direction I must say. The scene and dialogues between Bombolini and his daughter and with Rosa and the daughter are brilliantly hilarious. No words to describe. So is the final scene with Bombolini and the captain.
Bombolini presents the wine bottle to the captain and says 'its not a great wine, but its not bad'.
The captain replies 'are you sure you can spare it?' and
Bombolini 'oh theres one million more where this came from'.

It has to be seen to realise the magnificence of the expressions on the face of Bombolini and Van Prom at this stage.

This movie is all about the character of Bombolini, more than brilliantly played by Anthony Quinn. Bombolini is present in all most all the scenes of this movie and he grows as a character scene by scene and Quinn seems to instill more and more life and blood into it as he grows. He keeps on surprising us with his performance that  by the end I was wondering, if there is anything that is impossible for this man to perform. Here is a magician of an actor. If I must list, I will have to list almost all the scenes where he is brilliant, but some of them were hypnotic. The scene when he reacts to the announcement that he is the Mayor, when he listens to his daughter, who proclaims her love for Fabio and his looks at her breasts, when he pleads to Rosa to not beat him on his head, when he announces the council of ministers, when Tauf tells him how to hide the wine, his welcome of Germans, his reaction and bargaining when the captain ask for wine, when he pleads his idea to torture only the two fascists and his reactions when they are tortured and so on and finally the scenes at the square. I would rate this performance from Anthony Quinn as one of the very best performances by any actor I have ever seen.

But it is not completely a one man show. Anna Magnani as Rosa Bombolini is brilliant. She has taken Rosa to a different diamension I think, with the few scenes she got. The other major players like Van Prom, Catarina, Tauf, Fabio and Bombolini's daughter all are excellent.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria was an American production, but it is more like an Italian movie, except for the language of English. All these Italian characters speaking in English was the only serious draw back for me. They do talk with Italian accents and with perfect Italian mannerisms, but that was a sour point. I would really love to see this in Italian.

It is surprising that this movie is highly under rated. The Secret of Santa Vittoria would be an all time favourite for me.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Pedar - the father

1996 by Majid Majidi

Mehrollah's, a teenager, father gets killed while teaching him to ride a motor bike. To support his poor family, mother and 3 young sisters, Mehrollah goes to the nearby town to work. After long time, he is back to his village, with a bundle full of gifts for his mother and sisters. On arrival in his village, he is told by his friend Latif, that his mother had married a police man. Mehrollah is really affected by the news. He goes to the policeman's home, throws away his gift bundle and returns. Later he confronts his mother for the reason for this marriage. The mother confirms that there was no other way than to marry this gentle man, who also spend a lot of money when his sister got ill. Mehrollah however cannot accept the truth and he wants to teach the police man a lesson. When Mehrollah gets injured, the policeman takes him to his own home where the mother takes care of him. Back to normal health, Mehrollah steals the policeman's service revolver and elopes. His step father is mad and sets out in search of Mehrollah. He spots Mehrollah in the town, arrests him and proceeds back to the village, on his bike. Enroute, the bike doesnt work and they have to walk through the desert, a tedious journey which brings them closer.

I am not sure if any other country in the world makes so many simple, but beautiful, movies like Iran. Here is yet another simple story from Iran, told nicely.

Mehrollah's anger and madness at his step father and his love for his sisters are all so nicely told, but I am afraid it doesnt clarify the reason why he is so mad at the police man, inspite of being told that he is a nice man and he spend a lot of money for the treatment of his sister. The step father is also ready to accept Mehrollah as a son and even welcomes him to his home, but Mehrollah is really mad at this man. Is it because, he is not happy that his mother remarried without checking with him, or is it that he lost his place as the bread earner for his mother and sisters or is it simple jealousy, am afraid it is not clear.

There are more than a few very touching and funny scenes in this movie. Mehrollah's attempt to kidnap his sisters, his reunion with his sisters, his fight with his mother are all so well shot. So is his attempt to escape from his step father while they are on the bike. And their journey afterwards through the desert, till the end, is definitely brilliant. The way their feelings come out for each other, amidst games played by nature, I would say, is definitely the highlight of this movie. Mehrollah, in the beginning of the movie, had lost a photograph of him with his father in the stream. In the climax, just after he had pulled his step father to a stream, a family photo (his mother and sisters with the step father) falls out from the father and flows across to Mehrollah. This was quite poetic way of saying Mehrollah was accepting his new family.

Mehrollah is definitely the majore player here, but I was more impressed by the performance of the step father and the boy Latif. Latif acts like a stupid, hard working and suffering, boy who is like the mediator between Mehrollah and his mother and his innocence and naivity was quite nice to watch. The child actor did so well and they way he cried, when he is caught and put back in a bus by the polce man , was brilliant. So was his betrayal of Mehrollah during the kidnapping scene. Mohammed Kasebi as the policeman was also really good. The mother also had to do some really nice subtle expressions.

The movie also has some good bits of music and a simple, but excellent, cinematography.

This is still not as great as Children of Heaven or Song of Sparrows, but I liked Pedar very much. 

Monday, 4 April 2011

Bal - Honey

2010 by Semi Kaplanoglu

A young boy, Yousuf, is a stutter and is very very quite. He is open only towards his father, who keeps bees and sells honey for living. Father, hence, spend most of his time in the nearby forests. Yousuf is not even close to his mother. Even in school he is not smart enough to get any recognitions. One day, his father who had left for the forest, doesn't come back. Yousuf is really depressed by the absence of  his father. His mother is also getting really disturbed. Yousuf knows his father's route almost and goes to the forest by himself, in search of his father. He realises that his father is dead.

A story of daily livelihood from a child's perspective. And it is told as if a camera is following the child and his family that it is so realistic that it is so slow. To add more, there are not any kind of emotions or expressions in this working class 'nuclear family'. The result, Bal turns out as a great attempt, but it is a tedious watch. I think it is a good movie, but it is difficult to complete it without ever feeling asleep, especially if you are watching it in the late hours, like me.

The charm of the boy, Yousuf and the charm of the beautiful locales are the big pluses for this movie. But the movie concentrates really on the simple living of a child and his father, in an unbelievable sense of realism, that it gets too slow, painfully slow. Except for the death of the father, there is absolutely no drama at all, happening in this family, which makes this movie, a strange experience.

I cannot think about any other movie, I ever saw, being so calm for its whole length.

Absolutely calm and quite movie. A unique effort, though.  

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Ong Bak

2003 by Prachya Pinkaew , second watch because of a dvd confusion

An ancient Budha statue, the priced possession of a village, is stolen. Villagers desperately want to find it and Ting, the best martial artist in the village, volunteers for the job. Ting is excellent in Muay Thai, a traditional martial art but vows to his teacher never to use it for personal gains. He goes to Bangkok and has to engage in a one man fight with the underworld to bring back Ong Bak to his village.

A simple story, but is an excellent watch, especially if one is interested by martial arts. Tony Jaa, the new star, trained Muay Boran, the ancient form of Muay Thai for 4 years, in preparing for the shoot. The results are there to be seen. All his fights are brilliant and so are his acrobatics. We see him doing something and we think oh thats brilliant, and then he does something even more dangerous and beautiful in the next scene. Brilliant.

Another highlight of the movie is its Cinematography. It is so good that often we would not notice the camera at all. Excellent work. 

Friday, 1 April 2011


2011 by Santhosh Sivan

Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India and arrived in North Kerala in 1498. When he came back in 1502 he had more plans than trade. He massacres the pilgrims aboard a ship coming back from Mecca. Kothuvaal, a local hero fights him but is killed too. Kelu, the young boy of Kothuvaal saves his life and meets Vavvali and are bought up as brothers by his mother. Kelu makes a Urumi (a two edged, long flexible sword, a traditional weapon in South Indian martial art) plated with the gold that he collected from the dead bodies of the pilgrims. He awaits the coming back of Gama to take his revenge. Gama is coming back to Kerala after 22 years. Kelu and Vavvali saves Bala, the princess of Chirackal palace (a prominent local chieftain). Chirackal king is against the invading Europeans, plundering the wealth of his native land, but his minister and son, and so do many other chieftains, supports Gama. King ask Kelu to save the life of a prince from the Arackal palace, who will be hanged by Gama. During this mission, Kelu meets Ayesha, the princess of Arakkal who is also ready to fight Gama. The three make a daring team, weaving their plans amidst the local politics between chieftains, and fight Gama and his son. In the final battle, Kelu gets really close to killing Gama, seriourly injuring him, but is shot down right before. (Some of my friends think Gama is killed at the end, while I thought Kelu was shot even before he could make that final blow)

That makes an excellent story, a mix of reality and fantasy, for an excellent period movie. But Mr. Sivan thought differently and the movie is told from the present. Two friends, in need of money, have to sell their ancestral forest land to a multi national mining company, just for making huge profits. But a school for the tribals in the region run by an NGO and the tribals themselves oppose this project as that will harm their lives as well as the ecology. Some tribal activists kidnaps the friends and explain them the story behind the region. That is how the main story, ie the revenge of Kelu - a boy who wanted to kill Vasco da Gama, of the movie unfolds. Realising the need to preserve the nature and its aboriginals and how hard the ancestors had fought for the same, the young friends decides against selling their land.

Both these could have been two different movies. Mr. Sivan, I think , wanted to pass this all important message to the Indian affluents, who are turning more western than the west, forgetting our own past, heritage, our natural wealths, causing lot of harm for the aboriginals of India and our nature in the name of development. The message is quite clear and I hope many might take a note of the same. But for me, Urumi as a period movie would have been better without this story of the present. For sure, it would have reduced its length.

Having said that, I must confess that Mr. Sivan has joined both these stories in a nice way, two ways actually

- He have used the same faces in both the past and the present, giving freedom to the viewer to interpret these modern guys as reincarnations of the historical characters.
- He have also completed the unfinished love story between Kelu and Ayesha, in the present. This too is open to interpretation especially because the modern character of Ayesha is described as somebody with mental problems. It is impossible for a modern young guy to love her. But the final scene where the modern day Ayesha unfurls the Urumi, the same one used by Kelu in the 16th C, there is a spark in her eyes which could be interpreted as if .....

The main story, I would say, is brilliant in some scenes, very good in many scenes and mediocre in a few scenes. Some of the scenes with Chirakkal King, his minister, Kelu and Vavvali, some between Kelu and Ayesha and some between Vavvali and Bala are all excellent not just in the way they are shot but also because of the strength and beauty of the dialogues. Especially in the first half of the movie, the script has taken every care to ensure the scenes are sleek and to the point and are well shot too. But in the second half, may be this extra vigil is not always there and it felt like movie would do better with some editing. Even the dialogues tend to be ordinary. The settings and the ambience are all excellent. However the excellence is marred by some completely unwanted songs. No doubt, the songs are picturised beautifully, but they do break the pace of the movie and felt like intrusions in story telling. Except for the very first song and a small interlude when Vavvali dances his heart out, I thought Urumi would have been a more sleek period film without the songs. And finally the final war itself, as always in Indian cinema, is mediocre.

Tahaan was the last Santhosh Sivan movie I saw and hence my expectations were very high, may be. He of course have done a great job. Some song sequences, the first fight scene were Kelu and Vavvali saves Bala, the fight between Vavvali and Gama's son are all brilliant, I would say. Even during the final war, there are shots which are quite poetic. But Mr. Sivan, I am afraid, could not be consistent with this brilliance through out the movie, both as the director and the cinematographer. The song sequence between Kelu and Ayesha and some shots during the final war were all poetic camera work, may I say. But there are also scenes, were I doubted, if these are from Santosh Sivan at all, some indoor scenes to be more precise. There are more than a few shots where the white's are overtly over exposed. I dont know if this movie was shot on film. The theatre I watched, which was using Satellite projection, may be, was having some problems, may be.

There are also few other things that I would like to point out. The script make sure that there are no unwanted references to any religions in Kerala, which was a highlight of Keralan society in the medieval centuries. Caste played a big role, but not the religion. It is after decades that Indian cinema shows a hindu in love with a muslim girl and a muslim in love with a hindu girl, without any mention about their religious differences at all. It also depicts incidents of Hindu rulers raping Muslim women and young girls. For all, this I have to congratulate Mr. Sivan and Mr. Shankar Ramakrishnan. But still, Ayesha who was portrayed like a lioness, ends up like nothing in the movie. A kind of incompleteness was felt with her character there.  I also like to point out something, the use of the singing couple - Pulluvan paattu - in front of the Chirackal palace, as an excellent idea, well executed, to bring out that old world feeling.

The movie would do great for Jagathy Sreekumar (the minister), Prabhu Deva (Vavvali), Genelia (Ayesha), Prathviraj (Kelu) and Nithya Menon (Bala). Jagathy after long has got a role of substance and he was brilliant, the best actor from the whole movie. Prabhu Deva, I doubt, if he will ever get a role of same stature, but he has taken this opportunity with atmost sincerity and excelled as Vavvali. The only small song, which I thought fit into the mood of the movie, which falls in the second half, he dances his heart out and that scene is beautiful. I thought, it was quite appropriate that, only Vavvali dances (his character is of Tamil origin) and the Keralites (who dont believe in such expressions of joy, like dancing) sitting around just watching. Genelia has got a very different role and she has tried her best to excell and is really good. I would still say she is best fit for her roles like in Sachin or Bommarallu (Santhosh Subramaniam). There is a scene in which Kelu is trying to motivate the peasants to join him in the war. Ayesha is seen sitting in the background. Her posture, for a princess from the most prominent Muslim rulers of Kerala, was quite strange and even modern. This is not her fault, but that shot stood out as something un appropriate. Nithya surprised me as the Chirackal princess. Here is a role in which she doesnt have much to do but she has excelled in it. Her subtle expressions of anger and seduction were excellent. I really hope she will look into more serious roles in the future. And finally Prithviraj as Kelu is the major star attraction. There is no question about his charm and the effort he has taken for this role. His dialogue delivery, especially in the first half, was really good. But I really felt, he might have wasted an opportunity in taking this character to another level, like what Mammooty did with Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. And it would be a sin to not mention about two small characters. Arya as Kelus father and the actor who played Chirackal king, who also were excellent.

I also have to say that the background score was excellent for most parts. The particular bit played for scenes between Vavvali and Bala, was brilliant.

Whatever, I was very happy to see Urumi. I would consider it as the best period movie in Malayalam, after Vaishaali, Perumthachan, Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha and Parinayam, inspite of all its short comings. May be it would have been great if it was scripted by M. T. Vasudevannair, who scripted all those movies of the 80's.

I thank Santhosh Sivan and his team, for making a good movie in Malayalam.

When I saw the stills before the movie, I thought - ah.. three gorgeous women (Tabu, Vidya Balan and Nithya) and Genelia here. But it just turned out for Nithya and Genelia only. Tabu and Vidya doing only some cameos.