Monday, 30 September 2013

Onaayum Aattukuttiyum - probably the best thriller ever, from India!

Onaayum Aattukuttiyum by Misskin - Tamil 2013

Within an hour or so, I was sure that I was watching arguably the best thriller from Indian cinema. By the end of it, I thought there was no other Indian movie, that could be compared with OA. If any one thinks there is one, let me know please. However, OA is not just a thrilling movie. There are multi layers to it, that elevates the movie to an even higher level than a brilliant thriller.

I didnt know at all that Mysskin was releasing a new movie. My last experience with him, after the brilliant Yudham Sei, was a terrible disappointment. I could not believe somebody like Mysskin would go for a commerical potboiler like Mughamoodi. But the posters of OA sparked my interest right away, the design and the name - Onaayum Aattukuttiyum (The Wolf and the Lamb) was so appealing that I decided to watch it even before I saw the name of Mysskin in small fonts, under the title. There were hardly 20 people in the cinema and with the very first shot - a dark top angle view of an over bridge and an injured man running into the middle- I think the director impressed me. I am sure he had impressed almost every body inside.

Chandru, a medical student, finds an injured man by the road side, late at night. He tries hard to get help for the man, but hey this is India. Hospitals, Police they all have their own ways. Finally he has to use his own surgical knife, with the help of his teacher (over phone). What follows for Chandru is a day and (majorly) a long night of life inspiring/changing incidents. 

There are only a few main characters, and many supporting ones. But even the supporting extra characters impress, each one of them, is not a small feat. The movie proceeds from one dark side of the city to the other to the final Cemetry, and the viewer is more than engaged, inspite of having no idea about the story behind 'Wolf'. The thrilling thread is brilliantly woven to keep the viewer engaged. But the identity of some indivduals joining in different moments, stretching the suspense, can make us wonder -  what the hell is happening!!! In that brilliant Cemetery scene, when a fable is told, finally we get the picture. I thought that was a master stroke by Mysskin. Have we ever witnessed anything like this in Indian cinema, when the great Indian technique of 'flash back' is ignored and a kind of short bed time story is narrated out to explain, the events. Among the many scenes, which will make you want to salute Misskin, this story telling moment is one of the best.

The thrilling scene in front of a temple involving the blind mother, the one after that which involves the two police men, the scene in which a police officer speaks out, the final basement ... there are so many superb scenes. In fact more than 90% of the scenes are superb by themselves. I am wondering, if  Mysskin wrote the script for OA , as if he was scripting Theatre. The scenes shift from one part of the city to the other and the events and the story slowly unfolds in these different venues. I don't think (not sure), if any of the venue comes back in the script. As the venues change, we can also feel that the movie is going up from one level to other, to a level superior in quality and feel to the previous one. Incredible it was. I am afraid, I am not explaining it well enough.

Brilliant performances by every one in the movie, may I say. That is quite abnormal for Indian cinema. Mysskin has managed to make Camera and Background music two characters by itself. Especially the BGM  by Ialaiyaraja will get a lot of reviews. I am not saying OA is a perfect movie. There are few glitches here and there and the one which stood out for me was the performance of Mysskin during the story narration. A bit more subtlety might have made it even brilliant At the same, this is not a polished character, so... But no compliants, Mysskin is definitely the man here. He has scripted, directed and acted in one of the most important roles too. What a make over as an actor, from Nandalala to OA. And an even higher leap to a high quality director.

Mysskin deserves a place among the best directors from India. Friends, we have a man who can make our own movies, in a level even better than what you expect from the ones like Tarantino (I dont like most Tarantino movies).  This movie, if marketed well, can make India proud internationally. Of course, one might think about some of those Korean revenge sagas, but thats it, OA is quite a different kind of Indian saga from Tamil.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Sarah Lund in Forbrydelsen; In love with a character!!!

Forbrydelsen (The Killing), Dannish TV series, a Thriller, created by Soren Sviestrup

It was my research on Viking, that lead me to Forbrydelsen. People from around the world were discussing this detective series from Denmark. So my expectations were quite high and it took some time for me to get into the feel of the story. In Forbrydelsen, the script delves seriously into 3 sides, the detectives, the victims family and the political side. The screen time is almost equally divided between these three, and it is brilliantly realistic. Morevoer, unlike in any other detective story, here a lot of impetus is given on the victims family and how a crime affects the political scenario, that too with lots of details. Naturally, it takes some time to understand a different kind of culture and set up. However, soon we are in, and there after it is a thrilling ride. Almost all the important details happen in front of the camera, lots of matters are not explained, but the viewer has to think to make it out and there is a kind of subtlety to every aspect - acting or settings or cinematography or background score and what not. I am out of words to explain, how brilliant this was. Every thing looks so normal, there is not even an iota of exaggeration on any aspect, and it will keep you hooked for the whole length (20 episodes for season 1 and 10 for 2). I have now watched both the first and second seasons of Forbrydelsen and I will give a 10/10 for season 1 and 9/10 for season 2. I think, that says a lot.

An absolutely 'out of this world' kind of creation, by Soren Sviestrup. The brain of this man should be preserved and studied. What a genius. The kind of details he delves into, for the three aspects of the story, is brilliant. Each and every character gives a normal, subtle, performance. In whole, the treatment is against all conventional ways of making a thriller. Not to ignore that he has managed a thriller, with hardly any action element. I must also say, another high point of the series is its background score, by Frans Bak. Especially, loved the piece that flows into towards the end credits.

Well, the main attraction of this series is its main CID, Sarah Lund. Yes, the main detective is a woman, an ordinary woman. She doesnt have any super heroine looks nor is she superiorly intelligent to others around her. Here is an ordinary woman, absolutely ordinary in all aspects, except that she is very intutive and she gets immersed in what she is doing, with full passion and is quite a hard worker. She doesnt even seem to have changed her clothes for days. (a jumper she wore, is said to have been a big hit across the world that it was being sold like hot cakes, online) Sarah Lund, unlike all other detectives, is not an all in one machine. She ends up making mistakes, leading to real blunders sometimes and is error prone like any normal being. As I said, this series is synonym of Normality on screen and Lund is the hall mark. She rarely even attempts a smile, and almost always have a blunt expression-less face. But whenever the camera is on her, we can see that her mind is working, thinking hard, and we feel for her. It is beyond any explanation, for me, how she managed to pull this character off so effectively.

I have watched couple of other movies, after watching Forbydelsen, but in the last days I have thought about Sarah Lund, as much as I have thought about my dear wife or about my work or about Leo Messi. She is not leaving my thoughts, from my mind. I have to say, for the first time in my life, I am in love with a character. I searched for the actor who have played her, brilliantly portrayed by Sofie Grabol, and I plan to watch more movies of her, but it is Sarah Lund who is wandering around in my thoughts. What a character? I never thought, I would ever get so much attached to a character on screen. I had liked many actors, have adored Maradona and Messi but never did I got into love with a character. I cant believe this, so forgive me for repeating.

I cant help posting a photo of Sarah Lund (This looks like a promotional photo, rather than a still from the series)

I realise that I have got too much into it, that I decided to watch the season 3, later. 

Friends, if you like to watch the best investigative movie (of course, its a TV series, but I cant think about a better movie), watch this. You can find torrents easily and make sure you download the original Dannish one, with English subtitles. Like always, it was immediately remade in America and European critics are slamming it on most points. So please avoid it.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Viking - A Tv serial about the historical Viking Ragnar Lothbrok

Forbrydelsen - A Tv serial about an investigation on the murder of a school girl

The last time I watched a TV serial could be probably Kairalee vilasom lodge, in DD in the 80's. Nowadays TV, for me, is only for football and may be an odd movie, once in a very very long while. Couple of years before I watched the full series of Faulty Towers,(which was from mid 70's), and realised that there are gems on TV, in Europe. I have watched Faulty Towers more than 10 times now.  I always thought I will try to find similar ones, but never really pursued, watched Blackadder, though. So it was just by luck, that I saw the cd of Vikings, at my cd friend, who had mistakenly placed this cd, amongst Hollywood section and if not for its cover, I would have completely ignored it. How lucky I was. The synopsis was very brief and I decided to take it only because of my interest in European history.

Vikings were Scandinavians, sea fearers, who raided across Europe and Asia, between the 8th and 11th centuries. This TV serial is an Irish - Canadian co production for the History channel. It follows the tales of Ragnar Lothbrok, the man who first sailed west, and was feared by European rulers. But this is not just a war story. It is a brilliant picturisation of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, and through him, his wife and children and his brother and the others, the series takes us to a different period in history, quite a different world for us. But the characteristics of these historic people has been wonderfully sketched that we can feel them all. 

I am sorry, I dont have the writing capacity to write about this series. All I can say is, friends, please do not miss this one. There are 9 episodes and it might take some time for you to get into its feel, you will soon, most probably, latest by the middle of the second episode, and then its an incredible journey. I watched the whole cd, in two sittings, in two nights. If you have time, you might even finish it in a day - above 400 minutes, I think.

The only issue (?) was, the end of the Viking Season 1, the 9th episode, is terrifically unique. I was screaming, when I realised that the cd had actually ended and there is nothing more left, for it ended at a very important point in the story. It is indescribable boldness from the side of the director, Michael Hirst, to do so. Sure we will feel yearning for the rest. And that is exactly what has happened the world over. People are desperate for the second season. I cannot wait for another few months to watch the second season.

Right at the end, I started researching on Vikings and it lead me to something else. I already knew that Denmark makes excellent movies. Now I know, they also make the best thrillers/investigation dramas, for their TV.

I have started watching another series, Forbrydelsen  (The Killing) - and couple of episodes after I am stunned by the quality of this one. I read that it has been already remade in many other countries (of course, first by USA. BBC showed the original Dannish series with subtitles), may be it would come to India too. Real classic investigation. Unlike in Indian movies where a detective or lawyer explains everything to the viewer, the whole investigation process happens in front of the camera. (I think it was only in Yudham Sei, the Tamil movie, there was even some kind of attempt at this way of story telling, rather than everything coming out by dialogues). Forbrydelsen looks like a brilliant series and I am so glad I have discovered this one, thanks to Vikings.

If you are looking for torrents, make sure it is the original Dannish one, not the American remake, which is also named as Killing.My sincere thanks to internet, that I can watch all these pieces of art from distant world.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Viceværten - A Caretakers Tale

by Katrine Wiedemann - Dannish - 2011

I am still looking forward to write my comments on some of my favourite movies in the recent past. Amour staying high on the list. No other movie made me cry, like Amour did. Tears rolled down for long periods, while watching Amour. Still, I have been postponing it. I do not want to postpone at all, my comments on this small gem from Denmark, Viceværten - A Caretakers Tale. Quite a movie, with that rare poetic touch.

Per, a caretaker of an apartment building, is tired of his life. His wife left him, his lowlife son is just out of prison and will move out with his mother and so on. And out of some blue, during his work in an empty flat, he sees a smiling girl on the floor, draped in a transparent cloth, yet naked. He soon finds out that she is not a hooker or an illegal immigrant. May be because of his state of mind, he turns out a pure maochist and rapes her. But to his atmost surprise, realise that the girl loved it. It was never a rape for her. In fact, she is simply craving for more and more sex. 

So here is a girl, who seems to have fallen out of the sky, no talking or walking, just smiling out for more sex. Per soon realises that he might be the luckiest man there is. Some long lost enthusiasm is back on his face and he is unable to cover it from his stupid friends. To cheer up one of them, lonely in life and waiting for a knee surgery, he take his friend to the girl who happily accepts him. Well, the friend comes back to him to say the girl is too special, that ever since his meeting with her, he has lost his knee pain and he will not need to go under knife anymore. His friend is too kind to keep this a secret and wants to help the needy people around. And the girl is happy to accept anybody too.

For the sake of anybody wanting to watch this lovely movie, I won't go further into the story. But here is a gem of a story, a lovely piece of fantasy. Except for sex, it has elements which we would find in a kid's bed time story. I would say, even for an adult, this is a perfect bed time story. And it is a gem of a cinema as well. Wonderful performances, an understanding cinematographer and a brilliant director.

The mythical character of this girl, who keeps on smiling for 99% of the time when camera is anywhere around, can only come out of the most fanatically fantasy loving writer. (She doesn't speak nor can she even walk) Interestingly though, the girl seems to love everything she experiences first. Sex, Cola and the food Per offers her. Adding the healing element to her, was a master stroke and takes the movie into a different level, looking at the ever foolish, spirituality craving, society with a pint of sarcasm. We also look at various aspects of human emotions and mindset through Per. Per's enthusiasm and pride to keep hold of a beautiful young girl who would not ask him questions is unparallelled, told subtly though. 

I tend to forget the names of many movies, its stories and all about it, sometimes even of good ones, within  a few days of watching. Only the most extra ordinary ones tend to stay in my mind. Here is one movie that I will never forget. The innocent smile of this angelic girl, will always live in my heart. For me, this would be definitely one of my all time favourite movie, and will haunt me for long time.

If somebody would have told this story to me, I would not have taken a moment to say, ok that is a French movie. For, often, its the French who have out of the box ideas and thoughts and the means to bring it out into bench mark movies. Viceværten - A Caretakers Tale, can be easily mistaken as a French movie. So in someways I am pleasantly shocked. I have been lucky to have seen some Dannish movies of late and was very impressed with many of them. However, this is really a master piece with some poetic charm.

I would love to send a garland of love and appreciation to the whole crew.
And to Madame Katrine Wiedemann, the wonderful director, I will wash your feet maam. Thank you so much for this movie.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Salutes to Tamil Cinema - 'Paradesi' & 'Haridas'

I am not a good or average or even a poor writer. I am terrible in writing. Knowing this, it is even more difficult for me to find time to comment on the movies I watch. I keep on watching lots of movies and there were more than a few movies like Les Apolonides - Souvenirs de la maison close, Amour, La Source de Femmes, Rundskop, Vazhakkau 18/9, Marina, Manjaadikkuru,  Annayum Rasoolum, Aarohanam, Aaranya Kaandam, Kaadhalil Sodhappuvadu Eppadi, Ammavin Kaipesi, Neerparavai, Where do we go now and many others, watching which, I felt, I should I write something about. I even wanted to write about some Barcelona matches, but I couldn't. The next movie came soon and I moved on. However, two Tamil movies in about 12 hours - Paradesi first, followed by Haridas, I cant help screaming out my appreciation for the Tamil cinema industry.

It is incredible that they (Tamil industry) release an excellent parallel movie every month, one after other, and many of them even manage to earn something out of the box office. So salutes not just to the makers of these movies, but also to the general Tamil cinema viewers, who are looked down as stupid viewers across India. Isn't it a paradox that these most looked down cinema viewers also manage to watch the best parallel movies of modern Indian cinema, in the cinema house. It is actually funny that 99% of these Tamil movies are not even attempted to release in Kerala, the state whose viewers pride themselves as the most literate and profound movie goers of India.

Paradesi is from Bala. I think it is time Indian media celebrates this director, instead of celebrating the Tarantinos and the Speilbergs and even our own Mani Ratnam.

The very next day of joining my first job, I was send to escort a tourist group and arrived in Munnar. For few years that followed, I was always connected to Munnar through work. I trekked every where, knew a lot of people - those working in Forests and in Tea Estates, and was proud to tell my Kochi friends how I knew the region like the palm of my hand. But never, never I had thought about the origin of these Tea Estates, even if my job involved explaining about Tea to my clients. Bala just slapped on my face with Paradesi. 

Bala take us back to the pre independence period. It is easy to say that British set up all these. But the whole labour came from the terribly poor Indians. They were bonded labours, in fact, brought from distant lands with promises of a bright future, but caged in like slaves in the Tea estates, with no way out. The end of the movie is like blocking down any ray of hope for escape.

The forefathers and mothers of all the Tamilians working in these Tea regions, may it be Ooty or Munnar or Meghamalai or Nuwara Eliya, they require some monuments in these present day tourist destinations. That is the least to ask. Thank you Bala for this movie, which is nothing less than a master piece. The shot of the rising palm, of a dying man, for the half time is arguably the most touching shot in Indian cinema.

Haridas is from GNR Kumaravelan, whose previous movies were , just that, some movies. But the man will make you stand up and applaud at the end of this one.  This is a movie with a strong message and it is so beautifully told. A policeman, single father, trying to understand and bring up his Autistic boy. 

He has mixed the official and personal life of the man in a brilliant way to give us thrill and emotion. I felt tears rolling down my cheek on more than a couple of occassions. But towards the end, it gives us as much of hope as the tears and that is wonderful. I think Haridas needs to be dubbed into every Indian language, for it has a great message, that a vast majority of our parents need to be aware about. And to propagate such a message, through such a wonderful 2 1/2 hour ride is simply brilliant. If Haridas was released in India as a Hollywood / Bollywood movie, I am sure it would have got lot of space in our media. But believe me, it is even better than many Hollywood feel goods. I can recall how Indian media was raving about Taare Zameen Par, couple of years back. Haridas is 10 times better than Taare Zameen Par.

So that's it, two completely different movies, and I found both of them unique.

If, any unfortunate soul reading this post, is planning to watch Paradesi and Haridas, let me warn you, Paradesi is dark. There is no entertainment at all, there are some songs though, one might even find it too slow, nor does it offer any picturesque views of the present day destinations. Just stark reality of suffering. Haridas, as well, does not offer any entertainment, the scene of the first day in Sneha's(teacher of Haridas) class is incredibly funny though. Probably you will feel some tension and emotion at many parts, but it does give you some hope. Both may not be cinematically perfect for the purist, and could have been better in some aspects (I found the back ground score of both movies not up there, along with some other aspects which I am happy to ignore) but one is definitely a master piece on an era and the other is the best father - son relationship we have seen in Indian cinema.

So that is it, two movies, one takes you to some hopeless people in a different era and the other is just about hope. My hearty and humble salutes to Tamil cinema.