Monday, 27 June 2016

Leo Messi - Mucho Gracias

After Losing the Copa America against Chile, a tearful Messi (I think its the first time we saw him cry on the field ever since that injury in 2007/08 season) said this: The National team is over for me. I think its good for everyone. First for me and then for everyone else. I believe there are a lot of people who want that. Thats already 4 finals. I have tried a lot. Its what is most wanted. For me, its done.

To read a well written article, go here;



My humble take on this:

Ever since he has been hailed as one of the greatest football players (since 22 years or so to now when he is 29 and for a lot of players,pundits and fans he is the GOAT) Argentina have desperately waited for Messi to give them a World cup win. They wanted him to do it 'single handedly' a la Maradona (which Maradona never did, no football player can do that), in 1986. They do not care at all that Maradona had an absolutely wonderful team (players, coaching staff and an AFA) behind him. So every time, it didnt work in Argentina's favour the whole blame went to Messi.

2010 W Cup, Messi was the reason Argentina went out in the quarter.
Not AFA who made one of the stupidest decision in football to give the coaching job to a clue less and experience less Maradona, nor was it the fault of Maradona or the other 22 players in the squad.

2011 Copa, Messi was the reason, Argentina lost again.
Not Batista, who wanted Argentina to play beautiful flowing football a la Barca, without having players to do so;
not AFA who pushed Batista to include Tevez in the team (Tevez who have scored only 12 goals for Argentina is considered a saviour by many Argentine critics and media!);
not all the other 22 players who could not score from the 'put me in' passes (a term used by the Late Tito Villanova ) Messi created in that tournament

2014 W Cup, Messi was the only reason Argentina lost in the finals,
not Germany FA, who have been building a strong team ever since their loss in 2006 WC, by sticking to excellent talent building from the bottom levels and using a single tactically astute coach for a very long period (!) (which AFA wont even attempt to) thereby having a much superior and well drilled team ;
not because Argentina played an extreme defensive style with a poor squad (when Germany had the likes of Gotze on the bench, Argentina had Palacio!!);
not Higuain or Palacio, both at the end of open chances (Messi also struck one inches wide, but that was not an open chance as many make it to be. It was considered a chance only because of the high standards Messi has set for himself);
not because AFA will not pay a good salary for their coach, thereby depriving a team from the services of a world class tactician (Sabella was ranked 28/32 coaches in  the salary received list among 2014WC coaches!! and good coaches charge good salary these days).  However, I have to say Sabella did a good job with the squad considering the fact that most of his star players were not fit, but he cannot take the blame away from picking a below average bench

2015 Copa, Messi was the reason, Argentina lost their second finals in a row;
not AFA who once again decided to pick the cheapest coach available for the job, Tata Martino;
not Tata who gave into the AFA and media pressure and picked Tevez into the team in the last minute;
not Tata who was using Messi like a central midfielder even playing Pastore ahead of Messi;
not Tata who was clueless with tactics, absolutely un prepared, in the finals;
not Higuain who once again missed a chance;
not Tevez or other players who missed their penalty kick

2016 Copa, We are yet to see all the blame game, but definitely it will be all Messi (especially since he too missed a penalty);
not Higuain who missed a consecutive third chance in the third finals;
not AFA who is in absolute mess with FIFA appointing a 6 member committee to look after their affairs because of a rigged election;
not AFA who has not paid the coach and his staff for more than 7 MONTHS (!);
not De Maria who has continuously got himself injured in all these 3 tournaments;
not Aguero who wasted 2 good chances which he would normally score;
not Tata who made tactical mistakes by starting DeMaria and asking Banega to support him in the left side; not Tata who once again repeated the typical Argentine mistake to play defensive in the final(!) and again and again.

I think, for once, this time Argentina had a big issue with luck. After a very long time, in this Copa, it looked like their midfield was looking good with the inclusion of Augusto Fernandez. A perfect player to support Banega and Messi. And he got injured in the semis, which meant Tata would call back the service of Biglia, who would be poor in replicating what Augusto does. And that was so evident in the game, with Argentina looking so poor in their midfield, Chile looked better even with a man disadvantage!! Only Messi and Banega played anywhere near an excellent game.

Anyways, from Maradona to many other journalists, so many pundits in Argentina would put all the blame on Messi and am so glad he decided to call it quits, on the very same day. That's a middle finger to all of them. Maradona, out of all the people, should remember that his team mates scored 3 goals for him in 86 finals. Messi's mates, are not able to score even one! Maradona's 86 team played with a 3-5-2, with a packed and excellent midfield, who all played to get the best out of him (An Argentinian legend Passerella sat on the bench for the whole tournament as he didnt agree with the plan to play for Maradona). And dear Deigo, out of all people you know very well (from 2010) that Messi's team mates are nowhere near his wave length and stops running, when Messi has the ball. Yet, you behaving like this is making me very angry. And you were my first sporting idol! Deigo, if you were passing the balls to Higuain in 86, you would not have been a champion too!!!

Both Luis Menotti and Riquelme had said - take care of Messi, he is our only way to glory, and see what they did. Imagine an AFA who force players like Riquelme and Messi into pre mature retirement from their national team.

My point is, I have always felt, Argentina dont deserve Messi. This is a good decision for football. He will not have to do all those grueling travels during the international breaks and summer holidays, meaning, Barca will have a rested Messi. We will be able to enjoy him more with Barca..

Gracias Messi, Mucho Gracias, you did the right thing!!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Ozhivu divasathe Kali: One of the most path breaking cinema from Kerala

I don't remember the exact numbers, but I do have a vague idea about them  numbers, I read from various articles.
In general conviction cases in India, more than 75% of people who suffer capital punishment are always Dalits or Muslims. And whenever the case have anything to do with terrorism, a staggering 93 or 94% those hanged are Dalits or Muslims. Some scholar clearly attributed the reason to the stunningly huge numbers of Brahmin judges. More than 70% of Indian judges are mostly Brahmins and the elite classes. One of the Chief Justice of Indian Supreme Court, not long ago, had infamously spoke about 60% of his (pan Indian) judges being corrupt. So add the routine class and caste issues to the corruption, and we can simply assume the honesty of Indian justice system.  (Recently, last week I think, judges were spotted, queuing up to touch the feet (of) and to take selfies with the Indian Prime Minister!!!)

5 friends, decide to go to a forest bungalow, during an election day, to enjoy the holiday with booze. When the booze stock is done with, they decide to play a game.

In the first few minutes of Ozhivu Divasathe Kaly, I felt - oh dear, this movie looks quite pretentious. Slowly, it takes its own time to get the viewer engaged, it changed in a pleasant manner and it ended as an incredibly brilliant and bold film. It even offerred a lot of laughs. It ends like a thriller, may I say, the last 10 minutes or so kept me scared,  guessing about the next moment and the climax would leave you awestruck. I would dare say that it is one of the most path breaking movie in the history of Malayalam cinema.

Casting, except for a female actress who is there only in the first half of the movie, each and every one looks like first timers, yet none of them looked like acting, they were living in front of the camera

The last 20 or 30 minutes, it was a single shot. And it was bloody brilliant.

This movie was made without a script and one needs to watch it to realise fully, how good it is. When I heard about it, I was thinking, wow, finally in Malayalam a director is inspired by Mike Leigh. But this is really different. ODK is a terribly dialogue driven cinema. And a lot of dialogues sounds like blabbering, deliberately though, with its sync sound. But the important dialogues are all quite clear. I can't help appreciating the boldness of this director in taking this decision - to not have a script and to do sync sound. Just a pity that, I felt the camera was a bit shy to get close to the characters.

In the first half, the movie clearly points to couple of issues with the Malayali pysche - looking down at dark skinned people, assuming every woman who do jobs like cleaning/cooking are 'available' etc.. But it ends up with a huge pointer to casteism and manuvaad issues of not just Kerala, but the whole country.

Main stream Keralites never agree that there are caste issues in Kerala. But, frankly, it does exist in a big way, may not be that visible as in rest of India. To some, the elites and upper castes, it doesn't exist at all. But to some it exist in a subtle way and to the ones on the receiving end it does exist in most aspects of their life!! My sincere most salutes and congratulations to the director and the crew behind this simple, but monster movie with balls the size of cabbages!! (am using a phrase used by Pep Guardiola). Their courage is priceless.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Kammatti Paadam, the Paruthiveeran or Subramaniyapuram of Malayalam cinema

In the last 2 decades, Malayalam cinema has not seen another director more consistent than Rajeev Ravi. All his 3 movies has been beautiful, realistic and truthful to the craft of cinema. Inspite of a common thread (of local goons) in all of them, I have been able to appreciate each of them as wonderful cinematic experiences.  

In Kammatti paadam, Mr. Ravi is showing us the other face of 'development'. It is so relieving that amongst the Action hero Biju's and other regular fares, there is a movie which looks away from the norms of the main stream Malayali mentality. I thoroughly enjoyed Kammatti paadam and I would strongly recommend it as a must watch. Should this movie get promoted abroad, am sure, it will make Malayalam cinema proud.  I also think it would be remembered more fondly after a decade, and might be even celebrated.

A lot has been already written about this movie, but there are few things that I think are very important.  

- Any thinking Malayalee cinema fan would agree on one thing, our cinema are infested by characters from upper castes or those from the elite or aspiring to be elite class. The heroes are always Nairs or Menons or Brahmins or from an Orthodox Christian family. It is incredible that even the heroes associates too, are never from the lower castes. We should not forget that the upper castes are not the majority of the Keralan population and in spite of this, most stories are always around a Nair or other upper caste man or family. Hence, Kammattippadam is a very bold and brave attempt. Hero is still suggested to be a Nair, but all those around him, including the two brilliant characters played by Vinayakan (Ganga) and Manikandan Achari (Balan) are definitely from some lower echelons of the caste system. These 2 characters are as or even more important than the hero, and this was a terrific surprise for a Malayalam cinema. 
There are two (or more) instances when the cinema indicates that Krishnan's family looks down upon Ganga and other friends of Krishnan. Ganga is not permitted inside Krishnan's house, nor is the character played by Shaun Romi, which means Krishnan is from an upper caste family. 

I do not know why they still chose the hero from an upper caste family, when everybody around are not. May be the makers wanted to tell us that it was not only the lower castes who suffered, may be. 

Please do not accuse me of a casteist for the above comment. On the contrary. I have always wondered, why our cinema never look at the other side of the mainstream, who unfortunately is the majority. 

 - When all other movies portrays modernity and mainstream middle/upper class aspirations and notions (Action Hero Biju is an excellent example), it is exceptional for a main stream movie to say boldly that a lot of bad has happened, or keeps happening, under this 'development', the modern buzz word. 

- Casting of this movie has been brilliant. Manikandan Achari as Balettan was like an atom bomb. It was only Dulquer, who was a kind of star presence. And we should understand that without at least one actor like him, may be, nobody would have produced this movie. Kerala is not Tamil Nadu where people would still go and watch a movie, if its good, even if all the actors are dark skinned. 

- The action scene in the jail could have been avoided, though. 

- Once again, may I repeat that the performances by Manikandan, Vinayakan and Dulquer were really good, the former two especially.

Am so glad that Malayalam cinema has got Kammatti paadam. My sincere salutes to Rajeev Ravi and P Balachandran, and all others who are behind this exceptional cinema. 

In many ways, for its rawness, honesty and cinematic brilliance Kammatti paadam is the Paruthiveeran or Subramaniyapuram of Malayalam.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Maheshinte Prathikaram

You know, am more than jealous about off beat Tamil cinema of modern days. One of the reasons for this jealousy is because of their beautiful casting. It is not just that these new Tamil cinema creators come up with indigenous stories and cinemas, they also pick up the right people for all those characters, even if those actors are absolutely unknown. They don't care at all about the looks or the lack of any kind of glamour quotient in those actors. In fact, it is only Tamil cinema, who do not have any issues at all with black actors. Every where else in Indian cinema, black skin is looked down at. And it is a big credit to Tamil movie fans that many of these off beat cinema has also done reasonable business in box office. I have always wondered, why Malayalam cinema (we dominated Indian cinema in the 80's with our quality) look spineless when it comes to casting. It is as if directors and producers are scared to test new faces, even if the role is of secondary importance. 

Maheshinte Prathikaram has just reassured me, in a big way. Except for Fahad Fazil and Soubin, there are hardly any prominent actors in the whole cast. Still, there is not a single person who have done anything short of excellent. Each and every character, except Fahad, looks like locals, who were picked after a tedious audition process. 

MP looks like a simple short story, which has been painstakingly made into a beautiful cinema. Absolutely, this is an excellent entertainer, and am so glad there is one in Malayalam, even if it has come after long time. Frankly, the director seems to have taken some leafs out of Rajeev Ravi's book of cinema making. The result is pure, genuine and indigenous cinema.  

All the following make this movie a wonderful entertainer. 

- It has a simple thread, reminiscent of a short story, which is told in an even simpler way with beautiful visuals.
- It looks absolutely indigenous:- 
    with its location - its the first Malayalam cinema after Annayum Rasoolum which let you feel the ambiance of the locality.
    and its genuine characters - Sathyan Anthikkad movies always presented characters - as if they were picked from our village - with some exaggerations, where as in MP, they are just realistic. There is nothing unnatural about these people. I really liked that, same as in off beat Tamil cinema, none of the characters in this movie behave as if they have just walked out of a Holly/Bollywood script, or as if they are aspiring for a dreamy Indo-American life. (There is one character of course, but it goes so well with the story) Its normal Malayaalees, all around.
- Wonderful performances from every one, who have simply tried to just be there, no acting. 
- When is the last time, we saw, ordinary Malayaalee girls/women talking and behaving like normal people in our cinema? This is applicable to men too. There is hardly any make-up!
- Arguably, the best natural fight scene Malayalam has seen, after Thazhvaram
- A stupendous climax scene too
- There could be a smile in our faces, for nearly the whole length of the cinema!
I do not want to nit pick, but feel it could have done with fewer songs, using some instrumentals instead. 
I would also say, they could have found some body else for the role of Fahad Fazil, who would have looked like a typical villager, like all the other characters. Fahad has done a good job, though. But it looks like, the only glamourous guy in the whole of Idukki happens to be living in Prakash city. 

I cant wait for the next movie from this debut director, Dileep Pothan. He has given me lots of hope. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Best of Jan 16

Ex Machina by Alex Garner 2015 - English/British

There are only couple of science fiction movies I have ever liked. In fact, most of the time I don't even like to watch them. I can add Ex Machina to that small list now. Brilliant cinema.

This is about artificial intelligence, basically. But like in the Tamil, Yanthiran, when the man created robot is instilled with human emotions, man is challenged.

Please do not think at all about this movie as anything like Yanthiran. This is more a thrilling drama, beautifully acted. Really, a must watch. Definitely among the best movies of 2015.
And above all that, to know that this is the debut of a director, brilliant!

45 Years by Andrew Haigh 2015 - English/British
An older couple are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when they receive a letter. The content (that the body of his first love has been discovered, frozen under the snow in the Swiss Alps) is shocking for the husband. Further developments over the next few days are even more shattering to their marriage. 

In some way, this felt more like a Michael Leigh movie, to be frank. What an incredible drama about love and marriage, but quite different from all others. Stunning acting performances from the two veteran actors, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.  A must watch cinema. 

Band de Filles - Girlhood - by Celine Sciamma  2015 - French

The ideal translation should have been Gang of Girls, but like always the English name for this French movie too, is misleading. I loved the two previous movies of this director, both was about teenage girls coming into adult hood. She is again into the same age, and still comes out with a gem.

A teenage girl joins a gang of 3 others, in their poor neighborhood (cite) and slowly her life changes, some for good and some for bad.

A beautiful cinema, wonderfully performed. In fact there are moments in this cinema when I was wondering, how in the world can somebody act so natural like this.. Brilliant.

Macbeth by Justine Kurzel 2015 - British/French/American co production
Another adaptation of the Shakespeare play. However I would say this is the most cinematic of all the theatre adaptations I have seen.

A stunning performance by Michael Fassbender, who seems to be on a never ending climb in his career. With Hunger, Steve Jobs (I didn't like the cinema at all) and Macbeth, he is placing himselves among the very best in contemporary cinema. 

The Perfect Day by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, 2015 - English/Spain

The first English movie by this Spanish director, within few minutes we realise why it is made in English. It follows a day of a group of aid workers in war torn Balkans. And obviously the group has people from different countries.

An aid group in the war torn country has to retrieve a dead body from a drinking water well. They just miss something to do this task though, some piece of rope. 

This is really a black comedy. A really serious subject told with lots of shades of humour in the fore ground. The director uses a relatively slow pace that we are in some ways forced to look deeper and feel for the villagers and the aid workers.

Straight Outta Compton by F Gary Gray 2015 - Hollywood
About a music band (hip hop) which emerged from difficult back grounds in Los Angeles. 

This is a well told, straight forward cinema based on a true story. And excellent music too.

It is ridiculous that this movie, along with Beasts of No Nation, didn't get any mention in the Oscar nominations. For me both these movies are definitely the best I saw from Hollywood 2015. Both have 'black' backgrounds and especially Straight Outta Compton, which actively talks about the harassment of the blacks, by the system, have been completely ignored by the Oscar 'white' awards. Not that I care about these awards, but still how they can be so blunt is beyond me.

Spotlight by Tom McCarthy - 2015 Hollywood
The best one, out of all the Oscar nominated movies.

The investigation by a Boston Globe team of journalists about child sex abuse by Catholic priests, in Boston

A well made cinema, the best part for me was the performance of Mark Ruffalo. The kind of subtle and crystal clear changes he brings in -  both in his body language and dialogue delivery - to each and every important character of his, is unbelievable. What an actor.

Room and The Gift too were interesting cinema in the ways in which it got out of its probable cliches , typically possible endings or treatments, with similar themes before. Room concentrated  a lot on the child and The Gift simply made a European style climax.