To adapt a novel to the screen is no easy task. It’s more so when the novel is one of the longest in English literature, spanning more than 1,400 pages. Set in 1950, the era of the new India, director Mira Nair attempts to distill the sprawling universe that is A Suitable Boy into a six-episode mini-series for the BBC. The adaptation is BBC’s first series with no major white characters (Mira Nair once remarked it was The Crown in brown.) But it’s also the most expensive BBC series yet. This opulence translates to the screen: the aesthetics brim with the beauty of the rich… but where is the soul?
The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, has several faces. People on the streets without food or shelter, the vulnerable struggling to reclaim the little stability they had — that’s the scary face. The more privileged of us experienced a kinder side. It pushed us to introspect, contemplate on the multiple personas we have; discover and acknowledge the same in other people. Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil anthology, has captured this benign side of the pandemic. (With the intense shooting restrictions, it might have been tougher to explore more dynamic scenarios) It was said that the anthology was about hope, second chances, and new beginnings. But for me, these shorts are also bound together by this introspection: the discovery of faces (both of ourselves and others) we had hidden from the world.
Despite being the closest people in our lives, they are also somehow the farthest from our truth. Four of the five shorts explore this irony in our families and relationships, In the case of Sudha Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Idho, it was about the forgotten individual behind the parent mask. We see another version of this in Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Avarum Naanum/Avalum Naanum. With Reunion (Rajiv Menon), it is about remembering our forgotten younger selves, and Coffee Anyone acknowledges the dynamic nature of human emotions. What we feel today about someone, may morph into something completely different tomorrow. Karthick Subbaraj’s Miracle stands alone in terms of tone and theme, exploring acceptance from a different vantage point, and providing a much-needed change in terms of socio-economic representation.
While all of them deal with interesting premises, Ilamai Idho Idho and Miracle make the best of the restricted time they are given with. To tell a story with nuance in 25 minutes is not particularly easy, but these two shorts do it well without incongruous exposition in terms of writing. In Ilamai Idho Idho (my favourite of the lot), not only does the writing swiftly establish the setting and characters, it creates enough space for organic cute moments between the couple. Despite the adorable chemistry between Kalyani Priyadarshan and Kalidas Jayaraman, I couldn’t help but wonder what the film would have been if it had been Jayaram and Urvashi throughout. I would love to see that thread fleshed out into a feature film. (A special shout out to GV Prakash and Kaber Vasuki for that nostalgic musical tidbits) Miracle, on the other hand, picks a smart premise and tells it with undeniable intrigue. One can sense Karthik Subbaraj’s comfort and experience in the space — as he delivers precisely what is required.
The other three shorts feel a bit rushed, resorting to some amount of exposition to create the nuance in their narratives. Nevertheless, we get some fine performances from the likes of MS Bhaskar and Andrea, who breeze through their roles. One can also feel the restrictions in terms of space, but the shorts manage it well. They look good even if there are more hand-held shots than one bargained for.
Are these short films glossy? Yes. Could they have had more emotional gravitas? Yes. But they work as small, shiny nuggets of warmth. These are also stories you don’t generally find on the big-screen. Thus, It marks an interesting journey of experimentation. With the pandemic, several big-wigs have begun to make content for the digital space, with anthologies becoming the ‘form of the season’. So, I am treating this as the new beginning, a hopeful one, for better narratives in the future.
India constantly reminded me of a famous Mark Twain quote: Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities—truth isn’t. Had these stories been feature films, we would have ripped them apart for their ‘illogical plot points’. We would have said banks aren’t as dumb as they are shown. We would have asked how a criminal is allowed to fly off the country so easily. However, truth is stranger than fiction, and Bad Boy Billionaires captures this adage with flair.
In an interview before the release, Aishwarya Rajesh was asked why the film is named Ka Pae Ranasingam, and she replied that though the film revolves around Ariyanachi (her character), the soul of the film belongs to Ranasingam (Vijay Sethupathi). When you watch the film, you can see the conflict in the narrative. Ka Pae Ranasingam is essentially Ariyanachi’s story but the film focuses more on establishing who Ransingam is. Ka Pae Ranasingam wobbles due to this tug of war and we get a three-hour film that wanders a lot before coming to the point.
On Episode 1 of The Good Place, I wondered how the creators managed to stretch a seemingly flimsy premise to three full seasons. But with each passing episode, the series consistently metamorphosed into something bigger, grander and yet, increasingly rooted in its humane values. The best thing about The Good Place is that it is relatable and has normal, flawed people at the centre, just trying to be better. The new season is no different. Humanity is at stake, and it is up to four normal human beings, one demon and a ‘not-a-girl’ Janet to save it.
It is easy to get lost in the Internet. It is no new revelation that the Internet, especially social media, can act like a sponge that absorbs your time. It starts with one notification, but you end up scrolling for hours, staring at a screen, addicted, even if you’re not excited by what you’re seeing. For a while, I have been wary of the time I spend online. I had timers on my social media apps, to ensure I don’t while away all my time on it. And suddenly, my day opened up and I didn’t know what to do with it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep from reaching for my phone. How had I spent all those years without the Internet, or a phone?
The coronavirus pandemic transformed our lives in a matter of days: Lockdowns, curfews, masks… And the smell of fear hung heavy in the air. Four months on, we are still coping, trying to find a ‘new normal’. Unsurprisingly, the impact of these changes has spilled into OTT content as well, with the latest example being The Gone Game that’s streaming on Voot Select.
When I heard a show about Masaba Gupta was coming up on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued. I find Masaba’s prints fascinating and her palette vibrant; her aesthetics fuse the modern with the traditional. Not to mention, she is the daughter of Neena Gupta, who is a rockstar in her own right. So, I was interested in the premise of this partly-fictionalised series based on the lives of these two unconventional achievers. But Masaba Masaba isn’t quite the heady mix of fashion and drama you would expect.
Inspector Sampath has been murdered and sub-inspector Moorthy (Venkat Prabhu) catches the alleged murderer on the spot. The prim and proper Ilavarasi takes charge of Sampath’s station, for just a day, and ends up investigating these crimes. Meanwhile, Mallika (Poorna) is found dead. In the background, there is the seemingly timid PC Vasanth (Vaibhav). Is he a red herring, or is he involved? Who killed Sampath?
Danny begins with policemen scouting vehicles in vain for a supposed horde of narcotics. Danny, the police dog is brought in with all the works: Slow-motion shots, heroic BGM… The policemen are not convinced: “Nammaalaye onnum kandupidikka mudila, indha naai kandupidikka pogudha?” One cop chips in, “Ei, adhu periya narcotics naai pa.” Someone else says, “Adhu enna ungala madhri khaki pottukitu kaasukku vela seiyaravan-a?” Unsurprisingly, Danny finds the drugs. As I was wondering why these constables didn’t seem to know the basics of this police dog, we learn that these dogs get paid a salary and enjoy other perks. But, but… why then that punchline that suggested they don’t earn a salary? Even this early into the film, I heard Vadivelu in my head: “Shaba, ippove kanna kattudhe.”