There’s a line in #Bioscopewala that says ‘cinema has the potential to widen our horizons’. As someone who truly believes that, I always think that every movie I watch has something to teach me; it could be how something is done or how not to do something.

#Bioscopewala is an interesting watch, that seems to be structured like a tale that you would narrate to someone. It does have visual Easter eggs — recurring shots with light falling on Geetanjali Thapa’s face after she makes each find, for example. But as a film, it doesn’t make you feel like giving the protagonist a hug. Just a like how a story that has us mere listenters leaves us interested but not involved.

Veere Di Wedding

Happened to watch #VeereDiWedding a couple of days back and have been wanting to talk this. I am a feminist and have no qualms about the tag. But does every thing that has a lot of women need to propogate ‘serious feminism’? What qualifies for feminism these days anyway? The last I heard apparently one can believe in gender equality but not be a feminist.

Yes, it is a plasticky, elitist and desi amalgamation of Sisterhood of Travelling Pants and Sex in the City. But why can’t a few adult women get together and have some fun unapologetically?

PS: It is a very mediocre film but it was quite fun to watch #SwaraBhaskar‘s ‘Apna haath jaganath’ moment.

Pride Month: Love Simon

I have been hearing about #LoveSimon for quite a while now and finally decided to watch it on a day where I needed a little pick me up. As the movie progressed, I was wondering as to why it was getting so much, love. It was a normal, high-school coming of age drama — just that the lead is homosexual.

After a while, I realised the fact that was the most standout element in the film — the fact that it was normal. And why shouldn’t it be? In our eagerness to accept and embrace, we forget that there is no ‘one size fits all’ concept for all homosexuals. The film quietly subverts a lot of stereotypes — about sartorial tastes, colour preferences, hobbies and so on. In fact, Simon asks quite a lovely question — ‘How do I dress gay?’ The emphasis was on Simon being Simon, not Simon being gay. He messes up like high-school drama protagonists do, but the reactions don’t change because he is gay.

Here some of the conversations that stood for me. Simon comes out to a friend, who just says okay. He asks her if she is surprised. She says no. He asks her if she knew. She again says no. And in return, she asks ‘do you want me to be surprised?’

Here is another lovely line. After a line of mishaps, another friend comes up to Simon and says, ‘I can handle you being gay but not being cruel.’ It was tough to understand Blue’s reluctance to reveal his identity, but that’s a minor grouse that did fairly well on several other counts.

Take out the homosexual angle and substitute with any secret that one can have and Love, Simon still works. There’s no difference and as Simon says in the end, they deserve a great love story as well. That’s probably the best takeaway we can get this #Pride month. #LGBTQ+

Jayasuriya’s Njaan Marykutty

A conversation I had with a friend several years back changed how I saw trans women who asked for money on the streets. He said there was warranted authority in the way they asked for money, as if they were saying ‘I am on the streets because you all refused to accept me for who I am. Now cough up’. The conversation stayed with me — while there was sympathy before, now I felt responsible. And when #NjanMarykutty asks the same question, it brought back some of the painful stories I’ve heard during some of my interactions with transwomen for work.

Njan Marykutty, for me, was similar to #Aramm last year. It’s not a well-made film but it asks questions, several right ones amid a few unnecessary transgressions. #Jayasuriya’s astounding performance makes up for the abrupt editing, the perfunctory staging and the overreaching music. It also makes you want to forgive the film for making a wonder woman out of Marykutty. (She gets to be RJ Angel for Vision FM — an angel backed by a vision.) She is still amazing even if she didn’t posses so many talents. Maybe, that was the director’s way of bringing us on to Mary’s side.

There are moments which make you extremely uncomfortable, even more so as a woman. Everytime she is touched without her consent, everytime she is asked to look down, I curled up in my seat with discomfort. But the credit for that squarely goes to #Jayasuriya. Marykutty’s stoically proud face bears the doggedness of a fighter. How #Marykutty reacts when someone apologises to her for the first time, when she gets her first letter and how she reacts when her dad accepts — such moments stand out but I still ended up walking out, thinking of what more Marykutty could have made us realise, had she found a better director.

Ajay Bhupathi-Karthikeya Gummakonda-Payal Rajput’s RX 100

I’m going to call this post ‘the shock effect’.

The response to RX100 in Telugu speaking states having been startling. So when I got an opportunity to watch the film with subtitles, I couldn’t resist. I walked in with no other idea about the film. It kicks off slowly. We see an extremely angry hero, who just wants to smash up things to vent his anger. We don’t know why he is angry, but I predicted it’s love. After all, the tagline says ‘an incredible love story’. But we get some bloody action and an introduction of a father figure interestingly named Daddy. Nothing really new.

It’s a tedious watch until we get to the flashback and the film took me by surprise. Reason — we get a heroine who is vocal about her likes and dislikes. I was floored when she unabashedly checks out the hero and his six-pack abs. She drives a Jeep, a RX 100, doesn’t shrug it off when someone questions her sleeveless kurta (though interestingly dressed predominantly in sleeved kurtas after). She makes the first move and also the physical advances, resulting in a steamy relationship. I was a bit hopeful. Are we finally admitting, on-screen, that women have sexual desires as well?

Maybe I was a bit too hopeful. The heroine turns out to be a villain who ‘uses’ the hero for lust. It seems like the director has revisioned the quintessential villain, just with a different gender. It is good that he went all the way (she also smokes and inculcates the habit in the hero). Now, I think women can make great villains. But after misleading the viewer for about 70% of the film, the twist comes as a shock, placed there for precisely that reason, to shock the viewer. And here I was actually thinking we are getting a new-age heroine.

And from there, the movie condescends into a series of normal sessions of ‘you have no morals’. I positively died a bit when the hero (earlier ready to happily die for the heroine) ‘lets’ the heroine (Or, should I call her villi?) live, as she she would living due to his ‘mercy’ and then dies. Sure, for a woman who wanted him dead anyway, this would hurt.

Serves me right for expecting too much.

Prithviraj-Nazriya Nasim- Anjali Menon’s Koode

I’ve been someone who has looked for logic in everything I do. ‘Does this make sense’, has been a constant part of how I perceive everything. #AnjaliMenon’s #Koode showed me that some of the most beautiful things — emotions that are precious, like the joy a wide, toothless smile radiates, not necessarily need to make sense. They just touch your soul — you won’t care about why your soul feels lighter or heavier. It just does.

And how beautifully has Anjali Menon captured the power of touch. Koode is a celebration of touch, of how communicative it can be. It seamlessly but powerfully can convey any emotion. Anjali uses this wisely; some of the most heartwarming and heart wrenching moments are conveyed through touch. Only that. Love, romance, compassion, comfort, power, abuse — #Koode communicates all of this, the relationship dynamics of the characters, with this lovely language that we have forgotten. Sophie’s reactions (played by a brilliant Parvathy) are clear examples. The way she shrinks and welcomes touch, knowing where it comes from, is how all of us are.

Touch is a language that is governed by instinct and pure emotion. And Anjali places her close ups as a reminder. It’s just beautiful to watch, considering we are in an era that judges touch like none other. Is there a more honest way to be Koode (together)?

That’s just one of the many, many, many things that I loved about #Koode. Every frame is visual joy, carrying a well-placed metaphor. Koode is a journey, an experience that seems like it makes perfect sense and no sense at the same.

Tovino Thomas’ Maradona

#Maradona is quite an interesting watch and it only furthers and intensifies my love for Malayalam cinema. Even in a film that falters, there’s so much to ponder, to think about. There’s effort in filmmaking and it’s packed with honest, flawless performances.

#TovinoThomas is pitch-perfect, every muscle in that handsome face reacts, not acts, mind you. It’s great to see a flawed lead, with just hints of likeability. It’s easier to like him when we are oblivious to his past — a character says as much when he comes to know about #Maradona’s shady past — that becomes unintentionally the objective of his journey.

There’s a very uncanny similarity between #Koode and #Maradona, in the way they are both stories of second chances. Every character of Maradona is looking at life after a slip-up. From Asha, the heroine, who has supplementary exams, Maradona’s distant relative who married a Hindu guy, the goons who are chasing Maradona, the old neighbour who lives alone, everybody. With nuggets of ‘wisdom’ from each of these characters, #Maradona’s follows his own story of healing.

It reminded me of a few films #Trapped and in a long-winded way, #KuttrameKadithal, #KuttrameThandanai for example. But #Maradona feels fresh. There are some absolute stand-out moments, and some melodrama that doesn’t fit the rest of he narrative. But the consistency in #Mollywood is still several notches higher, or maybe is it because we know only about the good ones?

Irrfan Khan-Dulquer Salmaan-Mithila Palkar’s Kaarwan

Have you ever sat and ran your fingers through an old photo album? You will stumble upon important moments of self-discovery, where you struggled with bits and pieces of yourself that quite didn’t fit in. These are moments of strong emotions — angst, disappointment, strength and finally, somewhere, relief. But when you see those photographs, and are being gifted boxes of nostalgia, you don’t relive the struggle. Rather, you remember the story with a smile. That’s the journey #Karwaan took me on — it just breezes through with these little nuggets of lovely writing.

Avinash (#DulquerSalmaan) is an aspiring photographer and he gives two memorable phrases that, for me, is the film itself — capturing moments and finding focus. There’s a lovely monologue after Dulquer realises that his father wasn’t the villain of his story. “I’m not sure if I’m father was a good man, but I know that he wasn’t bad,” says Dulquer and wears his spectacles — a moment of finding focus.

He finds another when he pushes Tanya (#MithilaPalkar) into a rebellious millennial box, only to find out that she wasn’t all that. There’s no angst and she is a consequence of her decisions and actions, just like he was. This change gets some lovely treatment, as our three characters are forced to change their ride to something more closer and intimate.

It’s amazing how time can change our perspectives irrecognisably and when we realise they have, there’s trouble in bidding adieu. There’s a telling exchange where Dulquer gets some help in saying good-bye. And the circle is complete when Dulquer is asked ‘How did you do it’ and he replies, “it’s really easy. You just have to try it.” I couldn’t find something more apt to explain the light tone of the film.

PS: #IrrfanKhan was great. But this role is something that he could do in his sleep. The film has two amazing cheek in the tongue moments — one is when Dulquer says he doesn’t know Malayalam and the second involves Irrfan (also a culmination of Irrfan’s finding focus moment) and would rather let you guys watch that!

Imaikka Nodigal review: Some intelligent writing burdened by commercial compromises

This week’s big release, Imaikka Nodigal has a lot of interesting things to offer. First off, it has Anurag Kashyap, complete with his magnetic screen presence. The Bollywood ace director is making his acting debut in Kollywood with Imaikka Nodigal and boy, he seems to have had fun. Anurag’s large, dramatic eyes do the trick as he delivers the right amount of exaggeration in his body language. Just when you think it is all about the raised eyebrows, the character takes a different dimension. The dubbing, while impressive, sounds a tad inorganic when you watch the film in length. Magizh Thirumeni’s slow, deep drawl sounds impressive in isolation but doesn’t really synergise with Anurag’s sense of muted drama. Continue reading “Imaikka Nodigal review: Some intelligent writing burdened by commercial compromises”

Vikram Prabhu-Radhamohan’s 60 Vayadhu Maaniram

If you had watched #GodhiBannaSadharnaMykattu, it would be tough to sit through #60VayadhuMaaniram, the Tamil remake starring #VikramPrabhu, #Indhuja and #PrakashRaj.

One of the major reasons why I had loved the Kannada original (starring #RakshitShetty and #SruthiHariharan) was its practicality and subtlety. We don’t spell a lot of things out loud in our families. If I go hug my mom, she feels awkward. We don’t express several things, that doesn’t however mean a lack of emotions. And in case of #Godhi, this non-engagement leads to apathy. His father becomes something that has to be taken care of, a box to be ticked on a checklist. Rakshit Shetty’s portrayal of a son’s journey to find his father (in all ways) is truly a revelation. From the initial standoffish stance to being guilt-stricken, his emotions unfold organically.

What I couldn’t tolerate was #Radhamohan’s ‘over-simplication’ of this process. His dialogues and Ilayaraja’s music constantly instruct us what to feel and ends up as an overreach. Also, Vikram Prabhu is no match for Rakshit Shetty. And as much as I love Indhuja, Sruthi’s performance was more layered, more nuanced.

To take an example, the beautiful childhood drawing Rakshit and his father creates is naturally chaotic, with no drawn boundaries. On the other hand, in Vikram Prabhu’s case, it’s nearly packaged into a box, highlighted with a lighter background. I think this shows enough of the different approaches taken by these directors to the same story.

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