Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raavanan film review - Tamil

Director: Mani Ratnam

Actors: Vikram, Aishwarya, Prithviraj, Karthik, Prabhu

Plot: To be concise, it is Maniratnam’s take on the epic Ramayana from the perspective of Ravanan.

I had a lot of expectations before watching Raavanan, because this was a straight Tamil film by him after “Ayutha Ezhuthu”. The promo also looked good, so I booked the film and was so excited to watch it the first Sunday of the release.

The first half of the film was just ok and the screenplay was also very slow (Maniratnam took quite some time to establish the characters). So I felt the second half will be even more interesting, yes it was interesting and better than the first half. The acting by Aishwarya, Vikram and Prithviraj (though Prithvi looks quite stiff throughout the film) are good. The veterans Prabhu and Karthik have done their part well, although many will feel Karthik’s role was too small for his acting skills and I would have personally loved to see him a little longer on the screen, he is one of the most natural actors that we have got.

I could not understand why Vikram said such weird dialogues once in a while and also the “dan danaka” that he says quite often initially, it seemed so artificial even when performed by Vikram. Priyamani does well in a cameo. The main flaw of the film in my view is that Maniratnam took the entire Ramayana epic and depicted it as it is except that it was shown from Raavanan’s perspective. Even Thalapathi was inspired from Mahabharata (Duryodhana – Karnan’s friendship) but Maniratnam had taken just the base of their friendship but set the backdrop completely differently, which is not in Raavanan’s case.

Vikram is spectacular in his role and has done full justice to it. Aishwarya looks stunning and has emoted well. Aishwarya should be particularly commended for doing such difficult stunts and acting with grace for such an emotionally tough role.

I am personally a die-hard Maniratnam fan, but I felt quite let down after seeing the film. However it should be seen atleast once for the magnificent visuals and the acting, but Maniratnam is famous for his repeat audiences, and his Mouna Raagam, Nayagan, Guru,etc can still be watched any number of times and we do not get bored seeing it again and again, but I cannot say the same for Raavanan.

My rating 2/5 (1 for the visuals and 1 for acting)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Children Of Heaven review- Iranian Film

Director – Majid Majidi

Child Actors - Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemain)

                        Zhara (Bahare Seddiqui)

The film starts by showing Ali getting his sister, Zara’s shoes, mended from the cobbler. On his way back with the shoes, he stops at a grocery store to pick up some vegetables. He keeps his sister’s shoes aside and goes about picking the groceries when a blind garbageman picks up the shoes’ unknowingly. After buying the groceries to Ali’s shock he finds the shoes’ missing and searches frantically for it, when the shop owner chases him off as he makes a mess of the groceries arranged in his search.

Upon returning he finds that his mother is arguing with the landlord for not paying the rent for nearly 5 months. Ali goes into his house, where he tells his sister about the shoes and not to tell their parents, since they are not in a financial position to afford a new one now and assures her that he will get it to her as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, proposes an idea and asks Zara to wear his shoes to her school and return it soon after her classes are over so that he could wear it for his school. Ali waits in a by-lane, since he does not want anyone to notice that they are so poor, and after getting the shoes from her runs to school everyday, so that he does not get late.

This ritual goes on for a while and twice he gets caught by the principal, who warns him the first time, but asks him to get out of school for indiscipline the second time and while Ali goes out disappointed, his class teacher informs the principal that he is a bright kid and to let him go, to which the Principal agrees. Zara one day notices another girl in her school wearing her shoes, so she follows the girl to her house. The next day she brings her brother along with her and shows him the house of the girl. While they are hiding, they find out that the girl’s father was a blind garbageman and are poorer then them, so they drop their idea of getting the shoes now (this shows their magnanimity at such a young age).

In Ali’s school, a selection for a running competition is held. In the notice board, Ali finds out that the third prize is a pair of sneakers, so he begs with his physical director to select him, for which the Physical Director declines initially, confirming the selection is over and he is late for it now, but accepts to try his running skills. To the Physical Director’s amazement, Ali clocks a time which exceeded the Physical Director’s expectations and Ali is given the go ahead to participate in the competition on their school’s behalf. This competition is shot in slow- mo as well as in real time. At one point when Ali slows down, he remembers that he had promised his sister a new pair of shoes, and that puts extra strength in his leg muscles and he just runs like his life depended on it and finally comes first. When Ali learns that he came first, he feels really sad that he will not be going to show his sister the new pair of sneakers that he had promised her.

In the next scene, Ali’s father is shown buying a new pair of sneakers. Ali comes home very sad and at his sight, his sister is initially very happy but seeing his face and body language her smile vanishes and she realizes that he could not get the new pair of sneakers. She hears their younger sister crying and immediately runs in with the feeding bottle that she was washing (there are no dialogues in these scenes and that is beauty of it). There are many more beautiful scenes like this which I will not reveal.

This is a film in which the child actors have done such a fabulous job and you will feel your heart beating for them, such is their intense yet natural portrayal. The Director should be congratulated for making such a beautiful film with a big heart. This film was selected for the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1998, but lost out to Life is Beautiful film (which was a great film, in its own right).

My rating 4/5. Once in a Lifetime film!!!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hats' Off to Selvaraghavan

I had watched “Ayirathil Oruvan” (AO) recently with my friends in Sathyam and loved it. Before I comment anything on the story of the film, I would first & foremost want to congratulate Selvaraghavan on this brave attempt, “Hats off” to you man!” He has done what other film Directors had just dreamt of. I heard a lot of negative reviews about the film, like, “why he made such a film”, “he got confused and carried away”, “why cannot he make a film where the whole family can watch?” (It is an “A” rated film, what do you expect?) According to me, it is great injustice meted upon him and the film on a whole. If we see Hollywood films with these kind of subjects, we just are in total awe of the film and say, “what a superb film and what a great Director” but if someone tries to do something like that here, he is just crucified. And to top it all Selvaraghavan could also not find any reference points as our historical manuscripts and records were very poorly maintained, according to him.

He did not use the services of any foreign technicians, (I am not personally against it, though) and did all the graphics and special effects work with the help of our own technicians. Although the special effects were found wanting in many areas, it still was a treat to watch. Many felt that Karthik was only playing second fiddle to Reema Sen and then he had not much scope in the film. I beg to disagree, (try to imagine Karthik doing Reema’s role and vice versa, it would just not suit the story) because Karthik carried most of the first half of the film on his shoulders and he had the scope of showing his comic side a little more than “Paruthiveeran”. He was a natural in all the scenes, and in a scene, where after most of his men get killed by a tribe, even in that grief, he asks for the rest of the money owed to them, it was a great performance. Only a brave actor can allow himself to get beaten and bullied by heroines, and Karthik is brave and bold too, since this is just his second film and instead of many heroes who try to boost their roles with each film, he just played this down to earth character. Surya, look out, he is showing signs of becoming a great competitor to your throne.

We have to congragulate the producer, because without his efforts, a film on such a big scale cannot have been started & completed, and it would have been just another unfulfilled dream of a Director who wishes to break away from the mundane formulae of films being made. Reema Sen has made the role her own, (just cannot imagine anyone else doing that role now) and I feel atleast half of the credit should go to the Director who believed in Reema to carry off the role. But I hope the army officer role, could have been more like that of “Jack Nicholson’s” role in “A Few Good Men”, authoritative & disciplined but a flawed person, instead of looking like a local area thug, as shown in the film. I heard in an interview that Selvaraghavan had thought of doing Part 2 immediately after the first part is completed, have to give it to his guts and his belief in us, the audience, on the success of the first part.

I am eagerly awaiting the Part 2 of AO, and many more different attempts by Selvaraghavan. Tamil cinema industry is seeing winds of change and I hope Selvaraghavan is the most forceful wind that will propel us to even greater heights.

Nayagan - A Classic revisited

This is one of my favorite films of both Kamal and Maniratnam. I heard that the inspiration for Kamal’s character came from a real person who lived in the treacherous slums of Dharavi – Mumbai. I believe this is also an adaptation of the all time famous classic gangster film “The Godfather” (but the exact adaptation of the film would be Devar Magan).

Nayagan is one of the best acting that Kamal has done or Maniratnam has brought out of him, you can say it either way. The journey of a common man to an underworld Don was shown in a very meticulous way. The change in the body language, talk and mannerisms of Kamal was astounding and the make up was also perfect. I liked the scene where the policemen flush out water on him but he just stands still and after that when the corrupt policeman asks if Kamal wants to beat him, Kamal just says “Nan adicha nee sethiruva” (If I beat you, you will die). From that one scene Maniratnam establishes the courage and fearlessness of the character Kamal is playing.

Another scene that is etched in my memory is in the climax where Kamal’s grandson asks him “Neenga nallavara kettavara?” (Are you a good person or a bad person?) For which he says “Theriyiliyappa… (“I don’t know …)This scene still brings out the tear in my eyes every time I see it. The third major contributor to the success of this film is the Genius, called Ilayaraja.No one can deny the fact that especially his background score for the movie, just enhanced the scenes much more. This film is regarded in the West as one of the best adaptations of “The Godfather” and also has been voted in the Times list as one among the best 100 movies of our time. I am eagerly anticipating the coming together of the “Awesome threesome” (Kamal, Maniratnam and Ilayaraja) for another movie, as would many of their fans. This is my tribute to these greats and to this once in a lifetime film.