Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Anniyan - Movie Review

For a virgin experience of the movie, please skip this review.

Shankar is a 'grandeur director'. While that's not a bad attribute per se, too much of grandeur and visual experiments can be a distraction to the viewer. Somebody has to tell him that, or he should see his home banner production 'Kaadhal' again and realize how important it is for the audience to identify with the characters. While all of his serious movies are narrated in an unusually entertaining fashion and are pregnant with dialogues, he doesn't seem to move out of the themes he deals with. He returns to first love in 'Anniyan'. While you see some of the characters in 'Anniyan' on a daily basis, the one that matters is out of the world.

It's quite impossible to discuss the storyline without touching the underlying premise about the main character - multiple personality disorder. Ramanujam, the basic personality (if I may use that word), a lawyer and a citizen by the rule-book, is angry at the society for it's callous attitude and lack of humanitarian awareness. Anniyan, is the personification of Ramanujam's boiling anger and he takes his whip to punish the wrong-doers. Remo, is the third personality who is invented to fill in the all necessary love element, which is abysmally absent in Ramanujam. That's that.

Shankar seems to have played it by the formula after 'Boys' receiving a mixed box-office response. The opening scenes in which Ramanujam is appalled at the society's apathy is not believable. It's as if his first day on planet Earth. One of the final scenes where Anniyan and Ramanujam alternate every few seconds in an encounter with Prakash Raj is enjoyable though it lets the logic out of the window. Talking of logic, there are loads of questions - (I know that logic is not permitted into mainstream Tamil cinema and I have no right to question, but) if big name guys like Shankar don't set the standard, it will make it difficult for directors following his footsteps to mature.

Vikram plays the lead characters and he should be credited for a credible job. Sadha, the beautiful doll she is, comes and sings and goes away. Vivek offers some comedy relief. Prakash Raj as the police officer incharge of all the murders is exaggerated. The photography (Manikandan & Ravi Verman) aptly captures the grendeur and doesn't offer any depth to the story. Of the songs, Kumari and Kannum still linger, though Harris Jayaraj's rerecording leaves much to be desired. Sabu Cyril's work as an art director is to be commended. Sujatha's dialogue sounds like a rehash from 'Gentleman' and 'Indian'. Shankar has paced the second half very well inspite of his screenplay's hollowness.

If the movie is a child, it has so many parents: a) Vikram's characterization (brahminical upbringing + revolutionary underlayer) is borrowed from 'Gentleman's Arjun. b) The main theme is not different from his own 'Indian'. c) The modes of murders depending on their misdeeds resembles 'Seven'. d) The anagram clues about murders remind me of 'The Silence of the lambs'. e) Multiple personality portrayal has faint allusions to 'Fight Club'. f) The stunt scenes bear conceptaual resemblance to 'Matrix Reloaded' and 'Minority Report'. When a child has so many parents.... let me simply say that something is seriously amiss in Shankar's originality department.

'Anniyan' passes on the entertainment value. I wonder if the movie will strike a 'honesty' chord inside anyone since it's way over the top in getting across it's message. 'Anniyan' lacks the all important believability when it comes to message stories that urge social transformation. Shankar will settle for nothing but an utopia for India and I don't know how many stories he has in store to stress that. 'Anniyan' is not a bad movie, but it's faraway from being good.

The Master Of Commercial Cinema

There are craftsmen who have added new dimensions to cinema and expanded the power and depth of the celluloid, like Eisenstein, Bergman, Kurosawa, Fellini, Ray and Antonioni. The list is long and everyone is known for their thematic strengths in which they revelled. But not many directors from the 'great ...' list explored out of their stronghold. Kurosawa didn't make a science fiction film and even if he did, it would somehow spiral down to the human element. Hitchcock, in his lengthy span, rarely stepped out of his comfortable 'suspense/thriller' zone.

The interesting feature about the masters of cinema is that not all their movies were appealing to a range of demographics. For example, someone who likes Ozu's 'Tokyo Story' (drama) may find Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' (suspense) boring. I find Ray's Apu trilogy (humanity/drama) to be very enriching but can't appreciate Fellini's 'Satyricon' (surrealism). But here is a master, who has shown extraordinary brilliance in reading the pulse of the audience, and producing films that not only respect the intelligence of the audience but also touching them emotionally. His name is Steven Spielberg.

The two richest persons in Hollywood have influenced movie-goers unbelievably: while Geoge Lucas, who's still basking in the glory of the 'Star Wars' never bothered to entertain the lovers of non-sci-fi, Spielberg astonishingly balances almost all the mainstream genres: thriller (Jaws), science fiction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), romance (Always), family (E.T), drama (Color Purple), holocaust (Schindler's List), adventure (Hook), period piece (Amistad) and documentary (The Unfinished Journey). He has tried his hand at comedy, but he simply doesn't have it in himself to produce a full-length comedy feature (just like my writing).

It is really a humongous task to appeal to the mass and film critics at the same time, and the film history stands for proof. Ask for the greatest movies ever made, and 75 of the 100 are residing inside art-movie libraries. You'll have to dust them before popping them into your player. I wonder if there are any major working directors who has produced commercial blockbusters in all those genres and at the same time revered by film pundits..... nope. There aren't any. There's only one Spielberg. All of this without a bachelor's degree. It's funny that he sits on the board of the councillors of the Univ of Southern California, School of Cinema, which turned down his application twice when he aspired to graduate in cinema. In 2002, Spielberg honoured Yale University by accepting their honorary doctorate.

He's the greatest visualizer when it comes to mass movies. Our guys like Shankar and Subhash Ghai are his distant students. There is a child-birth scene in 'Amistad' - a crowded ship carrying slaves from Africa. I guess film schools must be showing that to their students as an example of how a director should blend photography, music and pace to let the audience feel the emotions of the characters. In 'Schindler's List' you can pause your player at any instant and you'll find a perfect photograph on your TV. He taught directors all over the world to build awe through his 'Jaws' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', and I've even seen some James Bond movies borrowing his style. The first 28 minutes of 'Saving Private Ryan' will remain unparalleled when it comes to devastating war-scenes. Janusz Kaminski, the great Polish photographer who has been working with him for the past decade and a half should be credited for bringing life to Spielberg's vision.

Spielberg has almost always used John Williams' score. Themes of 'E.T', 'Jaws', 'Jurassic Park' are all on par with 'Godfather', '2001' and the likes. It's quite difficult to gauge how much the music has contributed to the movie as it's quite impossible differentiate the tone of the scene as created by Spielberg and the mood which Williams' score adds to it. Michael Kahn, the editor, is his long time associate. I've rarely felt an abrupt closure of a scene or the screenplay as intrusive. Thanks to Micheal Kahn for his apt pacing.

I want this piece to be a prelude to his upcoming 'War Of The Worlds'. The movie stars the Hollywood heavyweight Tom Cruise. They have previously come together in 'Minority Report'. You'll know that Tom Cruise is a good actor in the hands of good directors if you've seen his 'Magnolia' or 'Born On The 4th Of July'. The screenplay is based on the novel by H.G.Wells, one of the greatest science fiction writers. Spielberg has again marshalled all of his long-time friends and my expectation-fire is burning high... very high.

FFM 3 - 2001: A Space Odyssey

I'm compiling my favourite scenes, not the significant scenes of a movie. When it comes to '2001', the whole movie feels like one big scene, quite unforgettable and unimaginable. The movie unfolds at a slow pace and though there are jump cuts and drastic changes in the environments, there is always a sense of disbelief and awe which tightly embraces the viewer.

The first segment of the movie is set in Earth, during prehistoric times when apes live amicably. A black monolith appears (which would remain unexplained) in their habitat and the confused apes just go around the monolith and try to play with it with a sense of fear and curiousity. This monolith, apparently an alien intrusion, living/non-living, teaches the monkey-man something very important: how to use a piece of a bone as a weapon. Now with this special power, one tribe of apes lambast another tribe of apes which vie for food.

Here's the scene: the triumphant ape, after chasing his enemies, throws the weapon, a piece of bone into the air, and Kubrick jump cuts it to an orbiting device informing us of the present age, or should I say, 33 years ahead of the present time, which would be the year 2001 (the movie was released in 1968). The tone of the movie is majestically set and the genius of Kubrick doesn't wait for the completion of the fall. The bone sent up, swriling, the brain-child of the ape, is still up in the air meaning that from our four-legger ancestors to today's common-man we carry that lesson of treating a different tribe, caste, race, etc with disdain. And the jump cut doesn't seem to be rude at all because of the pace, the visuals and the music.

Trace post.