Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Comedy in Tamil Movies - Prelude

I've been thinking about comedy tracks in future Tamil cinemas. We are going through a rough patch and there is a dearth for intelligent comedians. We get our share on one-time laughs - which are instantly forgettable and may grow on one's nerves when viewed repeatedly. Recursive comedic patterns - where we laugh on the first viewing, and then realize there's much more to it on the subsequent viewings (like in 'Micheal Madana Kama Rajan'), are dwindling and that's a sign of declining creativity.

Comedy tracks that hang away from the main story is a distraction because the screenplay wavers off the plot and at the same time essential because of the humourless heroes and the much needed funny break to make the movie commercially viable. The current crop of young stars are either the sons of producers or heroes of yesteryears or one-hit wonder boys, just waiting for a miracle to work through their way. Take Sibiraj, son of Sathyaraj for example: he stubbornly refuses to act believably or dance gracefully and insists on speaking in a monotone voice. It's better for the industry that he doesn't deliver any funny lines. Surya is a budding actor and suits for serious roles. Jeyam Ravi has to come a long way, but has an innocence flavoured humour to his credit which nobody but me enjoys. Bharath needs to mature a lot. Simbu thinks he's next to Kamal when it comes to versatility and is floating on his jumbo-ego. Vijay is utterly unfunny to me. Ajith doesn't have it in him to make others laugh. Vikram occasionally tickles the funny bone.

Talking of proper comedians, Vadivelu springs to my mind. Of course, a few sketches of his are enjoyable mostly for his facial expressions and dialogue delivery with little help from the situation. When the screenplay doesn't help, the comedy idea ranges from bearable to painful. The inimitable Goundar Mani is already an archived actor. Vivek is out of form and is expected to bounce back. Kamal Haasan seems to be the only intelligent comedian in business today (in spite of Mumbai Xpress) and he's already ageing. A funny scene in a future Tamil cinema may not be funny at all. I'll post a detailed commentary sometime this week on how funny Tamil movies were/are, contributors to the comedy genre and the directionless in the movement of current comedy sketches in Tamil movies.

Update 1: Click here to read the first part of the series.
Update 2: Click here to read the second part of the series.

The Departed - Movie Thoughts

Scorsese gets back to mean streets with his latest offering: The Departed. This is a double-cross story which involves a cop infiltrating a Boston mafia and a gangster infiltrating the Boston police force. A remake of the HongKong flick Infernal Affairs, the movie is a solid entertainer but doesn't live up to the pundits' hype. I tuned into to the movie with high expectations - though I wasn't disappointed at the end, I wasn't excited by the movie. Raging Bull still remains the best Scorsese movie I've seen followed by After Hours. When it comes to gansters, Goodfellas holds it's ground.

I had a few problems with the movie: I wondered if the movie were set in the 70's. Matt Damon (mole in the police force) frequently uses cellphones to call or send messages (with a different SIM) to Jack Nicholson (the mafia boss) while in the office and nobody thinks of tracing a call from the office inspite of knowing the presence of an infiltrator. And when Damon requests social security information of the new entrants into the gang to check their background, it's all written in paper and handed over by Jack Nicholson. Now, what happened to encrypted transfer of contents through computers? The underworld operators shown in TV serials use better technology for their covert operations!!

And then there's the rise of DiCaprio (cop in the mafia) in the gang which seems highly implausibe. He accompanies either Jack Nicholson or his right hand all the time. How does he become such a trusted member to the mafia leaders in such a short span of time? The mode of communication between DiCaprio and his senior police officials isn't convincing either. They just meet in a public place and shout at each other without adequate security. If the gangsters had either followed DiCaprio or searched his place thoroughly, they would have found at least ten pieces of evidence to prove that he's a cop. And had the police force used their sophisticated technology to trace calls emanating from their block to Jack Nicholson, they might have nailed Damon on the firtst day of his service.

Though there are loopholes in the screenplay, the final product is a decent drama and Scorsese does a very good job with this script. The cast is star studded: Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Ray Winstone... and all of them deliver creditable performaces with DiCaprio stealing the best actor prize. This is his third movie with the titan and the growth is very visible. DiCaprio wonderfully expresses his fear, anguish and hatred in a way a mature actor might find hard to portray. Vera Farmiga as the love interest of both Damon and DiCaprio rounds up the cast. Micheal Ballhaus' camera is always in the right position and Thelma Schoonmaker's scissors always seem to cut at the right film.

The Academy has robbed Scorsese of the best director trophy for almost 30 years. Though this is not a great product, Scorsese doesn't falter anywhere with the material made available to him and my hunch is that he'll be the winner this time just because the members of the Academy want to redeem themselves of guilt - just like giving a life-time award to Robert Altman before his chapter closed. It's a shame that the script by Monahan isn't as refined as the other aspects of the movie, but he sparkles with witty and inventive use of words. Here's an example: "There's guys you can hit and guys you can't hit. Now he's not a guy you can't hit, but he's pretty close to a guy you can't hit".

Maniratnam's Guru - Music/Songs Review

Update: Guru Movie Review

I have seen quite a few music videos on either ends of the spectrum - the ones which feature popular artistes, great percussion which makes your foot tap and head swing, a few girls in skimpy dresses shaking here and there; and the other end where artistes experiment with their instruments trying to evoke moods with philosophical/complicated graphics. Though my music video exposure is limited, I'm tempted to say something stupendous like Maniratnam must be one of the five best music video directors in business today. I find Mani extremely tasteful when it comes to giving visual meanings to songs. He has a wonderful sense for synchronizing music and images and my guess is that he has a very detailed visual of every frame of the song that will be shot and that's what he inputs to his music director. He is one of the few directors who judiciously uses songs (though, not always) and allows the viewer take a pleasant diversion from the script rather than what is a welcome bathroom break in most cases.

His association with A.R.Rahman for the past 15 years have been fruitful, to say the least. Rahman's music takes some time to touch us before it becomes a hit - you listen to it for a few days when you don't seem to be impressed much, then you start humming and then the song stays with you. Rahman has a special corner for Mani (of course, Mani introduced him to filmdom) and his music for Mani's films makes one wonder if he reserves his best tunes for Mani. The little known 'Iruvar' is my favourite Mani-Rahman combo. But Rahman scores low when it comes to re-recording in my opinion - I've felt that they lack the heart and could have been better. But he's one of the best foley artistes available - sound of a glass falling on the floor, crows crooning in the distance or boots splashing on rain water - he captures them with great authenticity. Now, a few words about the songs composed for 'Guru'.

# 'Ay Harathe' is a slow, serenely flowing melody with a soothing tabla in the background. The tune evokes the image of a Moghul court, but clearly it seems like scored for a period setting - may be the 60's. # 'Baazi Laga' is a hip/party song, which immediately reminded me of the 'September' song from 'Alaipayuthey'. Udit Narayan's style adds to the already carefree attitude in the tune. It's the kind of song you want to sing in your bathroom after a complete strip. # My guess is that a lesser director would have used 'Barso Re' to introduce the Aishwarya Rai character to the audience - soaked in rain and enjoying nature with a merry tune. I hope Maniratnam disappoints me. # I still don't know if I like 'Ek lo'... doesn't have much orchestra and is less musical to be called a song. In fact, to be technically correct, it's a drunken, crazy, lyrical speech. # 'Jaage Hain' starts with a prayer-like feel and the stretched chorus makes you close your eyes and sway your eyes gently. But soon the voices soar and it feels more like a subdued celebration of an important victory or a march towards victory. # 'Mayya' is for Mallika Sherawat, must be belly dancing for you know who. # 'Tere Bina' sounds weak in the entire collection. My friend is already in love with the song, but I find it long and boring except for the 'Dham dhara' piece.

P.S: I have a smattering knowledge of Hindi. Gulzar must have done a terrific job composing the lyrics.

Song Credits:
1. Barso Re – Shreya Ghoshal & Uday Mazumdar.
2. Tere Bina – AR Rahman, Chinmayee, Additional Voices – Murtaza, Qadir.
3. Ek Lo Ek Muft – Bappi Lahiri, Chitra Additional Voices – Tanvi, Saloni, Boney, Jaidev.
4. Baazi Laga – Udit Narayan, Madhushree, Swetha, Bhargavee Additional Programming – Pravin Mani.
5. Mayya – Maryem Toller, Chinmayee, Keerthi Programming & Additional Arrangements Ranjit Barot.
6. Ey Hairathe – Hariharan, Alka Yagnik Additional Voices – AR Rahman, Aslam Mohammed.
7. Jaage Hain – Chitra , AR Rahman and Madras Choral Group.

Here's a prelude to Maniratnam's Guru.Here's a piece on the cast for this movie.

Here's a wonderful review on Guru's music.

Casino Royale - Movie Review

James Bond, the British agent, is arguably the most well developed and understood character in the history of franchise cinema. He can trash a line of expensive cars on the street side and nobody gives him a bill; nobody thinks of filing a case if his bullets are sprinkled over a body; he gets to use the most sophisticated devices to challenge the world's most evil minds; and he travels to exotic locations where smooth skinned, super talented beautiful women share his bed; and when he is done ruining his enemy (rather, successfully completing the government's covert operation) he walks away mostly unharmed, dusting off his sullied clothes. Teen girls want him, and understandably teen boys want to be like him. The series aims at offering uninhibited adrenaline rush and unadulterated fun for the entire running length. Casino Royale, the first story written by Ian Fleming featuring Bond fails to fulfill the expectations of a Bond fan.

Before acquiring his double-O status (shown in black & white) Bond is a man who acts on impulses, is neither cool nor suave, and kills a man with his bare hands in a bathroom in an ugly fight and pops a bullet into another one's head without delivering any punch dialogues that we are so used to listening from him whenever he kills somebody. When his boss M says that she's afraid that she might have promoted him a little too soon when he violates her orders, he responds that double-O's are expected to have a short life. And that's what he does most of the running time, where in the end he finally learns to tame his ego and becomes emotionally detached.

<Spoiler>The story for screen is simple and straightforward: Le Chiffre, a banker who funds terrorists needs to be stopped. When he bets $100 millions that a new model jumbo flight won't take off on the stipulated day from Miami airport and makes necessary arrangements to explode the plane, Bond stops that, which puts the banker in a financially crunched position and drives him to play poker (or whatever) at an expensive casino in Montenegro. Since Bond is the best player in the intelligence service, he is chosen to stop him from winning the pot and Vesper Lynd, another agent is sent to overlook his bets in case he goes over the board. A series of twists and turns results in Bond being saved by Vesper twice eventually. Bond falls in love with her - the first and last girl Bond would ever fall in love with.</Spoiler>

There aren't many high tech gadgets which makes us wonder when and how Bond's going to use them and get out of trouble. In fact, the action scenes involve furious hand-to-hand combat and chase on foot where sophisticated weapons are out of question. I'm disappointed with the girls in this movie - I don't know if it's because of the 'reboot' - Vesper Lynd's costumes, make-up and hairstyle resembles the sixties. The movie isn't technically impressive either - the photography is pretty ordinary and the flow of the story struggles during the stretched Casino scenes.
The absence of Moneypenny is understandable - may be the service will get her for his next outing.

Daniel Craig
as James Bond shines. He has the aggression and the manliness of a Bond. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd does a credible job. Martin Campbell has already directed a far more entertaining Bond movie - GoldenEye. I haven't read the book and can't comment on how
loyal the screenplay is. But the overly sentimental scenes between the leads made me puke. Though Bond may not have any superpowers like Spiderman, Superman or Batman, I still categorize him as a superhero and we all go to superhero movies to be children again and witness pure entertainment. The recent spate of superhero movies have a more-than-necessary screen time to romance. It looks like a cheap attempt by the producers to lure in the date couples.

This movie provides an explanation for how Bond became the Bond we all know. Bond is emotionally so intimate with Vesper that he even cries at one point of time - now, who would have thought that tears would run down his cheek? His emotional loss makes him a misogamist. And the pain he undergoes because of his split second decisions marred by a clouded ego help him graduate from a second grade spy to a smooth-talking and think-before-act spy. 'Casino Royale' is a prelude to a Bond movie. Now that he's learned his lesson, he should be ruthless, rude and raving to go for his next adventure (which is already in pre-production). Daniel Craig utters the most famous five words just at the end of the movie and looks down a man whom he just shot with a coldness comparable to Minnesota winter. So, there's still hope that Bond will be back.

Legend of Rita - One Minute Review

Driven by noble ideologies and dreaming of social equality the Red Army terrorists rob the banks and distribute it to the poor; and while robbing they deliver anti-imperialistic aphorisms. The terrorists know that they can't upset the applecart but only give it gentle shock. They fail to come to terms with the ground reality and continue to believe in realizing an alternative world. Set in the 70's Germany, Legend of Rita recreates the general mood on both sides of the Berlin wall and tries to capture the feelings of a woman - Rita Vogt, a West German who's against capitalism, is determined to deliver justice to the people, and feels proud to be a part of an elite network that tries to change the social order.

When Rita kills a traffic police in a knee-jerk reaction, the Stasi helps her settle in East Germany under a fictional name (which is called 'legend' in intelligence parlance) and provides financial support if and when needed. In the textile factory where she works, to her unpleasant surprise she finds her colleagues unhappy and wanting to go to the west and improving their own standards of living instead of working for the betterment of the state. Though baffled at their wishes and deeply discontent at them, she continues to live a suppressed life with Tatjana, a friend and a potential lover being the only solace to pass her days. Her cover gets blown and she assumes another legend until the Berlin wall comes down and she is hunted by her saviours - the Stasi.

Rita is a well developed character very ably played by Bibiana Beglau - we are allowed to see her as an energetic young lady driven by principles, a good friend trying to help her alcoholic colleague, a woman wanting to mother a child and at the same time as a terrorist who can kill to keep her identity covered. Directed by Volker Schlondorff based on the script by himself and Wolfgang Kohlhaase, he expresses the committedness of misguided, intelligent, talented youth who believe in a new world order and eventually tells how pointless their endeavours may turn out to be when the state decides to clean the slate. The screenplay is intelligent - logic wise, but it's the emotional quotient that's underscored. Though I'm tempted to say it's the story of a terrorist, it's actually the story of a woman who happens to be a terrorist.

Irreconciliable Differences

Does anybody believe in celebrity marriages? Aren't they just media fodder, efforts at staying in the limelight and a try at legitimate sex.

On Physical Transformations

The masculine Christian Bale was on a strict diet of a can of tuna and an apple every day until he lost 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist as an industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year. The South African beauty Charlize Therone gained 30 pounds for her role in Monster as a hideous prostitute. The next-door-man actor Tom Hanks put on weight and then lost about 50 pounds for his role in Cast Away as an executive cast away in an island. Heartthrob Ralph Fiennes gained 29 pounds for his role as a merciless Nazi commander in Schindler's List. The list is just what was on top of my head, but I'm very sure that I missed a lot of performances.

In an age where make-up and visual effects can virtually transform a man into a woman or a dog into a donkey, there are a few personalities in filmdom who take their jobs with immense seriousness. All the names mentioned above were critically acclaimed for their roles in the aforementioned movies. They were all stellar performances. I think they all make a point: technology can only deceive what you see in form, but the authenticity of the emotions evoked by the facial expressions, body language and other non-verbal means of communication is a result of an acute artistic eye for the character they portray and something else that comes from inside.

Oliver Stone did a wonderful job directing 'Platoon', because he was involved in the war personally and he knew the nature of combat between American soldiers and the Vietnamese. Apple software is great with the choice of colors and the design of fonts because Steve Jobs was once a student of calligraphy. It is this inside factor (a poor name - lack of my creativity) that arouses passion and truthfulness. If Charlize Therone hadn't gained weight, she might still have produced a credible performance. But, would it have been as great as we see it now in 'Monster'? The ruthlessness and mercilessness of Aileen Wournos was directly coupled with her physique and Therone couldn't have played Aileen to this effect with the help of make-up artistes alone. To use a cliche, the state of body affects the state of mind and acting is directly a function of the state of the mind.

Hanks was a two-time Oscar winner when he committed to 'Cast Away' and he didn't have to prove his thespian skills to anybody. Still, the amount of physical labour he went through is evident on the screen and his performance is now etched on the memory of the audience. It's easy to gain weight. It's important and quite difficult to maintain a good healthy physique and we know a few actors who take their body shape as a top priority. But to go up and down on the weight scale for a movie shows the level of hard work that goes on behind the camera. When Charlize Therone won the Oscar for her performance in 'Monster', she was slim and beautiful, the way we have seen her before. Christian Bale was fit and fine when he returned as Batman. It is such dedicated artistes that lift the level of a cinema from good to great.

Movies #11 - Depp, Departed, Dragged

  • Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribbean plays a captain of a pirate ship, only that he is no more the captain of that pirate ship, where in the end he actually becomes the captain of that pirate ship. Sorry for that circular sentence construction, because that's how Depp made me feel. Either he is always drunk or... what's the word... yeah, it's cockamamie. And he delivers the best performance on screen as the zany, crazily wild pirate. Felt good to see him.
  • The Departed is running in India - in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, etc. Why none of the distributors in Chennai thought about it beats me. Such a shame. Another reason for black market to thrive.
  • To say that the The Omen felt dragged is being generous. Never a moment of thrill or horror, it is an exercise in boredom, emptiness and a hideous promotion of the church. It's remake in Tamil, Janma Nakshatram is even more tortorous.

Movies #10 - Maniratnam's Guru, Casting

Update: Guru Movie Review

I've had mixed opinions about Maniratnam's abilities to cast stars in his movies. Since he can extract top notch work from even novices, he doesn't get many critics/audience to talk about the choice for a particular role - because there aren't any memorably bad performances in his movies for us to think of alternatives. For a debutante, Saranya in 'Nayagan' is a good choice; speaking of veterans, Rajinikanth and Mammootty seemed a perfect fit in 'Thalapathi'; the choice of Shamli in 'Anjali' is beyond questions. But I thought Madhavan didn't fit into 'Kannathil Muthamittal' and 'Aayudha Ezhuthu' - the former role demanded a man who is soft and firm, a man of principles, convictions; and the latter demanded a hooligan who is merciless to the core. Madhavan has a profile which perfectly fits for soft characters, like the one he did in 'Alaipayuthey'. He couldn't even manage a decent Madras baashai and seemed out of place in both the movies. Nagarjuna seemed uncomfortable in 'Gitanjali'. Maneesha Koirala didn't display the mental toughness expected of a terrorist in 'Dil Se'.

Now, coming to 'Guru', my first fear factor is Mallika Sherawat. For a director of Maniratnam's stature, he can do away with item numbers which feature beautiful female forms in meagre clothes. Is that really necessary when you have a strong storyline? In fact, I think it's Maniratnam who invented the idea of having a popular actress appear for just one song, just to satisfy that ogle-eyed, lust-hungry audience. I hope her role in 'Guru' has more weightage and less exposure, if you know what I mean. I haven't seen any of Vidya Balan's movies/scenes, hence I can't comment about her choice in this movie.

And then comes Madhavan. He is an unimpressive actor who can be his best at doing cameo roles and good at supporting roles. Very evident from teasers that Madhavan will play a subdued part. Maniratnam hangs on to his proteges and with Madhavan, it's been a long association. Directors have their favourite actors: Kurosawa - Mifune, Scorsese - De Niro, Spielberg - Hanks. These bonds were based on scripts and the ability of the actor to portray the character. But Madhavan continues to appear in Maniratnam's movies and plays characters beyond his comprehension beacause he still has some value in the cinema market and accepts roles for whatever Maniratnam promises to pay him - I guess.

Maniratnam introduced Aishwarya Rai to the movie world. In the little known, but superbly crafted and brilliantly entertaining 'Iruvar', Aishwarya Rai made her debut and enchanted the sophisticated audience. Because of the theme and content, the movie didn't reach across the layer-1 crowd, but their second outing together promises to be a commercial blockbuster. Many consider Rai to be overrated. I don't belong to that crowd. She has a certain charm and also the potential to play serious roles. But the problem with Hindi cinema industry is that there aren't many quality writers to feed talented actors. Trailers show her a steadfast wife to the hero. Maniratnam doesn't treat his woman leads as sex toys or walking/talking dolls - they actually play a character. I'm happy about Aishwarya's choice.

Abhishek Bachchan seems to be a promising star. I haven't seen his movies yet, but as an insomniac rapidly browsing channels in the night time, I have seen a few clippings of him in action and he's not bad at all. But the story spans thirty years of Guru's life and to play something like that, you need an actor who is not only keen and observant, but mature and talented. Kamal Haasan comes to my mind immediately for his performance in 'Nayagan' (in spite of comparisons to Al Pacino and Marlon Brando). This role will be a litmus test for his maturity and knowledge of the art. Does he have it in his genes?

Here's a review of the songs
Here's a prelude to Maniratnam's Guru.

Something Something - One Minute Review

There's nothing new in this movie: 'rich boy loves poor girl' story, 'you've heard it before' dialogues, 'by the numbers' screenplay, mediocre direction, blah blah, yada yada... but I confess that I didn't regret the time spent on this movie. Jayam Ravi walks and talks like an over-grown teenager and Trisha is as beautiful as Trisha. Ravi's mannerisms are my guilty pleasure - many may not like the way he carries himself, but I just enjoy him from the corner of the room. I openly admire Trisha's beauty which allows me to comfortably discount her shortcomings as an actress. So, now you know why I wasn't bored by this boring movie.

The story isn't worth mentioning, so I'll sample it: a girl trying to impress the hero makes him halwa - with salt instead of sugar. This is the 988th time a screenplay employs salt-sugar confusion in a Tamil cinema. Now, steady yourself for this dialogue from our hero:"I didn't know that this dog knew how to play football." Brilliant piece of writing!! Just when I thought the movie was over, the drums beat up and our hero croons kozhi - a song, my gracious god. The logical holes are as big as craters and the brother-sister sentiments make you throw up. In the middle of all this rubble, there is Trisha and also with her is Jayam Ravi. Just don't tell anybody.

Movies #9 - Departed, India, Release Dates

India is the most movie-hungry nation on the planet. In spite of one third of the population below the poverty line, the industry has been thriving with the stars treated like gods. Though many don't speak English, Hollywood movies have done fairly well - primarily because of their visuals, production values, well-choreographed action sequences and beautiful white-skinned women. It's understandable when a movie which is aimed at educated audience (meaning not much sex or violence, but a lot of dialogues) gets a late and limited release in India. But what about The Departed?

This IMDb page lists the international release dates for the movie and I don't see India over there. The movie is rated R for strong violence, sexual content and profane language - things that sell in India even if you don't speak English. Moreover the plot involves double-crossing: a mobster in the police force and a police officer inside mafia - the kind of story that people will watch even if it's in a foreign language. When Venezuelans and Latvians get to watch 'The Departed', who don't even care about movies as much as we Indians do, why are we treated like this by the studios?

ManiRatnam's Guru - A Prelude

Update: Guru Movie Review

Guru is my most eagerly awaited movie this year, after Munich. Well, ManiRatnam is called the Indian Spielberg in many cinema corners, but I disagree. Both are critically acclaimed and at the same time well received by the masses. Both are techincally very competent and use technology to enhance their story-telling, not vice versa. Both have a penchant for taking up de-humanising aspects of the society and have made very neat pictures. On rare occasions, they both get overly sentimental and start manipulating the emotions of the audience rather than let the audience decide their course of feelings. In spite of the mentioned similarities, I believe Mani is a character of his own and that very personality manages to find it's way in all of his movies - like a thumb impression on the frames.

As usual with ManiRatnam's projects, a thick cloud of secrecy is over and beneath 'Guru'. Rumour had it that it is the story of the most popular & controversial Indian businessman Dhirubhai Ambani but the team denied it. A few clippings available on the web suggest that the story, which seems to be of epic proportions, is about a villager who makes it big on the national level with his business acumen. A few stills (here & else where) made available for promotion, somehow remind me of 'Godfather II'. ManiRatnam has his own version of the 'Godfather', and going by the ad, 'Guru' is very well not about the rise of a don, but it's just that those photographs make me wonder if ManiRatnam may have borrowed the tone and execution from the Coppolla movie.

Some of the best technicians/artsistes are colloborating on this movie: Rajiv Menon is the cinematographer; art projects by Sabu Cyril; Sreekar Prasad is the editor; AR Rahman is taking care of the songs and background score. It must be a treat for the eyes and ears. The mind? ManiRatnam suffered a cardiac arrest on the sets of 'Yuva' and since then he has committed himself to a couple of titles: 'Lajjo' and 'Mahabharata'. It's very unlike him to be involved in two movies at a time, but I'd like to think of it as a veteran director who is displaying his mastery over the art, instead of someone who is in a hurry to churn out movies before his time runs out. As of today, 'Guru' is likely to hit the screens sometime next month, but Mani is known for his insistence on perfectly timing the release of his movies until the last minute.

Here's a review of the songs.Here's a piece on the cast for the movie.

Movies #8 - A Blemished Mind

Biopictures are debatable. There are/were most certainly lives on Earth that are/were eventful, that movies based on their real life accounts could have been very interesting. But the fact is, in most cases, the screenwriter omits some truths, cooks up something and tweaks something else to cater to the theatre audience. Do the writers owe any moral responsibility for such editing and twisting? As long as the character is not portrayed in bad light, I guess, nobody is guilty though there is no denying that there is some amount of deception involved.

I watched A Beautiful Mind recently. Akiva Goldsman has written for screen based on a book about John Nash's life. Nash is schizophrenic, but he didn't have any visuals - he heard voices when nobody spoke; voices that kept talking to him for years. Of course, Ron Howard has the capability to realize such malfunctioning on the screen, but I don't think many would be glued on to their seats in watching Russell Crowe react to pure voices. So, as per the movie, Nash has people he can see, but none other can.

Nash is a homosexual and has been criticized and censured for making lewd comments and advances in men's rooms (in the 50s and 60s - think about it). He's straight in Goldsman's version. Alicia, his wife, divorced him in 1963 and John had intimate relationships with others; after a few years they both started staying together (though in a non-romantic way) and very recently they remarried. The movie paints Alicia as a steadfast wife who stood by her husband in times of trouble. Well, as the title of this post suggests, everyone has their shortcomings, so in a manner of speaking, every mind ever born is blemished. But to picturize something 'as is' is called 'art' and that doesn't augur well for the mainstream movie industry.

Because of some of these decorations, there are things praise-worthy here: To begin with, Russell Crowe. There are few actors who can do serious roles in Hollywood with such dedication. Though he doesn't shine in other genres, his lack of versatility is overshadowed by his performances in serious dramas. 'The Insider' comes to my mind immediately, along with 'Gladiator', 'Master & Commander' and 'Proof of Life'. IMDb says that when Crowe invited Nash for a cup of tea to personally watch and learn from his mannerisms, Nash stood there and thought about it for 15 minutes shaking his hands. Hmmm... a similar scene in the movie works very well, and now I know why and how.

Deakins' camera is spot on most of the time - we see the characters from the best position there is to observe the interactions. Horner's music is soothing and adds a depth to Ron Howard's direction, which is mostly flawless. Though the movie deals with Nash's mental distortions, his eventual triumph over his own mind and the effective contribution of his genius mathematical skills to the good of the world is a wonderful statement of love - between the couple. In reality Alicia's magnanimity and John's fidelity is beyond question. And that is why the movie works.

What do you think?

Dear Reader,
Thanks for visiting my blog - which has been predominantly a movie blog so far. I write my musings on non-movie stuff here, and if you've been there, you'll know that I update very infrequently. Do you think it's okay if I merged my other blog with this one? Would you think of it as a distraction to read about non-movie stuff here?

Thanks for your frankness.