It was a good idea to release Mani Ratnam’s latest flick Raavan in the rainy season. The rain and all the water adds a sort of surround effect to the scenic shots in the movie.
I watched the movie on the day of release, though missed the first half hour due to traffic jam and unhelpful rickshaw drivers in Mumbai. I thought it was fab.
Reading so many bad reviews and criticism about Abhishek Bachchan’s acting, I’m wondering if there is anything wrong with me or if my taste in movies has gone to dogs.
Tell me, is Ramayana a rule book, setting moral standards to people? Is it there to give definition to the whole of Rama as good. Raavana as bad. Sita as the perfect wife? (however hard it is to define such vague terms). How much do you really question the action of each character in the epic? Do we ever think that Valmiki might have just taken a break from his japa and the like and said “Hey! I’m bored, Let me write a story!”
Let’s say you read the whole of Ramayana as a story, in the same breath as say, Huckleberry Finn abridged version from a shelf of other classic abridge versions. All the Nava Rasas are squeezed from the pulp and juice distributed to the whole population of Dombivli. If you can add different Rasas in different proportion and completely mix it, you might actually set the reader thinking that Pap, Finn’s father as the “good guy” of the book. Maybe all your ingrained moral values might push you to think otherwise and hence hate it. But it’s worth a try. For art’s sake.
That, I think is precisely what Mani Ratnam has tried to do to Ramayana here. And that is why I hold the movie so highly. Starting from the point where Rama accused Sita and working backwards, trying to figure out if there may be a more human reason for his action (apart from God left his body after his work of killing Raavana was over), Mani Ratnam has tried to prove that if you tried to interpret each action in the rind differently, Raavana might have a better case in front of people. And the only Sita, with her better will power and better judgement can develop a soft corner for him. For her, Rama is still her beloved god, but Raavana’s actions are justified too. He tries to potray Raavana’s crimes as vengeance, more like his only weapon against the more powerful, more influential rule of Rama. His leadership is justified in the eyes of those who follow him. In the end, it is powerplay and the play of strong feelings, to possess the woman that they both are madly in love with.
As usual, Mani Ratnam, uses his visual prowess and better cinematography to woo the audience. But then he fails to deliver, where the authenticity of the ways of people where he claims the story takes place comes. Particularly, Beera’s ways of speaking, the change from Hindi to Bhojpuri is not very well shown. Better people than the super couple could have conveyed the story better. But then, Ash looks as beautiful as ever and Abhishek is still the gunda-mawali from Yuva. I guess, Mani Ratnam mischieviously tries to break them apart onscreen, only to keep their couple-ness intact by the end of the movie.
Overall, I would say it was worth that one watch, not anymore.
My phone ringing when it was going through security check. Getting unnerved by the stony-faced security officer. Chatting up an old Indian couple who couldn’t for the hell of them figure out how to use the payphones.
Looking at the long line of infants and young children boarding the flight and praying hard that it doesn’t turn out just like a good friend of mine had predicted and I spend nineteen hours without sleep just due to crying children.
Looking to turn off my mobile during takeoff and finding it missing.
Unsuccessfully trying to find out the name of a Sri Lankan co-passenger who worked in LA and was a citizen of Singapore. Man, after the first non-attempt (“I’m Priya… and you?” “Pleased to meet you, ma’am”), it became like a game.
Unsuccessfully trying to engage the Mormon Japanese teacher from Utah in a conversation about the similarities between Japanese and Hindi/Kannada grammars, and when that failed, about Miyazaki movies as a tool for teaching Japanese.
Forgetting to disembark at Tokyo-Narita because I was in a state of half-sleep. Going to the wrong gate. Saved by yet another Indian couple.
Falling asleep at meal-times on the flight. Due to which there’d be no vegetarian meal when I did wake up hungry. And dear god, grilled cucumbers do not make a MEAL!! Nor do inadequately spiced and seasoned instant noodles.
Watching Exam, and missing out an important part of the climax because the girl next to me was airsick and shaking and shivering. If you’ve watched it, please please explain the ending to me. Please.
Crying children at airports. One of them was beating her fists on the floor. I didn’t know kids did that in real life.
Tramping around Singapore with my entire handbaggage, inclusive of laptop. I didn’t realize how much my shoulders were taking it until I came home and slept.
Someone paying my bus fare for me just because I’m a tourist who spoke Tamil.
Parents tensing up coz I was in a foreign country without a phone in the middle of the night and hadn’t called yet. They were about to message my friends there on LinkedIn.
Finding out that I’ve lost the ability to speak in keywords. Y’know, like “No Meat. No Seafood. What’s there?” or “Five dollar no. Costly. Only two dollar”. It’s a really important ability to have in places where English is not very common. Especially if you’re otherwise inclined to long flowery language that confuses people.
Hiding your pack of gum in your inner pockets just coz you’ve grown up hearing that Singapore is a clean, clean country where they’ll jail you for chewing gum. And then walking through Little India to see this guy wash his hands and gargle and rinse and spit onto the street! Shaking your head with dismay because you found that the river there is brown.
Being lectured by a cabbie about how Singapore is better than India. And about how I should have bought tons of keychains in Chinatown for S$5 and distributed it to all and sundry back home so that they are all happy I get them something. Daemn… didn’t think of that.
Finding a dozen ripoffs of Komala Vilas restaurant. All on the same street. Just like you have Dan Brown, Dale Brown, Dane Browne, you have Komala’s, Komala Vishesh, Komalavalli’s…
Apparently mobiles are called Hand Phones in Singapore. Just so that we don’t confuse them with headphones or earphones.
Random guy at a mall starts off some weird chant, and all other young people there join in to yell, dance, and make weird gestures, and then get back to doing whatever they were doing, like nothing had happened.
Wandering into an art gallery of some sort, where the major exhibits were about Depression. Freaking out, and asking the janitor what the hell this place was. (I only got some vague reply in a language I didn’t understand).
Wondering if the fat dude in the oversized clothes was Yogi B (the Malay-Tamil rapper), and lamely asking “Er…. you’re Malaysian?” (He was Sri Lankan).
Wandering into the fire engine museum, where the curator kept going on about fire drills and how hard it was to put fires out forty years ago, when I kept murmuring I wanted to leave.
Hearing “Mind The Gap!” in four languages, including Tamil. Staring with disbelief at “State Bank of India, Little India Branch”.
Meeting longlost friends and namesakes. Staying up all night talking. Hearing “You’ve not changed at all!”, and saying “Yeah, I’m still in your room gossiping and not letting you fall asleep”.
Bumping into a former employer.
This might sound really sad, but my introduction to Netflix was through the Netflix Prize. In my defence, I wasn’t all that much into movies back when the contest was announced. And heck, the NITK LAN when I was around could easily beat any Netflix in terms of average quality of content hosted. And not that much into data mining either [the Netflix Prize was a contest where you had to devise a system which would predict ratings for movies you hadn't seen yet based on what you had rated, and not just that, you had to perform 10% better than Netflix's recommendation engine, and you would get a million dollars]. I didn’t know enough to compete back then. And now, there’s not going to be another Netflix contest [which essentially will mean a shot at a million dollars and/or bragging rights] thanks to some IITM-UTAustin-Stanford guy (Indian! Everyone, put your claws together for one of our very own!).
So anyway, now that I knew what Netflix was, I took amazingly long to visit the site. Yesterday I did. And the deal seemed rather OK – Trial run for two weeks, which I had to cancel before the two weeks were up, else I’d get billed for the month. And unlimited movies to watch online. Great, no?
Totally. I watched more movies yesterday than I normally watch in a week. It felt….. surreal. The max record I know of is Dha’s record of 9 movies in a day (Info gleaned from Smriti testimonials… is it an Urban Legend?). Anyway, these are the ones I watched yesterday.
- Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi: I totally totally liked SRK in this one. He doesn’t talk in his usual manner in the movie at all… whoa. Movie isn’t great, obviously. But the ending credits more than made up for it – Surinder-ji presenting his and Taani-ji’s Japan snaps.
- Welcome To Sajjanpur: Nice timepass movie. A little cliched in places, but overall, a good watch. Shreyas Talpade is totally lovable in this flick.
- Luck, By Chance: Ok, I didn’t watch this off Netflix, but I watched it yesterday, so it makes it to this list. I liked the opening credits quite some. I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked videos of people posing for photographs. I rather liked Rishi Kapoor and Juhi Chawla in it. Dimple Kapadia seemed too contrived to me, and I can’t stand Isha Sharvani’s giggle. I liked Farhan Akhtar’s understated manipulativeness, thankgod it was not the rubbing-hands-evil-glint routine.
- Blackadder Goes Forth – I’ve watched this before, and I can rattle off each dialogue before it’s uttered, but it’s brilliance, just plain brilliance.
- Hey, Arnold! (Season 3) – I used to watch this show long long ago, sporadically. It turns out that I appreciate this show better when I watch it right after coming back from school than now when I try watching the entire season at a stretch.
- The Proposal – I had watched Did You Hear About The Morgans a few months back. Man, what’s it about Hollywood and getting New Yorkers to live in some rural area due to a set of unforseen circumstances? It’s not sweet, it’s not cute, the granny is not as adorable as other Hollywood grannies, nor is the family, certainly not as adorable as the family in While You Were Sleeping. Random chickflick. Unless you really have no choice, don’t watch this one.
- Julie And Julia – Given that I’m going through a phase where I’m craving for short term goals and structure in life, AND that I blog, AND that I sort of like cooking, this one hit close to home. If you want to use your blog to set and fulfill short-term goals, and attempt to become a better person in the process, this movie’s for you. Also if you seek relief from the daily humdrum by making yourself a nice meal at the end of the day. Of course, I’ve ended up doing neither; I constantly waver between “Cooking is stress” and “Cooking is stress-relief”. Still, not a bad movie. It shows a blogger getting a book deal, so… well…
- District 9 – Aliens! Racism! Xenophobia! One of Us becoming One of Them! Those things didn’t really make much of an impact on me. What did, however, was the possibility of a senti sequel where Wikus is old, there’s a plot to remove Wikus’s then-assistant who’s now a good bigshot, Christopher is dead, and Christopher’s son comes back….. And I’d really have liked to see something about the Alien culture and all that. It’s a good watch, I’d say, and Sharlto Copley does do a good job of the whole thing. It’s good to see aliens being portrayed in a way different from the established norm in film industries worldwide.
- Monsoon Wedding – I’ve seen this often on TV and blogged about it too. Oh, it turns out that the girl who plays the 10-year-old is Naina Lal Kidwai’s daughter.
I should also state here that I began watching Shakespeare In Love, and Happenstance, and quit coz they weren’t riveting enough.
So did I beat Dha’s record? No, considering I didn’t really watch the entire season of Hey, Arnold. And even if I did, I’d probably be tied.
I’m not going to be doing this anytime in the future. Having so many movies at your disposal and limited time to watch them isn’t my cup of tea. Of course, it’d be much better if I took it in smaller doses…. there are lessons you learn from watching Arunachalam. I’ll be going home for the summer, and as part of closing a lot of things down, I’ve cancelled my Netflix account.
And I’m not really ruing that. There aren’t that many movies and TV shows you can watch online right now. Most of the ones I wanted to watch – the entire run of Whose Line and A Bit of Fry And Laurie and all the flicks from Studio Ghibli – are not available to watch online. Why, even the rather popular flick which I haven’t yet watched and whose name I will not reveal for fear of being crucified or lynched was not available to watch online. Rather a disappointment, that way.
Plus, a good number of the films I want to watch are Tamil or Kannada or Hindi. I sadly couldn’t find Manithanin Marupakkam, which I vaguely remember watching many years ago on Sun TV and being very intrigued by it. A lot of the movies I want to watch are like that – I’d've watched fifteen minutes of it before changing the channel many years ago, after which the clips keep coming back to me, and I decide I just have to watch this… often, those fifteen minutes have nothing to do with the general tone of the movie and I’m often disappointed, but not for lack of trying.
Still, a sort-of magical day when I could totally drown in a world of make-believe.
Oh, and how could I forget…. the ratings. I rated just around 60 movies, and already, the predictions for the ratings I’d give other movies were BANG ON!! Really, amazingly accurate. Down to the decimal point. Except when it predicted I’d give two-and-a-half stars for Avvai Shanmughi.
The one thing that strikes me about this is that the movies I’d give five stars to aren’t the ones I’d really prefer to watch at any given time. I like my mindless, useless chickflicks for a one-time watch. I find some Awesome movies totally depressing.
Maybe an alternative small task would be to predict which movies are a one-time watch, and which ones I’d like to rewatch?
Long time back, about ten or twelve years ago, I saw this song on Door Darshan. I think. One of those sunday morning old movie song programs. Nutan and Dev Anand sing a very pretty tune, as they climb down the stairs of Qutub Minar. At that time I had thought it to be a very good idea to film inside Qutub Minar.
While I have listened to Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar, a gadzillion times after that, on my computer that is, it never occurred to me that it was the same one.
Every time a conversation about old hindi songs popped up, I have asked which song that was with Qutub Minar in it. This has happened with more than a dozen people. Every time the answer has been “What song?” or “Oh! that? Oh Damn! I dont remember it” or “Qutub Minar? nice”.
Today on a lark, I searched for “dev anand qutub minar” and there it was, staring at me!