In one of those space-filler articles in India Today, I once read this whole list of things titled “You know you’re South Indian when…”. I don’t remember most of them, but one of them certainly was “You think Vande Mataram is a song composed by AR Rehman”.
That reminds me of a pal of mine, who likes being called “The Great One”. This guy is certainly a Southie, going by the previous point, for music to him means Rehman’s tunes, and Nirvana only means the feeling you get on listening to the soundtrack of Roja for the 12,485th time. As for Michael Jackson, he’s the guy who Rehman says has a voice similar to him.
The Great One is also qualified enough to be the president of the Mani-ac’s association, of which I’m a proud member. Mani-ac? Well, that’s a term I’ve coined for die-hard Mani Ratnam fans. I’m one, for I sincerely believe that most, if not all of India’s good cinema comes from this guy.
Getting to the point, The Great One seems to be on a high these days. Ask why? It’s coz the killer combo of Mani-Rehman’s giving the world their latest offering sometime in January, a Dhirubhai Ambani-inspired slickflick called Guru. Like all Mani films, not much has been publicly said about this one by the director, or the cast or the crew. Which only adds to the hype, and which has the media working overtime on possible plotlines. The most plausible one is out on indiafm.com, and has also appeared on Wiki.
The Great One has been working himself up to a Mani-Rehman frenzy, and some of it has infected me. Which means I’ve been downloading loads and loads of soundtracks of Mani movies for which Rehman’s done the score, watching Mani movies, even the ones I’ve seen atleast five times before. Dude, you’re really the Great One, you bring out the Tamizh in me… I guess I’d’ve clean forgotten all about Kollywood if it weren’t for you.
Coming to the most recent Mani flick… Aayutha Ezhuthu. Yuva in Hindi. Brilliant, brilliant flick, in my opinion. I’m talking of the Tamil version, which I prefer to the Hindi one, ‘coz, uh, well, it was so much better. For one, the actors look young, like they are supposed to [Sidhart-Trisha look more just-outta-college than Vivek-Kareena, and Ajay Devgan is certainly not Yuva, in stark contrast to Surya], the dialogues seem to suit them [I nearly choked listening to Ajay Devgan elucidating about “Aix end Waiy Cromosohms” while the same thing sounded uber-cool coming from Surya].. and, well, it has the Mani touch which Yuva seemed to lack.
Now the point is [doing this for the third time 😉 ], The Great One seems to think Rang De Basanti is comparable to Ayutha Ezhuthu, and is a wow flick and a REAL youth flick, an opinion which I clearly do not share. Here’s why:
- RDB wasn’t about anything solid, anyway. It just reinforced the widely-believed notion that politicians are corrupt and eliminating them is one way out. Yawn. How many Tamil flicks have we seen with that theme? To be frank, even Captain [for the non-Tamizh-movie-watching crowd, Captain=Vijaykanth, an overtly patriotic actor who can be seen making life better for the nation in his films] films on the theme are better-made, and employ better, more entertaining methods to kill corrupt politicos.
- RDB doesn’t present anything inspiring or worth emulating. For starters, Hingleesh-speaking losers don’t really get firang ladies, unless they’re [the ladies] the sort who’ve come to India looking for Karma or something equally shallow. Next, getting away with murder isn’t exactly great for the nation’s health. That way, I prefer AE coz Inba Sekar/Lallan Singh [Madhavan/Abhishek Bacchan] isn’t shown justified and/or let off for his crime(s).
- AE is believable. I guess most of us can identify with Arjun Balakrishnan [Sidharth/Vivek Oberoi] more than those famous five [or was it six?] in RDB. It isn’t easy to kill [Ask Manu Sharma]. And it’s tougher to get away with it. RDB isn’t gory. AE is. But it’s easier to believe that people get beaten up and survive than that people can be pushed to the brink to plan and execute murder.
- And it’s hard to believe some arbit guy a filmmaker meets looks like the character she’s supposed to be filming about, and coincidentally enough, his friends [and an enemy] look like the others supposed to be in the flick. On the other hand, it really isn’t an out-of-the-world occurrence that a teenybopper, a gangster and a student leader all meet up in one incident that directly or indirectly changes their lives
- RDB looks like some desperate cry for help – “Do Something! Anything!”. No, India isn’t in such a pathetic state. And why a radiostation of all places? Why not Doordarshan? Or, they could’ve gone to any of the various news channels that so plague the idiot box – they’d’ve been real glad of the human interest angle. [You killed your DAD???] AE, well, it goes beyond the premise that politicos are corrupt, and that there’s little apart from cursing (or killing) we can do to cleanse the system.
- To summarize all that I said above, I’ll say it’s a Macaulayan legacy to downride ourselves [India and Indians], and nope, contrary to such portrayal, we are not divided into greedy ploticians and sorry beings who don’t know how to get out of the clutches of the other group. It doesn’t help by borrowing off Bhagat Singh’s history – he was a visionary meant to be immortalized in a different way [don’t ask me which way], not as some pop-culture icon like Guevara’s most famous picture.
- And the music… AE’s music is earthy, meant to carry the story forward, while all that RDB’s music sets out to do is to advertize the movie as a prime youthflick. Rehman delivers in both, in different ways, however. [Aside: The Great One tells me that Mani Ratnam had originally planned to make AE with no soundtrack, just background score. And THEN Rehman came up with Dol Dol, which totally changed the director’s decision. Man, what a song!]
- Aamir Khan does not look like a college student, not even one who should have got his degree five years before. As for Surya and Sidharth….. need I even SAY anything?
I can just go on ripping apart every second dialogue and detail in RDB, and highlighting all the goodness in AE, but, I guess the fact will remain that more people saw RDB than AE [I guess Kollywood needs to exploit its South-East Asian market more than it’s already doing] and Yuva [just who watches Mani flicks in Hindi, anyway] put together, and RDB was more slickly packaged, and that RDB will be screened every Independence Day on every channel from DD to Star One, just like Captain films [or Arjun films] on the whole plethora of Tamil channels, that people will remember Bhagat Singh by RDB… And Khalbali will be more popular than Dol Dol, coz you can dance to it; you can’t do anything with Dol Dol other than listen to it [but if you’re NITKian, you can junglee-dance to it, same as you do for Khalbali], and best of all, you can’t remix it.
Hopefully, Guru will become a massive hit, do to AB what Nayagan did for Kamal Haasan, like The Great One predicts. It’ll just be the triumph of good cinema… it might spark a dozen clones, but they’ll only flatter the original… And after a long, long time, India will have a REAL entry at the Oscars [they sent them RDB last time; it quite obviously lost] … not that they matter, anyway – if a good movie is good enough for the masses to appreciate, it’s already earned its reward. And Great One, guess you’ll agree that Rehman hasn’t disappointed, and for yours and my sake, I hope Mani won’t, either.
Update: I watched Guru. Like all other Mani movies, the ending’s really short and it’s going to take a little while to sink in. Review coming up next. For some reason, the movie reminded me of all other Mani movies. More on that in the review.