An Ocean of Disappointment

There are two possible perspectives to the movie.

Perspective 1

Kadal opens with a surreal shot of the Holy Cross against a rising sun which sets the tone for the rest of the movie. We see a young Sam (Arvind Swamy) who is about to enrol himself as a Pastor, despite belonging to a rich family, which raises many eyebrows.  We also see Berchmans (Arjun), very popular among the young chaps belonging to the church. Berchmans comes from a poor background, and never allows us to forget that throughout the movie. Some unsavoury incidents cause a deep rift between Sam and Berchmans and eventually the latter drops his entire plan to become a priest, thus leaving the church. The movie essentially deals with the feud between the “Son of God” Sam and the “Son of Satan” Berchmans and how Thomas (Gowtham Karthik) or Thomman, as Sam calls him, and Beatrice / Bea (Thulasi Nair) unwittingly become a part of this.

Perspective 2

Mother of a young Thomas, Mary, who sells her body for livelihood, is found dead one night, by Chetty (Ponvannan). Chetty, who has been a regular at Mary’s home, takes the initiative to bury her. After witnessing his mother being buried in a “themmadi kuzhi” in a very vile manner, Thomas goes to Chetty’s home, where he is shooed away by him and his wife. The motherless boy with father-issues grows up to be a big time brat, or, to be more accurate a “lumpen element” as our journalists would label, and becomes a menace to the residents of the beach. This is when Father Sam comes to the town and a mentor-student relationship blossoms between the Priest and the Brat. The movie deals with how Thomas comes to terms with his troubled childhood, through various confrontations with good (Father Sam/ Beatrice) and evil (Berchmans).

May whatever be the perspective you choose, the movie leaves you underwhelmed. Kadal has its own moments which remind us what this man called Mani Ratnam is capable of. Be it the foetal position of the small boy, trying to listen to his mother Mary’s heartbeat by lying on her dead body or the burial of Mary, which makes everyone squirm in their seats, the scenes are a class apart. We see moles on the charming face of Swamy, reminding us of a similar alteration on Mammooty in Nayagan. May be the director wanted to make the handsome man more human. There are comic touches here and there, in an otherwise serious movie, where we come to know that it takes only `50 for a Confession session as told by a local. The theme is very Christian what with the director invoking the crucifixion of Christ during the mobattack against Sam. We see him spreading his hands, not unlike Jesus on the cross, unable to handle the violence directed at him. But these moments remain just that, not carrying on the potential charisma they can lend to the rest of the movie. 

            Only when it is revealed to the audience that Beatrice is having some psychological issues, that we understand – It is not Thulasi trying to be cute; it is Thulasi sucking big time at acting. The audience are left to themselves the question, as to why she is not given any treatment. We just see regular admonishment from her class mates and a “Mother Superior”, that she is a very gifted but child-like “angel”. We also do not understand why Thomas shifts alliance in a jiffy and goes over to the dark side.  As we surf towards the climax, we stop caring what happens to these characters. The only incentive for the audience, to stay till the end, is the curiosity as to how Anbin Vasaley is picturised (again disappointing).

Though Gowtham has the starting trouble of being a newcomer, unlike his co-star, he is not totally lost. He delivers the angst of the disowned child perfectly. I hopewith some more movies, he will improve his dialogue delivery. Arvind Swamy leaves us wanting more. Take a look at the scene where he reacts to the fisherwoman who tricks him into buying fish – masterly! Arjun tries to be Lord Voldemort and leaves a good yet slightly caricature-d performance. 

The songs are one of the major attractions of any Mani Ratnam movie and they remain so here too. There are two Magudis, which audience may find perfect or not depending on their views on cinema. Adiye, though aptly timed, is shot in a bizarre way. It islike Snehithane Snehithane in a sunny beach. Yes, you read that right. I loved it, but not many may. Similarly Nenjukkuley and Moongil Thottam are also wonderfully timed. Especially the scene during which Beatrice innocently brushes Tom’s hands and tells him “thirumba pannatha” after he had just finished telling her the details of his dark life. Beautiful. The cinematography is a treat to the eyes, particularly the night time scenes. Rajiv Menon has brilliantly captured the sea, sea shore, and its inherent innocence. The climax shot in the turbulent sea is breath taking, that you almost curse Mani Ratnam and try to talk to him through telepathy asking him why the hell had he not made the story better. Let us hope the Midas gets his golden touch back.  

Favourite Scene – Thomas assists Bea in giving birth to a child and realises blood not only means death, but also means birth.

Thoughts on Kadal



Chithirai Nela

Perhaps my least favourite song in the album, Chithirai Nela is good, but only just. Vijay Yesudas makes the song gloomy and the fake coastal accent is not doing any help. Despite the voice, the song is soothing. But I doubt its repeat value. Among giants like Moongiland Nenjukkuley, this is one song I would give a miss anytime. Vijay Yesudas runs the risk of being his father’s shadow, someone to be used if and when Yesudas stops singing. Also he sounds a bit like Unni Menon. The request is not to change the voice, since it is not possible.  The emphasis is to develop a distinct style. As an example we have SPB and his son. Their voices are similar. But, one can vouch and say that Kathal Sadugudu was not sung by SPB, that there was something so non-SPBish about the song, that you can safely conclude that the song was not sung by him, even though the voice reminds us of him.
Watch OutSee if you can listen to traces of Tu Bin Bataye from Rang De Basanti and Mannipaaya from Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya

Adiye

This is a “Jessie’s Been Driving Me Crazy” genre, even the situation too strikingly similar, where the hero asks his lover, repeatedly, where she is taking him to. It has a 60s night club/ 20s Jazz Era feeling, where the singer is having a perpetual vibration in his voice which imperceptibly gives way to surprising ups and downs in his rendition making the song a singer centric song rather than ARR’s usual where the musical instruments take the centre stage. The singer Sid Sriram mirrors a younger Shankar Mahadevan. He has a distinct carnatic voice which has been used in this seemingly western song. His variations add spice to an already unique song in the album. The man has some range – his voice might shatter glass into pieces. I just might have found my favourite singer after Shankar Mahadevan and Sukhwinder Singh. The brilliance of the song is that one could actually relate to the song even if the breezy western BGM is replaced by a folk tune and it will still sound equally beautiful. And that, people, is how ARR shines. 

Addendum : It would be unfair not to give the imaginative lyrics its due. Was Karky high when he wrote Adiye, because it sure does look like it. He takes the song to another level when he says that the girl made his heart into a rope and pulled him along the rainbow path from earth to heaven. When he says that the girl drew wings on a fish and made it fly by throwing it into the sky , he proves that he is his father’s son. Kudos! For a man who wrote “Google Google” this is definitely a new high. But then, even Vairamuthu wrote “Apple Penne” .

Moongil Thottam


Easily the best song of the album, Moongil Thottam is what one calls an inspired work by an inspired composer – lyricist duo. There is always this expectation as to how big the explosion is going to be when Vairamuthu and Rahman come together. No wonder Vairamuthu has won 4 of his last 5 National Awards for a Rahman song.

Moongil Thottam is another superior work from both, with Vairamuthu’s lyrics blending seamlessly with the music. In fact the best two songs – Moongil and Nenjukkuley has been penned by Vairamuthu , showing why he is at the helm of modern Tamil poetry, and also showing that one needn’t be verbose and yet infuse magic in words. It’s as if one could picturise the bamboo forest in a cold winter night, the air filled with the faint smell of the herbs, glowing under the shine of a full moon, where the two young lovers are taking a walk; one could see the birds shaking the water drops off their feathers near the river bank. I can keep talking about the lyrics, so I switch to the music.

People say ARRs songs need time to grow on you. When Raavanan released, I was massively disappointed.  It took a month, on a cool August morning, when even the sun hadn’t woken up, while I was in a near empty rusty bus occupied only by a vegetable seller, other than me, going to the market along with her large basket filled with fresh vegetables, travelling on a fly over, with a train speeding, singing loudly into oblivion below us, for me to go absolutely crazy over Kaatu Sirukki.Thankfully, I need not wait for a similar panoramic experience to happen again as far as Moongil Thottam is considered.  It instantly clicked and has been on loop ever since, even as I write this now. I consider myself unqualified to fill up my comments on the song as I will be kidding myself. Just go listen to the song and you will understand what I am talking about.

The singer Abhay Jodhpurkar is excellent. This has been a quality of male singers chosen by ARR , they are crystal clear and their voices have an out of the world yet grounded nature, be it Naresh Iyer, Karthik or Benny Dayal except may be Sukhwinder Singh who gulps certain words when he sings , very much like Mohit Chauhan in Rockstar. When I heard Harini in an interview, that she has sung a song in Raavanan album, I was mega excited since ARR brings the best out of her, only to be disappointed later to know that not only was she not included, like adding insult to my injured ears, he made Shreya Ghoshal sing one of the most average song produced by him, Kalvare Kalvare [listen to Kalvare sans BGM – Shreya’s voice is sprinkled with gold – no other explanation]. So, when Harini made an appearance in this album for Moongil I was satisfied as a fan of hers to know that she was given her due. There is always an echo that accompanies Harini’s voice. It has its own beauty, but her voice sounds better without the usual echo which follows her like a Siamese twin. Harini sounds young and refreshing, one of the main reason the song works big time.
Watch out – At 2:25 the song enters “Sahana Saral Thoovutho” mode.

Elay Keechan

The song is about fishing, fishermen and sea goddess. The last time I heard such a song about fisherman, in main stream movie, made with care, was in Chemmeen. The song Kadalinakkareis perhaps one of the most popular Malayalam songs, brilliantly composed by Salil Chowdhary, penned by the legendary Vayalar and sung by Yesudas. May be Elay Keechan represents a shift in the popular culture about the idea of music in the coastal life and that makes the song an important milestone in the history of Indian music. Of course, the main attraction is that ARR himself has done the honours by taking up the singer’s mantle. The last time, this composer sang for Mani Ratnam in Guru in 2007.
As an explanation as to why mango people love Shah Rukh Khan a lot, some say that it is the way he speaks. When he talks in a TV interview or a random show, it appears as if he is reaching out to the audience; his warmth is spread to the listeners. I don’t know how many would agree with this, but this I can say for sure about ARR’s voice. Sometimes it just feels as if he is telling us, “You want to hear me sing? Ok. I am going to sing for you. Listen.” The difference between other singers and him is that, you cannot separate the voice from the personality. You will always have that sense inside you, that this is Rahman himself singing about big fishes and sail and blessings from god and sea goddess and you would keep thinking this guy is not at all the person we have been reading about; the one we have been seeing on TV! Madan Karky has written the lyrics and ably supports the music. The Hawaiian laziness blended with African vigour makes the song distinct. The guitar tunes are likeable and the chorus has also added energy to the song. Go listen to it.
Watch OutSee if you can listen to traces of Mustafa Mustafa(Kadhal Desam)/ Maana Madura(Minsarakanavu) / Yaro Yarodi(Alaipayuthey) in the song.

Nenjukkule

Shaktishree Gopalan, the female voice in the crazy song “En Uchimandai” (Vettaikaraan), reminds me of singer Shobha who asked the margazhi flower to give her a spot in her lap to sleep. Her singing is similar to the one in Poraley Ponnuthaayi, where the singer is brilliantly guided by the almost non-existent yet ever pervasive BGM. Vairamuthu has a way with seemingly innocuous words sculpting them to give deeper meanings. Look at the way he tells us that plastic bangles cannot make sounds like the glass ones as a metaphor for the girl’s inability to express her feelings. The song has soothing, simple orchestration. One would assume the composer took the essence of the great oceans of the world and let out the stream of music from chords of waters. There is a constant repetitive rendition of violin notes, may be as an analogy for the waves which strike the coast repeatedly. The song has the never ending quality; it doesn’t seem to take a pause. There is always the calmness and the gentle procession of the instruments guiding the voice towards itself. It’s a watery song. It’s a wonderful song.
Watch outReminds you a bit of “Minnalai Pidithu” from Shah Jahan. [sorry]

Anbin Vaasale

In the book “A R Rahman – The Spirit of Music: Conversations with Nasreen Munni Kabir” when asked about the importance of faith he says:
Faith is far more complex than understanding things in black and white terms. There are many things we fail to understand. I don’t think we have the adequate language or words to describe it. Words themselves can cloud the power of understanding.” 

Perhaps that is why he tries to make sense of God through a far more beautiful path of music.


Anbin Vaasale is a heavy orchestra song and that is deviant from the ARR style of keeping the devotional songs simple, be it Anbendra from Minsarakkanavu or Khwajaand Manmohana from Jodha Akbar. But the heavy orchestration makes the song, stirring and electrifying. May be it is because of the innate spirituality of the composer, or may be its the singer pouring his heart out, Anbin Vaasale  is a song with substance, much more than those belonging to popular genres. Haricharan’s diction is commendable where his words pierce through the ears with such clarity. Especially when he sings the phrase Anbin Vaasale, you can’t help but get goose bumps. The orchestra is grand and gives a rush to the listeners , occasionally losing its track in between , but soon picking up its pace, that you can forgive the minor lapse.The lyrics are wonderful here, where Madan Karky attributes the colour of the flowers and life beneath the tree roots to god. May be that is what god is to man, someone to whom we can attribute things that cannot be explained.

Watch out – Feel the same rush listening to Anbey Ithu from Rhythm

Magudi


Fanaa / Yaakai Thiri from Yuva / Aayutha Ezhuthu plus Thottal Poo Malarum from New plus Irumbiley from Enthiran – that is Magudi for you. The lyrics don’t make much sense, but who cares? Just dance your heart out, if you are that person. It has an interesting cameo by Chinmayi. Even when the woman talks; it sounds as if she is singing. As I said earlier, award for the best cameo in a song goes to the one and only Chinmayi.
Watch Out Chinmayi.

127 Hours – Never Give up !

Originally written on- on Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 12:11pm 
Seldom have I felt so strong about movies. I was in awe when I saw Avatar/ Titanic, cried my heart out when Michelle McNally said she owes everything to her teacher in Black, Wondered at the greatness of Shobhana’s acting skill in ManiChithraThaazhu, but never did I think that in spiteinspite telling myself a couple of times “Its just a movie, its just a movie, dont worry” I would be drawn into a world from which I could never come back .
Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is a movie from which, even if you want to think about something else, you would never be able to draw your attention away.
There are some strong scenes, not for fainthearted , and some eye watering Cinematography.
Take for example that scene which shows the grandeur of the mighty canyons or for that matter the scene which shows the marching clouds covering up the entire surface in a flash, and the subsequent rain and flood. Truly breathtaking.I do not wish to explain the ‘strong sequences’ and take away the charm those “particularly nasty” sequences carry with them.
The actor James Franco who had played Harry Osborn in Spider Man, plays the role of mountain climber Aron Ralston, who became trapped by a boulder in Robbers Roost, Utah, for more than five days in 2003. I am no one to judge the acting prowess of anyone, but I found him immensely real and very original.
A R Rahman’s musical score adds to the strange situation encountered by the protagonist. The music never obstructs the narrative and only adds to the beauty of each shot. It may be interesting to note that A R Rahman uses the starting part of “Usurey Poguthey” at about 45 minutes into the movie. (May be a tribute to Mani Ratnam ? ) It seamlessly blends to the sequence.
I am so honoured that I got to watch 127 Hours. This year the psychological Black Swan and Christoper Nolan’s “Inception” may have taken you by surprise through their novel concepts. 127 Hours shows that a movie can be declared a Masterpiece by only relying on a breathtaking story, and script ! It is no wonder if the movie gets maximum Oscars this year, definitely better than Inception and Black Swan and Toy Story or for that matter any other , I have seen the last year 🙂

Hamm it like the Mad Men

The one thing I love about history is that it is unattainable. The lost time can never be retrieved and can only be looked at , studied . I enjoy it with a distinct longing to go back in time at the same time having a more practical version of myself saying I am better off living in the modern times. Mad Men by Matthew Weiner, set in the 60s, tells the tale of American Advertising Industry most of whom were based in the Madison Avenue.
John Hamm as Don Draper
Jon Hamm as Don Draper

                 There is a certain charm to the show which distinguishes it from the rest I have seen till now. It is not that I am an expert in the 60s of the United States, yet the show some how doesn’t cease to amaze me. There is Mr. Don Draper alias Dick Whitman, played incredibly by Jon Hamm, that I almost did not recognize him to be the guy who was the irritating sex – starved “boy-friend” of Kristen Wigg in the 2011 romantic – comedy Bridesmaids. (Too bad that he was not credited for his part).
       Now what shall I say about Donald Draper? He is mysterious, one doesn’t know much about his past, his aspirations. He is dominating, yet insecure, he sleeps with every other girl he sees, yet so protective of his family, he seems to be the up-tight New York executive and the next moment we see him escaping to Californian beaches with a girl, who is almost half is age, with whom he had barely met once or twice. He is not exactly an aspirational personality, but I dare say many men aspire to be like him at some level or the other.
                          He is the boss his juniors would not dare to cross, he is the creative genius who comes out of ideas from thin air (to quote himself from Season 1, Episode 1 – Luckystrikes), he is the ultimate friend who helps cover up their mistakes, he is the ever so loyal brother to Anna, he is the caring father to his children and to top it he has married the ridiculously beautiful Betty Draper (played gracefully January Jones). Sounds like James Bond? Only that Bond is not this cool.
  January Jones as Betty Draper

January Jones as Betty Draper

This almost flattering account of Draper does not endorse what he is and what he does. My admiration for this man does not hide his flaws, and he has some very significant ones. He is sexist, racist and even a pedophile considering he made advances towards a barely 18 year old girl. His hidden secrets, his dual life, his cut-throat competitiveness, makes him one hell of a negative character perhaps only rivaled by Don Corleone.
Cast and Crew of Mad Men

Roger Sterling , Joan Holloway, Ken Cosgrove, Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell in Mad Men

So where does one classify him. As the age old question goes – “Neenga Nallavara Kettavara ?” He is neither and that is the beauty of this character. He is a flawed human being just like every one of us. He has his negative qualities and he has his brilliance steadily accompanying him. This grey characterization by Matthew Weiner has left me speechless. I salute Weiner for having come up with such astounding set of characters. Be it Peggy Olson and her special relationship with Draper, or the crooked yet charming Pete Campell, the obnoxiously rich lean 60 year old man who divorces his wife to marry a 25 something secretary (read Roger Sterling), Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway (too beautiful that people don’t see any one else when she is on screen), and the ultimate housewife Betty Draper – every one are unique flawed yet good in their own ways.
                But to say that Mad Men is only defined by these characters would be very wrong and in fact an unforgivable injustice to its writers and creators. The effort that has been gone to capture the essence of the 60s, the minute things like the box TVs , the background music, the hair styles, the costumes, even an easily overlook-able stationery ,say a pen – these speak volumes about the rich production value of the series. It captures the the entire generation , their attitude, their fears, their insecurity , their happiness in a way that is very believable and accurate(if critical reviews are anything to go by).

Producer/writer Matthew Weiner (5th from L) poses in the press room with the Emmy for Best Drama Series for “Mad Men” during the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

                                         I watch Desperate Housewives for the sake of it  since it is going to end any way (and of course for the talented actress Felicity Huffman), I adore Friends , How I met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory for their creativity and wit, I am in awe of Dexter and Lost for their unthinkable concepts, and plot. I watch re-runs of these series if they happen to be running on the TV and that too for not more than a few minutes and never did I think that a TV series would change my outlook, my tastes in music. But yet Mad Men managed to do that and I remain eternally grateful to Matthew Weiner for simply being there and doing his job.