Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Love leads the way

True love - is it an old fashioned concept?

I don't know but Bharat Bala at least doesn't think so. I appreciate him for that. In perhaps his first attempt at directing a full length commercial film, Bharat Bala comes across as this honest artist who still believes in the good things in life, true love for instance.

Maryaan is the story of a young braveheart from a coastal village in Tamilnadu, who is forced by circumstances to seek a job in a foreign land, hundreds of miles away from two things closest to his heart-the sea and his girl. What leads him to go that far is one half of the story and a terrible incident that happens while he is there, forms the second half.

As always Dhanush, is brilliant but the leading lady Parvati is a huge surprise. Just not a pretty Malayali actress with large doe-like eyes and luscious hair but also loads of talent. She matches her on-screen lover in almost every sigh and every stolen glance.

And Dhanush. I don't know if he moulds his roles into the cast of his body or if his physique moulds itself around his characters. Whatever it is, he knows how to use his eyes, voice and body, even his hands. The director has completely depended on Dhanush to give this character the much needed conviction and push. And Dhanush hasn't failed in his duty. I must say Dhanush picks up his roles with care. He obviously can't do a superhero or a nattamai. Aadukalam, 3 and now Maryan. I'm curious to see how he's going to further his career graph from now.

Coming back to the film, there are many beautifully thought out scenes, like the imaginary feast Maryan lays out for his friend, the hallucination scene and the cute church scene. Oh yes, and the way Maryan reacts when he all of a sudden 'sees the sea'. Then, the scene where the heroine instinctively knows her lover is safe and goes off into a state of trance as if she were drugged. I will linger a little longer here because these are moments when a director strikes a chord with his viewers. Extremely well played by Parvati with the aid of some great camera work. Yes, there must be this thing between  lovers - soul connection, and of course there are still people who believe that love is a drug that makes one blind to any impending danger. Throughout the movie, there is so much emotion happening but there's no melodrama, right up to the last scene in the way Panimalar (that's the heroine's lyrical name in this film) registers her lover's presence next to her.

The story line might drag a little here and there. There isn't much for the audience to do when there isn't much happening on screen itself - there are no bad guys to fight with, there is no one to even say a word to...for a while, nothing much really happens. Fortunately, the story picks up tempo and the audience sits up too, guessing what might happen next.

A R Rahman. Hmm...must have had a great time working with his good old friend. The most striking thing about the music of this film is the simplicity. I am sure it takes a lot of effort to be simple. No complicated harmonies. Just a few simple instruments put together. The inspirational chartburster Nenje Ezhu, thankfully has been picturised well. O ye, oyelle has this strange mix of folk and pop which doesn't sound great on first hearing. The song that makes you sit up is Innum Konjam Neram. This song has a beautiful old-world feel to it-the lyrics as well as the tune. Sakthishree Gopalan was so good in Kadal that he had to give her another shot with the haunting Enge Pone Raasa. The background score is very good in parts. After all how much creative can you get when every villain in every movie HAS to have his own personalized 'theme score'. Rahman still achieves the desired effect. The score for the scenes between the lovers is kept simple...as simple as the lovers themselves.

Just like how the music felt like vintage ARR, the film in general had this vintage Mani Ratnam feel to it.

There are parts where the movie could have been better. I wish the poor girl was not bashed up so much, at least by her lover. Its just not right. Then, the heroine's voice, rather the diction. Not sure if she has dubbed herself, but her voice sounds too urban for a village belle. Her English words sound totally convent educated. Notice the way Dhanush says 'yemty graundu' and the way she repeats it later. Like I said, the pace and the wrapping up could have been much better. It reminds me of my Fiction paper in my degree examination where I would luxuriate in the first 2.5 hours, elaborately quoting, analyzing, imagining  and delving deep into the littlest detail. Suddenly I would be jolted out of my dream by the stern examiner's unemotional voice "10 minutes more" and I would go into panic mode, realising there's so much more to write and so little time. My essays would end up looking like short answers! That's what happened to the ending of the movie.

Last word: If you believe that love is Mariyaan (one without death), go and watch it. If you are going to snigger at those who do believe, stay at home.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Palace of Illusions

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakarunni. I had heard a lot about this book and was lucky to have been gifted a copy by a dear friend. I could read (and re-read certain portions) it at my own pace.
Now, it is the same story of the Mahabharata but becomes very interesting because it is told from Draupadi's point of view. Some look at her as a hero and some as a selfish go-getter - both of which are true. But what the book also conveys is that whoever you are, ultimately there is this thing called Destiny that controls our lives, right from the way we are born to whom we marry, right up to the way we die. Its all pre-written.

I loved the book for its honest and bold approach. It goes where normal Indian writing doesn't dare to. The Krishna-Draupadi friendship makes for a very interesting read. Their exchanges are full of humour, wit, philosophy and there is also a touch-and-go spiritual angle. It sometimes even makes the reader envious to see that Draupadi has this wonderful relationship, that too with a man like Krishna! And Karna. I think enough has been spoken and written about this brave warrior for him to secure a warm place in our hearts. My heart really went out to him. Probably hundreds have shed tears at his tragedy but I never thought I would. My reasons were more than one. For those who don't know already, it might be spoiler if I talk about it here but the Karna angle to this book is extremely moving and touching. Very beautifully written.
I must mention here about Chitra Banerjee's use of language. Though her story is based on mythology, the language she has used is almost contemporary. This makes the characters strike a chord with the reader. The characters are suddenly not alien or from a different time. They become someone who talks the same language as you do and feel the same feelings that you do. A very clever technique I must say. Notice particularly Draupadi's and Krishna's dialogues from the beginning right up to the end. They are sure to make you smile.

Draupadi herself according to the book is not a regular woman but she goes through the thoughts and feelings of a normal woman, only perhaps in epic proportions (pardon the pun). She dares to be different. She acts in haste. She has a bundle of regrets. She loves. She cares. She is often confused.
She dressing up and doing up her home. She even nags like a regular woman would do. It becomes very easy to identify with the character and feel everything she feels through out the book.

The story of the Mahabharata is a heavy one and so this book does drag in places. Parts of the exile get  slightly dull and repetitive. Also as can be the risk with any story spoken in the first person, one almost gets tired of how self-absorbed the protagonist can get. The pace gets faster once the exile is over, just like how the life of Draupadi and the Pandavas catches momentum at that stage. And you can't put the book down from this point on. The last portion of the story is extremely soulful and creatively executed.

I wondered why so little is being spoken of the Pandavas themselves, especially Arjuna, but I understood only later, the aim of the author in doing so. A lot is conveyed about things that are not spoken about.

I would recommend this book those who enjoy emotional-sentimental drama and for those who would like to understand the role of the women characters in the Mahabharata (the author talks of each one of them in quite a detail). But for those who are not familiar with the epic, this is definitely not a good point to start off at. There are many casual references to sub-plots which need a basic familiarity with the story. Read up elsewhere, understand the story and pick this one up. It was very thoughtful of the editor/author to start off the book with a family tree which I found myself referring to, quite often.

I recently came across an article that mentioned this story told from Bhima's point of view, by a Malayalam writer. I must look it up. I am keen especially after reading The Palace of Illusions.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I wonder why they say.....

  I wonder why they say HyDRABAD and not HyDHrabaaDH...
I know that city has terrible water problems.

    I wonder why they say NaCKpur and not  NAAGpur...
guess it takes a knack for people to get these names right.

    I wonder why they say TatkaLL and not  TathkAAl...
ticket kabhi nahin milega...kal aaj aur kal.

    I wonder why they say Bank of Mejura... 
and not  Bank  of MaDHura..now that's a major problem.

    I wonder why they say ClAArk and not ClErk...
that guy must be keeping a log of his bribes.

    I wonder why they say SAAmBHar and not SaamBAAR...
oh deer, that would make an Iyer-maaama's staple pyoor veg meal item not only impyoor  but also illegal! 
(shiva shiva!)