Archive for Mani Rathnam

Qalandar Reviews O KADHAL KANMANI (Tamil; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by Qalandar


EXCERPT: “And yet, by the end of O Kadhal Kanmani, I realized that I might have been missing the point of the film: Bombay, beautiful Bombay, in its real and cinematic avatars, appears to be the raison d’être of this film, and perhaps the most plausible kanmani on offer. Not for nothing does the film begin with Dulquer’s Aditya Varadarajan disembarking at CST/Victoria Terminus, and catching sight of Nithya Menon’s Tara, her image framed, de-stabilized, and finally obscured by passing trains in possibly the best train shots of even Ratnam’s long career. Indeed, over the course of the film the couple seems to meet more often in BEST buses and local trains than seems plausible for the iPad and iPhone wielding yuppies these two seem to be, and the reason is surely that O Kadhal Kanmani is Ratnam’s paean to a city that he loves, in the manner one loves a city one has discovered later in life, too late, that is, to take for granted. As with so many films from decades ago, the city’s lodestars are (apart from CST) the Gateway of India, the Worli sea-face, and the public transport system, each of these sites charged with years of not just social but cinematic meaning that made the experience of watching them on-screen moving in a way quite independent of the unfolding love story. The romance, in short, serves as backdrop to Ratnam’s representation of a city he clearly loves.”
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The Resented

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2012 by Qalandar


I’m in a distinct minority among my friends and acquaintances in the esteem in which I hold Abhishek Bachchan. To me, he’s one of the few understated actors we have, tapping into some of his father’s brooding iconicity in his dramatic roles, and possessed of a comic mode that, at its best, combines deadpan delivery with a kind of earnestness, a special talent there aren’t very many roles for in the contemporary Hindi film industry. But most people I meet are far more derisive. It isn’t that they disagree with me, and believe that he is a mediocre or poor actor — that would be unexceptional. No, what is striking to me is the extent to which people will, even if they feel I’m overdoing it when it comes to Abhishek Bachchan, go further than simply saying that he isn’t a good actor, or that he has many flop films. I’ve heard him referred to as “lazy,” “dheela,” “pathetic,” “un-smart,” and even “disgusting,” “dirty,” a parasite off his wife’s celebrity, as the beneficiary of nepotism and connections a sign of everything that is wrong in India, and a source of embarrassment for his parents. Moreover, at least some of the people I’ve met who have expressed these opinions agree that he has performed very well in this or that film, which makes the intensity of the reactions somewhat curious. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews GANGS OF WASSEYPUR (Hindi; 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by Qalandar

Updating this post as Qalandar’s piece has now been published on the Outlook site

Gangs of Wasseypur opens with two of my pet peeves: a voiceover, and an explanation of where we are and how we got there (it’s cinema, people, show me, don’t tell me!). But – and I’m not sure how he does this – director Anurag Kashyap uses these clunky props to pull off some of his best filmmaking yet, in a fantastic hour that situates us in Dhanbad, in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) coal belt, the casual and systematic brutality of its mining industry, and the complicity of the state (both pre- and post-colonial) in all manner of oppression. Marking incident, place and time is Piyush Mishra’s gravelly voice, informing us that our special Purgatory is Wasseypur in the 1940s, south of Dhanbad, a Muslim-village locked in permanent struggle between the Qureshis (butchers by trade) and every other kind of Muslim. Continue reading

Qalandar on RAAVANAN (Tamil; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by Qalandar


A post-script to my review of Raavan, in light of last night’s trip to New Jersey to watch Raavanan (the Tamil half of this bi-lingual):

The dialogues in the Tamil version are the biggest surprise — and offer the most intriguing glimpse into director Mani Rathnam’s vision. Several dialogues offering glimpses of the “backstory” are absent in the Hindi version, ranging from Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews RAAVAN (Hindi; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2010 by Qalandar


It doesn’t begin at the beginning, but, like a Greek epic, in the thick of things, by way of a jumble of images, from a serene Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) atop a cliff to policemen facing a road-block, to lust and ambush at a village fair, leading to a shocking image of men being burned alive, to, of course, to Ragini (Aishwariya Rai) in a boat, under threat from a larger vessel manned by Beera — framed against the sun, more silhouette than man. The cycle begins with Beera, and ends with him, and involves his contact with three of the traditional elements: earth, air, and water. As for the fourth — fire — that is Beera himself, as he himself suggests later on in the film when he is consumed and confused by his desire for Ragini. The succession of images, colors, and characters is determinedly non-linear: we all know the Ramayana, and so we know what must happen here, but the order (or lack thereof) unsettles our expectations. After five or more minutes of ravishment, its compression unequalled by any other sequence in director Mani Rathnam’s illustrious career (just about every principal theme is introduced in this overture, that must surely rank among Hindi cinema’s most memorable), the camera finds itself below the surface of the water, gazing up at the two boats nearing each other. At the moment of collision, debris (or is it blood?) drips onto the now black screen, as backdrop to the word “Raavan”, even as A.R. Rahman’s addictive “Beera” song navigates the darkness, illuminated only by print-like images of the title character.
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Qalandar Reviews VINNAITHAANDI VARUVAAYA (Tamil; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2010 by Qalandar


Gautham Menon isn’t my favorite director. Although I hugely enjoyed his Minnale (2001), that film didn’t have much of what later became recognizable as his style, a post-Mukull Anand, post-Agni Natchitharam chic marked by neo-Hollywood technical slickness and crisp lighting, whether in the service of police procedurals that began better than they ended (Kaakha…Kaakha (2003) or Vettiayadu Vilaiyaadu (2006)), or more domestic genres (Pachaikili Muthucharam (2007); Vaaranam Aayiram (2008). So I was hardly enthused when I heard Gautham was making a love story with Trisha Krishnan and Silambarasan in the lead (if there’s a hero I like less in Tamil cinema, I haven’t seen him). Until I heard Gautham had jettisioned long-time musical collaborator Harris Jayaraj in favor of working with A.R. Rahman. And saw stills from the film, featuring a hero I was assured was “Simbu”, but who looked nothing like him. Clearly, Gautham was returning to the love story genre of his first film from 2001, but didn’t want to tread old ground.
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Qalandar’s Music Review: RAAVAN (Hindi; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by Qalandar

The music of “Raavan” — supposedly a modern day re-telling of The Ramayana — wasn’t what I was expecting. Instead of a self-contained album confining itself to the world of the film like several other collaborations between composer A.R. Rahman and director Mani Rathnam (such as “Alai Payuthey”, “Yuva”, or “Kannathil Muthamittal”), this album hearkens to the music of the greatest Rathnam film of all, “Iruvar”, in its anthologizing of almost an entire film music tradition. But whereas Rehman’s mode in “Iruvar” was history, with each song representing a different Tamil film era (Rehman’s genius ensuring that none of the songs seemed derivative or stale, as merely nostalgic numbers would have), the “Raavan” album cannot imagine such continuity: the Hindi film musical tradition is here, but in shards as it were. Continue reading

On the Trail of Mani (Baradwaj Rangan on PAA)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by Qalandar

[Thanks to mansi!]


“‘EVER SINCE R BALKI BEGAN TO CROW about his stunt casting – father becoming son, son becoming father – I’ve harboured apprehensions about Paa, and the self-congratulatory trailers didn’t exactly help. From Amitabh Bachchan’s creepy-crawly laugh (after he announces the film’s title, or calls out to his paa, or perhaps both) to the supposedly life-affirming, heart-warming, throat-lump-inducing “monkey dance,” everything pointed towards syrupy disaster. . . . The major miracle of Paa is that this concern is rendered blithely redundant. It appeared, at first, just another cutesy gimmick that the promos proclaimed “introducing Amitabh Bachchan” – but sometimes, it seems, there is truth in advertising. Continue reading