Archive for Tamil

NYT on Super-Deluxe (Tamil; 2019)

Posted in the good with tags , , , on March 29, 2019 by Qalandar

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“Got porn, Madam?” That’s what the high school boy known variously as Milk Carton and Egg Muffin asks a DVD store clerk after some stammering feints in the Tamil movie “Super Deluxe.”

And, yes, Madam has porn. But, surprise: When Egg Muffin and his pals start to watch it, one of them becomes enraged. That’s his mother onscreen.

This sets off a chain of mostly comic events that are, by turns, ominous, bloody and cosmic. And that’s just one plot strand. In another, a married woman’s ex-boyfriend dies in her bed, setting off a chain of comic, ominous events. In a third, a little boy pines for his father to return, and the father does — but now transformed into a woman. (Another chain ensues.)…”

 

Read the complete piece HERE

How Pa Ranjith’s Kaala changes the way we imagine the city (THE CARAVAN)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2018 by Qalandar

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Sadly, I still haven’t seen Kaala but it is definitely on the list!  — qalandar

Excerpt: “Across India, the dominant story of any megacity is untouched by the stories of the marginalised communities that live there. You could be a Pardhi tribal living in and around the same street corner in Mumbai for the last three generations, but your story would always be of the “migrant in the city” or “the homeless in the city”; it would never be the story of the city. This is precisely what makes the Tamil film-director Pa Ranjith’s films path-breaking. When Ranjith tells the stories of Vyasarpadi or Dharavi—auto-constructed neighbourhoods laden with histories of oppressed castes—he is insisting they are the stories of Chennai and Mumbai. Drawing from legendary anti-caste thinkers, Ranjith is moving us towards a greater understanding of a new third-world urbanism.

Ranjith’s first film to buck the trend in urban portrayals was 2014’s Madras, a film about a rivalry between two political parties in Vyasarpadi. …  In this, Ranjith’s ancestor seems to be the American writer James Baldwin, who wrote in his Notes of a Native Son: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. Kaala does for Mumbai what Madras did for Chennai. Ranjith gives us a quintessential Mumbai film, except through the eyes of a lower-caste Tamil basti in Dharavi fighting to keep its land, which is under the threat of seizure from a politician. …”

Read the complete piece HERE

Mammootty to Star in Bio-Pic on YSR

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2018 by Qalandar

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“In the upcoming biopic Yatra, Mollywood superstar Mammootty will be playing the role of the politician YS Rajasekara Reddy. A teaser from the film was released to celebrate the birth anniversary of YSR which falls on Sunday. Dressed in trademark politician white clothes, Mammootty makes a striking entry as the late Chief Minister.”

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Rangan Reviews VIKRAM VEDHA (TAMIL; 2017)

Posted in the good with tags , , , on July 22, 2017 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “An ordinary masala movie would pit a god against this demon – and indeed, the first half of the title (R Madhavan) does come across like the scourge of evil, a saviour. He’s an encounter cop, but he’s able to sleep guiltlessly because he’s convinced the men he’s pumping bullets into are bad men who deserve to die. But slowly, the paint starts peeling away. Rather, the colour of his tees undergo a change. During the first meeting of Vikram and Vedha, the former is in white, the latter in black. By their last meeting, Vikram is in grey. He knows now that it isn’t a clear-cut line between good and evil.

The notion that cops and gangsters are but two sides of the same coin isn’t new: Michael Mann’s Heat is a brilliant exploration of how a cop who thinks he is doing good may be more messed up than the gangster. But Pushkar-Gayatri have decided to tell their story through the prism of the Vikram/Vetaal folklore – hence the title. The film opens with an animated stretch with the king Vikram high up in his castle, and soon, in pursuit of the vampire Vetaal, he plunges deep into a lake, a metaphorical hell. The creature latches onto his back and begins to narrate stories that are the old-world answer to a grey T-shirt: there’s a moral conundrum at the end.”

Complete article HERE.

A Brief Note on Visaaranai (Tamil; 2016)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , on January 18, 2017 by Qalandar

I just saw Visaaranai, and I don’t think I can write a review of the film.  Or rather, there’s something obscene about (merely) reviewing this terrifying representation of four migrant laborers caught in a criminal justice system so pitiless, so oppressive, “corruption” is a banal term for it, banal and lying in its suggestion of hope that the norm might be something else; obscene, because Visaaranai does not so much indict “the system” as it does everyone who allows himself to consume uncritically a news report or a police story of gangs busted, terrorists nabbed, or policemen feted.  The most charitable thing one can say is that a great chasm of unknowing separates us, should separate us, from trust in such news stories: Visaaranai demonstrates, with almost mathematical precision, that any other response is unethical.  There are plenty of other reasons to watch this film: as a naturalistic representation of a politicized police force, it is unequalled by anything I have seen; the acting is uniformly good (perhaps none more so than Samuthirakani as Inspector Muthuvel); and the direction by Vetri Maaran superb, but these are not essential: the implicit proof that it offers of our own degraded complicity in the charade, is. I haven’t seen a better film in years, and I haven’t ever seen a more necessary one.

A huge thanks to Chandrakumar for writing this, and for affording us the privilege of hearing his voice at film’s end, and really to everyone associated with this film (including Dhanush, who gets a producer credit) for making this film possible.  Thanks also to Netflix for making this film available in the US (I can only hope it’s available at Netflix India as well).

BOOK: Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The World of Tamil Politics

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by Qalandar

I hadn’t heard of this book but it sounds fascinating — Qalandar

Penguin India’s blurb: “A must for [anyone] who wants to understand Tamil Nadu politics’ “New Indian Express Tamil Nadu is a state very different from the rest of India, both culturally and historically. It has retained a fundamentally separate identity for itself in language and caste structure, and this is most evident in its politics. Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The Word of Tamil Politics tells a political story that has all the elements of a blockbuster film, where ironies and larger-than-life characters abound: Periyar, a Kannada-speaker, who introduced the notions of Tamil self-respect and regional pride, yet dismissed Tamil as ‘a barbaric language’; the matinee idol MGR, a Malayalee born in Sri Lanka, who became Tamil Nadu’s most popular mass leader; the Dravidian movement which, by its own ideology, should have helped the Dalits but has instead supported only the upwardly mobile middle groups; and parties that rose to power by propagating anti-Hindi and anti-Brahmin sentiments but have now allied themselves with the BJP. It is fitting that this reel-like scenario is presently dominated by the electoral politics of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, one a scriptwriter and the other a former actress. Well-known writer and journalist Vaasanthi has observed the dramatis personae in this epic drama at close quarters for a decade. Now updated with an additional chapter on the war of succession Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars offers an objective and insightful view of a political world that is both fascinating and perplexing.”

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the BOmbay report (2016): 15th Jan–21st Jan

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2016 by abzee

It is week 3 of a Box-Office experiment that attempts to understand Box-Office beyond the numbers, and hopes to arrive at the less tangible, but perhaps more genuine, indicator of how well-liked and well-received any film is/was.

We will be taking into account all the screens in the Mumbai region, inclusive of Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivali as well. The films will be assigned points based on an algorithm that takes into account parameters such as- a) how many screens did the film open on; b) the capacities of these screens; c) the occupancy in comparison to the capacity; d) daily sustenance/growth/drop in the occupancy; e) change in the number of screens in successive weeks; f) change in capacities; g) occupancy in relation to changed number of days and screens; h) occupancy in relation to newer and existing releases; and so on.

These points, the Audience Interest Index (AII), encapsulate buzz, desire to watch translating to actual occupancy and finally acceptability… and that most prestigious of all goals- trending.

 

Top Ten Films In Mumbai (15th January 2016 – 21st January 2016) 

A staggering 28 films released in Mumbai this week, of which those in the Marathi language numbered the most with 5 releases, while there were 4 releases each in English, Hindi and Tamil. Of the English releases, The Hateful Eight also released on IMAX screens. Wazir, which had released last week, also expanded to IMAX in its second week. Bhojpuri and Telugu had 3 releases a piece.

With 13 films ending their run, the total number of films playing at the cinemas this week was 44! If you count Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge which resumed screening at Maratha Mandir this week, that number is 45.

More films did not mean more viewers however. The overall AII for this week is 89.69 compared to last week’s 133.62, a drop of 32.87%. With lesser viewers and an incredible amount of new releases, Wazir still remained the number one choice, even if the number was low. In fact many films operated in the middle range this week, so much so that this week’s 15th ranked film has earned twice as many AII points than last week’s number 10 film.

Honourable mentions then to the Tamil film Rajini Murugan and the Telugu release Nannaku Prematho as both put up impressive AII numbers despite not making it to the top ten.

Rajini Murugan performed the best of all the Tamil releases with 105 AII points, while the Telugu language Nannaku Prematho did even better with 119 AII points. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews BAAHUBALI (Telugu/Tamil; Hindi (dubbed); 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2015 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “What makes Baahubali striking is precisely this “world-making”, director S.S. Rajamouli’s ability to imagine the particulars of every scene to such a degree that this make-believe world becomes real for the audience, even plausible.  Plenty of other filmmakers can focus on the battle scenes and grand sets, but absent this eye for the little, it can all seem a bit lifeless … In Baahubali, this eye is seen everywhere: think of the bales of straw the castle’s defenders use to try and prevent Sivudu from riding out of Mahishmati’s capital on a chariot; or of the hollow (wooden?) tube the hero uses to hold the green snake he’s going to release on Avantika while she’s taking aim atop a tree … or the way in which Mahishmati’s rulers discuss the battle plan in the film’s second half.  At every step, Rajamouli and writer Vijayendra Prasad seem to have thought long and hard about how such a world might work if it existed — and because they have done so, that world comes alive for us.  Compared to Baahubali, even the best of Bollywood’s grand fables –think Lagaan — seem airbrushed, most historicals superficial in the face of its thoroughness — Jodha-Akbar comes to mind, or Asoka — and the less said about wannabe fantasies (like Krrish) the better.  In this it is inspired by the best of contemporary American TV (and, much like Game of Thrones, ends with a sensational cliffhanger). Walking out of the cinema after the film I had a stupid grin on my face, the sort that meant: This too is possible.”

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Qalandar Reviews O KADHAL KANMANI (Tamil; 2015)

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


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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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New Book: Subramaniyapuram The Tamil Film in English Translation (The Caravan)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , on May 23, 2014 by Qalandar

I wouldn’t agree that Subramaniyapuram “pioneered” the “gritty new aesthetic” in Tamil cinema (the likes of Paruthiveeran; Selvaraghavan’s work; and Kaadal all pre-date it, to name just a few), but can’t resist a book on Tamil cinema! — Qalandar

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“M Sasikumar
Translated by Kausalya Hart, Constantine Nakassis and Anand Pandian
Edited by Anand Pandian
Blaft, 262 pages, Rs 595

Released in 2008, Subramaniyapuram is a tale of friendship, betrayal, love and revenge set in Madurai in the early 1980s. The film, made on a tiny budget by a first-time director and a cast of newcomers, pioneered a gritty new aesthetic in Tamil movies that caught the attention of film lovers around the world. This edition includes—in addition to a translation of the screenplay—film stills, posters, never-before-seen photos from the set, a wide-ranging interview with the film’s director M Sasikumar, as well as essays on the film’s cinematic context and social impact by critics such as Preminda Jacob, Constantine Nakassis, Anand Pandian and Baradwaj Rangan.”

Music Review: MARYAN (Tamil; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2013 by Qalandar


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In retrospect, albums like Delhi-6 seem to have inaugurated a mellow phase in A.R. Rahman’s career. The last few years have given us a number of albums (Kadal and Raanjhana the most recent of these) to confirm the impression that the master has, where the subject gives him rein, shifted gears: the qawwalis have become more reflective (contrast “Arziyan” (Delhi-6) with “Noor-un-Alaa” (Meenaxi) from a few years earlier); the love songs increasingly suffused with a murmuring longing (“Moongil Thottam” (Kadal)), and even a jazz bent (“Aaromale” (Vinaithaandi Varuvaaya)); the sounds a bit less ornate, but just as rich. Maryan is in this vein. It is leaner than Raanjhana (Rahman’s most recent Hindi composition), and if two of the lighter tracks are far more trivial than anything in the latter, at its best (which is to say in its four slower songs) Maryan is more reflective, almost unsettlingly so: you really miss it when the music stops playing. This is, quite simply, Rahman’s best Tamil album in years for any director not named Mani Rathnam. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews RAANJHANA (Hindi; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2013 by Qalandar

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Over the last few years, my interest in contemporary Hindi films has plummeted; perhaps my move to Bombay has played a part in my diminished engagement, as no longing for home, no desperation for a whiff of its scent clouds my vision. Largely, though, it is a function of the increasing soullessness of the industry’s “mainstream” products (and the films are increasingly products rather than embodiments of a living tradition), and also because the “off-beat” films themselves are often formulaic, intellectually timid and irredeemably – there’s no other word for it – bourgeois once one gets past the edgy attitude. Old habits die hard, however, and I still end up watching many – I just don’t enjoy the experience as much as I used to, even if the thrill of anticipation as I find my seat in the hall and wait for the film to begin, hoping for trailers to delay the moment of gratification, and my willingness to give myself over to the experience (until the film itself jars me out of attentiveness first), remain the same. Through it all, very few films surprise me – and not in the sense of plot twists (I hardly ever guess those, being much more likely to live in the present of the scene before my eyes, as it were), but in the sense of taking me somewhere I hadn’t expected to go, or showing me a glimpse of something I hadn’t expected to see. That I expect these from cinema at all reminds me that I’m not yet jaded, merely disappointed.

Raanjhana surprised me. Continue reading

NYT Quickie on DAVID

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , on February 4, 2013 by Qalandar

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“David,” a Hindi film directed by Bejoy Nambiar, asks a simple question: Why make a single movie when you can pack three into one? Behold the complicated, entertainingly erratic result: separate story lines set in 1975, 1999 and 2010 that encompass gangster daddy issues, religious extremism and the coveting of a best friend’s fiancée.

The tie binding the stories, with a certain jaw-dropping purity of intention, is that the protagonists share the same first name. Shot in black and white (with a lot of leather, shades and hair) for no evident reason, the 1970s David is a brutal but soulful London assassin (Neil Nitin Mukesh) embroiled in dramas of romance and revenge with his boss’s family. The millennial David, a mild-mannered aspiring guitarist (Vinay Virmani) in Mumbai, goes on the warpath when a rabble-rousing politician targets his father as a Christian zealot and incites supporters to attack. Last but not least of the Davids is a Goan beach-bum fisherman (Chiyaan Vikram) who zanily falls in love with a deaf-mute woman shortly before she is to marry his buddy.
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7 Aum Arivu and The Degradation of the Dravidian Movement

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by Qalandar


Ordinarily, there wouldn’t be much to write about 7 Aum Arivu, the latest Surya starrer by Murugadoss (of Ghajini fame): it’s a shoddy and thoroughly mediocre masala movie, a promising first twenty minutes — set in ancient India and China, and tracking the legends surrounding the monk Bodhidharman’s founding of the Shao Lin order (now world famous for its Kung Fu martial arts) — undone by the routine beat ’em up that follows, as the film tracks Bodhidharman’s 21st century descendant through his efforts to foil a Chinese bio-terror plot targeting India. Unfortunately, that isn’t all there is to it. 7 Aum Arivu, produced by the son of DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi (Stalin), is also an unwitting showcase for the Dravidian movement’s degeneration; or rather, of the movement’s reduction to its most problematic aspects, and to empty gestures that try to mask its contemporary hollowness with bombast. Continue reading

Qalandar on Masala and DABANGG (Hindi; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by Qalandar

EXCERPT:

“Abhinav Kashyap attempts to answer my questions. Acting like it’s 1983 won’t do, but neither will spoofing all the way to a gag-fest — leaving everything else aside, masala-as-slapfest just isn’t funny. Nor does the tongue in cheek cleverness, or rather, the cinematic presentation of cleverness (a la Bluffmaster!), sit comfortably with a mode the very lifeblood of which is “as if”: masala cinema takes the absolute significance of the story and characters that it is presenting for granted. What’s left, then? Continue reading

Qalandar on RAAVANAN (Tamil; 2010)

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

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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

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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

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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