Review of Cheran’s ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’.

The simple story of a troubled young man’s trials n tribulations in seeking a life partner is copybook Cheran. He has not directed or produced this ode to old-fashioned romance but he remains the centrepiece for sure.

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Image Courtesy – Alchetron

The movie didn’t do well at the box office though it was billed to be a family entertainer. Possibly it failed to appeal to the youth segment who found Cheran’s treacly-sweet avatar a big put-off. And the music & comic tracks failed to charm the audience as well.

Cheran had found the rare balance of making drama movies without being melodramatic. That’s a telling achievement given the propensity we have for melodrama in Tamil films. His style worked like magic in movies like Autograph, Pandavar Bhoomi and Vetri Kodi Kattu. But he stretches the formula way too far in ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’ and sadly today’s audience is not likely to be as appreciative and patient as in the days of yore. Continue reading “Review of Cheran’s ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’.”

Parthiban’s ‘Kathai, Thiraikathai, Vasanam, Iyakkam’ (Story, Screenplay, Dialogues, Direction).

Parthiban is known for creating quirky and thought-provoking cinema so it is but natural that he wades into the ‘meta’ cinema on display in Tamil Cinema – Jigarthanda, Uttama Villain, Papanasam to name a few classy ones.

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Image Courtesy – Tamil Now. com

So we have a brilliant but struggling director, Tamizh (the name is a right touch as well) with a sassy wife, Daksha, and a gang of 5 odd-balls helping him unearth a story that would get the ‘green-light’ from a top-notch producer.

The title – Kathai, Thiraikathai, Vasanam, Iyakkam (KTVI) – is quite appealing as Tamil movie-makers are narcissists who have had a penchant to don multiple hats and such credits are far more common in our movies than say in Bollywood or Hollywood.  Bhagyaraj and Bharathiraja instantly came to my mind when I first read the title.  Continue reading “Parthiban’s ‘Kathai, Thiraikathai, Vasanam, Iyakkam’ (Story, Screenplay, Dialogues, Direction).”

Review of Anita Desai’s ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’.

It would have been more appropriate to title the novel as ‘Firanghi’s Bombay’ (Firanghi stands for the Outsider in Urdu) for that defined Hugo Baumgartner’s persona to perfection – ‘accepting but not accepted; that was the story of his life, the one thread that ran through it all’.

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Anita Desai’s key themes play out well here – we deal with the detritus of human life, Hugo’s life as a German Jew oozes solitude all along and there is little ray of sunshine throughout the narrative. The usual tropes missing in the piece due to its structure – feminism and pivotal female leads. Anita Desai also draws on the German lineage to give us insights into Hugo’s childhood and tryst with the Nazi onslaught.

The book is a tough read to finish at one go – I had to keep my focus to run through it given that I had picked it up for a day’s read at a school library during my recent trip. It primarily deals with decay – physical and psychical – that marks Hugo’s  golden years. An unusual hobby i.e. to take care of stray cats should provide some solace but it is just a bizarre twist in the story and people openly wonder about the ‘Billiwalla Paagal’ (Madman fond of cats). Continue reading “Review of Anita Desai’s ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’.”

Review of Anita Desai’s ‘In Custody’ a.ka. ‘Muhafiz’!

Anita Desai is an old school writer – words are deployed with skill to convey meaning and unravel the layers of human psyche. Many tags can be applied to her writings – postcolonial, feminist, Indo-Anglian, psychic and a unique blend of ‘East- meets-West’. She has mastered the art of delving into the hearts and minds of her lead characters and effectively and efficiently portraying the angst that drives their inner life.

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Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

The story traces the decline of Urdu poetry as it delves into the tragic lives of the poet Nur (Shashi Kapoor) and his disciple Deven (Om Puri). The movie poster well depicts the nature of the relationship – it has Deven listen to ‘His-Master’s-Voice’ as Shashi renders his poetry. For once the men occupy the foreground and the women characters recede into the shadows. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1984.

The story is not meant for the ‘faint-hearted’ or for those who prefer the candy-floss version of life where it all sums up nicely into a ‘happily-ever-after’. In fact the movie sugar-coated the climax possibly to widen the acceptance of the story but the writer didn’t pull any punches while depicting the sordid lives and times of its leading characters. Continue reading “Review of Anita Desai’s ‘In Custody’ a.ka. ‘Muhafiz’!”

Review of ‘Ally McBeal’ !

Ally played by Calista Flockhart and the dancing baby are the first images that come to one’s mind while thinking about this show. The scene was Boston for a change and Ally’s law firm was an assemblage of various oddball characters and court cases who regaled us every week.

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The lead cast of Ally McBeal  Image Courtesy Vulture

It had a fair run for 5 Seasons though it was well past its prime in Season 3. The hope was revived by the charismatic pairing of Calista with Robert Downey Jr (Larry) but the dream sequence soured by the end of the season as the character was written out. Season 5 was pure desperation as everything was thrown at us including casting Jon Bon Jovi but the jig was up and the shown faded away into the sunset.

Ally as young neurotic lawyer struggling with her trials and tribulations in the quest for professional and personal success was a character who had an instant appeal to us. That she was a dreamer and true romantic at heart added further to her charm. Continue reading “Review of ‘Ally McBeal’ !”

Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’

Published in 1938 when Maugham was 64 years old, the title turned out to be a misnomer – it wasn’t really his autobiography. It was non-fiction for sure but more like a visit of writer’s workshop – the toolkits were on full display as he bared the essentials of what made him tick as a writer. And that is far more interesting than any routine toting up of one’s life minutiae. 

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Image Courtesy – Amazon com

Maugham gives us a glimpse of his tortured childhood. His parents were ill-suited for marriage as they had arrestingly different temperaments and an age gap of 20 years. He didn’t see much of them as his mother died when he was 8 and he lost his father when he was 10. Maugham’s early loss of his mother scarred him for life and the subsequent events were painful as well. He was thrust into the custody of an unsympathetic uncle who had no means or inclination to nurture him. He found little comfort at school as he was given to a ‘stammering’ problem and found English to be a challenge since French came naturally to him. Continue reading “Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’”

Review of ‘According to Jim’

It reminded me of the short stories I read in the collection ‘The House That Nino Built’ by Giovannino Guareschi. Based in Italy of the 50s it tracked the story of a middle class family wherein the father is unambiguously patriarchal and patronizing of his wife and daughters. Politically incorrect and definitely ‘out-of-sync’ with modern values the stories still were humorous and gave us insights into discordant personalities living together.

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Image Courtesy – Fanpop

And yet the series ran for 8 seasons and was positioned to take on Frasier during prime time. Guess they did exaggerate the storyline a bit to appeal to their target audience. 

Jim (Jim Belushi) is a typical middle class and middle-aged family man based in Chicago. He doesn’t hesitate to flaunt his ‘blue’ collar credentials and revels in acknowledging that he ‘married-up’ by partnering Cheryl (Courtney Thorne Smith) who is a sensitive and caring modern lady. Continue reading “Review of ‘According to Jim’”

Review of ‘Sex and the City’

4 gals in New York City looking for love and labels (fashion brands) is the premise of the ‘romcom’ that had a successful run of 6 seasons on HBO. It was a pioneer show that caught on the trend of ‘chick-flick’ early in the game and had a long run of success. It started to fade eventually particularly in its last season. It had a spin-off as a couple of movies that followed. They minted money but ruined its franchise for sure for many viewers

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Image Courtesy – Wikipedia

Carrie Bradshaw played famously by Sarah Jessica Parker is a freelance writer who writes a column in the local newspaper that deals with sex, singlehood and fashion. She stays in New York City and is part of a close-knit gang of 4 gals who are real soul mates. Carrie spends her life chasing her passions – shoes, fashion and the romance of finding the ‘right man’. She is in her mid 30s and her friends share similar interest. Continue reading “Review of ‘Sex and the City’”

Review of ‘How I Met Your Mother’

At first glance, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ reminds you a lot about, ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’. I never quite watched the series regularly – an occasional episode meant that I missed a lot of the running jokes but the core of the story was quite steady – a hip set of youngsters hanging around the bar and battling their professional and personal woes with help of the gang.

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How I Met Your Mother Lead Cast                                                                    Image Courtesy – US Weekly

I took some more notice when I learnt that the climax episode of the long running series generated a lot of scorn and angst in the internet world. Now having ‘binge-watched’ the series I guess one can see the ‘point-of-view’ of people who felt ripped off by the climax.

The story started as a ‘sitcom’ but veered a lot into drama and melodrama by the end of it. It is set in New York and the five staple characters are quite well-etched to begin with it. Continue reading “Review of ‘How I Met Your Mother’”

‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le…’ – the world of Hindi cinema!

Sadma featuring Kamal Haasan and Sridevi was helmed by the ace cinematographer Balu Mahendra. It was not a commercial hindi film – it was primarily an artistic Tamil movie. But it had this lovely number, ‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le, Hamne Bhi Tere Har Ek Gam Ko Gale Se Lagaya Hain Na …’ by Gulzar sa’ab set to the music of Isaignani Ilayaraja.

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Sridevi Kamal Haasan in Sadma Image Courtesy- Shemaroo

The song was a great example of creative collaboration in Hindi cinema – not quite often reflected in the mainstream movies. Yet another aspect that I admire deeply is the ‘Ganga-Jamuni’ tehzeeb and the unique hindustani lehzaa in some of our movies. To me these syncretic confluences define the essence of Hindi cinema though I have had fun with the typical commercial potboilers as well.

Continue reading “‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le…’ – the world of Hindi cinema!”