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Wednesday, November 23

Emotions in Motion: Page II

Continuing from Part I list which featured a handful of personal favourite scenes from the long lost 'golden age' of Malayalam cinema. Taking a look at the films made outside Malluland, and as I said, films transcend barriers of language, culture and nationality because human emotions are the same everywhere. Apologies for not wandering into Tamil or Bengali film duniya, where I believe more quality films are being made than what our desi-Hollywood churns out. Reason: I don't watch much of them to fill-in a blog post.

Film: Halo
Year: 1996
Director: Santhosh Sivan
Cast: Benaf Dadachanji, Rajkumar Santhoshi
Scene: Sasha finds her Halo after much perseverance, with the whole of Mumbai city lining behind her. But then she encounters something which changes it all. Sasha leaves her puppy behind, the innocence and compassion of her young, brave and kind heart is evident in the closing shot of that honest, painful smile of hers. When Children's Movies are losing relevance in our film industry, Santhosh Sivan's simplistic presentation of a butterfly-esque storyline shows why we need to focus more on kiddies films. As said before, there is nothing like a good film which can touch and influence our lives, and that of our kids.

Film: Dil Chahta Hai
Year: 2001
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Cast: Aamir Khan, Akshay Khanna, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta
Scene: Akash's moment of redemption. This clip summarizes the philosophy of Dil Chahta Hai. Akash, realizing he has been horribly wrong about relationships in life, tries to speak to Sameer to relieve his heavy heart. But his subconscious, overwhelmed by the guilt from his past act against Sid, dials Sid's number instead. The once-obnoxious and  ever-resilient Akash breaks down, feeling terribly lonely and remorseful, realises what he has done, and what he has been missing. Akash flies back home to straighten his broken and tangled ties, also to get back what he knew meant most to him at that point of time: the woman he loves.

PS: Equally riveting is the climactic sequence when the trio meets again in the Hospital. The "just turn around" scene brought tears to the eyes, ironically to the male audiences, a telltale sign of how well connected the movie has been with the 'rougher' sex in exploiting their strange emotional sensitivity, or lack of it?

Film: Kabhi haan kabhi naa
Year: 1993
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, Nasseruddin Shah
Scene: Chris's and Anna's wedding scene. Shah Rukh Khan's best performance to date by miles, before his transformation from Shah Rukh Khan to SRK. This feel-good movie against the backdrop of Goa and its culture portrays a class of Bollywood movies which have totally become extinct. Khan's expression from 0.55s to 1.14s proves that the man can indeed act! Ironically, Shah Rukh is the lone character in the film who portrays tinges of negativity in his role amongst a make-merry society pictured in the film.

Film: Munna Bhai MBBS
Year: 2003
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Dutt, Boman Irani
Scene: Dr. Astana clinically exhumes Munna Prasad Sharma's play-act. This emotionally charged up scene has acclaimed performances from the Dutt family, Boman Irani. Munna Bhai MBBS enters the Bollywood hall-of-fame because the in-charge guys got the script right. The dew-drops of humour always laced within the realms of those reels, even in the draining scene below, made this film an all time hit, which propelled even bigger sequels.

Film: Sholay
Year: 1976
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Csat: Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan
Scene: Gabbar Singh's Russian Roulette. It was tough to pick one scene from a reel-full of memorable scenes from Sholay, India's evergreen wonder-movie. Gabbar Singh's intro sequence is picked just for its cold, pulsating, anything-can-happen-anytime feel about it and the ruthless way the villain's psychotic traits are exposed to the audience. Amjad Khan, Amitabh and Sanjeev Kumar's legendary characters and the hip-hop dialogues made Sholay what it is today. The movie itself kicked started a formula in Hindi film industry, a hero-villain-revenge plot, which ruled our screens for decades before the triangle love stories completely took over.

Film: Mr India
Year: 1987
Director: Shekhar Kapoor
Casr: Anil Kapoor, Sreedevi
Scene: Sreedevi's famous wet saree song. All this ado for just a song? Rain-Saree erotica wasn't exhibited for the first time on celluloid but "kaate nahi katte" created a template for sensualitica for Bollywood and other language films. The voluptuous figurine of the super-gorgeous Sreedevi in the plain peacock-blue satin saree skipped many a heartbeats, including yours truly's. (Now you know why this one got 'special' ;-])This bona fide superhero movie featured the late Mr. Amrish Puri as the evil blonde villain Mogambo. His punchline "Mogambo khush hua" still lingers around in our movie reels. RIP Amrish Puri,one of the best 'specialist' villains in Indian Cinema.

Film: Company
Year: 2002
Director: RamGopal Varma
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, Mohanlal
Scene: Malik meets Sreenivasan. Mohanlal illustrates his acting skills in the most meticulous way in the RGV thriller in this short, high-voltage scene. The heavy, uneasy air is cut only by the ridiculous ease with which Mohanlal performed by enacting a real-life character, delivering the dialogues and playing with the paper-weight at the same time (which amazed co-actor Vivek Oberoi) and the cold, fearless character of Malik.

Film: Swades
Year: 2004
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayathri Joshi
Scene: The boy with the water-pot at the Railway Station. This is as best and realistic as Bollywood and SRK could get. The suave Jaguar-driving NASA nerd gets to understand the ocean between the privileged and the under-privileged. On way back after aching rendezvous with the outcast, defaulted peasant, Mohan encounters the boy who sells water for 25p on the desolate Railway Station. The scene where the boy counts the pennies he earned while the train leaves him behind has been pretty realistically picturised without the melodrama of Bollywood. AR Rahman's background score adds flavour to the scene.

To be concluded in Part III, and you guessed it right. Odes from my personal collection of World Cinema, not just from Hollywood.

Tuesday, November 1

Santhosh Pandit Phenomenon: Pun Unintended

Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector.

- The Noble Quran 2:286 

Doordarshan in the early 90's had aired a short but extremely popular satiric comedy series called Flop Show. The extremely well-made show featured Jaspal Bhatti and his characteristic intentional self-mockery. The attributes of the show were evident from the fact that the title credits rolled out under headers "Misdirection", "Over-acting", "Underground Singers", "Hair-Spoiler", "Graphic Defects" and so on.

The individual we're going to read about here has a notable trait of the Jaspal Bhatti show. He has created something which fits perfectly into all those titles Mr.Bhatti had created. Only that the pun here is largely unintended. Yeah,we're going to discuss about the phenomenon, Messrs Santhosh Pandit.

I'm pretty confident that 3.5 crore Malayalees are now familiar with the name 'Santhosh Pandit', who've descended on us via www, grew in stature thanks to the ubiquitous social media, and conquered our Newspapers, News & Entertainment Channels and lastly the cinema theaters, a glowing case-study to what the new-age social media can do to/for you.(Also a case study for Clinical Psychologists and Management students)

In the delirious aftermath of the release of Krishnanum Radhayum and the phenomenal cult-following & theatricality, one begs to answer this riddle: How, why and what the...?

Krishnanum Radhyum is a very amateur 'film' (if you can call you that), from a very very amateuristic wannabe film-maker with an even immature, rare and confusing personality traits, on a shoe-string budget. It's unintentional self-mockery at its best, the art of film-making at its worst.

There is hardly anyone left who hasn't exploited the strange behavioural aspects of this young 'lost' man. The media houses, 'bourgois' film-makers and social media geeks find their own ways to mock and ridicule this avatar, Malayala Manorama taking the matter to pathetic lows. I too plead guilty, for I'm using my blog and Twitter to get some free-thoughts in on this spectacle.

Happened to watch one interview on Reporter Channel the other day. Ironically, Santhosh Pandit managed to shut out even seasoned reporter Nikesh Kumar. Not just Nikesh, all seasoned interviewers and presenters have been overwhelmingly vanquished by the Santhosh Express.

Nevertheless, one thing strikes me: This guy still doesn't get it, does he? I'm certain he'll never get it.

"This film has created a wave  just like 'Subrahmanyapuram' created in TN".

"No one has the right to criticize me. I did 18 works, even Balachandra Menon did only 4-5 works" 

"Current film makers feel threatened by me. They're attempting to create a ruckus by deliberately creating a negative opinion"

Awesome. There lies the basic character of this guy. He is all too confident and proud of his talent, creativity and novelty. The problem is; only he does. Someone said on TV that this is a case of "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". Difficult to argue, there IS evident deviancy.

Saying that, I mean talking about this pride and confidence, these are the same attributes which Ranji Panicker had when he wrote "Praja", Thambi Kannanthanam had when he directed "Onnaman", and Ram Gopal Varma had when he created "RGV ki Aag". I'm not mentioning the quality of the never-ending mega-serials, especially the erstwhile sops from Madhu Mohan, JK, Ananthapuri and co, we were forced to watch before the dawn of Satellite TV. So Santhosh Pandit can be forgiven for feeling good about it. At least he has lived upto his reputation.

An industry which has become some sort of a graveyard for newcomers, Pandit has given role to 100+ newcomers. Although the fact may be that most of them may not be proudly typing Krishnanum Radhayum on their Curriculum Vitae.

I sincerely hope  this won't become a parallel cinema for Malluland. Even if it does, there wont be much degradation in quality. After years of stagnation we're getting to see some new life back in Malluwood. Some seriously fresh themes and actors have come forward to treat the rust slowly evading out industry. Pandit, definitely, is NOT among them but still his success and the debates it kicked off may prompt  some bigwigs to do a self-assessment. Them pointing a finger at Pandit would surely mean the old saying of 3 pointing back at themselves.

Channels and newspapers competed top get this phenomenon aired to improve their TRP and buy a chunk of this internet sensation. In Tamil, a sort of a sensation came and went, called Sam Anderson and his film "Yaarukku Yaaro" which sorta created a benchmark for mock fan following. Nothing as epic as Krishnanum Radhayum though :P

"Yaarukku Yaaro" full film here. (Read disclaimer before clicking the link)

Youth of malluland who thronged the theaters NEVER expected a Dasharadham on screen. This is cartoon, sans the graphics. Call it mock-porn. They've got their 3 hours of non-stop entertainment, don't ask me which way, but still it's full-time enjoyment our mainstream film-makers hardly manage to give us. Let's not talk about the artistic value of the movies we've been receiving in the last one-and-half-decade.

The hard truth is that we're now in a transitional phase where the Gold Standards set by Padmarajan, Lohithadas, MT, Aravindaan, Bharathan have long deserted us, and this is the lowest one could get. We've ceased to make classics, and we can't even create Parody Films mocking the way our Superstars and their 'support' staff get about their job.

Parody Films are serious work of art which sometimes get critical acclaim. They have an intention. Krishnanum Radhayum differs from mainstream parody movies in that it is 'serious'. Except for the comedy scenes, Pandit never for a moment intended mockery, as this has turned out to be. Leave it as it is, but genuine Mockbusters are one area Malluwood ought to explore more to bring some audience interest back. Am I the only one seeing a gold pot here, giving the existing drama and flop-shows going on in the industry?

There has been one "Thamizh Padam" created across the Ghats which won accolades for the way a few new comers dared to mock the contemporary style and theme of film-making.

The one positive out of all this, except for financial success and fame for Santhosh, must be that this may make some serious, talented, original film-lovers 'who know their abilities and limitations', to come forward into out dried out film-scape and hit some random oasis. Parallel film could blossom outside the devilish clutches of a few 'stars' and their cronies. No need to lick the boots of the bigwigs; if you're sure you have it in you, then go for it. At worst, you'll still turn out something much better than Santhosh Pandit. #win-win

Make no mistake about it, many film-makers have turned legends by taking the first step the hard way, without any Godfathers. Christopher Nolan made his first movie 'Following' for a mearge $6000, using the cheaper Black & White reels, working only on weekends when his friends were off work. Nolan learned about film-making for years, carefully planned his debut film by doing most of the works like script, editing & camera. 'Following' was the stepping-stone for Nolan onto movie-magics such as Memento, Dark Knight etc.

If this Pandit phenomenon inspires new talent who're aware of their strengths and weaknesses, to come forward into our industry, then this could be one lone but big positive out of all this.

One thing we need not do is waste more time on our man, he'll continue to 'entertain' us with more tomfoolery. The Internet and social media will do it's job, but when our accredited news channels take up the job to publicly and intentionally mock and insult this man, that is where things cross the mark.

This is a great cause of itch for serious-minded people and film industry experts but that's a general principle: Mayhem in order always gets attention. I've enjoyed every bit of it. Now that the hype is almost over, our 'serious' media houses can gather their thinking hats on and re-assess weather this passing shower needs more coverage.

 All because his tagline appears to be:

"Love me or hate me, you just can't ignore me!"