Thursday, August 5, 2010

A New start beckons

Good day to every single person who have come across my blog in this past year or so. For anyone who have followed my writings and articles for the past year, I would like to sign off warmly, and say a warm thank you.

I am moving sites to my own domain site- addressed as such : effective on August 8, 2010.

If you had even been remotely hooked by my writings so far, you are free to start visiting my domain site, and trust me, it offers even more than the sparse levels that I have written on the blog.


With beautiful regards,

Ram Anand

"One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed to love".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The whatever-ness

My hands and my brains can't take it anymore. The ludicrousity that is offered in a beautiful platter every night on Sun TV has been ringing alarm bells in my head for an incredible amount of time now.

Let's get to the bug. We all easily have a laugh at the Tamil TV serials that are being dished out like candies but the day has come when I have to note what makes the world go round here.

Okay, here's a list of things that I have against serials (I can sue them if there's a chance of doing so).

1. Every other cinema actress who fails there take a 'leap of faith' into serials. And she ALWAYS plays the ever-so-goody, exemplary, she loves everybody, she helps everybody, picture perfect woman. Get a life.

2. Oh yeah, all serials are female centered. The leading character is always a woman. Never a man. Male characters are totally incapable of hooking people to the screen for a mind blasting 600 episodes in a row.

3. The lead female is almost always a stand-alone woman at some point- she will live without her husband. She has to do that because she needs to be the strong one, you see? All of them will go through a bit of rocks in their married life. In some cases, the husbands are just plain BAD, you know. Otherwise, it's just sinful isn't it?

4. They waste 5 minutes of each serial with a song. It runs 5 times a week, and that song plays every freaking time. They hire a team of dancers to dance to that, and by the time you get to the story, we are nearly 10 minutes in the time slot. Excellent time-wasting, producers. Be proud.

5. Oh, the easiest job in the world is to write a freaking STORY or even a script for a Tamil drama. It's easy- maybe let's say three scenes for every episode? Rest just leave to the dialogue writer, they know how to stretch even a non-event scene into a cruelly long one.

6. The music composer is the biggest criminal, he places the most thrilling, heart beat music for scenes that turn out to be pure duds. It's like a character comes and says, 'hey, you've got a dirt on your back'.

Jeng Jeng Jeng.

The other character (the one with the dirt) stares at person A with such shock and disbelief.

And don't forget they have to slow mo at some point. If at a scene which is being shot there are five characters around, the director generously ensures he captures the eye contact between all those characters- each one of them with each other.

By the time the fella realizes he's just got a freaking dirt on his freaking back, you passed a freaking say, 6 minutes? This people are just amazing.

7. Ridiculous dialogues happen in the most ridiculous places. There'll be a court trial and the characters will be pouring their emotions to the judge, or the policeman, or the lawyer. And these people will actually listen, it seems. For god's sake these officials will only ever collect details. Try standing up to one of them that you had some 'avamanam' two days ago. They'll finish writing a verdict by the time by the time you finish narrating an unrelated event. Goodness me.

8. Here's the masterstroke. They want to end the drama for that episode, but they don't know how. What they do, they cut through a lame scene, make one character say a statement of accusation (or it sounds like one), and they put 'to be continued'. Next day, it turns out the whole scene has little significance.

9. It's very educating religiously. They expose the most ridiculous rituals that many would have thought must be banned for their sheer stupidity in the modern world that we are living in now, but they will still show you scenes of a ritual to separate families, and how the families will actually adhere to that rule because it will become 'sami kuttam'.

Why don't they just show 'Amman' rising up and sticking blades in their eyes when they slightly breach any ritual rules? With a serious music this time.

I'll ban dramas from showing scenes that can mislead if I have the authority. But too bad people choose to be ignorant about it.

It's just as bad as a guy accidentally placing 'kungumam' on a girl's forehead and the next thing he knows he has to marry her no matter what. Grrr.

End of the day, I walk out after watching a drama and look for a wall. So that I can bang my head on it. The easy way to attain high blood pressure? Tamil dramas.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Inception- Movie Review

Christopher Nolan comes on the back of redefining the Batman series a couple of years back with The Dark Knight, and Leonardo Di Caprio has built a reputation to be an actor of fabulous calibre with the ability to almost always choose the right scripts to participate in despite his relatively young age.

When these two come together, you know that you are in for something extraordinary. With 'Inception', Nolan brings together a mixture of two of his best-written movies- 'Memento' and also the 2006 magical thriller 'The Prestige'. The most telling factor about the film is that the film comes with a concept and theme which is so complex- as it always is when it involves the infinite spectrum of our mind, yet it manages to remain in control and not spiral out to become a self-indulgent psychological thriller as it could have very easily been.

'Inception' is the story of Dom Cobb (Di Caprio), who is an extractor who extracts the deepest memories of individuals by invading their sub conscious mind while putting them in a dream state. Legal problems means that Cobb is always on the run and when a job to extract an information from a Japanese business magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe) goes wrong, Cobb has no choice but to go hiding with a proce place on his head. But Saito traces back Cobb and offers him an interesting proposition- that he'd able to clear all the legal problems that Cobb is facing and allow Cobb to return to his two children- only if Cobb agrees to do an 'inception'- an act of planting an idea in the head of Saito's business rival.

Cobb brings together a group of able assistants, including a dream architect (Ellen Page), to execute the complicated task. However, the recurring presence of Cobb's dead wife Mel (Marion Cotillard) in his dream projections threatens to sabotage the mission, and Cobb has to embrace the disturbing truth and face his own demons in order not to let the memories of his wife haunt him forever. The complicated job carries enormous risks for all involved and Cobb struggles to make it work in order to attain his liberty again.

The first thing that makes Inception work, just like all the other trademark Nolan movies is the screenplay. The movie has a relentless screenplay, with Hans Zimmer's background score being an essential pillar of strength, so much so that you don't feel the pinch of the movie's 148 minutes of running time.

But the catch is- it makes you think. Inception, make no mistakes, is an intelligent movie, and the four-layered dream pattern that forms the climax of the film has to be one of the most complicated action sequences that was ever shot in cinema. You have to pay close attention to all the factors that happen around in the movie in order to really grasp the story of each character and also the logistics and realms of the dreams.

Di Caprio carries the weight of the film on his shoulders and delivers with even a sign of hamming, understating or overdoing it. His calibre as an actor is further reaffirmed with this accomplished, near flawless performance. Inception comes with plenty of CGI and despite the grandeur of images that explore the infinite possibilities that exist within our mind, Di Caprio still carries the emotional weight of the story magnificently, which makes the story more connecting, rather than being just a well-shot dream unique concept.

Ellen Page gives an assured performance in a colorful starcast, and is a real standout. Ken Watanabe also shines in his role as Saito, while Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Levitt combine to provide rare moments of laughter throughout the movie. Marion Cotillard is just passable, as her character has the same emotional shade every time it appears, thus having very little to no development (which is the way it is meant to be).

All in all, Nolan once again beats himself to it by pushing the envelope of fine film-making even further. Inception could have become a movie for select audiences with high levels of intelligence, but the film instead threads a fine line between entertainment but at the same time not underestimating the intelligence of its audience. And such an achievement is rare at a time when the movie going public is so often getting divided with recent movies.

And for that, Nolan's got a winner and shows that creativity and popular success can come in the same package.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The death of Samaritans

When my Arabian Scicom trainer told me he preferred the kind of privacy he has gained since coming to Malaysia in comparison to the overtly-concerned Arabians back in his country, I couldn't but to help but raise an eyebrow.

I'll take a love nuisance any day over ignorance. Wouldn't we all? Ask the Malaysians, the pure Malaysians who have actually lived all these years outside their comfort zone, and have actually been faced with situations which left them lurching for help from somewhere.

One thing is for sure- the so-called 'privacy' mentioned before is not something that we Malaysians can smile about, nor to be even proud of. Most importantly- it's about time the alarm bells rang for us- it's nothing to be ignorant about as well- at least not anymore.

Ignorance ain't a bliss anymore.

Not when a couple of lazy petrol bunk assistants have become so disilluioned that their buts would have teared off if they had carried a fire extinguisher and passed it off to a hoillering Samaritan whose nerves are wrangling out for a girl literally burning to death inside a car.

Listen to a piece of that story and immediately the image of two lazy, or if could even mention, utterly stupid guys looking out as if they can't comprehend a a simple call for help, the simple urge of an accident, or above all, the rocking value of a life strikes across your mind. Then you think, would they be just as blurred when they are trapped in a car with the petrol leaking and they know they are burning to death?

The kind of ignorance that we have stamped on ourselves have become so overwhelming that we have accustomed to turn a blind eye to so many things- things that even decides life or death. Like when I was lying on a road drenched in serious wounds and found out that passers-by who apparently have no urgent work to attend to would rather wait for me to clear the road myself rather than helping me up.

Here's a fact we have to embrace- beneath the face of the elegant, ever-growing with tall buildings man that we have epitomized ourselves with over the years- there lies an ugly truth.

The man is actually a lazy, ignorant one. If over the years the individual determination of that man's cells helped him rise up taller than some of his counterparts and build a respectable image for himself, the lazy, one dimensional, selfish natures of his cells will eventually spell the ruins of the very man. The cells which built him had lost their original vision, and are now drifting, many colliding with each other in their destinations.

The man is now short-sighted and one dimensional at the core. It'll be only a matter of time before it eats into his entire body.

Will the cells change? At least don't let someone die when you can afford to prevent it while seating at your very comfort zone.

And the one who dies wasn't a hapless young lady, but the one the two attendants actually murdered was the little left off from the good nature of Malaysians. Next time a Samaritan wakes up, he might think twice. And what will be the consequences of that Samaritan thinking twice?


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The warrior will be alright.

It’s dusk. The sun sets solemnly across the horizon- the warrior loves dusk. He has always felt that the spates of colors strewn across the sky at dusk leave behind a flicker that the eyes will never feast upon at any other time of the day. He sat at the nearby branch, a sole stricken one in the middle of an unknown desert, and he looked up towards the sun. The cloudy horizon have made the sun hardly visible to the naked eye. A faint light shimmering beyond the thin veil of clouds, that was all his eyes could muster to witness at the time.

The thin haze that has been coating the horizons around the place on a consistent basis had also deprived the warrior of his most cherished view- a peek towards the top of the mountain- bright and glistening. Every time he witnesses that peak, he feels like he does belong to that peak, to reach there one day has been etched in his destiny.

But now, there is no dusk, no mountain. All that exists was him, the desert, and the village, a village which he had long assumed would be an useful pit stop in order for him to reach his dreams. The warrior did not like it the moment he arrived in this village- where everyone worked very hard in premeditated routines in order to win the breads to survive the day. The warrior wasn’t an exception in this- he wasn’t given a prince treatment- he had to work to win his bread- for he has to wait until the clouds clear and the sun can rise up confidently and unleash its ray on earth without any barriers again.

Now, as the warrior lay against the sole broken branch in the middle of a dry desert on which the village is located, he feels exhausted, tired, dread. The everyday routine at the village had had its taxes on his energy and enthusiasm. His resources are drained by the end of the day, and he couldn’t have his daily glance beyond the horizons to look at the peak of the mountains that he wishes to conquer one day.

What is happening to his life? Where have his dreams brought him to? Why is the haze so thick he can’t see his destination? He abandoned a kingdom of comfort, security, all to secure the reality of this one dream- he travelled through ages of uncertainty about where his destination would lie, spent so many years of the journey travelling all alone- but as long as he was on the move, when he had his evenings by the crystal clear lake, or under an autumn tree drooping with gorgeous brown leaves, practicing the art of swinging and slinging his sword, as his horse fed on the natural leaves at every stop he pauses at, looking at her master in awe and loyalty.

Today, the sword rusts in the little camp, in which the warrior retires every night- and the warrior shoots the sword a glancing, solemn look, wondering when the time will come for him to ride off into the sunset again, the sword piercing elegantly across his back. His horse waits tied outside the camp, feeding on the same grass everyday, entitled to the same routine the warrior is being subjected to.

The warrior sits and contemplates, wishes he is on the move rather than remaining here- but this is the pit stop he needs to take in order to reach the peak of the mountain. He is made to be on the move, not to rut in a rust. He is made to conquer that peak, not to sit idle doing regular work.

But then he thinks of that sunny day where, when the warrior did not know which direction he should take to reach the mountains which seemed so distant away- when a saint appeared while the warrior was walking on a bed of tulips holding hands with his princess.

The saint pointed in this direction- on the first morning in which the princess held his hand- the direction of this small village; that the warrior should start a life there, and that’s where his journey would have its starting point. The warrior knew there and then, that it was a sign, for he was holding the princess’ hands when the saint looked down from the high hills and pointed his ageing stick in this village’s direction. Upon which the princess gave him a warm smile- so wide it made his insides tingle with joy and warmth.

The warrior walked deeper into his tent, wondering about the crossroads and uncertainty he is facing in his life. Every warrior has to trudge a path of mud in order to be worthy champions. This is his alley of mud. An alley where he can lose all that he is- where he has to hold on tight in order to retain his will, passion and dreams. That is his test.

The pain is true, the discomfort is true, the itchy feet is true, the difficulty is true. But the warrior has accepted it- come to terms with it. This is what will make him a worthy champion.

But as he lies down his head gently on the princess’ shoulders with her brimming smile still there, he knows for a fact- it’ll be alright.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Raavan- Movie Review

Do we judge the qualities of our lives and that of our own self with a contrast as simple as black and white, good or bad? That is what Mani Ratnam had tried to bring out with his densely shot 'Raavan'. It took Mani and his team a grueling three years to complete this flick, which says alot about the kind of effort it took to shoot the movie in the dense forests of Madya Pradesh.

First of all, Raavan is one of those movies that can't be compared with Mani's previous works. Some may claim it is not on par with his other movies, while some may claim it is as good as any. Admittedly Mani's best movie to date, Iruvar, had a similar response during its initial release before it picked up steam and played to the gallery of classics around a decade later. Raavan might fall in the same mould- few years from now, it'll be seen as a classic.

Mani seems to cut loose whatever is left of the thin veil of ropes that tied him from fully expressing his ideas in his previous movies, and he executes Raavan with a newfound freedom- thus pushing the envelope further as far as the qualities of his own movies go. We all saw what happened when Mani went bold in Iruvar- the movie collapsed on a commercial structure, and like someone who failed in a first real jump, Mani was very subtle in the movies that he made after 'Iruvar', and it took him some time to attempt something with complete boldness again- and by some time I mean 13 years. Because it's only in Raavan that he rediscovers that touch.

Even Iruvar wasn't a perfect movie, but it was classic- so much to the extent that even the unanswered grey aspects of the movie, the hanging threads, and the flaws have come to be accepted to be part of what makes the movie even greater- and Raavan's imperfections might work the same way, they will dissolve as time passes by- and the movie will be accepted as one to be remembered for a long time to come.

To begin with the story- Beera (Abhishek) is another one of Mani's Nayakan moulded character. A man who stands firmly at the wrong side of the law, but not necessarily at the wrong side of life on a larger scale. He is at logger heads with Dev (Vikram), a ruthless local policemen who is hell bent in killing Beera, and thus erasing the image of a lawbreaker ruling the roosts in the rustic rural area of Lal Maati. Once Dev and his fellow policemen contribute heavily to the ill-fated death of Jamuniya (Priyamani)- Beera's stepsister, Beera goes out for revenge. He savages few of Dev's colleagues, and abducts Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), Dev's apple of the eye. Beera vows to kill Ragini within 14 hours of abduction to avenge for his sister, but when Ragini's lack of fear strikes him like a bolt of thunder, Beera retracts from the stance and instead keeps her alive- an act that would set a motion of unprecedented events and upturn of emotions leading to an emotional and poetic climax.

Abhishek Bachchan without doubt is Mani's personal favorite, and Beera was tailor made for him. He plays the character with such effervescence that his facial expressions alone are sufficient to deliver the kind of emotional turmoil he goes through when he starts falling in love with Ragini. He gives a weak look full of love at one glimpse of his vulnerable moment, and at the very next, he returns to his sadistic smile that is his trademark. He comes across as a good-hearted character who shouts out loud to the world that he is indeed a ten-headed Raavan, and a devil in order to hide his own soft side. You start by despising Beera's madness, slowly get intrigued by the layers of emotions he has within himself, and you start adoring him towards the end of the movie. On another day and at the hands of a lesser actor, the character Beera can easily come across as just being a pure psycho, but Abhi prevents that with great deliverance. Every little detail of his performance is polished put exceptionally, so much so that when he finally strings together a dialogue to express himself, no matter how short or incomplete, you'd know what he was actually saying. This is Abhi's best career performance to date, and betters even Guru in many aspects.

Aishwarya Rai never lost an ounce of elegance even after all those years, she looks genuinely charming even in the scenes where she is thrashing about in torn clothes with dirt smearing all over her body. And her performance is no less elegant as well. She stands out well in the plethora of visually poetic scenes between Abhi and her, and yet she stands her ground, and makes the duel and the battle of eyes even more interesting. She is convincing in the latter half when she is torn by her blossoming care for Raavan and also her existing love for Dev, as the two men seem to be heading on a collision course- she struggles to differentiate black and white anymore, which is what the film is all about. In short, Mani tells us the story through Ash's bewildered eyes- the entire darkness and gray shades about it.

Vikram is convincing as the ruthless policeman, and also manages to bring out well the demonic obsession that consumes him towards the end of the movie, when he was killing people at the snap of a finger just to get Beera. His need to get Beera weighs over his need to find Ragini, the kind of obsession not associated with a typified 'good guy'. As Raavan shows love and care for the woman, Dev shows more thirst for blood that tends to be justified by his khaki uniform. The gray shades of Dev were so effortlessly brought forward by the National-award winner.

Priyamani leaves a lasting impact despite her brief appearance, and manages to evoke sympathy for her ill-fated character- a good cameo to get herself introduced in Bollywood. Govinda is underutilized, but manages to evoke humor in the eariler scenes that he was part of- as the story focused more on Beera's side of things.

Technically the film is too good, in one word. Santosh Sivan returns to wield the camera for the larger part of the movie, for the first time since 'Dil Se', and his camerawork is simply mindblowing, not to take any credit away from V.Mani Kandan, who was also the joint cinematographer. The denseness of the jungle, and the depth of the river are simple natural settings, but the way the shots are composed makes this one of the most, if not the most visually poetic movie ever made in Indian cinema. Scenes between Abhi and Ash especially deserve special mention- the shots used for the song 'Behene De' steals your breath away. Mani stays true to his common principles of using natural lights for his films and it is evident again in Raavan.

Kudos should go to every member of the production team for executing the film with such a natural look in such a difficult location- every actor is made to work and go through genuine physical barriers to enact their roles, as it is evident in the movie.

AR Rahman's music as usual carries the film forward almost single handedly at times. There is a variation of music for every different setting, for every different mood, and what tops it all is ARR's own slow humming song 'Uduja' that is used heavily during the climax, bringing out the exact emotional content of the moments.

'Thok De Killi', 'Khilli Re' and 'Kata Kata' carry Mani's usual trademark of songs being executed exceptionally well, as the choreography of all three songs captivates a great deal.

Mani excels in writing the couple of plot twists in the lead up to the climax, and perhaps his biggest achievement would be that despite the plot twist, he doesn't lose the core emotional content that sets the film running. Mani may have not written the dialogues himself, but staying true to his trademark of minimal dialogue usage, the dialogues are great whenever delivered, especially around the climax and the emotional scenes between Ash and Abhi. Vijay Krishna Acharya lost so much credibility after his Tashan flopped that he was sacked from Yash Raj Productions, but with his dialogues for Raavan alone, has attained himself from credibility again, as it looks like he is still Mani's trusted ally in that particular department.

All in all, Raavan has its flaws and unfinished threads- but it is by no means a cumbersome movie- in fact it is a classic for that very reason- the film ends like an open ended question, a question that reverts back to the audiences, to pick up the pieces and find the Ram and Raavan within their own selfs as they makes their way home. Some might say this movie is not for everyone- it is in fact for everyone. But some might find it hard to stomach or dismiss it. But give it sometime and it'll grow back on you.

Mani Ratnam is a gem for the Indian film industry. And with a great deal of help from his actors and technical team, he proves that once again with Raavan.

A couple of cheers and now the wait begins for the next Mani Ratnam film. :)

Rating: 9/10

p.s.- don't listen to the critics. They don't make movies. Mani Ratnam does.

Taran Ardash, please humbly quit reviewing movies.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The new rainbow

The warrior once sat down bespectacled, wondering if at all he will attain what he desired. What he wanted. He is still making that journey, but the perennial doubts keep visiting him, throwing him into a whirlwind of uncertainty. Is this a battle that he has to fight alone? Will it be a futile one? Is he making a journey in which the destination will never materialize?

Word of wisdom had drained his ears. Some wise man had once told him that when you want something so badly, the whole universe will conspire to make you achieve it. The warrior knew for sure that his destination is not even remotely close yet- the only way to continue is to keep going despite all the uncertainties riddled in his mind- that's when he had realized that what he was actually looking for is a shoulder to lean on, somebody who could accompany him in this bewildering, taxing journey. The warrior knew that he had had been looking for this person for a long time, hoping someday she would come in his line of sight, but now the thought of whether she ever existed was needling him.

And then the warrior realized he had someone to pick him up from his troubles all along. A companion who has always been there to help him through a hard times, a woman adorned with qualities that he has been looking for all along- but how did he not realize it? Now that woman rides with him through that journey, and the warrior does not fear falling or being defeated. For he knows she will be there to hold him up in good stead. The lack of soldiers had once been his greatest concern, but now he know he wasn't actually looking for soldiers, but instead looking for someone like her- he was looking for the most magical word of all- love.

And they say love can conquer mountains. The warrior still has to climb up the mountains himself, but facing demons doesn't seem like an ardous task anymore- if anything, love conquers fears and uncertainties.

The warrior once reached an edge of the mountain which looked like a dead end, he could not see a way put or a way further up from it. All he saw was a small path that was heading nowhere, he took it, and the only thing that rang in his mind was the same adage that he has so blindly followed for six years- when you want something so badly, the universe will conspire to make you achieve it. Next thing the warrior knew, he was climbing a difficult slope, but at the end of that slope, he realized that he had taken a step closer to the peak of the mountain he wants to conquer. He looked down back, and realized how impossible an task it was, and yet he did not heed to the difficulty at all. The wind of the mountain seem to be telling him that he has embarked on a new phase in his journey.

Few days later, the warrior had made a new group of friends, a pack of travelers as well to different destinations-- they were all at an altitude where they were exhausted and have not feasted for a long time. Word has it that somewhere around the mountain, a feast has been prepared for them. There's plenty of food still left around the place, little scraps of bread here and there, on which they have been feeding on for some time. But they felt it was time for some feast, but to find the feast there is a price to pay. They to abandon their breads behind as the luggage would prove to be too heavy, and with starvation already visiting them, they made the journey. The warrior once again remembered that old adage that the wise old man had told him once- and after a seeming futile journey that reduced all of them into a state of weakness, they were starring at a faint light inside a dark cave. As they sauntered inside, they were shocked to find that they were starring at the feast that they were looking for. They found plenty of offerings on the way, that of breads and mountain guards and old men discouraging them from their ridiculous urge to find the feast. For reasons they themselves could not explain, they were adamant on finding the feast, and at a time when the exhaustion had totally caught up with them, they found the place.

And when the warrior had his feast and walked back outside of the cave to a bright sunshine greeting, he realized the adage wasn't a blind one. When you want something so badly, you do eventually attain it. And he also realized something else- that the journey might be grueling, but it will never be futile- just when you thought your energy has been drained out, the desire will materialize, the dream will come true. The universe will conspire to give it to you when you least expected it- and when you do get it, you will realize that the tools to reach the destination has been lying around you all along- the journey is about attaining that wisdom to be able to look at things differently, and when you reach that stage, you shall be able to look around you and find the hidden treasures that were meant for you.

Today, the warrior has love- which he once though was an endless search. And with the universe seemingly ready to give him everything he pursues without an iota of fear, with only faith and hope in his heart- he looks up at the peak and smiles. He knows he will get there too. But there's no rush. He will enjoy the journey with love, faith and hope. He has abandoned fear at the foot of the mountains.

And he walked on.