Aarohanam – the search within

The story of a mentally disturbed mother is rather personal to me – something that is close to my heart and the words that flow below may be highly biased from that perspective.

Aarohanam is the story of a mother who leaves home or the story of two children in search of their lost mother – depending on how you look at it. Nirmala goes missing one day, setting her children – a daughter who is preparing for her weddingin 10 days and a school-going teenage son – in search of her amidst fatigue, panic and restlessness. The film goes back and forth the lives of the family, their travails and troubles.

Nirmala is seen as a woman of strange behaviour – she gets angry too often, her actions are out of her control during such phases, saami aadifies, leaves home, hurts herself, is even suicidal. Unable (or unwilling) to deal with this, her husband abandons her and her children to live with another woman. Nirmala does random jobs to bring up her children.

Her behaviour is seen through the eyes of various people. Her husband, for one, thinks she is mad. He beats her, drags her home when she runs away once, has no faith in her and does nothing to help her. There is a scene where in the police station, her son tells the police officer that she sells vegetables for a living and the husband retorts with “ava ovvoru naal ovvoru velai seiva saar. Dhidirnu idli kadai poduva, insurance agenta velai paappa. Kuppai kuda porukkuva”. Also adds “iva yaarodayum otthu poga maatta”. The husband displays absolute indifference to her behaviour – almost as if he wants to have nothing to do with it.

The children, even though are the most affected by her, stay by her side. They are embarrassed, troubled, hurt but hang around anyway. The son is more expressive in his embarrassment than the daughter but they are both affected profoundly. The scene in which Nirmala burns her hand because her son came home with his father (who had abandoned her) is a heart-wrenching piece of story telling. The sheer fear in the eyes of the children and their surrender to doing anything just so their mother wouldn’t hurt herself is shattering.

The landlord and his wife, the Muslim couple are the charitable elders in her life. They see her as a troubled child, as if the world is conspiring against her and she needs to be protected. The landlady takes care of Nirmala’s children while she is away at work, they lend her money, give her advice when she is depressed and shoo her husband away when he is troubling her. They support her in their own little way and help her stand on her own. The scene where the neighbourhood doubts Nirmala’s ability to conduct her business successfully, the landlady says, “ava thane poi bank padi yeri saamarthiyama loan vaangi irukka”. The landlady plays the role of a mother to a troubled child.

Sandhya, the rich businesswoman sees Nirmala’s behaviour as a relief in some way. She thinks Nirmala is better off because she has a vent for her emotions that Sandhya herself did not have – a classic grass is always greener on the other side scenario.

For Nirmala, this was a rather normal life. She has no idea why her anger reaches unmanageable levels – she thinks she has been wronged and it is only natural to behave that way. The scene in front of the children’s school where she waves a knife at someone who (claims to have) helped her is one such incident. Her life swings between extreme anger, happiness, pride and depression.

Just for the sake of logistics, I have no idea why that MLA character is there in the film. That song at the end of the film is too long for comfort that you just sit around and wait for it to be over and the story be told. The beginning scenes where Sandy and Jay talk about their lives and how Jay gave up her singing career (?) because she had to take care of family is force-fitted. So is that piece in the song that Jay sings. If this is meant to be about the three ladies and their lives, it doesn’t come across as that. The last pep talk that the Doctor gives about Nirmala’s high energy is strange.

All said, Nirmala’s is a moving story. Her lonely struggle against the world (perhaps made up in her mind by her bipolar disorder) is painful. What’s more emotional is the story of the daughter (elder) and the son who try to cope with her in spite of it all. This story had to be told – for psychological problems aren’t at the tip of the Maslow’s pyramid.

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Aarohanam – the search within

Alex Pandiyan: Deeper than you think!

 

When I tweeted this from the theatre after watching the film, someone I know asked me “why do you watch these movies in the first place?” #NyaayamaanaKelvi 

Now that I’ve watched the film, I must say that much of the criticism the film has been getting is unwarranted. I believe it is politically motivated and therefore I take a strong stand to tell you, my reader, that Alex Pandiyan is deeper than you think!

Innovative story line

To begin with, this film has a very ulaga-thiraippadangalil-mudhan-muraiyaaga based story line. Who in the history of Tamil cinema has kidnapped the CM’s daughter? Which CM has got disloyal secretary, commissioner, religious guru etc.? Which heroine in Tamil cinema has falling in love with the kidnapper? Which hero has uyira-panayam-vechu saved the heroine? Many films, you say? Okay. Let me ask you some more questions.

Which heroine has said to the villain, “unakku dhairiyam irundha avar kayatha avuthu vittu adida. Nee ambalai nu othukkaren“? Which hero has toppled a Tata Sumo with an aruvaal? Which mother has ennai thechu kulippaatti uttufied a stranger? Who makes a profession out of allowing his kaalai maadu to mate pasu maadus in the village? Conviced? I thought you’d be. Moving on.

Naatukku thevaiyaana nalla karuthukkal!

You see, we argue time and again that cinema has a great impact on culture. Then we show our people all sorts of nonsense. But Suraj has taken it upon himself (along with the music director, lyricist and every one, of course) to give the perfect advice to a girl who has vayasukku vandhufied and is being publicly paraded. Watch that video and tell me if you don’t agree. I will debate you till my last breath about it!

Maanam kaakkum magaa Annan!

Santhaanam plays the role of a perfect elder brother. He is the role model for the elder brothers of today playing protector, care-taker and provider- all in one. One 70% of the film is about Santhaanam *saving* his three sisters from the predator that is Karthi! At one point, the Amma character only comes to a level where Santhaanam has to protect her.

In the process of this protection, there are many many mutthaana karutthukkal the female future generation of the Tamilnaad is in dire need of! For example, “ponnum pori urundaiyum onnu. Adha badhrama paathukkanum. Namuthu pochu boni aagave aagaadhu.” He adds, “ungala boni panra varaikkum konjam namuthu pogaama irunga ma”.

Life need not have any purpose

While we are all sitting around trying to figure out what is the purpose of our living on the earth, Suraj makes a rather philosophical point in his own absurdist style. He shows in his film that there need not be a purpose for people to enter or exit a film (and by extension, life).

Take that Saravanan’s character for example. He does nothing for the furtherance of the film. In fact, his brother who gets motta adichufied, Prathap Pothan, Milind Soman, Suman, Visu, his wife character, Santhanam’s three sisters and mother, Santhanam, Anushka, Karthi – none of them do anything for the furtherance of the story. And I strongly believe this is Suraj’s way of reiterating what Nietzsche (is believed to have) said: A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

Love knows no boundaries

There is this one last thought I want to leave you with. I believe is my responsibility to detangle Suraaj’s masterfully woven message about love. Love knows no boundaries, love has no reason and love has no logic. Love happens and no one knows why, how, who or even what the fu(k! *Three* *sisters* fall in love with a *stranger* who their mother has saved from the riverside. They love him so much they play (something like) dikkilona in the house with him (along with very many other #haun games).

Then, the CM’s daughter falls in love with a *drunken* *homeless* *nari biriyani eating* *wayward* *on bail* who kidnapped her *for money* because he saves her from dying while she jumps off a cliff. My only regret here is that Prathap Pothen did not have a heroine. That would have been the proverbial last nail on the coffin!

Alex Pandiyan: Deeper than you think!

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum!

I had the same feeling at the end of Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum that I had after watching Pizza (I chose not to review Pizza because I was quite undecided). It’s a combination of an admiration of the simplicity of the story, a blur line that differentiates the characters from the actors and a generous load of benefit of the doubt for the team! Now you see why I was undecided about Pizza?

Anyway..

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum pans out like a silly mistake that could happen to any of us – the friends almost like the ones any of us would have. The irritating Bags, sweet-as-hell Saras, always-awkward Balaji are the kind of people who remind one of people they’d known or friends they’d had. Even though half the film’s dialogue is “enna aachu? Cricket vilayaada ponom……Sari aaydum”, every time Prem says it, we hope nervously for him to recover and say more.

The film is endearing in more ways than its simplicity. It remains a single tangent about what happens among the four friends. Other characters come in and leave when their job is done – there is a man in formals who joins the game but promptly drops off when it’s done, that Dhanalakshmi character doesn’t venture beyond the wedding sequences, one obscure ‘Sir’ character comes and drops some free advice – but the film is about the medulla oblagantta and that’s what it remains.

While we are at it, I cannot resist mentioning the very regular love-marriage, family sandai, problem about the make up and all that’s clichéd. But we perhaps let that all pass because these are the kind of clichés that life is filled with. Or perhaps we don’t.

In essence, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum is new and refreshing and that is welcome. On the other hand, it is also amateur and superficial.

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum!

Barfi

I keep saying this. The point of this blog is not to see how technically advanced a film is or how it flows into the artistic style of the director’s past work. I abstain from writing about these things perhaps because I don’t know enough. What I aim to do is bring to your notice what I see as clandestine rhetoric that perpetuates status quo and oppresses any new line of thought.

In that context, Barfi must have been one of those films that shatters status quo and introduces the viewer to alternate perspectives about disability and relationships. I am not sure it succeeds though.

Barfi can neither hear nor speak. He is a small town simpleton with not-so-materialistic ambitions and an understanding of happiness that comes from within. He is all pranks and is said to be loved by all of Darjeeling. He falls in love (at first sight) with Shruti and woos her – apparently showing her freedom and unconditional love (which she did not see where she is from). Shruti’s mother enacts a scene from ‘The Notebook’ and convinces her not to marry Barfi. Shruti goes to to become Mrs. Sengupta – later to realise that she is in a relationship that has words but no meaning or soul (as against the one with meaning but no words – she could have had with Barfi).

Jhilmil Chatterjee is an autistic young girl living in Muskaan (what looks like a home for the disabled). She doesn’t speak much either; she makes beautiful birds from paper, does not like people touching her and most importantly (for the story to go forward) inherits all of her family’s wealth.

While one is savouring the joy that the innocence of Barfi and Jhilmil shower on us, there is a plot of kidnap and ransom-demanding that pokes itself in. Barfi kidnaps Jhilmil (among other people), writes a ransom note, takes the money from Jhilmil’s father all in an attempt to save his own father who is suffering from a kidney disease. But you see – someone who is supposed to be innocent and joyful getting himself tangled into kidnap does not seem cute to me anymore.

Entangled in this mess is also Jhilmil who can hardly understand what’s going on around her. She trusts her long-time friend Barfi who has in fact kidnapped her for money. They both grow fond of each other that Barfi perceives as love. I say “Barfi perceives” because I am not convinced Jhilmil understands this completely. They run away to Kolkata and seek to live normal lives. Shruti returns to Barfi’s life as Mrs. Sengupta ending up making Jhilmil jealous who goes back to Muskaan (for security/ peace/ familiarity?).

Is the kidnap, alcoholic mother, drowning-in-debt father written as a contrast for the innocent, harmless, genuine, child-like Jhilmil? Is the rich, hard working, urban, Mr. Sengupta a contrast for Barfi? Why couldn’t Shruti have married a rich, hard working, urban man who is also loving, caring, romantic, compassionate and considerate? Aren’t the same problems of black and white characters continuing here? As Shruti’s mother also asks in this film – who says love only happens once? It happened twice to Barfi!

I am still confused about the marriage of the autistic Jhilmil. When she could not comprehend kidnap, how does she comprehend marriage, wedding ceremonies and the relationship (albeit platonic)? What is the love based on?

If the film is to present to the audiences a new perspective on love, happiness, joy, relationships, trust and marriage – well, there is of course merit to the attempt. But it is far from convincing. There is a strange sense of disconnect – from the narrative, the characters, the message we are meant to perceive.

Barfi

Mugamoodi

When a film is bad, I generally have a *lot* to say about it, this that and the other complaint I come up with. About Mugamoodi though, I have very little to say.

Where is the inspiration?

The most important aspect of a superhero film is (arguably) the inspiration. What makes one a superhero? Why does one choose to wear a mask? Why would one go through the trouble of solving crime? Why is one willing to take the risk that one does?

Bruce Lee (Anand his real name) starts wearing blue tights with red underwear on top of it to impress the female lead. He urinates in public, rolls down stairs, trips and falls. When this funny guy gets caught in a shoot out and loses his friend, he becomes Mugamoodi to avenge the killers and prove himself innocent in the eyes of the women he is wooing. Until this point, there is nothing that makes the audience hoot for a common man turning into a superhero. In fact, there is nothing even further from here.

Why stick to the clichéd?

The dhandasoru hero, ever-cursing father, the pretty heroine with a pepper spray, an emotion-less love story (dear heroine, he is a superhero and all fine, but who is going to put food once the villain is caught?), crime-buster Gaurav (a strange name for a man of Nasser’s age, without a last name or a real designation), the helpful grandfathers – one after the other, we see boat loads of clichés, awful ones at that.

What is with the villain?

The characterisation of Anguswamy (a memorable name, I must grant) is rather grainy. He is younger than the story suggests he must be, develops a mannerism that he did not have in the beginning of the film, wears a mask only to take it off quite often, fights (Kung Fu) in what seems like a really uncomfortable posture, kills himself without a real fight. Considering how Mugamoodi’s character isn’t very strongly portrayed, the villain needn’t be glorified either. But that only defeats the point of this encounter, doesn’t it?

Who is the heroine?

It’s a superhero film and there is no place for a female lead. In this film though there is one – eye candy, uses pepper spray to capture the most notorious Kung Fu fighter in the neighbourhood, hits the hero with what looks like a wooden tube while he falls in love with her…erm..hair(?).

For the cinema that has made Kandasamy and Muppozhudhum un karpanaigal, Mugamoodi is probably forgivable. But that doesn’t make Mugamoodi a good film at any rate.

Mugamoodi

3

Director: Aishwarya R. Dhanush

Featuring: Dhanush, Shruti Haasan, Siva Karthikeyan, Sunder Ramu (Prabhu, Bhanupriya and Rohini wasted!)

This is a film by the next generation Tamil filmmakers (artists, music directors inclusive). Shruti Haasan, Dhanush, Aishwarya R Dhanush are all people who’ve seen cinema more closely than any of us would have in our lives. Yet, 3 is what they can produce. Sub-standard, unimaginative, insensitive and ridiculous load of trash that they’ve dumped in to three hours.

In the name of love

Ram (played impeccably by Dhanush) helps this girl who can’t help herself with her own bicycle (which happens in the real world, of course) and then falls in love with her when he is all of 16/17 years of age. The girl Janani (irritatating portrayal by Shruti Haasan) returns the favour and they are both in love. The first half of the film meanders across tuition classes, roadside conversations, slaps from the girl’s father and useless trip to Tirupathi.

Nothing in the film makes the audience feel the love between the two lead characters or any hope that the film is heading somewhere this way. The girl burns her passport (which has the Visa that her mother obtained after 15 years on burning herself outside the US embassy! Lolwut?), runs away from home asking Ram to marry her, apparently does nothing that could be called a job but cooks well, of course. The boy fails in his maths and chemistry exams in school, runs after this girl he likes (and scores well in Physics – the subject he takes tuitions with her), drives to Tirupathi without a license and uses an Aircel phone (one too many plugs this Aircel has paid for).

There is absolutely no love that I could see or feel between the two – no conversations, no happy moments together, no display of sanity or self-sufficiency.

In the name of marriage

No surprise that this love goes into marriage. Ram marries Janani and moves into this apartment that his father buys for him. They wait for both their parents to visit them before they have their “first night”. He promises never to hurt her and take care of her. She in turn reaffirms her trust that he would do so. He goes away for long hours, has a friend sleeping over every single day but Janani waits for him to die before she finds out why it is this way. Ram kicks their pet and kills the dog (unimaginatively named Tom). Unable to tell her what he’s done, he cries and she consoles him still not wanting to find out what really happened.

The Director has gone out of her way to beat stereotypes in having Ram and Janani’s wedding at a pub/ discotheque. Ignoring the fact that, though the venue is new, the thaali and the man tying it around the woman’s neck hasn’t changed, it is impossible to ignore that Janani wears Vibudhi (symbol of widowhood) on her forehead for a large part of the film post-interval. Strange are the ways we beat the norms these days.

In the name of mystery

The film begins with someone having been murdered. And then there are these scenes where Janani runs after what looks like Ram’s silhouette. Like most other scenes, this one goes nowhere too. But I refuse to understand the irrelevant plugging of such things to make the movie catchy. Dream sequence or otherwise, if the film is about a man with bipolar disorder, why make him seem like a ghost?

In the name of a ‘disease’

This is the scariest part of it all. Ram, in the film is dealing with bipolar disorder – which is pretty much mentioned as a disease. He acts like Chandramukhi Ganga (while the Doctor character clearly mentions that this is not split personality but bipolar disorder). He beats up friends, walks up to kill his wife, hallucinates and even forgets everything that he has done while he is in one of his fits. He refuses to ‘admit’ himself in a hospital and is worried about his wife “seeing him” with “fear” rather than “love”.

What’s more bothering here is how everything in this entire sequence is so unimaginative. All of the reasons for which he meets his extremes are so stereotypical. He breaks his friends head for merely telling him that he has a problem. He beats up people in a car park like a mad man left loose. He kills a poor dog. Even if I’d buy this for all of them are occurrences in the life of a man, his hallucinations are out of nowhere. There is no reason for why he is seeing what he is  seeing (a smoking kuduguduppandi-like person and a girl). To show us that these are hallucinations, these characters stand in the air and are coloured green. Duh! What’s even worse is that there is no apparent meaning to any of his hallucinations. If he is indeed hallucinating, why can’t writers think beyond two random characters. I am now thinking of Beautiful Mind and sighing. (Not to argue that Beautiful Mind is the best film in the world. Just the imagination of someone to fit one’s hallucinations into a film)

In the name of perspective

The entire film is shot from what I believe is a third person perspective. We are seeing the world not as Ram is seeing but as us watching from elsewhere. So, when Ram walks into the sea trying to reach Janani, I am not able to see it as someone suffering from lack of control over his emotions. I see it with fear that he is going to kill himself. All scenes where Ram hallucinates, loses his mind (and temper), hurts himself, I can never empathise with him because I am always wondering when he is going to hurt people around him.

If the intention of the film is to make the audience feel scared of someone with bipolar disorder, the aim is met. But if you want me to see it as a disorder that is bothering someone I know, you’ve lost your way by miles!

In the name of a film

This is just another flimsy attempt at showcasing a mental disorder that no one in the film making team has any idea about (or worse no experience with). Logical loopholes, perspective issues, meaningless conversations and irritating performances can all be dealt with if only Aishwarya R Dhanush had a vision about 3! Sadly, it falls apart!

3

Las Acacias

Director: Pablo Giorgelli
Writers: Pablo Giorgelli, Salvador Roselli
Featuring: Monica Coca, Germán de Silva and Hebe Duarte

What struck me as strange even before I got to watch the film is that this was one of the few foreign language films that did not have an English title. Las Acacias it was and it is, on IMDB as well. Can someone tell me what it means?

Las Acacias is the long truck journey of three people. Ruben, a truck drivers ends up giving a ride to Jacinta and her 5-month-old daughter from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. What begins as an uncomfortable journey goes on to be a beautiful love story.

To its advantage, the film has the beautiful landscape of South America playing the backdrop with immense character. For a considerable part of the film, we only see the faces of the characters, perhaps the steering wheel, leaving us wondering what the hell is the vehicle he is driving. Along the film, the frames become larger and portraits become landscapes. At this point, South America lends itself sweetly to the film.

There are so few dialogues in the film that I wondered if the dialogue-writer was perhaps underpaid. Lesser conversations happen in the film than in the viewer’s mind. Short sentences, matter-of-fact lines, realistic expressions and moderate emotions keep the film from drifting off in a tangent.

The highlight of the film, however, is the baby girl. She laughs, cries, sleeps, yawns and effortlessly make the audience go awwww. Watching a charming child is never painful and the director knew just how much of it could be made into a film.

In all, Las Acacias is a moving (literally and figuratively) love story: The meaningful relationship between two adults who can connect beyond mere words. The road trip that was an adventure in its own right. A conversation witnessed in awe by an audience. A road trip that every one of us went on.

Las Acacias