Posts Tagged ‘k balachander’

K_Balachander I have very few K Balachander films on DVD so I have to rely on my memory for most of these reviews. I’m yet to figure out how many of them I can write about without forgetting any of their most precious moments, so I’ll keep updating once in a couple of months.

Oru Veedu Iru Vasal (One House, Two Entrances): K Balachander is the greatest living Indian director. Maybe it’s my meagre understanding of Malayalam and Bengali films, but I just can’t think of a more suitable Indian to tell a story than this legendary director. I have watched Oru Veedu Iru Vasal at different points in my life. As a kid, I was perturbed by the fact that there simply wasn’t enough of comedian Charlie going around; I thought he was extremely funny and the magnificent cut-and-paste editing of the film actually got in the way of fully appreciating his humour.

As a high-schooler, I fell in love with the film for the music of the violinist siblings- Ganesh and Kumaresh – that did things to my ears that weren’t done since I first heard the theme song to that awesome old Doordarshan sitcom – Rayil Sneham. A couple of years ago, I watched it on Vijay TV and it left me breathless with delight. I mean, seriously folks…when done right, Tamil cinema can be fantastic. Apart from the man himself, men like Balu Mahendra, Santhana Bharathi and recently, Bala, Ameer and Sasikumar have done the genre proud with their complete nonchalance for the proven and successfully (repeatedly) tested.

Even song and dance routines don’t make idiots of themselves in Balachander films. oru veedu iru vaasal So, Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal is split into two storylines; in one, a forlorn musician cheats on his wife and impregnates his housemaid to disastrous consequences, and in the other, a single mom who works as an ‘extra’ in Tamil movies tries to give her a son the life that has eluded her. Acting-wise, everyone’s brilliant – Charlie and the rest who play broken down yet exuberant characters of the Kodambakkam ‘extras’ colony, Kumaresh, who gives sleaze a bit of class as the musician, and of course, Yamini. yamini Lovely, seldom heard of, preciously stocky Yamini. In this, she lives up to the pressure of being one of the protagonists in a Balachander film. In fact, her performance bears resemblance to the many of another fantastic actress – Saritha. One might argue that the transition between the two storylines could have lent itself to a bit more finesse, but then again that is a natural reaction, considering how truly great and subtle his films were during the Seventies and Eighties.

Orru Veedu Irru Vaasal was released in 1990 and if he had not made Kalki in 1996, it would have been the last time a damsel lit up Kollywood’s silver screen under the guidance of the impeccable Kailasam Balachander. If anyone has rapidshare links or workable torrents for this film, do let me know. 200px-Varumayin_Niram_Sivappu_dvd

Varumayin Niram Sivappu (Red Is The Colour Of Poverty): I cringe every time either Vijay or Ajith portray an educated youth beaten down by society and its flaws. They pull silly faces, shed glycerine, and horrifically pout their lips as though someone told them to eat garlic and French kiss the neighbourhood cat. Kamal Hassan, on the other hand, does it in a way that immediately drags you into the dark corridors of his life. Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu may not be as scathing as Sathya, but it is definitely a clearer dissection of the unemployment issue that once killed the middleclass-youth and the collective dream of using education as an means to an end. Add some very fine acting to the mixture and you get a thoroughly enjoyable indictment of society.

Like many have said before, Balachander can bring out the best in an artist…S V Shekar has never seemed cleverer with his comedy, Sri Devi has never looked classier and well, Pratap Pothan (much like Kamal pre-PMK) is a fucking genius, no matter who directs him. As if these weren’t enough, MS Viswanathan has composed some beautiful tunes for this film. The dueling Sippi Irukkuthu with SP Balasubramaniam and Janaki on vocals is yet to outlive its melody. Can I buy a meadow and lie down listening to music from Balachander films all day? Pretty please?

AgniSakshi_L Agni Sakshi: Saritha is one of my favourite Indian actresses. The restraint with which she shows her anger could have been stuff that many intriguing film dissertations revolved around. As for Sivakumar, if his son could be half the actor that his dad once was, well he would be deserving of the praise showered upon by everyone and their dog.

Balachander is intense as hell in Agni Sakshi. The role he has created for Saritha is truly one of greatest characters written for a female lead. saritha-mukesh The story follows Agni, a righteously tortured and insecure young lady, and her descent into middle-class madness, along with her husband (a strong performance from Sivakumar) and his family. But don’t expect to see domestic abuse, dowry hassles or random cherries popping, the stuff that drive this woman crazy is…well, just watch that scene in which she blows her top at her sister-in-law’s place over a baby-shaped candle and you’ll understand why words sometimes play poor ventriloquists to certain emotions. Saritha is so unbelievably good in this role that I presume that one of two things must have happened…she must have either gone temporarily insane during the shooting of Agni Sakshi or director Balachander has actually worked movie magic. No prizes for guessing.

sindhubhairavi Sindhu Bhairavi: I’ll get this out of the way, this film has music that you should run over something furry and bubbly with a lawnmover to get your hands on…everything from Naan Orru Sindhe and Padariye Padipariye to that drunken folk song (Thanni Thotti) that Sivakumar sings during his many moments of alcohol-fueled depravity. I have a soft corner for the film Sindhu Bhairavi because I watched it many eons ago with my grandpa when my folks were busy with somebody’s funeral. Mostly I remember my grandma telling him to switch it off because it wasn’t ‘chinna pasanga padum’ and like any self-respecting scoundrel, I made sure I watched the entire film. For what it was worth back then, it got me hooked into the decadence of music and lust. Sushani performs like she has never before; she proudly holds a candle against the darkness, in which Balachander has immersed her character. Shockingly, even her crying looks mature and plausible (if you aren’t shocked, you simply haven’t seen enough Tamil movies).

As the tortured artist-adulterer Sivakumar is pretty convincing too. Most of all, we should give props to two of the most underrated actors during the early Nineties – Janagaraj and Delhi Ganeshan; both exude all sorts of subtle class and graceful silliness respectively. Did I tell you about the music? Oh I tell you, the music.


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71291563Hills Have Eyes II

As a rule, most sequels suck. Rare are cases in which the quality of the sequel surpasses the original. In fact I can only think of two instances…Hellboy II and The Dark Knight. The first edition of Hills Have Eyes was a tribute to the great gore films of the past three decades. It had all the right ingredients –bloodthirsty mutants, unlikely heroes, a terrified family of five and a plausible storyline. Hills Have Eyes II sort of pales in comparison; reason being that an American military squad has replaced the archetypal Caucasian family. They are neither the underdogs nor are they terrified, at least not for the first one-hour. We even get to hear the obligatory “Come and get me motherfuckers, I’m right here” braggadocio every now and then from the soldiers and to make matters worse, one mutant even wants to help them out for no reason whatsoever. Thankfully, the mutants are demented enough to keep your fingers off the eject button. And Mr Director, I beg of you, no more scenes of mutilated women giving birth to even more mutilated babies during the first five minutes of the film…some of us hit the play button during supper.

gendatirGeneral’s Daughter

This is pretty messed up for a John Travalto film. And I must say, Travalto is not half as bad as people think he is. He tends to impress when paired with seasoned performers. Alongside William Macy and Robert Duvall in Civil Action, and with Dustin Hoffman in Mad City, he has proven his versatility as an actor. In General’s Daughter, he meshes quite well with veterans James Cromwell (brilliant, as usual) and James Woods. As for the story, it is a military thriller directed by Simon West, with Travalto playing Paul Brenner – a tough-as-nails Warrant Officer who has enough street credo to start rapping or selling crack. Along with fellow officer Sara Sunhill (Madeline Stowe), he investigates the brutal murder of Captain Elizabeth Campbell – the tormented daughter of General Joseph Campbell. The premise of the film is rather twisted, as are the secrets uncovered during the course of the investigation. However, the standout is the theme music orchestrated by Carter Burwell. The most disturbing scenes in the film are accompanied by the haunting sound of strings swimming through a sea of violins. Quite beautiful. And as for the film itself…well it’s no Jarhead, but not quite the bird-brained tripe that American military-centric movies are generally known for.

thillumulluThillu Mullu

Watching K Balachander’s 1981-comedy caper is like getting hit by a tornado of laughs. The jokes come in at breakneck speed with the audience getting barely enough time to breathe before the one-liners explode on their faces. The story revolves around Chandran (Rajnikanth), a devil-may-care youngster on the look out for a job. And he does pouch one in a company owned by the orthodox Sri Ramachandramoorthy (‘Thengai’ Srinivasan). But there’s a catch. In order to get the job, Chandran had to fake interest in a lot of things; religion, civil obedience, patriotism and so on. He even had to shave his moustache off! The rest of the film chronicles the extent to which Chandran would go to conceal his real identity and how Mr Ramachandramoorthy eventually uncovers the façade. ‘Thengai’ Srinivasan is freakin’ hilarious, as is dame Sowcar Janaki. There is a scene involving these two, which quite easily contains some of funniest dialogues I have heard in Indian films. Also, watch out for a cameo by Kamal Hassan; it will have you shitting giggles. As for Rajni, well…Balachander proves once again that only he can bring out the best in the actor. Somewhere down the line, this actor sold his soul to appease all the minions but still, watching Thillu Mullu gives me hope…. a fleeting ray of optimism that maybe someday the Superstar will retire, not in superficial style but rather in graceful charm.

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