Posts Tagged ‘kamal hassan’

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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The difference between Charles Manson and Marilyn Manson is that one of them sells violence while the other propagates it. Granted, Charlie is probably the more despicable of the two but one could argue that at least he meant it. Marilyn is a marketing guru, a half-baked vocalist who knew how to market anger and gothic art. The sort I despise…not for fictionalizing violence (that’s quite alright), but rather for taking away the depth of emotions that make violence a very, very frightening proposition. I guess that’s the problem with violence in art; there’s no subtlety to it. Films are certainly no exception.

2007021304410201The only problem I had with Ameer’s Paruthiveeran (and Raam’s Tamil MA to a larger extent) came about during the climax. Ameer is a fantastic director and I can’t accuse him of being dependent on gratuitous violence to force this brilliant film to linger on in the minds of the viewers, but I do think the climax could have been handled with more finesse. It would have been far more intense and gratifying (in a messed-up way) if Muthazhagu’s final torment was insinuated rather than just bluntly translated. Left alone to our imagination, the situation could have been worse for her and the film ultimately more rewarding (again, in a messed-up way).

mahanadhi-shobana1Even though a few Kamal Hassan films fall prey to this abject translation, Mahanadhi is a great example of insinuations being used to further the effect. As disturbing as it was, the scene involving Shobana (Kamal’s daughter) and the seedy businessman was pitch perfect in its interpretation. He sports a devilish smile, as she innocently looks at him with perhaps a hint of suspicion. He reaches forward and brushes off a morsel of food from her chin. She tenses up. Camera backs off. A cackle of laughter is heard. Door closes. End scene. In that moment, there was no second-guessing as to what happened to little Shobana but the intricacies that were left out made the scene more intense. Ironically, it is with subtlety that B-grade south Indian porn directors (not sure if there is an A-grade category) include sleaze without pissing off the censors.

Out there in the West, such parallels exist in shapes and sizes that are far more corrosive to one’s senses. Unfortunately, Jaws is as good of an example as one can possibly find in Hollywood. As much as I despise Spielberg, it’s almost stunning how much attention he paid to the little things that made it a classic. The big, bad shark was certainly in the details. In other film industries, fantastic films such as Eden Lake, Cronicas, Cache, and Orphanage take the road less traveled and partially portray anarchism, horror and even misogynistic brutality and then hint at something far more terrifying. It doesn’t have a name, of course. It’s that feeling which makes the audience question the level of brutality that they are capable of thinking of.

I will admit that a lot films had to be blunt in their imagery. I am not entirely sure how great films such as Requiem For A Dream, Manhunter, Pithamagan, and Audition might have turned out if the directors had chosen to be subtle. I guess it has to do with knowing when to wield what.

marilyn-manson_000784_mainpictureI crave to choose what I feel at the end of the film or during the course of a song. I sure as hell don’t need Marilyn Manson singing about horrific abuses that society has committed on his fanbase and then expecting me to raise my fists and join him in during the chorus. Alan Parsons Project’s Tales Of Mystery And Imagination scared the hell out me with mellow Seventies progressive rock. It’s in the details, I tell you.

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A recipe for bliss



Slice and dice Kamal Hassan’s ability to channel schizophrenic tendencies to further his artistic merit.

Throw in a few onions to titillate lachrymal glands.

Add a generous helping of Illaiyaraja’s language of music, and boil until the symphonies float with the grace of a feather in a gentle breeze.

Take a scoop of Santhana Bharathi’s natural talent and soak it in water until memories of Chinna Maaplai are washed away.

Serve it with portions of KJ Yesudas’ vocals on the side.

And here’s what you get.


Partha Vizhi (Guna)


Guna DVD

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Funny SOBs

The writers at Son of Bosey are some of the funniest guys I know. A couple of years ago, they even accidentally inspired a duo of renegade journalists to kickstart Blah Online.

An excerpt from one of SOB’s recent posts.

“In a quick and stunningly pro-active response to Kamal Hassan’s comments about the Oscars, the Tamil film industry has instituted a new award that will honour accomplishments in areas that are important to local sensibilities and context. The awards will be known as the AASKAR (Academy that Agrees Stupidly to Kamal’s Arbid Requests) awards, and will be handed out at a glittering ceremony at German Hall next March.

Apparently, writers and technicians will also be given their due. Among the awards for their contributions are ‘Best Punch Dialogue’ and ‘Best Needless Special Effects’. There is also rumoured to be a special award for ‘Best Performance by Vijayakumar as Sarath Kumar’s Dad’ (which, of course, will go to Vijayakumar every year).”

Click to read the full story.

Click here for SOB’s website.

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