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Posts Tagged ‘Pratap pothan’

When westerners think Indian art, they immediately look towards AR Rahman, our poster boy with kooky hair, Amitabh Bachchan, the has-been who now sells B-grade toiletries on local TV channels and Aishwarya Rai, our toned down, family-friendly version of Paris Hilton. During the Sixties, according to the West, the Indian art scene comprised Ravi Shankar, men of yoga who got a free pass to Woodstock, half-assed spiritual gurus and any bearded dude who knew how to play the sitar. Forty years later, the misconception continues, only now we are subject to a remixed version of their ignorance.

See folks, we do more than make frighteningly dumb music for NRI discotheques to wax nostalgic over and magically transport our heroes and heroines to Switzerland for elaborate dance sequences. I mean, we still do that a lot but our homegrown artists have many a times been spectacularly original too. Our fixation with American pop culture and Broadway’s song-and-dance routines, as fucked up as it is, is reserved only for the glossiest of the mainstream; and with our media only throwing the spotlight on whatever/whoever is easily marketable, that’s all the rest of the world gets to see and brand as ambassadors of their mediums.

Just so you know, AR Rahman is not our finest musical talent; he can only  touch himself (or the Pussycat Dolls) to that notion while the maestro Ilaiyaraaja keeps creating some of the finest Indian music you could ever possibly hear. Silly primadonnas with Khans as second names are not amongst our most gifted actors; they are stylized puppets who cry on soap commercials, take off their shirts when there is a crowd of more than ten, play 25 year-olds in movies, dance with 22 year-olds in music videos and feed off the puppy love of 12 year-olds in real life – all at the ripe old age of fourty.

People like Raghuvaran, Sarita, Tabu, Cochin Haneefa, Boman Irani, Pratap Pothan, Nanditha Das, Atul Kulkarni, Nagesh, and Naseeruddin Shah are just some of the few who can act circles around the goddam Khans and Rais. And how movie critics like Roger Ebert and Peter Bradshaw are so convinced of their dedication to worldwide cinema when they have never watched a K Balachander or Balu Mahendra film is some sort of a sad mystery to me. I’m sure they have watched Sathyajit Ray’s entire collection but their relevance is outdated considering the wealth of cinema that came thereafter (Is Kurosawa the only Japanese director they speak of? No!).

The worst of all however is reserved for our musical inclinations…the grand misconception that either bhangra or Ustad Amjad’s meditative fiddling represents the average Indian’s sentiment towards what constitutes to good music.

Look, we are at ease with the fact that the West is enamoured by our Third World culture and if it helps us out with getting financial aid, screw it, continue thinking that there are little kids here in cities that need saving from Bengal tigers, King Cobras and erratic castrations. I certainly can’t deny that only a handful of countries are as socially backward in thought as India; however, for fuck’s sake and the sake of every Indian artist who didn’t look towards the West to find his/her muse, do not, for one second, think that our art is as insipid as your opinion of it.

Dappan Koothu is one of those largely ignored forms of South Indian art. Dappan Koothu is a percussion-based form of rural music that has its roots in South Indian folklore. While the more populist Carnatic music genre caters to classicist pop in the sense that it is based on precise rhythmic patterns, Dappan Koothu is more of freestyle jazz; mostly based around the wildfire rhythms of the tharai thappattai (a local drum). So intensely against the rules of a conventional melody, it puts both the musician and the audience in a trance-like state, with its mesmerizing mix of random beats.

In fact, a section of South Indians hires tharai thappattai drummers to play at their funerals; intoxicated, they wreak havoc on their percussion instruments and dance in front of the funeral procession to both signify the joyousness in the life once lived and to provide a memorable passage for the dead to move on.

I’d hoped that MIA’s fantastic Kala and Arular albums would be Dappan Koothu’s climb to prominence, considering that she uses many elements of it in tracks such Bird Flu, Sunshowers, Bucky Done Gun, Fire Fire and a few other gems. Despite collaborating with AR Rahman for that movie’s soundtrack, she is one of the few non-Indians who actually understands Indian art for what it is – diverse. Her track Bamboo Banga even has a brilliant sampling of a classic by India’s greatest musician – Ilaiyaraaja (the wonderful Kattu Kuyilu Manasukkulle track from Thalapathi).

Download

Ilaiyaraaja – Punnagi Mannan Theme

Ilaiyaraaja – Johnny Theme

Ilaiyaraaja – Paartha Vizhi (Guna)

Watch

MIA – Bamboo Banga

Ilaiyaraaja –  Kattu Kuyilu

Dappan Koothu freestylin 1

Dappan Koothu freestylin 2

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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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eden_lake_4

Not many films rattle me. Even fewer leave me searching for words to summarize how I feel about them. Pratap Pothan’s Meendum Oru Kaathal Kathai. Parthibhan’s Thendral. Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream. Martin Blank’s Combat Shock and probably Kim Di Duk’s The Isle. Each of them for various reasons ranging from Oedipal issues and drug problems to losing loved ones and sexual depravity. Last night, Eden Lake took the top spot in the list of films that left me staring blankly at myself while the end credits rolled. Starring Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender as a couple looking for an idyllic weekend and getting anything but that, Eden Lake tapped into some of my darkest fears.edenlake-uk-poster-tsrimg

It would be extremely presumptuous to pigeonhole Eden Lake as just another slasher film, which torments the protagonists and leaves them bloodied, bruised and abused. The difference between this film and a million others is that the tormentors are children; and I’m not talking about devilish kids born to the seventh son of Satan. These kids are merely an exaggeration of a few of the critters that I have mingled with as a child. I bet you know one or two just like them too.
eden_lake

The film manages to avoid the idiotic fallacies that one would associate with this genre. Hell, it even sidesteps the depravity that Oliver Blackburn’s Donkey Punch could have done without. And the actors put on a great show as they perfectly convey the fear that is seemingly omnipresent thirty minutes into the film. A special mention to the child actor – Jack O’Connell. Congrats young fellow, you have replaced Cochin Haneefa in Mahanadhi as the most remorseless make-believe character I have come across on-screen.

Even though it’s definitely one of the best films I have ever seen, I cannot bring myself to recommend this to anyone I know. Delusional or not, I imagine that most of my friends are pretty content with their lives or at least hopeful enough to look forward to something pleasant in the future. I am just not too sure if Eden Lake’s brilliance is sufficient compensation for the terror it induces. And I am not saying James Watkins’s debut is disturbing enough to leave you nervously peeking over your shoulder at every single family vacation from now onwards. I’m saying it comes close to doing that.

I’m not going to reveal anymore of the story but I’ll tell you this much…the climax of Eden Lake is the most frightening two minutes I have been through while sitting in front of the television. Maybe next week, I can bring myself to recommend it.

Brilliant, pulsating and utterly devastating…all in one breath.

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