Sunday, February 26, 2012

Director's Special: Steven Spielberg

The most powerful moviemaker in Hollywood. Almost everything he touches turns to gold. He is currently in a position of such commercial power that the Hollywood needs him much more than he needs it. He is none other than Steven Spielberg – a name that provokes a residual resentment on the part of rivals and dependents.

The impression one has of Spielberg from his films is that he combines a disarming blend of innocence with precociousness. The sense of innocence comes from the childlike wonder with which he imbues such colossal hits as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T (1982). The sense of precociousness comes from the technique; the kind of sophisticated craftsmanship where camera placement seems instinctively right and the ability to tell a story through the camera comes as natural as breathing. 

Spielberg rose to prominence with the extremely talented generation of movie brats (Coppola, Scorsese, de Palma and Lucas) who took over Hollywood in the early 1970s. However he was different from most of them in many respects. He tells stories rather than dissects characters or indulges his style. He believes in the filmmaker as entertainer more than in the director as ego. Quoting Spielberg “ Cinema is the place for eliciting of mass emotion, not the expression of private pain”.

Nevertheless, although he has been quite happy to be labeled a ‘popcorn entertainer’, he has deftly shuffled some subtlety and sophistication into that populist label. He has described his style and his film world as ‘heightened reality’ but it is a reality that is fun to live rather than depressing or intolerable. There are considerable tensions in Spielberg films, as anyone who jumped and shivered and sweated his way through Duel (1971), Jaws (1975), Jurassic Park (1993) and War of the Worlds (2005) knows. But the tensions in Spielberg correspond more to the frisson of the cartoon and the funfair than the permanent pains of real life. The basic pattern of a Spielberg movie is the situation of ordinary people being compelled to react to extra-ordinary events. The movies invariably begin with a world close enough to our own to forge some identification. 

Escape is perhaps the most recurrent situation in a Spielberg film and a dominant theme. Whatever the implications of the theme, it is clear that audiences are drawn to Spielberg films for precisely the sense of escape that they offer – from the drabness of ordinary life, from the limitations of reality or from the boredom of television soaps.

It is interesting that there is no critical consensus about what is Spielberg’s best film to date. He himself would probably favor E.T for its quality of wonder, but one could make equally strong claims for the supreme theme of Saving Private Ryan or the emotional uplift of Schindler’s List. Some like us do believe that his ultimate masterpiece is yet to come, which is a mouth-watering prospect. 

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Movie Review: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' (2011)

43 Years back, a distant war horn scared the living daylights out of us. It was 1968, when moviegoers across the globe were amazed by the post apocalyptic concept put forth by the sci-fi original ‘Planet of the Apes’. Now in 2011, the franchise is getting a reboot as ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, directed by Rupert Wyatt starring James Franco and Frieda Pinto.

The movie tells us the story of Caesar, an ape with a superior intellect and the revolution he initiates. This movie is an origin story unlike the Original version. It creates a platform, from scratch, for a number of sequels to come. 

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist, who is working on a cure for Alzheimer's Disease by performing tests on apes. The first test subject is a chimpanzee, named Caesar whose mother had been captured in Africa. Rodman's "cure" not only repairs brain cells as they expected to, but it genetically modifies Caesar's way of thinking to create a new breed of ape with human-like intelligence.

The movie explains the whole transition in a linear way without any confusing, thought-provoking grandfather paradox. The movie, at times, starts to feel like just another B-movie, but there are moments that make it worth a watch. There are several nods to the original movie in ‘Rise of Planet of the Apes’. For Instance, the launch of the space shuttle ‘Icarus’ is shown on TV at the facility (which was actually the mother ship shown in ‘Planet of the Apes’). The over-hyped one liner “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape” is in this one as well. And its right before Caesar does…. (Oops, Sorry No Spoilers!). A well-thought parallel starter to total human annihilation is also mentioned in the movie.

Rupert Wyatt’s direction is excellent. CGI by Weta is Top notch. Andy Serkis once again wears an Ape Motion Track Suit to play Caesar. Weta uses their state of the art technology to give the primates emotions and physical details as like we have never experienced before. Sound Design is brilliant and so is the Cinematography.

Our Verdit:
Definitely a Must Watch. I give it an 8/10. Caeser Rules! 

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Movie Review: 'Rogue' (2007)

MovieRecycle Editor Mahesh Ravi reviews Rogue a 2007 Australian Movie starring Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation) which is available now on DVD. MovieRecycle will continue to bring to you more movies in order to help you decide which old movie is worth watching when you decide to go for one.

Year: 2007
Language : English
Country : Australia
Genre: Monster, Horror

Rogue was a nice surprise. I always thought of this flick as one in the lines of syfy movies about cross-species monsters. The movie is directed by Greg McLean and features the acting talents of Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan and a Pre-Terminator Sam Worthington.

Pete (Vartan) is an American travel writer who joins Kate’s (Mitchell) wildlife boat safari with a bunch of other odd tourists on board. In response to a distress call from a not-too-far boat, Kate deviates from the tour route and enters an unexplored territory. An unexpected blow from underwater leaves the team stranded on a tiny patch of land. With the rising tide and a territorial beast waiting for its prey, the survivors must find a way out before sunset.

Rogue is well directed, with some great acting and an original plot. The movie starts off slowly giving us enough time with the characters before jumping into the dark water with the monster. Michael Vartan delivers a brilliant performance especially after the panic breakdown. Sam Worthington has a comparatively smaller role but excels with his local accent. There are a lot of clichés that could’ve been avoided especially the order of the hunt being so predictable. 

On the technical side, the Sound Design is far more superior to a lot of Hollywood monster movies. CGI is decent and in almost all the shots, the monster looks so real. The weight of the reptile, the movements and the texture are nicely done. Rogue also shows some excellent aerial views of Northern Australian territory. 

Bonus features included in the DVD/Blu Ray:

•  Audio commentary by writer/producer/director Greg McLean
•  The Making-of Rogue documentary by Greg McLean
•  Welcome to the Territory mini-documentaries
•  The Real Rogue featurette

Verdict: Recycled Rating: 6/10

•   Perfect for your big screen TV, Rogue is definitely worth a rental.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why this kolaveri di....k heads!

Recently have been seeing a lot of inspired FlashMob gigs in India. Most of these guys doesnt even know how a FlashMob should start. It ends up looking just like a bunch of amateur cinematic dancers performing on a mall to uber-crappy music!

You have 15 matching jobs!

Eventhough the headline of my resume reads 'Multimedia Artist', they do wake me up for every single 'Multimedia Programming and Developing' opening. Its like inviting a Tattoo Artist to take a session on Neuroscience.

Quote of the day

"And Cut" - Steven Spielberg
(Am slightly annoyed by the "quotation" posts. This one doesn't mean much but I am pretty sure he said it at least a 1000+ times :D )

Alerts of Love

Saw an FB share about how many missed calls you will get after turning on your cell phone after an hour of hibernation. LOVER (2), FRIEND (2), FATHER (2), MOTHER (20).That thing might be true when you were 16. But Now its WORK (15) ,MOBILE BILL DESK (15), BANK (15) and WIFE ( 15, calling to tell you to tell your WORK, MOBILE BILL DESK and BANK to stop calling her!)

Merchant of Nostalgia

A merchant of nostalgia. Thats how I would remember legendary filmmaker P.Padmarajan. Who can forget the warm, cozy yet heart breaking romance in the seminal work 'NPMT'. 1986, Padmarajan came back home from the shoot with a handful of Ficus Pumila (a wall creeper) and planted it on his front wall himself. 26 years later, I am hearing that story from his wife and I have my hands on that evenly covered creeper wall. A feeling as beautiful as watching a Padmarajan Movie.

Actors, TV and Interviews.. Phew

These actors should stop giving TV interviews unless its a movie promotion or they have something really wise to say. Unintentionally at the end of it, they are just giving out the impression that they are a bunch of impossible, high maintenance, pain in the *** pricks whom nobody wants to hire for a gig.

Being Sixteen

When I was Sixteen, I tied a band on my wrist, tried to don a moustache, buttoned up shirt to the collar and believed that John Lennon was the first president of america..Now, What the hell was I thinking???

Missing those Days

Things I miss the most after 1998:-

[1]Taking a film-reel to the shop with absolutely no clue on how the pictures will turn out.

[2]Renting VHS of an old movie and watching it work fine without showing a fungal static.

[3]Calling your girlfriend's landline and getting her directly on the line. 

[4]And staying silent, holding your breath,... when her dad picks up the extension line in the middle of the conversation.


I am one of those rare people on earth who aren't afraid of snakes, dogs or ghosts. Thats because I know their secrets And they know that I know their secrets!

Where is the damn fire?

Have been reading a lot of legends lately.Back then many angry men and women burned their enemies just by looking at them with those angry eyes. An interesting thought, even the angriest man on earth today will need a matchbox just to light a cigarette. What happened to all those super powers! I mean, Not even one?


At the very moment of getting a feeling that this is the maximum degree,I can ever be of being weird or smart, bad or good, scary or scared, I'll out-best myself to my surprise.

Lab Accident= Yes; Super Hero= No

To the extend of my knowledge, there is only one story that involve a lab accident which doesn't turn the protagonist into a superhero. In context is Malayatoor Ramakrishnan's acclaimed malayalam novel,'Yakshi'.

Music to my Dream

As a kid, whenever I felt lonely i found peace under an old table fan quadra-pod. I will sit there for hours while the stand shivered of the fan rotations and unfamiliar legs passed by without noticing.I started seeing dreams sitting there. Maybe that's why i still hear that cold humming vibration from the fan as the background score to my dreams.

Lesson Learned

It was a monday morning,way back in 2004. I was heading to work. As always, drove on high speeds.My bike went procedurally from 1st to 4th and became stable at superman gear.The world was a motion blur to me. BAM! Everything happened in one microsecond. I was hit from the back, by a bus which threw me away from my bike.When I turned around,the first thing I saw was a huge tyre just a hairline away from my head.Not even a scratch on my body. But I locked myself up in room for about 10 days.Thats when I realized an important lesson about life. Absence from work for 10 days without notice can cost your job!


The power to go to sleep is a blessing. I haven't had that for 3 years. But that's when I realized, The power to stay awake is a blessing. I have learned a lot more from the nights of those 3 years than from the remaining days of my life.

Disney's Rule

Walt disney once told "Creativity is hiding your resources". I dont believe in that. Creativity is displaying your resources and challenging others to outbest you with those resources.

Irritatingly Funny Life

Back in school, I had a serious crush on one girl. But never had the gut to tell her. Wherever I went, she was there.If I am walkin,she will be right in front of me.Years passed.I met her again.She told me,she had a crush on me back in school. Everywhere I went,she would follow me. She tried different hairstyles everyday, and always walked in front of me,to show me that.This is what I call an irritatingly funny life!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Movie Review: 'Second Show' - Random Thoughts

The narrative of the movie finds the perfect balancing spot to sit in between simplicity and difference. Even though, using segmented 'Tarantino' modules to say the story is nothing new and could've done preferably without the titles (at least not the fancy full screen ones); it makes the viewer comfortable and prepared. If you remember the Padmarajan flick 'Season' (Underrated but one of all time favorites) adheres to a much similar premise and narrative. Its dark, it has got dry humor in it and a light-hearted voice over- just like in 'Second Show'. It also said the story of a second chance (but only for a payback); and it had a shallow focus locked only to its core subject. Padmarajan totally did ignore the clichéd notions of the time and showed us realistic heroism and most importantly with no love interest for the protagonist. 'Season' was a one-of-a-kind genre-movie, which hasn't even had a competitor so far in narrative, packaging or the dark humor. I would proudly say that, I've seen a runner up now in 'Second Show'. If I now categorize Malayalam movies on genres & quality, (which won't be much as we can put almost every Malayalam movie in a made up genre called 'mix n match'), 'Second Show' and 'Season' will share the same column. 

The sequential order in which the writer has packed these events for 'Second Show' surely deserves an appreciation. He made a conscious attempt and put a lot of work in making the package as gripping and interesting as possible for the viewer. The style I would say reminds me of those usually done by modern day console games. Unlike in movies, they have a separate style of packaging, which is put together based on EVENTS rather than the STORY. Take for instance "Uncharted 2". The game progresses in levels or steps that we can pen down as the following segments. Character Introduction, Plot introduction, Odds and Challenges, Conflict, The Major Screw-up, Revival, Objective, Climax and Outro.  The game here pushes us forward from events to events. From simple ones to complex ones, we are constantly moving forward and our focus is just on the current event that’s happening. We have no idea what’s going to happen next. That is what makes a game addictive, interesting and ultimately cash-counter success. 'Second Show' is extremely event-driven; we don't give a damn about the story and that’s what makes us a part of the movie - just as worried, confused and thrilled as 'Lalu & Nelson'. Vini Viswalal and Srinath Rajendran successfully implement this brilliant story telling device, most of our filmmakers aren’t still aware of. 

'Second Show' also shows us glimpses of genius in performance control. The director lets the actors do what they think the character should do, but takes only what he wants in the movie. The performances are made flawless using multiple supporting tools. The hand held camera, fast paced editing and mood lighting helps to even out beginner mistakes and creates for the viewer, an illusion of real people in real environment tackling a real crisis. I was also impressed by the suggested improvisations that we could see on the leads. One particular instance is when Lalu talks to Geethu (played on screen by Gauthami Nair). He says about the single good deed of her father. Geethu, angry at first, thinks for a moment, and immediately smiles on that thought. I would say, that sort of an emotion shift in a single shot, though very simple and subtle, is something new to Malayalam films. Dulquer Salman has tremendous screen presence and he delivers an impressive performance as Lalu aka Hari. Hope he sticks to a potentially comfortable range of characters at this stage for a long lasting and better future. Sunny Wayne who plays Nelson Mandela does an amazing job with his method acting. The chemistry between him and the director is very evident through out the movie. His one-liners, mannerisms and voice modulation are qualities we would never expect from a debut. Though I would only judge him as an actor after his third film. (I presume his second character will probably be another version of Nelson Mandela aka Kurudi, that’s why I said the third). 

Effective use of movie making techniques can be seen throughout the movie. There might be rookie mistakes but it would totally be unfair to give a negative comment on that. Every single use of a technique seems appropriate thus satisfying the most important rule. Body Mounts, Multi-Shot Blends, Match-moving and the famous 'Reverse Tracking Forward Zooming' shot are subtly used and Sudeesh Pappu with Srinath Rajendran made a conscious attempt to make those effects invisible as possible. Another worthy mention is the use of ambience to tell a particular event. For e.g.: Rain is used as a character in the intro. Moonlight and Night also do their part to make a scene as convincing and relatable as possible. 

The Soundtrack by Avial, especially ‘Aarambathu’ is magical. The use of nostalgic retro elements and mixing it with a techno trance programming is not an easy job. But Avial does that with perfection and that song, have to say, is at a few steps above the movie. ’Ayyo’ delivers the essence of ‘Second Show’ in 3 minutes. It’s the perfect original track of this movie. Srinath succeeds in using these tracks effectively inside the movie. Though the other tracks by Nikhil aren’t anywhere on this league; again it’s a gateway to mass appeal and compromises a newcomer cant get away with often. But hearing ‘Ee Ramayana Koottil’ during an inspiring revival of the leads is an awkward acoustic experience. Background score by Rex Vijayan is literally the backbone of the whole narrative and he does an amazing job.

Though I would say, could've avoided a couple of things on the whole. I understand the reasons for using most of them, but still I would be glad if those weren't there or executed in a better way. The initial sequences (10-20mins) of the movie are lacking a direction. It’s very loose, dialogues seem immature and occasionally the shaky camera doesn’t sync up with what’s actually on screen and thus a little irritating. Also the plot device of Lalu saying the whole story to a stranger doesn’t go well with the character's established personality. Maybe a hidden explanation should be the attitude change he acquired from 5 years of imprisonment, but as that idea being a hidden one, it doesn’t do any good. The BGM used in the ‘Mom Cliché’, though done consciously to sell the satire, reminds the Sharman Joshi house scene from 3 Idiots. Also the jail scene where Lalu sees his Mom and her 'flashback' love for him could've been better (I mean, better dialogues, a better scenario, maybe something with more connection to the movie). Jump Cuts are so over used these days; I wish those weren't there in this movie. I see why you guys went for raw lighting but the quality suffers big time. Grains/Noise is another issue you might want to seriously consider getting rid off. I've heard from many, about grains being an annoying factor for 'Second Show' in multiplexes. Filters! Another major disappointment. The ones that were used for the flash back/ climax reveal sequences (though different from each other) were a huge letdown. As a matter of fact, a filter-less clean footage would’ve been better suiting and easy on the eye. 

Being said all these; I consider the movie a Must Watch. It’s an honest attempt to create a good movie with no or minimal compromises. I am sure that we can expect a lot more from these guys. Personally I have a list of present day directors, whose movies I want to see and I do my best to promote them. I want to see an industry dominated by these guys with their best work. Ranjith, Aashiq Abu, Samir Thahir and Lijo Jose are on that list and Srinath Rajendran officially enters it as of today. 

Mahesh Ravi

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Friday Rain

I don't consider myself a good person for reasons more than two.Some kid asked me the other day,"Have you done anything in your life which made you so happy". I wasn't able to answer that then, as nothing came to my mind. But the question made me think for a whole night and I went way back to the past. Yes, I too had a moment like that.Something that happened way back.I was 15.It was a heavily pouring friday.The sky was dark at 10 am. We were alone at home, me and my little brother. The power went off a little later than we expected leaving us with nothing to do.So eventually, as like any brothers at a blacked-out home-alone day would do, we started fighting. Back at those times,as I had the advantage of being bigger than him, took him down easily. And soon after, he ran to his room and I was again left with nothing to do. Though my brother was 3 years younger than me, we always had a strong connection.We shared/share almost all of our stories and helped/help each other out at difficult times. He was really angry at me after all that fight.I tried reading for a while but couldn't focus on that as I was hearing a distant but clear crying sound. I finally went to his room and knocked at his door. No answer.None that I expected. He said "Fume Off!" (Well, Fume wasn't the word he used).I somehow wanted to say sorry to this guy but he wasn't giving me a chance. So I thought of a plan. Go out, Buy something for him, Give him that - Problem Solved. But being a 15 year old, your plans are not always meant to materialize. For the next half an hour I did a detailed parameter scan and all I got was 60R. I ran out to the street. Nearby there was this Ice cream Shop we often visit.I bought a family pack of chocolate ice-cream and ran back. I was about to reach my place and then I saw something that sort of changed a lot in me.Walking in front of me, not too far, was a mother and a child. They seemed too poor and weak. It was drizzling. The little boy was walking barefoot. He was hardly 3. He looked up to his mother and said something. She took a bottle from what seemed a sack she was carrying. The boy sat down on a milestone.Looked like he was tired of all the walking. The mother took a gulp from the bottle and handed it over to the boy. He took it with two hands holding it carefully and started drinking from it. The bottle was at least 2 years old and the water was so dirty. I could see dust in that water from where I stood. What happened for the next 2 minutes was totally out of my control.I don't know what made me do that. I walked up to them, gave the ice-cream pack to the kid and 10R to the mother.They looked at me for a while possibly trying to figure out what just happened. But by then I was on my way home and didn't look back. I got back at home empty handed.Oh well, I had the bill from the shop. Nothing came to my mind as an excuse to say to my brother. He came and opened the front door. We shared awkward silence for a while but then he gave me a hug and said sorry.I could only say to him sorry, nothing else of what actually happened.

I told this story to the kid who asked me the question.He nodded his head and said " Yes, That was a good thing you did.Do you still feel happy when you are remembering this". I said "Yes".Then he said something which changed my whole perspective on that incident. He stared at my face with a smile and said " Ice creams do melt really fast".

Movie Review: "Njan Gandharvan" (1991)

P Padmarajan performs magic as he juggles two improbable genres; romantic journey of a teenage girl and an equally perilous tale of the supernatural world.  Intermingling dark and fantastical imagery with an abiding respect for character, Padmarajan questions our notion of the polarity between reality and imagination. Visually seductive, it approaches the magical in its use of every element of filmmaking to give physical shape to the experience blend, defying viewers to determine where reality ends and fantasy begins.

‘Njan Gandharvan’, is a story of the complicated relationship a teenage girl has with an Angel. Angels often visit virgin girls and one among them falls deeply in love with an innocent girl. The love makes him break all rules of his world and pretend to be a human. But not for long, as he is recalled by the Creator and the penalty of breaking his rules is scarier than a human could ever imagine.

P Padmarajan, a decorated visionary of the Malayalam cinema, was the leading man of the so-called Anti-Cabaret revolution of the 70s. He was a prominent contributor to the Golden Era of cinema. He had his unique style in narrative, which was incomparable with others of his time (or as a matter of fact, even of this time). He was a master in blending the trivial abnormalities of human life with its absolute natural emotions. In other words, he brought fairy tales to the present world.  Padmarajan was a director who had a great knowledge in every aspect of film making, which is very evident in ‘NJan Gandharvan’. The imagery that he chooses makes us shout that “This COULD easily happen, but it never did, to me or to anyone I know”. That was his USP, I would say. As a filmmaker, ‘Njan Gandharvan’ was the high point in Padmarajan’s career. Unfortunately, it turned out to be his Last Film. Padmarajan passed away soon after the movie’s official release. Padmarajan's wife Radhalakshmi has written an autobiographical account of her life with him titled Padmarajan Ente Gandharvan ("Padmarajan, My Gandharvan"), published by Imprint Books, which includes some information on their exploration into the deep realms of Hindu esotericism, and how these events led Padmarajan into making Njan Gandharvan, eventually leading to his death under mysterious circumstances.

Nitish Bharadwaj’s (Krishna, Mahabharatha) is an intensely arresting and complex portrayal of an angel who travels into the world of humans. He was naturally charming both in his human disguise and in the raw angel form. You can’t take your eyes off Suparna, the innocent and beautiful girl, even though her acting skills were subpar. Rest of the cast was so believable and they delivered a natural performance henceforth forcing us to believe in the supernatural story being told in parallel.

Though the movie is full of amazing sequences, my personal favorite is when Devan (Nitish) and Suparna are out in their backyard one night and discussing their future. Suddenly Devan loses his voice. The nearby Paala tree falls down making a big sound. A voice speaks to Devan from the fallen branch of the tree, whose sap starts to bring forth blood dripping on to Devan’s forehead. The Voice Says “Indrante puthranaya Gandharva, nee kandupidikkapettirikunnu”. (Angel, Indran’s Son, You’ve been found). In the background we hear an enigmatic pad sound with a few strokes on a loose Veena string. It was an emotional and at same time, a scary moment.

If you have never seen it, you could probably get a spot on the evening news!

Movie Review: "Anpe Sivam" (2003)

Anpe Sivam – It’s parable like journey of an arrogant youth stuck in a strange land finding his way back home with an equally lost handicap, Kamal Hassan’s masterful control of the medium in this warm and exhilarating classic of adventure, courage, love, loneliness and transcendence takes the camera down with the travelers so that we see how wonderful the world can be.

Anpe Sivam tells us the story of Anparasu  (an arrogant film maker played by Madhavan), Sivam (an innocent handicap played by Kamal Hassan) and their journey home. Anparasu is stuck in Bhuvaneswar when his transit flight is cancelled due to disastrous weather. He meets Sivam, fellow traveler and an exact opposite of Anparasu’s Character and incidentally they are forced to take their journey home together, where a life changing experience awaits both of them. Anpe Sivam is not your typical Over-the-top mushy Tamil movie fair. It strictly follows a single treatment throughout and conveys an amazing message by the end. Though the core concept of the movie, a journey that brings together two extremes of nature, is influenced by the John Candy starrer - Planes Trains and Automobiles, Anpe Sivam stands out in delivering a movie experience which is built on an awesome script, excellent acting and crisp direction.

Eventhough, Sundar C is credited as the Director, its debatable with the counter argument of Kamal Hassan being the Ghost Director. Anyway, as it’s the direction that matters and not the director, I would go ahead and give Anpe Sivam the credit of being one of the best-directed movies of Indian Cinema. It doesn’t follow any convention neither it compromises on conditions.  I can’t point out a single scene in the movie, which is not well directed. 

Kamal Hassan -Period. His acting skill needs no mention, but still Anpe Sivam is one of Kamal’s most underrated performances of all time. Any day, It’s much harder to act as a normal below-average human than a larger than life, abnormal demigod. Maybe that’s reason Anpe Sivam is rarely mentioned along with Kamal’s name. No one can excel better than Kamal while he is handling extreme emotions. He does this on a very subtle level in this movie. Watch out the scene where Kamal finds out from Nassar that his girlfriend is married. Kamal tries to speak out his emotions but he is abruptly stopped by a whopping cough. He thinks for a moment and walks away, clearing his throat. If it were any other movie, I would’ve been expecting a very long monologue. Madhavan’s best role till date, in the movie he lives like a typical arrogant youth who is always irritated by Kamal’s conventional but rational way of thought. Nassar needs a special mention for playing the cold-blooded business tycoon with such ease.

It’s hard to pick just one when the whole movie is a parade of brilliantly executed scenes. One among my personal favorites is when Madhavan comes to visit Kamal and finds out that its not his home, but a party office, he is not married and the Son he talked about that he had, is a stray dog. Madhavan asks Kamal why the lies and Kamal says “As every handicap needs a walking stick to support him in walking, I need these lies to support me for living…Imaginary family, my walking stick”. The scene was awesome with Kamal’s method acting and Madhavan’s authentic gestures. The dialogues were so real and at the same time, meaningful.

A must-watch.  We give it an 8.5/10.

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Interview: Srinath Rajendran editor Mahesh Ravi interviews Srinath Rajendran, director of the upcoming Malayalam movie Second Show. A graduate from film school, Srinath assisted director Jayaraj on Gulmohar and Loud SpeakerSecond Show is Srinath’s debut directorial venture and it stars  a bunch of new comers including Dulquar Salman, son of superstar Mammootty, as the lead protagonist.

Tell us about your entry into the movie industry.
SR: Movies have always fascinated me. But only few people knew about this passion. It was only after I had completed my degree course that I got the courage to tell everyone that I intended working in films. I went to Delhi to pursue a course on filmmaking. Upon course completion, I returned to Kerala and worked with director Jayaraj sir on movies such as Gulmohar and Loudspeaker.

AOPL Entertainment Private Limited is producing Second Show.

Your debut venture Second Show is getting ready for its release and the movie has already bagged a lot of public attention and anticipation, mainly because of its leading debutant, Dulquar Salman (son of veteran Malayalam actor, Mammootty). Tell us about working with Dulquar.
SR: Before the actual shoot, we had a series of discussions. This was mainly regarding the script. Dulquar, from then on, was an active participant and it helped him a lot in understanding the character and the premise. So it kind of made it very easy working with him. The best part is that he came to the set as Dulquar and not as a star's son.

Besides Dulquar, your movie features an ensemble cast comprising of a bunch of new talents and veteran actors. How did that benefit you and how good was the experience of working with freshers.
SR: A major portion of our cast and crew comprised of friends and most of them are in their 20s. I wanted to cast freshers in my film because the script demanded it. Most of these debutant actors were with my crew for a long period on rehearsals and casting camps. I loved extracting things out of them. The fact is that when you are amateur, things you do come from the heart. Being a professional may have the adverse effect. It may tend to make you do things mechanically. So, in a way, I was really happy to work with freshers.

From the beginning, progression of Second Show has been somewhat discreet. Filmmakers usually run for media and public attention. Any particular reason to go about it the silent way?
SR: There were two main reasons behind it. One is that we were shooting some scenes candidly. Revealing the film to the public may have resulted in the shoot being hindered thus spoiling the candid nature. Another reason is that I wanted my film to speak for it rather than us speaking for it. I don't know how much of this is practical, since super-attentive marketing is required nowadays for making business.

Tell us about the technical crew behind Second Show.
SR: My crew is also a bunch of newcomers. Pappu, who was an associate to Rajeev Ravi handles the camera. Vini Viswalal, another fresher and a childhood friend pens the story, screenplay and dialogues. Nikhil, again a fresher, works on the music. Three tracks are being done by Avial, the music band. Editing is being handled by Srikanth and Praveen. They are based in Chennai and are famous for their work in Saroja and other Venkat Prabhu films. Ranganaath Ravee handles the sound.

You've entered the industry, at a time that we would like to call “revival of the golden age". A group of talented filmmakers are surfacing with new generation scripts and movies. What’s your take on the changing face of cinema?
SR: I'm happy to see lots of filmmakers coming up nowadays with good films. I don't know if we can call this the revival of golden age yet, but let's hope that more and more filmmakers come up and deliver quality movies.

Most of the filmmakers now opt for digital formats over native film formats. You have intentionally chose and shot on a super 16. When it comes to production and post-production, what are pros and cons of these two formats?
SR: I’ve always felt that the format of the film is dependant on the script and the requirement of the movie. My film demanded the film format. If at all we have the cushion to process each frame in the computer, I'd prefer digital to film any day. However, as of now I love celluloid and the sound of it running while we take the shot.

Name a director whose style has inspired you.
SR: I’m inspired by many filmmakers, especially Christopher Nolan, Guy Ritchie and Darren Aronofsky. But I strongly believe in genuine thoughts. I hate plagiarism. I’m quite sure that no one will say that the shots in my film have been plagiarized. Inspiration is good; plagiarism sucks.

What is your post Second Show plans?
SR: I've been into Second Show for the past 2 years. The next thing in the pipeline is a 2 month-long backpacking through India. I’ll think about which project to work on next, after completing this film.

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Interview: Renganaath Ravee editor Mahesh Ravi interviews Renganaath Ravee, renowned sound designer from the indian film industry. Renganaath started his career in sound at Tharangini Studios (owned by singer K.J. Yesudas) as a sound recordist. In early 2006, he moved to Mumbai and joined Vivek Sachidanand, a national award winning sound designer, as an associate in ‘Hashtone Post Sound’. It was in 2010 that he worked independently as a sound designer for the film ‘Nayakan’ directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery. He has worked on an array of motion pictures in various languages as both a sound designer and sound editorRenganaath proved his creative excellence by building a scary atmosphere just with sounds in ‘Nadunisi Naaygal’, a tamil/telugu bilingual directed by Gautham Menon. Nadunisi Naaygal was the first tamil film which didn’t feature any background music.

Tell the readers how important it is to have a sound designer for a motion picture.
RR: Sound designer is a creative technician who is responsible for the entire soundtrack of a movie. He is the ‘Director of Sound’. The duty of a designer starts from the filming location. His presence is crucial from initial ambient recordings till the first print of the film. In south indian cinema’s current production scenario, there still isn’t a dedicated sound designer and that’s quite evident in the output.

Filmmakers, who have grand ideas about how sound might be used, have no rational plan on how to bring those ideas into the realms of film making process. We have an industry that makes movies with dialogues, background scores and sound effects but they do clash more often than their actual purpose of being a mutual enhancement. This happens when there isn’t any dynamics in the audio graph or a pre-planned soundscape. This is where a sound designer becomes relevant. Currently, the whole process of sound in a movie is scattered all across without a technical/creative over-viewer.

One thing I am particularly against of is the over usage of music in movies. We’ve tried to break that convention with “Nadunisi Naaygal” without using any background music for the entire movie.

Usually what’s your work flow like? Do you go through the script and breakdown the cues on the go or is it more like a collaborative decision between you and the director?
RR: Initially I would go through the script and discuss my idea on the soundscape with the director. After the first cut, ambience and effects capturing is done as per requirement, we then come up with a rough sound layout. This rough layout goes to the music director for background scoring. This helps him avoid clashes of music with the sounds. Next comes the voice dubbing and recording foley sounds. The sounds are edited and then it proceeds to the final mixing.

You did sound design for Nadunisi Naaygal. As a viewer, I felt it was a challenging responsibility given the fact that there wasn't a supporting background score. How did you approach the movie?
RR: After reading the script, I was a bit skeptical because even the thought of a Gautham Menon film without songs was hard to believe. My initial meeting with the director shocked me again since he didn't want a film score either. I tried putting across a counter-idea saying, "Let’s do the sound first and then if we miss BGM, we'll add it”. To that he said a big NO. But after seeing the edit, I was thrilled and felt confident. We started recording sounds from scratch. We went back to the location where the movie was shot, recorded every possible sounds including the whole innova driving-cycle and rottweiler barks.

Foley sounds were a crucial part of Nadunisi Naaygal’s sound design. Nadunisi Naaygal was an experiment in terms of its sound and I truly admire the courage Gautham Menon took in pulling it off successfully.

It’s a known fact that veteran malayalam film directors are still reluctant in considering the potential benefits of hiring a qualified sound designer. We still get to hear age-old stock sounds for thunder, kicks and punches. What’s your take on that?
RR:It’s true that the most number of national awards won for sound belongs to Kerala. We have malayalees like Dwarak Warrier, Resul Pookkutty and P.M Satheesh as the top names of indian sound arena, but still majority of our directors have fairly narrow view of what is possible in terms of using sound in their films. Even for a big budget feature, producers aren’t willing to reserve a reasonable portion for technical finesse in postproduction, especially for the sound department. The hard fact is that only 1% - 1.5 % of a movie’s budget is set aside for sound.

Another rather disappointing observation is the attitude that most theater owners have towards maintaining the theater acoustics and aligning the audio levels. Because of this, the effort of a sound specialist goes in vain. It’s sad that the concerned people and the government are least bothered about this.

How do you usually keep yourself up-to-date?
RR: I read a lot. Internet is definitely a blessing where I often do my research. And whenever I get a chance I do attend live workshops.I always observe the sounds happening around me. I travel a lot and record new sounds as and when I hear it. I personally own a huge repository of sounds.

What are your upcoming projects?
RR: Currently, I am working along with Vivek Sachidanand on an audio-visual installation for the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Pune. I also have numerous movie projects lined up in various languages. I have committed a movie in which I would be handling the entire sound department including background music, songs and sound design.

Tell us about your studio and rig?
RR: Hashtone Post Sound (his studio based in Mumbai) was established in 2005 by Vivek Sachidanand soon after his graduation from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII, Pune).We have one of the best sound effects libraries available in India with an unparalleled collection of Indian effects that have been recorded and collated. Our library is constantly updated with recordings from various location shoots around the world.

I am conversant with a number of audio software but ‘Pro Tools’ is the most comfortable and is my current favorite. For dialogue cleaning I used to formerly use waves restoration, ‘Izotope RX Denoiser’. Off late, it’s WNS (Waves Noise Suppressor) - the best that I have used so far. When it comes to dynamics and reverbs I like ‘Nomad Factory’ and ‘Waves’. When I require a MIDI Interface I would prefer ‘Logic Pro’. Now we have a stereo setup where we use ‘Yamaha MSP5A’ as Studio Monitors. In a couple of weeks we will be moving to 5.1.

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Movie Review: Super 8 : A Homage to Retro Stevie

Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka and Kyle Chandler

"A Distant Rattling causes Neary to swing around in his seat. His high beams, spotlight, lamps come back to life. Down the road there is a FOUR-WAY STOP. The signs are dancing to and fro, vibrating so violently that the metal around the edges curls against the force. CLICK! The intersection a hundred yards down the road is wash in the same intense light. But only for a second. His car lights and radio blast back and Neary screams."  (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Columbia).

I still remember watching the scene on our National VHS Recorder, with my mouth wide open, occasionally screaming in excitement. I've always been an ardent fan of Spielberg Movies and so was super excited when I heard about 'Super 8' being a tribute to Spielberg's retro Sci-Fi Classics.

'Super 8' is not your typical monster movie. It stands up to the reputation of being a tribute; director JJ Abrams did for his mentor Steven Spielberg, and a good one at that indeed. The movie strongly depends on Steven's technique of using visuals as a Prominent Medium in a motion picture unlike the formula driven presets we've been getting in the name of Hollywood blockbusters. If all you want is some 90 minutes of VFX show reel, the movie about auto-configuring robo- aliens is still on, Super 8 is not for you.

‘Super 8’ revolves around a group of friends in a1979 suburb witnessing a suspicious train crash while filming it accidentally on their super 8 mm film stock. The movie is director JJ Abrams' first original project and is produced by Steven Spielberg. JJ Abrams purposefully adapts a lot of visual techniques, which Spielberg used in his Masterpieces 'Close encounters of the third kind' and 'ET'. One of those was the use of Lens flares. Even though JJ Abrams became infamous for his excessive use of Lens flares in 'Star Trek', this time it’s more relevant in recreating the actual aesthetics of an 80's night shot.

‘Super 8’ sees a lot of iconic resurfacing as well. From the famous level cross posts, suburban houses, military invasion and trucks to single parent dilemmas, it nods to 'Close encounters' and 'ET' at several instances. The movie takes off from the shattered family of Joe (Joel Courtney) whose mother just passed away in an accident, a similar situation to Elliot who is dealing with his father’s separation from the family (ET). You will also notice Jackson Lamb; the sheriff (Kyle Chandler) resembles Neary (Close Encounters of the third Kind) a lot while playing the frustrated and curious out-of-the -loop father. Even the kid with the bat playing in the breakfast table is a reference to the way suburban family was portrayed by Spielberg.

‘Super 8’ is, without a doubt, worth a watch. Rather than running around scary monsters in day light with a shaky camcorder, ‘Super 8’ keeps its focus on people, relationships and their emotional transitions. Good Character development, brilliant acting (especially the kids) decent plot and an amazing setup makes up for the weak storyline. The cinematography is excellent and so is the sound design. It reuses a lot of retro stocks for the background score, which syncs perfectly well with the visual treatment. CGI, though sparingly used, is top notch. I am not comparing ‘Super 8’ with either ‘Close encounters of the third kind’ or ‘ET’. JJ Abrams’ ‘Super 8’ was an intended homage, which is nostalgic also to a lot among us. Lets thank him for that. 
 ‘Super 8’ certainly belongs to the list of best summer movies ever made.

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Hatred for a Reason

A silent little girl.For an unknown reason, I always hated her. I made fun of her in front of the guys all the time. Even told them that her face looks like as if she need to take a shit right now. Years passed but whenever I see my old class photo I will remember her name and how much I hated her.So as a matter of fact she was always remembered while the rest of the gang were a stained memory.At times, I wondered looking at the photo, what will be she doing now? Will she be married? Is she still giving that 'I-have-to-take-a-shit' look? As time passed, I got back in touch with almost all of my childhood buddies. Thanks to Social Networking and Unlimited Internet Plans. But I never heard a single word about that girl from anyone.Strangely, today was the first time I ever heard about her after school and it was about her death which occurred 15 years ago. Don't know the cause of death. Don't know where she was at the time of her death. Don't even know whether she needed some help. All of us were busy with our lives.I so need a chance, to say to her - sorry. This wasn't the way i wanted to remember you.You will continue to be in my memory but, that wont be for the hatred I had. For a moment I had this thought. She was no one to me, Nothing more than a stranger. We never had a talk.There was no reason for me to keep her in my memory. But still she was there and it was hatred which made me think about her often.Hatred for an unknown reason. Or did it have a purpose? May she rest in peace.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Directors Now and Then: Sathyan Anthikad

The first step, and undoubtedly the most difficult, is to decide who is meant to be a Good Movie Maker. Over the time I have provided myself with a whole range of answers, more by implication than by definition. One among those was a fairly straightforward one. A Good Movie Maker is someone who makes a movie, which is not only better than his competitor’s current release, but also better than his own previous movie. So in that case, who are the good moviemakers we now have in Malayalam film industry? Who challenges himself in creating motion pictures, which out-bests his own previous works? Lets bypass this hurdle for the moment, instead of tripping over it without a name to hold on to, and take a look at what happened to our veterans who created magic out of film rolls. Among the notions that follow, I have aimed to focus on a single director per feature, who he was and what he have become. The script or the story is irrelevant here as I am just expressing my thought on the directors and how 30+ years of movie making experience didn’t make them learn the fundamental rules of cinema. 

Lets boot up this feature with the graph of an experienced director of the Malayalam movie industry,

SATHYAN ANTHIKAD (Years Active: 1982- Present)
Then: Sandhesham, Sridharante Onnam Thirumurivu, Nadodikattu.
Now: Rasathanthram, Innathe Chinthavishayam, Katha Thudarunnu.

This is one filmmaker for whom I have the best of my respect. He made many contributions to Malayalam film industry by promoting natural acting, sensible humor and developing character actors. I can’t beat that with 29 years of life experience and a word processor, but as a fan and still a viewer, have to admit and justify my terrible disappointment on his latest movies. 
Sathyan Anthikad used to be a master in Light feel-good movies. He used a linear narrative for his movies, which dealt usually with an average man’s dream. We laughed as we saw ourselves in his leading man. We followed him from start to end. It was a perfect sync. Then something went really wrong. As a matter of fact, I know exactly when it all went really wrong for Sathyan. I read an article in a film magazine in the early 2000s by Sathyan Anthikad. He was praising the conceptual freshness he witnessed on the current Tamil release, ‘Kathal Kondein’. It was that influence that led Sathyan to visualize the flashback sequence of his next movie, “Achuvinte Amma’, in a darker premise as shown in ‘Kathal Kondein’. (Kathal Kondein itself was the debut feature of Selvaraghavan, which had a lot of flaws in its script). Sathyan Anthikad brought back Ilayaraja to do the soundtrack. Without a doubt, Ilayaraja is one of best musicians of our time and he has produced some quality soundtracks for Malayalam, but his sounds always resonated a natural Tamil vibe and it was really superfluous on Sathyan Movies. Sathyan Anthikad was on his way of becoming an example of bad influences. He stopped believing in single narratives and started bringing in parallel storylines and character branch-outs, which were really unnecessary. 
In the movie ‘Sandhesham’, there is a scene in which Siddique says, in a very few words, the story of his life. It was very subtle and at the same time relevant to the main story. It was that scene which makes Thilakan to consider Siddique as his Son-in-Law.  Years later when it comes to ‘Katha Thudarunnu’, there are life stories for every single character who has a screen time.  The subtlety is gone and so is the relevance. Another bad influence, which makes Sathyan thinks that this is attention to detail but in actuality it is disorienting the focus on the main story. This is not a debatable statement but a fact. The average man we loved and related to became a know-it-all demigod in the average man’s disguise (Rasathanthram, Innathe Chinthavishayam). 

Sathyan also got influenced from several mainstream international movies and his movies became nothing but just a platform to arrange all the inspired sequences and social messages. (For inst: My Sassy Girl & Vinodhayathra; Pursuit of Happiness & Katha Thudarunnu).  ‘Katha Thudarunnu’ was a non-directional parade rather than a movie in which all the characters addresses at least one social issue per line.  Another major flaw of the recent Sathyan Anthikad movies are the way leading ladies are portrayed. With all due respect to women, It’s a known fact that presenting women in Indian cinema in a non-cheesy manner is a job which can be achieved only by a very few geniuses (For eg: Padmarjan, Mani Ratnam). Sathyan is not an expert in this, which is very evident in ‘Achuvinte Amma’, ‘Rasathanthram’ and ‘Innathe Chinthavishayam’. At some scenes, I was embarrassed of looking at the person sitting next to me, even though I am in no way connected to the crew. This wasn’t a problem at all in his old movies as it was all about men and their emotions. Women played secondary or supporting characters, which was a safe option for him given that his potential to direct a woman without being irritating/over dramatic was limited. (Nadodikattu, Sandesham, Santhanagopalam, Sridharante Onnam thirumurivu, Golantharavartha etc). 

Since I spend most of my time arguing that we should judge what a film-maker actually gives us rather than worrying about what we thought he was going to give us, its perhaps inconsistent of me if I am not putting forward a suggestion to Sathyan Anthikad before he makes yet another messed up movie. Its hightime that he defines a frame for his potentials and makes a movie, that actually is his forte. We need more movies like Sandhesham, Santhanagopalam, Nadodikattu, Pingami and Sridharante Onnam Thirumurivu.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Movie: 'Kandathum Kettathum' (1989)

Language: Malayalam
Country : India
Year: 1989
Genre: Comedy, Drama

'Kandathum Kettathum' was in-your-face whiplash of a ride through an average man's life from the late 80s. It was an accurate flip-side depiction of the ruthless organizational exploitation which dominantly prevailed in kerala at that time. The movie is so packed with emotions, grisly humor and the spontaneous joy of low-life. The movie is an amazing example of using several subtle but powerful nods to current social issues, but never gets irritating like the present day 'preachy/over the top' sreenivasan style or the 'one-social-issue-per-scene' sathyan anthikaad style.

The movie is about a young man's days of struggle. Krishnan Kutty (Balachandramenon) is constantly trying and failing in the task of making means of a living. He is cheated by his Photo studio partner, Sadanandan (Mala Aravindan) after taking all his money and throwing Krishnan Kutty out of the Studio. Krishan Kutty along with his assistant (Baiju) starts a new studio, but Sadanandan steals his only lens and they are left with the one choice of running away. Krishnan Kutty manages to get a job in a Weekly publication, only to realize that the owner (Thilakan) is an extended version of Sadanandan. Krishan Kutty has to work over time in the press and its sister concern, the oil factory, despite the fact that he is not even properly paid. Torn between the bone breaking job and the helpless landlord's daughter with absolutely no money even for a meal, Krishnan Kutty takes a stand of his own to solve all his problems in one go.

According to me, 'Kandathum Kettathum' is writer/director Balachandramenon's best film till date. The Movie is brilliantly directed with an ensemble cast who were best fit for their respective roles. From the intro scene to the climax, I cant say a single scene which demanded a re-work. Its pretty evident that there were no ad-libbing involved as it was a brilliantly researched and fine-tuned script. So much thought went in making this movie, which shows up in the quality of the finished product. Editing was excellent ( Check out the confrontation scene between Krishan Kutty and Sadanandan in a hotel) and so was the Music. A good example of using themes for characters. I didnt hear a single piece of stock music in this movie (Given the fact that, it was so popular to use stock scores in movies back then). The dialogues were so authentic and at the same time brings a smile on our face. (For inst: Krishnan Kutty to Baiju “ Thenga eringittu Pottiyillaloda”. Baiju “Chakkeelottu eringaal chettanalla james bond aaneeelum pottilla”). Another impressive thing to point out is the absence of Lip-sync songs or any songs for that matter. The title track 'Kandathum Kettathum' is used in the opening credit sequence of the movie.
Balachandramenon himself played Krishnan Kutty and did a very good job at that. He makes the character so natural and believable with the use of colloquial lingo and improvised character mannerisms. Thilakan did a remarkable job as the ruthless employer. He looks and lives the cold blooded tycoon. Sadanandan is without a doubt Mala Aravindan's best character till date. Baiju delivers a natural performance and so does Usha in her debut role as Muthulakshmi. Meena was apt for the disgusting and rude landlady.

A Fine Director at the peak of his form. No finer film has ever been made about Employee Exploitation. A must see for all Movie Enthusiasts and Movie Lovers.

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