Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Rubbish marks and a chance meeting
I finally got my MSc results today. I must have ruffled a few feathers. I would like to believe that I am some sort of an academic James Dean by taking up a rather anti-establishment line in my thesis. Either that or I failed in some other way to suck up the powers that be. But I haughtily refuse to accept that my thesis deserves only a �B�. That brings down my eventual CGPA to 8.863�. Screw that!
With an amount of indignation, I went to the college to collect my mark-sheet today, and my department was inaugurating a new studio floor. Kamal Haasan was doing the honours and I got to meet him. Talk about silver linings. Whatever I might write about as a self-professed film-critic and how much ever I aspire to be a greater filmmaker, there is always this thrill of shaking hands and having a chat with a childhood hero. The fact that I already know him, momentarily gave me a kind of childish pride I could flaunt in front of my peers. You never stop being a star-struck film-fan.
The letter from Hogwarts
Once you get the letter you�d better start packing in a wand, an owl, a robe, an Andalusian sex-monkey, an electric donkey-bottom biter, and a 5 centilitre bottle of Vache de Chateux Mauvaise!
But what exactly am I talking about? Look at some of my recent post (a la Mahesh Shantaram): the dry-wit, jet-lag, George Orwell, films, Monty Python, the blue-coloured orang-utan� (The last one was a bloody giveaway)
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Why Sun News sucks big time
When Hemanth wrote about Sun News� abysmal quality of news reporting, one could talk about the tabloidisation of public discourse. But tabloids serve a purpose: with their sensational reportage, they actually go on to arouse heavy sentiment and emotion from the reader that an intellectual �Hindu� type cannot achieve.
But now two things have happened that reaffirm the crassness of Sun. Today, Sun News (Hemanth had pointed out an earlier instance) chose to show the beheading of the South Korean hostage.
What they did earlier was even worse. A couple of days ago, Sun TV had very self-righteously championed the cause of temporary government employees who had been served notices. Yesterday Sun News itself behaved like a very bad employer. Without notice, and for reasons too complex to state and even more impossible to understand or even see it coming, decided to shut down its English news division. To the average viewer, it would not make too much of a difference, but the fact that almost the entire sacked team had not anticipated such a move, and therefore, had not arranged for alternative employment really shows how inconsiderate an employer could get. I can even be called insensitive to the compulsions and rights of an employer to sack vestigial elements; and even a quasi communist. Those who know me also know that I have many friends working in that team. Apart from personal prejudice and protectionist politics, my main argument is that the notice period could have been longer, say in weeks rather than 2 days. Being a fresh communications graduate, I have a fair idea of how long and how hard it is to land a reasonably decent job in television. So there are now more reasons why SUN News sucks!
Fuck off! I have a cold
Whenever I use an expletive in a conversation, the attention of the listener goes up. I guess in my blog it will translate into a sudden spike in my statcounter graph. (Just like the sudden spike in my mother�s electrocardiogram now. Hi mom!)
All you know, I might even end up with strange google referrals like for �thayir saadam fuck fantasy film�. (thayir saadam=curd rice)
This is what I have always wanted to, but never been able to say for the past few days. A combination of sleep-deprivation, medication and general irritability makes me both increasingly depressive and philosophical at the same time. Add to that an exam, and a marriage involving my large family, the extended families, the appended families and the families that come as sundry telescopic extensors, collapsible frames, pneumatic lifts, and noisy jack-hammers.
There is also this sheer indignity of having a recognisable face. Almost everybody seemed to relish staring at me, pointing me out to others, and passing strange comments. OK, people have the right to be inquisitive, but I�d rather not have a totally unknown person come upto me and ask straightway how much money I made and what I am upto with my life? So I certainly wanted them to fuck off, but I don�t understand the stoicism demanded by society where a pasted smile would somehow make other people not think you�re rude. As far as I am concerned, I�d rather come across as a snob rather than something akin to a blue-coloured orang-utan at the zoo. Look� It�s looking in this direction! Look� It�s drinking water! Look� It just sneezed! Look� It�s showing me the finger! Look� It just walked away! Look�!
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
The past few days, things that kept me off the web included an examination, a wedding and a cold. About the exam first. This was the National Eligibility Test conducted by the University Grants Commission. Passing this would mean that I am eligible to teach Mass Communication and Journalism till the post-graduate level in universities and colleges across India. This is in theory, but that is not how it works. Unless it is a government run institute, NET certification is hardly made a compulsory qualification. The private-run mushroom communication colleges generally prefer teachers employed for short-terms and low pay. The real reason the NET exam finds relevance is not because it is a government certificate, but because a certified lecturer by law, gets a large minimum-pay from the employer.
So, as far as these mushroom institution go, you actually reduce you employability by having a NET certificate. Thankfully, most respectable institutions in Tamil Nadu demand only NET certified teachers. So I see this as a qualification for the long term.
Generally, teaching is as a last-resort job option. I sound good when I say it is one of my first.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
All New template design. Do you like it?
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Brave Sir Launcelot has a lesson for me
While life briefly becomes a series of disasters, the Pythons can help with a little bit of worldly advice and a whole lot of humour. John Cleese has this wonderful �academic lecture� at pythonline on bravery.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
The late report
Almost everybody who attended the Chennai bloggers meet has given his or her account of what transpired. I have very little to add, except that this crowd was more mature (had a higher average age that is) than the one that had assembled the last time. This crowd also had only three girls: a let-down from last time. Therefore, no kadalai, no kadal and no kaapi. Only very costly ice tea and kadi jokes (PJs).
Now I have to update my blogroll.
Friday, June 04, 2004
possible spoilers ahead
Hmm� With all the things I have been hearing about it recently, I went in to the theatre expecting very little, and unfortunately a little late, but as Lazy says, neither was cause for concern.
IMHO, it is one of the better movies that I have seen in some time. I like it. The common and regular complaints one would have to make against Mani Ratnam can always be made. Most of them are justified, but the people who have most against him are from the left-leaning intellectual circle in Chennai and I have lots of friends there. Risking making more enemies, I stand by Mani Ratnam like I always have.
Somehow it appears to me that in Aaytha Ezhutthu (I like to spell it that way), Mani Ratnam seems to have shaken off most of his (typically Tamil cinema) political na�vet�. Or has he at all, could it be true that we are somehow accustomed to expect a degree of �armchairness" from him in all his movies that it can almost go unnoticed this time?
Now to the positives. What I really appreciate about Mani Ratnam, and what makes me an ardent admirer and loyalist is his dynamism. Even though there used to be something called the Mani Ratnam �style� or �stamp�, he keeps trying new things and attempting newer styles. This is something Tamil cinema has hardly seen. When adopting the new too, he has refrained from being imitative or pretentious. For example in Aaytha Ezhutthu, as much as the three principal characters are from three different social strata, they are from three different �generations� (generations as a figurative). To think of such wide ranging characters is truly remarkable as any other director could have overplayed the differences on screen if the characters were poorly defined for lack of insight and dynamism.
Coming to the very played-up �crux� of the movie, I have to admit that I have not seen many of the so called �inspirations� for this film, but I strongly feel that most of the stuff is original and they come from real-life rather than being stolen or borrowed from others. Rashomon� hmm not quite! This movie is more about �what later� than �what if�. Nevertheless, A E is not though-provoking in that sense and neither is it meant to be (I think). It is a straightforward narration of a story. Then why at all the device of the narrative confluence? After all, it is neither a moment of truth nor a turning point for two of the three characters. Then why play it up and publicise it and use teasers and wordy websites to give background info? What about Napier Bridge and the �moment�? Hitchcock called it the �MacGuffin�. It is not something that is vital to the screenplay, yet that is somehow the fulcrum. It is a narrative device that merely exists to give credibility and direction. It does not influence it in any way. But usually, we (as the audience) are used to MacGuffins being broken only in the end, but here, the MacGuffin is broken, rebroken and revisited. Just a motif without apparent symbolism. A queer case of Kurosawa meets Hitchcock.
Probably the real reason behind the three parallel narratives is to show how each of the characters with their palpable weaknesses are heroes and lovers and leading men in their own right. Then, this is intended to provoke (like Rashomon did for the notion of �what is the truth�) thoughts about the notion of �what is right� or �who is right�.
The sheer bulk and weightiness of the story and its politics, removes the profundity from the last shot of Inba�s forlorn face. This is where it fails to be Rashomon. It is true that Madhavan with his (among other things) unfalteringly clean English makes for a lousy street-type, but any other typical porikki(lout)-looking actor would have come across more defined as a �villain� rather than as a �possible good-guy� with his public image. This is where this generation of actors misses somebody like a Kamal Hassan. If only he were young? Kamal Hassan would have been a convincing thug and bad-guy, at the same time been too adorable for the audience to label him a villain.
Here I would like to digress from Aaytha Ezhutthu and talk about Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro and Jake LaMotta. Inba�s character is unique, even among the annals of the famous anti-heroes like Dalapathi�s Surya and Michael Corleone. He more closely resembles Jake LaMotta, played superbly by Robert DeNiro in Martin Scorsese�s Raging Bull. He can be a loving husband, a good man, and at the same time, be an ambitious cut-throat and a wife-beater. Very complex an antihero, too complex for Tamil Cinema where all antiheroes are conventionally nice-guy �Robin Hoods�; and too complex for Madhavan: the ideal role for DeNiro and probably, Kamal Hassan. (Even Scorsese missed DeNiro for an equally challenging role in Gangs of New York).
So despite Madhavan being a misfit, he was probably (and by virtue of a contract) the better choice to play Inba Sekar. He did in fact try his best, but the very chocolate hero�s image that was vital in boosting his �lovability� quotient, was his undoing. As a result, the movie looses its Rashomon value of being thought provoking. This is most probably the biggest failing ofAaytha Ezhutthu. It has been a success for other reasons. But could we at least take solace in the fact that these �other� reasons are as unconventional and are not the regular songs, sex and violence?
As far as the songs, sex and violence go, I am glad that one of my earlier assumptions has been close to correct. There are only two or three �songs�, the rest being incidentals and themes. So, as I don�t care about the �songs� I can wholeheartedly congratulate Rahman for his excellent background score. (Did I hear a Duduk?) Never since Iruvar, have I seen Rahman do a better background score.
Done with the songs, what about the sex? Just about OK� pretty dignified and complimentary (unlike the gluttonous one-sided affairs choreographed by Kamal Hassan). The violence, for once I felt, was reasonably permissible, yet, I found the climactic Wrestle-Mania� on Napier Bridge too protracted for more logical rather than ethical reasons.
Also the three styles / variations in visual narrative (from colour scheme to shutter angle to ramps, to editing pacing to camera movement) that have been widely publicised have no meaning. They simply are not apparent, or if too subtle, don�t work on any subliminal level either. Frankly that too was for publicity only I guess. If it were not for the idea of an equitable trinity, the conflict of variation etc. made out in the publicity, the trailers, the website and most importantly in the title, (add to this Mani Ratnam himself mentioning Rashomon) I would never have thought of interpreting this movie as a �brave� attempt at provoking though about �what is right�. I would have simply called it a nice straightforward movie about one man with conviction, another with a conscience call and the third with neither. This could still be the intended case. Then, this is wonderful!
Ah! Before I forget, Bharathiraja, (though inconsistently written for, and very consistently portrayed), is a find. Why the heck did that man go into direction in the first place? Heck he makes for one very slick actor.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Down and out in Paris and London
Is a fascinating book by George Orwell, one of my favourite authors. It has probably been the only book after a long time that has had me �hooked on�. It discusses poverty, unemployment, human dignity, and among other things the etymology of the English expletive barnshoot. The interesting thing about the book is that it is in a semi-documentary style�almost like a travel journal or diary; not in form, but in content.
With our central government leaning leftward, this book has quite a few lessons in welfare-state policy. They are mostly about the precise points of failure of well-meaning, but misdirected government initiatives where poverty preservation seems to be the outcome of poverty alleviation measures.
This work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.