How to get a girl in 10 days (a.k.a) Chennayil Oru Mazhai Kaalam

gautam menon
[Pic : Rediff]

Gautam Menon talks about his latest movie, Chennayil Oru Mazhai Kaalam, in the current issue of Ananda Vikatan. He says that this movie will be a variation from his previous stylish flick Kakkha Kakkha. And he says, he is inspired by Mani Ratnam too much that he tries to follow his style. Just like how Mani Ratnam would come up suddenly with a Alai Paayuthey type of movie after a Dil Se, Gautam says he also decided just after Kakkha Kakkha that his next movie would be a outright romantic one.

So here is directing Surya in Chennayil Oru Mazhai Kaalam. The synopsis goes on like this. Boy meets girl. Proposes to her. He has only 10 days to get her accept his love. Does she ?. How to loose a guy get a girl in 10 days.

He announces that his next movie after Chennayil Oru Mazhai Kaalam will have Kamalhassan starring in it. Kamal had eventually called him after Kakkha Kakkha and offered a chance to direct him. Who wouldn’t be totally thrilled like me, for an actor like Kamalhassan and a director like Gautam, this combo is Team Expectation.

For Some, the Blogging Never Stops

Perhaps a chronically small audience is a blessing. For it seems that the more popular a blog becomes, the more some bloggers feel the need to post.

Katie Hafner’s writes this in an quintessential article on complusive bloggers and their lives. Her two page article based on her interview with various compulsive / non-compulsive bloggers, sometimes indirectly questions the need of blogging as she writes :

Where some frequent bloggers might label themselves merely ardent, Mr. Pierce is more realistic. “I wouldn’t call it dedicated, I would call it a problem,” he said. “If this were beer, I’d be an alcoholic.”

It’s well researched, well thought about article. Very genuine. If you are compulsive blogger you know why I saw this. Read it here at NY Times. You need a free userid /password to login to NY Times. Get one if you don’t have, for this same article will be quoted in many blogs, in the days to come.

PS: Thanks Anand for the tip. Here is the url for this article that I got through google news.

World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 1 of 8)

Co-Blogging Series- Anand Chandrasekharan and Lazy Geek

The best part of a blog is this: what can be is only a few paragraphs away from what is! The roots for this blog-series were formed during a conversation with Lazy Geek about how world themes will become an increasing part of and be a greater source for inspiration to Indian (and Tamil) cinema. What follows then, is a series of world themes that hopefully inspire Indian cinema.

The Man Who Saw Infinity

ramanujam - the man who saw infinity
Srinivas Ramanujan (1887–1920)

Some of the most memorable movies have been the story of an inspiring man or woman (Malcolm X, A Beautiful Mind, Schindler’s List). There has been some honest cinema made in India recently around the lives of the Poet Bharathi (where I loved Sayaji Shindey play Subramania Bharathi), Kamaraj and Bhagat Singh. Biopics are also my personal favourites: hence the first theme resonates around a life that has been fascinating, inspiring and mystic, all in the same vein – Srinivas Ramanujan.

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Aayitha Ezhuthu Movie Review – A True ‘Maathiyosi’


*No Spoilers Ahead*

As you stroll down the dark cinema hall to watch Aayitha Ezhuthu and if you are a few minutes late, you might assume that the climax is around. So begins the latest Mani Ratnam flick Aayitha Ezhuthu. And hey, you needn’t worry for there is lot more to come and even if you miss this first scene, the scene repeats more number of times than the cost of your popcorn. Aayitha Ezhuthu is about serious cinema and not just for the popcorn eating cinema commoner.

Aayitha Ezhuthu’s premise is all about the rare species of progressive youths who are not opportunists and escapists from stamp paper scams and water-scarce society of the modern day India. It is Mani Ratnam’s expression of the angst against the middle class escapist mentality of the country and his endeavor to handover the country to such modern, intellectually progressive youth.

While conveying this Mani Ratnam chooses to adopt a style of film-making which is still in its experimental state, at least in India. The basic rule for the screenplay is that there no rules. There are only directives. Playing with this fact, Mani Ratnam has taken liberties to play with the style of film making. While he has adopted the classic structure that demands to introduce the characters, create the conflict and give an ending, he has just meddled with the timing of each the above mentioned components. Though I haven’t seen any of the movies they say has inspired Aayitha Ezhuthu like Ameros Perros, City of God or Kurasowa’s Rashomon, I personally think they might have had little to do with this film. As reported Aayitha Ezhuthu doesn’t sport overlapping events or even points of view. The movie, if observed meticulously, is told from a third person’s point-of-view.

In Mani Ratnam’s earlier super hit Alai Payuthey, the movie oscillates from the past to present and in one point the flashback merges with the present event. This same thing if you deploy as three flashbacks which gets merged with the present through a common incident, you get Aayitha Ezhuthu.

Pity the media as it reports the highlight lies in this connection of three stories to one point. It merely takes a pulp-fiction writer to manufacture such stories. The ‘Maathiyosi’(think different) lies in shaping these characters and using them to unfold the story in the later half. But in Aayitha Ezhuthu, the character build-up occupies for more than two thirds of the movie. The reason being all the three characters form the core of the movie and the movie details up their lives and their view of life. So every character’s story is detailed until which the other characters wait for their chance.

The risk involved in having such a story-telling style is that, relating to a character becomes tougher as there is no one central character that gets focused. It is only finally when the repercussion of that common incident gets focus, we clearly see the main theme and the protagonist of the movie. Despite these risks and shortcomings, it’s Mani Ratnam’s sheer ability to keep up the interest of the viewer with his character sketching. But after the two flashbacks and one common incident, one will tend to feel what the director wants to convey. Well, there is a long dense second half to come. But patience waits for none and you tend to loose it by the first half.

Madhavan as Inba Sekhar fails poorly to portray ‘the guy from streets’. Just because of Writer Sujatha’s Chennai slang the character of Inba Sekhar escapes without a curse. His Chocolate boy image and his intonations bring out the urban actor in him. With the kind of character that Mani Ratnam and Sujatha has etched out, one would expect a splendid and powerful performance from Madhavan. Though by his characterization Madhavan would tend to get noticed it is one of Mani Ratnam’s biggest mistake is to cast Madhavan for this role.

Surya as Michael Vasant, a child prodigy who comes from a middle class Christian family. Mike is rigidly violent and a genius of his own kind. Be it the way he rigs the politician or the way he proves that the universe is made of dense matter with a single equation, the character of Michael Vasant is here to stay with us. Surya has played his role very subtly like Kakkha Kakkha and gets full points for his perfect body language. Surya enters the flashback with the same walk into a mall just like Karthik in Mouna Ragam. The strength of his character doesn’t lie in all the powerful stunts he does with Madhavan but by the intelligent dialogue delivering skills of Surya.

Sidharth, the rascally flirtatious young man comes as a relief to the rather serious movie and his flashback just after the second half of the movie reminds us the romantic yester-year Mani Ratnam. For Sidharth is very natural and he portrays the present day $ dreaming yuppie youth. Actually it is Sidharth’s life that get entirely changed by the Napier Bridge incident and not the other two.

Bharathi Raja as Selvanayakam is convincing and does his role better than expected. A great find. Meera Jasmine who pairs Madhavan has done an appreciable job and it is her character that earns all the sympathy. Easha Deol’s character could be easily avoided because she does nothing more than just appearing on-screen. Trisha is also convincing as Meera.

Writer Sujatha again steals the show with his appropriate dialogues for the three characters. The difference he has shown in the dialogues of each character shows the genius he is.

Ravi K Chandran excels with his camera techniques, as expected. The kind of hand-in-hand exercise Ravi K Chandran, Editor Sreekar Prasad and Stuntman Vikram Dharma has done makes the stunts very remarkable.

Art Director Sabu Cyril is certainly a let down. His sets for Madhavan’s house, near the Chennai port is very artificial. The streets and roads leading to Madhavan’s house is clearly noticed as sets. We all know that each character gets a color. If only it was subtle, it would have won the praise. But these contrasting colors is so evident even in the sets and costumes. Madhavan’s neighborhood is fully painted red which makes it very artificial. For Surya, even the prison walls also are in Green. And the worst thing is for Sidharth, from the discotheque, his basketball walls and his bike, all feature blue. Even Trisha is forced to wear blue costumes to pair Sidharth. Not the kind of color thrust that we expect from a Mani Ratnam film.

Not all songs are picturised like typical Indian film songs. That’s however a relief. But Fanah and Hey Goodbye Nanba songs fill up that gap. A R Rahman also scores very subtly for Aayitha Ezhuthu. The extra bit song for Surya-Easha Deol in pallavan bus is a surprise. Mani Ratnam – A R Rahman deliver this surprise every time. Each character gets a theme of music and the music flows throughout the flash back for all the three characters. This background score is however very subdued and the difference can be heard only in a theatre. Having said that, this is certainly not the best of Mani Ratnam – ARR combo.

It is a fact that time pass films de-humanize the viewers and give a superman image to the heroes. Mani Ratnam has always tried to portray his heroes as practical humans. So he does that with class in Aayitha Ezhuthu too. Mani Ratnam spontaneously evolves towards the leftist line of thinking as his protagonist believes the change should not only be made in urbanized cities but also from villages like Neikaaranpatti.

Just like how Shakespeare’s Macbeth starts very sensationally with the introduction of the three witches, Aayitha Ezhuthu story starts right from the first second of the movie. It is just that Mani Ratnam takes time to set the dramatic need to the characters; the movie looses the chance to find a place in the viewer’s heart. If the movie fails it is because of this experiment that he has chosen to make. Though this effort may prove costly for him, Indian Cinema would go a long way because of such pioneering efforts. Mani Ratnam proves again that good film-making is an exercise in style.

Reflections on Mani Ratnam’s Aayitha Ezhuthu

Guest Blog 9 – Anand Chandrasekharan

This is not a film review. You can catch one (some of them reviewing the filmmaker, than the film) here on LazyGeek, here and here. A prolific filmmaker like Mani Ratnam makes one think, by addressing contemporary issues from a human perspective, albeit to finally deliver a commercial film. And Aayitha Ezhuthu did make one think.

Before we move on to other ruminations, the point is worth making that the movie is unlikely to succeed in Hindi (as Yuva) for the same reasons that Nayak (a remake of Shankar’s blockbuster Tamil movie Mudhalvan) failed to impress. It’s surprising that Mani Ratnam, who has made a career of putting his finger on the urban pulse, did not see through this. A theme like Ram Gopal Varma’s Company (based primarily on a Bombay gang) may have local relevance and interpretations, but a screeneplay like Yuva (based primarily on student leaders and their effect on local politics) is unlikely to have much emotional association among North Indian audiences. The Tamil version is definitely a recipe for a blockbuster, and is unlikely to go the direction of Kannathil Muthamittal or Uyire (which received more critical than box-office acclaim).

The timing is impeccable: it comes at a time when the Indian public, primarily the 700 million living in 700,000 villages have spoken in a collective voice through their electoral franchise that India Shining is a farce, when their daily struggles for “Roti, Kapda, Makaan” and “Paani, Sadak, Bijli” are unceasing. The film’s emphasis that as long as the top 1% of India does not extend its hand to the remaining 99%, no one else will, is well-made. My friend and netCore CEO Rajesh Jain‘s As India Develops posts came to mind.

The movie’s theme, Identity, is beautifully expounded upon. People who complain that Mani ‘Sir’ had little to say, need only look at the subtleties in the film. When Michael Vasant spares Inba Sekar towards the end, disparaging not him but his dirty politics, the themed lyrics rang clear:

Aayutham Yedu, Aanavam Sudu…
Thee Pandam Yedu, Theemaiyai Sudu
Irulai Yeritthu Vidu.

(Kill ego with your weapons…Kill evil with your fire…and use it to extinguish darkness…)

A lot has been said about the film being inspired by the Mexican film Ameros Perros (‘Love’s a Bitch’), Kurasowa’s Rashomon, and even Pulp Fiction. To say that a three-way flashback used in a narration belongs to Quentin Tarantino is to say that Al Gore invented the Internet. Yes, there were techniques of story-telling that were unoriginal. But Aayitha Ezhuthu is definitely a good tasting wine, regardless of the fact that it’s packaged in an old bottle.

What does the coincidence, that forms the crux of AKK, have to do our daily lives? We may not remember the day, but certainly the moment when an incident changed the way we think. It may have been an article, a person, even a thought. But it changes everything. That fallibility of human thinking is brought to life well. Of course, one could not have trusted Mani Ratnam any less. It’s not a new theme in film (Amelie, Signs, and Run Lola Run all expound on this theme…more on these in a separate blog…) but has been handled well here, and leads to an excellent ending which respects the audience and does not hand them an over-simplified resolution to a complex and subtle issue (a la “Main Hoon Na”).

As for the events in the film, it definitely kept the audience engrossed. The black and white morality between Madhavan and Surya’s characters reminded one that for every ‘Gentleman’, there is a ‘Kicha’s Appalam’ to deal with. Madhavan’s Vote for Inba Shekar scene and Surya proving of mathematic formulae in jail and his tiffs with Bharathiraja are going to remain in memory for a long time, be filed away under ‘M’ for Mani Ratnam, and be compared with montages that evoke nostalgic memories even today from Dalapathi and Nayagan. It’s hard to deny that the new breed of stars have arrived in South Indian cinema. It also brought back to memory a cable interview that Tina Brown had with Irshad Manji, the author of “The Trouble with Islam”, where she brings out the concept of “Inshtihaad”, which is another way of fighting against an enemy in Islam, but through peace. She hoped that it would replace “Jihad” as the Islamist way of expressing their anger, and it was amazing to see both her faith in Islam as well as her optimism about the Middle East. Such optimism, the essense of Michael Vasant’s character, is contagious.

The two things that stood out were how well the cast and crew brought out the theme of AKK (the last letter in the Tamil language) and the media hype that preceded the movie’s release. Everything I wondered after seeing Ameros Perros came back after AKK, and was summarized by Vairamuthu’s lyrics in “Hey, Goodbye Nanba”:

Andha Saalai Yil Nee Vandhu Seramal…
6 degree yil yen paarvai saayamal
Vilagi Poyirundhaal thollaiye Illai…. Idhu Vendadha Velai.

(If only you hadn’t been at that street; If only my eyes hadn’t tilted 6 degrees; There would have been no trouble…)

Mani Ratnam would probably be wishing he was a little known director whose work gets discovered each time. The only factor that seems to be selling this movie short is his larger than life image. Expectationos, Perros!