Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sarvam - இழப்பின் வலி . .


Loss. Bereavement. Vengeance. This is what ‘Sarvam’ is, in a nutshell. Went to see Sarvam at Satyam Cinemas today morning. It was a different experience, as we woke up at 7:15 and were rushing to the Theatre. Chennai was cool as a result of the rain yesterday night. The theatre was filled with a good crowd. The movie started exactly on time, at 8:30.

Before the movie began, we see the disclaimer which reads: ‘All the incidents in this film are fictitious……. Until they happen to you’. We see an upanishad quote about death. The film begins with Chakravarthi shouting in anguish inside a dark forest.

The film cuts to Arya, and the introduction song. We learn that Karthick (Arya) is an architect. He meets Sandhya (Trisha) in a go-carting race, and falls in love as soon as he sees her. Sandhya is a doctor, and so Karthick goes to her hospital and tries to woo her. Sandhya hates Karthick as she thinks he is not serious about life. Gradually, she falls for him, and the two happily enjoy life. We also see Eashwar, a man who has lost his wife and his son in a road accident. Eashwar thinks that it was Naushad, the man who accidentally hit Eashwar’s wife and son with his car, who is solely responsible for their death, and he repeatedly visits Naushad and threatens him that he doesn’t understand the loss Eashwar has undergone and he will only understand it if his own son dies. Naushad has a little boy Iman, and Naushad finally hides in Munnar, fearing Eashwar.

It is at this point that the story takes a serious turn. Sandhya dies in a brutal accident, and Karthick is devastated. Sandhya’s father tells Karthick that Sandhya’s heart has been transplanted and it’s Naushad’s son who lives with her heart. Karthick becomes emotional and goes on a trip to find out Naushad. By following Karthick, Eashwar too arrives at Munnar.

What happens at Munnar forms the rest of the story. Was Eashwar successful in his mission to kill Naushad’s son? Was Karthick able to overcome his grief? See the movie on screen.

Sarvam is directed by Vishnu Vardhan. Now, all his previous movies are stylishly made (Arindum Ariyamalum, Pattiyal, Billa) and this one too, is brimming with youthful scenes right from the beginning till the intermission. The first half is romantic and is fun to watch, especially Arya’s repeated attempts to woo Trisha.

The second half is totally different from the first half and the story takes us through the beautiful locations in Munnar. The climax is a bit dragging, and I found it uninteresting. Except the final 30 minutes, this film is worthy to watch.

The story has been woven around the central theme of loss. The pain of loss. We see Eashwar gradually getting afflicted with the psychotic obsession of killing Naushad’s son, as he thinks he lost his wife and son because of Naushad. Naushad too, talks in a don’t-care manner when Eashwar comes to Naushad’s house for the first time. All this adds up and Eashwar decides to kill Naushad’s son to make him understand the pain of losing the dearest ones. On the other hand, Karthick too suffers the pain of loss when he loses Sandhya in the accident. But, Karthick’s mindset is to prevent others from experiencing such a kind of pain, and that’s what he exactly says to Eashwar when they both meet up in Munnar. This difference in mindsets is what makes the film worthwhile to watch.

The camera was good, especially in the scenes filmed in Munnar. Nirav Shah has done a good work. The music too is okay. While seeing the beautifully filmed songs, I was not able to stop thinking about Vishnu Vardhan using Rahman in this film. It would have been absolutely brilliant if Rahman had scored the music, as that would be a perfect match with the camera work. Yuvan was also good with the songs but somehow I felt Rahman would have been the better choice, while seeing the songs.

Arya has done a cool job. Although he is very predictable in some scenes, he is okay. Trisha was beautiful. After a long time, she has been shown in a great way, and is cute and attractive. Chakravarthi is the antagonist, and he looks like a younger Kamal Hassan in some scenes. He has done a neat job of the psychotic villain. The little boy who has acted as Iman, Naushad's son is a good actor, it seems. All his scenes with Arya are thoroughly enjoyable.

And, I dunno why throughout the movie, the characters keep praising Ilayaraja. That too, in comparison with Rahman. I can understand that this movie was made during Rahman’s Oscar glory and may be that’s the reason the film makers decided to justify Ilayaraja against Rahman and through Arya’s character, they say that although Rahman is great, Ilayaraja is the greatest! I didn’t like this comparison game which went on almost throughout the movie.

Overall, the film is worthy to watch, but beware about the final thirty minutes, which makes us to question about the logical gaps (holes!!) in the script.

Sarvam – இழப்பின் வலி .

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elections 2009 - a common man's view


Tomorrow is the election date for Tamil Nadu and for some other states. The final phase of elections. Even while I write this, around me there is a debate going on about the parties and the candidates and to whom are my friends going to vote. At this juncture, I thought about my own view about the elections and decided to write this post.

Well, India is considered to be a democratic country. For the past sixty years, people of this country are voting and selecting their own representatives. Okay. That’s good. Elections are always good in a democratic country. Good to see a nation electing its rulers. Now, what has happened so far, after these ‘representatives’ have been elected to rule? We have witnessed the rise of the ‘common man’ in to the supreme politician, within a few years. And, to add to it, the politician has garnered such a kind of wealth that almost all the politicians in this ‘democratic’ country are crorepathis. ‘Kaun banega crorepathi’? These politicians, for sure!

I mean, we notice it right? We have seen everything. We have seen the politicians becoming goondas by indulging in family disputes. Politicians looting millions of money form the various scams ranging from cemeteries to spectrum. It’s a well known fact among even poor common people about which politician has been involved in what kind of scam and how much he has looted and gained. I mean, what is this? Is this some kind of joke? Is this some kind of a farce?

Politicians who openly murdered a large community of people are ruling the states now. People who just stick to their posts even after witnessing thousands of our own people die in other countries and all t hey need is the post and the money they have looted. Among all the happenings, they just keep canvassing people that when they come to power, they will give a clean regime. My arse!

The people of the country are getting looted by these stupid politicians and every election, they come to us again and again begging for votes. Once we cast the votes, then that’s it. The regime starts again, the plundering starts again and the farce starts again. However hard we have been hit on the face, we still remain to be smiling, declaring our sincerity towards these fools.

Just take a look at the papers. It’s been clear that in certain constituencies, the political parties are bribing people openly. I should have said ‘in most constituencies’.

Overall, these parties make a mockery of the democratic governance India has elected to follow. In this situation, what is the importance of my vote?

To be frank, I must say ‘Nothing’. It doesn’t count. It doesn’t mean anymore. If we vote to even the cleanest of all the candidates, I am sure the ‘major’ parties will make it sure that the candidate loses and it’s their men who win instead. And even if the clean guy wins, he will definitely become a goonda himself.

I have never missed to vote all these years. And I have never missed to observe the plundering of these parties too, all these years. I have understood clearly that there is no meaning to my vote and it will never make a difference, as all these advertisements in the media go.

I am tired to see this country going berserk. I am ashamed to witness all these idiots who make a mockery out of the poor citizen, who just needs a clean regime to fulfill his basic needs. But, I fear the poor citizen will remain to be a poor citizen, and all the politicians will remain to be crorepathis.

Overall, this country has already become like a graveyard. There is nothing left for the citizen. Everything has been looted, and what remains is the poor citizen himself, buried under an anonymous grave. He is alive, but is gradually dying.

Long live India and long live all the politicians! Jai ho!

This link might give you to assess each politician and his wealth and his candidature - http://www.myneta.info/tamil_nadu

Cartoons courtesy: http://www.toonpool.com/

Saturday, May 09, 2009

World Movie Series - 25 - Carandiru


What is our conception about a prison? The place where people spend their life for the crimes they committed; the place where immoral people live; the place where murderers, lunatics and psychotic killers roam around. The common man views the prison as something bad and gloomy. It’s like a place where the common man fears even to step in.

But, is this the reality? Are prisons bad to that extent? It’s true that people spend their lifetime inside the dark cells, for the crime they committed in that random second – when a flurry of emotional thoughts blocked the rational part of their mind – which prompted them to act wildly. As a result, he spends years and years behind the bars, repenting.

The world of a prison is unique. There are very kind people inside the prison, too.

‘Carandiru’ is based on a book written by a doctor – ‘Estação Carandiru’ (Carandiru Station) by Dr. Drauzio Varella, based on his experiences when he visited the Carandiru Penitentiary at Sau Paulo, Brazil, the biggest prison in Latin America.

The film begins with a fight. We see many people shouting from behind the bars, as two people violently collide. They are separated, and an elderly man, who seems like he is the boss, addresses the two men. He says this is a disgraceful act and it is a bad example. One of the fighters, named Dagger, says to the elderly man that the other guy tried to stab him from behind, and hence, he acted only to defend himself. The other guy, Lula, shouts in angst that it was Dagger who murdered his father, and Lula wants revenge. Dagger laughs and tells Lula it was his mother who paid him to kill his father, as he was physically abusing her. Lula cries out in anguish, and calms down after digesting the truth.

The elderly man, named ‘Black Nigger’, asks the two fighters to calm down, and he welcomes the doctor to the prison. The doctor, dealing in AIDS especially, sets up a small ‘workplace’ at the prison and starts diagnosing the inmates. While treating them, he comes to know that there are almost 7500 prisoners inside the prison, which is capable of hosting only 4000. And, most inmates have been afflicted with AIDS, due to drugs and homosexual activities prevalent inside.

The doctor converses with the inmates and they start to narrate their stories of how they came to the prison. We hear the story of the black nigger. He and his friend, ‘fatso’, hosted a jewellery theft without ‘spending a single bullet’, and even before dividing the loot, Black nigger kills the third guy who assisted them, out of sheer suspicion when he turns towards the black nigger with his hand covered with his coat. Fatso draws out his gun, and tells black nigger that they indeed planned to kill him, to divide the money with them. They dispose the body, and after two days, Black nigger is arrested for the murder, as fatso has revealed everything to the dead man’s brother.

Fatso too is arrested for the theft. The doctor asks the black nigger what happened to fatso, and he replies that while trying to escape through a tunnel they dug, fatso was stabbed by his friends since he was struck inside the tunnel.

While the doctor finishes his day and returns in the bus with his blood samples, he thinks he has to pick one of the two possibilities – either to return back to the prison the next day or to forget everything, like a bad dream. The next day, the doctor is back.

While the doctor treats the patients, we see some of the interesting members of the prison. We see Chico, a man with 18 children, waiting to be released to see all of them again – he loves makes huge balloons inside the prison. We see ‘Highness’, the drug dealer inside the prison, and we hear his romantic story of how he successfully wooed a white woman and a black woman and married them both, and how he was arrested – by accepting the charge of burning their house which was indeed done by the black woman when she burnt their house seeing him in bed with the white woman. We see Zico and Deusdete, two childhood friends, and how Deusdete killed two guys who attacked his sister and came to the prison. We hear the story of two friends in crime – two bank robbers. All the stories are shown in flashbacks.



We witness a love story between a transgender named lady ‘Di’ and a fellow inmate ‘No Way’. They both marry, at the end. We witness the black nigger complaining to the doctor he is unable to sleep, as he always has to resolve conflicts between the prisoners since he is their leader. The doctor says he has stress, and gives him medication. The doctor gradually earns the good will of the prisoners and becomes a man they can trust.

The ‘Visitors’ day’ arrives, where all the friends and relatives can visit the prison and can spend a day with the prisoners. We see the children of Chico, the two wives and the children of ‘Highness’, the black nigger’s family, Deusdete’s sister and many more. All the inmates happily spend their time with their families. We even see ‘Highness’ making fierce love with his white wife.

Zico turns mad gradually due to his addiction to drugs. He pours hot water on his childhood friend Deusdete and kills him, out of sheer lunacy. This act of violence infuriates the inmates and they kill Zico by stabbing him violently. ‘Highness’ talks to Ezequiel, a fellow inmate who owes a lot of money to Zico, to accept the crime, since he is an AIDS patient and if he accepts it, will be given a separate room and new cloths, till he dies. Ezequiel accepts the crime.

We see the doctor kick-starting a foot ball match between the inmates. While the match is underway, the doctor leaves the premises and we hear his narration – ‘When I walked in two weeks later, all I could see is the holes in the prison walls caused by bullets. It was silent everywhere, and it has been transformed in to a solitary building’.

We see what has happened. While the football match is going on, we witness a small dispute inside the prison caused by an inmate hitting the other, since he was drying his underwear near the other person’s cloths. This dispute sparks a huge war inside the prison, and everywhere, people attack everyone. The football winners enter the prison premises gleefully, and immediately on seeing the fight, most of them start to participate in the fight. We hear the doctor’s voice at the background – ‘Till then, there was humanity, and once the fight started, everyone became animals’.

The situation worsens inside the prison, and paramilitary forces are brought in. The warden announces everyone to stay calm and to end the fight. Some of the prisoners shout from their windows to the warden that they want peace, but most of the agitated inmates shout against the warden that they need more space and humanitarian treatment inside the prison.

The warden orders everyone to drop their weapons and to remain calm. We see a lot of daggers thrown out of the windows. Suddenly, a few agitated prisoners throw a flush toilet on the warden and the paramilitary forces, and there begins what is called in history as ‘Carandiru Massacre’.

The paramilitary forces enter the prison and start shooting whomever they see. All the inmates start to scramble for their life frantically and everywhere, we see blood. The military mercilessly shoot everyone, and we hear howls and gunshots all over the place.

‘Highness’, Black nigger, lady ‘Di’, ‘No way’ and many inmates hide in their cabins, and the military spares a few of them. The others are killed even after their surrender. It’s brutal killing everywhere.

The military orders the survivors to assemble outside, naked. We see all the survivors seated at the open grounds, naked, all through the day and the night. It’s a heart-breaking sight when we see fellow humans seated and treated like animals.

The blood soaked prison floor is washed, and it’s a river of blood, flowing down the steps of the prison. We see a lot of corpses. A dog starts licking the pool of blood.

The doctor visits the prison after two weeks, and it’s empty now. The walls are pierced by bullets, and the huge open space between the blocks is now deserted, with broken down rooms. The doctor sadly looks around him. The guards open the prison doors for the doctor, and when he comes out, the film ends with the guards closing the doors.

We learn from the end credits that the prison was demolished soon after. We also learn that almost 111 prisoners died in the riot, and not a single military man was wounded.

‘Carandiru’ is a Portuguese film, directed by Hector Babenco and was released in 2003. Director Hector Babenco shot the film on location in the actual penitentiary, and in neo-realist fashion he used a huge cast of novice actors - some of whom are former inmates. The real Carandiru prison was demolished in 2002; it was transformed into a park with arts facilities. One block (#2) was left intact to be used as a museum. The film was the last thing they used the prison before demolishing 90% of it.

Carandiru is a very interesting film, which is way different from the 'prison-dramas' we usually see in english. This is how a prison will be, and it's very much realistic. The stories of the prisoners are interesting to watch. All through the film, humanity is the one thing the inmates want, and it’s the only thing they are deprived of. The emotional outbursts of the inmates during the visitors’ day touch our heart.

Carandiru was the highest grossing Brazilian movie of the year it was released (2003). The film was screened at many film festivals like Cannes film festival, Toronto Film Festival, Canada; the Hamburg Film Festival, Germany; the Edda Film Festival, Ireland; the Muestra Internacional de Cine, Mexico; the Sundance Film Festival, USA; the Bangkok International Film Festival, Thailand; and others.

Try seeing Carandiru and get a hold of the life of the inmates, for, they too are human beings like us and all they wanted, is a hint of kindness.

See the trailer here.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

திறக்கக் கூடாத கதவு - An unforgettable story

On Thursday evening, I was on the way to my room. While crossing the roadside book shops in Triplicane, my eyes fell over an old book, and immediately I was pleasantly shocked. I ran to the vendor and bought the book (it was just ten rupees). It was an old one, from chapters taken from Kumudam and bounded together. While turning the pages, I was bombarded by a series of old memories, and I was not able to control the big smile on my face, all the way while walking to my room.

The book is திறக்கக் கூடாத கதவு (Thirakka Koodatha Kadhavu). It was by Krishna Kumar. I’m sure people from the eighties and nineties will remember this name. He was one of the undisputed ghost story writers in Tamil. He and Kaladhar have given me a lot of sleepless nights by writing some great stories in Kumudam and Savi in the nineties. I have finished reading the book, and decided to write about my stint with the stories of the eighties and nineties.

I can clearly remember the year. 1987. I was in to my fourth standard. Those days, we were a joint family and my uncle (mom’s elder bro) used to buy Kumudam, Kalki and Vigadan every week. I used to just turn the pages and keep them away. My interests were primarily comics, those days. Once, I happened to read a few pages in Kalki, and I was instantly pulled in to the world of Tamil fiction. Those pages were from the mega hit novel ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ by Kalki. It was the chapter which describes Vandiya Devan’s adventures inside the dark tunnel near Nandhini’s palace. Nandhini had hidden him inside a dark palace since Periya pazhuvettarayar is coming to meet her, and Vandiya Devan decides to explore the inner rooms of the palace. While walking, he comes across a few steps and they take him right to the treasure of the Chozha dynasty, accumulated from the past three hundred years. He also accidentally encounters Kandamaaran, his dearest friend, and while saving him from a murderer sent by Periya pazhuvettarayar, gets suspected by kandamaaran that Vandiya Devan is the murderer.

Imagine a 9 year old kid’s imaginations when he reads such a terrific chapter for the first time! I was blown away, to be frank. From that day, I started to read Ponniyin Selvan every week, till it was completed. Even while reading the current chapters, I used to refer all the previous chapters from the collection my third maternal uncle had (His name is Ravikumar and he, after my father, is the sole reason that I have read all the important words featured in Kalki, Kumudam and Vigadan in the late eighties till the late nineties).

After starting to read Ponniyin Selvan, my attention naturally shifted towards the other works published in the three magazines, and I started to read them also. One of them was ‘Thirakka Koodatha Kadhavu’, which was also featuring on a weekly basis in Kumudam at that time. I read it from the middle, and it was the first EVER ghost story I read. Really speaking, till this day, I used to remember it whenever I think about ghosts.

I’ll try to give the gist in a nutshell. The story is narrated to us from the point of view of the protagonist, a 45+ man Thyagu. His friend Ramamirdam dies from a heart attack and while he goes to attend the funeral, he hears Ramamirdam’s voice clearly which asks him not to let ‘her’ to open the door. A confused Thyagu thinks it’s his imagination, and forgets it. He then encounters some strange happenings which lead him towards Ramamirdam’s daughter Anu who practices as a Nurse in the government hospital. One day Anu rushes home and starts crying, and she tells her mom she won’t go to the hospital again. She declines to tell the reason. Thyagu, who is guided by Ramamirdam’s ghost, goes to a doctor who ordered Anu to go to the mortuary on that day. While searching for an empty cabin in the mortuary, Anu opens a cabin and gets slapped harshly by ‘something’. It was a ghost of the dead body in the cabin, who died suddenly before avenging the doctor who was responsible for the killing of his son. His ghost stays inside Anu’s body and through Anu, tries to kill the Doctor. Thyagu finally steals the body and with the guidance of a Malayalam tantric ‘Sangunni’, drives the ghost away by allowing the dead body to decompose. He also gets arrested by the police for stealing the body, but Thyagu says in the final paragraph that in all the things he did so far in his life, this was the most satisfying one.

I was hooked to the story while I read it 21 years ago. Every chapter will have some gripping incidents and I will remember them till the next week. I experienced similar feelings when I read it yesterday. It was amazing!

Krishna Kumar has also published weekly stories entitled ‘Ghost’ in Kumudam in the early eighties. I have read them also, through my uncle who had all the copies of the story he collected from Kumudam.

The other one, Kaladhar, has written many stories in Savi in the same period. I can never forget one of his works called ‘Oliyatra Osai’. It was the scariest and the most interesting story I have ever read till date. My uncle, as usual, had all the copies except the final two chapters! Still now, I’m in search for that book, which I never found anywhere. I read it almost 18 years ago, and even now I can remember the complete story. It was about a young girl visiting her father’s home after his death, and while she is there, a powerful yet anonymous power threatens her to move away. She refuses, and the events which happen after this form the crux. Every week the villain will do something terrifying to kill the girl, and she will fight him back. The villain’s identity is revealed only in the last chapter, which I never read! I ‘m sure the book was published, as during my higher secondary, I witnessed one guy reading it in the bus, but I didn’t ask him about it that time.

I can remember a dead-body eating Sadhu (an Aghori – portrayed 20 years ago!) in the story. Also a very old Sadhu who helps the girl. It’s a great one too.

Those were some of the fantastic days in my life. The books were great too, and they opened a wide world of imagination to me. If the readers could find a copy of Oliyatra Osai, I will be really happy.

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