Contact

Subscribe via Email

Subscribe via RSS

Categories

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Currently Reading: Varanasi

A good book raises you to heights. You resonate with the characters and immerse yourself in their lives, places, and thoughts. After a long time I am reading one such book – Varanasi, by the Malayalam writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair. Coincidentally this is also a long time since I am reading a physical book and I keep half expecting being able to highlight text or long press a word to get its meaning. I am a wee bit excited too; the sensation of holding a physical book and reading from it thrills me for some reason.

This must be the fourth book by M.T. Vasudevan Nair that I have read. The first two were in college, as part of my humanities class, wherein we were supposed to read an author of our choice and present the work in class. If I remember correctly I read Asuravithu (Demon Seed) and Naalukettu and I loved the way M.T. wrote. I think I associated his writing to the way one paints. It’s very visual and I got the feeling of someone drawing his characters with broad strokes and then building them up with detailed strokes. (Before I forget, being a Malayalam author all these works are originally in Malayalam and what I read were the English translations).

The third book I read was Randamoozham (Second Turn). This was a mind-blowing read. It tells the story of Mahabharatha from the point of view of Bhima, the second Pandava. The title was meant to reflect that this is a second look at the Mahbharata and also that this look is from the second son. Bhima is unique in that he is the second son. So he doesn’t get the importance of the first born nor does he get pampered like the third and later borns. Moreover Bhima is usually associated with someone who is all muscle and no emotions, so it’s interesting how M.T. infuses this character with layers of feelings and emotions and retells the whole tale through his eyes.

While on holiday last week, I bought Varanasi and Kaalam. Currently reading Varanasi and it’s been a great experience so far. I love the characters and what they are doing. There isn’t much direction to the story really; it is just about the main character and his experiences, the people he encounters, the women in his life. But I loved the setting – Kashi, Varanasi – so there’s lot of philosophical undercurrents too. The narrative too is very different. M.T. keeps jumping between the past and present, and uses first person, second person, and third person – often even mixing them up! That’s quite daring and in a lesser author’s hands it might have failed and confused the reader, but not with M.T.

About half way done now. Bought the book yesterday so you can see I’ve been avidly reading it. I am reading two other books side-by-side, which I’ll talk about later.

Thira

The other day I saw “Thira”, a decent Malayalam movie. “Thira”, which means “search”, is Vineeth Sreenivasan’s third directorial venture. And like all his past ventures public opinion of the movie seems to be positive but I didn’t like it much.

“Thira” is a thriller. It’s well taken too, but I didn’t like it too much. The movie didn’t hold my interest much, maybe because I am used to Hollywood movies that are way more intense, or maybe it’s a fault of the story/ screenplay/ direction – I don’t know! This is also why I am vague in my opinions of the movie. For some reason I have a voice in my head wondering whether I am being too critical of the movie. Part of me says it is good to be critical – and if I expect a movie to be up to Hollywood standards (in terms of story and screenplay, not special effects or any high budget/ tech items mind you) then it is fine as that’s a good standard to aspire too. Similarly if I expect better from a director like Vineeth Sreenivasan, that too is fine because I think he is a smart fellow and so it is reasonable to expect high of him.

My main complaints with “Thira”, apart from not having a tension for the story, is that it was too easy. Problems were presented but these were overcome with ease. If it had been only about the hero (Vineeth’s brother, I forget his name) and Shobana trying to find the kidnapped girls without any help and purely on their wits I could get it. But in this case there were too many things making it easy for them – after the hero’s sister is kidnapped the vehicle very conveniently has an accident because of his which he is able to start tracking them down; Shobana and the hero are very conveniently brought together (instead of being killed) and I am still not sure how the villains came to know of them being where they were; the snitch in Shobana’s house was very easily exposed at a critical juncture by his own doing; the climax scenes where they track down the girls to a place in Goa and then free them are all too easily done… Basically I didn’t feel any suspense or tension with what was happening, I didn’t care much.

Shobana’s performance too, I felt wasn’t as nuanced as it could be. Too many angry stares and scowls, as if she was asked to focus on her Nagavali character expressions from “Manichitrathazhu”. Even when her children were kidnapped and she had no clue what to do, she has a scowl rather than sadness or fear.

Another thing I noted was the background music. I felt it wasn’t racy enough to match the situation. It was good in some parts – suspenseful – but in many parts it seemed to have a mind of its own without a care for the circumstance. The songs too were fine, nothing noteworthy and I have already forgotten them.

Overall I’d say “Thira” is worth a watch just that I didn’t enjoy it too much. It is a good movie, better than most Malayalam thrillers, but I expected more.

Drishyam: A must watch!

Today I saw “Drishyam” an amazing Malayalam movie that’s awesome on so many levels. Not only did the movie have a smartly executed story, it was also philosophically grounded in that it touched upon questions of right and wrong with such straightforwardness and simpleness.

I went to watch the movie thinking it’s a murder mystery, but it is not. At least not in the traditional sense. Sure there’s a murder, but then focus here is on how the hero gets away with it.

The story is about the character played by Mohanlal, an orphan who has made it on his own. He is a 4th standard fail – so not someone you would expect to be smart in the traditional sense – but that’s not the case with this fellow. He is street smart, has a well developed sense of morality and right and wrong, and seems to enjoy what he is doing and believes in fairness and good service. He is a loving husband (wife played by Meena, a pleasure to see her after a long time and she was great in this role!) and a doting father to his two daughters.

The first half of the movie is about Mohanlal’s little family and their life in the village/ town where the movie is set. At the end of the first half certain events conspire leading to the wife and elder daughter killing someone. They didn’t intend on killing him, and the victim was a jerk who wanted to sleep with the daughter through blackmail, so there’s no need to be queasy about him getting killed. Question is, though, how do you avoid getting caught? And that’s what the second half is about.

Mohanlal comes up with an alibi and gets his family to stick with the alibi. His point being that no one knows what happened to the victim so it’s purely a question of their story versus the police. And the family goes to great lengths to provide proof for the alibi – which is what the title “drishyam” refers to (“drishyam” loosely translates to “sights” or “what you see”). Meanwhile the cops – who have a vested interest in the case try to break the alibi through hook and crook and a lot of illegal means. They are on the right track, but the family sticks together and so they are unable to break the case. Eventually resort to illegal torture and are finally exposed in a well planned turn of events – very well planned in fact, and in a convincing way too, nothing “filmy” about it.

Eventually the family does get away with the murder. Which is very unlike most Indian movies as these tend to be moralistically upright and so the hero killer is always eventually caught or just surrenders, but not so in this case. The movie is firm on its moral grounds and justifies its stand. Right and wrong are not absolutes, they are relative and depend upon context and situation and there is nothing to feel uncomfortable about standing for your “right” even though it may not be another person’s “wrong” or even simply “wrong” in society’s eyes. I loved the balls in this stand, it’s commendable!

There’s a final trick revealed at the very end too. Again, an excellent sleight of hand!

One aspect of Mohanlal’s character reminded me a lot about myself. As it’s driven home now and then he is movie buff and a lot of things he learnt in life is via watching movies. I am like that. I immerse myself in movies and it amazes me at times how characters in certain movies are so dumb in terms of what they do (like hiding a murder) because if they were any sort of a movie watcher they should know how to handle the basics and be prepared for things. This movie is a meta-movie that does that. All of Mohanlal’s planning are based on what he learnt from watching other murder mysteries and that’s what he uses to train his family and be a step ahead of the cops. On top of that, the movie pays homage to the concept of movies and visuals when it comes to creating evidence for their alibis and getting away with the crime.

My only gripe about the movie is the long torture scene towards the climax. That was well taken and necessary but also heart wrenching. The director and actors build up the tension so well in those scenes, and especially the camera when it focuses on the cop who is about the beat up the youngest child in the way. Just excellent! Heart wrenching and scary, but excellent!

“Drishyam” – aka “How to commit a murder and get away with it”!