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Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu – a slice of life

Saw the mallu movie “Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu” today. It was a delightful watch. Slightly long and the ending was kind of sad; but I loved it. It’s the sort of movie that doesn’t really have any story. It’s like the director/ story writers just captured a slice of life in a village and its characters (centered around a chap called Baiju, played by Biju Menon). The movie reminded me of Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups”. They are not the same but very similar. Both movies, to me, have a similar feel – as if someone dipped into the water of and bottled a bit of it for us to see and enjoy. 

“Rakshadhikari” touches on many things. Friendship, sports, studies, life, love, failed love, new gen, old gen, happiness, sadness … and Baiju is sort of the central character in all of this. He is not the hero or main person or anything like that. He’s not a Rajnikanth :) just someone who is there and whom everyone looks up to, makes fun of, can depend upon … As one of his friends said before the intermission he is a lucky man who’s happy. People run around trying to find happiness – Baiju just is happy. It’s not like he is doing anything to gain respect or be happy – he just does what he likes and is. 

The movie isn’t preachy. Nor tries to take a side in old vs new or nature vs technology etc. It makes fun of FB and relationships over FB but at the same time highlights the benefits of social apps like WhatsApp that let two old friends keep in touch. Even the hospital that takes over the playground in the end isn’t portrayed in a negative light. Hospitals are useful and that is subtly mentioned in a scene. And the only message the movie ends with in the end is that all this progress and running towards wealth and career and ambition etc is good but we must not forget playgrounds and chilling out.. simple. The movie doesn’t even end on a high note like a typical “movie” might do – with some forced happy ending. Life isn’t always happy; it’s more sadness than happiness, one might say, but it moves on and you take it in that (sportsman) spirit and go along with it… and that’s how the movie too ends. 

Check it out! I liked it. 

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.

Dhoom 3, as it is …

This is a repost of something I wrote on my Google+ timeline a few days ago. Since I use this blog for such posts now I thought it would be a good idea to repost it here. The content is slightly edited from the original. When you read your own article a few weeks later there’s always things that could be written better…

So here’s the story of Dhoom3 as I see it. Contains spoilers so don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen the movie yet! The movie’s doing great but I was disappointed at how silly the plot was and the only reason it will do great is because it’s part of the Dhoom franchise and has Aamir Khan in it.

The movie begins with Jackie Shroff, owner of “The Great Indian Circus”. The circus is being shut down by a bank because it isn’t doing well enough to repay the bank loans. Nothing personal there. The circus does suck. And as the bank manager rightly points out they are not making money and there are no animals or clowns or similar “circusy” things in the show – just a dance and one magic trick, so it is kind of lame.

Mr. Shroff has two kids. Identical twins. Aamir Khan. One’s normal the other’s slightly retarded in that he stammers and has a neck twitch. Apparently Papa Shroff thought that was bad and to “protect” his stammering kid he hides him from the world. So as far as the world’s concerned he has just one kid, the other’s a secret. (Which is crazy if you think about it. What was the grand plan here? Keep the stammering kid hidden all his life? That’s cruel!) He does put the secret kid to use though in this one magic trick – where the stammering kid is put into a box and “disappears” while the other kid comes up from the far end of the auditorium, thus wow-ing everybody with the magic!

Anyhow, in addition to being a dick and hiding his second child, he also commits suicide when the bank decides to close his circus. Which, if you think about it is again screwed up! There are so many things he could have done – run away with his kids, let the bank take away all his possessions, come up with better tricks to improve the circus … but no, he figures enough is enough and commits suicide. And not just in private, mind you, but in front of his two kids – scarring them for the rest of their life! This does beg the question – what was Papa Shroff thinking!? If he dies how will the kids look after themselves? It’s bad enough if it were one Aamir, but here we have two – one of who is “weak” and must be protected – so how will they fend for themselves?! He was simply being selfish!

Flash forward some 20 years and we have Aamir robbing from various branches of the aforementioned bank. We are not given much insight on how he robs – is probably pretty easy and straightforward. He is a dumb enough robber though in that he doesn’t wear a mask so anyone can easily identify him. Moreover he robs in broad daylight and his escape plan is to ride out in a bike. The cops in the city are dumber than him in that they are unable to use the bank or traffic CCTVs to identify him, or even use eye-witnesses accounts to make a sketch of the robber. They are also unable to catch or shoot him him during pursuit – it’s all just too much for them. (In fact, Aamir’s intro scene has his riding down the side of a bank – vertically! – on his bike, with the stolen money flying all around him, and once he reaches the ground he takes a minute to supervise the scene and show his face to everyone. Yet the police are unable to get a picture of him!)

As if not hiding his face wasn’t making things easy enough, Aamir also leaves a joker mask behind and for no particular reason writes an abuse for bankers in Hindi. Yes, in Hindi, coz of course all American bankers know Hindi, and if it’s a thief who writes in Hindi then it definitely requires Indian cops. And since there are no American Indian cops we definitely need to get Jai & Veeru from India.

Jai & Veeru don’t have much of a role in this movie as it’s an Aamir Khan vehicle after all. (And more than Jai his angry stares have a bigger role). In the pecking order of things it would be blasphemy if these two were to apprehend Aamir or even deduce that Aamir is the thief, so to set that right Aamir goes over and shows his face to Jai and then proceeds to rob the bank as usual and make sure Jai knows it is him. He then gets shot by Jai – because only the Indian cop is smart enough to shoot and all – but manages to escape nevertheless through convenient luck. And then when Jai goes to arrest him after the circus, that’s when we the audience realize that Aamir doesn’t have any bullet injuries within him and in fact it was the stammering twin who got shot. (This is also the first time we are made aware of the stammering twin, and since this “twist” is big enough the movie is counting on our brain being overloaded by that and the two topless Aamirs and so counting on our brains not seeing through how absurd the notion is).

Now on to stammering Aamir. Poor thing has been living underground all his life. Coz he is “weak” and must be protected. (Yet he is smart enough to design the robbery plans and also ride a bike and make his escape etc). He hasn’t seen the outside world much except for a Sunday now and then, and that’s the only time he is himself. At all other times he’s either a shadow to the other Aamir or just cooped up in his box. Sad, really.

Enter Katrina. Who doesn’t have any role in this movie except a couple of songs and to grace the movie posters. She is also required because as mentioned before it would be blasphemy if Jai & Veeru were to catch the two Aamirs. If they are caught it must be due to their own doing, and what better way to make two bros fight than introduce a woman. And in this case everything’s set up just right for the two brothers to have a rift – what with one Aamir having no identity of his own and bound to get frustrated sooner or later (that it took 30 years or so is the surprising aspect here!) – so all we need is for one of the brothers (the stammering one obviously) to develop feelings for Katrina thus leading to him wanting an identity of his own and this in turn leading to the two brothers being caught. That bit is arranged for by Jai in disguise. Again, in a no-questions-asked aspect of the story, the stammering Aamir is unable to see through this disguise even though he must be watching TV or must have at least seen him during the chase and such (the guy was up on a helicopter for goodness sake, shooting at him!).

The only reason Katrina is in the story is because Aamir decides to re-start “The Great Indian Circus”. If you think about it, there’s no particular reason to re-start the circus. He robs a couple of branches and then decides to start the circus. A smarter thing to do would be to finish with the robbery business then maybe migrate elsewhere and re-start the circus. Better still, take a moment or two to think why the circus was a flop in the first place and maybe get some clowns and animals this time around! But no, all that would be too much to expect here, and since the circus is crucial in introducing Katrina and eventually leading to a rift between the brothers, as well as for adding on to the stammering Aamir’s complex (as he is still cooped up in the box while the other bro enjoys the limelight), Aamir has to re-start the circus. As said before, the story is setup to fail. It would be crazy if Aamir were really a baddie who robs banks just for the heck of it – this is Hollywood after all where we have clear demarcation between heroes and villains and so Aamir is not a baddie, just a hero who has his reasons for doing “bad” things. It would also be crazy if he were to get away with it in the end – “bad” guys can’t win after all, God forbid! And since the pecking order won’t allow Jai & Veeru to catch Aamir, the only way out is for the brothers to turn themselves in or just go ahead and kill themselves (as happens here).

And so we have the last bank robbery where for a change both Aamirs are present, and Jai & Veeru try to catch them on bike and obviously fail, and then very conveniently the twins are on a dam and could have escaped but for the fact that Katrina is introduced and so one of them feels bad in leaving her behind … and so the other decides to kill himself, taking all the blame on himself, and then the stammering twin decides he can’t let go of his brother (if only he had thought of that a few moments ago they could have both dumped Katrina and escaped) and so he too jumps into the water with his bro. And so they are shown falling into the water happily, smiling. And of course, being a Hindi movie starring Aamir Khan, it would be sacrilege to kill them too, so all they do is fall into the water and it’s quite possible they are expert swimmers and somehow managed to swim out of the water. That’s left to the imagination of the viewer … the movie has to “kill” them coz evil can’t win over good, but at the same time can’t “kill” them as it’s Aamir Khan after all.

I wonder what will happen with Dhoom 4. You can’t get any bigger super stars as the villain. Maybe get SRK, but that would imply he is better than Aamir and we can’t have that. I’d say get Amitabh Bachchan. He’s the grand-daddy of all anyways and he is comfy playing negative characters. So let him be this super villain, and maybe he just dies of old-age so there’s no problems in terms of Bachchan Jr killing Bachchan Sr, or better still let the plot twist be that Bachchan Sr is actually Jai’s father! “Jai, I am your Father!” Problem solved.

It’s sad when movies that are so full of plot holes and outright silly still manage to be a success because of their star power and effects. It only encourages this sort of a behavior from the producers and actors. The twist & crux of this story – twins playing the role of one – is from “The Prestige”. But it was way sensible there in that both twins were alternatively playing the single character. No craziness like this – where one was kept hidden and had no life at all! Silly. 

I don’t know what’s more sad. The movie, or the fact that it’s a super hit.

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”!