Archive for the ‘reviews’ category

Kaatru Veliyidai

April 12, 2017

“The toxic romance that is Kaatru Veliyidai” screamed one review. “Emotional abuse is not love!” grimaced another. A third claimed it was pure poetry and a fourth was gushing about Mani Ratnam embracing fifty and more shades of gray. Bewildered by all this noise, the underwhelming trailer and the overwhelming PR, I was considering giving this movie a miss until better sense prevailed. So I made a day out of it and watched the film on the big screen all by myself. I mean that literally as I was the only one in the movie hall, which therefore enhanced the movie watching experience a thousand fold.

(Spoilers are scattered freely in this review, so if you’ve managed to avoid hearing them so far and want to keep up the good work, please listen to Nallai Allai instead and have an enjoyable day ahead. Otherwise..)

Kaatru Veliyidai is the story of a Mani Ratnam heroine and a Mani Ratnam hero, streaked with gray. This time around, it is the story of Leela, the lovable doctor and VC, the dashing pilot. The first hour of Kaatru Veliyidai is perhaps almost flawless in its introduction of its leads to each other and to us. Leela, the incurable romantic watching the snow flakes descend from the skies as she enters Srinagar while the refrain of Vaan varuvaan wafts in the background. VC, sporting sunglasses and a girlfriend, recklessly and thrillingly driving his automobile, setting the stage for a terrific crash and a meet (which is sort of cute) with Leela, as she gazes into his eyeballs and shines a torch-light into them in the hospital to check if they are responsive.

The hilarious scene with VC (played superbly by Karthi) hobbling out of the hospital quoting Bharathi to his angry girlfriend, as he ditches her while literally using her as a crutch is easily the most well written character revelation scene in the entire movie. Unfortunately, this promising beginning of an enjoyable gray in VC’s character later turns into big blotches of black  and white. (It is interesting and a little disappointing to note that no such attempt has been made to make Mani Ratnam’s heroines less adorable or more complex.)

The course of love initially runs smoothly as the couple euphorically float in the air (in a plane), whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears (again, it’s beautiful to see Mani Ratnam showcase this literally) and transition from referring to each other in third person to using the pronoun “You” (“What does VC think?” “How does Leela feel?” Or maybe I’m reading too much into this and there was simply a secret Malayali script writer lurking in the background). This is the part of the movie where you sit with a big smile on your face, which simply refuses to go away.

The warning bells start ringing when Leela and VC are near a snowstorm and VC does not take kindly to Leela behaving like a five year old and threatens her, instead of treating her like an equal (which in his defence, is a bit hard to do). And things start going from bad to worse on the grim side, and good to great on the nice side. One moment, VC is adorably twirling Leela all around the house going “I can’t hear you say I love you!” and the other moment, he’s twisting her arms condescendingly saying “Women, my dear ..” (you know that sentence can never end well). This is excellent material on paper, but on screen, the idealistic moments shine through but the darker moments are *told* rather than shown to us. For instance, we are informed repeatedly by RJ Balaji that VC is an asshole, and by others that VC only likes himself (On a side note, my biggest grouse with this movie is the casting of RJ Balaji and the amount of screen time his character gets)

The songs are superb and superbly used, but Nallai Allai is my pick of the album and also the best *placed* in the movie. Mani Ratnam uses it as a serenading song sung by VC to woo Leela back after an argument and a clash. VC stands on his car, towering over Leela and passionately announces that she is in fact so much bigger than him. Some exquisite staging there!

Aditi Rao Hydari as Leela is a lovely fit and the dubbing is delectable. Who dubbed for her, I wonder ? Karthi, apart from a pained smirk one too many, is debonair and dashing when he is good and moody and manic when he isn’t. R J Balaji should not have been in the movie, nor his character. KPAC Lalitha as the Nurse and Delhi Ganesh as Leela’s grandfather are wasted in their minuscule roles, though it does feel good to see them on screen (watch out for a lovely photo of Delhi Ganesh in one of the frames). Everyone and everything looks gorgeous, the scenery breath taking, though I wish Aditi had worn more layers of warm clothing.

Push and pull, pull and push. The film swings as Leela sways towards and away from VC, almost losing her balance in the dance of Life. But then she realizes that explanations, rationales, reasons, opinions, fears ….don’t matter. At the end of the day, she needs to ask herself and VC just one question. “Yes or no?”  It takes seven years and a journey across seven hills and seas (and a prison break) for VC to give her his answer. But Kaatru Veliyidai leaves you with the question that it never finished answering. What do you say to Love if it is not tempered with Respect ?








June 16, 2015

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Sandy Welch is one of the best screen play writers there is to turn great books into greater movies. BBC’s North and South is one example. Emma (2009), also a BBC production, is yet another example.

Emma is not my most favourite Austen book, but it is also not my least favourite Austen book. So there is some attachment and some apprehension watching adaptations on screen. But Welch’s screenplay is spectacular. It softens Austen’s sharp words, rounds her caricatures into characters, shades them with complexities and yet stays true to the book.

Emma, while reading the book, may come across as an exasperating character. She is admittedly that, quite a few times. But the movie version brings out a vulnerability and a wistfulness, which is not exactly the spoilt poor little rich girl image I was expecting to see.

The most wonderful surprise was Mr Woodhouse, the perennial worrier, terrified about cake, draughts, chills, and everything else. He still gets his chance to forbid the children from eating cakes, and forlornly hoping that terrible things like marriages might never happen again, but you also see him tender and protective of his daughters, only to an extreme.

“Fear is something you will only truly know after you have a child of your own”

The class consciousness, the whole sub plot line about Harriet Smith not being worthy because of her possible illegitimate birth and her general ignorance and silliness gets turned on its head in a brilliant argument between Emma and Mr Knightley. Compare Austen’s words

“You are a very warm friend to Mr. Martin; but, as I said before, are unjust to Harriet. Harriet’s claims to marry well are not so contemptible as you represent them. She is not a clever girl, but she has better sense than you are aware of, and does not deserve to have her understanding spoken of so slightingly. Waiving that point, however, and supposing her to be, as you describe her, only pretty and good-natured, let me tell you, that in the degree she possesses them, they are not trivial recommendations to the world in general, for she is, in fact, a beautiful girl, and must be thought so by ninety-nine people out of an hundred; and till it appears that men are much more philosophic on the subject of beauty than they are generally supposed; till they do fall in love with well-informed minds instead of handsome faces, a girl, with such loveliness as Harriet, has a certainty of being admired and sought after, of having the power of chusing from among many, consequently a claim to be nice. Her good-nature, too, is not so very slight a claim, comprehending, as it does, real, thorough sweetness of temper and manner, a very humble opinion of herself, and a great readiness to be pleased with other people. I am very much mistaken if your sex in general would not think such beauty, and such temper, the highest claims a woman could possess.”

And what Sandy Welch makes her Emma retort in great anger to Mr Knightley who’s clearly at a loss for words.

Emma : “Well, then. Let us, as you say, live in the real world. Where men of course always reject a girl with a pretty face in favour of one with a well informed mind. 

Mr Knightley (spluttering) : “What ?!”

Emma : “Oh no no no ! I bow to your superior knowledge. You must know best ! Harriet, with her good looks and easy temperament will be right at the back of the queue with your sex when it comes to choosing a mate“

Austen’s Emma in this scene is trying to be playful. Whilst Welch’s Emma is clearly worked up and well, so much better for it. Isn’t it genius ?

And compare that again to Mr Knightley, more in sorrow than in anger rebuking Emma after her ridiculing of Miss Bates at the picnic spot. Welch leaves Austen’s words almost untouched

“Badly done, Emma. Badly done indeed !”

I could go on and on. It is a four part series and these are liberally sprinkled with brilliant moments. And the casting is almost perfect. Only Jonny Lee Miller is too handsome to be Austen’s Mr Knightley. But that seems to be a running fault in all of Welch’s leading men (Richard Armitage *cough* Thornton)

By the way, the screen caps above are of Jane Fairfax and Emma. One, dark haired, leaving home, all alone, bravely smiling. Another, blonde, hand held, looking on wonderingly at the world from the confines of her home. Two images. And a story told.

Link : And here is an interview with Sandy Welch on adapting Emma for the screen


April 2, 2015

(Spoilers ahead) What a train wreck of what started out to be a really decent movie. Aaaaah. What a waste of some really nice performances and well written characters except for the last fifteen or so minutes.

Andaz tries to explore what happens when a bond which ties two people together looks different at either end. Dilip and Nina (Dilip and Nargis) meet when Nina’s horse is behaving a tad unreasonably. Though it doesn’t end all that well for the horse, the two strike up a camaraderie which blossoms into a trusting friendship for one and tender love for the other.

Joined by her friend Sheela (a lovely Cuckoo!), the trio have a very pleasant time singing songs, playing tennis and enjoying life. Nina’s father, made uneasy by her easy friendship and implicit trust in someone essentially a stranger, cautions her to be a little more … guarded. Lest she send out wrong signals to Dilip and to the society at large.

Nina finds her father’s warning a trifle ridiculous and is very sure there can be no possible misinterpretations of her feelings and actions. There is a very beautiful scene between father and daughter capturing the naivety and innocence of Nina, and the tender regard her father has for her, when he gives in to her wishes and invites Dilip to her birthday bash.

Circumstances throw Dilip and Nina even closer to each other in a very short span of time, till there comes a point when she depends on him completely. It is he who sort of brings her to life again after the death of her father. And she goes as far as making him a partner in running her father’s business. Meanwhile, Dilip has fallen completely in love with Nina. He has, in his thoughts, linked his future with Nina and completely gives up any plans of his own and falls in line with Nina’s suggestions and stays on in her town.

Enter Rajan, Nina’s beau and love of her life, away previously for sometime in London. Obviously this comes as a shock to Dilip, owning to the fact that Nina never tells him of Rajan’s existence. However Rajan knows all about Dilip. Which is extremely natural, I think. Dilip, being a man in love has ignored/misread any passing reference to Rajan. And as Nina says laughingly on being questioned by Dilip “Are you my girlfriend that I moon over and tell you about my love life”. Probably she never thought how close to her Dilip would become.

Rajan and Nina get married very soon after Rajan comes back to town. Dilip, in a daze, feigns headaches for some time and then decides to go away once and for all. And when Nina cross-questions him, he reveals his love. She is upset, tries to get him to take back his words and when he refuses, storms back inside, her head swirling in fear of what people might say at Dilip’s sudden departure and how Rajan might react. One who didn’t give a damn of what people might think of her, is now suddenly crushingly aware of the power of a few poisonous words. (Dilip, being a gentleman decides to stay on and forlornly sings love songs and refuses to marry Sheela.)

More than everything else, she seems to fear her own feelings. She imagines a stern Dilip needling her to peruse her unconscious feelings for him, and has nightmares of her husband and Dilip shooting each other while she watches on mutely.

Rajan, needless to say is a little worried by Nina’s jumpy behavior and her refusal to go back to the city. She has made him move to a smaller town and stay there. And he is a little perturbed about Dilip’s refusal to marry Sheela and that little nagging question turns up in the corner of his mind. However life goes on, and Rajan and Nina are blessed with a baby daughter. Time flies and the couple  moves back to the city with their toddler.

And Dilip meets a reluctant Nina at her child’s birthday party, wanting to tell her that he’s really going away for good this time. A nervous and highly strung Nina becomes even more so, when the power fails and in the darkness pleads with Dilip to not bother her anymore or disrupt her peaceful life with Rajan and her baby.

The lights come back on and she sees Dilip at the other end of the room. *Gasp*, she has just told all to Rajan, who’s hurt, angry and very very suspicious. What will happen ? How will it all end ?

Not very well, I’m afraid. Remember Nina’s nightmare about the two men in her life shooting each other ? Probably that might have been a nicer ending than what the movie has in store.

The movie’s solution is to make Rajan hit Dilip in the head and turn him from a decent reasonable and thoroughly dependable man into someone deranged and insane and to get Nina to kill him when he confronts her and even tries to attack. (By the way, Nina seems to have zero feelings for Dilip after her husband nearly kills him. She seems to mainly want him to live so that he can clear her name and reunite her with her husband. Poor Dilip) Then Nina, after giving a speech which seems to boil down to saying “Women, it’s all your fault for being so free and smiling at every man who comes around” is hung to death. Bleagh.

Hotel du Lac

June 28, 2014

After  a cliched brainwave (which might be an oxymoron) of reading books set in the places I am visiting, I managed to get my hands on and read Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. It was quite a pleasant sensation to recognize names of places like Ouchy which were casually slipped in. [Note to self : must read more books in-situ]

The book hits a little close to home because the heroine’s character seems to be one of these sensible, slightly weak and meek women who are constantly rebelling against these traits. They are almost always dominated by any other person they meet and they resent it most fiercely, though it is not clear that they have anything interesting to say for themselves.

Edith Hope is a writer, of romantic fiction for the tortoises of this world, always assuring her readers that they will in the end triumph over the hares. She has been sent to Switzerland, ostensibly to finish her book, but in reality, really exiled temporarily by her circle of shocked acquaintances to a recuperating therapeutic holiday to get back her lost senses. Because of the classiest not showing up to her own to be wedding. But there are deeper tangles underneath the surface than those visible to others.

The whole book seems to be about Edith trying to make up her mind one way or the other and the author takes great pains to shew us how ill-formed her judgements are on even superficial things like estimating the age of a person or identifying what they do for a living. And it makes for a very satisfying  read but without a satisfying conclusion. [Maybe the latter makes it even more realistic]

A few (well, actually many!) excerpts of Edith’s thoughts which stuck with me afterwards.

“I am a serious woman who should know better and am judged by my friends to be past the age of indiscretion; several people have remarked upon my physical resemblance to Virginia Woolf; I am a householder, a ratepayer, a good plain cook, and a deliverer of typescripts well before the deadline; I sign anything that is put in front of me; I
never telephone my publisher; and I make no claims for my particular sort of writing, although I understand that it is doing quite well. I have held this rather dim and trusting personality together for a considerable length of time, and although I have certainly bored others I was not to be allowed to bore myself. My profile was deemed to be low and it was agreed by those who thought they knew me that it should stay that way.”

“She was already aware of powerful and undiagnosed feelings toward these two: curiosity, envy, delight, attraction, and fear, the fear she always felt in the presence of strong personalities.”

“Edith reflected how enormously one-sided conversations with the Puseys were always likely to be. They imposed their past as deliberately as they did their present, and to both of these one was expected, in some curious way, to
pay homage: They required no information at all; once they had assured themselves that Edith was alone, they had requisitioned her, and this was not only a kindness but a convenience, proof, to Edith’s mind, of sophisticated thinking. And as most of Mrs Pusey’s sentences began with the words ‘Of course’, they had a range of tranquil confidence which somehow occluded any attempt to introduce an opinion of her own. She found all this amusing and very restful; the last thing she wanted to do was to talk about herself.

Murmuring disclaimers, Edith sank into her wicker chair, and asked them what they had done that day. And was rewarded by happy expressions, and a great deal of delightfully inconsequential information.

‘Let me tell you what you need, Edith,’ he said. Not again, she thought. I have just told you what I need and I know what that is better than you do.

“For that is how he saw me, she thought, and out of love for him that is how I tried to be.”

“By this time their earlier intimacy had fragmented into a sort of disaffection; each was inwardly sighing at the wasted day. I should have stayed in, thought Edith; I should have spent the day writing. At least when I am writing I am gainfully employed. This strolling about is pointless. Functionless. Yet it is only a day, and I have no real duties, and I am not letting anybody down. In a way it is quite pleasant, really, she thought, heavy-hearted.”

“You thought, perhaps, like my publisher, and my agent, who are always trying to get me to bring my books up to date and make them more exciting, that I wrote my stories with that mixture of satire and cynical detachment that is thought to become the modem writer in this field. You were wrong. I believed every word I wrote. And I still do, even though I realize now that none of it can ever come true for me.”

“Think again, Edith. You have made a false equation.”




Dancing goats (a coffee bar)

August 20, 2011

Location : 419 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, GA 30030 , very near the USPS there.
Phone number : (404) 687-1100
Timings : 6:00 am to 8:00 pm
Free wi-fi, good ambiance

Iced mocha was great. I guess they make their own coffee too, should try it later.
Overall 4 stars on 5, say.