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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Redefining romance- The Graduate (1967)

Tamil cinema has given us a diverse genre of movies over the years. The style of film-making embraced in Kodambakkam is unique in its own way. There is a signature style of making movies here, regardless of the genre. We have had our share of stupendously creative scripts; this is undoubtedly the land of supremely talented technicians. The unrestrained potential left at the disposal of every director to explore genres has been effectively tapped to the best of abilities, without doubt. Considering the financial constraints and the ostensible perception of churning out “commercial potboilers” (if that’s what they call it) we’ve been doing fairly well to say the least.

But there’s always an exception to the general rule. According to me, action, crime, drama, horror and the like have had their green and salad days in our region. Romance is one domain that’s been craving for attention. Romance is an essential part of every single movie made here. There is not a single movie which is completely devoid of romance. Only, it’s always been horribly treated every time. Tamil cinema is yet to get a sniff of fresh air that awaits once it gets out of its clich├ęd puddle. It’s been struggling to get itself out of the “boy-meets-girl, falls in love, faces problems and overcomes them to live happily ever after” mess. Romance has always been considered divine. The darker sides have never been explored in this geographical region.

This region has had only two directors who’ve dared to “effectively” think out of the box- K Balachandar and Selvaraghavan. Though the former is one of the most celebrated directors, I have been quite appalled by the artificial and vulgar mechanisms utilized in his movies. Delicacy and poignancy are the last things on this director’s mind. The most unfortunate thing about Balachandar is his inconsistency. He comes up with blinders like “Sindhu Bhairavi” now and then. But he suddenly stoops down to abysmal proportions with movies like “Kalki” and “Parthaale Paravasam”. It’s criminal to meaninglessly oppose vulgarity. It can effectively project desired emotions and images on the viewer’s mind. After all, it’s a universal tool employed by directors all over the world. But vulgarity for the sake of it deserves unequivocal criticism. Not only does it leave a bad taste in the mouth, it robs the director of all the credit that he deserves for his creativity in the rest of the movie. The problem with KB is that he walks on the tight rope that separates vulgarity for the heck of it and the use of the same for constructive purposes. A minor error can lead to a monumental collapse. But this is one director who needs to be appreciated for his guts and his resolve to tread off the beaten track.

Selvaraghavan, according to me is an enhanced version of KB. This man has guts, creativity and is formidably audacious in his endeavors. The dialogues in his movies though, are occasionally over the top. The scene preceding the hallmark love-making sequence in 7g for instance. A beautifully woven scene except for the immaturity in dialogues. The emotions and the underlying facts to be conveyed are undoubtedly as close to reality as it can get, but the presentation which happens through the mildly unimpressive, overtly crass and overwhelmingly artificial dialogues leave a lot to be desired. The characters in Selva’s movies are people in the slums; hence his raw depiction is acceptable. But the immaturity in the dialogues are deplorable. The dialogues are intended to be just the way the characters in the slums communicate alright, but we get to see Selva’s perception of the communication under consideration; which incidentally happens to be light years away from reality.

Basically, what the audience here is missing is a simple movie like “The Graduate”. “The Graduate” has a solid script in place which rightfully assumes its position as the soul of the flick. The oblique screen writing has deliberately employed a slender streak of satire which efficiently festoons the on-screen drama. There is something about every serious scene in this movie that evokes a smile on your lip. Every moment of somber is followed by zestful reprieves filled with jest.

The script as such is very controversial and convoluted in its own way, the time of release escalating the significance of the preceding statement. The rigid mentality in our part of the world will start working overtime the moment our aural senses make out the susceptibility of the fundamental idea. I’m definitely not for copying the theme of this movie. On the flipside, it’s very difficult, nearly impossible I’d say, to adapt this theme to suit Indian audiences. But I sincerely hope that our filmmakers start opening themselves up to such different schools of thought. The casting definitely deserves mention. Dustin Hoffman as the nerdy graduate fits the role like a glove. Anne Bancroft as the lecherous Mrs. Robinson and Katherine Ross as the ravishing damsel provide wonderful support.

To put it plainly, the movie features the adventures of a newly graduated gentleman in a highly diplomatic society. It is a portrayal of the “growing up” of a boy, the evolution, the transformation of a boy into a man. The pitfalls, the consequences that arise out of his “adventurous” ventures, which eventually prove to be a hindrance in his love life forms the story. The movie’s biggest plus is its speed. This flick is furiously fast for a romantic drama. This 1967 classic will put the best of action flicks to shame when it comes to the pace of the narrative. One more factor that works in favour of the movie is the suspense factor. The twists and turns, the humps and bumps that this roller-coaster of a movie runs into are unparalleled. The director keeps us on our toes and his immaculate sense of story-telling makes it impossible for us to guess the follow up. Buzzing anticipation levels are pretty rare in romantic dramas that generally move at snail’s pace. This inimitability clicks big time in favour of the movie.

The dialogue exchanges construct the movie. The dialogues penetrate and meander in and out of the characters’ minds. The irrepressible need for diplomacy in the society then has been granted special emphasis; the consequently woven sequences result out of this materialistic necessity. The initial hesitation displayed by the graduate, his trepidations of getting caught and an inherent reverence to virtues and ideals before falling for the overwhelming prurience have been canned with finesse. The scenes at the hotel are exorbitant on the hilarity quotient. The exchanges between Mrs. Robinson and Mr. Ben, the graduate, at the hotel room are far and few, but they sure do evoke an uncanny feeling. The second phase of the movie witnesses the entry of Ms. Elaine Robinson and as a kind gesture towards Mr. Robinson, who happens to be Ben’s father’s business partner, Ben asks Elaine out; well against the wishes of Mrs. Robinson of course. It’s here that things take a wild turn and go haywire. After a few misadventures, Elaine and Ben fall in love. The climax and the racy build-up is a strenuously intertwined fabric laced with plenty of emotions, drama and gags. Editing is chic and the music beautifully sets the mood scene after scene.

Ben’s first outing with Elaine has been brilliantly conceptualized. The creator leaves your emotions hanging in mid-air- it’s something between pity for Elaine and amusement at the funny turn of the ensuing events. The movie enters many blind turn zones when the various characters get a taste of reality; these sequences bring out extreme emotions from the characters, leaving you with no clue about where the movie’s heading. The expeditious progress revs up to a rather abrupt finale though. The abruptness doesn’t take any sheen of the movie; it probably arises from a feeling that the director could have used his creative sensibilities to think of a better climax, though the end is fitting and credible enough.

Talking about inspirations and plagiarism, two people seem to have been tremendously “inspired” by this flick; Gautam Vasudev Menon and Harris Jayaraj. Any discerning viewer is bound to notice the script-wise similarities that have been “adapted, utilized and fitted in” to Gautam’s scheme of things. As for Harris, he seems to have seen the movie with Gautam; he has blatantly lifted the prominent and popular chords in his chartbuster “mundhinam paarthaney” from the BGM in a scene in this movie.

1 comment:

  1. I read the first two paras and really got confused. You introduce the movie (mentioned in the title) in the fourth para!
    That's like introducing the hero after the interval.

    Yes, The Graduate is a great movie. lovely one.