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Monday, December 27, 2010


The year 2010 is drawing to a close and while the process of the curtains being pulled down is going on in full swing, the focus of my mind strolled towards a rather alarming yet unaddressed trend that’s erupting in Kodambakkam. Yes, this year will remain etched in the memories of our fellow beings as a year of corruption and hence I perceive that the media had a lot of other important things to talk about. I happened to come across an article recently, when I was busy getting myself ready for a morning show of “Red giant movies” Manmadan ambu”, which proclaimed that Karunanidhi had famously announced that his assets accounted to just “5.65 crores” and that he neither had any benamis nor had he sponsored any financial venture involving anyone else. Alright!
As I rode to the theatre, my thoughts wavered between the movie I was going to watch and the article that I had read that morning till a point of convergence was arrived upon. I started thinking about the producer of the movie I was going to watch that day, who also happens to be one of MK’s grandsons. The flow of thoughts refused to ebb. I started analyzing the success of other Tamil movies. Most of them had one thing in common: they had been sponsored by one of the three sons of the “sun” fraternity. The big three I’m referring to are: “Kalanidhi Maran”, son of the late Murasoli Maran, “Dayanidhi Azhagiri”, son of MK Azhagiri and “Udhayanidhi Stalin”, son of deputy CM of TN, MK Stalin.
The first one’s a media baron whereas the other two assumed charge of two of the biggest production and distribution houses in TN immediately after college. Well, that makes it a sensational story: the kind of financial upsurge that was experienced by only a select few: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, Sarath Kumar in the movie Suryavamsam and Rajinikanth in Annamalai and many of his other movies. Mark’s story is out in filmy form as The Social Network, but a film on how the children of Tamil Nadu’s first family mastered the art of becoming kings of the Tamil film production industry is yet to be made. Perhaps, the sons themselves would end up acting and producing the movie and I presume it’ll serve as a source of inspiration for thousands of poor youth; they’d be made to believe that a monumental rise is after all, not impossible. Logically, these “sons” should have started from scratch as MK says he never sponsored a third party business, even if it involves his family (which is incidentally contributing monolithically to the population explosion): MK is to be believed no doubt, cos MK is an honourable man. And so are the others, cos they’re all all honourable men.
The story is even more awe inspiring because the success rate of the “big” production houses is astounding. “Cloud nine” has a success rate of 80% with four of the five movies that it has distributed so far turning out to be super hits. “Red giant” has a success rate of 85.71% with six out of seven of his films turning out to be hits. “Sun pictures” has a success rate of 68.75% with eleven of their 16 endeavours proving profitable. We also have to take notice of the fact that “Sun Pictures” have produced two movies produced by actor Vijay, who seems to be having a horrendous run at the box office with a record five flops on the trot due to his horrible selection of scripts; he also seems to have run out of luck, which has often been instrumental in his occasional success. Hence Sun pictures’ success rate can be approximated to 78.5%.
All the aforementioned numbers seem orotund when we consider the fact that only 12% of the total movies that release in a year become hits. One family controls the whole Tamil cine industry, an analogy to the political scenario prevailing in Tamil Nadu! I also happened to notice another disturbing fact: an unassuming look at the list of movies that have been “made” hits by the all-powerful trio left me shell shocked. The fact that movies like Thenavattu, Masilamani, Aadhavan are able to churn out oodles of money due to “intelligent” promotion tactics, underlines the abysmal state of Tamil cinema. It’s plain and simple: the success or failure of a movie doesn’t depend on the actor or the director; it plainly depends on the house that’s producing the flick. “They” have monopolized the industry.
One important yet unlikely beneficiary of this monopoly seems to be another son! A son who’s not related to the “sun” fraternity; actor Sivakumar’s son Suriya (sun)! Suriya’s last five flicks have been produced or distributed by the terrific trio of the industry, which seems to have had a major influence on the outcome of the movies. His acting capabilities and adroitness at choosing scripts is unquestionable though one would be tempted to attribute the extent of success of his movies to the production houses.
A resolution stating that “big” advertisements in newspapers are supposed to be given out only on milestone days like the day of the release, audio release, 25th day, fiftieth day etc was passed in the producers’ council. It now looks like that bill has gone to the dumps. The trio is also having a ball by rigorous and continuous promotion on self-owned TV channels. Special shows featuring the stars, screening of the movie trailer every five minutes, repeated playing of the movie songs on their respective music channels have only ensured that 110 small budget films produced by “others” are still lying in the cans.
The trio has thus managed to seal the fates of small-time producers who dream of making it big. On the flipside, keeping the legality of the money that’s being used by these concerns to produce flicks aside, they have the capacity to constructively contribute to the growth of the industry by shelling out the big bucks to produce big budget movies so that the Indian dream of producing a movie of “Hollywood” quality can be realized someday. That again, is a debatable issue!
But we got to realize that the power is in our hands: regardless of the publicity, we get to choose whether to watch or to not watch a movie. Decide. Intelligently…

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Perpetually blissful pandemonium

The golden globe nominations are here. There seems to be a hush-hush about the whole episode, totally contradictory to last year’s scenario when the whole film fraternity seemed to be up in arms against Avatar, the big budget extravaganza by James Cameron as every critic in town backed the lesser known Hurt locker. This year, Christopher Nolan’s Inception seems to be the big favourite though a section may tip Social Network for its effervescent theme and solid storyline laced with taut screenplay. Black Swan though, seems to be the dark horse this time around. Darren Aronofsky’s consistency in delivering movies of the highest grade is well known and though I haven’t seen the movie, my instinct says this may be the one movie that may spell doom for the popular Inception. My instinct though is not irrational. My inherent voice received a vote of confidence after I saw “The fountain” today.
Well if you’re one of the many people who were totally awestruck at the circuitous thought processes behind the making of Inception, one of the many who thought this level of thinking has not been and cannot be paralleled, then its time for you to think again. No one recommended the movie “The fountain” for me and I stumbled upon it just like I stumbled upon the director’s “Requiem for a dream” which explains the barbarous potential of drugs to inject seeds of total devastation in a person’s life.
“The fountain” is a classic that spreads its humongous wings encapsulating a timeline stretching over centuries on either sides of the present. In the process, we are introduced to three parallel stories that occasionally run into one another. The tortuous nature of the screenplay is further intensified as the director locks horns with topics of obscurity and controversy viz. death, rebirth etc… The movie is a dedication to every passionate viewer in the sense that, at no point does the director take the intelligence of the viewer for granted. The director expects us to devote ourselves to the movie completely. He expects you to treat the movie seriously at every point of time and a laidback attitude for the shortest interval of time can result in total incomprehensibility.
The plot: Tommy Creo is a totally committed scientist madly in love with his ailing wife. Tommy supposedly makes a breakthrough in his research which may unlock doors to the realms of immortality. Meanwhile, his wife contracts a terminal illness, a tumor and Tommy believes his breakthrough may help him snatch his wife’s life from the jaws of death. But fate has other plans and Tommy is unable to apply his discovery on his wife; his wife goes too far away to be brought back. The preceding scenes tell us about the book Tommy’s wife had been writing and her premonitions and her total intrepidity regarding the same. A visibly worried Tommy (Hugh Jackman) is also instructed to finish the final chapter of the book following her death.
The book is about the escapades of a conquistador in search of the legendary tree of life. The same is shown onscreen with Hugh Jackman playing the heavily bearded conquistador in love with the queen of Spain (Rachel weisz) and in pursuit of restoring Spain in the rightful hands of the queen by gaining access to the tree of life; and thus granting access to the dominions of eternity to the nation. The third story is that of a bald man (Hugh Jackman again!) on a space trip inside a bubble with an unlikely old tree for a companion. He is shown to be conversing with the tree and eating slices of its bark regularly. He is regularly haunted by memories of the queen and Tommy’s wife. The wife haunts him by repeatedly uttering the phrase “finish it!” time and again. The climax is an expeditious culmination of the three storylines complete with explanation of the fates of the three central characters in the movie.
The climax is an explosion: literally and symbolically, thus entrapping us in the ensuing sea of chaos. I firmly believe that the director has left a lot of things in the movie to viewer’s interpretation. The following is my interpretation of the movie: I believe that the characters supposedly occurring in the past and the future are purely fictitious. The fact that the conquistador character can be extrapolated to be the past life of the scientist can be suppressed by one single argument: the whole episode is a depiction of what Tommy reads out from his wife’s manuscript, though there is a remote possibility of Jackman’s wife being in possession of extra-sensory powers wherein she can gain access to people’s past lives- the Mayan guide’s father’s episode that she narrates is a supporting case in point! The baldman’s episode seems unreal just because he has hallucinations about both the queen and Tommy’s wife; the supernatural spaceship can’t be assumed to be futuristic, thanks to its structure. So my wild guess is that the baldman episode is the finale of the book, written by Tommy himself. Its styling provides a veracious insight. The narration of the final episode is totally incongruent to the preceding chapters of the book, thus indicating that it’s been written by another person. The final episode seems to be more of an obituary column written by a loving husband, simultaneously fulfilling the last wish of his wife. The final scene where the baldman is liberated from the bubble seems to be a symbolic representation of his realization of the harsh reality of permanent separation from his wife; the bubble seems to be a representation of pseudo-hope of achieving eternal life and the emancipation from the same seems to be the realization that death and rebirth are a part of a bigger and importantly, a more important cycle. The end of the other protagonist, the conquistador, seems to be an explanation of a result of greediness and breach of trust. Thus I conclude that, the past and the future episodes are representations of projections of Tommy’s mind, which are translated as the last chapter of the book.
On a critical note, I would like to add that the aforementioned descriptions are my interpretation of the movie and the director might have intended something else. The director could have also intended each viewer to have his own interpretation of the script. Nevertheless, the movie is not to be missed because of the fact that the soul of the movie is unique and the backup in the form of technical support inclusive of music, editing, cinematography is purely magical. Acting is top notch and this movie, according to me, is a terrible underachiever in terms of magnitude of success and reach. I’m waiting to hear alternate interpretations and insights about the movie!