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Sarkar June 6, 2008

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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In anticipation of the release of Sarkar Raj this weekend, I watched Sarkar once again.

Director Ram Gopal Varma’s tribute to The Godfather isn’t his first film inspired from that source. He earlier made Gaayam (co-written by Mani Ratnam) in Telugu (and even his debut film, Shiva had some traces of inspiration) where many commercial constraints were adhered to but the film was good in its own way and was a success at the box office too. He reuses some parts of that film here but makes a more intense and largely superior film.

Though the content might have been inspired by The Godfather (and Bal Thackeray), this is a completely different and much more taut film. A few scenes and some themes may be similar but this isn’t a faithful remake. And anyone who wishes to judge this film by comparing it to The Godfather or its various inspirations should strictly sit out.

The screenplay of the film is credited to Manish Gupta but Varma, no doubt, had considerable inputs here. But it isn’t so much the script as it is the direction that defines this film. Ram Gopal Varma’s genius is visible in every frame that is so meticulously shot and his style is what makes this film remarkable. And he is greatly helped by his technicians (cinematographer Amit Roy and editors Amit Parman and Nipun Gupta).

The most striking aspect of this film is the brilliant use of extreme close-ups. A large part of the film doesn’t have any dialogue. Varma uses the expressions of the actors captured so minutely through these close-ups to convey the emotions as well as the subtext. The film depends on it completely. And when the characters do speak, they deliver some zingers.

The accompanying background score by Amar Mohile, tries to elevate every important moment and succeeds (some might not care for such dominance by the music but I do). It is interesting that the Govinda chant that has become quite synonymous with this film was originally composed for Varma’s telugu film Govinda Govinda, which belonged to a completely different genre.

With such close scrutiny of the actors in close-ups, acting becomes an extremely important part of the film and each actor needs to deliver. RGV extracts the required performances from Amitabh to Kay Kay to Katrina Kaif and Tanishaa. Amitabh Bachchan, in the titular role, brings out the required intensity with the right expressions and tone. You can almost feel the same reverence towards his character as his supporters in the film show. On the other hand, he makes the vulnerable side of his character thoroughly identifiable in the scenes in the hospital and home after the attack on him. The way Abhishek is portrayed as an obedient son who does not speak out of turn when the family is discussing business matters in the first half and his transformation when he takes the responsibility upon himself to fill in for his father and take over (note the black shirt that Abhishek wears when the transformation is complete towards the end) is superb. And Bachchan Jr is spot on in his portrayal of Shankar. Kay Kay is possibly the best actor on display in this film and he brings out the vices of Vishnu, the bad son, to perfection.

The supporting cast is great too. Despite many supporting players and limited scope, everybody gets noticed. Supriya Pathak is the best choice for the role of Sarkar’s loving, caring and reticent wife. The little known Rukhsar is very likable in a role where she has almost no dialogue. Even Katrina Kaif and Tanisha who, at the time (or even now) had not delivered any noteworthy performances slip nicely into their roles. Zakir Hussain makes a capable antagonist. Kota Srinivasa Rao, who brings out the sliminess of Silver Mani (or is it Selva Mani?), also serves as the comic relief in the film’s most loquacious character. Ravi Kale, who plays Sarkar’s right hand man also impresses but the same can’t be said about Jeeva’s performance as the wigged over-the-top Swami.

Another interesting aspect is the love triangle. The same triangle was also part of Gaayam as also another film inspired by The Godfather, the Kamal Haasan penned Thevar Magan (Kshatriya Puthrudu in Telugu, remade in Hindi as Virasat with Anil Kapoor). All three films have similar characters involved in a similar conflict (the situation is somewhat different from The Godfather) but each gets its own treatment in keeping with the setting, regional and commercial aspects as well as the focus of the respective films.

This is probably the closest RGV has come to making a family drama. The overachieving father who wonders, like any normal father would, what sins he might have committed to have borne a kid that has taken the wrong path. The bad son, whose need to come out of his father’s shadow ultimately drives him down a path that leaves no redemption. The good son, whose respect and trust in his father bears more importance to him than anything else and his willingness to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family’s responsibility. The obedient and caring mother, who easily melts over her son’s apparent repentance, like any average mother, and asks her husband to let her son back into the house. The daughter-in-law who has become such an integral part of the family that she prefers to stay with her in-laws instead of her wayward husband. There is so much here that makes this as much a tale about a family as it is about politics (or politricks as Silver Mani would say). Varma clearly conveys to the audience that this is a family like most others. I especially loved the use of the kid (playing in the background, asking for an ice cream) to bring in the aspect of normalcy. A similar effect is achieved through the game of Carroms, the dinner table conversations, the discussion in front of the television and more.

Different individuals might find different flaws in this film. Some might even hate the very things that I’ve loved. Nevertheless, this is definitely a film that is worth watching multiple times to observe the minutiae. It is the detail that makes this film special. It is the interpretation, focus and execution that makes this film different from the others based on similar material. Watch this once if you haven’t yet. If you have, watch it again to observe the detail that you missed out the first time.

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7/G Brindavana Colony (7/G Rainbow Colony) August 23, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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The two minute trailer of this movie set to the theme music was what brought my attention to this movie. The trailer was so beautifully cut and so in tune with the theme music that I was sure this was one director to watch out for.

Generally, love in movies happens fast and without much explanation. And when this kind of love happens between two people with very different backgrounds, it is generally not very believable. However, this movie succeeds where most movies fail. Selvaraghavan (who wrote and directed this movie) captures the realism that is not present in most movies. He creates the character of the main protagonist very well without making him unnecessarily noble to cover his flaws. The character is that of a bewarse (useless) guy who hangs out with a group of friends fighting, teasing women, boozing and so on. Though we have seen similar characters, none of them have been believable in the sense that they seem to have other redeeming characteristics but this one does not.

Now, if such a guy happens to fall in love with a girl from a better background, there is no way that she will fall in love with him (unlike many other movies where unreasonably she falls in love at first sight or the second or after a bunch of arguments). But she does and the reasons for her changing feelings are depicted very competently. This is where the movie succeeds. The guy’s love for the girl, the girl’s changing feelings, his inability to change and much more is skillfully captured on screen.

The climax caught many people off guard and a traditional mind set caused an instant dislike for some. However, I believe that this movie without the climax would not be what it is. Caught between her responsibility towards her parents and her affection for the guy, she needs to make a choice. The feelings of the girl at that point are very believable. I was so involved in the movie that what happens after this hit me like a rock. The climax haunted me for a couple of days.

Anybody who thinks that the climax is giving wrong ideas or teaching wrong morals to youngsters should think again. Anyone who is talking about wrong morals is talking crap. Morals are not about sex. Morals are about doing the right thing. Morals are about ethics and honesty. These are rarely present in society, which is reflected in most movies (by this standard any movie which shows a murder, robbery or even lying is showing wrong morals). However, we have conveniently sidestepped the real issues, focusing on sex for any talk about morals. If you believe that you have never done anything wrong and if you believe that you have been honest and ethical throughout your life then you have morals. I don’t know a single person who can claim this including me. So I don’t believe we are allowed to give lectures about why someone or something is morally wrong.

Yuvan Shankar Raja’s soundtrack and background score are awesome. The theme is my favorite (it is supposedly inspired partly from Ilayaraaja’s theme for a movie called Johny). Talachi Talachi Choosa (Ninaithu Ninaithu), Kannula Baasalu (Kanpaesum Varthaigal) and Kalalugane Kaalalu (Kanaa Kaanum) stand out among the other songs.

Ravi Krishna seems to be born to play the role of the main protagonist. This being his first movie, there are no preconceived notions about him and that helps him in successfully fitting the role. Sonia Agarwal does an excellent job too. Suman Setty as the friend and Chandra Mohan as the father are good in supporting roles.

Selvaraghavan (also known as Sri Raghava to telugu audiences) is among the best young directors of South India. He crafts a brilliant film. This movie may not appeal to those who are looking for conventional entertainment. This movie is really for a thinking audience or one that enjoys drama. Anybody who is bored with cliched love stories should watch this.

Ghazni August 17, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Ghazni, which was dubbed into Telugu with the same name and is also to be remade in Hindi with Aamir Khan, was inspired by Memento. When I say inspired, I do not mean that it is lifted. The narrative style and complexity of the original is not suited for the common man. Director Murugadoss has taken the basic theme about a guy with short-term memory loss taking revenge for his wife’s death and made it a good commercial film for the audience in question. The presence of Surya and Asin in the film is a case of excellent casting. Their performances were deservedly loved by most audience members. The love story which was quite enjoyable was supposedly lifted from an old Nagarjuna movie (according to TeluguCinema.com). Though the climax is a bit of a letdown, this film works and Murugadoss should get most of the credit for the adaptation suitable for the target audience. The performances of Surya and Asin alongwith Harris Jayaraj’s music (my favorite is “Oru Naalai” or “Oka Maaru” while I hate the overly sweet “Suttum Vizhi” or “Hrudayam Ekkadunnadi” which I unfortunately had to hear a couple of hundred times at least, thanks to my Tamizhan friends) added to the success level of the film. Though it would rate very low, in comparison with Memento, this is an enjoyable watch for anyone who likes commercial films or thrillers.

I’ve always wondered why this movie was called Ghazni. Wikipedia gives me the following reason: “Ghajini (Ghazni) Mohammed was the man who tried to invade India 15 times, failing miserably on every occasion. Finally, on the 16th time, he was successful. Similarly, the protagonist in Ghajini fails many times in his attempts to murder the villain, yet ultimately succeeds.”