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Ayutha Ezhuthu - A Retrospective (no pun intended)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 by Blogpur

To much surprise I am uploading a review for Ayutha Ezhuthu some 1.5yrs after its debut on the screens. Not to anyones suprise, Mani Ratnam serves up a brilliant film.

Many reviewers have hammered Ayutha Ezhuthu and its Hindi counterpart, Yuva. They have stated that it has patchy editing, superflous music and that it doesn't have great storytelling. This to me indicates a clear lack of understanding on their part. The film does not have patchy editing, it on the other hand is ostensibly unconventional and from the outset this is evident. Shaky cameras, undiffused lighting, wild camera angles are all part of the larger ensemble. The film tells us about unrest in today's society and specifically the youth of today, to accompany this rather taboo subject, Mani Ratnam uses a varied style of camera work. This is also evident in the way it attacks the subject and the repetition of the climactic sequence.

A R Rahman, along with Illayaraja, are India's only credibility when it comes to music has created a rather shallow at first but after repeated listening, a deep and meaningful score. Each sound accompanies each of the characters and these sounds are so in tune with the characters that it would be impossible to think of any other music. The film isn't meant to have brilliant melodic pieces. It is meant to have stacato and ostinato (these facets of music are brilliantly exemplified in Dol Dol Dol) so as to go along with the theme of unrest.

Finally - storytelling. AE and Yuva are NOT films dependant on their story, in fact if we look deeply into the film there is a serious lack of a story. The film is not a story, the film is an observance of a modern India which is being held back due to various factors: poverty, corruption and politics to name a few. Mani Ratnam has no intention of creating an epic along the lines of Nayagan or does he have any intention craft a delectable story such as Roja or Bombay. AE and Yuva are powerful examinations of today's society and what one must do to correct the mistakes of the past.

Unrest, while I have touched on before is the central theme. From the casting (somewhat different - esp in the Hindi version) to the unique approach to the subject, Mani Ratnam creates an extremely active world (heightened by stunningly wavering camera work). Perhaps the greatest thing about AE is its characterisations. Each one seems to be so perfectly carved that its impossible to salute the master. While most audiences will immediatelly think of Madhavan as the "villain", Ratnam subtley shows us that he isn't the villain but rather the product of a society at unrest. Again Unrest is showcases in all the characters - one wavers in and out of jail and can't decide whether to go peaceful with his wife or to thirst for power. The other can't keep track of the number of girls he's entertained and the final one isn't satisfied until the country in his eyes gains respectability and corruption is defeated.

Indeed, change seems to be the underlying theme in AE and Yuva. By the end of the film the only person who hasn't changed finds himself in personal hell (Madhavan, Abhishek) while those who have, have prospered from this change. The final scenes are a clear indication of where Mani Ratnam is heading - construction of a highway and a highly stylised entrance for students in a politics - both signs of immediacy and change.

Ratnam clearly shows us this is not an impossible reality and for the most part, the film sticks to reality and the laws of physics (something Rajni can't boast to have done). The characters all seem to be plucked off the street and the acting lends credibility to their roles.

Ayutha Ezhuthu and Yuva are clearly the least commercial of Mani Ratnam's ventures yet they seems to be the most complete. Order is returned to the world and hope and positivity (two things India sorely needs) is showcased in a powerful ending scene. Ayutha Ezhuthu has very little in the form of entertainment, even the climax is repeated so many times it is not a usual denounement scene, it is rather the groundwork for the whole film.

Ayutha Ezhuthu could well be Mani Ratnam's finest film - coming from a guy who created Nayagan, Roja, Bombay and even Mouna Ragaam it may be a tough call, but to my eyes there is very little wrong with Ayuthu Ezhuthu. It does not indulge in melodrama (which can't be said of the others), it has a fantastic screenplay, stunning characterisations and some superb acting. Even its use of music and background score is exemplary.

A film this good should not be missed///

Nayagan Scores!

Monday, June 13, 2005 by Blogpur

neenga nallavara? kettavara?

Almost as famous a line as "I'll make him an offer..." Nayagan stunned India when it got released, it seems Kamal and Mani are saying the lines to other film makers through that quote!

The Kamal Haasan - Mani Ratnam combination that worked magic back in 1987 has found new praise and status. I have watched Nayagan so many times now its nearly embedded in me, and to this date I still can't believe that its such a wonderful film. Every aspect of it, acting, dialogue, direction, camerawork, music comes together to fashion perhaps the greatest film in Indian cinema ever! Now in credit Nayagan has been listed as one of the Top 100 Films Ever made by Time Magazine. A worthy honour indeed. Click here to go to the Time Magazine site.

Black - A Review

Monday, June 06, 2005 by Blogpur

After much hesitation and deliberation I finally decided to watch the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Black. Subject to much Bollywood hype, it was supposed to herald a new age of Bollywood and while Black has its moments, its a highly cliched, woefully shallow affair. It is good nonetheless.

For Bollywood, the story is unique and different for those with some experience its nothing more than an underdog story which aims to tug the heart. I may sound cynical, even narcisistic, but Black is NOT the be all end all of films - it is rather a good effort from a director now used to infinite hype and ultimately over recognition.

Yes, Amitabh's and Rani's acting are very good, yes the sets and choreography are also excellent, but the film has so many loopholes in its story, the film is marred by indecision on the directors part, the film is NOT powerful - it is preachy. And to sink further Black prophesises so much yet performs so little. Every little cliche in the book can be found in the film. There is an illtreating father who is not evil, the prejudiced and envious sister, a careful and loving mother and ofcourse there is the unconventional yet ultimately successful teacher - what of this hasn't been done before?

But Black does succeeds on some level - taking a rather simplistic and nonchalant plot in their stride Amitabh and Rani carve out deservedly powerful perfomances. Rani, especially is at home in the shoes of a deaf and blind girl. Amitabh while powerful and dominant does tend to overact. The girl (I don't know her name) who acted as the young Michelle is probably the best of the lot.

Black takes a sporadic approach to filming, every so often Bhansali attacks the subject. For every 10mins devoted to the story, 20 are wasted in superfluous candy floss. Sure enough the film boasts georgeous eye candy. Every shot can be put on your wall and hung as a beautfiul nature scape. Dare I say it, this film nearly matches 2001: A Space Odyssey in that regard.

Ultimately Black is a good effort gone awry (why Amitabh resorts to Americanised english is beyond me as is why the use of a postermodernistic Indian setting - such a thing does not exist!). Bhansali, while not the level of Kamal Haasan, Mani Ratnam or Shyam Benegal is a beacon of hope in the endless trash churned out by Indian filmmakers - fails to a reasonable degree with this lukewarm venture.