Cool Buddies

Film Review: Haider [by Sharada]

Posted in Film by Ratheesh & Sharada on October 14, 2014

(Disclaimer: may contain spoilers)

Her enchanting eyes rivet you right from the beginning – those deep, brown eyes that drown secrets and sorrow with aplomb. Haider is the untold story of the “disappeared”. Those fathers, husbands, brothers and sons who are arrested by the armed forces in Kashmir and taken away, never to be found again; a few thousands who are methodically erased from their everyday lives.

Ghazala Meer tells her son Haider “we are called half-widows here…”. They wait eternally, initially with hope that their husbands will return; then with indifference that they atleast locate their dead bodies. Poignant scenes of a wife’s praying silently for her husband to return, a son’s search for his lost father haunt us throughout the story.

Haider’s search takes him through some dark secrets of his family and sets him off on his internal journey of self discovery – from a college kid to a mature man to an insane “madman”; his metamorphosis forms the main storyline of the film.

But what towers over all this is Ghazala’s character. She is a demure wife, teaching in a school and the proud mother of their only son – Haider. She has accepted her dispassionate life in exchange for a decent living with all creature comforts. All she wants is what any other wife asks for – a loving husband who provides, a safe environment for her family and a cozy, comfortable home that she can call her own. When she starts feeling these are about to be compromised, a deep fear engulfs her and she panics. She begs him to stay away from danger; but her deepest fears come true as she sees her house bombed and her husband taken away, branded a criminal.

Left to fend for herself with nowhere else to go, she is faced with a difficult choice – to fight alone for her husband’s return or to accept the worst and take refuge in her brother-in-law’s house. She chooses the latter, knowing well that he secretly harbours a desire to marry her. This is made clear by his frequent flirting, his refusal to marry anyone else and his shameless ogling. When confronted by her son on her questionable intentions, she hides away her shame behind her anger and justifies her actions.

Although a helpless half-widow, she is fully aware of her charm and uses it to her benefit; just as she had exercised emotional blackmail with her son in his childhood, as he recollects. Torn between the love for her son and her future hope of becoming Khurram’s bride, she years for the utopia of a perfect life in the blood strewn icy slopes of the valley. Like a lioness who has lost her mate to a younger, more aggressive male, she stands by her new partner, fully aware of the fact that the new male will eventually kill her offspring.

Haider’s girlfriend and constant companion in his pursuits, Arshia is a young journalist. Their deep love for each other and their innocence is beautifully portrayed. This is in sharp contrast to Khurram’s lustful pursuit of Ghazala and their adulterous relationship. Kay Kay Menon’s convincing portrayal of Khurram marks yet another of his illustrious performances. He proves yet again what a fine actor he is. He is just Khurram during the film; there is no Kay Kay Menon. He can be seen as a “villan”, but then again, you will forgive him for just being human. Tabu as Ghazala personifies grace and beauty. Alternating effortlessly between a helpless mother and a cold, distant mistress, she forms the strong strand that sews the film together.

The film does justice to the place it has chosen as the backdrop – the Kashmir valley is shown in its pristine form in peak winter, resplendent with snow flakes, frosty lakes and vast expanses of white. The cinematography befits a large screen viewing. The scenes of blood on ice haunt you long after you have left the theater halls – an agonizing reminder of the conflict. However, the music is disappointing, considering it is a Vishal Bharadwaj movie, the expectations were a bit high.

But where the director wins yet again is in exploiting and exposing human relationships; the layers of a person, the multiple facets of a human being. Supported by brilliant actors, it only falls short in its inability to build towards a better (and less cliched) ending and the brilliant-effort-yet-not-there acting by its younger star cast which fails to evoke the necessary emotions towards the protagonist.

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Spinning the Yarn [by Sharada]

Posted in Film, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 12, 2014

A far away voice proclaimed “Food is ready…”


“If you could please excuse me… I know…. I hate it too, to leave such important work incomplete and take a break.”


“But even the most responsible people need to spend time with their loved ones. I had promised my mother, no matter how busy I get, I will definitely have lunch with her. And, that is one promise I cannot go back on.”


“What did you say? I am forsaking one promise for keeping another one? No, not really. I will be back in a breeze. So, make yourself comfortable while I go about my domestic duties as a son.”


I think they will wait for me; after all, they came after me this time.


“It takes a lot of discipline ma, but I always will ensure that my lunch hour is with you, one full hour, no disturbance.”


“Here, l am switching off my phone. I was in the middle of an important meeting with Mr. Sampath, you know, the movie producer. Yes, that’s right, he is the one who produced “Nanna

Ninna Naduve”. My next is with him, if all goes well.”


“Oh come on, why talk about work now…”


“What have you made for lunch today? Avalakki? Is this why I came leaving such an important meeting?”


“But today is ekadashi, so cannot eat rice, Partha” mom started again.


“Oh, now you don’t get started on all that superstitious stuff again. I am tired of it.”


She knows how best to spoil a perfect day with silly traditions.


“It is for your good only, I am keeping a strict vratha for you” she started.


“Ok whatever, see, I don’t interfere with your puja, the least I ask for is a nice little meal, rice, sambar.”


Ok leave that, now tell me how is your knee pain?” I thought changing the subject would make it a pleasant conversation over a meal


“I have to get a surgery done, that is the only way I can get rid of the pain, doctor told me again”, she answered, “… but it is very expensive, we cannot afford…”


I hated this topic, but she raised it every now and then. It was not that I could not afford it, I get a lot of money; of course lose it easily too. It is all part of life in show biz. But, a few thousands for my mother’s surgery is something I could afford. But she never understood this; she believes that we cannot afford it.


“No, ma, don’t go for surgery, that is not the best way… try Ayurvedic massages, you follow traditions when it comes to food, why not follow ancient sciences when it comes to surgery?” that silenced her for the moment


“Ok, now I should go back to my work”


“So, Mr. Sampath, where were we?” I had to negotiate this contract today, if this slipped, by any chance, I would have to knock on doors again for work. I had to convince him that I had the right script.


“So, the hero looks into her eyes and then …… ”


He looked convinced, although, I must have gone a little overboard on the emotional part of the story. But melodrama is a vital part in any script. What if I had exaggerated it a bit, I could always go back and re-write some of the pieces.


“I think so too, Mr. Sampath, the audience will get their towels wet, not handkerchiefs. Ha ha.. ”


“Ok, sir, I shall wait to hear from you”


Yes, I nailed it, sucker will be back for more. Always tough to extract the advance from him, but I shall have to wait patiently. I can give this to my mother for her surgery, at least she will not go around telling neighbors that her son does not take care of her.


Creativity stems out of extremes; extreme happiness, extreme sorrow, extreme fear… for me it comes out of extreme exhaustion. I have to be completely exhausted at the end of the day to even be able to write a couple of decent pages of the story. I know it might sound strange, most of the writers I know need peace of mind and relaxation before they can start writing. Even my favorite authors escape to the Swiss Alps or the Himalayas to be able to write their masterpieces.


But not me, I get inspiration from extreme tiredness, when I have pushed myself to the limits. Then I open a bottle of whisky and stare outside the window, that is when I start feeling my characters speaking to me, I can almost see a different world just on the other side of the glass.


When I was a little boy, I remember telling my mom that I see people outside the window. At that time, I could not comprehend that they were not “real” people, so I would be ridiculed or reprimanded. I would often force myself to shut my eyes tightly and sleep, because, I knew I could not speak about this to my classmates at school. If only my father would have been around, I felt he would have understood. He was, after all, a dreamer, a storyteller, just like me.


All my famous stories have come out this way, during the busiest days. I push myself to the extreme limit of exhaustion, and then, in the near collapse stage, my mind clears up all of a sudden and characters that were hazy till then, somewhere lurking in the back of my mind, become vivid and come to life. It is as if I pass out and enter a different world.


I know my life itself can be a story someday, but as of now, I do not see many takers for such stories. So I stick to writing love stories, emotional family dramas that fetch the maximum price in the industry. Generally, stories come out of personal experiences, to say that I have written fourteen love stories so far, and have not found the love of my life or for that matter have not even been close to finding one might be hard to believe.


But that is the truth. I am a loner, a self-proclaimed recluse, extremely talented, at the brink of my career success but not so lucky in family matters. And why would I believe in love anyways, I have seen my parents being in love for a few years and then tearing each other apart in hate for the next few. It was so bad that, just before their divorce, they could not even stand each other’s shadow. But I stood by them; I understood that they had to separate. Quite a display of maturity for a ten year old, they said, but I was not surprised, because, I just understood.


So here I am at yet another love story, this time I am sure it is going to clinch it. My last script was a super hit, I had almost tasted success, but that sly Guru took all the credit. So much so that my name was nowhere mentioned in the credits. They changed the main character from female to male and just twisted the ending, but all along, it was my story. I had cried for a whole month, I did not come out of this room, just wanted to hide my face in darkness. But, I did not press charges; such copyright issues are common in film industry. Which is why, I just believe in my writing only, rest is not in my control. I just continue to write, get better with each script.


“Do you want to sleep all day? Wake up and do something”


ah… morning, that was ma, her usual “suprabhatam” trying to get me out of bed. She does not get it. How many times should I tell her that I am mature enough to wake up myself, I know when I have my meetings and I shall be all ready by then.


“Partha, go have bath, breakfast is ready”, she was relentless.


I dragged myself out of my bed, towards the bathroom. Mom had arranged my clothes and towel neatly and had filled the bucket of hot water, all I had to do was have bath. She pampers me to the point of spoiling me, maybe it is her way of repenting for the misgivings the divorce has inflicted on me.


“Nothing interesting on TV, how can these channels keep showing us the same old stuff” mom complained.


Mom loved her serials on TV but whenever anybody was around, she wanted to show that she was not interested in what she was watching. The unintelligent serials, made worse by frequent commercials was too poor even by her standards. Considering there was nothing better to do all day, she settled to the comfort of the (aptly named) idiot box for company.


“This director tried a movie, but it bombed at the box office, wasted considerable amount of money from producers, now he is directing TV serials” I used to give her “inside information” from the industry to alleviate her boredom.


“I had met this guy the other day, you know, that actor, Rahul, his real name is Sanjay. He was tired knocking doors of directors, finally he is on TV and look how famous he has got now.”


“They wanted to take him for the next movie I am writing the script for, but I told them he is not a new face anymore, my story needs a new face”


I glanced at mom to see if she was entertained by my trivia. She did not say anything, nor did she seem very excited, she had in fact, closed her eyes (and probably ears as well). I switched off the TV and started going through the film magazines I subscribed to, there were many, I wanted to read as much possible to stay abreast with the news. Mom always told me that there were too many that I subscribed to and could not afford it, I only told her to wait till my next big break, once I get famous, I will be appearing in these magazines and will be getting complimentary copies of many more.


I got totally busy with my story I was writing for Sampath, I got to see lesser and lesser of mom each day, but as soon as I stepped out of my home-office, she would be right there waiting for me with food or a glass of milk or fruits.


The other day I was surprised to find her in my room, dusting. “… so much paper all around… ” she was muttering to herself.


I got extremely angry almost to the point of hitting her “what are you doing here? Ma, don’t you understand that these papers are important to me… ”


Then I noticed that one of my scripts that was lying on the floor was missing, this is when I lost my temper “Who authorized you to go over my stuff? Where is my script, return it immediately… or else… ”


“What script Partha? I only found old newspapers strewn on the floor, so I cleaned them and gave it away last week… ” she explained.


“Are you stupid ma? Don’t you understand the different between newspaper and a script?” “I spend all day writing the script, and you just gave it away? so much hard work… God.. what will I do now… ”


She just looked at me dumbfounded as if I was speaking french or something… She neither apologized, not said anything in her defense. She just gave a sigh and walked away. Such carelessness, I thought.


A year later….


My movie got released today, I took my mother to the theatre, first day first show. The theatre was full, my pulse was racing and as the opening sequence started, I whispered to my mom who was adjusting her spectacle-clad eyes to the big screen and the lighting


“now the hero opens the umbrella and runs behind the girl who is ….. ” she silently listened to my half-lines, whatever I could whisper without disturbing the guy sitting next to me.


Halfway through the movie, I looked at her, tears were rolling down her eyes and she was wiping it off with the edge of her sari. The scene was not tear-jerking, in fact, to be honest, far from it, but I think she cried because she was proud of me. It was probably a very emotional moment for her to see her son’s story being shown on the big screen.


During the interval I bought her caramel pop-corn, I knew she had liked this earlier, but today she did not have an appetite. It was almost the end, she started getting up.


“Partha, let’s go out”


“But ma, the credits are yet to roll, don’t you want to see your son’s name coming on the screen?”


she brushed past my seat without answering and went towards the exit, as if in a hurry. I sat there torn between waiting for credits to roll and going towards exit, I decided to sit there and wait for the credits. It said directed by Phani I clapped, it said screenplay by Ravi, then, I waited, my breath almost stopping. It said story … by … Srinivas Murthy. Not Parthasarathy, I couldn’t believe it happened again. I sat there dumbfounded. I could feel my eyes clouding with tears, I could feel my cheeks getting moist. I had this terrible urge to murder the people behind this, in a rage I got up and stormed out of the hall.


I saw her standing there, in the bus stand opposite the theatre, with an empty look in her eyes, with her tears dried and no more fresh supply to wash down the shame. I wished that the earth would open up and swallow me, just like it did in my stories, when needed. I could feel a drop of water fall on my arm as I stood on the other side of the road, waiting to cross it. The next moment, it started pouring, I tried to look at my mother, who was by now trying to cover her head with her sari pallu. The rain created a sheet between us, creating the much needed cover for the naked empty space that was created earlier. I was not sure she had seen me, but the more I looked at the frail, obscure sari clad figure, the more I started weeping.


“I shall take you around in a car ma, just wait for this movie to become hit… ” my own words echoed in my head.


But I had to cross the road, I had to show her that I was brave. I went to her and kneeled down in front of her; and in that bus stop, in front of some random passer by motorists, for the first time, she hugged me. She sat down with me on the foot path and we hugged each other and cried. The warm, salty tears blending in with the cool, fresh raindrops and getting washed down the drain.


I tried explaining to her that it could have been a mistake, they will be able to correct it in the next reel, I am sure these days with digital technology, they could even correct it the next day. I asked her if she liked the story, she did not look at me, just continued walking, we walked all the way home.


That night mom walked straight to her room and I could hear her sobbing continuously.


Somewhere around ten, I could hear her speak on the phone, she never called anybody so I was curious to over hear.


“…. Raghu… he is your soon too… ” so it was my dad she was calling.


Probably she was elated to have watched her son’s movie and wanted to share it with her husband (uh.. her ex-husband, actually).


“He has seriously started believing it… no… it’s not like earlier now… Raghu, listen to me …. ” she trailed off.


I could only hear parts of it, but seems like she was trying to argue about something.


“…. He pretends he writes script for famous writers, he even has imaginary conversations with them, sits across a row of empty chairs at his desk.. all dressed up… ”


how audacious, how can she make such irrational statements about my behavior? I listened on.


“…. Raghu, I always wanted a normal son…. you know it… I never had any great expectations from him….. I want my normal son back… not a script writer, not a famous personality…… ” and then, she started weeping uncontrollably.


“….. why can’t I have a normal son? What have I done? God…. why this punishment…. ”


“It is not that… Raghu, please understand….. it is not that simple… ”


I did not have time for such accusations, I had a bigger job, tomorrow I had to call up the producers and ask them about my missing credits


“…. It was the limit today, he took me to watch what he claimed was his movie….”


“He even told me the story while watching… of course wherever it differed, he just said they had changed it… ”


“… of course he is making it up Raghu, I could not control my humiliation towards the end…. I knew he would be heart broken seeing the credits rolling.. so I got up and walked away… ”


Oh mom, stop it, I need to sleep. I could still hear her mumbling on the phone, but I drifted off to sleep.


The Next Day


“Partha, wake up… are you going to be in bed all day?”


“Ma, come on…let me sleep some more… I was attending phone calls till late night… “

Raavanan : Good, Bad and Vikram

Posted in Film, Movies, Review, Tamil by Ratheesh & Sharada on July 2, 2010

Twenty minutes into the movie and we go “Why did Mani Ratnam make this”? One Hundred and Twenty minutes later we go “Now this is a movie”! That was the reaction we had when we went to watch Mani Ratnam’s bilingual “Raavanan” (“Ravan” in Hindi). Mani Ratnam treated us to some breathtaking visuals, high spirited acting and a lot of attitude. Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan (the character) is not the villain we are taught about. He is a man with his dark sides; sides that all of us have. A man well portrayed by Vikram who has probably given one of his best performances (barring Sethu).

The story of Raavanan does not need an introduction. Written by someone centuries ago to imbibe morality into a society that probably started losing it, the Ramayana stands out as a very important common denominator among the South Asian countries. The story is so familiar that there is absolutely no sense of “What happens next?” when you watch Raavanan. But there is a question that arises at some point in time; that of “Why that happened”? At the end of it you are left wondering who the real villain is.

The movie asks many questions, or should I say makes one ask questions. Why is there a Maoist uprising? Why are so many young men dying as terrorists? Is democracy for real? In the end is good as we know it really ‘good’? Are we on the good side of things or have we chosen to take sides and call ourselves good? None of these questions are raised in the movie, but the movie is so much about understanding the good and evil that you are forced to think about the world we live in. The last scene of the movie speaks volumes.

The chemistry between Aishwarya Rai and Vikram is so wonderful that you can see the hatred she has for the man and yet the compassion she holds for him as a fellow human being. The brilliant camera work captures their mind through their body language and the short but emotionally draining interactions. The camera work is so crisp you can see the hair on Vikram’s arm twitching when tensions rise between them.

Vikram’s breathtaking performance stands out throughout the movie, so much so that I was left bored for a few minutes when he was completely out of the frames. He literally fills the frames, thundering above you menacingly but instilling absolutely no fear in his abducted Sita or us. The feeling you have for him is the feeling you would have for someone who is as human as you but has lost a sister, is misunderstood and now is almost going to lose the woman he loves for sure as you already know the story and things can never get fair for Raavanan.

Aishwarya’s performance is much better than some of her last movies, although you are left wondering whether Mani Ratnam and Santosh Sivan had her in the movie just to pit her worldly beauty against the out of the world beauty of the Western Ghats and see who wins; with the raw and rusty Raavanan thrown in to equalize things. Prithviraj does a very good job of the role given to him. He convinces you as an egoistic senior Police Officer who has his own dark sides which unfortunately turn out to be much darker than one would expect.

A.R.Rahman is not at his best in Raavanan, but then again he does not disappoint either. Most of the songs are humm-able while they are being played out in front of you but you do not tend to carry them back home like his earlier work. Of course there was one song the he himself sings which was intentionally left out from the Soundtrack that was released. Penned by Vairamuthu, the beautiful “Naan Varuven” will stay in your hearts for many more days. Then again, it is not a humm-able song; it will stand out as a song that will remind you of Raavanan’s tragedy.

The camera work that sizzles is when it is pointed towards the panoramic landscapes that surround the main characters. The movie is shot in the Western Ghats ranges of India and has done justice to the location. Each frame is a visual treat for someone who loves nature in all its glory. The green leaves, the early morning mist, the moss, the algae, the little grains of sand amongst the larger pebbles, the sound of waterfalls, the ripple effect of water when something falls in it, the overpowering nature of heavy rain, the water droplets falling off someone’s makeshift hat, the slippery rocks at the edge of a waterfall, the dense and dangerous looking interiors of woods, the unknown factor of the forest in the darkness, everything has been captured with so much love for life it has to be seen to be believed.

The human story of Raavanan is never overshadowed by this visual orgasm. It holds ground till the end when it tugs at your heart, when Vikram stares at the camera and his eyes speaks about his loss. A loss that I had never imagined in my dreams I would even think twice about. That of losing Sita to the “Ram” or the good one as the world knows it. The movie ends with a beautiful rendition by A.R.Rahman titled “Naan varuven, Meendum varuven” which literally translates to “I’ll be back”. While your soul cries for Raavan, somewhere in your childish head you are left wondering about Terminator’s line and a possibility of Raavanan 2.

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