Cool Buddies

Kaavad Performace: Maya [by Sharada]

Posted in Review by Ratheesh & Sharada on March 3, 2016

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With an unassuming gait, the Kaavadiya gently held our hand and coaxed us into his world of fantasy – the world of mighty kings, of chaste husbands, of desirous widows of creatures – the little birds, the trees, the hawk and the ants. The colourful and intriguing Kaavads drew us into their gates, guarded by the efficient dwarapalaks who let in only the most humble and inquisitive minds. We need to bow down and pray to be allowed to enter their sacred space. With open minds, eyes wide with wonder, with trepid steps and nimble movements, we follow the footsteps of the Kaavadiya as he starts unraveling the stories part by part, enacting the sequences, moving between the characters with utmost ease. As we travel from one story to the other, we are gently reminded that all this is Maya – an illusion created by our own minds through which we interpret the world around us.

The stories are of varied themes – perfectly blending the ancient and the current, adpated to contemporary times with the underlying human emotions of greed, jealousy, desire, love, justice raising their relevant questions. We are held in rapt attention engulfed in a web of situations that compel us to judge, to take stands and to root for what we believe is right. But should we go with what is right or what is appropriate? What is our moral obligation given such situations? Are our world leaders better empowered than us to lead us in the right path or are they too blinded by the inescapable Maya? How are the situations related? Is it possible that people are connected to a situation just like they are related each other? Plucking at one end of the string will invariably have an effect on the entire world because we are all bound in this intricate mesh held together by Maya.

Kaavad Katha is an ancient folk art form that uses Kaavads – paintings on boards to recite stories. It is a traditional art kept alive by Bhaats for several generations but now on the verge of vanishing forever from our culture. The Kaavads were sacred and used as mobile temples in remote villages that did not have a temple. Usually depicting stories from mythology, the Kaavads have evolved over time to incorporate secular themes, political statements and contemporary cultural motifs. In an effort to recognize and pay tribute to this art form, the Kaavad performance “Maya” – put together by a competent team of artists from Sva Collective – visual artists, musicians, sound engineers, writers and performers makes a brave and laudable attempt to explore this as a performing art form. Written lucidly in Hindi and performed effortlessly by the artist, supported by the crisp live music, it brought to life the stories on the colourful cardboards. For the length of the performance, it kept us engrossed, entertained and later, left us with important questions to contemplate long after.

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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