Of passion, pixie dust and devasena

I was worried about the uber driver. Worried about me. Worried about the woman who had a cigarette stowed in her hand and driving a mini cooper next to us in 405 interstate highway. Google maps on the driver’s dashboard showed 11 more miles to the airport. Today was yet another rainy day(61% chance of rain, the weather app on my phone accurately pointed) in Seattle. This past weekend was the start of fake summer. Yes, memorial day weekend kicks off summer flicks and vacations, although summer usually arrives much later in Seattle. At least the first rose(rich yellow) bloomed in my front yard, I saw that after coming back from a trip to Port Angeles for the long weekend. Rosy digressions aside, the song on my ears was about 3 minutes and 27 seconds long. If the driver took a minute to drive a mile I could listen to the song roughly 3.3 times. That would push the total listen count past 600. Yeah, 600++ times, conservatively counting.

I was worried about the driver and the woman as they probably wouldn’t get a chance to hear this song in their lives. It was mesmerizing, slightly hypnotic, kinda psychedelic, kinda trippy and completely engrossing. I was worried about me as I was getting mad about the song. The song – Orey Oar Ooril from Baahubali 2. You, just like me, probably saw and heard it for the first time on-screen while watching the movie. And if you are still trying to recollect the song, its also called Hamsa Naava in Telugu, Veeron ke veer aa in Hindi, Ore Oru raja in Malayalam, <something> in Mandarin and Madness Me in English(nah, I’m kidding now!).

Amarendra Baahubali arrests his love interest, the princess Devasena as a token of respecting Raajamatha RamyaKrishnan’s words to take her back to Magizhmathi and the ship sets sail. The sailcloth expands into a symmetrical shape on either side, the camera closes in on Devasena who is technically a prisoner but also a prisoner in the heart of Baahubali. As she throws the pink pixie dust into the ocean, the ship transforms into a fantasy fleet. Amarendra, who is now drumming, to his part throws in some blue pixie dust that makes the ship rise above the clouds. This is where Rajamouli’s craziness starts to show up. As though a flying ship isn’t crazy enough things get pushed a bit too far and the clouds get converted into white horses that run along with the flying ship. 40 odd dancers belonging to both genders appear and the scene is all set-up for romance. A medieval flying ship, a tricky prisoner-cop situation between the protagonist to-be king and his lovely princess, cloud horses, dancer women and some mind blowing music. Here’s how the music goes at a closer look –

0:00 – 0:35 – The music starts off low-key, slowly fading in with some bells and plates clanging far away. At 0:08 the Mohana starts to slightly hint the ohhohhhoh humming and at 0:14 the rhythmic drumming starts to join in. Stop here.

At first I didn’t know why this drumming was so jiving and mesmerizing. It took me a good 10 times to understand. When I was 10, we used to go on summer vacation to Trichy. It was either through Chozhan or Malakottai express. And as the train nears Trichy, somewhere near Srirangam, it crosses the kollidam bridge. Being one of India’s longest bridge, we used to wait for the bridge crossing to come by. And when it crosses it used to make a kind of pleasant clickety-clackety sound. Pleasant because it announced the arrival of vacation for an urban dweller like me. The usual clickety-clackety of a train is amplified while crossing bridges and the sound is super cool. The drumming in OreyOarOoril reminded me of the clickety-clackety train crossing kollidam bridge. From here the drumming continues all the way to the end. That could have been the only reason why I fell in love with the song. But there’s more.

As the train noise drumming goes on, at 0:21 the nana nana nana nana nananananana of Mohana and the harmony team starts. This nana sound is key for the song as the lyrics depend on every other line ending with an ‘na’ based word. I don’t know if this sound found its place by itself or if was by design, it elevates the musical quality of the song.

                                  loopety loop of a single song. madness.

0:35 – 1:12 – The lyrics start with the pleasant Orey Oar Ooril, kind of like a fairy tale beginning (once upon a village, there lived a king). Between every phrase, you hear the fish plates sound of the train tracks as the train passes over them. So does this love ship. Now we get to know that this song belongs to Devasena. Its from her point of feelings. Every line ends with a question indirectly posed to Baahubali. Something like – this Devasena is like a struggling ferry in middle of a river, will he come to hold me up? In the next line she talks about how she is a prisoner of Baahubali (literally and figuratively).

1:12 – 1:40 – A tiny but a lovely interlude of violin or some modern string instrument comes in only for it to be taken over by the trumpets and a grand sounds of a ship fleet crossing the ocean. This is place where the sheer grandness of the song is established. You know the song is already transported to a different world.

1:41 – 2:08 – So we are right at the midpoint of the song and the first charanam of the song starts with Devasena and Baahubali both sharing the lyrics equally(Mohana for Devasena and Tippu for Baahubali). Devasena puts forth a romantic question to clarify if she is in a dream state and Baahubali responds like a true warrior prince. Metaphors starts to show-up and things gets heated up.

2:09 – 2:26 – Devasena starts a loud pitched ohhohhhoh followed by an amazing piece of poetic verse. In order to not spoil this by translating, she asks – ekantha kaalam maatrinana, thee pola en meedhu patrinana, theekolamai devasena. Your lyrical mileage may wary in various languages but in Tamil the imagery is that Devasena is now a burning hot ball of passion for Baahubali. The song reaches its brilliant peak. All the build-up is for this 15 seconds of brilliance. Vairamuthu’s son Madan Karky and Maragadamani come together along with Mohana. The tamil lyrics fit the whole scene hand-in-glove expressing the Devasena’s side of love towards BB. This culminating effect is mind-blowing when experienced in big screen.

2:27 – 3:00 – The second paragraph is a bit condensed. You get to hear the Orey Oar Ooril pallavi quickly followed by four lines of a new charanam. Devasena concludes that she is now under the spell of Baahubali, blindly following him and speechless.

3:01 – 3:27 – The clickety clackety and the nananananana continues to fade out and things wrap-up.

It’s not often that I go mad for a single song but it’s also not so uncommon. Maybe one per year is my average. First it was Vellai Pookal from Kannathil Muthamittal, then it was Oh Eesa! from Aayirathil Oruvan, Dhan te Nan from Kaminey, Manipaaya from Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya, Asku Laska from Nanban, Kanukkul Pothivaippen from Thirumanam Enum Nikkah and recently Parandhu Sella Vaa from OK Kanmani. All these songs attack you at different level of lyrics, music and singing quality.

With this particular song it is the fantasy situation of the song in an already fantasy movie. Fantasy movies are always tricky. You either believe it or don’t. The reason a fantasy movie works for you is purely based on whether you take this leap of faith or not. All the ones who took the leap in Aayirathil Oruvan thoroughly enjoyed it, same with ET or King Kong or Baahubali. You either question how a bunch of untrained soldiers catapult into the fort using the Angry Birds formula or you just don’t. I loved the movie completely. Even more so the song. 700+ and counting now…

O Kadhal Kanmani – Of Millennials and Maritals

OK-Kanmani_2

Disclaimer: What follows is a stream of consciousness type writing that hasn’t been edited at all. There are extreme indulgences about Mani’s past movies and some personal observations but if you want to know what a die-hard Mani fan felt about OKKanmani you should probably read it. Each of the paragraph is a standalone card so feel to start anywhere or leave anywhere.

— Mani Ratnam just killed my enthusiasm. I thought I lost the love story gene. While watching a random film, recently, I thought of writing an outright love story(read as பிழிய பிழிய) with romance and separation just to bring myself to it. Not that all I have written so far, either full stories or drafts or just bits of ideas have been made into full-fledged films or even seen the light of the day. But I really wanted to write one to see how I was able to bring out the drama from romance. With O Kadhal Kanmani, I feel even that faint idea to write a love story is now gone. How can it be better than this. Truly.

— There are Vikraman movies which sports a montage song and makes a bathroom singer into a super star singer where people just rush into a hall to listen and the ticket counter guy is shown placing ‘houseful’ placard across his counter for over 20 times back to back. And then there are movies like OK Kanmani which slowly and craftily captures the mundane of daily life to show the growing romance. The growing romance is so rich documented that the camera just hangs around like another viewer in weird angles and moves/shakes naturally. Refer the discussion between Adi and Thara after AR Ameen peacefully sings Maula Wa Salim, the camera almost peeks between the pillar and Adi’s head to see Thara’s face. The same seductive onlooker camera also enters into the white blanket alongwith Adi and Thara to hear these two millennials after a steamy romance session. This is Mani’s master stroke more than it is PC Sreeram’s. It’s the vision of the director to take the audience up, close and personal into Adi and Thara’s carefree life.

— The movie has a bit of micro-adventures. And they make it very interesting and sometimes comical. Like the moment when Thara jumps put of window as Adi’s brother arrives at his doorsteps and the comical stress surrounding the situation. There are even more micro-adventures like this one – Thara is on phone with her mom arguing and enquiring about the ‘special love’ shown to Adi during her absence. While she is such argumentative mood and walking with Adi, the bus arrives and they have to run to catch it. So as an audience you are now subjected to two sets of issues, will they catch the bus and what will the mom reply from the other-end of the phone call. And there are more moments like this, sort of frame-within-a-frame. So even though the film doesn’t sport a very dramatic third act, these adventures keep it going.

— Mani has fully engulfed Kurosawa. One cannot remove Kurosawa from his consciousness any more. He chooses to add energy to the movie as the cast keeps walking or taking a bus or getting rained on or something that keeps moving on-screen. From using weather to cooking sounds to camera pans, Mani uses everything possible to tell the story evocatively.

— After the movie, I went back to refer Wikipedia for a definition of Live-in relationship aka Cohabitation. I was terribly confused about what is so live-in relationship in OKK story. What Mani chooses to show is just the tip of the iceberg. This time-boxed love was already the Sid and Trisha short story in Aayitha Ezhuthu and even Nagarjuna/Girija of Idhayathai Thirudathey. Not a single issue of live-in relationship was brought out, not even adjusting with a single bathroom to use. All we know is that the couples indulge in a pass time as Thara confirms at the gynecologist office. Nithya Menon just nails the expressions during this scene that will be enough to prove her acting chops.

— Nithya Menon, what a find. A certain awesome reviewer highlighted in a certain high-profile movie review that he watches a certain awesome director’s movie as he is one of the best in portraying women. I was thinking how would that make a case for watching crappy movies of that c.a.director. Today, I would like to politely say, buzz off, to both of them. Thara is simply the best protagonist role a girl can ask for. It’s not the S.A. Chandrasekaran’s activist type roles but a role that has a purpose, style, sentiments and forms the core part of the OKK story. So again, buzz off sirs.

— Rahman. I was definitely critical of Rahman not supporting Mani’s Kadal. When I get to see the maestro play in Redmond during June, I will throw an extra clap for that brilliant electronica fusion he did in scene when Adi passes flying kisses to Thara just as a carnatic number finishes in the background. Rahman’s BGM is a breath of fresh air in the film. Both Rahman and PC Sreeram’s pallets have been rich and vibrant for OK Kanmani. They both have gone beyond in their respective areas to bring the story alive with colors and sounds. Such exquisite feast.

— Mani Ratnam is ageing very well. He has Bhavamulona(twice in the film) and Endharo Mahanubhavulu in the background. And Bhavamulona is used as a motif for Thara in troubled times. Mani’s taste for good carnatic music mixed with contemporary sounds is a sweet surprise. Not that I don’t know Mani’s love for carnatic music which has been there for a while but here is an indulgence. Go!

— Here is how a director goes for using just the right amount of ‘graphics'(lol) for a movie. And not talk about it in media.

— Live sound, really. Fantastically done. Great job, Anand.

— Yes the movie reminds me of various other movies of Mani. In fact I can tell you most shots remind of some other Mani’s movie. I can even see shots of Thalapathi and Anjali. It is still a very gripping engaging movie. As you invest the first half of the movie in Thara and Adhi, you are bound to be heartbroken in the second half and that did not just happen by happen. The master’s every shot was meant to get you to that state. Sheer Glee!

— The bright red wall paper in Adi and Thara’s grand apartment was so lovely and yet didn’t look like a set piece. Sharmishta Roy’s art direction was tasty and very urban.

— Scott Fitzgerald in his less popular, This Side of Paradise quoted- “They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered”. Not only it happens to Adi and Thara but also to us.

— Mani rides on Kamalhassan’s hardwork. Pottu Vaitha Kadhal Thittam song is popularly known for its fantastic rock-like composition in a happy-go-lucky movie. And by taking the lyrics, Mani sets the tone for OK Kanmani. Smart move.

— Theera Ulaa was the best surprise of the soundtrack. The song grew so much and is almost at the top of the album for me at this point. Part carnatic and part electronic, it’s probably the best representative of the spirit of the album. Great job Vairamuthu just for this song. Lovely lovey tamil verses.

— Finally, like James Joyce and Stanley Kubrick, Mani chooses to stay silent, exile and cunning. For a fan like me, I see it in every single movie. His movies speak louder than his words. This time the world agrees with me.

A year without ebooks

thevisualmiscellaneum

With utmost certainty I can say that I was one of the first few who bought the Kindle Voyage when it came out last November. I ordered it online but it was going to take a few days before Amazon shipped it home. On the day when Amazon started to ship Kindle Voyage, I went to Best Buy before they even opened their doors. And when they did, I went in to buy the first Kindle Voyage from that shop. I’m pretty sure that I am among the first 1000 who laid their hands on Kindle Voyage. That just goes on to explain how I love the Kindle as a reading device. And that’s an understatement.

Kindle is way better than tablets just because of the fact its less distracting than its tech peers. One could do one thing very well with Kindle, that is to read. Even in such a device I’m sometimes distracted reading book reviews on the Kindle store. Kindle Voyage was built on the same awesomeness of Kindle design. With tactile buttons for page turns it was simply awesome. It’s truly the Rolls Royce of e-book readers. I enjoyed reading with it for a month. And then something happened.

Last year was a very productive year for my reading. I read over 25+ books. Each of them must have been solid 300+ pages. The list includes a terrific 600 pager I simply devoured. I was able to read through the night without disturbing others only because of the frontlit Kindle. But one day, I had this weird feeling I wasn’t remembering what I was reading. It wasn’t just staying with me. When I used to read physical deadwood books, I could recollect some memorable parts from the book very easily. I could even recollect if it was on the left or right, top or bottom of page. It was so vivid. With e-books I suddenly felt I was losing that ability. So I decided to experiment this year by reading only deadwood books. I still use Kindle Voyage on a daily basis to read the articles I store on Instapaper. Just can’t let go of Kindle.

Since January I have read handful of deadwood books and they are great. The book that I’m reading, The Visual Miscellaneum can just not be read on a Kindle device. I still cannot say if my memory has improved by depriving myself of ebooks. But I’m certainly enjoying reading from tangible objects. Will keep you posted on this year-long experiment.

Blast from the 'Kadhal Desam' past

Reading through a chat conversation from long time ago, I ended up reading this post from 2006. The relevancy and timing was impeccable. This is one of the few personal blogposts on the site and if you have some free internet time, read on.

Like a first time director telling his proposed story to a producer, I would tell stories with vivid descriptions and some exaggerated facial expressions. From Aandipatti to Amsterdam, the stories opened and closed all around the world, with turning points in the right places. And I told them that I would shoot this particular story as a magnum opus and the other sci-fiction, which I kathachufied the previous day would be my third film. Kamal to Rajini to Nasser and sometimes even SPB became many characters of my stories and these CC[counter culture] guys believed I would really strike chord with films someday. Huh !!

Fan mail, a primer!

It must have started with Shakespeare and then moved over to Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy but it reached its peak with Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain. While it continues to prosper even in this age, a book on fan mail only happens to very few writers. Read a sample below, and more.

Dear Mark Twain:

Writing this letter is one of the pleasantest duties I have to perform before leaving for “Hell or Hadleyburg” — which the doctor tells me must be soon now.

In fact I’m living beyond my time, — because he said Oct 15 was my last day “on live” — The only reason I didn’t die on that date was that I wanted to read your latest story in Harpers. Some people see Naples and die, — I prefer to read Mark Twain & die. I’ve never seen Naples, — and dont expect to. I’ve read almost everything youve written, — and when I finish your whole output I’ll give up seeing Naples and die happily without that privilege.

But —

I want to thank you for all the pleasure your books have given me during many years of confinement to my room. Life would frequently have been dull indeed had it not been for the companionship of Huck Finn, Col. Sellers, et al.

When I get to Hell the greatest torture that I will have will be the possible knowledge that you shall have written something else I shall not be permitted to read.

Yours gratefully
Benj Ochiltree.

Kadal – Uncharted

mani ratnam - kadal

Barring one fundamental flaw that equals Minnale’s Abbas/Madhavan flashback, Mani takes his beloved tamil audience to a place that is not only deep but has enough grey areas to ponder. Its understandable that the movie is already widely hated given that it makes one uncomfortable at places, just like any great piece of art.

With it’s cast providing great support, Jeyamohan’s story with rich characters and their back-stories lit up at right places, Kadal is Mani’s masterstroke that will be unfortunately overlooked due to one huge mistake, setting expectations. Kidnapping a literary story to people’s heart while marketing it to be a outright love story is deceiving and Mani will have to pay for that. For a Jeyamohan story, its not all that black given his track record but for Mani Ratnam this blackness is very new. Editor Sreekar Prasad and ARR have missed opportunities at right places to backup Mani with that extra cut or that punchy BGM but after all its the captain’s fault at the end.

As we drove back, my friend and I filled up the remaining holes by discussing and this is exactly what Mani should have done implicitly. Also should have had the heart to cut the Disney graphics at the end and should have stopped at the hospital shot.

Regardless, a work to rejoice for the cinephiles. 5 -8 years from now, this will be regarded as a classic. Come back to read this again.

P.S: My cheap shot sentence – And please stop saying the movie is about a 3 hour religious discourse. Get a life, become inclusive and take it easy, yo’all!

Missing the appetite

hunger games

I’m not a targeted viewer for the Hunger Games movie. Yet I decided to watch it on the opening weekend and it was as expected, not very interesting. Having read a couple of similar game-of-death books and even watched a very comparable movie back in the day, to me, hunger games is a missed opportunity. It is very obvious that the producers decided to reduce a violent hungry movie into a PG 13 to laugh their way to the bank and it seems like ‘the odds are ever in their favor’. In that process they killed the possibility to make it into a spine-chilling thriller.

Here is how the screenwriter’s palette looked like – a dystopian post-apocalyptic world, an emotional family sub-plot, worker class revolution, gothic political rulers, game-of-death, a forest where every inch is monitored through video cameras and ofcouse designed-on-demand AutoCAD wild animals. The movie’s payback does not match the build-up to it. Mel Gibson would have aced through a story like this, just like how he managed to pull-off an apocalypto.

I was actually bought into the movie during the first 20 minutes and then as they delayed and delayed the start of the game, it seemed to me like they were going in for a kill but what do I know, just read the first line of the post again.

Let's do the numbers!

Not a big fan of calling out birthdays and such. But it has been ten years since this and 35 altogether. So much has changed and to that note so much has not changed. As in corporate speak, let’s do some high level numbers –

From and including: Monday, March 21, 1977
To, but not including : Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It is 12,784 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date
Or 35 years excluding the end date

Alternative time units
12,784 days
1,104,537,600 seconds
18,408,960 minutes
306,816 hours
1826 weeks (rounded down)