Killing the Commercial Cro(a)p !!

Hemanth’s note on Killing Michael Bay, pushed me to watch the film on iFilm. And a big WOW, I let out after I finished watching this shortish fiction movie with classy motifs. An upset digital filmmaker, alongwith his friend, plans to kill the famous commercial movie maker, Michael Bay. Bay known for his famous masala movies like Bruce Willis’ Armageddon, Sean Connery’s The Rock and ofcourse the movie in context, Pearl Harbour. These two dudes upset by Bay’s bad(read commercial) films which kills the ‘good’ movies’ business, abduct him to a faroff place in Los Angeles. What happens when Michael Bay escapes forms the rest of this short film. It’s certainly a must watch provided you have a broadband connection and fifteen minutes to spare. It might tell you what a shoe-string budgeted short film can do.

The theme here is that commercial movies kill the good films with their sheer box-office money, studio power and ofcourse the intoxicating elements that gives people a real doppy feeling. They don’t allow people to look beyond the commercial stuff and there-by kill their intellect to appreciate worthy films. A brain dead scenario. But these guys who made the movie don’t tell such stuff directly. Rather they symbolically represent the current scenario as in Hollywood and how finally the commercial crop win over the spirited independent filmmakers. More than the inspiring theme, the movie itself is a nail-bitting satire on hollywood flicks which have Matrix style stunts, Bond style car chases and Arnold style WWF fist fights. The only thing missing was a bikini clad vamp. That would have completed a full circle.

I immediately thought about the comparison to Michael Bay in Tamil cinema. While we have a thousand such directors in kollywood, naming just one wouldn’t do justice(!!) to the entire group. But if someone were to even make a movie with a similar name, ‘ Killing XYZ’ in kollywood, even as a joke, they would be contested by the mushromming political parties with venom and anger. The kodambakkam heroes/heroines would walk, with their coolers(on a rainy day!!) from liberty theatre to beach as a token of showing opposition to the movie. One group would fire the theatres which features the movie. Thousands of cases will be filled in a zillion courts. If those film makers don’t appear even in one of the courts, it would become a contempt of court like what’s happening with Kushboo. I don’t suggest its all freedom here. But atleast this short film was released in 2002 and still lives on the internet.

Anyway, coming back to the title, I truly feel the class of independent film-makers are nearly non-existent in Tamil. It doesn’t need to be software engineers, running back from US, who should make independent movies. It could be anyone from a journalist to a cinema-loving Gumasta of a govt office. Such a wave of good cinema is yet to rock kollywood. I am sure that war will be staged soon. No matter who wins, 5 years from now if mainstream commercial movies( despite an awful storyline), be picturised without songs, I think its the victory for everyone collectively. What say ?

28 thoughts on “Killing the Commercial Cro(a)p !!

  1. Dude, if you like a movie just say I like it. Why is that there always has to be a section about what an indian mentality would be? I mean i guess you are just spoiling the post.

    P.S : I think the only thing you forgot to mention was that there would be an uproar saying they copied from the hollywood film Killing Micheal Bay

  2. Hey LG, you said

    “No matter who wins, 5 years from now if mainstream commercial movies( despite an awful storyline), be picturised without songs, I think its the victory for everyone collectively. ”

    So are you saying that a good story line with a couple of songs thrown in is bad for cinema?

    I think that songs are an inherent part of Indian cinema. They do not make sense most of the time. But if used intelligently (as in movies like HeyRam, Mahanadi, DesiyaGeetham and Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and MMKR(opening song)) they do add a flavour to the movie and take it up one notch. So what we do need and should be heading towards (in my opinion atleast) is towards more realistic and sensible storylines with songs to add more colour and flavour and yet retain the Indianness of the movie. Just a song less movie will not help.

  3. Ganesh,

    Having come from India, one couldn’t stop doing that. And don’t you think I’m justified in saying we should be a film like this in tamil, not just to copy from hollywood but given the no. of michael bay’s available.

    Mutrupulli, then they are not called songs, they get embedded into original soundtrack. BTW, Unnal Mudiyum thambi is a bad example. Idhazhil Kathai ezhuthum was a song out-of-place.

  4. Having said that, do you think we really don’t need “entertaining” movies (which are not total crap)? Do we need to write-off guys like Dharani?

    I guess ‘good’ commercial movies are fine, but need to chop off the ‘crappy’ ones like most of Vijay’s movies πŸ˜›

  5. Guru, i usually hate to do the “look at my post” kinda comment but couldn’t help it this time. my latest post is on ‘aayul regai’ – the kind of movie u(and i) wish Tamil cinema would make more often. was released recently but just went under all radars i think. not a great movie but just a very daring effort that needs support.

  6. Cipher /Ajay, I love songs in tamil movies. No doubt. After all only by songs we got a illayaraja and rahman. but i think we should have a genre of no-songs films also.

    more than 50% of films we take needn’t have songs at all. they are just stuck in and thats something i hate.

    we need people like dharani for the kollywood to thrive but also we need more people like mani ratnam who can balance between commerciality and artistry.

  7. lazygeek said: “but i think we should have a genre of no-songs films also”

    guru,

    just because some people dont know where to place songs does not mean that a movie without songs is a good movie. the push for movies without songs came from wanting to make hollywood movies that dont have songs and only use them in the background. that is not a standard. and that is not our style.

    the bulk of movie goers go for timepass, for entertainment and from that came the concept of songs and dances for it is but an extension of folk arts. songs and dances are an integral part of indian life, right from the kutcheri season and classical dance forms to garba, dandiya etc. so why shouldn’t it be a part of our movies??

    why should we have a genre of no-song movies?? i wouldnt even call it a genre but a mere style of making movies. the only reason you are advocating it is because for you that kind of movies seem superior than ones with songs. the reason that lagaan went as far as it did in the oscars is because it was truly an indian movie at heart! why do we call european, chinese, japanese movies as good quality movies? it is only because they make movies that reflect their perspective on life. they dont make movies that is streamlined to what hollywood makes.

    we need to carve out our niche brand equity and that is we don’t make mere movies, we make entertainers! and that is why moulin rouge tips its hat towards india!

    lazygeek said: “we need people like dharani for the kollywood to thrive but also we need more people like mani ratnam who can balance between commerciality and artistry”

    the same mani rathnam you mention is the one who has never made movies without songs and also has placed songs where they really stuck out like a sore thumb such as september madham in alaipayudhey. the only reason he stands out apart is because of his knack/talent of capturing those songs on celluloid. we go in to see his movies not only for the story but also for the songs and their picturization. i have watched alaipayudhey a zillion times, and every time pachai nirame starts, my heart lifts up and that is truly the magic of indian cinema. they affect our senses a lot more than hollywood movies do for no song movies such as usual suspects get our mind thinking and marveling at the cinematic techniques etc, but in the end only alaipayudhey can get our heart humming.

    additional stuff:

    idhazhil kadhai yezhutha was not improperly placed. the song unnal mudiyum thambi was the one that stuck out coz it was not needed at all.

    it is easier to make a satire almost always because what you plan to poke fun at is right in front of you. to make a movie from scratch is always a lot more difficult.

    there was a precursor to this movie you mention. the king of comedy had de niro kidnapping jerry lewis so that he could end up on air and do his stand-up comedy bit.

    katz

  8. lg,
    “5 years from now if mainstream commercial movies( despite an awful storyline), be picturised without songs, I think its the victory for everyone collectively.”

    Really?
    U saying watching movies WITHOUT a.r. rahman/ ilayaraja/ harris jayraj/vidyasaagar songs& picturisation by mani ratnam/ gautam menon/ rajeev menon/ shankar?
    But isn’t it enough that one watches ALL of these commercial movies, enjoy them & then diss them in one’s reviews?
    Y?Y?Y? this eagerness to conform everything to hollywood standards?
    Indian film industry is the only surviving industry to Hollywood, ‘coz it is so indigenous. And millions of indians including the ‘intellectual’ middle class watch these movies& enjoy them.
    Isn’t it enough that one has access to foreign independent movies to watch & discuss in detail, with fellow desis. y insist desi movies to follow the rich, white man’s style?

  9. Katz, Agree at places with your argument. But can you me the last movie where the placement of songs didn’t stick ut as a sore-thumb. Even Kannathil Muthamittal had the KM song with Madhavan places in the most inappropriate place.

    When we are making a thriller, I think we should go right into it like Ram Gopal Varma. I never like RGV until I saw some of his recent movies and he rocks !! For the only reason he had audience who would watch a movie without songs. This is one small fraction of bollywood.

    Why would Mani Ratnam decide to have songs in Aayitha Ezhuthu. AE is one right candidate for a narrative style without songs. He couldn’t do it. Be it peer ressure or competitveness and thats my earnest wish. The day Mani Ratnam could make a songless(with OST ofcourse) movie and blow it into a hit, I agree tamil cinema has come of age.

    I know you would know this already. Still, until Mahendran came to tamil cinema, it was just an extension of stage plays. He was one of the fore-runner to take kollywood to the next stage. Mani Ratnam grew on that pioneer’s path. He probably can take it into the next bit. Only, when is the hanging question !!

  10. //y insist desi movies to follow the rich, white man’s style?//

    Nandhasashi, I don’t insist. I request for a reformation. To watch a hero and heroine dance in the streets of swiz, truly sucks. I am asking for a change. Many good movies gets damaged in a country where people are ready to wait with the story until the hero and heroine come back after a 3 minute half-nude dance in switz. thats sucks, big time.

    Think in the shoes of a film-maker. He is pressurized to create a situation to plug in this song. And there goes the screenwriting for a big tendulkar six. huh !!

  11. hey ram except for the ramar aanalum was perfect. mumbai xpress was good. aayudha yezhuthu to a large extent was also good especially with the trimming of the nenjam ellam song!

    yes a thriller is an ideal setup for a movie without songs. BUT, how may of rgv’s recent thrillers have had any substance?? all of his recent ventures have been more style than substance. in my opinion, rangeela was one of his best movies because it delivered on all lines. kindly name the movies you are using as a benchmark so that i can understand where you are coming from. kurudhi punal did not have songs, why even the final version of mumbai xpress had only one song. but in trying to sterilize and sanitize movies to be sleek and compact, you also lose out on the soul of the movies. why is sarkar not a patch on godfather?? because it was all style. the original version took the time to set the characters up and it stuck to what works best for the story. rgv took and made it seem like a rushed highlight version of the movie and it didnt work. even a thriller can work with songs and i am sure there will be many examples for that.

    AE cannot be a candidate for a songless movie and it is because, the subject would have then collapsed under its own weight. even in amores perros a song is featured that helps move the story forward. it does not make sense to make a movie with no songs with such a subject because it will lose the broader appeal/audience. you can say therein lies the problem. BUT, therein lies the challenge. it is easy to make a movie that tickles the fancy of a few, it is harder to make one that captures the fancy of everyone. the former can be quality cinema but one cannot view it at all times. the latter may be more commercialized, but it can be viewed at all times. you dont need a specific frame of mind/mood to watch alaipayudhey. you do if you are watching a movie like seven or usual suspects. besides, a song can convey moods much better than words can.

    isnt mahendran the man who made jhony, which if i believe had songs? didn’t his movies have songs too? taking kollywood to the next stage?? all by himself?? weren’t there so many directors who did so much before him? again, you are making brand equity choices. how do you know that mani rathnam hasn’t taken it to that level already? why do you think it is mani rathnam who is the chosen heir? why not someone else? first of all, you need to accept tamil cinema for what it is. then only you can take it anywhere. you don’t like what indian cinema is all about and you want to take it down a path that someone else is on already and that won’t work because you are then imitating something, you are no longer being yourself.

    as for your response to nandhasashi, there is a reason why we have dvd players and vcrs. those are for people who don’t have time to enjoy a movie and can fwd/rewind/skip chapters as they please. when you are in a theatre, 3 minutes is just that. 3 minutes. guru, you seriously believe that good movies get damaged because a 3 minute song? was nayagan damaged because of the songs?

    the filmmaker is not pressurized to create anything. that is a misconception. any new director will want to make a commercial movie in order to reach a wider audience. any filmmaker who even agrees to make a movie with songs because the producer insists and does so because he rather make a movie with it than without it to establish himself cannot complain. and established directors like mani rathnam make movies with songs because they want to and not because they are pressurized. catering to the customer’s demands or wants or likes/dislikes is not called being pressurized. it is called delivering the goods. if he cannot deliver to that market and want to cater to a niche market, he is welcome to do so, but he cannot say that customers are stupid in wanting something that he couldn’t or didn’t want to provide. he can only say that that was not the right market for him.

    again we go back the question i had posed to you earlier. what is the definition of good cinema?

    katz

  12. lazy,
    I guess v have very different tastes.
    Iam the sort who eagerly waits 4 an item dance number, especially if it is koothu performed by a good dancer;simran/vijay/hrithik/ravi/vikram…..

    PS: I also hope they do away with the in sync, on location sound recording(another hollywood innovation)……That was 1 major irritant in ayitha ezhuthu(imo).I think studio dubbing, like the song&dance routine gives a larger than life feel to indian movies.

  13. guru,

    just remembered this:

    “No matter who wins, 5 years from now if mainstream commercial movies( despite an awful storyline), be picturised without songs, I think its the victory for everyone collectively. What say?”

    so a movie with songs is a defeat for cinema but a movie without songs DESPITE AN AWFUL STORYLINE is a victory?? wah wah! arre huzoor wah taj boliye!! πŸ™‚

    katz

  14. lazy,

    I figure u are meaning to say that directors should be able to make movies without songs if they didnt want any. Not put them for the sake of the market.

    Often market dictates that songs be present and the director succumbs to pressure from the producers. To that extent i agree that the day the directors can make a movie without songs and not
    worry any more than(about its business ) they would have for a movie with songs, it will be great for the art.

    Songs shouldnt be a compulsory part of the movie. The presence or absence of the songs should be dictated by the director’s vision for the movie. shouldnt be dictated purely by business trends.

    Basically, indian movies should not be equated to movies having songs but should be equated to good movies that often have songs.

  15. I usually like your posts except this one.

    Honestly I think the film sucks.
    Just because a few thousand people have seen it and rated as 4 stars doesn’t make it “must watch”. Even the movie in question Pearl Harbor was watched by millions and that by no means makes it “must watch” does it?

    I agree with Ganesh, what’s with this attitude? If you like something just appreciate it and move on, why compare?? It’s like comparing Pizza with Sambar Idli.
    Let’s assume that someone does make a short film in Tamil, how/where would they show it? who’s going to watch it?
    Only on the Internet and majority of the people watching would be Tamil NRIs, considering Broadband is yet to catch on in India/Tamilnadu.
    And how do you expect someone to make any money out of this, at least for sustenance if not for profit? My point is there’s no viable channel for distribution for this type of content.
    Without factoring this into account you cannot blindly accuse that people dont have creativity.

    There are good things happening in Hindi Cinema (Black (Amitabh) for example). I am sure Tamil Cinema will follow suit sooner or later.

  16. Nathan, I never knew a step towards betterment would land in such a problem. We shouldn’t be talking anything on the politicians.

    Even a thought isn’t allowed. What an atittude. I’m tired of trying to explain what I want to. BTW, it wasn’t about comparison. If i compare to pizza to idly sambar what you say could be write. I’m comparing american pizza with indian pizza. With the tamil directors trying to ape hollywood movies, my thought has even more relevance. I rest my case on fate πŸ™‚

  17. //so a movie with songs is a defeat for cinema but a movie without songs DESPITE AN AWFUL STORYLINE is a victory?? wah wah! arre huzoor wah taj boliye!! :-)//

    Katz, I think its about catching the words without dwelling deep into meaning. We are treading into a huge vidandavaatham. BTW, I have come to a completion that there can no one definition of good cinema. They are relative and vary from individuals.

  18. LG, read the post – was fine as ever but with loop holes inviting enuf for ready-to-pounce katzes πŸ™‚
    Then watched “killing michael bay”. Was interesting watch. But thatz it.
    Read the comments section – the most interesting of all with a debate on familiar lines after a long time and that too u being on the wrong side πŸ™‚
    I fully agree with Katz & co on the fact that songs do add sheen to movies – atleast to indian movies. Some reasons why songs are there in the movies:
    a) To move the story forward without elaborating in detail
    b) To fill in the assumed but accepted regulatory requirements for commercial viability (egs: item number, fill in atleast 14 reels, dance number for vijay etc.)
    c) To make the movie more palateable (if it is dead serious and too straight).
    Out of the above reasons, a and c make decent reasons while b doesn’t sound so.
    But then, our history dates back to “Haridas” kind of movies which had more songs than dialogues – probably moving into screens from dance dramas.
    “Value for money”: Cut the songs, the movie ends in 1.5 hrs and the common movie goer finds himself cheated for the money paid at ticket counter. He cannot sit remaining 1 hr reminiscing and relishing the good aspects (??) of the movie!
    Commercial movies, by terming them so, lack logic or practical feasibility (90%) as it is..(includes AE et al). When one can accept lack of logic, why look logic into songs alone (let fatso prabhus do a ballet with some lean babes in alps)?
    If we look into some of the songless movies (kadamai kanniyam kattuppadu, kuruthipunal, airport), most of these are cop stories with some good dose of action. These aren’t “Comedy” or “Family” genre movies. So as pointed by karthik, if the movie doesn’t demand, chuck it. Else have them. Let director decide. (on hindsight, the movies mentioned might have gained better commercial visibility with a couple of dance and item numbers :))
    Good movie is a relative term as you said. Content is the king (as “Chicago” showed us through songs). So songs or not is not the question. Contention in content of indian movies is the question.
    P.S.: One of the reasons for nominating “Paheli” tis time for oscars is the “indianness” of the movie with its songs!!! whether all agree with that or not is another question…

  19. Ilaya Thalapathi et al ‘s producers/directors/dad’s won’t like movies without songs. It makes them appear larger than life and paves the way for whatever the hell it is that they are planning to do in the future. Think of MGR movie without songs – I doubt if he became a Chief Minister on the strength of his acting. You have a huge audience that is by temperament very, very emotional, looking for any strands to hang on to for a couple of hours that will allow them to escape real life. It doesn’t end there – they vest those actors with imaginary larger than life qualities. It’s a feedback loop that is going to take a brave man to break – and with that will gradually bring about a decline in the political influence of Kodambakkam. Not sure if the film industry will let go of that.

    Secondly, Piggybacking on films are a whole lot of folks trying to shove their ideas down your throat through these songs – Rightly or Wrongly, these people believe that the film industry has played a huge role in the changes in TN in the last 100 years or so.

    But I suspect it will happen – Two brave souls whose names immediatly come to mind are KamalaHassan and Mani Ratnam. If the crowds that I saw for Ayudha Ezhutuh in the first week, and for a bunch of similar movies are any indication, then an audience with slightly different taste is starting to build up.

    BNB

  20. Americanized taste -expecting movies with no songs. Not that I am against it toally. Songs are unique to our films and we dont have to necessarily sacrifice it but be more judicous in its placement.

    “I’m comparing american pizza with indian pizza. With the tamil directors trying to ape hollywood movies, my thought has even more relevance”

    and this is another thing that bothers me. This has to go first. Our directors looking to Hollywood everytime for inspiration. A “Kaadhal” or “Autograph” should tell the likes of Gautam Menon and other newbies that good cinema can come from entirely within-as a product of real life experience, or inspired by local literary works or entirely a product of the director’s imagination.
    The Hollywood influence is on the rise- blame it on globalization, liberalization or whatever. Alonmg with music, movies seem to ape the Western style and in certain aspects(like tech) its good.

    No amount of west aping would fetch us a movie like 16 vayadhinile or Mudhal mariyaadhai or Salangai Oli. And how do these movies lose their lustre because of their songs?

    Its because our directors are trying to ape the Hollywood flicks to the last detail(they call it “glossy packaging” like in Ghajini) but still insert songs into an otherwise smoothly paced thriller, it sticks even more like a sore thumb. Poovizhi vaasalile was a good thriller and the songs didnt disturb the narrative. If you want to ape Memento or Matrix and then want to insert songs as well then that wont work always. Thats like pouring sambhar on top of the american pizza and eating it.

    The need of the hour is to look within, not towards the west for inspiration. To a certain extent Bala, Selavaraghavan, Cheran etc. are doing it.

    Although I am not fond of Ramgopal Varma for he does a lot of flicking as well(whats with remaking sholay? and a horrible cast at that?) he atleast goes for it fully. If you are going to ape the west, go for it fully. No songs. He releases the soundtrack separately though as a smart move to make some money but the movies themselves dont have songs. He is a step ahead of the Gautam Menons and the Murugadosses.

  21. “Why would Mani Ratnam decide to have songs in Aayitha Ezhuthu. AE is one right candidate for a narrative style without songs. He couldn’t do it.”

    Mani Rathnam was aksed this question and he replied that songs helped him in his narrative and werent an hindrance. what do you say for that?

    Personally, I dont buy that fully(He made Alaipaayudhe and inserted songs at the last minute) but atleast his placement of songs (and inserting them in the background like they do Hollywood flicks) is better.

  22. “The day Mani Ratnam could make a songless(with OST ofcourse) movie and blow it into a hit, I agree tamil cinema has come of age.”

    correction :The day Mani rathnam and others make a movie with songs that dont hinder the narrative, enhance the movie’s appeal and blow it into a hit is when Tamil cinema comes of age.

    Crouching Tiger Hidden dragonla parandhu parandhu adikkaraanga, Padayappa stylela- adhukku Oscar award vera kuduthuttaanga. Namma thamizh padathula yenpa andha maari paattu irukka koodadhu? Martial art unique to Oriental films- songs unique to our way of filmmamking.

    Mani rathnam is hesistant to make the full plunge like Varma. He knows that songs are a main reason why ppl still would want to see his films and hence cant seem to let go of them. He is a victim of his own style. His recent attempts to push the songs into the background are noteworthy but that didnt translate into BO success. So looking back, I feel even if he had omitted the soundtracks completely it wouldnt have changed the fate of those movies from a BO standpoint πŸ™‚
    (BTW,what was the last hit of Manirathnam? Me thinks he hasnt given a genuine hit since Bombay in 1995?!!)

  23. /* I’m comparing american pizza with indian pizza. */

    Agreed LG. Pizza’s ingredients are chosen in such a way that it keeps the body warm against dropping temperatures. So taking American pizza’s in America is fine but why do we want to take the same in India(where the temp. is HOT) ?! It has to be indianised with our need/availablity. Isn’t it?

    The same applies to movies also right ?!

  24. guru,

    that was your concluding line and so i took it as your conclusion on where you think indian cinema must be to equal the good story such as killing michael bay that prompted this blog. if you meant otherwise by those lines despite what it seems to convey as read, then i stand corrected.

    katz

    ps- the current issue of time magazine has an article on nathan lane and mathew broderick where they are talking about the possible rebirth of musical movies in hollywood.

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