Archive for the ‘Misc Posts’ Category

Thevar Magan

thevarmagan

Thevar Magan isn’t my favourite Kamal Hassan film but it’s one of the most complete, I feel, in the sense that there’s very few moments that feel out of place and the story is told in a naturalistic and flowing manner.  Most films in those days were not extensively storyboarded and planned out the way films in the West are, so that feeling of cohesion is a lot less common.  The film has something of a conflicting legacy.  Here we have a film made with the good intentions of criticizing a martial culture and rural violence, yet the film seemed to become a hit partially due to people not understanding this message and instead treating it purely as a celebration of their own background.  One can see how this happened, because the film tries to avoid being heavy-handed about the critical message (I wouldn’t call it subtle though) and since some other moments show characters pride, the messaging might not be clear.  We can’t judge a film based on how it is misunderstood, but at the same time, it does leave something of a sour aftertaste.

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Thenmavin Kombath (Malayalam)

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Thenmavin Kombath is the original film which Tamil speakers might recognize as the original source adapted later as a Rajini film, Muthu.  Since the original is not a “superstar film” and doesn’t need to suit any preexisting actor, it’s a better version of the same story.  The film revolves around a love triangle which forms between Sreekrishnan (Nedumudi Venu), his servant Manikyan (Mohanlal), and a drifting drama artiste, Karthumbi (Shobana).  A whole host of misunderstandings and errors in communication lead to a confrontation and falling out of the close friends, eventually leading Sreekrishnan to try and drive Manikyan out of the village.

What made the movie memorable to me was mainly a combination of Mohanal and the imagery.  Boy, what a setting!  Scenes like the cart going through the jungle in Karnataka were wonderful to see.  As for Mohanlal, he really carries the first half of this film, particular in the comedic moments.  When the dust settles and the film takes a more serious note later on, the movie does suffer a little bit when we start following Sreekrishnan more, whose character does not have quite the same charisma.  I also thought Sreekrishnan’s change of heart at the climax could have been built up a little bit better.  At 3 hours length, the film does ask for a lot of patience for a relatively simple story, but the aforementioned attributes keep it from wearing out it’s welcome.  A good recommendation.

Good: Unnai Naan Santhithen

Though this film suffers a bit from over-dramatic scenes towards the end, the beautiful hilly countryside setting and the great music coupled with a generally pleasant story and good cast make it enjoyable.  The plot revolves around two parallel love stories, one between the younger pair of characters and one between an older pair.  Essentially, an estranged husband and wife (Sivakumar and Sujatha) meet each other again by chance through their association with two younger characters who fall in love (Suresh and Revathy).  The older two aren’t quite sure where to pick up their relationship from, especially as it causes various misunderstandings with the younger characters, who don’t know about their past.

The misunderstandings do get a bit theatrical, yes, and the female actors generally do a much better job than Suresh and Sivakumar, but it manages to keep from feeling exaggerated.  A tentative thumbs up on this one.

Did I mention how good the music is?

Great: Magalir Mattum

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Magalir Mattum is a comedy film by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, who was the director of the evergreen Michael Madana Kama Raja.  It tells the story of three women from different social backgrounds who have to team up against their womanizing boss, played by Nasser, which leads to a whole lot of crazy situations.  There is certainly a novelty factor to a film with three heroines and no important male characters apart from, well, the villain.  But what really makes the movie work is the chemistry between Rohini, Urvashi, and Revathy’s characters, who are all written to fill in each others gaps.  For example, one amusing recurring theme is the way that Rohini and Revathy have a lot more street smarts than Urvashi, but Revathy and Urvashi tend to be more book-smart than Rohini, leading to a lot of misunderstandings.  All three of them also have great comedic timing, especially Urvashi.

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Sargam (Malayalam)

Sargam is a delicate and highly musical story told using a subdued emotional palette and a wonderful backdrop of Carnatic music.  The story revolves around two characters, Hari and Kuttan Thamburan, who have grown up very closely right through childhood.  One forms a close bond with the lead female character, Thangamani. Kuttan Thamburan, however, has a recurring problem of fits, and eventually it is advised that he marry Thangamani.  Although the elders are aware of Hari’s love for her, they make their decision and he defers to them out of respect and leaves the village.  Soon after, Kuttan Thamburan learns that he has unintentionally betrayed his friend and commits suicide.  The sight of his body sends Thangamani into a state of trauma for the next several years, after which  Hari returns to visit his home and comes to terms with what has happened.

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Talking about Japan, Muthu, Rajini

I’m going to talk a little today about the strange phenomenon of Muthu being successful in Japan.  Through a combination of marketing and large word-of-mouth, it became a fad in the couple of cities it was shown in cinemas- “If you don’t see Muthu, you’ll regret it”, people would tell each other (so I hear, anyways).  So why did Muthu appeal to the Japanese enough to make a splash?  I’ve read Japanese reviews of the movie (with my minimum Japanese reading ability), and it seems like a mix of escapism and culture shock.  Consider that the modern Japanese lifestyle is very stressful and fast-paced, and Japanese society has become increasingly consumerist and generally very concerned with status.  So you can see why the story of Muthu, with Rajini roaming around on his carriage singing the optimistic praises of a simple life untainted by money would appeal to a certain tired, stressed generation of Japanese.  Of course, all the singing and dancing provides a sort of nonsensical, exotic fun to them.  Meena’s “charm” also earned her a minor Japanese fanbase as well.  There are, of course, zealous fans of Rajini who believe that he has become a celebrity in Japan and that Japan thinks Muthu is an amazing film.  That is mostly exaggeration.

Here’s a brief quote by Takashi Miyamoto, a Japanese school teacher: “There is so much of humour in it (Muthu). One never finds this in Japanese cinema”.  Japanese cinema trends towards artistic realism.  For this reason, when more dramatic Tamil films like Bombay were later marketed in Japan, they weren’t nearly as successful as Muthu.  That’s because the Japanese already have dramatic films, and they’re among the best in the world, so why do they need Indian dramatic films?  Muthu, on the other hand, provided a certain fairy-tale-ish heartwarming positivity.  Japanese viewers don’t think it’s amazing filmmaking – I’ve read over some reviews on Amazon Japan, and they usually go like this: “it’s a simple movie, kind of weird and silly, but I had fun watching it.”  A simple fun story with clear-cut morals and an optimistic view of life – that’s basically what appeals to them that they can’t find in Japanese movies, just like they turn to Hollywood for excessive big budget movies that the Japanese don’t care to make much of on their own.  In fact, I heard it once described as “Like a Disney movie, but for adults”.

As for my thoughts on Muthu, there’s not much point in reviewing it.  There is a brand of film called a “Rajini” film which has been established for the past 20 years.  When I was a little kid, I probably watched Muthu a million times.  Now that I’m older, that kind of obsession is long gone, but I guess I will always have a soft spot for it in terms of nostalgia.