Monday, April 09, 2007

Veerasamy - The Man of Action: "Sollama Varathu Tsunami....Solli Varathu Veerasamy" (Spoiler Warning: Plot Revealed Below)

There comes a time in every office when all of its members decide they need a break from the mundane realities of life, and the unrelenting pressure of Bombay-based head offices. The options are to smoke up, to get drunk or to watch a movie that will touch the same chord in everyone. The first is illegal, the second is not advisable amongst colleagues (especially in an office where every other line borders on innuendo), and a careful selection has to be made when it comes to the third. In our case, Veerasamy was the solution - and it had the same effect as either of the previous options could have.

In a film which is written, directed, scripted, cinematographed, musical-scored, playback-sung and acted in by T. Rajendran, the "dialogue" begins from the world go. Right from the 'villi' who greets her husband with "hoi dorling", to her nymphomaniac daughter who lusts after her uncle, who in turn shares a bond of love immersed in purity (notwithstanding raunchy dream sequences) with TR's sister, to the sexy tomboy who has attempted to thwart Veerasamy's assassination by thrusting her ample stomach between the knife's egde and his own equally ample stomach, and who now craves for his love, the complexity of the plot is all set.

An MLA, who considers his BA and ML more important than the MLA, who studied under streetlights so he could install electric lights in his house (as he himself declares), Veerasamy also seems to be quite a karate and karagaattam expert. The last-named talent comes through in the climactic sequence, where - for no reason one can think of - he pulls off his dhoti and dances with it in one hand, and a knife in the other. He's also proficient at installing a secret camera in a hard-bound book. Amongst his many talents, is his knack of getting past the guards of several high-security government offices.

TR maintains his policy of not laying his hands on the heroine, quite admirably. He works around it by hanging on to her pallu and titillating her lips with a ball-point pen. It must be mentioned that these happen only in her dream sequences. In the meanwhile, Mumtaz herself fights her libido by stealing a poster of his from his house, which she sleeps on to console herself after her mother brands her with a burning log for not following her footsteps into commercial sex work. She also comes up with the more ingenious idea of bathing with the soap she stole from his bathroom. The soap lasts her all through the movie, and one wonders whether this is an indication of the timespan of the movie or her personal hygiene.

Another aspect of TR's acting one is forced to admire is the gamut of expressions that play across his face. One is sure he could hold his own against a Bharathanatyam dancer doing the 'Thillaana' item. The sensitivity of his portrayal of the character extends to an externalisation of his emotions - a rocking chair, whose varying pace indicates the state of his mind. This rocking chair also forms his final resting place. Yes, Veerasamy dies - again, inexplicably. At the sight of his death, Mumtaz's heart seems to, quite literally, break - on the spot. The only element missing is a shot of them running through the Elysian fields together and singing - finally, together again. The lack of that shot leaves one with a sense of incompleteness.

Recommended for: bealeagured 9 to 5-ers who need a break, for new-age thinkers who revel in the "chutnefication" Rushdie waxes poetic about, for overweight, hairy men who need to feel good about themselves, for jaded middle-aged women who need to feel good about their choice of husbands, for offspring who consider their parents embarrassing (with the exception of Simbu) and for aspiring lyricists who have begun to lose faith in themselves.

Not Recommended for: heart patients, pregnant women and impressionable children.

300 - The Carnal and The Intellectual (Spoiler Warning - The Plot is More or Less Revealed Below)

It is very rarely that men are seen as sex objects in a movie. But the team behind 300 was out to change all the stereotypes. An army of 300 men who have apparently undergone 7 hours of training a day for close to a year occupied the enormous screen, magnifying the rippling, sleek muscles to proportions that were a veritable treat to the eye.

In fact, apart from a half-minute sequence where two concubines share a lesbian kiss, the needs of the male audience were largely ignored. The climactic scene offers the sight of a warrior leaping over his king, bouncing off the king's back to slay one of the evil commanders. I think the scene just gave red-blooded women the world over an epic moment in their collective conscious - comparable to the male fantasy of Princess Leia in the golden bikini. Scantily clad men who wield swords and shields and helmets with the utmost ease, even in their dying moments, and whose king is stopped from surrender by the memory of his wife's was like the filmmakers had delved into the wildest imaginations of the most idealistic women in the world, and created an orgy of their findings, and rolled it out over two hours.

However, one wishes they had paid the same attention to the facts involved. For one, the Persians are portrayed as being of African and Asian origins. There are about four faces that seemed to have Middle Eastern features. Secondly, for some reason, the Persians seem to have owned magical creatures and had some sort of God who was carried around on a pedestal that was hundreds of steps high, and who descended from the bottommost of those steps by climbing on to the backs of the men in the Persian Army. This God also seems to have had an inexplicable penchant for shaping his eyebrows and getting his face pierced.

Oddly enough, the one woman in the movie is portrayed as some sort of combination between an Amazon and Sappho. Aside from wearing skimpy costumes, forcing her husband to make love to her while he was planning his strategy for war and stripping for the head of the council to make sure that the council would hear out her plea to send reinforcements to her husband, she didn't seem to have too much of a role to play. However, she is instrumental in the climax, where she grabs a sword and kills the head of the council for accusing her of infidelity - the head of the council, strangely, has a fancy for carrying around gold coins of a currency that will prove he is a traitor - and of course, the coins spill out as she kills him, and therefore the council bows down to her wishes.

At the end of the day, the movie is a must-watch for women who like eye candy, anti-racism campaigners for material to add to to their files, animation students, owners of gyms in India who usually display nauseating images of bodybuilders with instestine-like bisceps on their boards and beauticians to check out how nicely eyebrows can be trimmed.

The Byline Boom

Maybe the beginning was "To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before"...maybe it was the advent of classy gangster movies of the breed of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Snatch...whatever..but at the end of the day, producers of Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films got it into their heads that every movie needed to have a byline. Which spawned a series of bylines that leave you gaping, rubbing your eyes, twisting your brains and wondering..."how???"

One of the best I've come across was on this Telugu film poster that has the producer talking on a mobile phone in one corner. There are three pictures of the hero - one in which he's glaring at the camera, while the heroine seems to be assaulting his modesty from the back; another in which he's dancing in a kurta, with four other men blowing at their (musical) instruments; and another in which he's wearing a hoodie and has blue eyes and is staring icily into the camera. And the by-line reads 'The Ultimate Weapon'. I believe the movie is called 'Brahmaastra' and is an Indianisation of Jet Li's 'Unleashed'.

And who can forget 'Manmadhan - Only God Can Judge Him'? But even better was Simbu's father's - not to be outdone by 'The Little Superstar', he came up with 'Veerasamy: The Man of Action'. Through this film, you're torn between deciding which is the more creative one-liner; the byline, or the film's punchline, "Sollaama varadhu tsunami; solli varadhu veerasamy". Sivaji's byline was probably more anxiously awaited than its audio or theatrical release. The producers disappointed with 'The Boss'. However, they made up for it with the publicity stills...if Rajinikanth's make-up for Chandramukhi was sponsored by Asian Paints, well, his wig in Sivaji must have been a collaboration between the remnants of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan - a white-ish blonde.

However, the movie that wins my vote for the byline that brought traffic to a halt on Mount Road seems to have never left the cans - it was a movie called 'Arakkan' if I'm not wrong. It had the picture of this enormous body-builder snarling into the camera, blood flowing from his nails, his eyes wild (and for good measure, enhanced by firelights in the iris-es)...only to be emasculated by the by-line...'He Is Not a Man'.
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