Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bleeding Bond

You know what struck me 10 minutes into the new Bond flick, Casino Royale? Bond bleeds; he's almost human, dammit!

Daniel Craig plays a very different Bond from what's been the norm so far. Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan etc were mere clones of the sheer force of personality that Connery originally brought to the role (and pretty poor clones at that; I liked Connery so much that I've not seen most of the other Bond movies since, except for a couple of Roger Moore ones). Bond here is relatively new at being 007, and Craig brings alive Bond's desperation to succeed. Despite not looking t
he part, Craig has enough vitality to pull it off. I guess it helps that this Bond is not the suave, confident and one-liner spouting cool spy we are all so used to. Instead, Craig's Bond is a blonde athletic man with an arcebic wit to boot, who gradually grows into Bond (this might be something that the director Martin Campbell actually devised; if so, more credit to him).

The story is pretty simplistic; in a corny, corny scene Bond even wakes up from the dead (literally!). The Bond girl (Vesper) here is pretty alright, and the character provides some kind of insight into why Bond goes on to treat women the way he does. Its probably good that Aishwarya Rai was not picked for this role; she'd have fluttered her large eyelashes through the role. Eva Green does a neat job of it, bringing in quite a bit of intrigue to her character.

The bleeding-eyes villain is rather lame. The card-game, which could have been so good, is very poorly done. The action scenes are excellent (particularly the grainy opening scene inside the bathroom, and the chase until the Embassy), but the Bond car (with all the gadgets) was desperately missed. The movie could definitely be trimmed down by at least 30 minutes.

Worth a watch, at least to see Craig as Bond.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another Look at Virumandi

'Virumandi' is one of Kamal's serious movies that did not impress me much. Upon first viewing, it hardly seemed to be in the class of other gems such as 'Mahanadi', 'Anbae Sivam' and 'Hey Ram'. Granted, the film featured at least a couple of awesome performances (which seems to be a standing feature of most Kamal movies, which is why the standard accusation of onemanship against him is not completely justified IMO) courtesy Pasupathy and Abhirami, as well as an unusual screenplay. But the movie fell well short of my high expectations. Which is when another look at the movie presented itself, I had my eyes out for some redeeming features (I just hate hating the Kamal movies!).

First, the positives:

The relative newcomers, Pasupathy and Abhirami turn in masterly performances. Pasupathy oozes menace and deceit, and Abhirami delivers a knockout of a performance as a vivacious willage lass with a strong mind (a performance largely ignored by most of the awards, strangely). In fact, both of them out-act a strangely out-of-form Kamal, who looks really old and jaded in the flashback portions. Perhaps the onus of being the screenplay-wrier, stunt-director, director, singer and hero got to him! Though Kamal manages to showcase his method-acting skills in a couple of scenes (notice how his fingers twitch when he is nervous), he is listless for the most part - well, as listless as a Kamal perormance can be, I guess. Napolean looks dignified, and deadpans a few lines. Rohini does a neat cameo, in which her confrontation scene with Kamal was just AWESOME.

The screenplay is another laudable aspect about the movie. Opting for a two-pronged narrative adds many a layer to the movie, and each layer unravels only upon the re-telling of the tale. Masterly (though not entirely original)! The manner in which the movie unfolds - like a documentary, thru the eyes of a human activist, portrayed by Rohini - is impressive too.

The village ambience is yet another huge-plus for Virumandi. A typical TN village has been painstakingly recreated, and everything is just apt. Ilayaraja provided some outstanding BGMs as well - some of the more impressive pieces being during Pasupathy's narrative, Kamal's courtship of Abhirami etc.


First of all, the violence: now, I am not exactly squeamish about violent movies; I just loved the 'Kill Bill' series. But certain movies warrant certain kinds of stunt direction. In incorporating the same 'Kill Bill' style of action sequences for 'Virumandi' that he did for 'Aalavandhan', Kamal falters. The sub-standard graphics don't help either. It does seem to me, a keen observer of Kamal's cinema, that Kamal has a fixation for a certain kind of violence on screen - blood spraying, limbs getting chopped etc are getting to be increasingly repetetive.

The implied message - that of capital punishment not suitably deterring crime - also seems half-hearted. Virumandi is not exactly the most innocent guy around; he's just gone around murdering half a dozen people, and stabbing another dozen - not exactly the best candidate for clemency, I'd say. Putting that bit in was Kamal trying to be rather a bit too clever for his own good - attempting to elevate the film from being merely the tale of a happy-go-lucky villager to a socially relevant fable. However, it backfires, making the movie seem half-baked.

All in all, a brave attempt by Kamal to balance the sensibilites of the front-benchers and of his own niche audience - he doesn't entirely succeed, but that won't stop him from trying again, I am sure. And that is exactly what makes me admire the hell out of the man.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Married Life

Why does everybody feel like they have to ask me what my married life is like? I mean, its not like I am going to tell them them that married life sucks; so why! And this 'married life' thing is a huge misnomer; so far, 'married life' is pretty much like 'unmarried life'! Ok, mabbe I'm a bit green behind the ears still, so ask me the damn question coupla years later, dude!

And then then are the marriage jokes. Everybody, but everybody has a marriage joke to tell me. Its not all that hilarious, folks; check out whether the grin plastered on my face is genuine at first! In fact, not a single marriage-joke has amused me so far.

The last two weeks have passed by like a whirlwind; we had the appointment at the US consulate, where an old lady in her 60s trying desperately to look as if she were in her 40s instead, clicked her tongue sympathetically at my wife while viewing our marriage photographs (ithe photos are a necessity at the consulate to get a dependent-visa for your wife). I explained to her that all the snaps where I was topless were inside the temple, and she passed on a wry 'Yeah, I know' in my direction (I liked the tone of that one, though, resigned and incredulous all at once!). And the visas were ours.

Barely a week later, we found ourselves on an Emirates flight bound to Dubai (and then to JFK), with our rented house in Chennai left in shambles, and our poor parents left to take care of packing off all our stuff home. Upper management sucks, I do have to say - havent they heard of something called prior notice? If it wasn't for my friends in this project, I'd never have had an inkling, and would have had to call the whole thing off. As it was, it was quite hectic.

Landed in JFK, reached the hotel. This is the first time I was being put up in a hotel like this, and I went ape-shit after 4 days like this. Needless to mention, my wife was snapping at me for every second word I uttered. Thankfully, I managed to find an apartment and shift within 3 more days. And right now, its apartment-furnishing time!