The Curious Incident of the Gentlemen in the Night-Time

Scene 1:

It was the darkest of nights. Not the sort of night for a self-respecting gentleman to be out and about. The night was whispering all sorts of things, again , the sort of ugly stuff that would be of no interest to your average self-respecting gentleman. The message was clear. Gentlemen, stay home.

If one had been out that night, one would’ve witnessed 3 cars tearing along the highway. One would’ve seen the cars turn into the courtyard of the building at the south end of the street. One would’ve watched the cars depositing 12 gentlemen – open to debate – at the doors of the building and one would’ve been excused at thinking that something was afoot. But one didn’t have the chance to do any of these, because one was of course, a gentleman.

The 12 seemed to wait at the doors for someone. Many of the group looked uneasy and even a bit sulky. Of course it would’ve been stretching it to term them the 12 Angry Men, let’s leave it with the observation that there was definitely some unrest.

Soon enough, came a fourth car dashing into the portico and the group appeared to heave a collective sigh. The back door opened and a shrouded female figure appeared. The new arrival seemed to command some respect as the men followed her into the building.

A note to any youngster getting an uneasily familiar feeling ,: From this point on, the plot WILL deviate from that of a Naughty America gangbang video.

Scene 2:

A room in the aforementioned building. 13 shadowy figures are sitting around a rectangular table. At one end of the table, sits the revered female and she has an oblong device of some kind in her hand. At the opposite end of the table is placed a ….. box of some kind.

It looks like a television but the course of events so far would demand something more sinister than an idiot box there, wouldn’t it? We won’t pass a verdict yet, anyone of the henchmen can still walk over to the box, open a hitherto unsuspected lid and take out a goat’s head and a reversed cross and start a Black Mass.

But proving all the interesting suspicions unfounded, the box turns out to be a TV after all, as it turns on to display black and white grains jostling for space. It appears to be operated by the female leading figure using the oblong object in her hand , which at this point, can be safely assumed to be a remote control.

It can be summarily dismissed that watching TV would be the object of such a clandestine meeting of gentlemen at such an ungodly hour. What else could it be, then? The TV seems to hold the rapt attention of all the men. Even though it’s still showing only grains.

One of the men stand up and approach the telephone in the room to make a call. One would expect some sort of development to occur here, he could be letting in the anonymous contact who’s agreed to meet them here. Or convey to the carrier that the coast is clear. A variety of more sinister explanations can lend itself to the man using a telephone at the start of a secret meeting.

The conversation is remarkably short and also achieve the dubious distinction of being the first words spoken all night. He asks for the Cable Guy – obviously a code phrase, whom do they think they are fooling? He asks the “Cable Guy” to “fix it now” . Phht! So cliched for a secret meeting, wouldn’t you say?

He resumes his seat and watches the TV like the other 12. One wonders what interests these men in the grains? As in answer, the grains vanish and the screen is filled with moving images. Images of beautiful women and handsome men. Who are walking up and down ramps to groovy music.

Now, wait a minute. They’re not watching, horror of horrors, FTV? Why would they hold a meeting for that? And in such attention to detail that some of them are using magnifying lenses!

The entire group are transfixed by the images on screen. Suddenly someone yells! “BOOOOOOOBBSSSSSSS!!! YESSSSSSSSSSS!!! BOOOOOOOOOBBBBBBSSSSSSS!!!! WE GOT THEMMMM!!! BOOOOOOOOOBSSSSSS!!!!!” And the meeting breaks to celebratory whoops and yells of joy.

And thus concluded the meeting of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting which decided to ban FTV in India for the second time.

From the BBC report.

“The visuals were found to be obscene, denigrating women and were not suitable for children and unrestricted public exhibition,” the statement said.

Bah, Humbug!!!

Image courtesy : wonkroom . thinkprogress . org

Pazhassi Raja : A review

I cannot recall a movie that was anticipated more eagerly, in recent years. The hype was enormous, the expectations sky high and the wait never-ending. I had made up my mind to watch it on the first day itself, but I couldn’t as I was out of town.

I got around to watching Pazhassi Raja on Sunday evening from SriKumar theatre, Trivandrum. The balcony was fully booked – for weeks, rumor has it – and we had to make do with the sixth row in first class. It was a teeny bit uncomfortable but I stopped fretting in minutes. Why? The movie was so damn CLASSY!

I will breeze through the background and avoid a long-winded history session . In a nutshell, the movie deals with Pazhassi‘s feud with the ‘Traders who are trying to rule the land’. Pazhassi had fought alongside them when Tippu invaded North Malabar but realises who the true enemy was, as the Company starts to break the backs of his subjects with unreasonable taxes and to curtail their freedom. So he prevents the tax collection, leading to the Company ransacking his palace with the approval of his uncle Veera Varma Raja of Kurumbranadu – Thilakan plays the megalomaniac to perfection – and the help of the Raja’s erstwhile associate Pazhayamveedan Chanthu.

The king who’s driven out of his home builds his lair in the forest and goes on to be a thorn in the flesh for the Company, with well-planned guerrilla warfare. His associates like his lieutenant Edacheni Kunkan, the tribal warrior Thalakkal Chandhu and Kaitheri Ambu, the brother-in-law of the Raja are all men of valour and cunning, thus making his dedicated albeit small army, a force to reckon with. The movie portrays the encounters between the two forces and how it pans out in the end.

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So where to begin analysing this gem of a movie? Let’s start off with the portrayal of the protagonist by Mammootty. To be honest, it was very different from what I expected. Because in a role which could have been used to usurp each and every scene he is in, Mammootty does nothing of the kind and actually underplays. His portrayal of the Raja is restrained and finessed. But in no moment, does he come across as anything but Royal. Yes, Royal with a capital R. He doesn’t really have to do anything much but to be gracefully THERE and he does it with aplomb.

Sharathkumar enacts what may be the best role of his life perfectly. Edacheni Kunkan – The warrior with a fierce loyalty towards his king. He literally fills the screen with his presence – What physique!!! – and comes across effortlessly as a character you wouldn’t want to cross. Manoj K Jayan does a splendid role too as Thalakkal Chandhu, the tribal warrior whose tactical prowess makes one of the mightiest armies of the modern world look like blundering idiots.Kaitheri Ambu is portrayed decently by Suresh Krishna, though he pales in comparison to the performances of the former two. Suman dons the role of the traitor Pazhayamveedan Chandhu who conspires with the Brits to take down Pazhassi and does it well.

Of the female leads, Padmapriya steals Kaniha’s thunder with a memorable performance as Neeli, the tribal girl who is a lioness in battle, albeit one with amazing dexterity in using the bow and arrow. She did amazingly well, particularly in the martial arts scenes. Her dubbing was really irritating though, I wonder who felt they could pass off THAT as a tribal speaking Malayalam. Kaniha played the beautiful Maakkam, the Raja’s wife with grace. Well she did alright in the scenes where she was supposed to stand around and look beautiful – Not that she requires any effort there – but came up slightly short where more strenuous emoting was to be done. Nothing that can’t be pardoned for the other *ahem* delights of having her on screen.

Other characters – Kanara menon, Unni Mootha, Emman Nair, Athan Kurikkal, Kannavathu Nambiar,  Mooppan – are all safe in the hands of experienced veterans – Jagathy, Captain Raju, Lalu Alex, Mamukkoya, Devan, Nedumudi Venu respectively. Maybe some of them deserved a more detailed portrayal on the basis of their actual contribution to history, but the scope of the movie sidelines them to being fringe players. Not a drawback, only a necessity. And extremely well played, all of them.

Sayippanmar were generally okay, though I thought Baber looked slightly gormless on occasions. Could have done better there. His fiancee was sort of an unnecessary character – Doesn’t seem to be strongly backed up by history books – and reminded me at times of Lagaan. Still, it was acted out splendidly by Linda Arsenio. The scene where they enjoy the hospitality of the Raja was a nice touch – Not sure if there’s any record of it. Anyone? – The other Englishmen succeed in their task of being generally hateful and of holding a grudging admiration for Pazhassi.

Done with the actors and moving on to the technical part. Technically – WOW! The best done period film ever in Malayalam and arguably in India. Camera, editing, whatever – They have done the best they can in all technical departments. The camera in some scenes deserve a very special mention. The Raja doing SuryaNamaskar, on horseback watching the Panamaram fort burn – the instances are too many to be listed here. The songs were superbly shot and blended in well with the narrative – particularly Adiushassandhya and Kunnathe Konna.

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The war scenes were all brilliantly executed. The battles in the forest and in open land were both very real , yet managed it without unwanted gore. The martial arts scenes were generally good but I was disappointed with the jumps at several point. They looked very artificial and not in keeping with the perfection of the rest of the movie. I would expect 27 crores to get you a bit more originality than the jumps in Jai Hanuman.

I was deeply skeptic at Resul Pookkutty going apeshit in the media about the sound effects, before release. But I have to say I retracted every word of it. The movie is a treat to the ears –  the clanging of the swords, the sounds of the forest, the soldiers marching, galloping horses – They have never been more real. The heavy rain pelting down seemed so real that I almost wrapped my hands around myself in cold, at one point.

So I finally get to the real geniuses behind this Magnum Opus – MT and Hariharan. There is an opinion doing the rounds that the magic MT weaved in Oru Vadakkan Veeragaatha has diminished in Pazhassi Raja. I beg to disagree – the comparison is flawed. OVVG was born off a folktale which gave MT maximum room to manipulate the tale to tug at our heartstrings, but in PR his artistic freedom is much more curtailed. He has to strike a balance between history and entertainment. And boy has he done that! Hariharan faced the same challenge.  Only wizards of their ilk could have taken such a subject and woven it into 200 minutes of Awesomeness (Yes I watch too much HIMYM).

On a final note, let me take on a point that the detractors of the movie are touting. No, the movie cannot be renamed Edacheni Kunkan, because you are not seeing the point. Sharath gets to hit it off with the audience because he is a warrior – and an awesome one at that. But in the end, he remains largely a one-dimensional character who is nonetheless crucial to the narrative. But the movie portrays the different sides of Pazhassi brilliantly. Pazhassi the patriot, Pazhassi the lover, Pazhassi the warrior, Pazhassi the ruler – The trio of MT-Hariharan-Mammootty have captured it so brilliantly that every other character pales – as they should – in comparison.

MUST WATCH!!

Ad my two cents

When you, assuming ‘you’ to be a middle-class Indian in your late teens or early 20’s, look back to your childhood , what are the sights and sounds which come gushing back? I assume every kid grew up on a standard diet of Doordarshan. The days when Chitrahaar, Chandrakantha, The Friday night movie and dubbed evening cartoons were what we looked forward to, rather than the English Premier League, NDTV or mundane reality shows which pervade TV these days. DD is still pretty much where it was then, like an old uncle napping on an armchair, while the new generation punks zoom around on Karizmas.

With a sea change in TV culture, everything that has associated with it has done the same too. Growth. Change. For better or for worse. We may say that one of the most revolutionized area is that of advertisements. This post is about Ads. Don’t worry, I am not writing about the geniuses and morons who work behind them and I’ll keep mum about the drastic change in consumerism and market which brought about this change. This is just about a few Ads I love and why l love them.

For you old DD lovers, mention of ‘Ads’ usher in a burst of colour and a cheerful chorus of “Washing Powder Nirma, Washing Powder Nirma, NIRMA”. :). Good old days. When advertising was all about a cute model, a catchy phrase and some passable music. Mind you, the templates remain much the same even today, but the layout and the presentation has been absolutely rebuilt, shall I say, repackaged. Speaking about old ads, It’d be criminal if I didnt mention Fevicol, Santoor, Dabur, Vicco Turmeric… Ah, I’m nostalgic.The modern Ad cannot afford to be that simple, simply because of the enormous range of products and the changes in the consumer mindset.

So on to the Ads I love. Down the years, there have been many which I liked. Due to a catchy phrase, due to a clever idea, due to a cute actor, whatever be the reason. Those which I simply LIKED may be too many, but fewer strike a chord with us. So, I apologize to the readers for their favorite Ads which I might have missed out on. Do point them out 🙂

The two-wheeler market is a warzone. There are many buyers , but just as many models and brands. The public has little ear for fancy stats, they look at the glitz , word of mouth and of course, the ads. Little wonder that this field give us some of our best and some of our worst commercials. Bajaj rip ass when it comes to ads. There are too many supercool bikes and supercool Ads from their stable. It may be noticed that , when it comes to bike ads, some companies tend to overdo the style and thus lands flat on their nose. Not Bajaj.

Bajaj Wind didn’t really hit it off but the ad surely captured hearts. Imaginative like hell, the short tale of a man who gets on his Wind straight from the shower and blowdries himself was great to watch. Bikes from the Bajaj clan which hit it off both onscreen and on the road are Caliber and Pulsar. The low growl -Kawasaki Bajaj Caliber- was macho and the song ‘Le Chalne vaale’ which accompanied the tale of a soldier who’s returning to his old sweetheart on a Caliber to find her married, touched hearts. Hearts which were gladdened at the sight of the man accosted by an even better chick on road. The message got across – A man on Caliber fulfills his caliber. The third Bajaj is one of the biggest and best bikes, and had one of the shortest and best Ads. Definitely Male – They said, we agreed. What else could be the sex of the Pulsar which cricked its neck to follow 2 nurses passing by?

The Royal Enfield had an ad which was royal just like itself. One of the best messages ever delivered unspoken was by the crossing which halted trains to let an Enfield pass.

Hero Honda Ads are generally either banal or average though the bikes are admittedly good. I don’t like those girl-impressed-by-bike-ads and ads overdoing the style quotient. Not remembering any other bike ads worth a mention at the moment. Feel free to suggest.

The other field where there exists an interesting Ad-war is the soft drink industry. Down the years, we have seen a lot of ad-battles between PepsiCo and CocaCola. Both have had good and bad ones. Pepsi hit gold with Yeh Dil Maange More series and the World Cup ads where Warne and co. tries to ship Sachin off.There have been too many others, these are the ones which spring to mind. They were fun to watch.but the standards have fallen. Oye Bubbly and Youngistan had me retching . Unimaginative drivel. From their stable, Mirinda ads are never given much thought to, 7Up ads border between okay-ish and good. Mountain Dew . Hmm… 😀 , Fuckall to say the least. There may be folks who love that type, but don’t count me in.

CocaCola team had their best moments with Aamir Khan and fewer with Hrithik Roshan. Sprite ads which made fun of the rival ads came across as funny sometimes – the inaugural one which mimicked Dil Maange more – and downright unimaginative and pathetic at other times. ThumsUp banks largely on the crowd-pulling capacities of Akshay and Salman. Raise your hands, if you were like me, tired of the stunts these steelmen pulled for a measly bottle of sour ThumsUp. CocaCola has hit rock bottom with the new ‘Aaj Tu jashn Mana Le’ series. Pointless crap.

I’ll round off with the field where competition is redefined. Cellular networks.

Airtel was the undisputed leader in creative ad-campaigns. Rahman magic together with some brilliant ideas made Airtel ads more than watchable. One of my all-time favorite ads is the uncut version of the original ‘Express Yourself’ ad. The one with Say yes, Say No, Say something, Say nothing, Confess, Conspire, Speak Out, Express Yourself with the appropriate images in between. The beauty of the Ad is that the images could not get any more appropriate.

Express yourself on youtube

There have been other finer Ads which had cemented Airtel’s place as the best advertised Network provider.

Noticed the use of had,was? Past Tense. Why?Because the Kings of advertising are here. Vodafone.

Vodafone have elevated advertising to an art. Without any stars, too. Unless you count the pug a star. Oh yeah, he’s a Megastar. Wherever you go, Our Network follows.Apart from licking stamps, he signs autographs too. Every ad featuring the pup was adorable, innovative, novel, you name it. The message was put across so simply, clearly and beautifully – Everywhere you go, our network follows. The other ads too had the Midas touch. Be it the very gifted Irrfan Khan making us nod our heads in agreement when he says “Didi To Didi Hei Na? “in his no-nonsense drawl or the guy who goes to meet his soul mate in the elevator, vodafone have had us eating out of their hands.

Their latest one manages the impossible task of raising the bar they set themselves. You know it. The Chota credit one.The setting couldn’t have been more natural. The boy looks exactly as I would, bored with the proceedings, and willing for the exam to end. The girl is very girly, she is cramming in every last word she can and she’s cute. The boy is eager to help the damsel in distress, like Yours chivalrously. The charm exuded by the boyish grin and the thankful smile takes you to another plane. You’ve been there, done that. Now vodafone is taking you back there with the most romantic music, too. The Ad of Ads. Brilliant.

Vodafone Chota Credit

I may have missed out on several other great ads , like HappyDent for instance. Only due to constraints of scope, time and space.

Happy Ad-watching. And feel free to opine and point out things I may have missed.