Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kamal - the writer/director


A few days back I managed to catch Thevar Magan and, as is my wont whenever I watch it, started raving about it. This time I also managed to have a conversation about it with @kalyanasc on twitter. Following the principle of 'Have Blog. Will Archive", I thought I'd post it here.

Oh, the things I do for posterity!

Credit Sharing - local-flavour

I know nothing of Bharathan's works actually.I don't think his only other Tamil film (Avarampoo, which is a remake of his Malayalam film based on Padmarajan's script) reflective all the nice things I hear about him. Moreover, I am very partial to writers. Particularly to someone like Kamal who, by his own confession of things learnt from the Balachander school, has timing, pacing, stage-directions and all scribbled in the margins of his script. In particular in thEvar magan, the local nuances are so so many that I think it is impossible for an 'outsider' to get the nuances.



Who sees whom, how they talk, Sakthi communicating through kaNakku (sangili murugan - a kinda Tom Hagen of sorts!) than looking his father in the eye. The அண்ணி reading his unfinished scrumpled letter: 'tear paanu' complete with the குற்றியலுகரம். The whole character of SivAji - with the disproportionate considerations of மானம், his disappointments, his arrogance and the way they are expressed... these are the things that make it the phenomenal movie it is. I would unhesitatingly give substantial credit to Kamal for all this.

Very well shot. But then there too I am going to give Kamal a lot of credit, without taking much away from PC Sriram :-) He has used his assistants well too. M.S.Prabhu's fantastic debut in Mahanadhi, Thiru's work in Hey Ram etc.



With the exception of Raja's excellent music, pretty much most of the the movie I am unhesitatingly attributing to Kamal. Disclaimer: I am bit of a fanboy. I'll need to admit that - as if it weren't too obvious in the first place :-)

Comparative Statics - style, pet themes

With very simple comparative statics - comparing Kamal movies with other teams - one can see a distinctive Kamal signature in many places in the writing. And more important the kind of depth and impact, conspicuously absent in the other works of the contributors (with the possible exception of Bharathan, whose works I know nothing about). Everything that elevates the movie in my eyes, is something I feel I am able to map to Kamal. The visual poetry of certain frames, the feel of the scenes, the symbolisms are distinctly his own. Even the didacticism, grand-ness of canvas are all his. The Peckinpah style gory aesthetic (!) is something one can see reappearing only in VirumANdi.

The theme of lack of celestial intervention is a pet theme. He revisits it again and again in his career- admittedly with varying degree of finesse (in the superb Mahanadhi to the more 'easy' Anbe Sivam right down to the clumsy Dasavatharam). In terms of the diction - you see certain expressions which are in thEvar magan and reappear only in VirumANdi. This despite a ton of films being set there by so many other filmmakers making films in the intervening years.

Digression - nativity
Let me digress, and give an example from VirumANdi, that I heard from an online acquaintance. In a passing line he has KondarAsu nayakar say: okkatti lEdhu - a literal translation of the Tamil, oNNum illai. As opposed to the 'proper' Telugu: 'Emi lEdhu'. Should have been par for the course for the number of films that have been set in that area (think Bharathiraja). But that was so not the case. It took a Kamal to showcase that.

The yawning gap between the next best contributions of the others who were part of this film, is the reason why I think much of the credit can be reasonably attributed to Kamal. And of course, to this I add all that we hear about Kamal's style of working, Sivaji's total submission to Kamal (to the extent of not even knowing the full story till he came to dub!) and the news that Bharathan wasn't keeping well during the making the film.

Thank you for that detailed exposition :-) Fact remains that Kamal Hassan did, during that phase of his career, feel the need for a regular director to "front" his "auteurship" of the film. However, even some of the biggest auteurs in cinema leave room for crediting individual contributions. Surely, the excellence wrought by Nasser, Revathi, Gowthami, PC Sreeram, Ilayaraja et al was something they brought to the film? Praising them for the success of the film will not be out of order, I think.

I wish to make two more points, more to serve the public interest than to rain on your parade :-)

One, in spite of being a well written and well made film in the Tamil context, Thevan Magan is not a text capable of invoking lasting resonance. Its portrayal of the Thevar community rarely goes beyond the bathetic emotionalism of commercial fiction. Two, Kamal Hassan is not an auteur. He tries hard, and maybe he has come close a few times, but he is most certainly not one. I think it comes from having a flawed imagination, which shows up frequently in his writing, of which I won't say very much. Still and all, he deserves admiration for what he has managed to achieve as an actor.

Credit-Sharing continued..
Surely, the excellence wrought by Nasser, Revathi, Gowthami, PC Sreeram, Ilayaraja et al was something they brought to the film? Praising them for the success of the film will not be out of order, I think.
Oh, not denying the praise at all. But just looking at Nasser-Revathi- Gowthami's performances in films without Kamal - I see a considerable gap in impact. Ilayaraja - no question whatsoever.

Cinematography
Regarding PC Sreeram - I must first confess I probably don't have a good grasp of how to evaluate a cinematographer. Unless the film's styling is front-and-center and demand his work scream out (Agni Natchathram) one is left with evaluating how the physical frames enhance the aesthetic of the storytelling.

Needless to say, this is a collaborative process and one can't quite pass judgments with certainty, taking one film standalone.However, what we can do is to evaluate it along side other independent works of the collaborators to see whose signatures seem to be present more strongly in the collaboration.

In this regard, I am not able to say with certainty there is a distinct PC Sreeram signature to this film (which is a good thing for a cinematographer). Whereas I see a lot of moments, which are similar in style across thEvar Magan and the later works Mahanadhi (M.S.Prabhu) and Hey Ram (Thiru).

To quote a very specific instance (which will give you an idea of how I am approaching the whole thing - which may not necessarily be appropriate) - when Sakthi spots the drowned baby, he takes off his shoes and steps towards it. There is a standalone shot of his naked leg getting into the slush. IIRC, there was even a slight slow-mo to stretch that moment. That was a deliberate frame that 'tells' something. Is that kind of thing, a PC Sreeram signature?


On the other hand, 'a frame with meaning beyond just the physical aesthetics of that frame', is something one can comfortably see as a Kamal signature.

Here is one of my favourites from Mahanadhi



Similarly, a bajrang-bali'ish Abhyankar having his 'heart' opened to reveal the Mauser - in HeyRam.(unable to get a pic)

The caveat of course is, one learns and imbibes from collaborating with good talents. So, it is quite possible that the style, the standout brilliant frames we see in Kamal's later movies may be something he could have got from his association with someone like Sreeram. And of course the more obvious caveat is that both Prabhu and Thiru were associates of Sreeram. Beyond this, one has to defer to one's beliefs, I guess. And I lean in favour of Kamal :-)
One, in spite of being a well written and well made film in the Tamil context, Thevan Magan is not a text capable of invoking lasting resonance. Its portrayal of the Thevar community rarely goes beyond the bathetic emotionalism of commercial fiction.
I can only speak for myself regarding it being a 'text invoking lasting resonance'. For that I would like to first state, it needs to be received much more widely than the particular community context of its plot (which is of course important, I'll come to that).

The Identity Question
Thevar Magan raises the question of identity quite fundamentally. Right from the title, the film is concerned about the yoke of lineage. The age-old (but scarcely asked well) question: are we defined more by the world that was given to us or by the choices we make? Sakthi's Michael Corleone too wants to have little to do with the world he inherits before things affairs take the turns they do. He truly considers himself different. His condescension fuels his indignation. But throughout the movie he is shown to be just like those he judges, he reacts the way those he judges do! Despite his protestations, what is the movie actually saying?

The way he gets drawn into the silambam fight is an example.

The choice of words and the gestures of the taunter are but a thinly veiled sexual innuendo. And that is all it takes to get the cultured gentleman's bravado out in the open. He can't even pay heed to what Esakki manages to catch: தேரை இழுத்து தெருவுல விட பாக்குறாய்ங்கய்யா.

He has exactly the same bloated conceptions about மானம்-அவமானம் as everyone else, as we see in the panchAyathu, when he is quick to take offence. And yet he believes he is 'superior and different', just because he has had the education and exposure.



When the villagers all but swear at him - advocate of nonviolence - when he is shaking and trembling with the corpse of the child - you viscerally feel his inadequacy. And in some ways our own, in arrogating ourselves to judge all that from afar and dictate expectations of behaviour, without having physically experienced the losses and horrible violence that prompts revenge.

What to do with what's given
Overall, the questions the film raises is about what can one do with the whole corpus of culture and ways of life, that one inherits?

- Consider oneself equal to comprehensively judge it and reject it?
- Escape its complexities?
- Resign to it?
-Embrace it - with all its warts - and see if the தேர் can be moved an inch further with whatever little one has gained through the good fortune of experiencing different things, than one's antecedents ?

And in the course of having us explode with such questions, Kamal paints several aspects of Sakthi's ordeal:

- The good old male dilemma - the intellectual match vs. the 'comfortable' match. The former representing one's aspirations and the latter representing one's roots.

- Why is his uncle shown to be a bigamist? (something not uncommon in the community till recently- I am given to understand) Sakthi specifically explains to Banu, that this was a point of difference in the fight between his uncle and father. How wonderfully relevant that becomes when he needs to make a choice between Panchavarnam and Banu!

In the scene in the balcony with Banu, when he has explained the finality of his choice, the nieces are playing பாண்டி downstairs. The chants of 'right-A?...right-u' happen in the background. In the foreground is a man, who would do anything to get a reassurance like that about his decisions, at that very moment.

- Lastly, can he be sure of how his murder would be remembered? All the complexities would be forgotten and it would get recorded as 'yet another local fratricide', wouldn't it? Has he really done his father proud?
How many wise fathers preceded him? Could the current situation be despite them and not because of them, as is being simply remembered?

-The fact that the final beheading happened with a larger than life sickle of a God, which he then bears heavily like a cross and trudges - makes the point more beautifully than he could make it ever since (and boy has he tried it say it over and over again).

Thevars

Its portrayal of the Thevar community rarely goes beyond the bathetic emotionalism of commercial fiction.
Now coming to the thEvar question. The elephant in the room is how he managed to tell the story as a thEvar-thEvar conflict, instead of a thEvar-dalit conflict. One can understand the reasons of consciously limiting the scope. So I am not going to be hypercritical about that. I'd rather engage with what he chose to focus on: the violence as a way of life/வீச்சறுவா நியாயம்.

I thought it was pretty amazing that he managed to pretty much get away with branding the community காட்டுமிராண்டி, by merely taking a reflexive position within the movie. The movie sets out to portray and challenge the notion of violence being deeply coupled with notions of bravery. The indictment may have been too simplistic and universal :with the exception of periya thEvar everyone else is a cookie-cutter type violent villager. Granted. But even with that I think he went some distance.

I particularly like, how he goes about puncturing the veeram. Firstly from Sakthi's outsider-perspective, when simply dialogue-ing the core of what the movie set out to say: இங்க நடக்குற காட்டுமிராண்டித்தனத்தை எல்லாம் வீரம்னு நினைச்சுகிட்டு இருக்குறது முட்டாள்தனம்.

And later challenging the assumption வீரம் on 'their' own terms, when he has Chelliah say: முனியன் கடுதாசி தான்யா இந்த ஊர்ல இருக்குறவன் தைரியத்துக்கு ஒரு உதாரணம்

Is Kamal an Auteur?

Two, Kamal Hassan is not an auteur. He tries hard, and maybe he has come close a few times, but he is most certainly not one.
I have a limited understanding of the concept of auteurship itself but I feel compelled to respond to this point nevertheless :-) In terms of having something to say in the first place, films having a subtext, films that deal with 'deeper' stuff to even provide fodder for such discussions - I'd say Kamal is pretty much alone here.
Of course, one would be very polite to just stop with saying that,today he is struggling to come anywhere close to his early 90s form. But if one were to take his best, then it'd be difficult to think of anyone who has achieved anything near what he has.

Engaging Filmmaker

And in particular I appreciate one aspect of his writing: rather than take the cop-out that certain materials/themes are definitionally impossible in commercially viable cinema, he seemed to have found a way out by embedding all he wants to say in an engaging dramatic structure.

He NEVER makes a movie where 'if you don't get it, you get nothing out of the movie'. One could watch MahAnadhi without getting the finer characterizations, the metaphors, the social critiques and symbolism and still walk out with the satisfaction of having watched an engaging film. And then Kamal has more for the more observant viewers.

He rewards the rewatcher - I am trying to think of anyone else in Tamil cinema about whom I can say that.

And many of his personal concerns are exactly what fuel the core of his films like Mahanadhi and Thevar Magan. So, if we are talking about an auteur being 'the voice of what the film is all about' then Kamal is certainly one.
I think it comes from having a flawed imagination, which shows up frequently in his writing, of which I won't say very much.
Though I don't understand the 'flawed imagination' part, I don't think it something that can be argued and agreed upon. But I'd still insist on framing the whole thing, wrt to the aesthetic achievements of Tamil films. I consider his early 90s works to be the best movies ever seen in Tamil. For instance, Thevar Magan is just one excellent scene after another - more than what other notable directors have managed to achieve in their entire career.

Actor/Filmmaker
or Filmmaker/Actor?
Still and all, he deserves admiration for what he has managed to achieve as an actor.
Of course. I have generally seen that this admiration for that is more easily forthcoming. But, to an extent that this overshadows his achievements as a filmmaker, where I think he has an even more comfortable lead over the competition.

In my opinion, he is best screenwriter in Tamil cinema. In terms of content, technique and what have you. So much so, that for the several few years now, I passionately resent him working in films that merely use him as an actor.

As disappointing as his current form as a writer is, I'll gladly cheer him if he were to decide today, to quit acting to focus on writing/directing. I think he has far more to offer there than as an actor.

I will end in true fanboy style with a quote from the film we are discussing by reiterating my hope that delivers on his 90s promises: உங்களைத் தானே நம்பணும்....வேற யார் இருக்காங்க நம்புறதுக்கு?

Wider Relevance

Thank you for that even more elaborate exposition :-) I hear you, but I would like to make a few brief observations.

By lasting resonance, I meant more than just individual responses, but a wider relevance. You may be highly empathetic about the film's scope being restricted to thevar-thevar conflict, and pretty much air-brushing the rest of their milieu and their engagement with it. The reason why it has no resonance is that ALL events we hear about are about inter-community conflicts involving the thevars, and not intra-community conflicts. I doubt that even the thevars can see themselves in the film, leave alone the rest of us.

And...is Sakthi as well put together (written!) as Michael Corleone, his source? I think not. Sakthi seems less like a thevar boy with an overseas education than a morally sanctimonious paarpan boy pretending to be thevar. (I am not essentializing, just talking about plausibility of characterization.) With due respect, that's where Kamal's writing hits a wall.

You assert that in "tending to be an auteur", Kamal is way above his competitors but you do not mention who these might be. I like to think that both Bharathiraja and Balu Mahendra are more successful as auteurs than KH is. They are more vividly imaginative, more graceful in their use of cinematic language and more fiercely loyal to their larger vision. Mudhal Mariyadai, Veedu and Sandya Ragam are wonderfully resonant films, with a proper sense of space between the characters and a stunningly clear sense of the world, their world.This may well be because these two, not being actors, are not burdened by the unrelenting narcissism that seems to be KH's unfortunate lot. I still cringe when I remember some of the dialogue from Hey Ram.

These are contrary views. To the extent that they are not completely wrong-headed, I believe they are worth reflecting over. My 2p. Thank you.

By lasting resonance, I meant more than just individual responses, but a wider relevance.
Oh ok I get your point. But I am guessing (hoping?) the identity question so deftly handled in the film, is relevant to sufficiently many individuals for it to be called wide.

What the film did not deal with:
You may be highly empathetic about the film's scope being restricted to thevar-thevar conflict, and pretty much air-brushing the rest of their milieu and their engagement with it. The reason why it has no resonance is that ALL events we hear about are about inter-community conflicts involving the thevars, and not intra-community conflicts. I doubt that even the thevars can see themselves in the film, leave alone the rest of us.
The film's concern is very specific and the mileu depicted was 'authentic' -in my opinion of course. I see you disagree, considering you are saying 'even thevars don't see themselves in the film'. With that I assess the scale of his aesthetic achievements. I find it difficult to consider all that the film could have been, ought to have been - and charge the filmmaker with those misses. But I do see your point that the film would have had a wider relevance, if it had been scoped so

Plausibility
And...is Sakthi as well put together (written!) as Michael Corleone, his source? I think not. Sakthi seems less like a thevar boy with an overseas education than a morally sanctimonious paarpan boy pretending to be thevar. (I am not essentializing, just talking about plausibility of characterization.) With due respect, that's where Kamal's writing hits a wall. 
Hmm...I don't see plausibility problems. (This is the problem with implausibilty isn't it? - if someone disagrees, pretty much nothing can be done about it!)

We know nothing about Sakthi's childhood. We don't even know how long he has been away from home. Even if he is not a typical thEvar boy, isn't pArppanization(!) plausible for someone in his circumstances? I don't think that, that compromises the character, at all. In fact, it further underlines the extent to which he is removed from his roots. But despite all that, he is still very much a part of the Chinaa thoovaloor. That he is morally sanctimonious when he is actually not as different as he considers himself to be, is precisely the point.

The competition
You assert that in "tending to be an auteur", Kamal is way above his competitors but you do not mention who these might be. I like to think that both Bharathiraja and Balu Mahendra are more successful as auteurs than KH is. They are more vividly imaginative, more graceful in their use of cinematic language and more fiercely loyal to their larger vision. Mudhal Mariyadai, Veedu and Sandya Ragam are wonderfully resonant films, with a proper sense of space between the characters and a stunningly clear sense of the world, their world.
Agree with your examples here about having a clearer sense of their world. But in terms of being more 'vividly imaginative' I'd drag my feet. As far as 'use of cinematic language' I will disagree. When it comes to the coming together of acting, scene-pacing, dialogues, Kamal is in a league of his own.

And more importantly I think he is the only one who packs in something 'larger than the moment' in his films. I don't think this is necessarily a universal yardstick. Each to his own style. But those are the kind of things that prompt me to rate Kamal as highly as I do.

Let me give a couple of examples...

Deep Moments

Example 1
There is a moment in Guna, in the middle of the உன்னை நான் அறிவேன் song. The madam of the brothel, S.Varalakshmi is chanting a prayer in the room atop the stairs. The door downstairs opens. She leans over to see what's going on. One of the girls is striking a deal with the customer. They presumably reach agreement and exit the staircase into the room. The madam observes this - not pausing in her chat - and leans back to sit straight!! Check out around 1:20 in the video below.



I doubt if Balu Mahendra or Bharathiraja can even conceive of such a rich moment. The disturbing blackhumour of it! Does one smile or be stunned? Does the fact that the madam didn't feel odd about chanting while overseeing the business, strike us as 'odd' because we are outside. Her approach seems to be 'matter of fact'. Is that what is disturbing for us, that we took notice of it, in the first place?

 btw the screenplay was by one SaabJohn and direction by Santhabarathi - but with all due respect to these gentlemen, I am crediting Kamal for stuff like that :-)

Example 2
To stick with brothels and madams again, in Mahanadhi, there is this poignant moment when the girls contribute towards Kaveri's release. There is a visual of notes raining as Krishnaswami is dumbstruck with conflicting emotions. The searing sorrow of the moment and the incredible kindness of strangers, a kind of restoration in faith in humanity itself. Even just this far: it is already something beyond the range of other filmmakers. In this Kamal inserts an extraordinary moment: One girl tells her friend: you pay today I will pay you tomorrow. (The conversation is in Bengali, in the middle of a mainstream Tamil film - just relying on us that we'd be able to pick that up). Why add in that moment? What does that - all of 2 seconds - buy the writer?

Check out at around 3:18 in the video below

While all the girls are contributing cash in hand, this one is essentially saying, "I want to contribute to Kaveri's release today. I will pay for it by sleeping with someone tomorrow. It brings out the utter ghastliness of the situation."

Do these depictions reflect a truly 'clear sense of the world'? Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don't. They are dramatizations. And brilliant ones at that.

Narcissism
This may well be because these two, not being actors, are not burdened by the unrelenting narcissism that seems to be KH's unfortunate lot. I still cringe when I remember some of the dialogue from Hey Ram.
I am somehow (unsurprisingly) not at all put off my what many people consider Kamal's 'narcissism'. I vaguely understand what is being termed narcissism, but I don't understand exactly how it has had a ruinous effect on the film. I have heard this said about Hey Ram. About how Saket Ram is in every single scene in the movie. But in a film like Hey Ram, the very idea is to make it as close to a first person narrative, as is possible to do in film. It is a film where Saket Ram had to have as much share of the screentime as he did.

And he pre-empted the possible criticism with a line, which his grandson Saket Jr. says about the stories his grandfather Saket Sr. used to tell him: எல்லாமே first person singular தான். ஒரு ஊர்ல ஒரு ராஜா இருந்தார்னு சொல்ல மாட்டார். நான் இருந்த ஊர்ல ஒரு ராஜா இருந்தார் 'ம்பர்.
These are contrary views. To the extent that they are not completely wrong-headed, I believe they are worth reflecting over. My 2p. Thank you.
Sure, I see it that way too. Thank You. I enjoyed discussing these.


Adding in  @kalyansc's comments into the post

I would like to offer a quick comeback on certain points, not so much to invite further argument as to clarify my position (further!).

The two examples that you cite from Guna and Mahanadi are precisely what I would consider bathetic. They are designed to precipitate that momentary frisson, not to bring greater insight or understanding of the world they deal with.

I have no reason to believe that a madame's piety or a child sex worker's altruism will be manifested in this self-dramatizing, not to speak of self-debasing, way. Both the piety and altruism are cliches imported into an abnormal context for bathetic effect. Since the viewer is closer to the cliche than to the abnormal context, he will rise to the bait. C'es tout.

Second, our not knowing anything about the antecedents of Sakthi is actually a serious matter. Remember this is a film about "identity", compulsions of filial love, intra-community blood feud, etc? Since all these things go a long way back, not knowing the younger Sakthi makes this merely a drama, not a story. In contrast, Coppola gives the back story not only of Don Corleone as a child, but also of how the Don raised his family. How do you deftly handle the problem of an indivudal's identity without showing where he is coming from?

What Thevar Magan gives you is drama, brilliantly at times, which can give you a frisson. Epiphany or catharsis require a well-etched story.

Does Thevar Magan ever make us wonder about the possible existence of a liberal Thevar? Why haven't we heard about him? Has there been a whiff of his presence in the public domain? So, where is Kamal Hassan's screenplay coming from? (Too easy.)

I rest my case.

18 comments:

  1. I would like to offer a quick comeback on certain points, not so much to invite further argument as to clarify my position (further!).

    The two examples that you cite from Guna and Mahanadi are precisely what I would consider bathetic. They are designed to precipitate that momentary frisson, not to bring greater insight or understanding of the world they deal with.

    I have no reason to believe that a madame's piety or a child sex worker's altruism will be manifested in this self-dramatizing, not to speak of self-debasing, way. Both the piety and altruism are cliches imported into an abnormal context for bathetic effect. Since the viewer is closer to the cliche than to the abnormal context, he will rise to the bait. C'es tout.

    Second, our not knowing anything about the antecedents of Sakthi is actually a serious matter. Remember this is a film about "identity", compulsions of filial love, intra-community blood feud, etc? Since all these things go a long way back, not knowing the younger Sakthi makes this merely a drama, not a story. In contrast, Coppola gives the back story not only of Don Corleone as a child, but also of how the Don raised his family. How do you deftly handle the problem of an indivudal's identity without showing where he is coming from?

    What Thevar Magan gives you is drama, brilliantly at times, which can give you a frisson. Epiphany or catharsis require a well-etched story.

    Does Thevar Magan ever make us wonder about the possible existence of a liberal Thevar? Why haven't we heard about him? Has there been a whiff of his presence in the public domain? So, where is Kamal Hassan's screenplay coming from? (Too easy.)

    I rest my case.

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    Replies
    1. Thank You. I have added in your comments into the post itself.

      I didn't mean to post this in a manner that would come across as 'having had the last word'. Hope it did not unintentionally come across as so.

      //I have no reason to believe that a madame's piety or a child sex worker's altruism will be manifested in this self-dramatizing, not to speak of self-debasing, way.//
      Hmm ...I think we are talking about 'plausibility' again.
      I understand your objections but don't agree.

      //How do you deftly handle the problem of an indivudal's identity without showing where he is coming from?//
      தாயில்லாத பிள்ளைன்னு ஊட்டி ஊட்டி வளர்த்தனே...இதுவரைக்கும் ஒரு வார்த்தை பேசிருப்பேனா ஒரு வார்த்தை? is about all the story needs.

      That and the surprised, angry frown when his father grabs him by the shirt!

      With that one can see how his upbringing has been protected and soft. That his outlook is genteel, that he wants out and with his education and exposure (விஷயங்கள் பல அறிஞ்சவன் நான்/ வெவரங்கள் பல புரிஞ்சவன் நான்) he is sanctimonious - all of this ties together. I don't feel the problems of plausibility, which you do.

      The deft handling comes in the way, the film rose above the character's understanding of his identity. It is not voiced on way or the other. Even Sakthi explains to Banu, he seems to be under the impression that he consciously chose this identity. He continues to be oblivious to how close it actually is, to what he always was. And what he always was shown well.

      //
      Does Thevar Magan ever make us wonder about the possible existence of a liberal Thevar? //
      I understand the problem about 'en mass' labeling of an entire community. I am going to slot this one too under dramatization.

      And it does make one wonder about the predicament of a liberal thEvar - Sakthi. Just that, it makes him out to be an exception (hero!).

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  2. I bow to thee for the detailed and excellent text. I am not a fanboi of Kamal but an ardent supporter in such an extent that he is the best from India ever. You guys have had a great discussion. Wish I could chip in sometimes..

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    1. Thanks.The man's just a treasure trove!

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  3. கோவிக்க கூடாது. From Poe's "Never Bet the Devil Your Head"

    "...it has been shown that no man can sit down to write without a very profound design. Thus to authors in general much trouble is spared. A novelist, for example, need have no care of his moral. It is there-that is to say, it is somewhere-and the moral and the critics can take care of themselves. When the proper time arrives, all that the gentleman intended, and all that he did not intend, will be brought to light, in the 'Dial,' or the 'Down-Easter,' together with all that he ought to have intended, and the rest that he clearly meant to intend:-so that it will all come very straight in the end."

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    1. இல்லாததையும் பொல்லாத்தையும் படிச்சிரப்போறோமேன்ற பயம் விட்டபாடில்லை.என்ன செய்ய?

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  4. உங்கள் பதிவை படித்த பின்பு ‘இவ்வளவு நுணுக்கமாக ஒரு படத்தை, ஒரு கலைஞனை ரசிக்க முடியுமா?’ என்கிற கேள்வி எனக்குள் எழுகிறது. மறுமுறை, பலமுறை படம் பார்க்கும் ரசிகனுக்காக பல அடுக்குகளையும் படத்திற்குள் வைக்கும் நம் கலைஞானியை வியந்து போற்றுகிறேன்.

    நவீன்

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    1. அவரை விட நுணுக்கமா எடுக்குற பெரியவங்க ஒலக சினிமால்ல இருக்காங்க. ஆனா எனக்கு இவரைத் தானே தெரியும்.


      அன்னிக்கே சொன்னாங்கொ, பெரியவங்க ஆழமா சொன்னாங்கொ
      அத்தையே அண்ணாத்த தண்ணி ஊத்தி லைட்டா சொன்னாரு

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  5. I agree with Naveen's comment above. To see and appreciate a film in such detail in an art in and of itself. After reading your blog posts on films, I usually tend to pick up more things in a film. So it is a like an education for me :)

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    1. Glad!
      As I keep saying, there are many subtle world films that I don't connect to. This is simply because I have always watched it at a level of drama that is captivating. This deep and no deeper. Pampered by Kamal and Raja :-)

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  6. உங்கள் உரையாடல் படத்தில் வரும் கமல் சிவாஜி உரையாடலைப்போல மிக மிக அருமை. சும்மா சொக்கா சொன்ன பா!!

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  7. Responding with a mytakku-esque comment now.

    //There is a standalone shot of his naked leg getting into the slush. IIRC, there was even a slight slow-mo to stretch that moment. That was a deliberate frame that 'tells' something.//

    சக்ரவ்யூஹதுக்குள்ள போகற தருனத்தக் குரிக்கற மாதிரி ஒரு analogy ஒனு தோணுது. He does not come out of the slush innit? Immediately after this, he tells his father that he is not leaving the 'chakravyuha' and is staying back. Maybe it's just me.

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    1. It's difficult to disagree with Mahabharatha analogies because the peak-moments have a wide reach precisely because of their universal nature. So, whether or not it was an hat-tip to Abimanyu, it surely has the overlap you are talking about - getting into something he won't get out of.

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  8. liked it. good one. similar to what you have observed ? here is another beautiful one from Devar Magan - before the lengthy conversation begin between the father and the son. there is a standalone shot (check video between 3:37 to 3:38) showing two utensils having water one full & other half filled, this comes for two seconds as if to summarize the whole things to follow. a conversation between "Nirai Kudam" & "Kurai kudam". Sivaji (NK offers) talks about greater purpose of ones life & Kamal (KK gets it) being leave me attitude ....


    http://youtu.be/2Z0znY9x9mY


    -muthuganesh

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  9. PR, fantastic write-up and extremely interesting dialogue with Kalyan Raman! It made an engrossing reading, thanks to you two.

    I’d like to quote a few lines from an interview of Michael Slovis – Breaking Bad’s DOP – which I thought has some relevance to some of the points that you’ve made.

    On the style of cinematography for the show, he says:
    “I think one of the reasons the show works so well is that the visual language is inseparable from the show itself. The photography is an organic character that comes out of the story rather than being imposed on the story. So it’s honest in terms of elevating the story, or helping to nudge the story along.”

    (http://www.indiewire.com/article/television/michael-slovis-interview-breaking-bad-director-of-photography?page=1#articleHeaderPanel)


    And speaking about ‘guest directors’ on the show and their role:

    In many ways, since you are the visual stylist on every episode, you are sort of the auteur more than directors themselves. What is your relationship with the various directors? Are you working with them in the storyboarding process? How much guidance are you giving them versus they coming to ideas with you?
    The important thing to remember in episodic television is that the people who direct are called guest directors. When they come in, they are guests. If they know how to be a good guest, they don’t insist on anything. I’ve had one or two directors come in, and go, “Listen, I’m gonna show you guys how to do it. You’ve got a great show here, but, let me show you how to do it.” Those guys haven’t been asked back, and they will never be asked back on any show.
    Let’s say I’m a guest director on "Law and Order: SVU." I don’t go in and tell them what to do. I watch the shows, do my homework, look at the language of the shows that they’re telling, and try to fit it in. And if I have a question, I ask. I say, “I have this idea for a shot, what do you think?” And that’s how people do it.
    Now, on Breaking Bad, I am kind of the last word on the set for the look of the show. And I’m very open. We don’t have rules there. Our rule is to tell the story honestly -- that’s our credo. We don’t say, “You must tell it in long shots, You must tell it in wide shots, You must tell it in close-ups, you must do this..." What we do say, if that you must get to the essence of the story, and tell it organically.
    When you do something like that, then it kind of rolls off of the screen. It doesn’t feel like the photography is a separate job from the writing or the acting or the art directing or the makeup. Everything feels of a piece, and that’s the best compliment you can pay to any visual artists, I think -- hen it all feels like it belongs there.

    (http://www.indiewire.com/article/television/michael-slovis-interview-breaking-bad-director-of-photography?page=2#articleHeaderPanel)

    Although this can’t be directly compared to films, I’d like to imagine that in films written by Kamal, the ideas, vision and its execution, this ‘process’ can be roughly be looked at the same way. I believe, the man writes, narrates and communicates his vision to every important member in the film and then the role of the ‘director’ is probably to simply facilitate the execution of this, while working within the vision and guidance.

    - KV

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    1. Welcome to these parts KV :-)
      Glad you liked it.

      Thanks for the BB DoP intree. I must watch this show which is being recommended by many many.

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