07 October 2014

Review of Tamaar Padaar

The fact that Malayalam cinema is on the path of revival and the audience being receptive to some subjects that are off the beaten track can prove to be harmful to a few filmmakers as they forget to draw the line between something that is experimental and something that is digestible for the common viewer to a certain extent (we know that every film cannot be made to cater to the lower common denominator among the viewers). Director Dileesh Nair runs that risk in his first directorial venture Tamaar Padaar that somehow becomes overly experimental at the risk of alienating the audience.

The story of two street performers played by Baburaj and Chemban Vinod Jose looks charming initially as it makes two non lead actors the centre of the story. Vinod even gets a typical romantic song while wooing his girl Valsamma (Srinda Ashab). Their tale is narrated by a voiceover that stays till the end. The director employs a narrator to move the story forward instead of characters themselves doing that. This technique may have been helpful for the director to make his statements (political or otherwise) instead of just making the story flow.

As far as the story goes, it is not as simple as it looks, Jumper Thambi (Baburaj), who exists in this world without a proof of his identity. He has a small family tucked away across the border in Tamil Nadu. He earns his food and drink by performing his circus act on the roads in Kerala.

On the other hand, we do not get a detailed character Tubelight Mani (Chemban Vinod), we just know that he is a simpleton who falls for a streetwalker Valsamma, he is so simple that he does not understand the colloquial term for her profession in an effort to discourage him from following her.

The narrative goes into total spin and becomes the story of ACP Pouran (Prithviraj), the name signifying common citizen, he was born to a policeman named Purushan and his mother was named Sthree. He is being shunted from being an ACP to being a jailer and at last in the IB. It is here that he arrests the two street performers doubting them to be terrorists who get Death Sentence in a jiffy and then realising his mistake, like every good hearted policeman in the films fights the system to free them.

This film feels more like a notebook containing the thoughts of the director read aloud by the narrator. So, once we hear the Home Minister of the State explaining to Pouran that America will be pleased if the Death Sentences of the terrorists were carried out. Then there is a scene where the two performers doing an act together in solidarity with empowerment of women, end almost up in same-sex copulation (so much for subtle symbolism). That is not all; here the director even explains what is done in a typical action sequence by dissecting it in slow motion with a commentary of what is happening before showing it again in normal speed.

The writing takes its toll on the performance of the lead actors, Baburaj who is always presented as no-hold-bar in comic situations feels stifled hear because somewhere inside him he may be feeling that he is doing something very serious and important. Chemban Vinod on the other hand brings softness into his work and does not go over the top as it may be expected of him in such scenes. The ultimate winner in this film as far as histrionic capabilities go as she treads on a very thin line between her character looking vulgar or being innocent and charming. Prithviraj gets the wrong end of the stick as he has been burdened with being a comic cop with a peculiar Thiruvananthapuram accent and nothin else to fall on.

 It all sums up to making Tamaar Padaar into a below average hardly watchable film.

An edited version appears here.

12 March 2014

Organised Medical Profession and a Few Loose Cannons

It is sometimes funny or even weird the way two films connect in your head. Recently while reading the script of Dallas Buyers Club my mind kept going back to You Don’t Know Jack, a “made for the TV” film with Al Pacino and Susan Sarandon in it that I'd seen a few months back. On the surface there is no connection between the two films, apart from the fact that they are stories inspired by real people.

While Dallas Buyers Club is about Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient who smuggles medicines that
helped AIDS patients but weren’t approved by the FDA in the USA. There is a lot of social subtext; of how in the beginning there was a misconception that only gay people got AIDS and how Woodroof in spite of being straight gets it. The transformation of his character from being someone selfish who is trying to stretch his life beyond the thirty days that the doctors had given him, to a person who seeks larger good of people with his actions.

You Don’t Know Jack on the other hand is about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a
pathologist and an advocate of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. He fights for right of his patients to die with dignity. Call it a dichotomy or anything else, he chooses Gandhian way of protesting when he is arrested for his actions. First, refuses to pay the bond for his bail and then goes on hunger strike in jail to make his protest heard.

Basically, both Ron and Jack take on the Medical Bureaucracy for what they feel is right.

In India I can only of Ek Doctor Ki Maut with Pankaj Kapur in the lead in this genre of films. Please let me know if any other film made on same lines.