Thursday, July 13, 2006

A tale of two survivors

When you ask some film theorist to sum up the plots of all the mainstream Tamil movies released so far into three words,then I am pretty sure the answer will be this - "Good vs Evil". And lol, you need not even be a film theorist to arrive at this .Right from Ramayana & Mahabharatha to the latest Rajinikanth movie, the connecting thread remains the same.(Though i agree there is more to Mahabharatha than just a good vs evil story). The good one will live and the bad will perish.

Courage,Honesty,Love,Honor,Patriotism,Chastity,Sacrifice etc. are the recurrent shapes that constitute this motif.And it finds its aesthetics in subtly portraying these.Over and Over again.Of course, there is nothing wrong in this method of telling a story. A few filmmakers do them sucessfully. Like the one's by Balu Mahendra or Mahendran or Rudraiya in the 80s. And some of the movies written by Kamal Haasan in the 90s. And oflate, a movie named Kadhal by Balaji Sakthivel. Such movies were made with a lot of conviction,passion and sincerity. And of course, there is Maniratnam and his clones with their half baked,unconvinced,pretentious movies. subtlety just for the sake of it.

But there exists an aesthetic form of another kind. A form which moves out of that circle wherein the evil wrestles with the good.And for first time,a tamil movie manages to move out of that virtuous circle.Welcome aboard, to Pudupettai.

Pudupettai begins in a prison . One half of the screen in scorching red and another half in bright phosphorescent green, with Kokki Kumar, with beginning sympoms of schizophrenia, retelling his past.A story of a vulnerable young boy, as vulnerable as you and me are, and his journey into the hoodlumhood.

"I wouldn't have come here if my mother is alive" , says Kokki kumar to his other gang members.

"You are speaking as if we were all born with ganja in our hands.Even I had a mother. Asked her this question - when dad goes to work, why are you sleeping with the tailor? . She poured hot water on my stomach. Look look.. the scars are still there..look.. for two months i was in the hospital.and then i came out and joined here.and then, one day my mother came and asked me for some money. i asked that whore to fuk off.ha haa. everybody here has a story here.listen to his story is full of thamash..."

"my dad was a lorry driver. and he got AIDS and gave it to my mother.then, he died. and I got to take care of my mother and my sister.and then..................................."

Fade out.


Why do we expect goodness from anybody? Does anybody owe anything to anybody? To you and me and to the soceity ?Especially, when all they got from you and me and from their family and from the rest of the soceity is nothing but hatred,hostility ,delibrate betrayal,venom and sometimes even hot water. Horror.Aversion. In their dreams, will birds fly? Do they kiss their loved one in their dreams? Do they dream? Will dewdrops on a little budding flower make any difference? Or Will those hues of pink and gold in the skyline during sunrise, will it provide comfort to their soul? Does cellos reverberate in their head?

Am not trying to dumb them down as heartless lurid creatures. Am just questioning myself. That when subjected to same situations, what would I do? where would I be? That *inherent goodness* we talk about which is present in every person,is that all one big damm lie,one big farce? I don't know. I just don't know. I don't know, because I am on the other side.

There is this brilliant sequence on selling dope, where they sell marijuana on the busy streets of Chennai and give all the money they collected on that day to their boss(who gives part of the amount to the the BIgBoss- leader of a political party). Boss gives them back some money. They all run to a brothel and burn all the money they just got from their boss - the same guy who also runs the brothel.

One scene blew me away. Which made me realize the enormous power of cinema.of visuals. It comes just for a split second. A young girl, around 18-20, collects her dope and smiles back and says 'Thank you'. For the first time when I watched the film, I couldn't understand the significance. Afterall, what is the need to break the background score just to insert this and then continue the score all over again. Afterall,it is just a thank you and one can very well do without it. And for this, why break the flow? Hmm.During the initial stages of the movie, just after Kumar ran away from his house and just before he joined the gang, he was pushed into begging. Pushed into? Can't he find some work? Earn his living.. Than losing his self respect and go beggin arnd the streets. Good question! He did tried to find some work. He did. Got chased away from every place.from every shop. And then, he also tried cleaning cars in traffic signals and getting some money for the work. He even tried that, believe me. He cleaned the glass so clean and asked the girl driving the car for some money. All he got was scorn.scorn.scorn. and Green light. And now, he is this kool peddler.We Smile back. And say thank you. Everything
exposed. In a split second.

Many such moments of brilliance run throughout the film. A near classic.It did had its flip sides (violincellos and symphony orchestra just didn't sync with the mood of the film).But then,'The Hindu' trashed this movie . Many other reviews were also in the negative. People I know - moviebuffs who swear by the name of Kurosawa or Ingmar Bergman or Antonini or Adoor - say the movie is Crass.Well. I don't know what do they mean? What is crassness? how can one judge something as crass and something as not? how do we know? . Is there only a single way ? a single form of aesthetics? Who are we to confine it to match our fuked up elitist tastes? are we correct? does that matter? Do we all matter?The subjectivity of truth. subjectivity in truth. its different versions. its different forms.

Crassness adds color. And some soul into the movie. Precisely those that are missing in Maniratnam's movies. Like the character of Abishek Bachan in Yuva.
For me, this is a high class movie .Period. Subjectivity is truth. My little personal truth.
"Madame Sata' - Another movie I saw recently. A tale of another survivor.In Rio of a bygone era. True life story of João Francisco dos Santos,a transvestite.he is cruel.he is hostile.he is passionate.he is ruthless.lives with a prostitue and her child(not by him). And with a servant named Taboo. eunuch.

"There's something eating me up inside", he says to his friend.
His struggle for self expression.
Then he became this drag queen in the night clubs of Brazil. He found himself in those cathartic moments of performing in the night club.That is his art.That is his life. He survived everyday to become this.A performer.An artist. Like Paul Gauguin. Or like,John Nash. We have this reverence for the passion a stock broker turned painter had or to the inner journey of a mad mathematician, but we just don't have that portion of sensuoussomething to acknowledge a brilliant night club performer and the enormous enormous amount of passion and perseverance they have.He is not a hero.He is a survivor. whose passion for life made him come out of the traumatic experience and the pain of being alive everyday, of being a nigger in the slums of Rio. Of getting humilated everyday.

At the end of the day, it is all about being alive to see the day end


Anonymous said...

why do you care what other people think?

Arvind said...

because the Secret sits in the middle. err,maybe not exactly in the middle.maybe left to the center.or right to the center.or it is sitting towards the end. i dunno. and i want to know.

well,it is easy to go on without giving a shit abt what other ppl think.Hell is other ppl,eh? but how do i know that i am correct? how can i say that mine alone is the whole truth?
thesis + antithesis = synthesis.