Monday, January 29, 2007

Some Ramblings by Srinivas Kanchibhotla

#These articles are written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla

1.Nuvve Nuvve
2.Manmadhudu
3.Show
4.Okkadu
5.Mr & Mrs Iyer
6.Aithe
7.Boys
8.Malliswari
9.Kaakha Kaakha (Tamil)
10.Yuva (Hindi)
11.Lakshya (Hindi)
12.Virumandi (Tamil)
13.Anand
14.Swades (Hindi)
15.Mughal-E-Azam (Hindi)
16.Radha Gopalam
17.Batman Begins
18.Aparichitudu
19.Anukokunda Oka Roju
20.Kaadhal (Tamil)
21.Mangal Pandey (Hindi)
22.Athadu
23.Sarkar
24.Munich
25.Jai Chiranjeeva!
26.Rang De Basanti
27.Sri Ramadasu
28.The Da Vinci Code
29.Godavari
30.Superman Returns
31.Iqbal
32.Bommarillu
33.Lage Raho Munnabhai
34.The Departed
35.Omkara
36.Casino Royale
37.Guru

1.Nuvve Nuvve


It can be said that not many movies stay with you long after their scheduled run, and the ones that do, do so, for those innumerable emotions that they invoke, for those countless ways that they connect and for those mysterious ways, that they well up the hidden feelings. While writing for a song for the movie Subhasankalpam, Sirivennela summed up the power of those alphabet associations that stir up the above, from deep within, thusly - "evaru iccaarammaa inni akshaaraalu, aksharaala venaka inni ardhaalu, ae daevata iccindO inni varaalu, vippi naenu ceppalaenu aa vivaraalu". Add to that word association, the right context, the perfect emotion and a good deliverer - the words start breathing and assume a life of their own. And if a movie stood up to become the torchbearer to this renaissance of good taste and this resurrection of good quality, it is, arguably, Nuvve Nuvve.

Characterization has found a new home at Trivikram's. The ability of a character to talk sensibly, convince the audience of its convictions and motives, make them sympathize with its actions, be it the protagonist or the father's character, are some of the characteristic traits that Trivikram has mastered over the past few movies, and his skill has reached a new pinnacle with this movie. Rounding off every plot point, logical explanation behind each action, lack of any extraneous behaviors, a pragmatic approach to every problem and a practical view at what life (of the characters) has to offer, not only brings them closer to the audience, but also endears themselves to the same in the process. The two dimensions, action and reaction, that usually define a Telugu movie character, has been bestowed upon a third and an important dimension - emotion and the words that props it. The skill at finding this new angle within every character that greets us on the screen, is something that Trivikram has honed with each passing movie, and it touched a new zenith in Nuvve Nuvve.

This movie is a triangle of sorts involving a possessive father, his torn daughter and her optimistic lover. An intelligent adaptation of the Hollywood movie "Say Anything", Nuvve Nuvve feels anything but a native Telugu movie, thanks for the extra care that Trivikram has put in, shaping the characters to perfection. Prakash Raj stands out as the hero of the movie, finely balancing his emotions between an over-bearing father and an over-protective parent. If, at no point, his character feels as one with a negative touch, as one that has marks of villainy in it, it is because of the humanization (not to be confused with the humanity) that he brings to the character - a locked brow here, a sly smile there, a silly smirk here and a broad laugh there - Prakash Raj seems born for the part and he practically lives the character. Subtlety in the dialogue delivery, hand gestures indicating his inner turmoil, facial expressions conveying the deep schism between his love for his daughter and the dislike that he developed towards her lover, are just some of the many tools that he brings to the table. It would be a grave injustice to the acting fraternity, should he not be awarded the best actor award (not best character award, as is the general tendency) for Nuvve Nuvve.

Tarun comes in a distant second, comparatively, with another good performance. His ease with the spoken language coupled with a confident body language, makes him a nice fit with the character that he portrays on the screen. The gradual transformation of his character from a carefree one to a caring one, ably supported by those fantastic words from Trivikram, seems genuine, heart-felt and sincere. The slight differences between the boyish charm that won over his lady and the same boyish charm that earns the wrath of her father was effectively conveyed through the careful intonation and his skillful modulation. If shaping up a character, through a series of words on paper, is one thing, bringing the character to life on the screen, without missing the minute details on paper - a clenched jaw here, a glinty eye there, a soft-spoken character here, a earnest figure there - Tarun appeared as what was exactly conceived in ink.

Rumored as completely storyboarded, Nuvve Nuvve has some nice imaginative shots and angles, thanks to deft handling of the camera by Hari Anumolu and crisp cutting by Sreekar Prasad. The two-shot sequences involving either the lead characters, or the confrontation sequences between Tarun and Prakash Raj, were choreographed to squeeze maximum mileage out of the situation - consider the letter-grabbing episode involving Tarun and Shriya, or the one at Annavaram when Shriya rests on her father's shoulders or the fine camerawork in the campus scenes. Koti and Sirivennela contributed their mite and might in bringing out a well refined, mature and an entertaining product.

If what Trivikram has showed us in Swayamvaram, Nuvve Kaavali, Chirunavvuto and Nuvvu Naaku Naccav, were to be considered as just a tip of the proverbial iceberg of his insightful and observant nature of the characters, if what Trivikram made us feel, delving into the depths of the characters in Nuvve Nuvve, if what Trivikram has demonstrated in his dramatic prowess and comedic timing in all the aforementioned movies, were just initial forays decimating the dullness and the dreariness that is plaguing the current telugu film character, assuring us that his best is yet to come, then we are in for some great treat for times to come.

2.Manmadhudu




Montage is often defined in movie terms, as a series of different elements joined together, while trying to make a point. For example, while in a song, the images of boy and a girl meeting at a park, acting in a friendly way, having a jolly time together laughing, sharing, and doing things together, would be interpreted as the two developing some sort a relationship. Now what if, an entire movie plays out as a montage LEADING up to the climax, than a plot that plays out in a justifiable manner ADDING up to the climax? With no emotional point to moot, with no logical point to peg, the movie just plays out as a series of vignettes, with the sole objective of making the end justify the means. It almost plays out like the Fibonacci series in math, wherein the value of any number in the series, in dependent upon the previous two numbers, nothing more, nothing less.

Abstracting a Telugu movie is as difficult as the predicting the fate of the same at the turnstiles. The reason being, telugu movies stick so much to the basics and fly so low below the intellectual radar, that it is more than often, an exercise in futility, trying to come up with an acceptable abstractive framework, to explain the movie. It is for the same reason, a Telugu movie becomes a series of plot points, with plot plodders and plot pushers sprinkled along the lines, trying to show the exorbitant price paying audience, nothing more than just a good time. To borrow the phrase, "just when I think I am out they pull me back right in" (Al Pacino, from Godfather 3), just when we thought, Trivikram made some progress in pushing the often banal Telugu characters to a higher, more meaningful strata with Nuvve Nuvve, he is pulled back again into the trite quagmire to script a movie like Manmadhudu.

In just the same way was he awarded and rewarded, amply and solely, for the successes of the movies Nuvve Kaavali, Nuvvu Naaku Naccav, Nuvve Nuvve etc, Trivikram alone should be blamed for this most insipid and uninspired script of his otherwise illustrious career till date. If subtle sentimentality is his forte, it was sorely missing; if sensible drama is a part of his strong suite, it was hugely lacking; if delightful insights into the characters is what he trademarked his trade with, it was largely wanting. It is often said, that it does not matter, what the movie is about; what matters is the journey that the audience is embarked upon; what matters is how the movie gets down doing its business, achieving what it intended to set out. It is for this same reason that movies as sensible as Sankarabhranam appeal to us, movies as outlandish as Jagadeka veerudu agrees with us, movies as ridiculous as Hello Brother appeases us.

MOULDING Hollywood themes to suit the nativity, which Trivikram seems to be adept at, when reduced to the act of just ADAPTING, sounds tired, jaded and lifeless. When, in such adaptations, are sprinkled the typical character observations, without actually propping the character up with enough meat, they sound out of place and distracting. And then there is this cause and effect dialogue sequence, that's usually one of the many disarming weapons in his quiver. Take the example of the hero trying to woo the second heroine to go on a drive with her. The way Trivikram sets the scene up, builds the scene with a little rejoinder on the coffee drinking habit, and cuts the scene abruptly without any satisfying pay off, is just one of the many quibbles, that one can pick on with the screenplay. The writer usually should be able to identify with a character, and support it with enough motivation to be able to justify his actions, in a well-rounded script. Be it Tarun's character in Nuvve Kaavali, or Venu's in Chirunavvuto or more recently Prakash Raj's in Nuvve Nuvve, the audience would be able to instantly identify with the character's actions, because of its valid motivation and logical justification of the same. Even in a ultra commercial movie like Nuvvu Naaku Naccav, Venkatesh's character, in spite of all the antics, does not seem to lose focus and right until the end, it does not sway away from its initial path.

Technical wizardry, no matter how dazzling and impressive, as is the case, can never be a substitute to the printed word. The team of Sameer Reddy, Devi Sri Prasad and Srikar Prasad tried to go pick up the ball, that Trivikram has dropped so early in the game, and tried to make some play out of it. An interesting point in Sameer Reddy's photography is the COOL shaking effect during the songs, wherein the images of the characters have a noticeable vibration with the background remaining absolutely still, which is similar to the ones photographed in David Fincher's Fight Club. Sirivennela's lyrics contributed his pen worth to salvage some respectability and his power of abstraction, even in as one-dimensional movie as Manmadhudu, speaks much of his prowess ("eDabaaTae baaTai naDavagaa"). Trivikram's framework - boy meets girl, boy/girl hates girl/boy, boy and girl go to different setting, they develop feelings, girl is engaged, boy broods, key event happens, boy gets after the girl, they unite - is fast losing its grip. It is time he pulled it by the strings and tightened it up.

3.Show




Trend is often defined as a precursor to a cliché. A youthful movie becomes successful and the market is flooded with clones and drones; a vengeful movie strikes some chord with the audience and it is treated to different variations of the same blood and gore. Stranger it may seem, because not too many good movies find followers lining up in their paths. A "Siva" was followed by thousands of its minions (pramadha gaNaalu would be a better term), but a "Kshana Kshanam" had no takers. A "Nuvve Kaavaali" opened the floodgates to hundreds of unwanted adaptations, but a "Chirunnavuto" walked alone. Going by this simple sampling, one can fairly predict how "trends" would treat this new innovative movie named "Show".

More than the guts factor, which is required in sizable proportions, to embark upon a movie making adventure such as this, it is the audacity of the maker (Neelakantha) to believe in himself, and attempt at convincing the audience, that it does not need a few hundreds lakhs, a few foreign locales and hordes of characters, to get a point across. Well rounded characters, even without enough motivations behind their actions, but possessing a simple ability of remaining true to their characters without trying too hard to grab the attention of the audience and engross them, are some of the stand out points of these so-called "good movies".

More so in cases where the focus of attention shines on only on a handful characters, the terms sincerity, wit and innovation come into play at every twist and turn. When there aren't too many distractions bothering the audience with their smoke and mirrors act, every word that the character utters comes under the mental microscope and every step that the script takes comes into serious relief. Braving this minefield of a playfield, the maker (incidentally, the script writer too) made sure that the subject matter wasn't too abstract for the audience to understand, or too intricate for them to follow. This bravura performance, fittingly rewarded at the national level, deserves a sound round of applause, for its lucidity in flow and elegance in execution.
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Price: $13.99

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Brand S. V. Entertainments
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Other Bonus Songs From Holi & Allari
DVD Review Crystal clear Video/Audio DVD made from an original print. A good buy.
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If the entire movie is to revolve around two characters, and the setting is in and around a house, the cameraman has to think really hard to frame his shots to avoid repetition and bring out a sense that involves the audience in the proceedings. It is really easy to go overboard on such occasions and overdo the job, making the piece a little too self-conscious, while making the audience appreciating the craft and overlooking the material. Ravi Yadav, the photographer, who walks this thin line between creativity and exuberance, deserves kudos almost on par with the writer-director, for the unique number of ways he composed the different sequences in the movie. If at no point does the movie feel like a ultra low budget movie shot on a 35mm film, it is because of the inventive camera work that went beyond the call of duty of picturising the action of the movie, to the point of depicting the characters in a different angle, literally. Ravi Yadav certainly joined the ranks of a Govind Nihlani or a Ashok Mehta or a Balu Mahendra, for his fantastic work on Show.

One obscure category deserves some serious mention here. Sound mixing, that became a vital part of the movie, in the final act of the movie, was done with utmost attention to the detail elevating the mood of the characters and more importanly the tempo and the drama. The clarity of the sound and the ability to distinguish between the voices (with special mention to the voice that dubbed the lead character's wife's voice), which becomes a important part in shifting the gears, would not had been possible, but for the sharp ear of the mixer.

Surya - the one, who really infused life into the words and thus into the movie, with a tour-de-force performance, should become a serious contender to best actor Nandi, along with Prakash Raj (for Nuvve Nuvve). The way he relegated the female character (in a good way) to becoming just a wall to bounce emotions off, Surya, through his body language (going a little overboard at times, as dictated by the script), and emerged the sole winner from among the ones facing the lens, is a treat to watch and appreciate. One would seriously hope that this movie serves him as a springboard for better roles and even better Performances.

Lastly, if the movie pitch goes something on the lines of - "two characters try to kill some time engaging each other doing nothing but TALKING during a 5 hour period, holed up in a house, by staging a mock play which is in a reflective of the lead character's life" - the producer should either be completely ignorant or supremely confident about the abilities of the maker on pulling off, a risky proposition as this and Manjula proves that she belongs to the latter category. In the celluloid world, filled with dreamy characters occupying perfect worlds, where their only concerns revolve around expressing their love and winning over hearts, here is one that dares to be different that wins over the minds, for a change. We are ready with the three cheers, say when!

4.Okkadu




There was an interesting sequence in the movie "Laathi" released in the early 90's directed by the then debutant Gunasekhar, involving the introduction of the villain, who chases his victim to a railway track in the middle of the night. The face of the villain is not revealed yet and his victim, about to confront death, has his life in his eyes, facing the camera. A train fast approaches and the shot reverses. In the glimmering light of a distant tube light, the face of the villain, played by Raghuvaran, is revealed, through the moving train. A visually arresting build-up, considering, not a single word is spoken for about 5-10 minutes, leading up to the sequence. Or consider another Gunasekhar's simple yet poignant drama commenting on marital relationship - sogasu cooDa tarama. The heroine comes to know that hero has wagered her in a match of arm wrestling with his boss for a onetime opportunity of winning one crore. The scene does not concentrate on the outcome of the match, but instead on the hero's weakness to have EVEN CONSIDERED ABOUT IT in the first place. No melodrama ensues and no heavy dialogues follow. The heroine looks at him, like the hero has been reduced to next to nothing, and she walks out on him. Another dialogue-less attention grabber.

Though it has been quite some years that the visual medium has completely taken over its aural counterpart, Telugu movies has often relied the spoken word to convey the feeling and deliver the punch. The term screenplay has been reduced to a scenic order of how the dialogues flow. Seldom do we have movies like Siva, Kshana Kshanam and now Okkadu, that rely more on the mood than on the words and it is not a coincidence that all the movies which seriously tout the merits of screenplay belong to the action genre. The yanking of the cycle chain in Shiva, or the threatening to throw away the money bag atop the moving train in Kshana Kshanam are one of those wonders that convey the right emotion without the characters mouthing reams of dialogues. How scenes as these build up the emotion essentially depend on the camera placement and movement, the intercutting between different angles, and more importantly the background score - from a drone like buzz to a rich flourish.

Action movies come with a suspension of disbelief aura attached to them. Logic is the last thing that would usually be accounted for in such situations. Make believability with an iota of intelligence, is the key during the execution of the action sequences. The audience never goes into the physical impossibility or practical feasibility of a feat, if the series of actions leading up to the sequence is properly justified and does not undermine the intelligence of the audience. The hero is pushed hard and hard by the villain, and in the fit of moment, the hero throws the cycle down and yanks the chain out. The audience does not get bogged down by the fact that it is humanly impossible to perform such a stunt in a real-life situation. Action sequence revolves a simple "setup and payoff" rule and Okkadu has several of these sprinkled across for good measure.

Scoring on each scene that is being played out on the screen, with orchestral accompaniment, when restrained to a large extent, elevates the atmosphere of the scene and draws the viewer even more into the mood of the scene. Music sense does not measure up on how well sequence is scored, than on the ability to refrain from commenting on every scene. Intermittent pauses and prolonged silences, when left alone, add up to the eerie effect thus building up, enough suspense and anticipation. Mani Sarma scores well on all the above counts. And when it is time that the music bathes in Sirivennela's words, the result is pure aural treat. Re-recording, has the inherent ability to act on the audience on a sub-conscious level. Misuse it, it reduces to pure cacophony; disuse it, it is as good as not being there. Mani Sarma, who reserved his best for Gunasekhar (Manoharam, Choodalani Undi and Okkadu), is to be commended for his economy of score and richness in expression.

Sharing the dais with Gunasekhar and Mani Sarma, Sreekar Prasad working in tandem with Sekhar Joseph, another Gunasekhar regular, served some of the best action sequences seen in recent times. The way the technical elements were altered during action choreography, like playing with the frame rate, the camera placement, the stop motion camera, was something unique refreshing and commendable than having to see the routine bashing of the bad guys in dull and repulsive ways. To sum up, this is one movie that brought out the true strength of the screenplay, this is one movie that truly relied on its technical aspects, this is one movie that put fun back in action.

5.Mr & Mrs Iyer




When a movie is specifically termed as a "commercial" one, one could pretty much gauge the sanity and fantasy levels within the same. Brand it an "Art" movie, regular movie watcher would shun it like the plague. The common perception that art movies are something where one has to engage their gray matters in order to enjoy them, art movies aren't really accessible to an average movie-goer, art movies are too close to the real life and one doesn't need pay money to be reminded of his every day life when he could watch it pass by without any extra charge, are some of the reasons why the parallel movement hasn't really caught on, like the independent film movement in Europe or in America. Of late, be it for the reason that commercial movies has wandered off into the deep end of the mess pool, or be it because of the fact that people started accepting more reality than theatricality in regular fares, movies like "Hyderabad Blues", "Show" etc are finding wider acceptance and larger recognition.

To look back upon Mr & Mrs Iyer, it is difficult to make out, if it is a love story against a communal riot backdrop or a social commentary woven around human emotions, but it clearly succeeds on both fronts. Aparna Sen, who made a brilliant debut with "36 Chowranghee Lane" in the early eighties, deftly balances both the plot points, without going overboard on either of them. A large-scale tragedy seldom affects somebody until it is given a human face. Communal riots, which usually tend to polarize the public opinion, one way or the other, would be viewed under a wholly different light, if the tragedy strikes too close to comfort or the if it is visited upon somebody too close to the heart. Aparna Sen (along with Dulal Dey) weaves a simple story around this point and manages to hold the audience heavily dreading for the tragedy to hit the lead pair and hugely rooting for their safe escape from the clutches of communalism at the same time.

The movie has uncanny similarities in Maachis and Ijaazat, both Gulzar's movies, with regard to plot and its sensible dealing with the issues - be it personal or communal. With patriotism (or essentially communalism) translating to flag waving hero killing the neighboring country's enemies by the dozens and with secularism equating to the hero singing communal harmony sermons on the top of his voice, along with the obligatory members of the minority communities, a realistic treatment of the above mentioned two important issues of the society, was either largely missing or hugely wanting. Govind Nihlani's Tamas, Gulzar's Maachis and to a certain extent Mahesh Bhat's Zakhm, handled the growing menace of communalism, pre and post-independence, not with the heavy-handedness that it is usually dealt with in the regular fare, but with the sensitivity and sensibility, the theme truly demands. These two aspects tend to give the movies their rough and real edges, assaulting the emotions and disturbing the psyche.

The emotional aspect of the movie aside, the setup of the love story (if it can even be called one), no matter how familiar and formulaic, feels fresh and vibrant, thanks to the players before and behind the camera. Konkana Sen Sharma (daughter of Aparna Sen), carries off the role of a devout traditional Tamilian house-wife (fitting the accent and mannerisms perfectly), stumbling (and at times, hamming) during the first act, but regaining her ground, and pulling it off with great conviction at the end. Rahul Bose (of Bombay Boys fame) plays a good foil as a calm and composed Mr. Iyer to a temperamental Mrs. Iyer. The one aspect that sticks out as a sore thumb, is the "too realistic" yet ordinary photography by Gautam Ghose, which captures characters talking in the dark, AS characters talking in the real darkness. The music director, Ustad Zakir Hussain's, a percussionist himself, conscious usage of stringed instruments for the background evocative score, is commendable, for his involvement in understanding of the message of material - strings that tug the hearts and strings that break them.

Mr & Mrs Iyer demonstrates how involving a movie watching experience can get, if it just sticks to the basics. It teaches the importance on the clarity of understanding of the material at hand, by the maker. It just shows how the "ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances" theme should be dealt with, by treating extra-orindary circumstances not in a ham-handed way but in an ordinary way. And who better to learn all these than from the master, Aparna Sen!

6.Aithe


Unemployed youth, after much difficulty in trying to find ways to meet ends, risk their lives and commit a crime that they neither have an experience with nor are they good at. Their common friend, a girl, acts as the lone voice of reason and conscience, and tries to mend their ways. In the end, things fall in place, thanks in equal measures to accident and serendipity, and they live happily ever after. This exciting, but exact template, that Chandra Sekhar Yeleti so skillfully modeled "aitae" around, has been adapted before, to the same effect and surprisingly to the same result, by Siva Nageswara Rao for "Money" (1993). Unlike the regular 3 act model that most of the movies tend to fall in, this genre follows a 4 act (setup, execution, consequence, comeuppance) framework, in a compressed timeframe, driving all its thematic elements to the final conclusion, with an utter sense of urgency. The timeframe works as an added advantage, both to the theme and to the movie, in that the audience would be anxious that the good guys dispose of the guilt bag at the earliest and return to their simple and normal lifestyles, no matter how troubling they are.

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The lifeline of this genre depends upon how convincing the setup is and the genius of lifeline depends on how simplistic (not simple, but simplistic) the pressing needs of the protagonists are. The simplistic the needs, the glaring would be the ludicrous levels to which the lead characters tempt fate and entangle themselves in something that could very well end their lives. Gambling needs, domestic problems, employment gains and health grounds form the basis of their crime. Their simplicity of the heroes is contrasted with the cold-blooded nature of the villain; the inexperience of the heroes is mixed up with the calculated nature of the villain; the good luck of the heroes crosses with the bad fate of the villain. This potent combination stirred up with some witty dialogue humor makes "aitae" as endearing as "Money". Next in the lineup is the execution. Simplicity is the key factor in this phase too. The social standing of the protagonists limits their means and the reach to pull off an elaborate plan. Chandra Sekhar works this limitation as an advantage once again and hatches a plan that is logical, realistic (within the rules of the movie land) and doable. The way he intersperses the plans of the villain with the schemes of the heroes, throwing the audience completely off the scent, deserves some serious merit. While the consequence/comeuppance (for the villain, ofcourse) act slows down the pace a little bit, it can fairly be said that "aitae" joins the ranks of "Money", as the chosen few telugu movies that toyed with this structure and successfully at that.

For this movie to go down as a taut thriller, Sudhakar, the editor, shares as much responsibility as Sekhar, the director, and luckily, editing comes off as one of the finest that was on display in the recent telugu movies (on par or even finer than Okkadu). There are two specific things that can sing praises for Sudhakar's editing -

1. Most of the framing in the movie involves atleast 4 characters, either in a circle or positioned strategically. The common way to edit these types of sequences in regular telugu fare would be straight close ups or mediums on individual faces coupled with JARRING inserts, that does not add ups to the flow of action. To further illustrate this point, fast forward to the final sequence of "nuvvu naaku naccaav" when Suhaasini confronts Venkatesh, and observe the way the insert shots obstruct the regular flow, and feel completely out of place with the rest of the framing - and this is only with 2 characters in the frame. With "aitae", where two-thirds of the movie has all the 4 lead characters present in the same frame for most of the times, the way the master shot is matched up with individual inserts, speaks volumes of simple details that the director and the editor (and the lensman) paid attention to, when handling the scissors.

2. More than the technical expertise that is a pre-requisite for handling the editing duty, it is the overall grasp of the editor on the subject matter that dictates the pace of the movie. The way each scene ends, while completely book-ending it and setting up the next, reminds uncannily of the Hitchcockian style of suspense film making.

Dialogues - refreshing, terse and to the point, handled by Gunnam Ganga Raju (who also produces), serve the dual purpose of nice fillers and witty one-liners, without going over-board. Roles speak true to their characters. The mafia guys have sufficient profanity spewing in their speak. The Intelligence Bureau folk has all the preciseness and much required intelligence (that is often wanting in people of that stature) in their discussions. The college students have the required vulnerability, the little greed, blind optimism and overall apprehension in their talk. The last producer-writer that comes to mind, with the same (or even much greater) good taste and sharp tongue as Ganga Raju, who already produced another good movie "Little Soldiers" a few years ago, is the legendary Chakrapani. Kalyan Mallik with his sole(soulful) song (coupled with His Highness, Sirivennala's lyric) and background music, brings his fair-share contribution to the table. The black-sheep in this technical wizardry team is the handler of the lens, Senthil Kumar. The lighting was very inconsistent (don't know if this was intended) throughout the movie, not to mention anything about the scenes in the dark.

It is quite a tribute to its maker when a ultra low-budget movie is graded on the same level as its big-budget peers, nit-picked for the flaws on the same level, and not made any concessions during the process - it says a lot about the movie, made (from) with something so small. A long time after "Money", here is another that does not assume that the audience has come prepared to accept an action-thriller-comedy with that single telugu movie goer accompaniment - suspension of disbelief!

7.Boys


That seems to be the obvious trapping with commercial movies. The
Greater the success range of the previous venture, the higher the stakes and the greater the anticipation, and any exercise that is at best on par with its predecessor ends up on the futile side. Within the confines of the cinema rules, the only way to ante up the efforts to match the expectations, is to treat the audience with something that they neither are prepared to nor are they least expecting. Add to this doomsday scenario a volatile subject on the lifestyle of youth, the demand on the delivery of an even bigger and better product begs for a true shock and awe campaign. From among the glut of youth movies, it takes a serious attempt on the part of the maker to make his movie stand out, and how better to make his statement than intentionally shock, repulse, awe and agape the audience, all at the same time. Though the caption of the movie reads "Boys" for gals, it should truly be called "Boys" seriously and only for adults.

Setting aside the impact of the risqué content on the young impressionable target audience, and condoning the bucking of the collective social responsibility of the makers and the censors, "Boys" makes a sincere attempt at depicting the life of the adolescents, without the extra gloss or the candy floss. No matter how shocking the antics of the youngsters are to the audience, one cannot but agree to the fact that they are deep-seated in reality and the little dramatic license that Sankar took with the characters does not digress into the fantasy realm. Fun, when needs to be depicted within the context of life of college students, revolve around the holy trinity - bucks, booze and chicks (manI, madyam, maguva). Sankar treats each of these subjects in great detail - the lack of experience, the loss of innocence, the transition to adulthood and bitter reality of a responsible life, centering around the holy trinity, are given fair shares without the usual patronizing or the condescension attitudes that the makers have with adolescent-to-adulthood themes.

From the screenplay perspective, Sankar had to deal with setting up 5
unique incidents for each of the 5 principal characters, while ascribing them with unique characteristic traits, in order for the script to not get repetitive or worse prop up one character at the expense of another. The script has to be appreciated for the number of unique situations that are dealt with, either during the fun part of the initial setup of the characters in the first act or during turbulent times that the boys find themselves in the third act. The adolescent infatuation, masking itself as love, for all its awkwardness, the blind faith, masking itself as severity (praema teevrata), for all its foolhardiness, the volatile state, masking itself as true emotions, for all its ridiculousness, make for some really entertaining plot points that could be milked for maximum mileage. Sankar and Sri Rama Krishna (Sujata - the original dialogue writer) never let go of a single opportunity to point out the painfully obvious trippy nature of the teenagers, when it comes to the matters of heart. Great care has been taken while depicting the journey during the teen age - angst-ridden, troublesome, optimistic and memorable.

The percussion scowls "Break the rules", the guitar screams "naakoka
Girl Friend kaavali", the disarming loop raps "Dating is a fantasy", the Doo-Wop group pleads "Please Sir". When the music is not constrained by the whims of the characters, when the music is not restrained by the shackles of script, when the music is not burdened by the boredom of banality, the unfettered and irreverent tunes soar signifying the utter carelessness (or carefreeness), unbridled enthusiasm and the innocent ignorance. Rahman, whose contributions to Mani Ratnam's and Sankar's movies in particular need no further introduction, lets himself go for "Boys", and the result is an eclectic array of dizzying dittys, propped with some out of the world orchestrations, his prime forte. After a long time, here is one from Rahman that serves to his strongest suite - eastern melody in western mould. Aiding the aurals, the visuals (choreography) by Raju Sundaram, drawing from the dance moves of the recent pop bands (NSync etc, particularly for the "Girl Friend" song), serve a perfect match. Sankar, who worked earlier with Jeeva (for Gentleman, Premikudu and Bharateeyudu), Madhu Ambat (for Jeans) and Prasad (for Okkadu), for translating his grandiose schemes and greater than life characters onto the screen, chose Ravi Chandran for an even ambitious job of translating the intangible fun of adolescence. Ravi Chandran's indulgence in stop-motion technique (or called as time-slice technique), the advance-motion techniques, the low-angles, the depth filled mediums and close-ups and the seamless integration with the special effects, added another texture to the movie, making it a true audio-visual treat.

Each outing of Sankar, as far as youth movies go, pushes the envelope and stretches the boundaries. If "Boys", his ode to the teen age, walked the thin line between risqué and raunchy, between fun and filth and importantly between licentiousness and lewdness, one shudders to think as to what limits would be crossed and what boundaries would be erased, in his subsequent youthful indiscretions!

8.Malliswari




Hitchcock once described the difference between surprise and suspense thusly - if there is a bomb under the table that the hero is sitting at and the neither audience nor the hero is aware of it, it has all the elements of surprise built into it, when the bomb goes off. As in, the surprise springs up when the bomb explodes catching both the characters on either side of the screen unguarded and unexpecting. Now on the other hand, if the audience knows that a bomb has been planted before hand, much before the hero character knows about it, and the hero seats himself at the same table, it has all the elements of suspense built into it. And depending upon how the script moves the plot, the audience would be anxiously anticipating the bomb to go off at any moment, thus building up the suspense to the hilt. Now apply this same famous Hitchcock logic to comedy. If the characters in the script do not have any inkling of the type of situation they find themselves in, and situation dictates the characters to look totally out of place or completely out of element, comedy is born in quite a natural fashion. It does not seem forced and nor does it look that the script is trying to create comedy. Now if the characters already know much before the audience that they are in a comedic scene and that they have to create comedy, it takes double the effort and double the wit to extract comedy in this rather Caesarean way. Venky, accidentally falling in love with Nandini (Nuvvu Naaku Naccav) much against his father's behest or much against his convictions, is natural and the situations leading up to it are comical. On the other hand, "peLLi kaani prasaadu", desperately trying to end up on the good side of Malleeswari, does not earn the same kind of viewer's support or sympathy, since it seems that Prasad is already "in" on the joke (along with the viewer) and the situation soon becomes "laughing with Prasad", rather than "laughing at Prasad". This distinction is important given the context (that Prasad is trying hard to get married) that Prasad's situation should be comical to the viewer and not to himself.

The second sore point with the script is the fact that it wastes away the ever fresh "fish out of water" build up. When Maya Sasirekha (S.V.Ranga Rao) trades places with regular Sasirekha in Dwaaraka, the comedy of manners, resulting from maaya sasirekha being completely unaware of the practices of the civilized world, which is far removed from his (her) regular uncultured society, is quite hilarious, since it is the situation, again, that is the key element for the comedy. When Malliswari, who has a royal and a regal lineage, interacts with Prasad, whose life centers around Andhra Bank and his unmarried self, the situation presents itself for some comedy of manners, revolving around her ignorance of the ways of the regular world and his ignorance in trying to understand her take on the world. "It happened one night" or "Roman Holiday" or to some extent "Dil Hai Ki Maanta Hai" understood that the way of treating this Princess-Pauper situation lies in the chemistry resulting from the clash of two civilizations (or simply, two largely different worlds) basing on her mistrust and his misgivings. When this conflict angle is not exploited (nor even explored) by placing both the princess and the pauper on even keel, it is like one hand waving in the air trying to produce a clapping sound, without the other supporting it. Swayamvaram has the requisite conflict when Venu does not want to go against his principle even while drawing closer to Laya. Nuvve Kaavali has the friendship-love troubling transition conflict. Nuvvu Naaku Naccav, as pointed above, is Venky being torn apart between his word to his father and his love to Nandini. Even Manmadhudu, to some extent, portrayed this conflict successfully with touch me-touch me not see-saw in Abhi's attitude. This conflict angle appears to be sorely missing in "Malliswari" - the script does not seem to care why Malliswari has to fall to Prasad (while Prasad's motivation is quite clear), apart from the obvious reason that the hero and heroine have to come together no matter what.

Sincerity, which has been Trivikram's trademark till date, gave way for grandiosity in "Malliswari". When the setup got bigger, the stakes higher, and not to mention the budgets and track-records, (t)his down to earth simplicity and sincerity seem to be lost somewhere in these high stakes and huge setups. When the situations become contrived, the laughs seem to be forced and the emotions arising out of them quite artificial. And the laughs portion of the script, though showing the occasional flashes of Trivikram's brilliance, seem to be satisfied with a simple cause-effect payoff, and simple slapstick, without stretching the boundaries (contrast it with Lavangam episode or Banku Seenu episodes in Manmadhudu). Snoopy, the dog, is quite miffed whenever someone touches it on the forehead and the results ensuing (conveniently adapted from "There's Something About Mary") does have neither the requisite setup nor the desired payoff. When the different threads of the comical elements are interwoven skillfully, the resulting tapestry is quite a treat to watch. But if the comedy sticks to a strict episodic nature, with one scene having neither forbearance on its successor nor inheriting anything from its predecessor, the emotional point (even in comedy) is restricted to a few laughs without trying for a longer life. Banthi handles clumsily any task that is given to him by Venky, earning his fair share of whiplashes in the due process. With the setup task done away with in the initial few scenes, whenever Banthi is entrusted a task by Venky, the viewer is already aware of Banthi's history, and the laughs arising out of the situation become logical, leave alone hilarious. When a history (or a back-story) is created for a character, it adds flesh and blood to the paper model and it starts breathing life with this third dimension. "Malliswari" with paper characters aplenty (the huge credit scroll at the end of the movie attesting to the fact) appears to be a kitschy concoction of all the edible and tasty items, with a dull taste and insipid emotion.

Though it'll accumulate its fair (?) share of money bags, "Malliswari" does not glorify Trivikram's resume anymore than "Manmadhudu" did it an year ago. Though he hit all the right spots that earned the viewer's applause in his previous ventures, the endearing nature of the characters which seem to match the situation they are placed in, seems to be conspicuously missing. That he identified with the characters then, knew them on a personal level their motivations and machinations, obviously helped the shape and life of the same. The one bright spot in his script is the self-depreciative and self-effasive nature of Prasad, which has flashes of all the lead characters that Trivikram has penned till date. And added to that Venkatesh's sincerity in taking on Prasad's clumsiness and down to earth nature in his stride is worth a mention. If Trivikram's best work lies in simple setups, earnest sincerity, humility and honesty, big budgets do not seem right for his pen strokes.

9.Kaakha Kaakha (Tamil)




Sometimes the magic happens when the image starts to burn the celluloid in the camera; sometimes, at the editing table and more times than not, when the ink seeps in and etches itself on the paper. Rarely does the magic repeat and reappear at every phase of the movie making, with each segment of the process inspiring the other to venture into new territories, treading unknown lands and breaking some new ground along the way - the idea taking its roots and acquiring proper shape within the writer, the context of the characters dictating the events that transpire in the script, the situation boosting up the composer, the script inspiring the lensman, the picture turning up the heat on the cutter, the finished silent product amazing the mixer and the final end product wowing the audience. And when in hindsight, the final product is looked upon as something, where script takes every right turn, the music sounds every right note, the lens captures every right move and the scissors cuts sharp at every right moment, it can be explained in terms of destiny as something that was meant to be, something that meant to be perfect. As is said, the magic does not happen too often.

Cop themes already bring them the required mood, the suitable tone and enough canvas material to the drawing board. That these raw materials are already at the disposal of the maker (without exactly trying too hard), is an added advantage in dealing with this kind of material. And depending upon whether script wants the movie to be more introvertive (ex: Ardh Satya) or more extrovertive (ex: Ankusam), the above three variables would be adjusted to deliver just the kind of output the maker intends. On the other hand, the flip side of dealing with these themes lies in having only the above three variables at his command. The most important of the three - mood (which is interchangble with tone in some contexts), dictates the direction of the movie, the setting, the range of the performances, the comfort zone and more importantly the degrees of freedom. For example, for the movie Ankusam, Kodi Ramakrishna decided that the hero of the movie is going to be an aggressive cop who is more aggravating and dramatic in his deeds and even more loud and expressive in his words. That essentially sets the mood of the film as one that operates a few notches above normalcy, though remaining sincere and true to its subject all the same time. So however much theatricality (and sometimes, over the top) Rajasekhar's words and deeds seem to appear, they get brushed under the mood carpet. Likewise, take the character of Anant Velankar from Ardh Satya. He is a model of brood and a poster boy of introspection. So the mood of the movie is drawn as close to the real life as is theatrically possible, that when some event as dramatic as the killing of Rama Shetty happens in the climax, it works perfectly for the movie, for something as dramatic as that would not be expected of such an off-color character and the director's intention to shock the audience is truly fulfilled, thanks to the mood of the movie.

Tone takes over from the mood at that point and adds the requisite color to the canvas. If the maker is quite clear in his mind as regards to the mood of the movie, the tone would automatically follow suit, either in a loud, over the top, dramatic way or in a serious, underplaying, subdued variety. Between these two tones, the latter would achieve a more realistic and a raw edge because of its proximity to near life situations and also the inevitable pay off at the climactic point, when a subdued character who is always in control and his element loses both in a situation, is highly rewarding and richly gratifying.

Once the maker decides upon the mood and the tone, the canvas, be it CBI Investigation, Forensic science, Finger Print specialization or even a Finger Powder dissemination, would ready itself for all the different strokes that could be painted. Gautam Menon's (the writer-director, whose sole claim to fame was "Minnale" ("Cheli" in telugu)) clarity is quite evident vis-a-vis mood, tone and canvas, when he does not take the easy (and cheap) moves to glorify Anbuselvan's, the protagonist, character and instead holds back his anger, his frustration and his vengeance and channels them to hit all the right spots. The precision of Anbuslevan, which is conveyed through his intelligence and introspective nature and his vulnerability, displayed in the sudden loss of emotional and psychological balance, when he is hit on a very personal level, are deftly handled by Gautam, in his short bursts of finely tuned dialogues.

While Surya's Anbuselvan's character is an epitome of brooding self, it is finely counter-balanced by the bubbly and over-exuberant character of Jothika. The urban setting of the script, the natures of the jobs of both the characters (Surya as an encounter specialist and Jothika as a Maths teacher at a local high school), and the cool and calculating nature of the villain, provide enough material and fire-power to Gautam into making his script a smart and intelligent one, where the holy trinity (hero, heroine and the villain) are guided more by their minds than by their hearts, as is often not the case. The dialogues, also credited to Gautam, are self-editing in their nature to the point that they are curt, crisp and precise and leave the moment longing and wanting for more. When scripts as smart and as strong as these arrive at the reading table, providing ample playing ground for the technicians to decide upon the next important step - the style - at which point the chances for turning out a good movie from a bad script far exceed the chances of good script turning into a bad movie. Rajesekharan, the lensman, seems to exactly understand the mood and tone of the script, to make a decision on the feel of the movie - be it during the natural lighting of the day to day sequences or the dream like situations in the Sri Lanka (doubling for Coimbatore) that transpire between the lead couple's love episodes or the fantastic (in terms of fantasy) sequences that make up the climax. While script dictates the mood, tone and the canvas, with photography deciding the style and feel of the content, it is the important task of editing that essentially dictates the pacing (and to some extent the style) of the movie. Anthony's with his imaginative editing, during the shoot-out scenes, employing the begin-end editing technique which oozes of coolness and urgency at the same time, and particularly for the song "Ennai Konjam", brings his fare share of the pie to the table. Also complementing the efforts of the above three are Harris Jayaraj for his thumping score (with special mention to Thamarai for his inventive lyrics) and Peter Haynes with his pumping action.

Vision is a word that is used either loosely or thrown around a lot whenever the word film-making is brought up. Clarity is a better term in such situations when the script is still in its conceptualization till the point the words transform into deeds. Spinning his web around the clichéd cop situations, while carefully avoiding the beaten to death enamored heroine besotted with the tight collar tight lip hero, infusing a sense of purpose and intelligence to the villain, here is a smart mov(i)e from Gautam Menon that celebrates intelligence.

10.Yuva (Hindi)


Walking down the road, passing the hordes of people along, it is an interesting musing to wonder and ponder on the lives of the strangers who catch the attention for reasons fairly obvious or reasons unknown for not more than a few seconds. The happy faces, the sad ones, the serious faces, the blank ones - each of those faces pose quite a challenge surmising how each of their lives could be, whether they lead the same comfortable lives as they 'look', if they are as troubled in their day to lives as they seem to be, if they are as driven and focused as the aura they exude. Mani Ratnam's Yuva is built more on this observational (voyeuristic) interest in the slice of a day at a particular place at a particular time than it is about point of views and perspectives. It is not about criss-crossing of paths, not about interlinking of fates nor is it about pure coincidences that somehow shape the lives or the futures of the strangers in question. Instead it freezes one important event that happens at a particular place (Howrah Bridge) and then back tracks all the incidents that lead up to that event. In that regard, it is very much a linear story played in reverse like Chistopher Nolan's Memento (minus the suspense, minus the surprise at the end of each scene where more information is revealed about the incident that happened before), than it follows Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" or P.T.Anderson's "Magnolia" (that subscribe to no coincidence theory where characters weave in and out of the lives of others affecting the lives/fates they come into direct/indirect contact with in some way or the other) or Kurosawa's Rashomon, which follows the pattern of 4 blind people trying to describe an elephant feeling it physically. It is more like different strands that are tied up at one end than it is like the different layers of the onion, where more is revelaed about the core with each peeling. (For more information about or insight into this interesting structure, refer to Yandamuri Veerendranadh's novel "vennellO gODaari").

Struggle is the common thread that flows undercurrent through the three stories that run into each other at the end (or at the beginning) and the three characters that collide with each other at the end (or at the beginning). Lallan, the street thug, struggles to keep his marriage and his senility intact, while enforcing his iron will on the streets either by bashing up or killing people, on the side. Micheal struggles to enforce his ideals and ideologies on the chaos around while desperately trying to bring some sense and order to the world. Arjun struggles just to find a balance between his wants and his means, his choices and his reasons, bumbling his way through life and getting around mostly with his good looks. If it does not sound too ironic, Lallan, Micheal and Arjun can be termed as The Good, The Bad and the Ugly as far as their clarity of thought and clarity of understanding are concerned. Leaving value judgments aside, Lallan is really clear about what he wants and how to get it, while Micheal is wound up in his ideal world unable to come to terms with the practical aspect of it and Arjun is the worst of the lot, with neither a direction to follow nor a will to commit to a direction. And just like it is with the characters, the script gets progressively weak, from Lallan to Arjun, establishing Lallan in a strong light pitted against dangerous elements in life-threatening situations, while the focus gets relatively soft and blurry as the things move from Lallan to Micheal along and by the time Arjun's character is established, his motivations (to fall in love, to go to US, to become what he ultimately turns into at the end of the movie) become as weak as his character and as flimsy as his principles. This is just one of those rare cases, when one wishes that style prevail over the substance.

The interesting aspect of the script is how the powerful elements of the script (stark, real and gritty) play out against the sensitive (tender, caring and touching) when they are juxtaposed in a single scene. Just like the emotional graphs of the individual characters of the three protagonists, their relationships with their love interests remain strongly in tune with their behaviors, with the relationship resonating the male characters more than the female ones. Lallan's relationship with his wife, physical in the truest sense of the word, alternates between animal passion and mindless brutality, reflecting Lallan's mindset. Micheal's subject in question is more domineering among the three females, allowing a glimpse of his character, through this relationship lens, as one which is encompassing and accommodating. Arjun's love interest is as heady and as trippy as Arjun, who is willing to engage in flirtatious activities with Arjun, when her marriage is already on the cards, but on the other hand, equally foolhardy and decisive when leaving everything behind and just following her heart. Equally refreshing are the dialogues (originally by Sujatha in Tamil, translated by Anurag Kashyap into Hindi) which shed off the usual staccato style of Mani Ratnam, where characters talk in spurts and cut their sentences mid way leaving up the rest to the expression to fill in the blanks. Yuva, for a change, has people talking in complete sentences, not delivering their dialogues in curt spurts, not pausing their words for their expressions, and not leaving the moment half-full. Be it the violent exchange of profanity between Lallan and his wife Sashi, or the emotional outpour to Arjun by his love interest Mira (in a brilliant performance by Kareena Kapoor), Ratnam does not mind the camera to linger on for those extra moments when the words flow by for that extra amount of time and fill up the tone of the scene completely.

The piano (joined by a female's voice) ambles gracefully till after "Hey, Khuda Hafiz" in a typical jazz fashion when it stops midway and joins heavy techno percussion when it meets the male's voice at the point when it takes off at "tum jaanO". No words could have better underlined and described the dating dalliance that transpires between Arjun and Mira. A.R.Rahman, along with Ravi Chandran (lens) and Sreekar Prasad (scissors), understands the exact tone of each of the three stories when creating three distinct sounds each for Lallan's, Micheal's and Arjun's stories. The earthy sound reflects Lallan's mood in "kabhee neem neem" and "dol dol" as something that is rustic and mercurial, while Micheal's war cry for Utopia thumps the hearts in "Dhakka Laga Bukka" (listen to the Tamil original "Jana Gana Mana" to be swept away by the sense of the music). Relegating most of the songs to the background and the judicial use of the background score (interspersed with long periods of silent backgrounds) heightens the mood the scene giving it the requisite realistic feeling. A classic case of less is more.

The minor quibbles aside, Yuva is a strong offering from Mani Ratnam, who almost pulled off a victory in the the style versus the substance war by siding with the former. Allowing himself to move away from his usual style and risking his trademark in the process, he helped Yuva join the ranks of Nayakudu and Roja as ones that can be termed true and sincere while being daring and different at the same time.

11.Lakshya (Hindi)




Coming of age - In 1982, the noted actor Shashi Kapoor sought the services of Govind Nihlani to launch his son Kunal Kapoor with the film Vijetha. There were a few army movies (not war genre, but ones set against the defense forces background) before and few army movies after. But pitting the coming of age theme of the protagonist against the martinets in the military forces is always a volatile concoction and the process of raw ore being forged into a sharp tool always provides for some good dramatic moments. Commercial aspects that usually crop up in such themes where loudness is usually mistaken for strictness, slapstick is sought for comic relief and planes and patriotism play for glamour and adrenaline boosts, tend to paint the overall structure in broad and loud strokes, conveniently ignoring the process (pain) that the protagonist undergoes to change his erstwhile path while taking the path so painfully traveled by so many before. Nihlani's artistic mind (and background) pulled the commercial aspects out of the mix and Vijetha remained as the finest coming of age movies set against a military background that showed the transition of confused person into a focused individual in some real, non-reflectors' light.

Full Metal Jacket - Hollywood director Stanley Kubrick's ode to the Vietnam War, the structure of which Lakshya seems to heavily borrow from, is essentially split into two distinct halves - the shaping of the sharpest tool and the gory ramifications of such process in a war. It considers the dehumanization of a soldier from an objective standpoint in order that he serves and protects the lives of other humans, the irony of the situation notwithstanding. Lakshya takes out this psychological and paradoxical angle from Full Metal Jacket and instead concentrates on the rise and the personal growth of a single youth, a treatment that is much more palatable to the Indian audience. Though Javed Akhtar's script deals with the establishing of the protagonist's apathy towards life in general in a heavy-handed way, taking the most easy way possible by providing convenient motivations for him to enroll himself in the Indian Military Academy, the handling of the scenes afterwards during the tearing down and rebuilding process of an ordinary man into an able bodied individual, reminds of the honesty and the sincerity of such similar mechanisms depicted in Nihalani's Vijetha and Nana Patekar's Prahaar.

Canvas - Never before in the history of Indian warfare, has a war been covered so widely and an operation been so passionate as the successful eviction of the Pakistani miscreants from the strategic peaks in the Kargil sector in 1999. The martyrs who have so willingly laid down their lives embracing death so gallantly, the war cries of those fallen brave men (the famous 'Yeh Dil Maange More' - Posthumous Capt. Vikram Batra, 23) that showed anything but fear, the process of ensuring victory and a permanent place in the annals of history, is quite an emotional canvas to base a script on and to set a movie against. Be it for the lack of the proper technical expertise or be it because of the lack of proper understanding of the common man of the military way of life, or be it simply because of the inability of the makers of choosing sensitivity over jingoism, many Indian war movies translate so poorly onto the screen, that the respect for the bravery and the passion and pride that the audience has to hold for the characters (either fictitious or real), which forms a very important emotional core of movies of such kind, seem to be keenly lacking and sorely missing. Case in point - LOC. Here is where Farhan Akhtar's understanding of the material and sensibilities regarding the treatment seem to step in, when he deliberately downplays the seemingly high points of the script - the first capture of the enemy bunker, the personal victories of the protagonist and finally the capture of the (fictitious) Peak 5179, to name a few, trusting the audience's intelligence to fill in the blanks by alluding to the fact that the battle is won but the war isn't over yet at each important high point of the script right until the climax of the movie.

War - Christopher Popp's camera accounts for all the important shots (of the guns), moves closely one step behind all the important moves in the trek upwards towards the bunkers and the peaks, and captures the havoc, the confusion and the gut level fear that was never before seen on the Indian screen. The hidden face of the unknown enemy, the rapid fire of the machine guns from the bunkers towards the oncoming soldiers from the enemy's perspective, the whizzing past of bullets, the unrelenting sound of enemy guns, are remindful of (paying true homage to) the invasion of Normandy beach sequence of Speilberg's Saving Private Ryan. The excellent sound design (by Nakul Kamate), in the process above, that included the loud, menacing and over-bearing sounds of war, together with the shells, mortars, grenades, bullets and the bayonets, in such distinct and graphic detail, lends a lot of credibility to the gravity of the situation. By concentrating on a single character (the protagonist) and then moving the rest of the pieces around him, allows the maker to zone in on the action surrounding him, restricting his field of vision and thus be able to provide more clarity regarding the proceedings of the action, than running all around trying to capture ALL the events spread throughout the battlefield, in the process alienating the audience. Again kudos to the sensibility of the maker of choosing one bird in the hand than clamoring for two in the battleground. Sensitivity - The camera spies on the protagonist beat, down and dejected, unable to decide about his future, having lost everything at that point - the love of his life, the consideration of his parents and respect for himself. There are no long introspective speeches nor does a song start immediately in the background with a dheeraj dharO himmat bharO message. The maker allows his character to have a private moment with himself and come to the realization all by himself of his true goals and thereby his inner calling. Trusting the character is what this scene demonstrates - it did not need to be hammered into him the error of his ways; it did not need to be told loud and clear as to what his next course of action should be; it did not need to be told to the audience what he is going through. Javed Akhtar (and to a great degree Farhan Akhtar) laid down the ground rules of the lead character's growing up process - no sermons, no lectures, no patronage, no condescension. Let the character struggle with himself with no external support and let his character emerge because of his own choices and his decisions and on his own volition. Scripting and directing around this strict tenet, the writer and the director do not make it any easy for him and when the transition finally occurs, he would have already won the respect of the audience that he so richly deserves and any action henceforth - the leadership, the bravery, the valor and the courage, has a strong root in his newly cultivated character.

Though Lakshya has its fair share of flaws, the major one being, it wasn't able to decide completely whether it was a personal battle set against the backdrop of a bigger battle or it is about the bigger battle which tries to have a human face by picking up the life of a soldier waging his own inner battle, the sincerity of the efforts and the conviction of the makers in trying to bring together a true Indian war movie certainly brushes off the flaws under the carpet. All in all it is definitely one small step for Farhan Akhtar but one great giant leap for the Indian movie-kind of this genre.

12.Virumandi (Tamil)




Amidst all the rubble, amidst all the cacophony, amidst all the humdrum, amidst all the chaos, lies the truth buried deep somewhere. Pragmatism, which doubles for pessimism once in while, dictates that there never is any absolute truth, but only versions of it. One usually associates with whatever suits his persuasion. There never is a right version, there never is a wrong one, either. It entirely depends on who has control over the mouthpiece. First, it was the linear way of recounting an incident - point A to point B. The events that led up to B entirely depending on whatever happened in A - the cause and effect way. Then came along the non-linear way. The sequencing of the events is played around with in this version and only at the end, can one figure out the intent by rearranging the pieces of the puzzle. The next in line was important, interesting and the powerful of three - the perspective way. Hereunder, the subjects remain the same, the sequences remain the same, but the looking glass changes hands. One man's food becomes the other's poison, one man's right becomes the other's blunder. What is interesting in this type of narration is that the lack of trust factor in the various versions put forth. Even when all the versions are put forth causing a clear picture to emerge, one cannot take a hard stance as to the real truth of the event, because it might be completely lost, or it might not even exist, under the burden of changing perspectives and shifting loyalties.
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This interesting way of presenting a narration, the "He said, she said" way, has been tackled before many a time in international cinema for great effect, but has remained an untouchable entity in commercial Indian medium. The reasons are quite clear, for no real hero would emerge at the end of it all and all his actions stands to scrutiny not allowing the audience to associate with one version of the truth. In print medium, specially in telugu, Yandamuri ventured into this arena in the recent past, with his "vennellO gOdaari", in which a murder that was committed at the beginning of the story was recounted through 5 different sets of eyes, and at the end of it all, nothing was what it seemed and nothing was what was led to be believed. Kamal Hassan takes up this deglamorized way of illustration and emerges quite victorious with "Virumaandi". The interesting aspect of this sort of illustration is the detached perspective of the maker and his non-judgmental view of the material. He cannot take sides or choose sides and make one perspective better than the other or pack one version with over-powering evidence and leave the other with no logic, no reason to fall back upon. The character of Virumandi, alternating between street thug and a care-free land-owner, the background for the story, village politics rife with senseless violence, and the lack of any guilt on the part of ALL the characters involved, in regard to their actions, makes the perfect mix for Kamal to experiment with the narration.

It is quite normal that court-room proceedings offer a glimpse of what had really happened and what the witnesses think might have happened, given a context, circumstance and a perspective. B.R.Chopra's "Kanoon" played up to this point. Extending this thought even more, and lending it enough credibility with motivations, actions, words and thoughts, "Virumandi" makes an excellent case about the non-existence of the actual and absolute truth. Sympathy or understanding, which stands as the only emotion that the audience would relate to the lead character, in such movies of mindless violence and excessive gore, is completely done away with and instead replaced with a heartless alternative - reason. Kamal Hassan, the director, is not in the least bit sympathetic to Kamal Hassan (playing the title role of Virumaandi), the actor, when he strips away Virumandi of civility and culture, making him loud, boorish and sometimes plain obnoxious. That throws the audience off the scent and the judge'mentality' that it usually takes comfort in, painting the characters in black and white, judging their actions right and wrong, is thrown in a tizzy. Add to that the heroine Annalakshmi (portrayed with utmost sincerity by Abhirami), the usual pegging point of sentimentality and over-indulgence of emotions, is every bit as loud and every bit as cold as Virumandi.

When there are no characters to root for, no situations no take solace in and no one perspective to take sides with, the playing field is rightly balanced for the hero(?) as it is for the villain(?) with the only thing that is separating them - who is helming the mouthpiece.

Picture this situation - hero's grand mother is dead for reasons unknown. Hero is wailing in a corner. The reasons for her death murmured in the crowd. Now, imagine the music playing around the scene. Play the shehnaayi, the usual instrument for ritualistic dirge/obligatory death scene, and subconsciously the audience showering sympathy over the hero. Replace the shehnaayi with some violins and percussions, playing some ominous and suspenseful notes, the audience prepares itself for some foul-play. Leave the scene completely without any background score and allow the audience to make up their own minds whether to sympathize with the hero for his misfortune or to vilify him for his excess - Illayaraja, plays along with the director, refraining himself from commenting on each and every scene, thus forcing the viewer to see it from his viewpoint. Virumandi is probably the most difficult movie that Illayaraja, in his career, had to try really hard deciding between silence and music, for each musical cue would become a give-away to the viewer, something the director purposefully avoided. Keshav Prakash, handling the lens, observes the proceedings in the same dispassionate way with no extra movements to enhance hero's (?) character/image or to cut down the villain's (?). Particular mention and praise to ALL the actors, who sincerely believe their motivations in both the perspectives and remain true to emotions. "Virumandi" is an elegant piece of movie making by a director who is right in his element with the set pieces and in supreme command of the material.

13.Anand




bhaavayaami gOpaalabaalam manasaevitam tatpadam chintayEham

In the early nineties, Nescafe tried a very cute advertisement involving a couple (Suchita Krishnamurthy and another regular) settling into their house on the first day, to boost their coffee sales. Images of the guy putting up all the curtains, painting all the walls, arranging all the furniture, fumbling with his rolled up drawing sheets were intercut with his wife brewing a coffee in the kitchen - the visuals of the vapors of the coffee enhanced by the sunlight hitting the coffee cup at the right angle, the smile on her face complementing the fatigue on his face, the way he is woken up from his nap in the chair with a whiff of Nescafe. They settle down after what it passes as tiresome session with a couple of cups and the jingle in the background with a soothing voice croons - "manchi ruchi gala udayam kottha Sunrise". Despite the cloyingly sweet images, the mood that is way over the top, it somehow had a very endearing quality that allowed the viewer to be manipulated and played into the hands of the visuals. Though the intent is quite clear that the whole atmosphere of the setup would be bathed in bright imagery, attractive sights, stimulating music, the audience does not mind playing along with it (or rather, into it) for the simple reason that sometimes it is just unnecessary and unimportant to question the "why"s and "how"s of the image at hand and dissect it for the inner meanings and the true intents, lest the feeling that appealed to it in the first place is totally lost. It is always good to have the mind dictating the heart, but sometimes, it is better the reverse way.

muddu gaarae yaSOdaa mungiTa mutyaamu veeDu
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Shekhar Kammula was quite clear as to what tone he wanted the movie to progress along. He brought in the feel-good factor, the cute factor, the good-nature factor, the requisite silly tiffs between the lead couple factor, the mandatory jealousies and the misunderstandings factor and the obligatory effusive group dynamic factor into the movie, hitting all the right notes with each of the above achieving the perfect balance between the commercial and the off-beat formats. Nagesh Kukunoor, the Neil Armstrong of this neo-culture (as far as telugu movies are concerned), certainly paved the way for the likes of Shekar to venture into this new arena where the characters never rise above the playing field and the progress of the movie depends much upon the passage of the characters through their motions and emotions that are far more personal than their commercial counterparts. This new format pokes fun at the clichés of the regular format, while ironically indulging in them at the same time. This new format makes good use of personality of the characters to drive the plot than the other way around, which proves an earnest attempt without having to resort to dramatic licenses and suspension of disbelief. This new format aims to please in a pure and an earthy manner that is unsophisticated yet very real, unpolished yet more believable. Keeping the scope of the project well within the boundaries of plausibility, intelligence and reality, this new format has the added advantage of deriving its inspiration from the vast experience treasure of people around, than having to look else where at borrowed thoughts and uncommon threads.

raghu vamsa sudhaambudi chandra sree raama raama raajaeSwaraa

A lyric that is actually heard, a tune that is actually pleasant, the picturization that is actually pleasing and the result that is totally appealing - Veturi, Radhakrishnan and Shekhar achieved this seemingly impossible task of translating the prose of the script into aural and visual poetry, not only by matching the requirements of the commercial format but indeed exceeding the standards and the expectations of the song and dance routines which are integral to the narrative and are often time fillers and crowd pleasers. "masaka yennelallae nuvvu, isuka tenne chaerutaavu, gasagasaala kougilintha, gusagusallae maaruthaavu" - Veturi is firmly in his familiar saddle concocting and coining ideas and phrases employing his trademark andam, chilipitnam, nuDikaaram, chamatkaaram, Srungaaram and konTetanam. With Radhakrishnan setting up the right platform for words to dictate the moods and instruments to follow the ideas, Veturi takes the side of the female perspective, yet again, bringing Anand as close to his earlier "Srivaariki praemalekha" as possible. The background sounds resonate with the strings of veeNa, violin, jal-tarang, sarOd and many such classical instruments, while the background voices echo with classical notes of "endarO mahaanubhaavulu", "oka pari koka pari", "inta aanadandam nee vala naenaa". Radhkrishnan and Shekhar's judicious use of classical background enhances the mood of the scene and sometimes, sets up the mood of the same gelling quite well with the mellowed nature of the characters and the script.

manasula mallela maalaloogenae, kannula vennela dOlaloogenae

Setting the script in the monsoon and the winter times in Hyderabad, the rains that greet the city, the early morning sights of a typical winter day, the glitter of the distant lights around the necklace road in the night, the farmhouses and the nurseries in the suburbs, this movie celebrates the life in the city, aided by the impressive visuals of Vijay Kumar. The movie is replete with nice and observational touches that say much about the director's (and his photographer) ability to pay attention to the little things like capturing the cold breaths of the characters during the Bhogi festival, the paper boats floating around in the rivulets during the rains, the female lead walking into brighter light and sharper focus when she breaks off her earlier relationship, leaving him in unfocussed and hazy perspective, the use of the handheld camera during conversations between the lead character and his brother, indicating the lead character's state of mind, instead of the conventional cutting back and forth, and the like. While on the subject of tipping the hat for the technicians, Sunitha, who lent her voice to the female lead, deserves a serious and a special mention. Here is an artist who speaks Telugu as it is meant to be spoken with all the votthulu, deerghaalu, kraavaDulu and vaTrasuDulu the absolute essentials of the language, instead of cosomopolitzing it to cause a grating effect on the ears. Though the language used for most of the characters in the movie is (unfortunately) Hyderabadi telugu, which is a combination of Telugu, Hindi/Urdu and English to the point that it becomes a weird mix that is neither Telugu, Hindi/Urdu or English, Shekhar needs to be specially appreciated for bringing in Sunitha to verbalize the expressions, and translate the emotions of the lead character, that would otherwise have had a negative effect, had the role been dubbed by the regular, who sounds much worse than an elementary student with minimal exposure to the language.

In the late sixties and early seventies when Hollywood was moving away from the studio brand of film making, in which the films were treated as a product, nicely packaged, with all the great looking artists, speaking just the right lines with ample one-liners thrown in for good measure, into the more risky and adventurous fares, in which films were toned down to being more realistic reflecting the every day life, actors picked up not just for great looks alone, and writing that seemed less theatrical and dramatic, there occurred a difficult transition period from the former to the latter in adjusting to the new tone and the new format. A few decades later, in the present, emerged a system where brash commercial ventures co-exist with the personal and independent, and the so-called art features, in perfect harmony. Nagesh took that first step in that direction of personal cinema and backed his foray with a few more ventures. Shekhar deviated from the path a little bit and added his own spin to the format that respects the regular version on one hand, while being personal on the other. In the hope that the telugu filmdom would take a leaf or two from Hollywood, here is a worthy and a commendable venture, Anand, that is not just a "manchi coffee laanTi sinimaa", but also a "paatha ghanTasaala gramophone laanTi sinimaa".

14.Swades (Hindi)


A fresh arrival off the boat from South Africa, Gandhiji receives a warm welcome from Indian National Congress and would be whisked off to a formal tea party arranged by some Indians of the elite class, who consider themselves as patrons of Indian causes. Gandhiji happens to meet Sri Gopal Krishna Gokhale during the meeting, who advises Gandhiji to travel the length of the breadth of the nation and know the real country, the real people, the real problems, and the real issues before diving off the board into mainstream politics. And then it starts... the montage... Surrounded by people of different colors, compositions, creeds and castes, Gandhiji starts traveling in a third class compartment, sharing the space, time and thoughts of the people, whom he chooses to spend the rest of his life bettering their prospects. With "desh" raagam lilting on the strings of the sitar (played by Pandit Ravi Shankar), and through the collective lenses of Ronnie Taylor and Billy Williams, Sir Richard Attenborough lets us to glance into Gandhiji's psyche, trying to portray the events and the images that shaped Gandhiji's intentions and thus the country's destiny. In one such trips, he happens to meet an aged, bearded and scrawny, poor cotton farmer who recounts his troubles and resigns to his fate, unable to meet the demands of his landlord, unable to repay his loans to his creditors following the onslaught of foreign imports and the systematic crippling of the local textile industry. Gandhiji listens to what the farmer has to say intently and one can clearly see (in the excellent potrayal of Ben Kingsley) that he has already made up his mind, deciding his further course of action evident from his locked jaw and frowned brow. The montage and the short scene afterward thus sets into motion and jump starts the (movie's) national struggle of freedom as was depicted in "Gandhi".

For the movie "Mausam", Gulzar pens an excellent lyric, for a man who misses the innocence and the simplicity of the life back in the good old days of nothingness (not emptiness) and yearns to find the roots of those simple pleasures and simple wishes.

yaa garamiyOn kee raat jo puravaaIyaan chalen
ThanDii safed chaadaron pe jaagen der tak
taarOn kO dekhtae rahen chhat par paDe hue
dil DhooNDhataa hai phir vahee phursat ke raat din...

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Lying on a cot with white bed-spread, looking at the star-studded sky above on a warmth filled night, carried away in a gentle breeze of the light wind, lost in the thoughts of unknown, the heart yearns (or even, craves) for those days and nights of pleasant leisure times. The combination of what was past with the alienation to what lies ahead evokes a feeling of fascination towards what was left behind that erases everything unpleasant about it and often portrays it in warm and sometimes glorious light. Couple this feeling of nostalgia to the sense of alienation in the foreign land and one might catch a glimpse of what goes through every non-resident Indian's (or according to Ashutosh Gowariker, the writer-director, a non-returning Indian) mind. Illiteracy, corruption, bureaucracy, red-tape, over-population, under-development, lack of infrastructure, and loads of apathy stack up nicely in one pan. The fresh smell of the soil after the first shower, the hazy sunset on a hot day in the summer, the over-flowing water all around on a rainy day, the sense of belonging and even greater sense of longing, balance out the above overwhelming factors in the other pan. With these forces propelling the actions of the lead character, Swades is an observation of the change in the mind of an NRI visting his country, starting off being distant, clinical and brutal, finding himself completely absorbed, passionate, involved and emotional as time progresses.

Instant results, magic wands, too good to be true situations and too convenient for the plot aids do not come in handy for the character. Though the script set ups the situations for the hero to rise above the situation (demonstrating the typical Hindi hero trait of super human strength and spirit), take charge of it and deliver astounding results at alarming rates, Swades ambles along taking its own time in real life-like timeline. The pace of movie is deliberately slow and languid, devoid of adrenaline pumping and chest thumping scenarios. Gowariker's control of the script and clarity of the material are quite evident in the scenes involving the transformation of the lead character from a distant observer to a totally committed person, the romantic situations and the specially the concluding sequences. At each of these important points, conventional Bollywood wisdom calls for cymbals in the background playing out for hair-raising situations portraying the greatness of the hero's sacrifice and the largeness of his heart. In exactly such specific moments, Gowariker steers clear of such crowning ceremonies and instead goes for simplicity and down to earth achievements that speak for themselves, than rely on the third party commentaries (in the form of extraneous characters extolling the virtues of the hero for the audience's convenience) or background songs with rich flourishes.

Restraint seems to be the key feature of Gowariker's script and direction as he exercises it in plenty. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of spinning yarns around larger than life characters performing out of the world miracles, coming after an acclaimed movie that won national and international laurels. Gowariker deliberately seems to side-step this obvious trap coming out unscathed with Swades.

Like the strings of the sitar that shapes the actions of (movie) Gandhi, it is the turn of shehnai, this time, to infuse the sense of responsibility and belonging, and with A.R.Rahman weilding the baton, the result turns out to be earthy, rustic, rich and immensely satisfying all at the same time. During the background score of when the lead character makes a trip to a village and his mind and heart changes for good, Rahman beautifully synchronizes between the racing of the train to the racing of the heart and fast beats, the pathos of the finding a little kid trying to earn some spare change selling water, the emotions swelling inside of the lead character. Each of the songs have been carved out (the word composed does not do enough justice to the effort that went into them. A more detailed description of the music of the movie can be found at this link) keeping in mind the mood the lead character, from a peppy and a bubbly "yu hee chalaa chal rahee" to a awakening call of "yeh jo desh hai teraa", from a soft crooning of "saawariyaa saawariyaa" to a soft whisper of "Dekho naa", from an inspirational "Yeh taara who taara" to a devotional "pal pal hai bhaari". Javed Akhtar fills in the sounds of earthiness with words of simplicity, quite in tune with the well-grounded plot. The rhymes of "taara, dhaara, yaara, saaraa" completing the four stanzas of "yeh taara" each signifying the strength of unity and the beauty in diversity in their own way stands out from the rest of the lyrics. The rest of the technical crew aiding the script, than over-powering it, Swades is an exhibition of script-driven movie making, even in this day of technical brilliance outshining the important part of the movie - the plot.

Push-pin all the sweet memories into the walls of cubicles looming all around, walk around in designer clothes, move around in costly cars, spend the life in exquisitely designed homes with carefully crafted interiors, and one call from the Swades far away that was left far behind, the cubicles, the cars, the wear and the homes, all of a sudden, seem no match for those days and nights of pleasant leisure times.

15.Mughal-E-Azam (Hindi)




Just like it is with music where different "raagas" evoke (not convey) different emotions, languages exhibit similar trait. It feels that some expressions can only be expressed in a particular language to elicit the right response from the listener. French is termed as the language of romantics. Telugu is termed as the Italian of the East. Kannada is termed as "kastoori" (a fragrant) by scholars. It is not that the same terms do not exist in all of the different languages (more or less). And it is not that they do not have the same word to meaning associations in all these languages (more or less). It is just that the right word in the right language has the right amount of passion and the greater amount of willingness in trying to explain the emotion behind the word, not just the meaning. Take the case of the word "pyaar" (Hindi) which stands for love. Compare it with the word "mohabbat" (Urdu). Though both the words indicate the same meaning, the word "mohabbat" invokes more passion and tries to delve more into the emotion of the feeling than just convey a meaning. If French is the romantic of all the European languages, Urdu can certainly stake its claim as it's romantic counterpart when it comes to the Indian languages. Be it for the complexity of the language, be it for the judiciousness of the poet/writer in using a term in this language, be it because of the fact that it has been relegated to a particular community, Urdu hasn't found wide acceptance among the common populace and has always been relegated to "mushaayiraa"s and "anjuman"s. Because of the tenderness of the language and the sensitivity that lies there in, poets/writers still resort to the usage of Urdu to convey an emotion that is even remotely connected to beauty.

The situation is such, that Saleem (Dilip Kumar), heir to Akbar and his throne, is being regaled by a "qawwali" played back and forth by Anarkali (Madhubala) and Bahaar (Shashikala). The topic is "mohabbat" - Anarkali takes the side with it while Bahaar crosses swords with it. Observe the word play and the intensity involved in the meaning

The argument against

bahaarae aaj paigaam-e-mohabbat laekae aayee hai
muddat mein ummedOn kee kaliyaan muskuraayee hai
gam-e-dil se zaraa daaman bacchake ham bhee dekhenge
haa jee haa hum bhee dekhenge

Bringing along the message of true love
the glorious season had the flora bloom full
Escaping the heartbreak that would soon ensue (upon the leaving of the season eventually)
we would rather not engage than wreck our hearts in gloom

The argument for

agar dil gam se khaalee hO tO jeene ka mazaa kyaa hai
na hO khoon-e-jigar tO ashq peenae kee mazaa kya hai
mohabbat mae zaraa aansoo bahaakae hum bhee deekhenge
haa jee haa hum bhee daekhaenge

What's a heart whose pail is free of pain?
What's a pain without the warmth of the tears?
we would rather live a little in that warmth of love
than live forever knowing about none
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When K.Asif (one of the writers-director) embarked upon Mughal-e-Azam, the conscious choice of the language for his expression as Urdu seemed quite fitting and natural enough, because of it's inherent characteristic of exhibiting exemplary beauty and devastating sadness, both at the same time. When love is the topic in question between the Salim and Anarkali and the situations call for a headstrong Prince falling deeply in love with a stunningly beautiful courtesan, the expression of choice has to be Urdu, for no language can come close to expressing the passion involved and the pathos that soon follows. The story juxtaposes passion and pain in the relationships between Saleem and Anarkali and Saleem and Akbar, with the intensity in each remaining the same. "mughalOn kee takdeer talwaarOn sae likee jaatee hai, tasweerOn sae naheen" screams Akbar at his disinterested son, "kaanTon kO pakaD ke phool kO apnee lahoo sae rangeen kardenge" dreams Anarkali when handed a rose by Saleem. The constant element of danger lurking around and looming large over the fortunes of the Saleem and Anarkali, pushes matters over the precipice when they start to cross swords with Akbar's pride and his visions for his son and for the country. In a strange way, the relationship between Akbar and Salim finds similarities in the paternal pride and ire of Hiranyakasipa and Prahlada. Both the fathers insist on passing on their ideologies as their legacies and both the sons resist from following their fathers in their footsteps. When Akbar meets Salim on the battleground, his paternal love, over his only son that he begets after longing for him for so long ("kitna bad naseeb baap hoon main, kee allah kee dua, apne baeTe kee paidaaishee tak hee rahee"), eats him up from inside, while he vacillates between disciplining his child and reasoning with them.

Prithvi Raj Kapoor, who breathes life into Akbar with his gruff yet gentle demeanor, parallels and reminds very much of SVR's affection and agony in "bhakta prahalaada". Here are two powerful men of their times unable to come to terms with their expectations vis-a-vis their children. On the other side, standing equally tall and holding his ground, Dilip Kumar excels at potraying the rebellious nature in Salim with the same intensity as when earning the affections of Anarkali, through the display of his never-shown tenderness and sensitivity ("moom kee batthee dinO mein is liyae bujh jaatee hain, taakee raat kee baton kO kisee kO bataane kee majboori nahee aaye"). Had the Indian Academy of Arts & Sciences never taken up the most difficult and challenging part of colorizing an old black and white movie, the audiences would never had a chance of gazing and wondering at the amazing graceful beauty of Madhubala in color. From the famous feather scene, where Salim ever so slowly moves the feather along Anarkali's face, while Tansen (in Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's voice) ecstacically renders "prema jOgan ban ke piyaa" in the background (which seems to the inspiration of the Mandolin sequence in Bapu's "muthyaala muggu", where Sridhar and Sangeeta get intimate over a montage), to the jaw dropping Sheesh Mahal sequence, when Anarkali challenges Akbar through the verse of "pyaar kiyaa tO Darnaa kyaa" in full court in front of her love interest, Madhubala lives the role of Anarkali, through bated breaths, repressed smiles, skewed looks and innocent eyes.

Not enough words could describe the poetry of Shakeel Badayuni, the lyricist.

chaayee hai museebat kee ghaTaa gaesuvOn vaale
lillah maeri Doobti kashtee kO bachaale
toofaan kee aasar hai dushwar hai jeena
bekas pe karam keejiye, sarkar-e-madeenaa

translating to

the clouds of gloom loom all over
save thy boat lest it tumble over
storm is setting in tough to get over
show the grace of mercy on me, O lord of Madinaa!

Such lyrical words set to the ever-lasting tunes of Naushad, go hand in hand with the literal words of Kamal Amrohi-K.Asif-Aman, creating a sense of authentic aura around a period that was buried and long lost. Thanks to the academy, all the moments and the words are in full splendor, in full glory and importantly, in full color!