Monday, January 29, 2007
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.