Monday, January 29, 2007
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!