The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I cannot remember how young I must have been when I first heard the music of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The tune, as you might very well know, is absolutely unforgettable. Somehow I never got around to watching the movie, misconstruing it to be a movie about cowboys and ranches, a setting that I find to be somewhat boring.

The movie centers around three criminals, who despite their monikers of Good, Bad and Ugly, are all remorseless bastards. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) aka The Good and Tuco (Eli Wallach) aka The Ugly are partners-in-crime who have a falling out and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) aka The Bad is a hired killer. Through different circumstances, all three come to know about a hidden stash of Confederate gold. Between them they know pieces of information about the gold, Angel Eyes discovers the person who buried it, Tuco learns the cemetery where it is buried and Blondie knows the grave of burial. Set amidst a destructive American Civil War, what follows is a nail-biting chase for the gold, with each of them backstabbing the other to get closer to the hoard. The movie ends in an epic climax, a Mexican standoff set in the center of a Colosseum-like cemetery.

Despite its age, released way back in 1966, I found the movie to be supremely cool! 😀 All three heroes deliver awesome performances, Clint Eastwood is at the prime of his coolness, but Eli Wallach takes the cake with his comic performance. The cinematography is gorgeous, lovely wide angle shots show the emptiness of the landscapes, while up-close shots give the viewer a sense of the tension of the heroes. The music by Ennio Morricone is out-of-the-world fabulous! The movie is 2.5 hours long, but the story is so riveting that there is not a wasted moment. The climax is probably one of the best ever and the ending is very satisfying. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is truly a Hollywood epic, one which I know I will be watching many times over!

“When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.” — Tuco

Eradu Kanasu (ಎರಡು ಕನಸು)

You might say I grew up to the music of movies like Eradu Kanasu (ಎರಡು ಕನಸು). Songs of this romantic drama were a perennial favorite at home during childhood. Parents, uncles and aunts regaled me with stories of how they had sneaked away to catch it on its release, it having caused quite some flutter during their college years. I also remember finding a printed songbook of the movie one summer and learning the lyrics. Quite ironic that I only recently got around to watching this 1974 flick starring a young Rajkumar, Kalpana and Manjula.

Ramu (Rajkumar) is an English literature professor madly in love with his cousin Lalitha (Manjula). Their plans are thwarted due to a family squabble and Ramu marries Gowri (Kalpana) fearing his mother’s failing health. Gowri is a freewheeling romantic creature whose rosy dreams of marriage are crushed when Ramu shows no interest in her, mourning in the lost love of Lalitha. The conundrum is resolved in the climax with Ramu realizing the love of Gowri.

Eradu Kanasu in Kannada means Two Dreams and it refers to the love of two women in the life of the protagonist. The movie is based on a novel by Vani. Manjula has little scope in the story, while Rajkumar and Kalpana totally own their roles. I liked the irony of how Ramu, much like his namesake, puts the woman who loves him through undue misery. The story progression in this movie is extremely fast, before you know it the climax surprises you and it is all over! 🙂

This is one of those few movies where every single song rocks, both in music and literature. Endendu Ninnanu and Tham Nam are passionate romantic numbers, while the evocative Badi Hoda is the plea of a man devoid of all hope. Poojisalende and Indu Enage Govinda are prayers for direction, the music in both being truly divine. I find Poojisalende very pleasing to listen to during evenings. I love the nuanced lyrics of Govinda, and was surprised to discover that it was written by Raghavendra Swamy! Eradu Kanasu is a thoroughly entertaining Kannada drama that is sure to remain evergreen.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra is probably the most intriguing female in human history. Her name is eponymous for female beauty and her life is famous both for romance and tragedy. Shakespeare immortalized her with his tragic play Anthony and Cleopatra and the search for the tomb of these lovers continues to this day amidst the sands of Egypt. Recently, I had the chance to learn all about her life and times in an episode of BBC In Our Time. As a complement, I ended up watching the movie Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Roman general Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) arrives in Egypt in the midst of a tussle for the Egyptian throne between the brother Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor). Using her considerable wit and beauty, Cleopatra wins the heart of Caesar and becomes the Queen of Egypt. Having had no child from his marriages, Caesar consummates the relationship and Cleopatra promises him a son who will rule the world. Caesar returns back to Rome and due to his many victories around the world the Roman Senate makes him dictator. He invites Cleopatra to Rome and she arrives in pomp with their son, named Caesarion. Afraid that Caesar might gain more power due to his popularity, some Senate members (including the infamous Brutus) stab Caesar to death. In the chaos, Cleopatra escapes back to Egypt helped by Caesar’s general Marc Anthony (Richard Burton).

After Caesar’s death, control of the Roman Empire is split between Anthony and Octavian. Anthony has been in love with Cleopatra for a long time, he finally expresses it and is reciprocated by her. Afraid of their combined power, Octavian tricks Anthony into marrying his sister Octavia. Unhappy with this, Anthony soon separates and returns back to Cleopatra. Octavian convinces the Roman Senate to declare war against Anthony. At the Battle of Actium, Anthony is tricked, defeated and flees with Cleopatra back to Alexandria (Egypt). Octavian pursues them, hoping to capture them alive and parade them in Rome. The lovers end their lives tragically in Cleopatra’s tomb, Anthony kills himself and Cleopatra has herself bitten by an asp.

Running a full four hours, this is the longest English movie I have watched till date! The length is somewhat justified by the detailed story which I found to be pretty faithful to the history I learnt from the In Our Time podcast. The story of Cleopatra is epic and full of love, hate, jealousy, war, greed and betrayal. The movie was the most expensive venture of its time and the expansive sets of Rome and Alexandria bear witness to that. I loved the fact that the movie is written like a play, especially the latter half with Anthony and Cleopatra. Elizabeth Taylor is at the top of her game playing a ravishing Cleopatra, with stunning costumes, she burns herself into the viewer’s eye as the image of Cleopatra. Rex Harrison and especially Richard Burton as a troubled, but loving Anthony have acted well. Cleopatra is a grand historic spectacle that is a must watch for every movie fan.