Tarka (ತರ್ಕ)

Tarka (ತರ್ಕ) is a Kannada whodunit that was the debut of director Sunil Kumar Desai. Shankar Nag is a murderer on the run from the cops. He manages to hide in a house by threatening the lady of the residence (Vanita Vasu). He is in for a shock when he discovers the murdered body of her husband (Devraj) in her cupboard. In exchange for hiding in her house, he helps her dispose off the body. Soon after, they start getting calls from a mysterious person who claims to know about their heinous deeds.

Though released in 1988, Tarka manages to be a good mystery to watch. Shankar Nag delivers a straight performance, that is thankfully devoid of his swagger. The movie sticks to a tight plot and there are no songs or distractions of any kind. As the viewer learns more about the shady pasts of the protagonists, new connections are formed and the mystery only deepens. As in most mystery novels, here too the viewer can never really pin the culprit since the creator has not revealed a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Once that is disclosed in the final climax, everything falls into place nicely. Tarka is an enigmatic little gem from the 80s.

Advertisements

Race

Race is yet another thriller from the Abbas-Mustan stable. Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna play two brothers who have inherited their father’s vast property and stud farm in Durban, South Africa. Saif runs the business, while his younger brother Akshaye is a useless drunkard. Or so it seems until Akshaye turns the tables by hatching an elaborate plan to kill his brother and get the $100 million insurance policy in his name.

I cannot remember any movie as preposterous as Race! Every scene screams of unnecessary extravagant splurging, which only cheapens the feel of the movie. Most movies have a twist or two, for example the single twist (or reveal) at the end of The Sixth Sense. What Abbas-Mustan have done in Race is to throw in every single possible ridiculous twist into the plot! These twists are so hyperbolic and they are revealed with such regularity that Race reaches new heights of ludicrousness. Also, thrown into this melee is Anil Kapoor as a cop who spouts extremely poor jokes and double entendres. The acting and editing are unbelievably tacky for a movie of this budget. Music thief Pritam has stolen a few more Korean songs for Race and Pehli Nazar Mein is the one I like. There are too many songs and their videos are all similar: a guy and a gal dancing at a club. These songs have been literally thrown into the movie at random points. Race feels like a movie made by an amateur wedding videographer if you gave him 100 crores. No wait, even he would do a better job than Race! 🙂

Sense in a world of nonsense

The Hindu has finally woken up and taken up the cudgels against the dumbing down of newspapers in a new advertisement campaign. The Times of India recently entered the Chennai market by airing TV commercials that showed The Hindu as a sleepy old newspaper covering boring news. This seems to have prompted the staid old lady to launch an advertising campaign to counter it. The print images and the TV commercials from this campaign can be seen here.

The print advertisements are clean and purposeful. The tagline “Stay ahead of the times” takes a sporty jab at ToI and the Hindustan Times. The TV commercials on the other hand are quite something else. The 3 commercials feature young adults at a college, hanging out at a mall and at a workplace respectively. They are asked basic questions (Where is Tahrir Square? for example) and they appear clueless and unable to answer them. Later, they are asked a trivia question about Bollywood gossip and they promptly answer this correctly. Finally, they are asked what newspaper they read and unsurprisingly their (bleeped out) answers are all ToI.

I felt that the last bit of naming (and shaming) the competitor directly in the TV commercials was too low a blow and certainly does not suit The Hindu. Other than that, the commercials are spot on! Ogilvy says these commercials were made based on responses they actually got from people they accosted. I have no reason to disbelieve this claim since I have experienced first hand how clueless most folks now are about what is happening in the world and in their own country.

One of the questions asked in the TV commercials is “In the Ramayan, who is Ram’s father?” The fact that this remains unanswered is truly ironical. Students on a 1967 quiz show aired on Doordarshan could not answer a similar question about Ram’s mother, but they knew details of Greek mythology. This conundrum was what led Anant Pai to create the legendary Amar Chitra Katha comics to entertain and inform the next generation of Indians. 40 years later nothing much has changed, history and mythology have to now compete with cricket and Bollywood.

Today, most of the newspapers are tabloids in broadsheet clothing and the innumerable TV news channels use sensational and useless junk news to fill their airtime. Much like the people who choose to eat at McDonald’s despite availability of healthier choices, I believe this situation has been a creation of the consumer himself. The mainstream media is successful because it gives exactly what the consumer wants. The media cannot thrive if they offer something that he does not want. So it is the responsibility of the consumer to pick not just the chintzy offerings he is craving for, but also take in a steady diet of news that matters to him and the world around him. And that is why a wakeup call, like the one from The Hindu, is needed occasionally to remind the consumer to re-examine his diet.

Finally, though newspaper penetration continues to increase in India, most Indians spend far more time watching TV than reading. (A respondent in the TV commercial does attribute her ignorance to not having watched Ramayan, seemingly unaware that it can be read too.) One only needs to flip through the channels on cable TV to see how much full of crap all of them are. One does wish that there was someone to take the fight to the TV channels too.

Alien

Back in the good (?) old days when Star Movies was new in India, they had a small basket of movies which they cycled through over and over again. Alien, the first movie of the Alien series, was one of them. I have seen this movie innumerable times on Star Movies, but always in bits and pieces, since my process would typically be preempted to give up the TV resource to a higher priority process in the family. 😉

Alien is a sci-fi horror movie, the intelligent kind where the scares and thrills come mostly from the dark imagination of your own mind. It starts off on Nostromo, a spaceship that is lugging ore from a distant planet to Earth. The crew is woken up from their deep sleep and asked to investigate a beacon from a nearby planet. They discover the remains of a giant spaceship there and inside it, the eggs of an alien being. One of the eggs hatches and the crab-like alien from it attacks the crew. They leave in their ship hastily, but their efforts to kill the alien on their ship gets scarier as it evades, kills and grows.

For a movie from 1979, Alien looks gorgeous even today. The grandeur of the alien nest is jaw-dropping and the white-red interiors of Nostromo are a joy to watch. The alien creature itself is quite something indescribable, like something fused from the elements of many horrible dreams. The plot is just a slasher in space, but director Ridley Scott and the writers have eked out a sophisticated creation from it. The Alien script was involved in quite a bit of wrangling by its studio and I did not really like the robot character that was thus introduced into it. The casting is perfect, and the young Sigourney Weaver is a delight. There is a comfort in watching good movies over and over again. I know I will be watching Alien sometime again for its fun ride.

Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji (दिल तो बच्चा है जी)

Anyone who has checked out the stash of movies legally available on Youtube can see it is full of crap. Occasionally one finds something mediocre-to-good in it like Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji (दिल तो बच्चा है जी) for example. This is a romantic comedy directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. The movie puts three odd grown men under a single roof, united in their quest for love. Ajay Devgan is a dominated husband who has been divorced by his wife. Emraan Hashmi is looking for his next sugar mommy. Omi Vaidya (Chatur from 3 Idiots) is a romantic working at a matrimonial company. All three end up falling in love, but will it be reciprocated?

Despite some soppy parts, Madhur manages to squeeze out a good comedy in Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji. What I cannot understand is why he needs to make stereotypical depictions of homosexuality in it! Ajay Devgan shines and the rest of the cast delivers. Music-thief Pritam has given some good tracks: Abhi Kuch Dino Se, Tere Bin and Jadugari are on my playlist. Though nothing like Madhurkar’s other controversial movies, Dil To is a good funny movie to see sometime.

What’s Your Raashee?

Ashutosh Gowariker seems to take his work seriously. That can be either a boon or a curse for the viewer. While Lagaan generated maniacal fervour, I was far more impressed by Swades. In What’s Your Raashee? he tries his hand at romantic comedy. Harman Baweja is given a task by his family that none can envy: he has to pick a girl and marry by the end of the month. Given the limited time he decides to meet one girl from each of the 12 Zodiacal signs. This leads to an interesting journey of meeting females of different backgrounds, aspirations and mannerisms. He is impressed by many of them, but who is the one for him?

This movie completely revolves around Priyanka Chopra. Given the impossible task of depicting 12 different characters, she pulls it off with aplomb and looks ravishing in many of those roles. I came away totally impressed with PC! While some of the 12 prospects are forgettable, some are quite funny. I am pretty sure PC had a blast playing the role of the first candidate (the Aries girl). Much like Gowariker’s earlier movies, the cinematography work here is lovely. The soundtrack is saddled with the weight of 12+ songs, one for each sign, but there are some lovely gems amongst them. My favorites include the jazzy title song, Jao Na, the sad Bikhri Bikhri, the cheesy Sau Janam, Pyaari Pyaari and Salone Kya. The biggest mistake Gowariker continues to make is in believing that his audience has the patience to sit through his creations. Raashee is 3+ hours long and I really pity the folks who had to endure it at the theatres. With a finger firmly held on the fast-forward button What’s Your Raashee? is a colorful movie to catch at home.

Eradane Maduve (ಎರಡನೆ ಮದುವೆ)

Eradane Maduve (ಎರಡನೆ ಮದುವೆ) is a Kannada comedy directed by Dinesh Baboo. Anant Nag plays a house-husband who has (ironically) been fired from his job at Lok Ayukta on corruption charges. Due to his dishonourable exit from his job his wife (Suhasini Maniratnam), his three daughters and the maid (Tara) treat him like dirt. To teach his family a lesson, Anant Nag starts a friendship with a young TV actress (Jennifer Kotwal) that leads to turmoil at his home.

This movie is pretty enjoyable in the beginning but loses steam as it progresses. Anant Nag as the hen-pecked husband and Suhasini as the dominatrix have excellent chemistry. Tara as a unionized maid is especially funny, while Rangayana Raghu’s role is grating. The movie is too long for its thin plotline and one wishes the high-jinx in the second half would just end quickly. Eradane Maduve is yet another average family comedy.