Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lost Siblings No Longer Sing the Family Song

Siblings Betty Billadeau and Clifford Boyson last week reunited after being separated for more than six decades in the United States. After being placed in different foster homes way back in 1948 the brother and sister went different ways only to meet after a seven-year-old boy who heard Boyson’s story thought he could reunite the siblings. Earlier the same week high school sweethearts in Illinois got engaged 23 years after they left school. Feel-good, spirit-lifting stories as they are a common thread in both is that it was technology — facebook to be precise — that enabled the reunions.
A little bit of searching and one might find many such stories closer home. All this is a pointer to the fact that technology, and the power it lends, is a very vital aspect in our modern lives. It plays a crucial role that has alleviated our lives in many ways….and yet it has robbed from life certain joys, certain bittersweet experiences and certain colours. When was the last time someone waited eagerly for the postman to deliver a letter from a dear one? The pangs of anticipation while waiting for news about a loved one in a distant place is an experience lost to the ‘progress’ we have made over time. In the same vein, there is a tragic brilliance in O Henry’s After Twenty Years when ‘Silky’ Bob and Jimmy Wells meet — given today’s communication technology penetration such a scenario is unimaginable.
Cinema holds a mirror that unabashedly reflects our times. Today stories dealing with separation, with the search for a lover and with reunion seldom find a place in popular cinema. In Nick Cassavetes’ movie adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook Noah and Allie lose contact and meet years later in tragic and different points in life. Their inability to keep in touch is what moves them apart. Sparks might not have been able to justify the events had it been set after the Noughties. With the Internet, mobile phones and social networking sites one would have to really make an effort to not stay ‘connected’.
These films, their themes and the way they have been executed may appear ridiculous today, but to realise that these films, made high on the melodramatic quotient, were a success, is proof of their relevance then.

A genre that exploited the huge chasm in communication was the ‘siblings-separated-by-fate’ movies. Film-makers across the country exploited this ‘connectivity blackout’ and imaginations ran berserk. Siblings who run from the villain end up on different sides of town and continue to search for each other, one turns out to be good and the other a bad bloke, they bump into each other but fail to recognise. Finally they spot the ‘locket’ or the birthmark and reunite to annihilate the villain. How can one forget a staple in Indian cinema from the Seventies to the Nineties: siblings’ reuniting by singing the ‘family song’! The epitome of this genre movie is Nasir Hussain’s Yaadon Ki Baarat. One cannot help but smile at the childish naivety film-makers had towards cinema then.
Technology, no doubt, is the winner and in its overkill what is lost is an innocent emotion, a harmless foolishness tucked deep into the chronicles of yesterday that stroll across the mind’s aisle on a lonely winter night.
(This article appeared in The New Indian Express on January 17)

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Trivandrum Lodge: A Boring and Dull Experience

Theatrical poster for the movie Trivandrum Lodge

For those who suggested that Trivandrum Lodge is a good movie all I got to ask is: Really? It’s a sad movie. Please don’t call it ‘new cinema’ because if talking and thinking about sex is ‘new cinema’ then that cinema is as old as cinema. The love track in the second half seems to be a shoddy patchwork to compensate for a clueless first half.
There is a callous carelessness that is prevalent throughout the script that borders on a lack of concern for the audience. An attitude like “I make cinema for my satisfaction and not for an audience” seems to echo in Trivandrum Lodge.
Trivandrum Lodge might be proof that Malayalam cinema is undergoing a change and if it means that such movies will keep directors like V K Prakash away from directing movies like Police and Gulumal then let more come through. Anoop Menon’s scripting is brilliant in bits and pieces but when put together loses the sheen it creates in individual scenes. 
The first half of Trivandrum Lodge is packed with off-colour humour, suggestive dialogues and double entendres. This gets watered down in the second half more as if to show a different side of love. Trivandrum Lodge seems to be a movie that had its genesis during a drinking session among friends. The tragedy is that it did not stay there and was taken forward and made into a movie.
High point in the movie: the Anoop-Bhavana track, especially ‘Paul Barber’ (from Akkare Akkare Akkare fame).  The real low point in the movie is bringing Thangal (Babu Namboothiri) from Thoovanathumbikal.