VIP2: Where pray is that magic of the original?

I remember walking into the theatre showing Velai Illa Pattadhari with little expectation and leaving with some kind of inner craving satiated.

They were cute things to relish in the movie — Amla Paul, the moped owned by Raghuvaran (Dhanush), the relationship between the two brothers, their parents played by Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan and, not the least, the kuthupattu on the house terrace.

vip.jpgEven though VIP2 reprises much of this cuteness, it rings hollow and untrue this time around.

I hoped the movie will be enjoyable, especially because Soundarya Rajinikanth was directing it. But the film had none of the verve and flair of the first part. The climax, especially, was a letdown. It seems as if the director wanted to hitch her bandwagon to a successful franchise only to criminally deprive it of her own touch.

The story and the dialogues, for the most part, do not work and blame must be laid at Dhanush’s door for this. The job of the hero is central to the movie’s theme and the actor does little to deal with its intricacies. There is no layering in the script, and this would be all right if only the commercial elements really kicked in. When neither happens, part two becomes an empty shell of its original self.

As an actor, Dhanush keeps playing to the gallery and this is ingratiating, especially when his mimics his real-life father-in-law Rajinikanth. It’s like they retreaded the popular features of the first part without adding anything of much significance other than Kajol’s character.

Kajol seems to know enough to keep her villainy subtle and this is a relief even as the sequences around her fall apart. The actress isn’t helped much by the fact that her character is reduced into a caricature, leaving her with no scope to breathe life into it. The sequences in which Vasundhara clashes with Raghuvaran, which are pivotal for the success of the movie, don’t really work. He is an angel without wings and she is too egoistic for her own good. On this canvas, there seem to be no grey areas.

The parts that do work are the throwaway sequences in the first half when Samuthirakani’s character comes up with cliched ideas for his son Raghuvaran to floor his wife (Amla Paul). All of them backfire leading to some hilarity. Comedian Vivek does justice to his screentime, but the ‘Thangapushpam angle’ is not really reworked, but spread too thin.

Amla Paul, Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan do credible jobs. But their characters, as written by Velraj, were more interesting. Soundarya is unable to rescue any of them from becoming stereotypes.

The Chennai floods, which is a part of the climax, fails to make any impact. Not much screentime is devoted to it, save for a dialogue from Raghuvaran pointing to the obvious fact that it was great leveller. The drama of the floods, which many witnessed first hand, could not have been more diluted.

The movie seems to be cynically targeted at unemployed engineers in the state. Their sentiments are shamelessly exploited and they may very well end up as the mob cheering from the front seat. Mind you, I have nothing against engineers; only that they could spent their time productively elsewhere.

20 on 40

40

I turned 40 on April 17. It’s customary for people to look back on their lives when they reach this milestone. To this end, I will contribute my two bits.

1. I have a paunch. I have had it for a couple of years, but turning 40 has made me relaxed about it. I can rid of it in a month with an exercise schedule suggested by Pinterest that doesn’t even require you to leave the house. So what if I am hefty, I can become lean again, can’t I?

2. My wardrobe is better. Looking back at my 20s, I realise that I used to dress flamboyantly and often made wrong choices in picking up clothes. Today, I am more sober and I know how to impress. I have become better at deciding what to wear when. So what if finding a store that stocks my sizes is becoming increasingly difficult? I am better turned out for a little extra effort. And, what’s more I have nice shoes and am good at picking out the right socks.

3. I have a daughter. This one was a nightmare as I was determined to have a child before reaching 40. My daughter is five already. That’s five more than the age difference between by dad and I, but I happy about this aspect of my life. There are so many responsibilities that comes with being a father and I think I have not fared so badly till now.

4. I think things through before I act. I am not as impulsive as I was in my teens. That  may seem obvious, but taking spur of the moment decisions and going along with the flow are qualities that I no longer have. I am a lot calmer and sit and decide on pros and cons of an issue before going ahead. I may be more of a disrupter and thinker than I ever was.

5. I get less angry. During my early 20s, I went through a face when I was angry at everyone and everything. I rarely get angry with anyone, including my wife, these days. That helpless rage doesn’t attack me as often as it used to.

6. I am normal on social media. About a decade ago, when I first opened my account on Facebook, I was so over-enthusiastic about it, that I often made comments that embarrassed my friends. I even got into a fight my ex-girlfriend over a comment I left on her wall. Now, I am much, much more circumspect.

7. I am more sociable. I now know how to do small talk. I can flirt without offending the fairer sex. I can ask good questions and am adept at listening and responding warmly. I didn’t have all these qualities before, but having had many years to become good at it, I can finally say these skills are now part of my repository.

8. I am careful about what I eat. I just don’t hog anything is that is available. I don’t risk eating in roadside shops that look I an invitation to cholera. I am not that broke anymore.

9. I drink less. Back in college, I used to imbibe on a regular basis. Now, drinking is for special and social occasions. I don’t ever wake up with a hangover anymore. And, I remember everything that happened the previous night. I know where I am waking up to as well.

10. I am saving money. I have a lot more to achieve, but I am slowly getting there. Getting a house of my own seems a more achievable thing than it ever was. I have learnt from making bad financial decisions in the past and am not likely to repeat them in the future.

11. My birthday is not a big deal anymore. I celebrated turning 40 by having a quiet dinner with my wife and sharing sweets with people I knew. I don’t think I want to blow candles anymore and that is alright by me. I am now used to wishing my daughter on her birthday. It is still a big deal for her.

12. Many in the earlier generations are dying. Just a month ago, my wife lost her grandmother. We are now in a phase where we are attending as many funerals as weddings. The funerals are almost a social gathering as the people who died have led full lives.

13. I have cholesterol. A regular check-up showed that my cholesterol was off the charts. But happily, I can now have fish, something I have always craved for. Given that my friends are going through many health problems, serious ones, I am grateful my issues are limited.

14. I know many divorcees. Many friends of mine have divorced, with a few of them even going on to remarry. I sincerely hope they have, at least now, found everlasting happiness in their partners. I guess I married late, but it sure looks like I am in a steady boat.

15. A bald head is forecast. I have already lost much hair. My forehead line is inching upwards surely and slowly. But that is just a ‘different’ look these days. I no longer worry about it. I know some people even find this attractive.

16. I am better informed. I am a journalist and that dreadful feeling you get when you have woken up late to a serious issue is not there as often as it used to be. I get most of my news on the go as do a lot of people. I can also talk about most issues in an informed way.

17. I have to acknowledge that I really can’t learn any new skills. Chances of that happening are slim. While I can play chess (I learned young), my ambition to be good at crosswords and quizzes will probably remain unfulfilled. So I have learned to be happy even if my learning curve has plateaued.

18. I don’t have to act wise anymore. It can be reasonably assumed that I have acquired some wisdom and when young people look up to you, they may not be entirely wrong all the time.

19. Turning 40 need not bring about a midlife crisis. There is also a slim chance you might have already passed it. On the contrary, it may be years before you get one. Don’t get depressed thinking that 40 is a mad number for you.

20. There are limits to which you can push you body. For instance, I have had a neck ache for the last one week as I am sitting in front of the comp for far too long. I realise I should have had enough rest and you should be sure you do.

This is the sequel to 2007’s famous documentary made by Al Gore, former vice president of the US. The new movie will be released on July 28. I hope to catch it in an Ooty theatre. Click on the link to the trailer above to watch Gore take on US president Donald Trump, who has backed out of the Paris agreement on climate change. And, if you are passionate about the environment or not, please do make time to catch the documentary. The experience promises to be informative and exciting.

I had written about An Inconvenient Truth a few months before Gore won the Nobel peace prize in 2007.

‘Personal shopper’: Of grief and ghosts

The movie is a shocker in so many ways. This is a horror movie trying to get at deeper things. Kristen Stewart, with smeared eyeliner et al, engages us in a performance that is impossible to ignore. The cinematography by Yorick Le Saux, especially as Maureen drives through drenched streets of Paris on her scooter, is beautiful. There are very few scenes that are self-indulgent. Somehow, in the end it all ties up neatly together. And, to boot, there is a perverse sex scene thrown in.

Maureen, played by Kristen, is not just a personal shopper for a rich model. She is also a spiritualist. After her twin brother dies, she is desperate to get a sign from him. The movie avoids all the cliches of the usual horror fare and goes for something much more philosophical. But this doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t have its chilling moments. The breaking of a glass cup in broad daylight is perhaps, one of the most spooky moments, in the film.

The pic was screened in the competition section of the 2016 Cannes Festival. Olivier Assayas was chosen as one of the two best directors. I would love for you to see the movie.

‘Life’: Space horror with a touch of gore

 

Life is a riveting space-horror film that gives the Alien franchise a run for its money. Superbly conceived, the movie is about a life form from Mars that wreaks havoc on the International Space Station. The life form, the first sign of extraterrestrial intelligence, is nicknamed Calvin by American schoolchildren and turns out to be a clever murderer. As the movie aptly points out, Calvin really is killing only for food and doesn’t exactly hate humans.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation) are at the centre of the film, which is superbly cast all around. The special effects are good and believable, especially of the creature, which just grows bigger and bigger. The gore is stark and on your face; There is no escaping it.

The film ends with an unexpected twist and a dire warning. Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa directs the movie with the steady hand of a veteran. Perhaps, he is destined for greater things. You will do well to see it.

Going Social

I have gone social. This just means that there are quite a lot of cute buttons I have added at the end of each post. You are welcome to click on them. I would like for you to use these buttons to share my posts with your friends and family. And, as always, I hope to blog more, so that you can put these buttons to good use. Thanks, and happy clicpointerking.

St Vincent, of relationships thinly disguised

st-vincentBill Murray is a brilliant actor. We know this because many of us have seen movies like Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters. Now, the actor has put in a scintillating performance as Vincent MacKenna in St Vincent, a little gem of a movie, which is in parts sentimental and feel-good, but also equally heartfelt and brilliant.

I discovered St Vincent while browsing on YouTube tonight. They have this paid section for movies and I chose the movie, trusting Murray and the four-star rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie is mostly a comedy though it has some pretty intense dramatic sequences. Murray is really funny is his own laid back, mild kind of way. Melissa McCarthy, who also has a gift for comedy, lands a plum role as Vincent’s neighbour, Maggie Bronstein.

Maggie has a young adopted son, Oliver, played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher and is going through a divorce. Oliver and Vincent strike an unlikely friendship and Lieberher’s role is a cohesive one, bringing together most of the major characters of the movie.

Naomi Watts plays a strip dancer, who is pregnant. Vincent is one of her regular customers.

The movie revolves around the life of Vincent, who underneath his sarcastic, mean and grouchy exterior has a heart of gold, which Oliver is quick to sense.

The dialogues are of standout quality. They are sharply written and Oliver’s monologue at the end is incisive. Lieberher is superb as Oliver and plays him as a charming, intelligent and lovable kid. It is a give and take relationship between Oliver and Vincent, who despite odds help each other pull along.

The cinematography and background score are non-intrusive and sublime. Some well-known rock songs also dot the movie’s soundtrack, especially Bob Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm, which booms as the end credits roll. Murray quite delightfully mumbles along the words.

The movie is a snapshot of modern America. The prostitute who is pregnant, the woman who can’t conceive, the Vietnam War veteran, the boy with inner dignity are all people who are part and parcel of the country. St Vincent is a not too bad an attempt in asking us to invest our emotions in these characters, who in turn restore our faith in humanity.