Tag Archives: Mysskin

Mysskin: Bold and on your face

This is a short post I made on Tamil movie director Mysskin’s speech at a short film festival in December 2017 in Ooty. It has not been published elsewhere. As always, your comments are most welcome.

His speech done, Mysskin, with his trademark shades intact, stepped down and mingled with the crowd at Ooty Film Festival held at Assembly Rooms on December 8, 9 and 10, 2017. He had just demonstrated that his oratory skills were at least as good as his ability to turn out hit pictures. He shook hands with familiar faces and fans and made his way to the food counter, where people queued up to take individual snaps with him. He was especially courteous to women unlike many characters in his movies. Mysskin was patient as the whole process took long minutes.

Mysskin’s role in the festival, comprising mostly of short films, had been as a mentor of sorts and the organisers made no bones of the fact that his hand had steadied the ship. Earlier, on December 8, the festival had begun with a Sinhalese film directed by Prasanna Vithanage.

On Saturday, December 9, Mysskin delivered his rousing speech, which held the audience in thrall. The small hall behind Assembly Rooms, where the sessions were held, was jam-packed and the director targeted his speech, titled ‘Meditation in the Art of Film-making’, mostly at the film students gathered there.

Throughout his speech that ran well over 90 minutes, Mysskin seemed brutally honest, often taking pot shots at public figures like Prime Minister Narendra Modi (he may arrest me), superstar Rajinikanth (I can’t hope he understands my movies), and actor Kamal Haasan (my stories are wasted on him).

Mysskin went on to prescribe a number of steps that film students should take to have a successful career in the world of celluloid. From reading great masters like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to watching the seminal classics on film, an image of director mysskin he called upon students to have discipline in the way they work in their chosen field. “The fundamentals of cinematography and framing a shot can be understood by looking at the best black and white photos ever shot,” he said.

Bemoaning the lack of quality in the Tamil short films submitted to the festival, he said there was a wide chasm between home-grown films and those submitted from Iran and Sri Lanka. “It is with a sinking heart that I say that some films submitted to the festival were really poor,” he said. He went on to illustrate how film students could base their films on the acclaimed works of Tamil writers. “Our culture is in no way inferior to that of many countries across the world. There is no reason why the films cannot be as good,” he said.

Mentioning how film students were being increasingly influenced by the works of highly successful directors of tentpole movies like Christopher Nolan, he persuaded students to have a “simple approach to the process of film-making” to begin with. “You really can’t afford to dream that you are going to make the next Interstellar,” Mysskin said.

His speech was freely littered with cuss words and every time he mentioned a word that can’t be reproduced here, there was much cheering from the audience. “This is not Parliament. I can get away with saying unparliamentary words. And, you will all go to sleep if I drone on here on stage. I want you to listen to what I am saying. And, I am obliged to make sure you are not distracted,” he said.

Giving an example from his own experience at the sets of Nandalala, he said he had written 22 scenes for his opening sequence in the film. But he was constrained at the set because someone had failed to get the required permission to shoot the sequence. “Shooting the whole sequence would have taken me at least a day. I thought for a few minutes and then decided to just restrict the whole sequence to just one shot. As a crowd rushes out of a school, I got the boy (who plays a central role in the film) to look into the camera,” he said, explaining how the film-making process can be made both economical and powerful.

“There are just three shots in film-making: Longshot, mid-shot and close-up. If you are wondering about god-shot and mise-en-scene as your begin your film-making process, well, hard luck, you may not complete your film,” he said.

Mysskin began his journey with 2006’s Chithiram Pesuthadi. Many of his films including Anjathe and Onayum Aatukuttiyum went on to achieve considerable commercial success and critical acclaim.

Raw talent on display in violent Anjathe

anjaadhe.jpg

Mysskin rides the new wave of Tamil films with this effective police procedural, buddy movie and gut wrenching emotional drama rolled into one. Must watch movie. 

Anjathe, Mysskin’s new movie about two friends, one who becomes a cop and one who should have been a cop, is a cocktail mix of explosive action, thrilling sequences and gut wrenching emotions.

This is the year’s best Tamil movie so far and will remain among its best. This is also the work of an ambitious and stridently commercial director, who is at the peak of his game.

The movie, earlier titled Aruvathu Sinam, begins with a deceptively simple, but innovatively shot stunt staged in a corporation park. Right from the first low-angle shot of a blue sky into which thugs walk in, Mysskin waves his talent like a red flag. Ten minutes into the movie, he has managed to grab you by the collar and pull you headlong into the narrative.

Naren (Chitiram Pesuthadi, Pallikoodam) and debutante Ajmal Ameer play the two friends, and much of the movie revolves around the intertwined fates of the two, as they are pitted in a cat-and-mouse game. Classmates Sathya (Naren) and Kiruba are both sons of cops and live opposite to each other in a police colony. When the movie begins, Sathya is a rowdy and Kiruba is studying hard to be a sub-inspector.

In a quirky twist of fate, Sathya becomes the cop and his friend, who believes that he lost despite his hard work to his friend’s street-smart ways, turns his bitter rival. Many of the early sequences are earthy and simple in sharp contrast to the post-interval manic speed.

Naren plays Sathya as an inarticulate, angry young man with a penchant for violence. This hides his naivety and soft underbelly that can’t stomach his new life as a policeman. On his first day at work, a man who walks into a police station carrying the head of his cheating wife in a bag, sends our hero straight to bed. His father, the head constable, advises his son while polishing his shoes to keep his eyes open to horror. “The policeman lives with murder,” he tells his son.

Ajmal’s breakthrough performance as Kiruba is of a man who slowly, but unwittingly enters a life of crime. His face is often a canvas for the director to the show man in moral dilemma.

As a trainee cop, Sathya is soon on the trail of a gang of kidnappers, which abduct girls of rich families for ransom. The screenplay unfolds like a game of poker in the hands of a devilishly clever player. It is quite sometime before Mysskin has assembled the cards, but once he does, he plays it right.

Prasanna, in a marked departure from his usual chocolate boy role, plays a serial rapist and the kingpin of the kidnapping gang. Prasanna’s histrionic talents may just fall short of portraying implacable evil, but this is a boisterous and courageous performance from the actor. Much of time, his character Daya has to hide his morbid desire to abuse underage girls behind his long hair.

Prasanna provokes just the right amount of disgust and stealthily enters the movie only to retain a vice-like grip on the proceedings towards the climax. Daya’s desperate inventiveness in the face of the police hunt provides many of the movie’s thrills.

Some of the action sequences are brilliant. Naren’s first battle as a lone cop standing in the way of masked killers in a hospital is heroic. But it is also a study of a cop in an unfamiliar crisis. Having to face killers, Sathya discovers that he, indeed, is a hero.

The director also displays remarkable acumen in rooting this crime thriller in a compelling and realistic sociological background. Many of his criminals are victims of life. A flower seller, who helps Sathya rescue a dying man, has a nylon cover wrapped around a leg wound. Such details fill Mysskin’s canvas. Even when wanting to entertain, he isn’t insular to being sensitive.

Sundar C. Babu scores the music, which keeps pace with the editing, often providing the viewer with aural clues. But the songs, particularly a dream sequence and the mandatory post-interval item number, are weak links. Mysskin cans them like a director in a hurry to hide his compromises.

The filmmaker also reveals a penchant for slow motion montage (influence of Eisenstein?), which he uses often with devastating impact. A ransom payoff sequence is shot like a visual counterpart to a symphony, and sometimes in the midst of the trippy editing, it’s hard to locate the characters zipping past one another.

In these sequences, cinematographer Mahesh Muthuswamy displays his variety. His camera, which remains largely functional, turns flamboyant at command. In one superbly realised sequence, the story is told in one long, low-angle shot of the characters entering and leaving a house. All through this sequence, only the feet of the actors are shown. In fact, the movie is realised as a series of long shots, each one signaling a new twist in the screenplay. A sugarcane forest where the kidnappers take refuge during the film’s climax is beautifully evoked.

Actor Pandiarajan, superbly cast against type as one of the kidnappers, delivers a performance that virtually reintroduces the actor to movie audiences. Even if you saw Aan Pavam and Anjathe back to back, you will be hard put to identify the actor in both the movies.

Vijayalakshmi plays Kiruba’s sister, who is in a quite, fierce and blindly trusting love with Sathya. In the little screen time she has, the actress does a commendable job.

With Chitiram Pesuthadi, Mysskin announced his arrival as a name to reckon with. Anjathe is a tastier second course from the director.