A Reading Of Three Shots From Vetri Maaran’s Dhanush-Starrer Asuran

Originally appeared in Film Companion.

When you have a filmmaker as passionate about cinema as Vetri Maaran, even three seconds from a feature-length film of his can provide more room for reading than entire films that celebrate mediocrity. Asuran (streaming on Amazon Prime Video) is far from a perfect film, but quite important in terms of social criticism and how seamlessly the narrative blends commentary and craft. 

We often hear viewers say, “It’s an average film, but has an important message”. For instance, films such as RaatchasiHero and Samuthirakani’s entire directorial filmography are modern-examples of message-over-craft. Not every important film can be great on cinematic terms, but with Asuran, Vetri Maaran surmounts this task with ease, crafting a film that’s important but which also scores high on cinematic merit.

Here are three shots from Asuran that elucidate how a filmmaker can masterfully set up a frame to talk in-depth about characters and narrative, while also using it to serve the message.

Continue reading here.

5 BEST FILMS OF 2019 SO FAR

Here are the five best films I saw this year. That raises the question, “How can you term these films as the best ones having not seen the rest?”
That’s because everything we say, write or express is our opinion. Since it would be odd to start every line with IMO, we give it a pass. That’s precisely what I’m doing here.

Please note that I’m not comparing any two films here. That being said, I’m a movie lover — not a critic. Hence, I don’t study a movie; I simply watch it. In other words, these are the five films which moved me, entertained me and gave me an experience I will remember for a very long time. Let me spoil this list for you. Gully Boy and Super Deluxe or not in the list. They feature in a hypothetical list named ‘Movies soo overrated that people lose their shit when someone calls them overrated.’

Keeping differences aside. Here it is,

5 – KESARI(Hindi)

What!?

Why!?

How!?

If your reaction is one of these, you haven’t seen Kesari yet, or have a prefixed notion that masala movies suck. Yes. Many masala movies suck, they suck donkey balls. But Kesari does everything right which a masala movie should. We often overlook the craft involved in a crowd puller. And that’s a mistake.

Kesari, tells the story of 21 brave men fighting against 10,000 invaders. A fight which they know they cannot win.
But the movie wins in delivering what it should. It’s an epic action film with a beating heart that checks all the boxes to deliver a perfect masala movie. One hour of lavishly shot and made a battle sequence with tons of memorable moments. Isn’t that enough!

4 – ISHQ(Malayalam)

Ishq is the most personal film I’ve seen in recent times. It feels like the writer has been through what the characters go through in this little film.

While well-made films follow a proper structure, Ishq doesn’t.
The first 20 minutes of the film play out like a breezy romantic film. Things change after that. The premise is simple. The plot is wafer-thin. A couple on a road date(is it a thing?) are tormented and mentally tortured by a police guy for 40 minutes of the film, and then the protagonist takes revenge by doing the same.

The major chunk of the setting is just a road in the first half of the film and a home in the second half. It’s people talking to each other in the whole movie. But it gives you chills, makes you extremely uncomfortable at times in the first half and cheers you up in the latter part. Too many emotions for a film made on such a small scale and wafer-thin plot right? That’s the magic of good writing.

3 – KAVALUDAARI (Kannada)

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery?

And Kavaludaari is a damn good murder mystery. Filled with puzzles, it keeps you guessing throughout its runtime.

Picture this. A traffic inspector finds bones that were buried 40 years ago. Now, he has to figure this out!
The way the writers play with the story, the possibilities, and the links is mind-boggling.
The lesser I say, the better your viewing experience!

2- JERSEY (Telugu)

I saw this movie on April 22nd.

As soon as I came out of the auditorium, I wanted to write a lot about the film and express everything I felt. But I couldn’t because I was heartbroken. The thought of this film made me sad. I feel soo sad for Arjun, the protagonist, that I couldn’t write about it till now. After more than three months.

Jersey is full of heart. As cricket plays a huge role in the movie, it’s easy to call it a sports movie. Observe. Cricket is just a medium for the protagonist to overcome his failures. This is not a movie about cricket. It’s about a man who dares everything to prove himself.

The father-son dynamic is the best thing about the film and does 100 times better than every other movie which aimed at showcasing this relationship.
It’s a journey that you won’t forget.

1 – VIRUS(Malayalam)

Brilliant. Thrilling. Moving. Scary. Inspiring.

Virus has got everything.

Based on real incidents, this medical thriller explores human emotions and behaviour to the fullest.
The tear-jerking moments work because we are humans and can feel these emotions ourselves. ‘Virus’ is the most humanistic film I’ve seen in a really long time.
With plenty of characters, there are plenty of emotions explored, giving a fair share of importance to each and every character.
The 4-minute sequence with opening credits could have been a great movie all by itself!

Andhadhun – Review

I wrote this review for my application for Young Critics Lab 2019.

Ambiguity is one of Andhadhun’s traits. While the word may sound negative in its generic form, it perfectly suits the film in the subject. Andhadhun is a puzzle, created by Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar, Hemanth Rao, and yes, the elephant in the room, Sriram Raghavan. A 138-minute puzzle that asks you to pay attention, figure out things and try to outperform its creator who is facing you, from the behind of the screen that is playing Andhadhun on it. Like puzzles, the film is a fun time.

Special mention to the tone, which is light-hearted no matter how brutal the circumstances are for its leading man, Akash, played effortlessly by Ayushmann Khurana. This tone makes Andhadhun easily watchable, and its the same tone that is the critical aspect for a thriller. Is Andhadhun a thriller? Maybe. Is it a dark comedy? I guess so. But I’m not sure! And this is what sets Andhadhun apart. It is always welcoming when a film doesn’t stick to a particular genre, just like our lives. Are our lives a dramedy? Romance? Action? The genre of our lives keeps changing as our days progress. So is the case for Akash, the film breaks into a beautiful musical as Akash syncs his lips to ‘Naina da kya kasoor’, beautifully composed and sung by the ever-reliable Amit Trivedi. It is a cat and mouse game when Inspector Manohar Jawanda chases poor Akash in the second half of the film. It dwells into some sort of heist in the same half. See, the point I’m trying to prove is, Andhadhun doesn’t confine to a particular genre, and it’s amazing how it shifts from one to another.

The heart of Andhadhun is Simi, played by Tabu. She walks away, not just with the cake, but with every item, the bakery has to offer. Simi is gorgeous, and that’s what makes her even eviler. Evil looking like evil is predictable, don’t you think? And predictability is one thing this film avoids from the word go. The more I write about Simi, the more I’ll have to reveal about the film, which I don’t want to. Speaking of evil, Zakir Hussain plays Dr Swami, a realistic person, who is evil. Hussain is an actor with several negative characters to his credit, Swami is diametrically opposite to the negative character he has played in the past. And that is because of the writing. Swami is written a guy who does evil stuff to make more bucks. He is not inherently evil, like other movies project negative characters to be.

Andhadhun isn’t flawless. While it is a walk in the park for the immensely talented Radhika Apte to play a simple character like Sophie, the character is left midway after half-baked development. This is understandable that the screenplay doesn’t need her, casting a prominent actress like Apte causes this. Ashwini Kalsekar, as Rasika, gives us some of the best moments from the film, despite her limited screen time. Leaving us expecting more of these moments. This is what happens when the writing is on the spot, and it lets every little character shine. When it comes to little characters, there are Kabir Sajid Sheik as Bandu, a annoying little brat who steals the scenes he is in. FYI, he is in a scene with Apte, and guess who steals it? Not a spoiler, but its Bandu. So is Chaya Kadam as Sakhu, and Rudrangshu Chakrabarti as Murli, it is hard to write about them individually, you’ll get it post-viewing. It is the writing that lets these characters break the single dimension. Had it been not for the strong script, these characters would not have been mentioned anywhere.

The first half is a richly satisfying experience, obviously making the latter half look forced. Maybe, it is because the first half alone provides moments and twists more than any other complete well-made thriller Hindi cinema offered in recent times. Perhaps it came under its own weight of the awesomeness the first half offered. That being said, Andhadhun ends on a high, opening countless windows for your own predictions and theories. You walk out chuckling cause you know you have to figure it out! And that is the reward for watching this movie, errr, a puzzle!