Friday, July 30, 2010

Of Haunted Houses . . .

Malayalam cinema, over the decades have had a good share of horror stories, or rather pretha kathas -- from gems like Bhargavinilayam, Kottaram Vilkanundu of yesteryear to slightly comic ones like Aakashaganga or revenge tragedies like Vellinakshtram and most recent Yakshiyum Njanum. Of late, there seems to have been a revival of interest in spooky stories, probably because of a serious dearth of good stories, or because all sequel-able movies have been sequelized. It is then only natural that film makers turn to horror stories -- an all time favourite genre cutting across age, gender et al. Deepu's Winter, and Shaji Kailas's Dhrona 2010, though different in terms of plot, are thematically similar -- haunted mansions.
Winter tells the story of Dr. Ramdas and his family, who move in to a bigger house to facilitate a larger space and an open area for their elder daughter who suffers from clinical depression. However, things go horribly wrong with the house being supposedly haunted by the ghost of a maniac who went around killing small girls. Seemingly inexplicable things happen in the house, which go against Dr. Ramdas's refined scientific sensibilities. he eventually gets convinced that here is something wrong with the house and relents to his wife's insistence on a Vaasthu consultation. The movie winds up to the conclusion that there is indeed another maniac on the prowl (supposedly inspired by his predecessor), who finally gets captured. Dr. Ramdas and family drops their plan of moving out and look forward to a happy stay in their newly-cleansed-of-all-hauntings; but, a shadow lurks as the night falls.
The movie is shot well, in dark hues, and the few sudden scene shifts produce the spooky effects quite successfully.While the plot seems solid, the story is rather shaky, and at times it feels like the script was improvised on the spot. At best the movie gives a crash course on the basics of vasstu shashtra !

Shaji Kailas's Dhrona 2010 is nothing but a rather unconvincing story about a haunted mansion, with a smattering of intellectually-driven, woman-led, family feud, which leads to the said mansion being wasted away. Located in the scenic village of Chembra, the movie relates the story of a woman, whose exceptional intelligence becomes her undoing, and gets her thrown out of her house. After her death, she comes to haunt the opposition family's mansion, killing all heirs. Only a celebrated Vaasthu master from a renowned family can rid the house of its hostile presence. But he gets killed in the process of de-haunting, and years later, it falls on his elder son to make things right.
Shaji Kailas does not seem to hold his fort, when there are no power-packed verbal bullets, stunts, police and politics. Though it begins well, the ending fizzles out to a brother avenging his sibling's death and restoring a house to its only surviving heir. At one point of time, one almost expects Mammooty to echo a certain Dr. Sunny who elaborates about " psychosisil ninnu thudangi neurosisil vannu nilkkunna ory tharam manasika vibhranthi ...." !

Both Winter and Dhrona advocate the significance of Vaastu in the planning of houses and, how it can act to the advantage and disadvantage of the inmates. Both the films seem to proclaim that what is usually termed badha is actually miscalculations in the vaastu of a building, and that all supposedly supernatural events (like burning curtains, howling sounds,breaking window glasses etc) have a scientific reason / cause behind them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Snippet reviews

Tresspassing -- Uzma Aslam Khan
A rather different picture of Pakistan.The book throws some light on certain internal issues which do not often find place in international media -- a fact that Daanish, in a different context, feels. Also, the book brings together a bunch of women very different from the usual pardadhari, conservative women that one associates with a Muslim country. Riffat, Annam, Sumbul,Dia,and to some extent Nissrine, are strong women who have an identity of their own in spite of family/relationship turmoils. In short, a very good read about enterprising women with snippets on sericulture.

Anastasia Syndrome and Other Stories -- MAry Higgins Clark
A very gripping tale, "Anastasia Syndrome" is a psychological thriller, wherein past comes to haunt the present. Judith Chase, an innocent writer engrossed in writing her historical novel on English civil War little expects to be literally dragged into her own story, and the consequences are unexpected and fatal.
The short stories that follow are promising as well, especially "Terror Stalks high school Reunion" and "Lucky Day". the other two stories are a bit of a showdown. however, the book is sure to inspire one to read more of the author.

The Inscruatble Americans -- Anurag Mathur
East is east, west is west, and the twain shall never meet --- Mathur's story is yet another illustration of this dictum. culture shock, inaccessibility of brahmin-cooked vegetarian food, racism, repressed sexuality -- all are stumbling blocks to Gopal's attempts to reconcile the Indian and the American in him, and seeks succor in Coke, and later beer. However, he does not leave the place disillusioned. During his year-long stay in US of A, he manages to give this hep and happening country a feel of his indianness (as when he successfully haggles in a mall, and impresses his professors by his natural intellectual abilities) and in return absorbs the sense of freedom exuded by the country (towards the end home (India)stands for the drudgery of hair oil factory, arranged marriage, and other responsibilities.

Zoya Factor -- Anuja Chauhan
Cool, fast, interesting,exciting, and extremely funny -- that's this book in a nutshell. written in simple,pacy prose, it gives a funny kind of insight into the innards of the ad world, so also of what happens while Team India tours abroad -- in a heady concoction of fact and fiction (less of the former probably). while the backdrop is real enough, the novel does not presume to be a conventional roman a clef, as the protagonists cannot really be referred back to factual figures. in short, technically as well as in terms of plot, anuja chauhan has come up with a wonderful piece of entertainment.

The French Lieutenant's Woman -- John Fowles
Self-reflexive and historical, Fowles's work is a comprehensive glimpse into 1850s Victorian England. Sarah Woodruff, chronic melancholist, fancies Charles Smithson who is betrothed to Ernestina Freeman. Charles, wounded by the prospect of a disinherited future (with his elderly uncle suddenly deciding to marry) finds himself in even hotter soup with conflicting emotions regarding his fiancée, and a repressed attachment for Sarah, an expression of which finally lands him in a total emotional loss.
Good for its technical complexity and record of Victorian culture & society, but slightly boring storyboard (subjective view, of course)-- a triangular love story between a rather indecisive man, a cunning woman and a fragile, jealous woman -- in short.

Mansfield Park -- Jane Austen
This wonderful story of Fanny Price is quite engaging and makes an interesting read. It traces Fanny's growth from a poor relation of the Bertrams to becoming a part of their family. in this sense, it is a coming-of-age novel, as Fanny goes through a riot of emotions and opinions regarding the people around her, especially Edmund, whom she finally marries. Jane Austen, true to her character, depicts the English aristocracy in their splendorous country-side villas. Irritating and demanding relatives, extravagant cousins, pretentious friends -- all make Fanny's life (and the story) a real emotional adventure. Beneath this seemingly innocuous social canvas, one can also espy English imperialism at its peak (in mentions of Sir Bertram's expeditions to Antigua), that funds the aristocratic leisures.

Goodnight and God Bless -- Anita Nair
A very interesting and fast read that gives a glimpse into the writer's musings on life and literature in general. She even gives a list of suggested reading at the end. Also, there are footnotes comprising quotes and anecdotes. Somewhere the book gives a much better idea of the writer much more than her novels does, (so much so that one is prompted to pick up a novel by her!)A voracious reader herself, she triggers the reading bug, as one goes through the small pages of this pretty little book.

Six Suspects -- Vikas Swarup
Much better than Q&A in terms of characterisation, plot and narration....has a pulse for pulp fiction.the book is easy to read and does not need too much of brain..interesting part is that one man links all the characters and brings them together. But Swarup has to get out of being in Hindi Movie mode as it all gets very very been there seen that after you read around 50 pages. good part of the novel is the cross section of India without the usual spouting of nation, identity and thirst for the self. the book is terrible as the narrative design is rather bland...not worth buying take it from a library people. and yeah certainly wont be made into a movie..Swarupji please jazz up the writing with some more intelligence. dont underestimate your readers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Raavan -- The Post Show Ruminations

Lush green and wet landscapes, scary waterfalls, slippery rocks, dry forests, Vikram, Karthik, Prabhu, Priyamani -- this is what Ravanan has to offer. Apart from this the movie is just about rescuing a female from a goonda, to put it simply and crudely. Prithviraj is bearable (maintaining a static expression he cultivated for Puthiya Mugham and Robinnhood) while Aishwarya fails to register any kind of impression, either in acting or in dancing. Also,the pair seems to have little chemistry, with Prithviraj most of the time looking bored with Aishwarya prancing around. Priyamani,for the few seconds that she appears, leaves a strong impact (wouldn't she have been a better Ragini?) Even songs are a bit of a dampener, except for the title track -- Veera. The ARR magic has long been lost, and every time a supposed ARR song is released one is left craving for the bygone 'rosier' days.
In spite of all these glitches, the movie must be seen for Vikram, and the wonderful play of emotions enlivened on his face. Terror, camaraderie, love, desire --- all find adequate and effective expression in Vikram, and proves his calibre as an actor, rather than a star. Reports claim that he is equally good as S.P.Dev in the Hindi edition. However,it is doubtful whether AB junior could do proportionate justice to the role -- the difference is felt even in the posters !
Verdict -- 3 stars out of 5. No regrets in having missed is at cinemax. And Vikram ..... veera veera veera veera .... :)