Assassins (1995)

The first time I watched ‘Assassins’ in 1995/96 (at Skyline Theatre in Hyderabad), the scene that captured my imagination was that of Stallone taking his next ‘hit’ assignment via a laptop, a modem connection and a mini color printer. I was yet to be exposed to these three gadgets, and that sense of wonder, helped me latch on to that scene. (At work I had a 386/486 and a dot matrix printer! Laptop and a modem were a good two years away.)

Assassins

I knew nothing of the director Richard Donner back then. Stallone was just Rambo. And Antonio, what?
But I remembered the movie for its style, shot making and restrained acting performance from Stallone.

Almost a decade later, when I watched Trivikram’s ‘Athadu’, that played on a similar conflict between two assassins, I wanted to revisit this movie. Trivikram might have been influenced by the tag line “In the shadows of life, In the business of death, One man found a reason to live…”.

Caught a glimpse of the movie on TV channels, but never really got to watch the complete movie. It took me another decade to latch on to a good copy :)

assassins_blu-ray

Interestingly making wise, I was still able to connect with the movie. Also, my soft corner for Richard Donner might have helped too :)

Related links:

IMDB on Richard Donner

S/o Satyamurthy

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S/o Agastya Sastry

The central idea of S/o Satyamurthy is very close to my heart. It deals with father-son relationship before and after father’s death. For many, father’s death is a life changing experience. People who go thorough it keep wondering about the transformation in their selves. It’s a surrealistic feeling, when one looks at those two different images, before and after father’s death. But slowly and steadily, the new self takes over. This journey is tumultuous to say the least, that involves questioning one’s values, one’s legacy and one’s very existence, during every moment of that journey. It’s coming of age with full consciousness and volition. It’s a trial by fire. It’s no wonder when someone said “A man is not a man until his father dies”

sos

S/o Satyamurthy being a mainstream effort cannot afford too much of internalization for the hero. So writer-director Trivikram creates an external world that throws him on a karmic ride he hasn’t experienced before.

Allu Arjun as Neeraj Anand gives his career best performance and he is as intense or understated as Megastar Chiranjeevi was in films like ‘Maga Maharaju’, ‘Vijetha’ and ‘Pasivadi Pranam’.

Every time he is on the screen and upholds the main theme of the film, you stay with the film. It is the antics that are expected from star that throws the film off-balance. But they are required right? It’s this combination that goes awry and makes the ride bumpy. Karma(cause-n-effect) is there alright, in full splendor. The script becomes a bit of a muddle with many characters entering and exiting at will.

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Citizen Kane- Breakfast Montage scene

(Click here for the video )

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Life is Beautiful-It’s a show

(Click here for the video)

Trivikram tries everything including visual/story ideas from movies like Citizen Kane (Estrangement of Rajendra Prasad and his wife), Life is Beautiful (reality show and kid ), Okkadunnadu (Son out to clear father’s debts), Swayamvaram (Business partners’s kin getting engaged), Maryada Ramanna (house set/controlling violence) etc etc. But the ‘say more than show’ approach dominates and becomes a speed breaker in narration.

If you are fan of both Allu Arjun and Trivikram (like myself) you should watch it, if not for anything, the intent behind the film. For me personally, just that one scene where Allu Arjun shares his feelings for his father with Samantha makes the movie worth a watch.

I could think of quite a few that would have made a difference to story telling…here are the top 2

  1. In the film Hero character goes from nice to nicer to nicest.  This limits the scope for the denouement. Should it have been from a ‘Julayi’ or atleast a person who isn’t convinced about his father’s greatness to a man who realizes it gradually? ( There is a scene in the beginning of the movie, where the son questions his father’s ways and Trivikram in his inimitable way uses the ‘nanna-puli’ fable. He creates a little bit of doubt in the audience mind about son’s perception of his father but he leaves it that and in a few minutes the son becomes ready to give away their 300 crore wealth!)
  2. In my humble opinion ‘viluvale aasthi’ theme is secondary and beaten to death. For me the take-off theme is  ‘the man you are, when your father isn’t around’. Then one’s perception of father’s greatness, one’s sense of his loss and one’s way of dealing it in the material world…all of these become more relevant and there’s a better connect with the audience. (Alternative way would have been if Satyamurthy were a very very famous person*). May be a better tag line would have been it is ‘nanna viluvule aasthi” and that would have shown the light while crafting the screenplay? Afterall when the son owns his father’s values, only then does he become a part of his father’s legacy.

*Tail piece 1: An excellent take-off for a similar story-idea by my father. Here is the first part of the TV series… making is a bit dated, but the writing isn’t :) (Click here for the video)

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Excellent take-off

Tail piece 2: There’s beautiful adaptation of ‘Nanna-puli’ story in the old movie ‘Peddamanushulu’ as a dance ballet that has a positive ending. Worth a watch! (Couldn’t find it on Youtube but the audio is available on the net)

“Detective Byomkesh Bakshy”

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Jeremy Brett

Before I begin my rambling post on the movie ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’, few points regarding my exposure to detective genre in literature and movies.

  1. I am huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. Read most of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works…watched several  adaptations on small and big screen, including BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ (Brilliant!).
  2. I consider Jeremy Brett as the definitive Holmes but I liked the attempts of  Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr.’s in portraying the the iconic character.
  3. I am not a big fan of Agathe Christie’s Poirot series, just a read a few and watched a couple of episodes on TV.
  4. I am a big fan of movies like ‘The Perfect Murder’ (Naseeruddin shah), ‘L.A.Confidential’, ‘Chinatown’ etc that feed on suspense and detection. (Yup, Hitchcock’s films too!)
  5. Dibakar Banerjee’s ‘Detective Byomesh Bakshy’ is my first encounter with the famous Bangla character.

Byomkesh

Not sure if any of the above prejudiced me in some manner when I watched the movie. But the end result for me was just about an ok fare.

The production design though top notch, makes a forced entry into the story telling with Calcutta becoming the mainstay both as a backdrop and also as a very important element in the plot. This Calcutta centric plot and too many subplots, makes it difficult for the movie to achieve the scale and speed the movie accidentally or intentionally promises.

The first half of the movie suffers from cliches (red-herrings, simple observations etc) that are most often seen in detective genre, and fails to disguise them enough to make the thoroughfare interesting. But the biggest flaw for me was the take off points for the main character, that do not really allow you to connect, if you are new to this famous Bangla character. You ought to know about him and be in awe of him, even before watching the movie?

The making of “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy” sure suffers from lack of conviction from the makers, and doesn’t deliver the intense-on-the-move characterization that is expected from the lead.  This is infact a major challenge for depicting cerebral characters, which a genius like Jeremy Brett understood and brought it out in his inimitable manner, aided by a terrific dramatization of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work to suit the small screen.


May be a few liberties ought to have been taken to make the mix a little racier and spicier, like Guy Ritchie did.
May be there are quite a few shades of the character the makers left behind?
May be I ought to be less aware of the points 1-5  mentioned above?

Hmmm…

Related Links:

India Today on Detective Byomkesh Bakshy