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Robert De Niro and the art of reveal : This Boy’s Life

Streaming on Amazon Prime

It’s amazing how great actors reveal shades of characters and draw you in to their world and to their performance. While the script definetly has to offer such opportunities, it is the actor who has to be in that particular moment of the character arc and portray the same. A bit less or bit extra would ruin the moment and actors like Robert De Niro are perfectly aware of that and bring out the portrayal to near perfection, as he did in ‘This boy’s life ‘.

He plays a regular abusive step father, but what’s really out of the world is how he transforms himself into the final avatar before our own eyes.

In the first scene he shows his conceited nature, his eagerness to please. Later he brings out his inabilities and insecurities to the fore in the rifle shoot scene. And then finally his abusive nature in several scenes and how it is a actually a reflection of his inner demons and his incapability to make a mark for himself in the real world. Even when the scenes are repetitive and you kind of know what to expect, he still manages to hold your attention.

It’s easy to play a straight forward cardboard villain where atrocities are out in the open, but very difficult to play someone where the evil actions are projected from what is subdued and lurking inside. Robert De Niro has shown it again and again in several films like ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Cape Fear’, ‘Goodfellas’ etc..but in each of these he somehow succeeds in making these performances stand out as unique and authentic. Of course, ably supported by terrific scripts, master league directors and excellent co-actors, like Leanardo De Caprio in ‘This Boy’s Life’.

Tail piece: The final reveal of the character comes in the climax, when Robert De Niro plays the sissy part so well. Infact, it is the sissies who resort to abuse, knowing the other person is too weak to give it back.

Meet Viju Prasad

More of Viju Prasad coud have helped Anwar Rasheed’s ‘Trance’?

In the late 80s any attempts to deviate from the regular was met with a disaster at box office. This was especially true for big stars like Amitabh Bachchan. His terrific portrayal in ‘Main Azaad Hoon’ couldn’t help the film from sinking without a trace. The film itself was an adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic ‘Meet John Doe’, where a good for nothing simpleton becomes an overnight sensation, thanks to some crafty schemes of the men behind, who pull the right strings. What happens when the puppet decides to have its own life and break away from the powers to be, is the crux of both films. Without sounding repetitious, or rather sounding repetitious, one has to agree that it is one of the best performances of Amitabh.

‘Trance’ reminds you a bit about these films. A mentally depressed person is picked up and groomed to be a pastor, who can connect to millions of people. While the pastor is bringing his followers the sunshine of Jesus’s miracles, his masters make hay.  One fine day, the pastor/puppet decides to break away and that’s when the movie goes into a spiral and never recovers.

Mental depression or for that matter any mental illness is hard to spot, unless the intensity is so much, that the person shows the symptoms all the time. Otherwise, they look and come across as normal, barring those episodes where the other selves kick in, which most of the times could be when they are alone. The first half of the movie achieves this depiction brilliantly, with Fahadh Faasil switching from one shade to the other, effortlessly. It’s the script in the second half that deserts him, leaving him repetitive and confused, just like the audience.

Overall, ‘Trance’ is an okay film for a one time watch, powered by a spirited performance from Fahadh Faasil and tied in by the novelty of the theme.

Tail piece 1: At the end of the show, when someone was asked about how the film was, he apparently said ‘Main…. Azaad Hoon!’ (‘At last… I am free!). Back then, such negative reactions did cause much hurt to sincere Amitabh fans like me 😉

Tail piece 2: For a few moments I wondered if the movie would take RK Narayan’s ‘Guide’, where the pastor redeems himself as a true saviour or a seeker. Reminding us of such possibilities indeed shows that the script had a lot of promise, which evaporated once the typical denouement of plots was chosen. Ex. The antagonists getting butchered and washed under a (Quentin Tarantino) blood splurge

Tail piece 3: When one is battling mental illness, he/she should reach out to qualified doctors and stay away from dark suited businessmen, even if they were the likes of Gautham Menon. 🙂