The Secret Superstar is a charming movie in its spirit, soul and intention, and therefore, while there might be several aspects in which it was lacking, I cannot bring myself to be scathing in my opinion of it. I may not have eloquent praise for it, but at the same time, I must admit that I liked it enough be incapable of being supremely critical of it either.
I tried to get myself to call Newton a beautiful movie or a great movie or give it any number of pleasant adjectives. Because, for me, the adjective that defined Newton was haunting. Yes, it is a “great” movie as per the regular standards of judging a movie, but if I were to say how I felt watching it, I would say that it is mostly dispiriting. It is a movie filled with blank faces, resignation, apathy, neglect and total disregard for sensitivity in some case. The haunting feel of the movie is only enhanced by who simply it has been shot, sometimes with handheld cameras, and evocative feel of the sound of Sal leaves crunching on the forest floor throughout the movie. The half barren Sal trees of this forest, also known as Dandakaranya from the age of Ramayana, seem to mock you. Yes, they do, because, in today’s times, the only folks bearing the hardships of proverbial Vanvaas ( banishment to the forest ) are the tribals, for whom, the forest has been their home for as long as they know.
If Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch is to be believed, there are only 7 central plots or stories in the world of fiction. So I am not really surprised when the storyline of a movie or a book becomes predictable. But what makes movies like Bareilly Ki Barfi noteworthy is the introduction of local flavors and the embellishments that strike a chord with the audience. Loosely adapted from ‘The Ingredients of Love’ by Nicolas Barreau, it is a light and breezy tale, a comedy of errors of sorts.
If you have watched Drishyam and are putting off watching Papanasam thinking it has nothing new to offer, please reconsider it. But, before that a disclaimer, I am not here to contest Drishyam’s worthiness or discuss which one if these is better. I have watched both of them and after that, in no mood to contest claims about either of them being better than the other. That discussion is totally off the table. Please refrain from watching the movie if you have any of those evil intentions.
Starkly different from his larger than life portrayals in Dasavatharam, Vishwaroopam and Uttama Villian, Kamal Haasan slips effortlessly into the skin of Suyumbulingam, a village bumpkin who makes a living as a cable operator and is a fanatic when it comes to cinema. Not stopping at shedding tears after watching Pasamalar umpteen times, Suyumbu is a self made and self taught man who believes that one does not need read books, receive formal education or be tech savvy to gain knowledge in today’s world and whose window to the world are the movies. The first half of the movie moves at a very slow, lazy paces though i got to admit, I loved watching it because of sheer innocence it exudes. Suyumbu is very much an very physically expressive and loving father, quite like mine, who is almost overflowing with affection for his wife and children. I love the way conservations flow at the household’s breakfast table, complete with a doting father indulging his daughters, and cringing back slightly when it comes to spending money, and eventually gets bullied into submission by the 3 females in the house. If you were a kid in the 90s in a middle class house hold, this one is going to take you down the nostalgia lane with every single scene perhaps. This makes me believe that Kamal Haasan has probably got the most expressive eyes of all the male protagonists I have seen across languages. The glowing Gauthami Tadimalla plays the housewife to a very loving husband to the hilt, and at places you cannot help but feel envious of her utopian world.
Of course, what usually everyone waits for is the stone that is thrown to shatter this utopian world, which eventually does come. With typical thrillers we tend to look for who did it or may be what happened? With the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun executed to the t, the beauty with this movie is what everyone wonders is ‘Will he come out of this unscathed?’ And Kamal Haasan plays that emotional, pained father to the hilt. Even when he is being interrogated and brutally tortured, he isn’t the doesn’t appear overconfident about escaping this ordeal even once. Though eventually he does, but the point here is Haasan’s portrayal of a vulnerable, pained father, who musters courage to do the unthinkable and yet, not for a second, dismisses his wrongdoing as an action of self defense in threatening situation.
And the climax relieves you of any expectations that you had been harboring of heroic antics from Kamal Haasan. He is heart wrenchingly humane, grieving even after being cleared during almost admission of guilt in front of another set of grieving parents. I am so so glad I hadn’t watched the Drishyam before I saw Papanasam. Because of that, even after leaving the hall, I wasn’t busy comparing the two versions, wasn’t rooting for the either of the superstars, Mohanlal, or Kamal Haasan. This has been one of the movies where I wasn’t giving a thought about who was guilty and who was wronged. All because I was too busy, getting mesmerized with the beautiful act of this magician called Kamal Haasan!
P.S. I think I will give the Hindi Remake as skip! I don’t want to go and watch a remake where the comparison ends even before it starts!
If you have known Saradindu Bandhopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi, I am sure you will be eager to see how Dibakar Banerjee’s Byomkesh Bakshy, with a sharp ‘Y’, fares. But don’t sweat it if you haven’t. Our ‘Bhadralok’ sleuth will not disappoint you. So, as a Cumberbatch fan, I went to the cinema hall with very measured expectations. I did not read too many reviews, avoid spoilers like the plague and was not over thinking it all. And I can assure you that, though I did not leave the hall swooning over the movie, I was more than pleased with our Bakshibabu. Continue reading “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! – From Saradindu Bandhyopadhyay’s Bakshi to Dibakar Banerjee’s Bakshy!”→