Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Parable of the Procrastinator

Long ago, in a kingdom far-far away..

There was this guy who was going to be executed. The reasons aren't important.
Before being executed, he says 'I would like to speak to the king, I have important news for him.'
So, they take him to the king and the king asks him what is this important news.
He says 'King, give me one year and I will teach your horse to fly.'
The king is intrigued and gives him one year's time.

The prisoner's buddy asks him 'Hey, you have no clue how to make a horse fly, why did you tell him that?'
The prisoner says 'Friend, many things can happen in a year. I might die, the king might die, and for all you know, the horse might fly!'.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Johnny Sokko and the Giant Robot

When I was in fifth standard (and that was a long time ago), there was this really cool Japanese series on Doordarshan called Giant Robot (Actually, the series was called Johnny Sokko and his amazing Flying Robot but, when you are nine years old, these details don't matter).

It was all about this kid called Johnny Sokko who has this huge Robot. He would flip open his watch and speak to the robot and the robot would pretty much do anything he asked. The Robot was huge (like multi-story building huge).

Johnny belonged to organization called Unicorn. Their job was to fight this evil monster-king-thingy from outerspace who has a whole bunch of monsters at his beck and call. Every week, he would send one of these monsters up against the city. The monsters would break a couple of buildings, terrorize the neighborhood, Unicorn would be alerted and Johnny Sokko, his buddy and the Giant Robot would land up, defeat the monster, and peace would reign until the next week.

The Robot, could fly, thanks to the rocket booster in its back. He had a pretty impressive arsenal of weaponry. Missiles that would pop out of his fingers, heat rays from his eyes and so on and so forth. He would also, if the circumstance warranted, engage the monster in hand-to-hand (or tentacle, as the case may be) combat. Each monster would have a specific strong-point (cool rhino like horns, tentacles, heat-ray) and would mess up Giant Robot. Then of course, Giant Robot would gain the upper-hand (and/or Johnny would figure out what to do to defeat the monster).

I thought it was the coolest thing. I would be deeply upset if I couldn't watch it. Of course, my buddies and I would discuss each episode to its minutest detail. The Giant Robot would do a series of calisthenics before he could access his weaponry (right hand to chest, left hand to chest, and out come the heat rays!). We of course had that stuff memorized. When you are nine years old, these details matter. Then the series got over.

Fast-forward six years... I was in twelfth grade. They were showing Giant Robot again on Doordarshan. I made sure I watched it. And, man!, was it disappointing. The special effects sucked, the buildings were so clearly made out of cardboard, the monsters were badly animated rubber puppets, it was badly dubbed and the stroyline sucked. I could not believe that it was the same series that had so captivated me long ago. The next day, at school, a friend of mine said 'I can't believe I used to cry if I missed watching this serial.'.

You know, sometimes, growing up just sucks.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Manmadan

Long ago, when we were kids, this guy called T.Rajendar used to make Tamil movies. He was (and continues to be) a short, extremely hairy guy. People used to love him. I never could understand why. I guess it is one of those things like Visu movies.

Visu was this guy who used to make really involved family dramas which usually involved daughters-in-law being really evil to parents-in-law(and/or vice versa). Severely boring for most of us kids, but our parents loved that stuff. Here's one guy's take on Visu. http://www.pha.jhu.edu/~sundar/tp/visu.html . I consider Visu movies to be the direct forebears of the TV serials with names like 'Marumagal'(daughter-in-law), 'Amma'(mother), 'Pakkathu Veetu Mangatha'(Mangatha the neighbour) etc and hold him personally responsible for the subsequent loss in our society's collective IQ. But, I digress.

Back to T.Rajendar. I really don't remember what the movies were about. He used to act, direct, sing songs, compose the music, do the camera work, work the clapper, get a cup of cutting chai for the heroine and do everything else that goes into making the movies. His big thing was alliterative dialogues. He would say stuff like 'Neenga vanthirunthinga Five, Ippo Ungalukku ellam Good Bye' before beating up the (five) henchmen of the heroine's father/brother/other evil male relative. And the audience would all cheer.

There was a time when he ruled the roost in the Tamil Nadu movie industry. That is not saying much. Ramarajan too ruled the roost once. But, that is a topic for another day.. Suffice it to say.. de gustibus et coloribus non disputandum est, or in English 'There aint no accounting for taste'.

T.Rajendar's son, Silambarasan (who used to act in his dad's movies under the nom-de-guerre of Chimpu) is now all grown up and this movie is his first in the leading role.

First, the story. The hero is Manmadan, a serial killer who preys upon 'loose' women. Apparently, he hangs out at bars, discos, coffee shops, Book shops and other such places. He chooses his victim, seduces her (to confirm her general lack of morals, presumably) and proceeds to kill her. The heroine is a 'nice' girl who falls in love with the hero. She sees him with one of the victims, reports him to the cops. Hero tells the cops a story about having a deranged twin who is doing all the killings. Story checks out, cops release him, heroine apologizes, Hero ditches her and in a last tete-a-tete with the audience tells us that it was indeed he that was doing the killings to avenge the death of his deranged twin brother who committed suicide because a babe ditched him.

Now, this is not a bad story. The movie, on the other hand, is quite bad. Silambarasan labors under the misapprehension that he is some kind of real actor. This finds expression in long, pointless monologues. He thinks he is showing major emotion. He comes off looking like a petulant kid who has had his lollipop taken from him. The fact that the story calls for the serial killer target women is used as an excuse for extremely loud song-and-dance sequences that involve skimpily dressed starlets. Needless to state, S fancies himself a dancer too(I think he is taking this competition-with-father thing a bit too far).

The movie is pretty unbelievable, starting from the way he disposes of the bodies, the way the cops buy his story and pretty much everything else. I found the bits with the victims to be particularly juvenile.
A sample sequence goes like this
Victim 'I am wearing revealing clothes, so I am clearly cheating on my boyfriend.'.
Serial Killer 'I knew it, you fox you'
V 'I find you unbearably attractive.'
SK 'All righty, I am going to take you to a remote area and kill you. Oh, wait, we haven't had a song in the last five minutes, so we will first dance to a bad song and then I will kill you.'
V 'Whatever'

Audience 'Err, what?'

The dialogue is cliched, the songs are boring, the acting is sub-par and the movie pretty much sucks all around. I guess that means this movie is going to become a hit and we are going to be subjected to more of Silambarasan in the future.

There was exactly five minutes of entertainment for me in the movie, and that was the song En Aasai Mythiliye. I must confess I rather enjoyed the song.

I got roped into watching this movie on the night show during my latest trip to India. Two of my cousins are terribly in love with the movie (De gustibus etc etc) and they dragged three more of us to watch the movie. Suffice it to say that the three of us will probably never let them forget it.