When it comes to women in Tamil cinema, traditionally, they’ve mostly done roles that can best be described as glamorous eye candy, however 2017 gave us some hope.
In a year headlined by all the controversies around Vijay’s Mersal, whether superstar Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan will take the political plunge and the phenomenal run of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion; a few films saw the emergence of actresses – against all odds –in a hero-worshiping industry.
These actresses not only shone in author-backed roles but gave audiences a reason to cheer for them on screen.
In Rohin Venkatesan’s Adhe Kangal, Sshivada Nair played a negative character which she pulled off with ease and aplomb. The critics lauded her work; audiences cheered for her when she smiled enigmatically in some of the film’s best moments. She’s no one film wonder. Among the less-established heroines, she has an impressive body of work with films such as Nedunchaalai and Zero to her credit.
Asked Sshivada if she didn’t mind playing a negative role so early on in her career, she said: “I was very confident when I heard the script, and the way Rohin narrated my character strengthened my belief. I did have my own reservations but then I realized if Neelambari character (from Padayappa) can be popular even after so many years, what could possibly go wrong if I play a villain. After we shot a scene on the first day, I wasn’t satisfied. I remember going back to my caravan and telling my mother if I could do this. But Rohin was very positive from the beginning. He asked me to get more involved with the character and that motivation really helped.”
After going solo in 2015 with Maya, Nayanthara left a mark in titular roles in Dora and Aramm this year. Irrespective of how these films fared at the box-office, it was really encouraging to see an established actress back strong content and in the process give first-time filmmakers a big break. Maya, Dora and Aramm were all made by debutant directors.
In Dora, Nayanthara played a car owner (of a possessed car) turned vigilante. In Gopi Nainar’s Aramm, she played a district collector whose abilities are put to test through the course of a single day in a life and death situation. What’s common between Dora and Aramm is that these are films that solely focused on Nayanthara’s character. There wasn’t even space for romance in her life. In fact, in both these films, we don’t even get to see a man in Nayanthara’s life.
In Dora, she’s after her career and revenge; in Aramm, she’s after justice – even at the cost of her job – for the people of a small village. Nayanthara, with her choices of films, truly came on top this year and she has just teased us with what she’s capable of doing. With an impressive slate of films in 2018, it’s just a matter of time before she’s going to give heroes a run for their money.
Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai might have elicited mixed response from audiences and critics alike but there’s no denying that Aditi Hydari Rao – in a role that received its share of brickbats – was quite impressive. In a romantic drama that’s centered on the theme of abuse, Aditi as doctor Leela gracefully portrayed the vulnerability of her character. Karthi and Aditi may not have clicked as a pair, but in her respective role she makes us empathise for her and how.
After making a smashing comeback with 36 Vayadhinile after 8-year-long hiatus, Jyothika wowed once again in Magalir Mattum, in which she played a documentary filmmaker who reunites her mother-in-law with her friends and takes them on a road trip. It’s one of those rare films where the women – Bhanupriya, Urvashi and Saranya Ponvannan in excellent roles – overpowered the men and all credit to writer-director Bramma for putting this project together. For Bramma, it was fascinating to write about women from their point of view. Talking about the women in the film, he said every single character was written with a purpose. Bramma strongly believes several young filmmakers are gender sensitive and they try their best to not objectify women. But, there is still a long way to go.
One of the astonishing performances of the year came from debutante Anisha Angelina Victor, who stunned as the possessed girl in Siddharth’s Aval. She played her part to the hilt, and one can only imagine how physically taxing (and this reminds me of the exorcism scene right before interval) the role would have been on her and yet she was terrific.
Another whistle-worthy performance came from Aditi Balan, as the rebellious yet vulnerable girl from Aruvi, and it is impossible to think of anyone else in her shoes. Aditi is, unarguably, one of the best finds of this year and she deserves to be treasured.
It’s worth mentioning that Andrea Jeremiah in Taramani and Thupparivaalan, while Varalaxmi Sarath Kumar in Vikram Vedha and Sathya accepted characters – which go beyond merely looking pretty on screen – and played them convincingly.
In 2018, it has to be seen if these women or their performances can inspire more filmmakers to write better roles for actresses and tread in the right direction.
ASC Awards: Roger Deakins wins top cinematography honour for sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049
This is the fifth honour for the cinematographer by the prestigious body, including a Lifetime Achievement award in 2011. Deakins has already won the Golden Globe for Blade Runner 2049 this award season, and is the current favourite for an Oscar, an achievement that has eluded the veteran cameraman, known for his work in The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, and The Assassination of Jesse James. Traditionally, in the 32 year long history of ASC Awards, thirteen winners have gone on to win the Oscar as per the same report.
Blade Runner 2049, saw Deakins build on Ridley Scott’s original and influential neo-noir futuristic world. The film was marked with giant, intensely illuminated holograms advertisement interact with the lead actor, and a glitch-ridden virtual Elvis Presley performance in a low-lit abandoned Las Vegas auditorium. The dusty, apocalyptic vision of the Blade Runner universe was deftly crafted by Deakins for the 2017 sequel.
“He has to be Roger Deakins on every shot. He has all the pressure of the world on his shoulders. He’s very, very focused. He doesn’t talk very loud. He doesn’t like to repeat. And his crew…his crew would die for him,” Villeneuve, who has collaborated with Deakins on his two earlier films, Prisoners and Sicario, told Vanity Fair.
ASC Awards also honoured lensman Mart Taniel with the spotlight award for November. The honour focuses on excellence in world cinema. Taniel beat the exquisite Hungarian movie On Body and Soul, which is also up for an Academy Award this year.
Published Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:02 PM | Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:02 PM
North India’s angry young men: Snigdha Poonam examines a generation’s anxieties in her new book, Dreamers
Upon reading Dreamers, Snigdha Poonam’s splendid cultural study of a generation’s appetite for ruthless ambitions and change, it’s apparent that India’s young men from the north are driven by a peculiar hunger. They chase fame, fortune, power and lofty dreams just like every other millennial but these small town youth are unlike their city counterparts. It’s an unquenchable anger that sets them apart — anger that their country was spoilt by the Congress, anger that corruption was at its peak, anger over their lost izzat, anger over the lack of jobs… Enough anger to make them want to be famous, important and rich beyond their dreams. And while some of them are lucky enough to realise their dreams, some others are stuck in an illusion forever.
Poonam, who writes for Hindustan Times, travelled to India’s towns and villages in the north, besides her own hometown of Ranchi, to find out what these young Indians wanted. “The idea was to [go to a small town] find out four or five people whose stories stood out and follow them for a year to see how close they get to their dreams. As I progressed with that brief, it became a larger project,” she says. Initially, Poonam chose four people in and around Ranchi, but as she travelled to other places, it became 6-7 people in 3 or 4 locations, to whom she kept going back for anywhere between a year and three years.
South India and its millennial population feel like a glaring omission from the book, but Poonam says she chose north India for a reason — that it was “representative of the frustrations of this generation because it does more badly than south India; its level of education and employment is poorer. More logistically, the book was never meant to be a sequel to Butter Chicken in Ludhiana [Pankaj Mishra’s travelogue on small-town India]. I was doing the opposite thing; I wanted to limit the number of people and places,” she says.
Among the people Poonam meets is Pankaj Prasad or ‘The Fixer’, an entrepreneurial young man in southern Jharkhand, who is a small-time lobbyist and liaison — an important link between the state administration and citizens — or rather a go-to man for villagers ready to pay him for sarkari services. Then there’s the founder of WittyFeed or ‘The Click-Baiter’, a startup that thrives on American obsessions from Kim Kardashian and lip-sync battles to banal listicles on Katy Perry’s weirdest faces. To match success stories, Dreamers also has a chapter on the disputers — the angry young men complaining about the future of this country and turning to various Hindu groups who tend to their anxiety. Like Vikas Thakur, with his funky tattoo and beach sandals, who wants to become a politician because he wanted to stand up for Hindus. Or 19-year-old Arjun Kumar who cannot wait for Valentine’s Day year after year because it’s the only day he can deal with couples the way he wants, with an iron rod.
Poonam also gifts us with a rare chapter on an angry young woman — Richa Singh, who fought the Allahabad University elections and won and moved on to mainstream politics. Just like the south Indians who are absent from this book, women too are very obviously missing. But it wasn’t intentional, says Poonam. “I met young women too who had dreams, but when you talk to young men about their dreams, they’re not just talking about their own dreams but also what they want for their country and what they want from the world.” For many young women dreamers, “it was about changing their own lives and in some sense that itself was a huge leap for them to take and they weren’t going to talk about how India should go back to becoming the glory of world civilisation. A lot of the anxiety about their place in India and India’s place in the world was very manly,” she says.
To round off, Poonam has the strugglers as well — men who dream big, plan elaborate and push hard but still remain at the lowest possible level, men like Mohammad Azhar who dream of becoming Bollywood superstars but instead get exploited.
The underbelly of Dreamers not just gives us a peek into toxic masculinity and anger, but also uncovers the appeal of religion, specifically Hinduism, to these men. What does it offer them in a way of appeasing anger or giving them something to move forward? According to Poonam, it offers them a basic sense of identity, honour, and masculinity. “When I spoke to these young men, they were not speaking about religion per se because I knew more about religion than they did and they didn’t connect with any texts, they didn’t have the most basic understanding of what they were fighting for, starting with cows,” she says. And most of the angry men just ended up being Hindu. “I was looking for anger in general, but what I found was that the minorities — young Muslim and Dalit men — were busier looking ahead in terms of opportunities, whereas the Hindu men were looking at the past, at what they had lost, and wanted to restore the old order. Religion had very little meaning in their lives…”
Essentially, these men always saw a society that’s constantly conspiring against them and their Hindu heritage. They also saw a leader in Narendra Modi — someone like them who’d made it, from tea vendor to Prime Minister — who promised them the India they wanted, whose politics aligned with theirs and whose rhetoric reeked of Hindu nationalism. Modi would transform their beloved India back to its glorious past, they believed. Poonam says that the growing young population she talked to were political in an ambitious, idealistic way in that that there should be smooth roads, no corruption, and trains running on time. “But there was a general hope in Narendra Modi and a lot of disappointment in how Congress had steered the country since independence. That is very common and a lot of that was borrowed perception,” she says.
Poonam writes that less than 17 percent of India’s graduates are immediately employable and only 2.3 percent of the workforce has undergone formal skills training, which means that the country needs to educate about 100 million young people over the next 10 years, “a task never before undertaken in history”. Yet these young Indians, who have grown up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and “cultural values of their grandparents”, are creating opportunities for themselves in various fields with the help of the ubiquitous internet. Facebook especially, Poonam says, is a tool through which young people are able to manage how other people see them. “The sense that they can manage their perception is very common among young people even in the villages. Even if you want to have the slightest of part to play in politics — and these are the people who are doing this at the block, tehsil level — Facebook and WhatsApp is where they like to do that and they’re becoming really good and smart at it.”
Perhaps this is how young Indians will change the world, one status at a time.
Published Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:15 PM | Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:15 PM
Jayam Ravi on upcoming space film Tik Tik Tik: ‘It’ll be a milestone in the history of Tamil cinema’
Actor Jayam Ravi, who established his career by starring in Tamil remakes of several popular Telugu films in the beginning of his career, made really interesting choices in the last three-four years which has paid off handsomely.
From playing a boxer in Bhooloham to turning into a zombie in Miruthan, he was last seen on screen playing a tribesman in Vanamagan. As he awaits the release of Tamil cinema’s first space film Tik Tik Tik, in which he plays an escape artist cum astronaut, Ravi opens up in an exclusive chat with Firstpost about the experience of working in the film which is unlike anything he’s done in his career so far.
Directed by Shakti Soundar Rajan, the film marks Ravi’s second collaboration with the director after the zombie actioner Miruthan. Recalling how the project materialised, he said: “After the release of Miruthan, Shakti called me one day and said he has two scripts – a big project and a small film. He asked me which one I want to work on. I told myself that I’m anyway not going to be around to do 200-300 films. Even if I do one film, the experience should be equivalent of doing five projects. I conveyed the same thought to Shakti and that’s when he pitched the idea of Tik Tik Tik.”
As much as Ravi was excited about the idea of starring in a space film, deep down, he was hesitant. “Initially, I was very hesitant. But I always look at positives over negatives in anything I do in life. When Shakti pitched the idea of Tik Tik Tik, I saw many positives. A lot of people didn’t attempt a space film so far is because of the misconception that we can’t shoot in India and the high cost involved. But Shakti and I had faith in our script and we found a VFX studio (Ajax) in Chennai which delivered the kind of output which was beyond our expectations. We gave them some test shots to work upon and they came out really well.”
Despite his faith in Shakti and the script, Ravi said a lot of people couldn’t believe they could pull off a space film. “When I told some well-wishers and friends that I was going to do a space film, nobody believed in me or in the project. They looked down upon the idea itself. The bigger challenge for us was to script a movie like this in the first place. It needed a lot of vision and clarity. I could foresee the result when I read the script but nobody believed in us expect our producer. But I was quite confident because audiences have always supported whenever I attempted something different. Even though the execution was very strenuous, we were thrilled with the output which was beyond our satisfaction. It’ll be a milestone in my career and in Tamil cinema,” Ravi said, heaping praise on his director.
“A project of this scale and vision requires a lot of research work. Even while shooting, Shakti had to look after so many things as this is a script that’s powered by logic. Since it’s about science and space, he had to keep in mind several things when on the sets. We had to make sure that everything looked believable. Shakti was well backed by art director Murthy. They complemented each other so well. This is a film with a lot computer graphics and most scenes were shot on green mat. A lot of planning went into the shooting process. Everything the actors could touch was actually built from scratch. What the actors couldn’t touch which was mostly everything in the background was created with the help of CG.”
Nearly 80 percent of the film was shot in zero gravity condition. A race against time thriller, it’s a story of five astronauts, who go on a mission to stop an oncoming attack of a meteorite. “As most of the shooting took place in zero gravity conditions, we had to be attached to the harness. We’d wear the space suit and then be attached to the harness for long hours. We’d shoot from morning to evening and most of the times we don’t even take a break because taking off the suit and putting it back on was a time-consuming process.”
Having grown up watching space films such as Deep Impact, Armageddon and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others, Ravi hopes that children celebrate Tik Tik Tik as this generation’s space film, which also stars his son, Aarav, in a pivotal role. “I really hope children warm up to this film. When we made Miruthan, it was passed with an A certificate by CBFC, so it was not suitable for children. I’m sure Tik Tik Tik will appeal to children as well,” he said.
Published Date: Feb 19, 2018 14:01 PM | Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 14:01 PM
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