Monthly Archives: July 2015

Baahubali Movie Review

If there is one thing that I absolutely hate in a cinema hall – it is kids.

They wail, and cry, or decide to take a walk between the seats and touch your hair, and expect you to turn around and pet them. Every time I notice there are kids around me in a hall, I pray that they die before the film starts.

Which was why, when I arrived in the hall for Baahubali, and found there were two kids near my seat, I prayed that they die. When the movie began, I had to double-check if they actually died, because they were silent all through. It is a testimony to how engrossing the film’s beginning is, that even those stupid kids kept shut. (But of course, they are kids, so they decided to cry later on in the movie!).

For a little context, Rajamouli is huge in Telugu cinema. For more than a decade, he has been churning out classic Good vs Evil, Prodigal Son stories that have all been hits – not even one of his films have been average grossers.

Rajamouli’s films more or less maintain similar themes – reincarnation, retribution, and a grand climax. He has perfected the archetype of the hero, villain, and most importantly, the Mother.

When I first saw the trailers of Baahubali, I was sceptical. The graphics didn’t look all that impressive, and I was worried it might just be another Telugu film that had ambitiously bitten off more than it could chew – like his earlier outing Eega.

I am not a huge fan of the ‘Big Budget’ theory. I fail to understand why people rave about terms like ‘Biggest Budget’, ‘Most expensive film’. Having a large budget doesn’t mean anything.

This scepticism comes from having watched earlier ‘most expensive’ films – Blue, starring a pregnant Sanjay Dutt and coke-glazed Zayed Khan, or Ra.One, which was so bad, they should have released a sequel called Tut.Two.

 

Clearly, having a huge budget is not a big deal. If you get a funder, you can make a film on as large a budget as you want, but it’s what you do with the budget that really makes a difference.

Rajamouli has painstakingly invested most of the money on his vision – lavish sets, the epic war scene. He doesn’t let you take your eyes off the screen even for a single moment.

If there was a grudge I had, it was to do with the slight compromises he had to make, to fit in songs. Perhaps we are not hindered by budgets and stories, but our own cinematic sensibilities. The songs seemed force-fed, and were definite speed-breakers in a film that was cruising along smoothly.

Which then brings me to the second part of any huge action film – inspirations.

There have been talks of action scenes ‘inspired’ from LOTR, and 300.

I don’t invest too much thought in such discussions. Cinema, like any art, builds up on its ancestors. For example, for a decade after Matrix released, all action movies had the slow-mo bullet flying in air shot. Even today, most Chinese-Hong Kong action films build on the Bruce Lee style of quick, hand-to-hand combat mode.

So I wasn’t too picky about which scene was inspired from where.

For me, all that matters is if it hasn’t been shamelessly lifted (without any context, just to latch on to an idea). Yes, there are a few shots that remind you of other action films, but the war scene is much more than that. In a way, right from the beginning, you are waiting for the war. And when it does come, it stays on for a good 30 minutes.

The performances, as in most Rajamouli’s films, are consistent – probably because most characters in his movies are archetypes. Prabhas is consistent, and Rana is a shade better. But it is Ramyakrishna and Satyaraj who take larger chunks of meat than they were promised.

If there was one complaint, it was of Tamannah. To watch her walk like a warrior, or use her sword, were laughably amateurish. It’s probably a grave she dug for herself – if you keep playing dandy, simpering doormat roles, it’s going to be difficult to be taken seriously when you actually put in the effort. Tamannah (What’s with the name change? It sounds like an orgasm!) sticks out like a sore thumb in a film with otherwise consistent performances.

Unlike most other hyped movies, you don’t feel cheated with Baahubali.

The best scenes aren’t the ones already shown in the trailers. The film is over before you know it, and that is saying something for the largest budget film in the country.

Rajamouli has his work cut out for the sequel.

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WELL DONE, ORISSA !!

With most Oriyas, the most common complaint is the lack of representation in media.

The fact that we have such a rich culture/heritage/Chief Minister, and yet none of it is shown to the world outside, while the nation is obsessed with Bengalis/Punjabis, is a common line of complaint that most urban, educated Oriyas hold on to.

In the 70 years of independence, hardly a handful of Oriyas have made any impact outside the state. If featuring in the news is any indicator of such impact, we only have Nandita Das, Debashis Mohanty, and Sudarshan Pattnaik. The only other thing we are in the news for is natural calamities – floods, cyclone, earthquake.

And yet, in the last week, we showed our true colours. Sona Mohapatra sang an Oriya folk song and we filed an FIR against her for committing the grave crime of attempting to re-interpret a folk song. And surprisingly, the outrage is being led by musicians, social workers, artists – people you’d generally expect to have an open mind about such matters. And yet, we cling on to our quaint ideas of ‘culture’ with such insecurity.

Our idea of protecting our culture is making it wear the burkha – it is precious so let us cloak it from head to toe. Let no one touch it, look at it, have anything to do with it. It is ours.

But it isn’t science. It is art.

The very nature of art is to change shape, to adapt, to be embraced by people across generations and still be revered. Sholay, arguably the biggest cinematic product of our nation, has been remade numerous times. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s songs are adapted, Amir Khusrow and Bulle Shah’s songs are sung by rock bands across the world. Adaptations and interpretations are a part and parcel of art.

Shakespeare is the most widely read playwright in the world. Not because the Kingdom protected his writing and made them sacrosanct. But because Shakespeare has been adapted into every culture, every language, every context. And yet, his writings shine through because they touch something deep within us – they show us our dark sides, they throw light on our good.

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Most of the outrage has been because Sona Mohapatra has ‘polluted’ the song.

Well, if you ask any boy who grew up in Bhubaneswar or Cuttack, you’ll realise there wasn’t much purity to the song when we grew up. For all its rich traditions, Rangabati was sung and performed in baarats – accompanied by sleazy, pedophilic songs about the breasts of 15 year old girls. It was sung on the streets at night, as drunken men shouted out the lyrics, made lewd signs, and generally became a pain in everybody’s asses. I never heard a single of these protectors of culture complain about it.

And to differ in opinion is one thing. To file an FIR? Seriously? Now the artists have to run from pillar to post, deal with court hearings, and get called up like petty criminals – just because they remade a song? Who are we? The Taliban? ISIS??

And who should be the culprit? Well, the youth wing of BJP, who else?

These are the same guys who run around shattering coffee shops and man-handling young girls on Valentine’s Day, these great upholders of the culture of Orissa.

And yet, it is not the first time that we are embarking on such foolishness. A few years ago, a Bill was passed in the Assembly to change the name from Orissa to Odisha. We all celebrated on social networks, and took pride in ‘bringing back our lost glory’. Wait, what the fuck?

How does a name change from Orissa to Odisha change anything? For a state grappling with malnutrition and illiteracy, NOBODY thought it inappropriate to spend crores of rupees on a useless bureacratic process. While we harp on about culture and Oriya pride, nobody speaks about the politics of Orissa. There has been just one Chief Minister for the last fifteen years. While there has been hardly any laudable progress (apart from the usual benefits of modernisation), he is hailed as a ‘clean’ man (*Makes mental note to wear white kurtas when meeting girls*).

Nobody speaks about that. About the fact that politics and the electoral process in Orissa is crumbling. That one man in power for long periods (no matter how good/clean he is) is a disaster for electoral democracy.

We don’t care about such things. What we want, is to cloak our songs with burkhas. Let nobody touch them, for they are ours.

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Well, well done Orissa!

It was just a song on YouTube. People would have watched it, and forgotten about it. But now we have gone ahead and proved to the entire nation how petty and myopic we are!

And singers, writers and musicians from Orissa, beware!

Like Shah Rukh Khan says in one of his shitty romantic films, ‘FIR milenge, chalte chalte!’

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Rangabati Coke Studio

Thoughts on Rangabati Coke Studio Version

A few days ago, I saw my News Feed flooded with posts with Oriya people, about something that happened in Orissa.

Now, this is rare.

If I had to draw a venn diagram of my life, social networking and youtube and internet would be three coinciding circles. If I turn the page over, my home state Orissa would be sitting idle.

It’s like a double life I’m leading.

And it is something that I have felt right from childhood. Since I didn’t study in Orissa, I realised it is never mentioned anywhere. It was almost a Hogwarts-ish place that only appeared during Summer Holidays. Or if a teacher found two of us Oriya guys pinching each other during the prayer session and resorted to a lazy comment such as ‘Aye, you Oriya rowdies. Shut up and keep quiet!’.

However, the last two days have been different. Thanks to Sona Mohapatra’s rendition of ‘Rangabati O Rangabati’ on Coke Studio.

Rangabati

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Now, let me set a little context here.

Rangabati is not just another song. It has folk roots. But most of my generation in Orissa came across the song during drunken nights on a baaraat.

For someone who is very conscious of how he dances, Baaraats opened the floodgates into the world of wet streets and slithery naagins. Of a random stranger tapping me on the shoulder and communicating in that unique code that only another drunk can understand, the words ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’. And then, with gay abandon, I turn around and return the compliment with that step that the Bournvita-drinking superhero immortalised – ‘Kaha Na Pyar Hai’.

Baaraats made me realise that it is all OK.

It is OK to slip and fall. There’ll always be someone to lend you a hand to stand back up on your feet. (Else, you better do it quickly, or else those guys carrying tube lights on their heads will walk around you).

Baaraats taught me that there is no such thing as ‘I’ve had enough’. Even if your liver is overflowing, a little nudge from a friend settles everything in place.

Baaraats taught me that there was no point trying to act decent and Shareef when everybody around you was being Musharaff and Taliban. To let insanity take over.

Rangabati is one of the top Oriya baaraat songs.

Now, if you have any acquaintance with Baaraat songs, you’ll know that there is no scope for frivalities like Political Correctness in that particular genre.

Some of the other songs I remember from baaraats are – ‘Nabama sreni jhiata, chaati ku mo hot karuchi’. (That 9th standard girl, is making my chest hot).

Then, there’s the poetic trick that singers use – when you don’t know if he’s singing ‘hot’ or ‘hurt’ – since they both sound the same in the Oriya accent.

Then, there are philosophical musings – ‘Tu aagaru dekhila jenta, tu pachharu dekhile senta” (How you look from the front, the same you look from the back. A throwback to the ancient dual – Dwaita philosophy in Hinduism).

Then, there are those that cater to purely carnal needs. Those that invoke the importance of alcohol in a person’s life – Daaru daaru daaru daaru de daaru. Those that call out to people from other communities – Ekkada Ekkada Ra. Then, the completely surreal and abstract – Kau to bou ku nou (‘May the Crow Take Away Your Mother’).

In the beginning, I was conscious of what people might think. Worried that someone might take offence to such blatantly offensive songs being played at full blast outside people’s houses.

It was only later that I realised that people had developed internal antennae that helped them to tune out of the proceedings.

Since then, for me, there was no looking back (Unless the guy who was mixing the drinks was at the back of the baaraat!).

Among all these songs, Rangabati was one of the saner tunes. Just a folk song that people recognised and would raise their hands, and woot, and go back to dancing to.

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The Rangabati Coke Studio version

When Sona Mohapatra released her Coke Studio version of the song, people lost their minds.

Some of them said she had corrupted the song. Some others said they preferred the older version of the song. Still others said they had problems with her pronunciation of the words (even though the lyrics are not mainstream Oriya, but a dialect called Sambalpuri).

I don’t get this.

I mean, Coke Studio has historically been a platform for songs to mate with other genres and styles. It’s not Folk Studio, for heaven’s sake. And yes, those two Tamil rappers seemed to have zapped in from nowhere, and were rather annoying, but hey, it’s just a song, man.

It’s somebody’s interpretation of the song. Something the person thought might sound good.

If you don’t like it, skip it. Watch something else on YouTube. Why spread venom and hate in the Comments section?

Also, in Syria, Islamic State is beheading men, women and children. In Pakistan, children are being shot while taking classes in school.

There is shit flying all over in the world.

It’s just a fucking YouTube video.

Let it be.

Or else, kau toh bou ku nou.

Seriously.

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