Write & Watch

Salesh Dipak Fernando

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLACK WIDOW

 

Child stars usually fizzle out once they reach adulthood. Either they get consumed by early fame or they alienate themselves from Hollywood once they become adults.  Scarlett Johansson is one of the few actresses who are still relevant and going strong with some wise choices to random experimental roles.

Imagine being just an eye candy in an ensemble of superheroes. How do you stand out? How do you make a mark? Her voice – that sexy sultry voice which compensates for all that is missing on screen. The way she says “I don’t see how that’s a party” with that blank look on her face even as the hulk unleashes the beast in him. To me that was my favourite moment in the Marvel Superhero franchise.  To be frank the Black Widow is a great disservice to a talented actress.  I wish Marvel made a movie where Black Widow isn’t just a side kick.

All said and done I love Scarlett for her roles in smaller films where her presence gives the film the push that it needs. My favourite Scarlett film is the relatively unknown The Nanny Diaries. She’s splendid as the nanny who struggles like a fish out of water in a sophisticated household. The presence of Laura Linney and Chris Evans is an added bonus.  Who would have known back then that these two would eventually don the roles of Black Widow and Captain America.

You want to give life to an unlikely relationship between a man and his computer. No worries. Call on Scarlett. Her voice is a gift from heaven for all die hard movie buff.  Her physical presence is a mere bluff more like a decoration to hide the one true thing that sets her apart.  Right from being a regular in Woody Allen’s ensembles to taking random gambles with smaller films which give her the scope to experiment to being a part one of the greatest screen superhero team. She’s done it all.

Happy Birthday Scarlett. Keep mesmerizing us with that lovely voice of yours.

JK – SILA SIRIPUGAL

I have been a part of the Tanglish Comedy Team as a critic for quite a while now.  But Tanglish Comedy was more of a comedy ensemble. It is much easier to write about 10 minute individual comedy acts than a solo show.  J. K. Sila Siripugal is my first attempt at reviewing a solo show and it is Jagan Krishnan’s first solo act as well,

J.K Sila Siripugal was produced by DJ’s Ensomneacks .  First and foremost it was heartening to see theatre embrace stand up comedy and give the rightful space to an upcoming stand up comedian. I personally feel different art forms can complement each other for greater good.  It is always a win – win scenario when artists help each other out. It sets a wonderful precedent for more such events in the future.

Quite surprisingly the opening wasn’t a warm up comedy act. The team decided to treat the audience to a 10 minute short play directed by Vikram S Vaidya. It didn’t seem like a play though. It was more like a heads up for the act that was to follow.  The humour worked very well though it wasn’t laugh out loud and I loved the way current events were deftly fit in the short play and the ensemble of actors were quite vibrant but the entire act felt a little too rushed. But it was a good start despite the minor blemishes.

The opening comic act was done by Karthi Durai. He started off the proceedings with a bit of nervousness.  Thankfully the jokes were spot on and managed to mask the inital nervousness.  Even as he touched upon the usual family jokes I was quietly yearning for that one special laugh out loud material. That moment happened when he decided to rip apart the tall claims of Indian advertisements. He found his groove and kept us entertained towards the end of his act.

Now it was time for the main act – The star of the show Jagan Krishnan. It is always very important to start off well when performing the first solo comedy act and what a rocking start it was with screenshots of all the brickbats he had received for his online comedy videos. The whole crowd burst out laughing. It takes loads of guts for someone to make fun of his own act even before the act had begun. Kudos for that.

From there it shifted to green tea and gym. But the best part was yet to come – The comedy act based on music alone. The concept itself was something very new to me. I haven’t seen any other comedian do a full fledged show where none of the music directors were spared. We all have our own biases when it comes to music and we are sensitive about it too. But here was someone who was taking down each and every one of them with no personal preferences.  

From ARR to Aniruth everybody made it to Jagan’s list and he spared no one. I repeat he spared no one.  What fascinated me even more was the way he picked out aspects of music which could be made fun of and it was hearting to see the whole audience join in this unique laughter ride. The pictures in the background for Harris Jayaraj songs are a welcome addition. The one aspect which stood out like a sore thumb was the few double meaning jokes. Not that the jokes were unfunny but such a unique stand up act didn’t need the usual double meaning clichés. Maybe those could be rephrased in a better way for future shows.

And Jagan himself has that charming goofy personality which pulls the audience towards his material.  I personally feel he is one of the most underrated comic in the city especially for the type of comedy that he performs. Next time you see an announcement of his show in the city. Do go for it.  It will be worth your time and money and I personally vouch for it.

PS: i missed the customary Illayaraja start.

 

PARVATHY – THE REAL MYSTIQUE ON SCREEN

For most people Parvathy is just an actress but to me she’s a mystery. In a country boasting of wannabe Queens here is someone who is effortlessly changing the dimensions of India’s leading lady.

Parvathy is an irresistible obsession these days. No other actress of the current lot has fascinated me this much. What makes her so different? What makes her tick? It always seems like she lives in an alternate cinema universe where none of her co-stars or the camera exist. It is always her and the audience.

She’s like that fascinating trip to dreamland for a movie buff like me. She’s like a trip that never ends, a trip that leaves a lasting impression beyond the echoes of the big screen. She almost always starts off as a stranger when the frame freezes to capture her first shot in a movie. You almost begin to wonder if it’s the same actress you saw in the other movie. But that’s the first step towards a wonderful transformation.

Slowly but steadily she sneaks into your soul and catches you off guard even as your eyes remain glued to the big screen. It’s like watching a magnificent piece of art mould itself. By the time the end credits roll that stranger whom you came across at the beginning is no longer there. You embrace and empathize with an entirely different person .She becomes someone you know. She becomes the person that you aspire to be.

As much as I admire Kangana and Vidya Balan they are almost always in your face. As an audience you know they are making an effort to be different. But Parvathy is different she can be anyone you want her to be. It’s like watching a magnificent piece of art mould itself with ease. The way she makes the audience empathize with the characters she plays on screen is astonishing. She’s always ready, always prepared to up her game a notch irrespective of who her co-star is.

Take Charlie for instance it’s a chauvinistic film which revolves around a male wanderer. But Parvathy makes you root for Tessa’s pursuit right from the start. Poo literally stunned me when I first watched it. Maryan and Ennu Ninte Moideen were beautiful. But it is always Sarah who is close to my heart.

Sarah of Banglore Days is an exception to all exceptions. A rare portrayal with a lot of heart and depth. And finally take off which is a beautiful ode to everything that Parvathy is as an actress.

From Gayathri to Sameera it’s been one hell of a ride with different personalities who are daring enough to give celluloid the shades it rightly deserves. The way she makes use of her eyes to fill the silent spaces in a narrative is a movie buff’s delight. Perhaps those eyes are her secret weapons which enable her to decode the transformation in a character’s arc and reach out to her audience.

In a space filled with numerous imitations aspiring to be number one it is heart warming to see someone so real and authentic walking away with a deserving applause every time she comes on screen.

I bow to thee my goddess

 

 

 

HBD ANUSHKA

The Beginning

It was 2006. My eyes were glued to a supposed comic film. A film which tried to highlight the comic side of actor Madhavan and failed miserably. The only redemption was Vaigai Puyal Vadivelu. But someone else caught my eye.  An unknown actress was scorching the screen.  Mobilea song was instant addiction not for the music but for that actress who seemed to have descended straight from heaven. Those seductive eyes and perfectly chiseled frame are one of those memories which will stand the test of time. Calling her a crush would be an understatement. She was love. She was the heavenly beauty.  I still didn’t know her name but there was a constant yearning to see more of her on screen.  Even Sundar C wouldn’t have imagined such a long innings for the actress when he introduced her to Tamil Cinema. But introducing her was one of the best things that Sundar C ever did as a director. It was an accident waiting to happen. A sweet unexpected accident.  An accident named Sweety.

The Arrival

Tamil Cinema has this bad habit of letting go of talented heroines after the first glimpse. We tend to wait until that breakout role happens. I guess it’s an eternal habit. Sweety disappears for 3 years to become one of the leading ladies in Telugu Cinema. She didn’t have to do much though. But her presence was an irresistible attraction to lure the audience. All she needed was that one defining film to take the first steps towards superstardom. That film was Arundhati . Arundhati stunned everyone. It wasn’t just a film. It was a storm which completely swept regional cinema. Suddenly one name was on everybody’s lips – Anushka Shetty . Makers were rushing to her doorsteps to cast her in their films I wouldn’t blame them. Arundhati had power and strength written all over it despite the supernatural angle.  There was no stopping Anushka from that point. She resurfaced as Illaya Thalapathy’s lady love in Vettaikaran. The film wouldn’t feature in anybody’s favourite list but Anushka’s dance moves in the songs are unforgettable. The star had just arrived.

The Star

She found the right balance at this point by effortlessly slipping into her actress and seductress avatars whenever she wanted. We knew the seductress before.  It was time for us to know the actress.  Films like Vedam, Deiva Thirumagal , Irandam Ulagam were carefully spaced out between her glamorous avatars. She was quietly making a difference one role at a time. There were no loud screams or tags or loud applause to crown her achievements. But a silent transition was happening. She began to decorate her role with subtle emotions and finesse.  She knew how to make her presence felt even in an ensemble like Vaanam. Deiva Thirumagal pitted her against Vikram and she won us over with an understated portrayal.  Even in Size Zero she debunked all the myths about being fat by sprinkling the role with her own charm and sexiness. Yennai Arindhal made her yearn for her man just the way I yearn for her presence. I sometimes wish the makers who remade Vikramarkudu had cast her in all the remakes. Nobody comes even remotely close to reprising her role.  My favourite though is Irandam Ulagam where Selva attempts for a role reversal of sorts with Anushka’s character.  Though the film was underwhelming her presence saved the film to a certain extent. The bankable star slowly transformed into a fine performer.

The Queen

It was time for the whole of India to take notice.  The Bahubali franchise wasn’t about Bahubali.  The narration was woven in such a way that every incident in the movie revolved around Deva’s oath and her actions. Rajamouli should have named the franchise Devasena instead of Bahubali. Despite appearing in two different avatars the firmness befitting a queen remains intact throughout the franchise. She holds on to her principles despite the ups and downs in her life.  The whole of India was glued and rightly so for the queen was quietly claiming what was rightly hers. The throne of the lady superstar belonged to the queen South Cinema. She didn’t need a tag or the constant adoration that comes with it. She didn’t need that at all. She had already carved a niche for herself without too much fuss. The fact that she had shared Screen space with the superstar is a perfect icing on the cake. Only one wish remains to see her with the legend who shares her birthday.

Happy Birthday to the one who stole my heart. Long live the queen!

 

  

100 DAYS OF LOVE – DAY 1 – 50 FIRST DATES

50 first dates will remain one of my sweetest teenage memories. That was the phase when Adam Sandler was extremely likable and Drew Barrymore was steadily stealing our hearts with a string of charming performances. It is one of those movies which will tug your heartstrings as the two leads re-discover love again and again. I will let Lucy and Henry take over from here.

LUCY

Dear Henry,

I wake up every day not knowing what the day has in store for me. Is it a never-ending stretch or a never-ending happily ever after? I choose to embrace the latter.  Life has given me that rare chance of filling the blank spaces with traces of love each and every day.  I don’t have to yearn for surprises and sweet nothings. Every day is a surprise, a new adventure filled with the abundance of love.

Every day is a fresh start and a brand new attempt at re-writing our love story in a million different ways. I often wonder why you chose to hold on to me for eternity despite the fact that you have to start from the scratch every single day but then the heart seldom seeks a reason to hold on to love. 

I seldom have to worry about what my life has in store for us in the long run. For us, future is a myth.  It’s always one day at a time as we sprinkle our lives with doses of love.  I have chosen to embrace the surprises that life has in store for us between sunrise and sunset.

I know I will wake up tomorrow not knowing who you are but I will be waiting to make me fall in love with you again.

 

HENRY

Dear LUCY,

Life can be bliss when love manifests itself in different ways every single day.  I wait for that moment when your eyes for the day.  It reminds me that we just finished one single chapter in a never-ending love story. The best part I won’t have to re-visit the same chapter again.

I don’t have to re-live the same day twice and life will never be an endless stretch of boredom.  Beyond the uncertainty that awaits us each day there’s a strong thread of hope that binds us together. Our kid will never yearn for love for all the different dimensions of love will unfold within her as she grows up.

Someday I won’t be there and neither will you but the traces of love that we have left behind will remain as permanent impressions for the people around us.  Let’s hold on to each other and embrace the sunshine until sunset greets us together for one final time.

 

 

 

BIRTHDAY WISHES TO KING KOHLI

 I wrote Kohli off both as a batsman and a captain when he started off. But he’s made me eat my words again and again until he transformed into one of those permanent impressions that I would always associate with cricket.

A lot of people mistake his relentless passion and intensity as an excessive show of emotion. But that intensity on his face matches every shot that comes off his bat. He walks the talk every single time like a true leader. When the captain is leading from the front every single time the other players in the team have no choice but to give their best.

There are no ways when it comes to Kohli. He bats, fields and leads as if his life depended on it. He approaches every match as if it is the last match he’s ever going to play. It is not 100 percent commitment. 100 percent is an understatement. Multiply it by 2 or any number you want and that’s what Kohli is 200, 500 or maybe 1000 percent.

And there’s that little thing called the willingness to learn. He rarely repeats mistakes. Once a bowler figures out his weakness he works on it and converts them into his area of strength.

His relationship with his former captain is a sight to savor. In all my years of watching cricket, I have never seen two players working together like Dhoni and Kohli do. That awareness of each other’s space the bonding and the friendship is a lesson for all aspiring captains.

He will probably retire as one of the greatest cricketers if not the greatest to ever play for India. Make way for the king. He’s arrived and he’s here to stay.

Happy birthday King Kohli!

 

 

Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu – MOVIE REVIEW

 

Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t hear much about the film when it came out. There was no warning or the usual critically acclaimed label to warrant a watch on the big screen. There was a positive buzz but nobody screamed that it was an outstanding film. Baiju caught me off guard. 

It was simple, sweet and soul-stirring. I would even call it the best Malayalam of the year so far.  For starters, Baiju’s experiences aren’t alien.  Baiju’s life is a perfect ode to those unfulfilled wishes we have within ourselves. It is an ideal representation of the pauses we yearn for ourselves. In short, we all aspire to be in Baiju’s shoes at one point or another.

There’s no rush or commotion as we travel along with Baiju and his quirky group of friends. It is almost as if Baiju has a lot of time in his hands to cherish the inherent simplicity of life. To the naked eye, Baiju is an overgrown man who thrives on nostalgia. But there’s more to this tale than what meets the eye. There’s a simple soul which effortlessly lives it up. You don’t need a lot of to keep you happy.  Just a simple existence where you don’t have to fit in with the rest of the participants will do just fine.

Baiju’s world explores how affinity to a particular place can instil a sense of belonging and togetherness to members of a particular community. The place becomes a part of their identity. The place becomes a part of their daily existence.  The place and the person are inseparable. As kids, we all had that one place which we loved visiting again and again. The memories remain fresh even to this day.

Baiju’s world thrives on these memories. This is one film which I didn’t want to end. Do yourself a favour this weekend.  If you have nothing else to do live Baiju’

 

TIT FOR TAT – BOOK REVIEW

I picked up Tit for Tat by Archana Sarat because I love stories which are precise and to the point. The collection of flash fiction is an engaging ode to gloom. The biggest plus is the consistency in terms of tone and narrative style.  There is no deviation from start to finish.

I loved the fact that the author decided to completely skip the happily ever part of life to explore despair. Maybe that’s her way of showing the middle finger to the cruel unexpected twists of fate that life often hands out to us.

Every story made me yearn for more. It is heartening to see someone use pain as a twist factor. Thankfully she chooses not to dwell on the consequences of loss. A loss in itself can be a compelling narration. 

Consistency in tone is both a boon and a bane. After a point, even the twists become predictable because the reader is mentally prepared for the worst. And I literally wanted more in terms of the number of stories.  A few more stories would have done the trick.  My pick of the lot is HS174. 

If you love flash fiction and if you love stories which explore the dark side then Tit for Tat is the book for you. Pick it up and relish this short and engaging trip to the dark side.

Amazon Link

Tit For Tat

 

 

CLAIRE – BOOK REVIEW

It’s been a while since I read a good murder mystery by a first time Indian author. Poornima Bhaskar’s Claire caught me off guard.  Claire sounded more like one of those happily ever stories that we hear time and again but once I started reading Claire I was in for a pleasant surprise.

On the surface, Claire is a murder mystery but for me, the book was an exaggerated version of the various masks that we choose to wear. And I mean exaggeration in a good way. There are two distinct identities within each of us.  While one is the real person with all our scars and imperfections the other identity is the mask we choose to reveal to the people around us.

As the investigation unfolds each of the breadcrumbs reveal an unknown facet of a known identity. There’s an interesting tussle between who Claire was and who Claire really is as we move forward. This tussle forms the crux of the narration. Each person in the story is different with traits that make them stand out from the rest. Of course like all murder mysteries, everyone is a suspect in one way or the other.

The success or failure of a mystery novel depends on how the author decorates the obvious. It is here that Poornima scores big time. She gives the reader hardly any time to pause and reflect and lures the reader in with frenetic pacing and an engaging narration. When the author paces the narration well it hides the minor blemishes and keeps the reader engaged.

This is one book I would recommend the readers to read in one go. It’s precise and engaging. The one downside for me was the creative liberty taken towards the very end. Though it serves the purpose even without that the book would have worked very well. To me, it felt like an unnecessary diversion. But that’s just me for others it might be a necessary addition.

I am yet to reveal the other characters in the story and I will not. To me, it is all about Claire and how her presence and actions impact the lives of people around her. Who are these people? What role do they play? You have to pick the book to find out.

It’s been a long time since I came across a book which deserved 4 stars. I have been stuck at 3 for a long time. But Claire deserves 4 Stars and thumbs up.  If you like mystery novels and stories which are fast-paced this is the one for you.

Congrats Poornima Bhaskar for a very good start as an author. All the very best for the future.

Claire – Paperback 

Claire – Kindle

                                                                                                       

TANGLISH COMEDY – SIRI SIRI SIRI 9.0

 

I had already attended Kala Gala 5.0 so I was naturally curious to see how Siri Siri Siri 9.0 would pan out.  The first thing which struck me was the ambience and the performing space.  A small space with a full house ensured that every joke landed.  The laughter was contagious and the minor blemishes were nullified.  In short, it was a perfect space for a wonderful evening.

The ensemble itself was perfect with the right mix of new comers and experienced comics. The show started off with Aaquib and the usual Name related jokes and slowly took a diversion towards double meaning jokes. Thankfully there was a healthy balance of Naughty and Nice which kept the audience engaged. His huge frame was another major plus. There are some comics who are blessed with the ability to make the audience laugh just by being there and Aaquib is one of them.

The next on stage was Gurumurthy.  He surprised us with a brand new perspective on  Dasavatharam. Though there was a slight lag when he started off he was in his elements once the many Kamals of Dasavatharam started clashing with each other. It was refreshingly original and funny.

The next comic was Aravind.  There was the Chinnama effect which most of us had experienced in school, CA woes and the long but subtle dig on people who are hell bent on finding fault with the reviewers especially those who review movies. It was a perfect stretch of interesting jokes which brought the house down consistently.

And then it was the turn of the lone woman comic Praveshika who picked out one of her own traits to bring laughs. It was the sort of self-depreciating humour I have been yearning to see for a long time. It is always a good practice to laugh at ourselves before the world laughs at us. I loved the way she brought nepotism into the equation. It was a perfect start to a long journey ahead.

The next on stage was Soda. I loved how the way he cracked a joke at the expense of one the performers. But the best part was his willingness to create awareness on the flip side of the now infamous blue whale game through his humour.  Humour, if done well, is the right form to drive home a message

Sriram’s act sounded almost like the death knell of newspapers.  His set was about the dwindling interest in reading newspapers. From Editorials to Obituaries he covered the things that we often overlook while reading the newspapers. It was smartly presented and neatly done.

The last of the evening was Mervyn Rozz. The most important act in a comedy ensemble usually comes right at the end. The role of the last stand up comic is of utmost importance. You have to ensure that the audience leaves the room smiling. And the act has to be very different from the acts that preceded the finale. When the show started I was eager to see who was going to be the man for the finale.  Who was going to be the Jagan of today’s show?

Mervyn on his part was relentless, precise and spot on.  Mervyn has this remarkable ability to manufacture jokes out of thin air. Most of the jokes were spontaneous jokes based on the audience and the participants. He consistently engaged everyone in the room and had his own version of School and Marriage Paridhabangal. It was a perfect finale.  For me, it was another well spent evening.

 

 

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