The name is Rajinikanth ?



Is there anything Rajini 'kant' do ?

'The Name is Rajinikant' is not a documentary on the superstar but is a book (an unsupported biography) by an ophthalmologist Gayathri Sreekanth. Since the book is about a cinematic icon I thought it fit to express my views. Yes, I read the book and was possibly among the first few Bangaloreans to read it. Let me admit I am no expert on this icon.

Shivaji Rao Gaekwad's journey from Bangalore to super stardom as Rajinikant in Chennai is the tale covered in this book culminating in the success of his latest blockbuster 'Sivaji". The movie has garnered over INR 300 Crores and has reinforced Rajini's standing as the highest paid actor in India (and Asia too I think along with Jackie Chan). His next film "Robot' by Shankar and starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is reportedly being made for INR 100 Crores. There was a time when he had retired from acting and was renouncing the life he lead and going to the Himalayas. There was a time when rumours were rampant that he is entering politics. There was a time when he allegedly was offered a chance to lead politics in Tamil Nadu and become the Chief Minister. His friction with the political supremo Jayalitha is well know to south Indians. There was also a time when his film did so badly that he returned the money the film distributors had paid up. The story of a toughie turned bus conductor turned millionaire superstar is a fantasy for many and therefore the interest in this hardbound (INR 495/-) first edition is understandable.

The book gives you the childhood of Rajini, his early years, his youth with comments from various people who knew him, notably his friend Raj Bahadur a bus driver in Bangalore's own BTS (now BMTC). Old Bangaloreans travelling the 10 and 10A bus number routes will know of Rajini for he became famous for his unique style and body language as a bus conductor.

Sadly, the book while being a collection of various tales of Rajini (which if you know any Rajini fan, you would have heard of) does not enter into the soul of the persona of Rajinikant possibly because it is a biography and not an autobiography. The book has repeated grammatical errors and factual errors such as the names of places in Bangalore etc. It is obvious that the author's research is limited to here-say and there has been no walk through like most authors would do. While I understand that criticism is easy and I respect the efforts of the author I do not see the passion for cinema and the efforts justifying the magnitude of the personality that is Rajini showing in this book. The storytelling is disjoint and contains numerous cliches. Dr Sreekanth, couldn't you have put some more efforts? And what was the editor from the publisher (On Books) doing ? Maybe they were all in awe of the subject.

Sadly, this is no way to do justice to one of the greatest Cinematic Icons of India. The book does give interesting tales. Fortunately for me, I have heard some of these tales during my years of growing up and I have an office colleague who seems to be an ardent fan of Rajini. These tales and more are there in the book. How did he get his name Rajinikant ? Why was he part of a cycle chain wielding gang in Bangalore? Is it true he slept on the footpath in Chennai during his initial days ? How did he meet his wife ? Why did he choose to give up acting and go to the Himalayas ? What was his flirtations with politics ? Does he move about in disguise? What was his friendship with another cinematic great Dr. Rajakumar? All these and more tales that generate awe, inspire you, and create complex dilemmas in your mind are there in this book.

"Na oru thaddava sonna, nooru thoddava sonna madi" (If I tell once, it is like I have said a hundred times), his famous line from Basha (I think) does not apply to this book, unfortunately. Rajinikant is an enigma and remains so even after this book. Can there ever be a book written that explains the phenomenon that he is ? I think not. Meanwhile lets just be amazed by the man, and the actor. As for the author, better luck next time. Do some justice to the subject chosen madam.What hurts most is the lack of passion and purpose!

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Shyamalan by day...what's he upto ?

It's been all quite on the Manoj Night Shyamalan front (or is it?). He was in the news for the 2 minute ad film as part of their series 'My Life, My Card' he directed for American Express (in which he starred too). He continued to stay in my mindshare, thanks to HBO. I happened to see trailers of 'Lady in the Water' on HBO and watched it again and was fascinated by his intent and his style although my first impression of the movie when it released was not too great, I continue to be fascinated by his storytelling.

Manoj Night Shyamalan was born in India but brought up in Philadelphia (which usually plays a prominent role in his films), he came to world attention with his sleeper blockbuster (and 2nd film) 'The Sixth Sense'. It is believed that Shyamalan made over 40 home movies in his teenage and was an ardent fan of Spielberg. After studying in film school his first effort was 'Praying with Anger' and then the theatrical feature film 'Wide Awake' (1998) which faded into obscurity. His 1999 blockbuster set him in the Hollywood elite list. He followed it up with 'Unbreakable' starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson and then with 'Signs' starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. This was followed by 'The Village' and 'Lady in the Water'. He of course worked on the 'Stuart Little' movies as writer. he turned down offers to work on the final installment of Indiana Jones and also turned down the offer to direct the 3rd Harry Potter movie. What's he up to now ?

Well, he's working on 'The Happening' which is allegedly the tale of a family which is trying to survive a disaster that is out to wipe out of humanity. It stars Mark Whalberg and John Leguizamo.





Having watched almost all his movies (except his first two films) and being fascinated by his style, I do believe he is a brilliant director but get the feeling he's getting tapped in his own brilliance and is probably letting his fantasies dilute his sense of the audience. I am sure "The Happening" will have his usual style of storytelling and characterization and will have a twist towards the end. Will keenly wait to watch this one.

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Robert De Niro and Al Pacino work together...

De Niro and Al Pacino together ? After Heat (1995) by Michael Mann, haven't seen them together but then this year we will get to see them in Righteous Kill by Jon Avnet where they star as Police Detectives who question their own case solved years ago when they come across a murder that seems connected. Did they make a mistake then ? is the actual killer still loose ? We will have to wait...till September 2008 to find out !



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Chit Chat


Finally, I got down to completing the list of movies & audio-visual entertainment titles that I have and I am pleased to say I have crossed the magic number of 500 ! Yes ! the going has been slow but its been steady. I am running our of space too so I moved all my TV series to a CD pouch. And the 120 CD pouch is all full so I will have to go shopping for one or two more CD pouches.

And more on Bollywood, the ET Intelligence Tracker gives some data on whats happening at the box office. The net collection (cumulative) for the week 07-13 March gives 10,000BC to be top grosser with INR 120.6 Lakhs (but is a flop) and so on. Cannot give too much credence to these ratings but then in India we have no other cumlative box office rating system. Each TV Channel has its own Film Review show with their own ratings. The only two I trust are CNN IBNs 'Now Showing' with Rajeev Masand (highly entertaining, even if I don't agree with all his views) and the show on NDTV by Anupama Chopra called Talking Movies.

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I AM BACK !

Well... my short sabbatical turned to be a long one and resulted in writer's block too ! The sabbatical was only restricted to blogging and did not stop me from a watching a lot of movies so what I will do is give a one para view of the movies watched (other than the detailed views I have given in the previous posts)



10,000 BC (English) :Quite a disappointment from Roland Emmerich considering independence Day and The Day after Tomorrow. Poor man's version of Apocalytpo with a little more romance thrown in and a little less of the gore and blood. Illogical references, slow screenplay and some not-so-good performance from the lead actors pull the movie down 10000 notches.




Vantage Point (English): Great idea. Not new though. Slow screenplay and predictable script pull down what could have been a nice edge of the seat thriller. Underutilized talent in form of Forest Whittaker and others. 8 points of view is a bit too much, 4-5 would have been sufficient !





Jodhaa Akbar (Hindi): Cinematically advanced, awesome production value. Good performances, Brilliant Music. Suffers from long and slow screenplay and the fact that the historical tale could not avoid modern treatment. Loved the movie for it being well made though.



Michael Clayton (English): Made for the Oscars ! Well... a very good movie about a law firm fixer (Gorge Clooney) whose mentor undergoes a pang of guilt at the work being done for guilty clients which affects millions expecially when the client is a pharma company. Some great performances, brilliant casting make this movie worth a watch. Clooney shines.



Mithya (Hindi) : Brilliant ! Watched it twice. Dark comedy and drama. new genre to Hindi cinema. Awesome performances, great direction, superb casting ! Ranvir Shorey rules ! The movie is one that will be an awesome companion when you've had a fight with world and need to see what else could go wrong or go right !


Fool's gold (English): Nice and sweet. Typical Kate Hudson type. Donal Sutherland comes back to put in a cool performance. Matthew McConaughey puts in a performance similar to his Dirk Pitt role but with lesser intelligence and more boyish charm as the character requires. Overall a nice watch.




Superstar (Hindi): Kunal Khemu can act and show screen presence. Enjoyable but short of brilliance. Kunal Khemu as both the lazy has it all superstar son of a producer and as the struggling extra puts in a good performance. The weakness lies in the story especially in the 2nd half.




Eastern Promises (English): Nice and tight. Good performances especially from Viggo Mortensen but the mob story doesn't hold you long enough. Did it deserve an Oscar nomination ? Well... you watch and decide.





Rambo (English): Sylvester tallone should retire or find ways to play a mentoring role. The 4th installment of Rambo only reinforces the fact that Stallone just should'nt speak much and now taht he's old shoud'nt show himself either. A better storyline would have been : 1) Rambo has ason who has modeled himself on dad and goes on the mission to save dad 2) Rambo gets a protege who he trains and who comes after him to rescue. You watch and you may come up with some more.



My name is Anthony Gonsalves (Hindi): Disappointing from E Nivas. Good actors like Pawan Malhotr and Mukesh Tiwari, Anupam Kher but underutilized. Weak story, lacklustre performance from lead actor pull the film down to name-less-ness.


The Hunting Party (English): Nice movie about a journalist's search and encounter with a wanted War criminal in Bosnia. Richard Gere and Terrrence Howard lead the film. Worth a watch. Caught it on DVD





When a man falls (English): A psych story dealing with the lives of three people and their loose disconnected lives. Starring Sharon Stone, Dylan baker and Timothy Hutton the movie is not so great but has some interesting sequences. Watch it if you have nothing else to do.

People I know (English): Caught this oldie on disc. Al Pacino at not his. Tale of a publicist in his last days with lesser clients and fewer friends, who gets caught in a scam beyond his control. Boring script and predictable from Al Pacino make this one a watch for an afternoon you wish to take a nap and are not worried what you miss.



A Mighty Heart (English): The much talked about movie on Daniel Pearl. Highly overrated movie. Slow script lets it down. Angelina Jolie and Irrfan Khan couldn't save this one.

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Trade

Trade is one of those hard hitting made for wards kind of cinema. That does not take away from the movie the efforts of the film makers and the relevance of the story being told.

It is believed that human trafficking and drug trafficking are among the top most evils in the civilized world (imagine the 'civilized world is this way!). Trade, directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner highlights the illegal human trafficking trade through the eyes of 9 year old Adriana (Paulina Gaitin) and her brother 17 year old Jorge (Cesar Ramos). When Adriana is kidnapped by a powerful Russian gang, Jorge sets off to track her down. There begins the saga of Adriana and we get to see the method in which the Victims are taken across the border into the United States, auctioned on the Internet and sold to sexual predators. Meanwhile Jorge, hot on her trail is determined to find his sister and rescue her. He comes across Ray (Kevin Kline) an immigration officer and smuggles himself into USA in the officer's car.

Suspicious of law enforcement, Jorge is then compelled to trust Ray and then a chance sighting of one the young boys kidnapped along with his sister sets off Jorge on the track of his sister's abductors. With the help of Ray he is able to find out about the auction but will he get her back and will he be able to take her home ?

I thought the movie was great, not for the faint hearted or for those who believe the world is an ideal place for what the film maker brings to you is raw reality or as close to it as possible which shocks you and makes you wonder at the brutishness of the people who indulge in this trade. You also wonder at the collusion of the law in some countries which makes it possible for the trade to flourish, while the law is bound by itself, it is the lawbreakers who are a step ahead. The performances are brilliant especially of Paulina who portrays Adriana and does so with a maturity far beyond her years. The film is calling for attention to this barbaric crime.

There is this other Colombian film Paraiso Travel on human trafficking that has come out which is supposed to be hard hitting. Waiting to get a copy of the movie. Thanks to cinema such stories get carried across the world.

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Offside

Caught this delightful piece of Iranian film on disc and wasn't disappointed at all and was once more amazed at the simplicity of film making of some of the film makers we hardly hear or know about.

Directed and written by Jafar Panahi whose two films Dayereh and Talaye Sorkh were forbidden by the Islamic government of Iran. This time Jafar brings to you the comic tale of a group of young women who are football (soccer) fanatics and unfortunately for them the Islamic government has forbidden women from all sporting events. These young group of women dress up as men and try sneaking into the stadium and get caught, to be guarded by a young group of guards. They are keen to get a few glimpses of the Iran-Bahrain World cup qualifier and would do anything to get out of the guards eyes and mix with the crowd.

The story is simple and the director treats the movie as if he is a news crew covering an event and that's what makes this movie a delightful watch. The cast is brilliant in being absolutely natural. There are quite a few hilarious scenes that are accentuated by just the expressions of the actors.The young guards guarding the women are amused on one hand and are restless to get on with work and share their tales with the prisoners There is this sequence where one of the girls asks to visit the toilet and a young guard is sent to escort her to the men's toilet (no women's toilets in the stadium you see) and she escapes, only to come back out of guilt and when asked why, she replies, she felt sorry for the lead guards' cattle ! The dialogue delivery, dialogues are so classy in being so natural that you just cannot help but grin at what transpires on screen.

The amazing simplicity of the tale, the script and the treatment ensures this watch remains in mind for quite sometime for it a light hearted comedy, a comedy about a tragic situation. The whole movie is set in the 2 hours or so of the football match and in spite of the background being that of a football match the whole ambiance of the match is built up without once showing you the entire stadium or the match. This a must watch for people who love world cinema and quite a lesson for film makers on using budgets effectively !

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HITMAN

I am one of those who played this game much before this movie was made and for those of you uninitiated into the wonderful world of make believe and role playing, yup computer games, Hitman is classic role playing first person game where you are, obviously the hitman..with no name and only a number.

Timothy Olypant (remember him as the villain in Die Hard 4.0 and in Deadwood?) is the Hitman, a cold efficient killer whose only identification is a number which is tattooed onto his neck in the form of a bar code.

The movie tries and stays faithful to the storyline of the game but of course takes in some cinematic deviations. In the movie the Hitman (agent 47) finds himself at the center of a political and international conspiracy where his own employers The Agency disown him and put a hit out on him. So you have agents chasing agents and you have the ever dogged Interpol inspector Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) who has been chasing the hitman for years across continents.

What you get is a very cold looking Timothy, some flash and bang action scenes, lots of bullets flying all over, some sleek looking gadgets and even a dedication scene where the Hitman breaks into a home where two kids are playing...what else but Hitman on PlayStation.

In the end this is a movie that came, you saw, and you forgot. This is one of those video games made into movie that will leave no lasting impression thanks to a weak script, screenplay and no great direction.

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The Golden Compass

Imagine your soul travelled by your side in the form of an animal that most represented you. Imagine that all beings were interconnected by cosmic dust. Imagine that there was somebody who wanted to destroy this unifying force. Imagine there was a Golden Compass that told you everything you wanted to know. Imagine a parallel universe to ours.


If you could imagine all these or couldn't, still do rejoice for Chris Weitz brings this amazing tale to life on screen. Based on a novel by Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass is an endearing and colourful adventure. Nicole Kidman puts in another brilliant performance as Marisa Coulter whose soul is represented by an evil looking ape. Daniel Craig stars as Lord Asriel, uncle of Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) and Lyra, a young girl roaming through Oxford among the scholars, the politics of the adults and the streets looking for adventure finds it at home when she becomes destined to be the one who can read the golden compass.

And then she starts of a journey that is so magical and beset with mythical creatures and magical beings that holds you to your seat and at the end of it all you are waiting for more...a sequel maybe.

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88 Minutes



Directed by Jon Avnett, this Al Pacino starrer is a taut thriller. Imagine you have 88 minutes to live, and only those 88 minutes to find the person who is going to kill you and you do not even know why.


88 Minutes is a tale based on this very point of imagination. Al Pacino stars as Forensic psychologist Dr Jack Gramm who gained fame for providing evidence and testimony which condemned Jon Foster(Neal McDonnough), as a serial killer "The Seattle Slayer' and to a death sentence. Jon Foster of course claims innocence and accuses Jack Gramm of manipulating witnesses and giving false testimony.

On the day of the death sentence Jack Gramm receives a call stating he will die in 88 minutes and there is a killer out there (or more than one ?) for women are being murdered in copycat style to the Seattle slayer. Who is this killer who knows every move Jack makes while the minutes tick away

Al Pacino remains Al Pacino and is the only saving grace of this movie. The movie is good for an afternoon watch and does not stay in your mind as one of those thrillers that chill you to the bone nor does it intrigue you. All in all, even if you miss, you don't miss much.

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