Saturday, July 30, 2016

Nagercoil Expressum Nadaga companyum ... review





It is a grey , cloudy and overcast Saturday in Bangalore. Thanks to the Karnataka bandh ( since when did they call for bandh on Saturdays) the  almost traffic less drive through to  Alliance Francaise is a breeze, literally.


The old world charm of Allaince Francaise building and the cozy warmth of its auditorium is very comforting. 
To think,  I have come to watch a play with absolutely no clue as to what it is all about is  slightly discomforting.

Nagercoil Expressum Nadaga companyum   … uh !!!  what sort of a title is that ?.


Well … they are two stage plays  and sandwiched between them is a ten minute intermission.  

One occurs aboard the Nagercoil Express when two co-passengers Chandru and Shankar get acquainted over a drink only to discover a third passenger and a strange message that awaits them.  
  
The second one,  Nadaga Company is a satire that takes you back and forth and right through the messy intertwined landscape of the intricate connection of cinema and politics in Tamilnadu. The play takes potshots at those   chance actors and errand boys of the erstwhile theatre groups who shot to fame with the advent of cinema  and then those who later shaped  the murky landscape of power and politics in Tamilnadu.

Seamless acting out of scenes, the atrociously colourful costumes coupled with amazing histrionics from  the artists, a subtle but apt musical score and not to mention the near flawless direction of Vinodhini Vaidyanathan  are all  simply breathtaking.   

Wow … Tamil theatre has really come of age since the S V Sekar and R S Manohar days.    

As I drive out of the parking lot and meander through the thick foliage of alliance Francaise , I catch myself LLOL …  literally laughing out loud.

 Karruppu kannadi pottavan ellam kedi illai
followed tongue in cheek by
Mattukari thinravan ellam Modi illai ….

     ( Translation will not do any justice … I will let it pass )  

  All throughout the drive back I am reliving the dialogues that came and went in quick succession. It is not like I am slow at the uptake.  It is just that the Scenes unfolded and the dialogues  came in too fast and furious for someone totally uninitiated to register. Needless to say it was a laugh riot all the way.


It is a brilliantly enacted piece of satirical theatre that lingers around for hours after you have moved on …

The next show was at 7.30 pm. May be I should have stayed back to watch the second time.  Like a kaldeiscope,  where you get to view a different  perspective every time, one  could enjoy some cleverly crafted comedy and  a chance to admire some great acting performances.  
Worth a second watch.      







P.S : Alex …  you rock.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I always wanted to...


In Madras movies are not synonymous with entertainment.   It is like religion and is an inevitable part of your life.  In our case, it is a part of our family folklore.  ( Clickhere to read my previous post FDFS ) 
  
First day first show (FDFS) of Rajinikanth movies are what legends are made of.  Giant cut-outs of the Thalaivar are bathed in milk before the FDFS. Fireworks galore the movie theatres and the police department works overtime to ensure the smooth release of Thalaivar's latest films.

 I always wanted to experience the fanatic frenzy that goes with the FDFS, 

I pleaded with a die-hard Rajini fan who happens to be a good friend, to take me for an FDFS.  Every time a Rajini movie released, he has avoided me and my request.  Here is a guy who spends a good part of his salary to buy an FDFS movie ticket at Albert talkies in Chennai every time a Rajini movie gets released.  He has apparently never missed one since he was a young boy.
When I asked him why I couldn’t go with him to Albert Talkies for an FDFS he scoffed at my request as though I was asking to Trek Mount Everest with Tensing and Hilary.

He explained that you had to have a certain hard earned pedigree to get a ticket to watch the FDFS at Albert or Kasi Theatre. In the frenzy that surrounds the release of a 'Thalaivar' movie, a non-believer would get blatantly exposed. He did not want to risk that ordeal with a non-believer like me on the tow.       

Well this time around I was well prepared.  I pulled a few strings and my tickets were confirmed .

I took a train to Chennai because it was in Chennai that I would be able to experience FDFS in all its authenticity. I was not the only one. I am told the national highway connecting Bangalore and Chennai was choc a bloc on Thursday evening.   

It was a 4 am show, but the festivities started much earlier.     

UBER joined the show of solidarity. With an SMS code  'Thalaiva' you could get a 100 off your ride between 3 am and 5 am on Friday. If you ride cost less than a 100 rupees it was all free. 
That was possibly the cheapest drive ever to a movie theatre. 

Anand, my cousin had booked our  tickets. He was watching the FDFS with a bunch of his friends and I joined in.. 

As we arrived, it was evident that the Chennai Police were on an overdrive. They could not take any chances. Traffic was regulated, security was beefed up and they a big responsibilty to pull of such momentous occasions without any untoward incidents jarring the day.        

The press was also there. They were interviewing some die-hard fans sporting the Kabali T-Shirt.    




Vettri theatre in Chrompet was lit with colorful serial lights, there was non-stop fire crackers bursting at the theatre. The only other time you could see people wide awake at 3 am would be the day of Deebavali, as in Taminadu it is believed that when Krishna killed Narakasur and the news reached the people they got up well before the crack of dawn  to bathe and burst fire crackers as a mark of celebrations of the triumph of the good over evil . 



I did not take me much time to realize there were very few women that morning for the FDFS.
  
But there were a few. About 4 or 5 to my count including a three year old who was perched atop her father's shoulders. 
I guess ... the indoctrination  and membership into Rajini fan club membership begins early in life and gets passed on from one generation to another.  

Talking about safety, there certainly was a small spark of subconscious fear lurking inside me. This was a predominantly  male crowd, at what would  be called 'un-holy' hours on any other day and that too in a public place. 

The Chennai that I had known and left as a teenager lurked with Eveteasers. Public places including buses and road sides lurked with men gaping at women, teasing, commenting and passing lewd remarks. So I was entitled to a very conscious bias.
I was now much older and bolder, and could afford to take this calculated risk considering I had male company for the morning. That is what I told myself despite the 'is-it-safe-out-there' fear lurking somewhere in my subconscious mind.  

I really did not have to worry. I realized very soon that a generation has passed.  The crowd was safe, well behaved and consisted of fans who knew to mind their business. Atleast today they knew what their sole purpose was. 

The bouncer at the theatre entrance frisked the men (women were exempted since we were so few of us and moreover there was no woman police on duty)  checked them for any traces of alcohol by asking them to blow on his face before letting them in.        

Once inside the movie hall is when the otherwise reasonably well-behaved crowd got wild.  
Loud cries hailing "Thalaiva" would be followed by frenzied whistles from all over. The wait for the screen to lift was unnerving for the die-hard Rajini fans.  At one point in time the crowd looked up in unison to threaten the guy behind the projector if he did not begin on time.  It was only 3.56 am. But the wait felt like eternity.  

The digital world was also experiencing the same frenzy. Tweets flew from Albert and Kasi theatre as well. They were all to begin the show at 4.00 am. The balcony at the Vettri theatre had some celebrities come to watch the FDFS.  For those sitting at the seats down below somewhere near the screen it was cause for a lot of excitement.

Silambarasan, Shivakarthikeyan and Siddharth posed for the photograph outside the entrance and tweeted. It went viral. For the uninitiated ( including me)   Silambarasan, Shivakarthikeyan and Siddharth  are, emerging Kollywood actors from the millenial generation. Like for millions of others in the movie world aspiring for a career in Kollywood,  for them as well, Rajinikanth is demi-god.  

And then there was this man who shot into  celebrity status a couple of days before. Although he was interviewed by the media, he did not let out much.  Praveen, the technician who edited the movie claimed to have seen the movie a hundred times before the FDFS.  But that did not stop him from coming for the FDFS. He had a balcony seat at the Vettri theatre.  

Soundarya, Rajinikanth's younger daughter was at Albert Theatre, the original Mecca for the FDFS. She was also trending on  tweeter. 


The Demi God himself was somehwere in California, completely unaffected by all the Hero worship that was going on, not just back home, but all over the world. Somewhere in bay area, a die-hard Rajini fan driving down the road, spots him on his morning walk takes a quick video on his mobile and tweets. By evening it goes Viral. 

It is 4.03 am. The projector man is already receiving life threatening hoots from the crowd below.  And then the screen lifts.

 Initially the shrillness is deafening and then you do not get to hear anything.   
I guess they call it ultra-sonic decibel frequency.
Soon normalcy returns.
The screen was ablaze with the 'smoking is injurious to health' ad-campaign.  The crowd gets restless and the ad with all its gory depictions of the side effects of Tobacco is clearly getting on everybody nerves. 

Once again the ultra-sonic decibel frequency takes force. This time Hooting and whistling are followed by an impromptu dance over the theatre chairs. 

And why not. The censor board certificate for 'Kabali' is now on display. 

And then on there is not turning around.  The movie begins. 
 ' Thalaivar' makes his entry.  
This is the most momentous scene that defines a 'Rajini' movie. A few fans fall on the ground and prostrate. Some have tears rolling down their eyes.  Almost everyone is standing. A couple of them, get  up on their chairs, pull out their T-shirts and toss it as high as they can. 

Shiny tinsel paper, money and god knows what else flies up all over the place. 

And thus it all began. The frenzy would subside a little. Soon when 'Thalaivar' would be back into the frame the noise would hit the roof.  When 'Thalaivar' delivers his dialogues,  as if on cue, hooting and whistling would continue. 

Now that the FDFS is past us, well ... as far as the movie goes, there are mixed reviews. 
But those who write reviews do not come to watch FDFS.  
And those that come for FDFS see no sense in reading reviews of Rajinikanth movies.

Reviews are written by the critics for the athiests and agnostics. 
Among the believers there is no such thing...   . 
       , 
Like they say the Madrasi's fanaticism for movies and the fanatic frenzy around FDFS cannot be described, it can only be experienced.  
I rest my case here.

Capturing it over a video or audio does not do justice, but neverthless I have attempted it here. 






‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’
twhere the prompt this week is I always wanted to ...  


childhood dreams

Thursday, July 21, 2016

FIRST DAY FIRST SHOW ( FDFS)




FIRST DAY FIRST SHOW ( FDFS)

22nd July 2016 was an auspicious day. Not in its usual sense for it was not a festival like Deebavali or Pongal.  
Far more auspicious than Deebavali or Pongal.
It was not Deebavali or Pongal. And yet, it was expected that milk would be in short supply and fire crackers would sell like hot cakes.

But they say it is not like what it used to be in the good old days.

For this is how I recall, it used to be in Madras of the good old days.
,
Summer vacations were never complete without watching the latest Rajinikanth release in Kabali or Kamadhenu theatre.  

Paatti  (Grandmother) would wait for us grandchildren to arrive from Bambaai, so that she could take us for the Rajinikanth movie that had just been released.
In other times of the year, Paatti  would settle for nothing less than the first day first show ( FDFS) of a Sivaji or a MGR movie.  For many years I suspected that Murugan, the Black ticket vendor at the Kabali theatre in Mylapore shared a platonic relationship with Paatti.  She was his regular customer.  When it came to Paatti  getting her grandchildren coming from the ‘north’, Murugan would leave no stones unturned. It had to be the best of balcony seats for Paatti and her progeny.

Murugan, the Black ticket guy at Kabali theatre was the nephew of Kamala, the domestic help at the Mylapore house.  In the days when neither mobile phones nor telephones existed, she was the go between for Paatti''s  visits to theatres. Kamala and her extended family lived in the mud huts with thatched roofs in what would today be called a slum behind the 'Mundakakanni amman temple' in those days.  In today's Chennai, 'Mundakakanni amman temple'  is a monorail station where one alights for Mylapore and Luz. 


Kabali the theatre is now a residential complex and Kamadhenu theatre is a marriage hall.  No one knows what happened to Kamala and the residents of those slums. Ah, but then I Digress.

It is not that Black tickets for movie shows were sold outside the theatre at exorbitant prices when the demand and supply was skewed. Things like that happen in those crassly competitive free market economies.

Not in Madras where movie going is entwined in its tradition. Black ticket guys around movie theatres in Madras hoarded a few tickets and sold them at very minimal profits only to ensure that their regular patrons get their rightful share of tickets when they visit the theatre. It preserved the rights of those who are devoted to preserve the FDFS culture of their favorite stars. It was more of a service than a business that these guys rendered.  

Clad in a nine yards sari, Paatti was your typical orthodox Brahmin mami, who would not eat (nor let her grandchildren eat) food cooked from unknown people and unknown sources.  Our trips to Kabali theatre were therefore something of a picnic, what with Dosa smeared with milagai podi and gingely oil, packed in steel boxes and a steel Gooja filled with water accompanying us inside the theatre. The intermission time was Tiffin time.
We were oblivious to popcorn tubs, samosas or nachos with salsa dip until we came of age and went for movies without needing to be accompanied by an adult.
I must say I have a remarkable sense of family history.

My cousin Shankar was born the year Rajinikanth’s ‘Tillu Mullu’  was released. 
Cousin Ravi was born the year Rajinikanth’s ‘Johny’ was released.
My parents got married around the time Sivaji Ganesan’s   ‘Vasantha Maaligai ‘was released.




And then an year later,  one afternoon Paatti returned from Kabali theatre satiated with the melodrama of  watching the matinee show of ‘ Raman thediya Seethai’ when she got the telegram announcing my birth. The birth of her grand daughter.  Incidentally 'Raman Thediya Seethai'  was a super hit movie from Jayanthi Productions that year.   



You get the drift... don’t you!!!
In Madras movies are not synonymous with entertainment.   It is like religion and is an inevitable part of your life.  In our case, it is a part of our family folklore. 
First day first show (FDFS) of Rajinikanth movies are what legends are made of.  Giant cut-outs of the Thalaivar are bathed in milk before the FDFS. Fireworks galore the movie theatres and the police department works overtime to ensure the smooth release of Thalaivar's latest films.




I always wanted to experience the fanatic frenzy that goes with the FDFS, I pleaded with a die hard Rajini fan who happens to be a good friend, to take me for an FDFS.  Every time a Rajini movie released, he has avoided me and my request.  Here is a guy who spends a good part of his salary to buy an FDFS movie ticket at Albert talkies in Chennai every time a Rajini movie gets released.  He has apparently never missed one since he was a young boy.
When I asked him why I could'nt go  with him to Albert Talkies for an FDFS he scoffed at my request as though I was asking to Trek Mount Everest with Tensing and Hilary.

He explained that you had to have a certain hard earned pedigree to get a ticket to watch the FDFS at Albert or Kasi Theatre. In the frenzy that surrounds the release of a 'Thalaivar' movie, a non-believer would get blatantly exposed. He did not want to risk that ordeal with a non-believer like me on the tow.       

Well this time around I was well prepared.  I pulled a few strings and my tickets are on the way. ..
Like they say the Madrasi's fanaticism for movies and the fanatic frenzy around FDFS cannot be described, it can only be experienced.  



Endaro Mahanubhaavu …

Bear with me for a little flashback. This happened somewhere in the late eighties … Our house was getting spring cleaned and the ...