The Whistlers

Vampire Owl: Do you remember how long we waited to watch a Romanian movie?

Vampire Bat: I am not sure. Maybe, we waited for an eternity.

Vampire Owl: Vampires deserve to watch Romanian movies, don’t they?

Vampire Bat: This movie was selected as the Romanian entry for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Oscars.

Vampire Owl: So, we might be beginning our Romanian movie watching with one of the best.

Vampire Bat: Yes, I don’t see why we shouldn’t go for the best.

Vampire Owl: Should we call Uncle Dracula and the minions to watch this one too?

Vampire Bat: After we watch the movie and declare it safe, they can watch it too.

Vampire Owl: Okay, then. We are going for our first Romanian film.

Vampire Bat: Do watch it carefully, and come up with an opinion.

[Gets an chocolate cake and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a Romanian police officer who acts as a whistle blower for mafia, and it is made clear that he is not someone who stays on one side at all times, as the switch does happen very often. Even though he is under police surveillance for suspected corruption, Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) who has been part of organized crime, manages to bring up a plan to free a controversial businessman arrested in Bucharest and asks for his help in the job. She poses as a high level prostitute with Cristi as her most valued customer to make the cameras set in his house believe that she is up to nothing related to such crimes and gangs, and is just there to provide him her service which she proves to the eyes behind the camera. Cristi is forced by her to go to La Gomera Island, one of Spain’s Canary Islands to learn an ancestral whistling language which he can use to connect to mobsters without being detected by the police or anybody else who possessed some threat to them.

So, what happens with the events here? :: This ancestral whistling language has been the kind of thing used to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys of the island. It enables messages to be exchanged over long distance, and he hopes to study it soon enough, because he needs to get the man out of prison, as he is someone who needs to be outside to give information about millions of cash. As this a case with so much of money involved, there is the certainty of twists occurring. Everyone is after a missing thirty million in cash, and as both the criminals and the police tries to find where the man hid the money. But Cristi has some other plans along with finding the money for any of these sides. For the same, he would come up with a more twisted idea. But it is to be seen whether he would be successful in the same, because he is playing with fire on more than one side. Can he get out of there, maybe with Gilda on his side without being hurt, or will he be hit by the terror that is going to be unleashed when the thirty million is lost?

The defence of The Whistlers :: It can be seen that The Whistlers is that kind of a movie which slowly gets the thrills to us, and from the beginning itself, the same starts getting on to us. You know that all the characters here are up to something, and we are able to feel the same quite early. It also brings a certain amount of humour in there and we also have the surprises thrown in here and there. The settings used here are all beautiful, and when looking at the scenes in Romanian towns as well as the Spanish island far away from its coasts, we are all glad to see such things of beauty. The performances of Vlad Ivanov and Catrinel Marlon are nothing less than deadly either. If you haven’t watched any Romanian movies yet, this might be the film to begin watching these from that particular industry, as it seems to be a lot ahead to catch our attention with almost everything shown on the screen. With the same, there is also simplicity in its complexity.

Positives and negatives :: The Whistlers is the kind of movie which moves too slow for some kind of audience who might be looking for better pace considering the fact that this is a crime thriller. The beginning with the main characters playing certain roles for the cameras seemed to suggest that this was going to be quicker in pace, but it was not so. But it is good to see that unlike the other crime thrillers, this is the kind of movie which cares about its humans too, and they are not really the kind of people who are there to keep shooting and get shot. You can see that power and weakness, loneliness and companionship, pretension and sincerity, trust and the lack of it – all are shown as part of life, while we see everyman elements in these characters around here. The world of crime is not about keeping on shooting people and creating chaos, as there is something more about it, as this movie tries to prove. The Whistlers is more than what meets the eye, as you compare it to the other movies of the genre.

Performers of the soul :: Vlad Ivanov as Cristi comes up with a solid performance, as he plays a character whose intentions are never really that clear, and it is one unpredictable character which he plays to perfection. This particular character is never really the person we think that he is, and he shows signs of the person who brings the twists quite early. Catrinel Marlon as Gilda is nothing less than fantastic, as she plays a femme fatale character with certain class, but it is also a character with more than one side, which she proves quite early into the movie. In the beginning, we even have the doubt if she is the main character, as she is in action just ten minutes into the movie, dictating terms and flourishing on the screen. She is a different kind of Anna, as you look at her closely, and she never hesitates to bring all that she can, at any moment. The same can be seen again in more and more moments, as we see her getting her righteous place in there on different occasions. Rodica Lazar comes up with a fine believable role as the police officer who is in charge.

How it finishes :: The Whistlers is a special movie, not just because it is a crime thriller which keeps itself solid, but also due to how well it handles the content smoothly. This is surely a movie that you would want to watch, and then continue to watch more of Romanian movies – I had said the same about another movie, a Vietnamese one which could introduce you to that film industry really well. Both The Whistlers and Furie as unknown movies in this part of the world, and as people rush to look for more and more Korean movies, these two movies in two different languages from different parts of the world deserves your attention. I have always loved Romania as a place which had the historical region of Transylvania, as my best interest is in Gothic works – it is a place which I would love to visit one day to see those castles which are often related with Count Dracula, but until then, maybe I can watch some more of wonderful Romanian movies. This one is just beginning, as rest will surely come.

Release date: 13th September 2019
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Corneliu Porumboiu
Starring: Catrinel Marlon, Vlad Ivanov, Agusti Villaronga, Cristobal Pinto, Sergiu Costache, Antonio Buil

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Hindi Medium

What is the movie about? :: Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan) runs a highly successful business in Delhi, selling bridal wears, and he often likes to call himself a business tycoon. He had married his love from childhood Meeta Batra (Saba Qamar) when she had come to his small tailoring shop. Although he is rich and influential, knowing all politicians and businessmen of the area, he is a simple man, finding happiness in those simple things in life. His lack of education and the absence of knowledge in English are something which makes his wife disappointed, and she wishes to be part of the high class rather than live where they have always lived. Worried about the future of their only daughter Pia Batra (Dishita Sehgal), she wishes to have her admitted into one of the top schools in Delhi, including Prakriti School where the students are taught everything through dance and music, Suraj Valley School which nothing less than a five star hotel and Cross Road School which has a tie-up with Eton.

So, what happens next in this movie? :: But the biggest of them all is the Delhi Grammar School which has been at the top position in the school rankings for a long time. The famous politicians and business tycoons have all studied there, and everyone is sure that under the guidance of the visionary principal (Amrita Singh) who used to be a student there, the school can go only up from its position. But the school only gives admission forms to those who live nearby, within three kilometres radius. She forces him to make sure that they move out of Chandni Chowk to Vasant Vihar as the first part of trying to get admission. She is adamant that Pia will not study in a Hindi medium government school like they did, and she will speak English like no other. At their new place, they have new neighbours, but struggle to make friends with people like Aarti (Neha Dhupia) who find the new people to be of low class, not fit to be part of their high level society.

And what is to follow in this adventure for school admissions? :: To prepare their daughter as well as themselves from the upcoming interviews in the top schools, the meet up and take the advice of a consultant (Tillotama Shome) who has been training rich people and their children for a big price. But despite all these training, they are not that great at the interview, and the kid doesn’t get admission. There is the feeling that uneducated parents’ children will find it difficult to get an admission. This leads to him trying to get a seat in a top school in many other ways, including trying to bribe the principal and asking many politicians for help. But none of those ideas work, and they still keep trying, only to find that one of their employees’ child got admission in Prakriti School under Right to Education quota reserved for the people with lower income. There they find a way to get the much needed seat – make some changes in the necessary documents to find their chance. Can they succeed here in one way or the other?

The defence of Hindi Medium :: The movie’s comparison should be to Ramdhanu which is known to deal with a similar theme, and Salt Mango Tree which has remade the same movie. In comparison to Salt Mango Tree which is close to an exact adaptation, there are more differences than similarities here. Hindi Medium actually rises above the other, with a smarter adaptation of the idea. It has a girl child instead of the boy child, and has a rich family rather than the middle class one. There is also a better ending, and there is no foreigner coming to India and adapting the customs – it is a ridiculous idea in comparison to the overall theme, just like it was in Bangalore Days, for them adapting the Indian culture as the right way would only make Indians wishing to adapt theirs righteous. Hindi Medium rises above such foolishness along with the lame jokes there, and also shows the consultant in the right colour. With this one, Bollywood shows the skill and rises above the rest, and the medium is right here; feel-good it is.

The claws of flaw :: One might feel that Hindi Medium takes the simple things a little bit further than one would have thought. Some moments are surely overdone, or rather stretched further than needed. The jokes are also less in comparison even though the quality is certainly there. We can also see the glorification of poverty, even though it is a fact that being more and more rich only gets things to be worse – people getting rich just goes away from the common man’s world as well as the values which have been there for so long. There is also the focus on Hindi medium itself right from the title, when having the government school itself was enough. It would feel strange that all these are coming at a time when the government has been trying to impose Hindi in one way or the other, all over the states which have come up against the same. In an attempt to get away from English, one has to wonder if the need will soon be to escape from Hindi itself with a suicide squad.

Performers of the soul :: The one person who stands out in this movie in comparison with Salt Mango Tree is Irrfan Khan who shows a lot of balance in the way the comic side as well as the serious moments are carried on his his shoulders in the right manner. Saba Qamar also blends in, and does a wonderful job as the mother who wishes for more with the education of her child – Angels‘ own Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli’s work was more natural and emotional in Salt Mango Tree though. Deepak Dobriyal is too good in his role, and Swati Das is fine support to him. Tillotama Shome as the consultant might be the best among the smaller roles here – she is really good. Neha Dhupia is left with not much to do, with her role resembling a cameo. When you look at the cast of Salt Mango Tree, you will notice that in totality, there is more of known talent there, working towards making things better.

How it finishes :: My first thought about Hindi Medium was that it was going to be exactly Salt Mango Tree which seems to be more like the carbon copy of the 2014 Bengali family drama, Ramdhanu. But that certainly wasn’t the case, with the movie having its own ideas, and it is also better than the movie which came before that, and it does the same by quite a distance. The movies like Hindi Medium are required during these times when education has become a business – I would prefer to teach students values first, and English and Hindi later, but that wouldn’t really be possible in this world, I guess. There will also be people who will wish to steal the opportunity of others, and we will also see those people who think that speaking good English everything – but I wouldn’t consider that to be great. With communication, just understanding the point is necessary, and Hindi Medium surely has more valid points than your regular Bollywood movie. It also seems free from the terrible fans.

Release date: 19th May 2017
Running time: 132 minutes
Directed by: Saket Chaudhary
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Sanjana Sanghi, Tillotama Shome, Deepak Dobriyal, Delzad Hiwale, Sumit Gulati, Swati Das, Dishita Sehgal, Angshuman Nandi, Jaspal Sharma, Vijay Kumar Dogra, Rohit Tannan, Amrita Singh, Neha Dhupia, Sushil Parwana, Rajesh Sharma, Sanjay Suri, Mallika Dua, Tanishkaa Sanghvi

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Arrival

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Vampire Owl: We are all awaiting their grand arrival, sometimes without even closing our eyes.

Vampire Bat: I don’t understand. Who exactly are you talking about? There are no names on this guest book for quite some time. If this is an unofficial meeting coming up, you will still have to inform Uncle Dracula through the telepathic connection.

Vampire Owl: The ones who shall not be named, those whom nobody shall dare to name.

Vampire Bat: If you can’t name then, I won’t be able to wait for them. It makes no sense at all.

Vampire Owl: It is because you are a man without faith. It makes you spiritually poor.

Vampire Bat: I have more faith than you and your brainless zombie minions combined.

Vampire Owl: Well, the beautifully carved tombstones at my favourite cemetery has better faith.

Vampire Bat: This does make me wonder what you mean by the words “faith” and “arrival”.

Vampire Owl: Maybe, you can take some lessons from this movie.

Vampire Bat: Movies with messages and lessons are the best. Let us see how this one goes.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with special samosas].

What is the movie about? :: A linguist, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is teaching at the university when she hears an alarm. Twelve alien spacecrafts have landed on Earth, at Maracay in Venezuela, Montana in the United States, Kujalleq in Greenland, Devon in the United Kingdom, Kenema in Sierra Leone, Khartoum in Sudan, Punjab in Pakistan, Siberia in Russia, Hokkaido in Japan, Shanghai in China, and also in the Black Sea and the Indian Ocean. The United States Army Colonel G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) contacts Louise to help the nation and the planet Earth as a whole by joining a team which includes people specialised in different fields including a theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). The idea is to understand the reason behind the arrival of the aliens.

So, what happens next? :: At a military camp in Montana near one of the spaceships, the military look forward to knowing if the aliens are really hostile, or are they just trying to make peace with the humans. This can only be done by entering the spaceship at a certain point of time, coming face to face with the creatures. The aliens are nicknamed by the group as “heptapods” due to having seven legs, and the team starts making contact with them. The language of the aliens is something which corresponds to nothing else, as they write some strange circular symbols on the glass which separated them and the humans. Louise puts in a big effort to understand what these symbols mean by connecting them to the basic vocabulary.

What follows the arrival :: Louise also seems to have visions of her daughter at the same time, and it seems to connect with her process of knowing the new language. The nations and their leaders become restless as time passes, and all the spacecrafts remain at the same place without moving an inch. With the curiosity at its peak, the answer from the aliens on what they want seems to be “offer weapon” which alerts all countries. There is the fear of an upcoming threat from the aliens with some new advanced weapons, and some nations even mobilise their military as if to defend against a potential attack. China takes it one step further, as it gets ready to attack the aliens from its territory, and asks other world leaders to do the same. But Louise is convinced that there is something more to this alien arrival – what can it be? Can she stop a war?

The defence of Arrival :: We might have seen many alien invasion movies, but Arrival is the flick that successfully thinks differently with the basic idea. It is science fiction, and it has creatures from other planet, but it so close to life; it is something that not many movies of the same genre will find difficult to achieve. There is also a lot of beauty on screen, and the performances that support the whole thing. The feeling of a possible disaster runs throughout the movie, but there seems to be not more than one explosion in the whole movie. Amy Adams remains the big strong point of the movie, and along with Nocturnal Animals, this is another movie in which she scores amazingly high. Between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Justice League, she has got two perfect movies in there. Jeremy Renner and the visuals nicely compliment the same.

The claws of flaw :: A lot of people are certain to find Arrival to be kind of slow for their liking. There are too many things happening in this movie, and a lot of them are emotional, plus there is almost no big action sequence or destruction which people expect from these type of movies. Don’t judge this movie by the positive or negative opinions though, as Arrival is a kind of personal experience which needs the movie to be watched. It is also a little bit too philosophical – even though it is not that bad, that feeling is not there throughout the flick. A quicker pace, and a more twisted revealing of the surprise would have helped better too, but as this is based on a short story, it is up-to those who have read the tale to make a better analysis inside. The movie could have also been darker in its theme along with speeding up things. I am also sure that people would have expected more considering how the first half was going.

How it finishes :: Based on a science fiction short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang which had won the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella and the 1999 Sturgeon Award, Arrival might be the alien movie and the science fiction flick which you might have been waiting for, with a desire to concentrate less on action. It has won eight OScar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards as we look at them – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Well, if these are not reasons enough to make you watch this movie, one has to wonder what else would have. I would wish for a nomination for Amy Adams for the Best Actress too, with this one and Nocturnal Animals too, but we can’t get them all, can we?

Release date: 11th November 2016
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien

arrival

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Specials: Remake Saga

temporary

*With two of the four remakes of Drishyam still pending and scheduled to release next month, I take this opportunity to remember a few of the Hindi movies which were remakes from Malayalam, with most of the better known ones from Priyadarshan. So, as we wait for the release of the much awaited movie remakes starring Kamal Haasan and Ajay Devgan, let us have a look at one of those remakes. Even though a good number of them worked in both languages, here I choose a movie which still remains a much loved title in Malayalam, but the same can’t be said about its Hindi remake. Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam and Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar are the two movies I am writing about.

Even though the setting look different, they are the same with the situations in both movies. Actually, the protagonist enters the scene earlier in the case of the Hindi version. The sequences do look exactly the same though, beginning with the eviction notice and going on with talks about the problems of the house, related to the marriage of the female family members and the other financial problems which have been created and the chances of any of the troubles getting over. These things actually do remain the same everywhere even though the cultural differences and changes in the tones of characters according to the language can also be seen.

The Malayalam version has better known actors playing the supporting roles, and as the scene shifts to the city, the changes are more easily visible – both cities are nowhere close to being similar in the soul as each has its own identity. You can see that from the way characters interact and even from the looks of the building which the protagonist owns. There is a gap of fifteen years between the movies and the changes are clearly seen; so are the differences in language and culture. This raises the question if this remake would have worked better if done a few years ago and with even less similarities with the original. The good thing about the remakes of Drishyam is that the gap between the original and the last released remake won’t be more than two years.

The Malayalam version also had Mohanlal who is a big difference between the two versions – it would have been easier to guess though. Even with some dialogues which seems to be exactly translated with such clarity like using a good translating software, there is no match for that time period which was like the golden age of Malayalam cinema. The version is also longer at the beginning stages; if you check at 35 minutes of the Malayalam version, the Hindi version has only reached 29 minutes or slightly shorter with the story reaching the same point. But you won’t feel that so much time has passed, and it is the skill of the legendary actor to keep the audience interested, and things are closer to the life of the 1980s. Then in the end, the Hindi version gets longer by around 40 minutes.

The slight changes occur when the run-time gets to half an hour with new characters included as they lead to some more situations; those having no place in the original. The Malayalam original also has fun right through it, even though the Hindi remake has more ups and down with its progress, and makes less sense. Sreenivasan was that big boost to the original that the remake misses despite the presence of Paresh Rawal. He comes with that hilarious performance in a song which can never be matched. The jokes become less effective as the original was so simple and right out of the heart. The veteran actor Thilakan was another big positive along with the songs.

The extra sequences that the Hindi version adds nothing good to the movie, as some of them actually remind the viewers of older Malayalam movies like Shubhayathra, Minnaram, Chandralekha and Vandanam, which might have been added to bring some extra humour. Chandralekha-inspired money lending sequence is rather too ineffective in this movie unlike it was in the Malayalam movie. This actually means that the Malayalam version gets ahead and now the remake from Bollywood is lagging. Releasing too late, the remake had to do something special, and not add things from other movies. There was also the social satire element of the Malayalam version which doesn’t become that effective here.

Hera Pheri was actually that remake of Ramji Rao Speaking which did some justice to the original. I liked how it worked with Garam Masala (Boeing Boeing), Hungama (Poochakkoru Mookkuthi), Dhol (In Harihar Nagar) and Hulchul (Godfather) even though, in almost every case, the original scores better. But here, even with the jokes, the effect is less, as Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar doesn’t do the same for Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam even though it should still be okay for those who haven’t watched the original or the scenes from other Malayalam movies. I don’t have much of a positive opinion about Bodyguard and its remakes though. About the nonsense movie Pokkiri Raja and its remake Boss, there is no need for any opinion. The ratings are very low for our movie here, but this remake isn’t that terrible as it shows, when we think about those movies and compare. But with Drishyam, there seems to be some very nice effort put in there made, and you will know if you have watched the trailers. I will be watching both the remakes, and I really hope that they do justice to the original – if they do, it is going to be awesome!

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.