aurangzeb (4)

Talking about Aurangzeb, one has to wonder why this name for a movie which resembled Don and its remake in its first trailer shown in the theatres, but then you remember the Mughal Emperor who fought for kingship over kinship (“kingship knows no kinship” as declared by the movie itself in some of the posters), as the young emperor battled his brothers and also put his father under house arrest in the Agra Fort for the control of the throne; then after his formal coronation in Delhi, he does execute his brother, the eldest son and the heir apparent of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal, Dara Shikoh – as it is recorded in the annals of history. But his striving towards achieving his aim, and his master tactics might have also been considered while giving this name to the movie. His continuation of warfare might be another thing – the desire to achieve more heights, as he built up a massive army for more and more military expansion throughout the boundaries of his already vast empire. He was among the wealthiest of the Mughal rulers if what is written about him is true. By 1690, Aurangzeb had territories stretching from the South to the Afghan area. But after his death, the empire built on blood and intolerance breaks apart, something which has to be considered with the kingship of this movie.

The movie starts with a quote from The Odes, a collection of Latin lyric poems by Horace a.k.a Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the famous Roman poet from the age of the first emperor and the founder of the Roman Empire, known to us as Augustus Caesar. I can’t bring myself to remember that quote, but here we have another emperor! Never mind, our story follows the illegal real estate developer Yashvardhan (Jackie Shroff) and his always pleasure-seeking arrogant son Ajay (Arjun Kapoor). Rishi Kapoor, Prithviraj and Sikandar Kher is one cop family and challenges the family of criminals in a battle which is more unseen than seen. The police department succeeds in capturing Ajay and torture him, while they send out Ajay’s twin brother, Vishal (Arjun Kapoor), to Yashvardhan to find his secrets and bring his empire down to earth from the sky which it has set as the limit. Vishal joins the crew and becomes an informer, with a desire to take revenge for his mother who had to run away from his father Yashvardhan due to his dirty deeds. Here, the two brothers create the idea of Aurangzeb – the king, who puts his throne, sceptre and crown ie kingship above kinship. But in another way, Arya (Prithviraj) is also Aurangazeb – the concept not being limited to one person. Even his family of police officers has interest in real estate and they are all businessman on the end of the day. They fight their own battles, and the result is clearly unpredictable with the high emotional element involved.

Prithviraj Sukumaran has come up with a simple, yet excellent performance. There was evidently no mistake when he was declared as the future of Malayalam movie industry, and now he has moved further north and extended his domain more than once. He has been both the most liked and the most disliked movie actors the Malayalam movie industry has ever seen, and there has been unnecessary controversies for sure. For the Bollywood audience who don’t know him, right from the beginning of his career through Nandanam to establishing himself as part of the elite class in Thalappavu, he had a good number of ups and downs in Malayalam movie industry, and is now at the zenith of his glory with Ayalum Njanum Thammil and Celluloid, which brought to him the Kerala State Film Award for the second time, after a gap of six years. Lets just forget Aiyyaa and consider this his Grand Hindi debut, as he is indeed leaving a permanent mark with this one. Along with these movies mentioned, if you need to watch more of his movies, I would recommend Vargam, Akale, Indian Rupee and Classmates, two of his interesting performances which also have their own entertainment value.

There are also a number of critically acclaimed off-beat movies, like Akasathinte Niram, Veettilekkulla Vazhi and Manjadikuru. City of God and Manikyakallu are also worth mentioning here. But still, there might be no other movie like Celluloid, and as watching it might also be a tribute to the Indian movie industry, I would recommend it the most – Prithviraj is also at his best there, and therefore it is a must watch for all the true lovers of movies. His presence in Tamil is also to be noted and he is there in Telugu too, even as I have not explored that much. His other release in Malayalam, Mumbai Police also seems to be running pretty good in the theatres. After having a bad patch, he is now back in full power, and he is slowly blending into that police officer role which didn’t seem to suit him in a number of movies which failed miserably, but has now become part of his new series of roles in more than one language. Prithviraj had the opportunity and the option to step up, and he has successfully done that. There shall be more of him in Bollywood too, there is no doubt about that.

For the people who are confused already, Prithviraj is not the hero and neither is he the villain in this movie. But he surely does more than one job, as a businessman police officer, as the saviour and upholder of the law, the husband who forgets to smile at home (even as he has a grin when dealing with crime) and finally, as the family man who does what is expected of him. The big screen presence might have actually come up as a surprise for both his fans as well as the common movie watcher. He also narrates throughout the movie, and has presence on the big screen very often. Thus he does something more than being the supporting actor here. His character is there from the beginning to the end, as if he is the one who watches everything. His character has his understandings and transformations, and none of them seem to put the actor out of ease. The role of the two protagonists belong to Arjun Kapoor does the two characters with so much ease, especially the more evil side – the other one is just fine. There is no doubt that he is among the best of the young talents and he has proven it once again through this movie. After his performance in the action romance drama Ishaqzaade, here he comes up with another treat for the viewers. So, here are two actors, doing their job very well.

Sashaa Agha, the daughter of the Pakistani singer and actress Salma Agha also makes her Bollywood debut in this movie. Other than being the gorgeous presence in the movie, the twenty one year old also sings in the movie, the song being well received already. Even if one has to wonder if she is a little uncomfortable out there and there is a sure confusion around, the plot would have run well without that character, and considering that, she has done more than enough. She has surely earned her spot to be there, and her bikini-shot has already made it to the trailers; her song video already watched a lot; her debut surely a great one which has touched the stars with the role in an Yash Raj Films production. In total, it should be a perfect beginning for her. Jackie Shroff is a solid presence in the movie and same is the case of Rishi Kapoor, both of them contributing with more of themselves than anything else. The two would seem to be on the sides of evil and good in the beginning, but later fade into a grey from which the roles would seem to be reversing a bit, even as none of them really gets out the greyness which engulfs them. The latter stands out as the mastermind and the visionary. The cast makes the movie mostly about performances rather than the plot or anything else, as they have all done a very good job.

Despite the rise of my new blog; and a possible further development which awaits it, the movie reviews shall continue and the movies of the soul shall continue to influence the minds without any halt, as they form an integral part of the weekend which restores the soul from its low energy stage to the supreme stage. Aurangzeb doesn’t fall behind in doing the same either. We have loved Don, and this movie leaves us no option, but to like it for what it is. With all the thrills and action sequences, Aurangzeb leaves the viewers with another thing – a message about the importance of brotherhood and the divine superiority of kinship over kingship in a complicated simplicity as it adds a certain kind of “thrill of eventual goodness” to whatever might have been a game of blood otherwise. With a little more vision, it could have been a classic for sure. The last week might have belonged to space travel and zombies with one English and one Hindi movie, and the earlier week belonged to a shootout or rather an encounter, but this is undoubtedly the week of Aurangzeb – not the emperor of history, but the new king of this century. The new blog belongs to another world, not of the movies; but this one belongs completely to this one world of celluloid, even as it shall never be free from the effects of that outside world which decides more than what it can handle.

Release date: 17th May 2013
Running time: 137 minutes
Directed by: Atul Sabharwal
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Arjun Kapoor, Sashaa Agha, Amrita Singh, Jackie Shroff, Swara Bhaskar, Deepti Naval, Tanve Azmi, Rasika Dugal, Sikandar Kher

aurangzeb copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.



The Vampire Bat didn’t really have much of a luck to witness awesomeness for sometime; and he has been so disappointed that he wished to let the Vampire Crocodile do the rest of the movie watching and reviewing. But the twist of fate which followed him for centuries has struck one more time. The movie was Celluloid and the Vampire Bat was more than just impressed. He felt the 2008 movie Thalappavu again; the same feeling of Raama Raavanan and Melvilasom – he was at that moment, not sure whether to be in pain with the protagonist or to feel the strength and power of what was created by the life and fate of the central characters of these movies. Now one more movie joins this group of three – the trilogy of awesomeness got transformed into the fabulous four today; something which should have happened long ago, but was delayed by some horrible intrusion of new generation movies and the prejudice by a few very old generation fans.

Kamal’s Celluloid is not an entertainer for the mindless, but it is not an art cinema either. It has its moments of fun and tears, never dragging too much to bring the element of boredom. The result is a beautiful tribute to J. C. Daniel, now realized as the father of Malayalam cinema and Vigathakumaran a.k.a The Lost Child, the first Malayalam feature film. It is not a lesser tribute to the first Malayalam heroine P. K. Rosie either. It also has the reference to the second feature film in Malayalam, Marthanda Varma – the first Malayalam movie based on a literary work and history. Even as the movie travels through the ages, there is no loss of flow and there is no appearance of flaws. All the ages are represented with their suitable features, not exaggerating at any moment. There is visible presence of truth and sincerity throughout the depiction of pre-independence and post-independence India – these elements have been clearly lacking in most of the self-proclaimed realistic movies.

There is also the mention of the Lumiere Brothers – Auguste and Louis; their L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat or Arrival of a Train at a Station; that short silent film with no intentional camera movement and powered by one continuous real-time shot. It surely made itself realistic, but not the self-glorified new generation movies. Celluloid might be more old generation than the most, but it has enough to make one feel and follow its path. While the hyped new generation movies claim the same, and gives fake emotions powered by stylish camera shots and bad language, the fact is that it is not everyone’s reality. When they do so, it is the complete rejection of the common man. As they might not have done the earliest filmmakers in history proud with the absence of substance and the presence of nonsense, there is another particular addition to it, as the quick impact on their fate is much less an impact compared to the deep impact which is to come. As the world didn’t end in 2012, there might be many generations to follow, and they are going to use “what Prometheus gave them” on many movies, and among the movies which will have honour and glory instead – there will be Celluloid.

Coming back to the movie of the year so far; it is the story of J. C. Daniel, the man who wished to make the first Malayalam cinema. He is seen as a determined young man who has set out with a clear aim in his mind. With the help of his wife Janet and his friends, he sets out on a mission which is made nearly impossible as there are not many heroines available unless they try a man in a female role. Even the available actresses would be from Bombay or other parts of India who would charge so much for him to provide. He does try one of them, but the demands are found to be too much. Finally, they end up casting a lower caste woman – an act which doesn’t interfere with the quality of the movie, but does affect the minds of the upper caste orthodox people who couldn’t digest such a woman doing the role of an upper caste lady. This happens to be a huge turning point – a decision which would affect the progress of the movie in the theatres of 1920s and begin the troubles. The reaction of the influential upper caste would be too hostile for Daniel to handle.

The unavailability of female cast to act in movies and the caste based attitude would continue while Daniel goes off to live in Tamil Nadu after selling off most of his assets including his own house and there is no clue about Rosie whose hut was burned by the hooligans forcing her to run away. The dream had lost its wings. He starts a new life as a dentist, but that too is shattered due to his love for movies which continued to follow him. His practice as a dentist soon ends, making the situation worse. There is the mention of movies which followed during the later periods, like Chemmeen, Achanum Bappayum and Narasimham. As time moves on, it is Daniel’s later struggles and the attempts of Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan to bring the government’s attention to the situation of the pioneer of Malayalam movies which take the centre stage. But the absence of the film reels of the movie and his stay in Tamil Nadu was not to make the situation easier.

Prithviraj has come up with a brilliant performance – his best since Thalappavu. He has fitted so well into the young protagonist, his older self and the son of the protagonist. There is no point where he failed to impress. Chandni, who has debuted as Rosie, Mamta Mohandas as Janet , Sreenivasan as Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan – all of them have fit into the characters so well; even considering the movie in movie which looked like a realistic recreation of what the first Malayalam feature film might have been. The number of real-life movie figures are numerous; Dadasaheb Phalke – the father of Indian cinema, R. Nataraja Mudaliar who made the first silent film in Tamil (Keechaka Vadham) and so on. Another notable person mentioned in the movie is D. W. Griffith, the American film director. Charlie Chaplain is also frequently mentioned, and his movie The Kid is seen to be shown at the theatre which seemed like the most powerful of the inspirations. But Daniel’s work became a social drama which wouldn’t be acceptable to the society which was rooted in orthodoxy.

In simple words, what is Celluloid? It is the history of Malayalam cinema from its humble beginning to what it is now. It is also the story of one person who tried so hard to make this dream happen. Malayalam movie industry which had such humble beginnings has the big responsibility to carry on that legacy. The first Malayalam feature film was a revolution; it was the silent movie which gave life to Malayalam on the screen even with no single word spoken. It was also a voice of the change which was to come in the caste system; that feature film was an indirect voice of the subaltern which was silent; a contradiction for sure. But all these were submerged; like the legendary island of Atlantis. But now we know the person. As Paulo Coelho has let us know through his Alchemist, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”. He had his dreams and he fought for it. This tribute has been overdue for such a long time, and this movie has finally brought justice. One can’t help not being without pain for J. C. Daniel, but its time to take a bow. Its an honour to have known you – thank You Kamal. The experience is divine for a movie fan, especially if you watch that many Malayalam movies.

Release date: 15th February 2013
Running time: 130 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Kamal
Starring: Prithviraj, Mamta Mohandas, Chandni, Sreenivasan, T. G. Ravi, Nedumudi Venu, Siddique, Sreejith Ravi

celluloid copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.