Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jeeva: a non brahmin discourse with a feudal touch!

Jeeva, one of the recent popular Tamil feature films is about an aspiring young cricketer. The film deals with his ambition, struggle and the support he gets from his family, friends, coach and many others. He falls in love too. When his time comes he is selected for Tamilnadu Ranji team. But he is rarely given a place in the playing XI. He carries drinks mostly. Brahmin lobby of TN cricket sidelines him. Finally he gets opportunity in CPL, kind of an IPL.
The film has come out in a time when the non brahmins of TN have lost the plot by betraying Periyar, by becoming brutally anti dalit, by continuing to be feudal, by being anti women, by becoming shamelessly corrupt and by eventually becoming part of hindutva forces.
The film's narrative portrays these typical characteristics of the feudal non brahmin male mindset of TN. The film unfairly takes a dig at women in the name of romance and comedy. The hero typicaly drinks at Tasmac bar after the love 'failure'. The film has item numbers which are sexist and vulgar.
Well known Tamil film maker Suseenthiran Nallu who has directed this film "Jeeva" has the way to touch the audience emotionally. There are many interesting sequences. The film is nicely cut. The flow or transition between the sequences is smooth. The director maintains the tempo and curiosity. He has a sense of humor. He seems to have a craft as he has shown in his previous films which are very different from each other. 'Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Azhagarsamyin Kuthirai and Naan Mahaan Alla' are some of his famous films.
In his previous film 'Aathalinal Kaathal Seiveer' the director moralistically ridiculed the way youngsters fall in love when TN was warming up to 'honor killings'. This film 'Jeeva' too carries that insecure feeling of small town men towards upward moving urban women. Being anti women and feudal will not help the cause as it has not helped the non brahmin politics in Taminadu.
I am a cricket lover. I am a non brahmin. I agree with many things the film depicts. Indian cricket especially TN cricket is a brahmin spectacle where others are mere spectators. The film has a brave way of showing people's identities. A Muslim shop owner who sells sports goods help the protaganist. A catholic priest advises the teenage lovers to settle down first as they are too young. One Murugan, a typical non brahmin Tamil man argues for the protagonist during a team selection meeting. Irfan, a Muslim cricketer from Rajasthan finally helps the hero. These are important aspects too.
The highlight is when Ranjit, the friend and opening partner of the hero who eventually kills himself out of frustration argues with Parthasarathy, President of TN cricket about the injustice faced by non brahmin cricketers of Tamilnadu in the hands of ruthless brahmin lobby.
IPL kind of a cricket is shown as a positive choice for many youngsters from small towns, which is in a way true. But how do we understand the blatant commericalisation of IPL? Can we say it is better than total brahminazation of Indian cricket? I am not asking this to the director. These questions came to me while watching the film.
I watched the film in Coimbatore which has a considerable support for Hindutva forces. Audience booed when the Catholic priest advised the lovers. They also enjoyed the sexist jokes. They clapped when the film ended.
Can I say some of the audience question brahmin domination; but they are communal and sexist?
Or should I say popular cinema will always have complications?

MADRAS, a film from north Madras!

I support and salute the Tamil feature film "MADRAS" by Ranjit, an young filmmaker who had previously made an excellent film "ATTA KATHI".
I hear a maligning campaign going on against MADRAS. I fully disapprove that. Let us not be cynical. Let us not be castist too. Let us wake up to the new cinema.
MADRAS is a Dalit cinema. It is a political cinema. One can clearly feel the sensitivity and pride of the director towards the characters and their lives. One hardly finds a politically wrong shot, a line or an expression in the film. The screenplay of the second half may not match the first half; because the first half is too good.
I like the characters, the setting, the love, the action, the humor, the innocence, the anger, the dignity, the persistence, the aspiration and the hope the film brings out. It is also a film that celebrates the lives of urban poor. It does not demand pity. It does not provoke hatred. It pins you down and forces you to open up to the stories of black people of Chennai who have their language, culture, food, customs, rituals, aesthetics and a way of life.
Chennai is not just coffee, cricket, karnatic music, bharathanatyam and idli. It is also about beef, fish curry,rap dance, tappattam and football. The film MADRAS talks about the “other” Madras which hardly gets represented in the popular Tamil film or any other media with respect and joy.
The film is about a huge wall located in a Dalit settlement in Chennai through which the local political leaders want to dominate the inhabitants of the locality. The film brings out the struggle of the Dalit youngsters who want to become independent from the clutches of the party politics which always looks at them as a vote bank or a mob.
There are strong women characters, who are not glamor queens or item numbers or weak crying babies. They are thinking individuals who have their opinions, the will power and fun. There is so much love in the film between friends, lovers, married people, parents and among the community. There is a rap dance group which represents the dance culture of north Madras.
There have been plenty of Tamil films made by "star" directors which insult, betray, hurt and type cast women, children, elderly people, workers, poor, mentally and physically challenged and other marginalized people. MADRAS is particularly excellent as it takes one step ahead in portraying the original inhabitants of Madras!
I also appreciate Karthi, the actor who has done the role of Kali, the protagonist for acting in the film as it has increased the production value and reach of the film MADRAS. You can see the film had a valid financial support while making as well as in promotion.
After a series of "new wave" Tamil films showing youngsters as irresponsible, violent, machismo and alcoholic, MADRAS for a change shows youngsters who want to take care of their family, who care about the society, who want to come up in the lives and who want to have decent and calm life.
Interestingly most of the recent machismo films were based on young men from backward caste background. They were also made by the directors from those backgrounds as well. MADRAS is about Dalit young men. It is also made by a Dalit filmmaker, if I am not wrong.
No wonder PMK leaders and other backward (!) caste leaders worry about Dalit boys in jeans and sun glasses!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Screening of Amudhan R.P. films at Visag!

Screening of Amudhan R.P.’s films at Visakhapatnam!

Jointly organized by
Environmental Film Society & Vizag Film Society.
Date: 21 September 2014; Time: 10 am
Venue: Builders association hall, Tycoon Hotel 4th floor, near Siripuram Jn. Visakhapatnam.


1) The Road
10 minutes; Tamil with English subtitles; 2008
Who owns the highways? When foreign direct investment and multinational Indian companies take over the road with heavy funding for construction and expansion who owns them finally? Do the villagers who were robbed off their lands own it? What about the school children? When the houses and trees are bulldozed along with the deities, Hitler’s dream can also be implemented in India.

2) Seruppu (Footwear)
64 minutes; Tamil with English subtitles; 2006
This film portrays the life and struggle of the inhabitants of Dharmanathapuram, an old slum in Tiruchirappalli with the combination of ethnographic and point of view style.

The protagonists are dalits/untouchables/harijans involved in making footwear for their livelihood, which is their traditional caste based occupation. They are also Catholics and that religious identity “officially prohibits” them from getting benefits such as reservation/quota in education and jobs, scholarship for students, and other measures that are otherwise available for fellow “Hindu” dalits under the same Indian constitution.

Besides the external trouble, they also face discrimination within the church as their fellow Catholics who happened to be “upper castes” practice untouchability and hegemony over the lower caste Christians. Also the entry of multinational companies because of globalization and privatization deprive them the market share, apart from the apathy shown by both the state and central governments who are in the process of slowly stopping all the support mechanism that has been guaranteed to the small scale and cottage industries in India.

3) Hey Mr.Gandhi, Leave the Indians Alone!
28 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2011
3 villages near Madurai in south India will be robbed off 1500 acres of fertile lands by Special Economic Zone (SEZ) a chain of no-tax zones to promote industrialization initiated by Government of India across the country. People are being forced to leave the lands that were part of their lives for generations.

The filmmaker will be there to introduce the films and for post screenings discussions!

Amudhan R.P.