27th November, 2008
Today was a power-packed day in my schedule. No, it wasn’t any of the nosy internals or lab internal tests. I had planned to watch the new Bond flick, Quantum of Solace; and Gautam Menon’s Vaaranam Aayiram back to back with my best college buddies. Just to assure that nothing goes wrong on this D-Day, had bought the tickets the previous day itself! Bangalore’s chilly weather, with great help from the cyclone Nisha, all the more accentuated my “study later, watch just this one movie” attitude.! Morning show was to be 007 and matinee was Varanam Aayiram.
We were at the multiplex 15 minutes early, never mess around with timings, especially for a movie. I shall talk about 007 first and then Varanam.
Casino Royale, the first Ian Fleming book, ends with Bond’s wife, Vesper Lynd, dying after betraying him in a chase to nab the baddies; and Craig mouthing the golden words “My name is Bond, James Bond”. Quantum of Solace kicks off from where Casino Royale left with Bond seeking out the killer of Vesper; with a brilliantly picturised and mixed chase scene of Bond’s Aston Martin and an Alfa Romeo in Italy [two of my favourite cars], an opener reminiscent of the boat chase scene from The world is not enough. 007’s Aston Martin is wrecked completely in the process, much to my disappointment; I was nostalgic about the scene where Pierce Brosnan’s Bond gets his V12 Vanquish [Vanish for 007] from Q’s workshop in Die Another Day. This is followed by an interrogation scene of a guy from the Quantum organization, the guy who 007 abducts in his car and thereby the opening chase. Then comes a chase scene a la Bourne on Italy’s rooftops; the dedication of Craig as 007 is very evident as all the stunts are done by himself quite impeccably.
QOS has its moments and Bond’s satirical humour. The chases are brilliant. Though the boat chase scene was ordinary when compared to the opener in World is not enough. Casino Royale established Craig as a vulnerable Bond, and made him look more human. QOS merely shows him as a vengeance-seeking killing machine, seeking to avenge his wife’s death; so much that he doesn’t even give his friend, Matiz, a proper burial. I am not sure if this was done on purpose to show the transition in Bond’s character to a womanizing, cold, suave spy. But people who said Bond cannot be Blond, or that Craig is craggy have got it all wrong, he is here to stay.
Judi Dench is as usual good as M – she’s harsh with Bond at times and as Craig’s spy notes, acts like his mother; then in seconds she’s rattled when she realises the Secret Service has been infiltrated by a group they know nothing about. Being an ardent fan of Q and his gizmos, I missed him in QOS for the second time after CR. But, somewhere, somehow the film has lost its feel for what it is to be Bond. The Bond villain, which is as huge a responsibility as Bond himself; and the bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, are Thunda.! The Bourne movies seemed to be cooler than Bond 22! Somehow, I was neither shaken, nor stirred as I left the theatre; and I won’t be surprised if you too aren’t.
After doing some window shopping and ogling at the Apple products at the Apple store, we set out to catch Gautam Menon’s Vaaranam Aayiram. This is one movie which I had been looking forward to for the last 6 months, ever since the snapshots were out. It stars Surya in two roles, Simran, Sameera Reddy and Ramya.
Vaaranam Aayiram [VA] is a typical Gautham Menon film which is supposedly pretty close to his real life. It is a three hour long heavy sentiment drama, which has all the ingredients necessary for good cinema. The movie opens with the death of Surya’s father [Krishnan-Surya again] when he starts off on a rescue mission [as a major in the army]. The whole movie is his recollection of his father, Krishnan’s life and the impact he had on his own life.
The first part is the Surya-Simran romance, and the early life of Surya Jr. Surya’s dedication as an actor is unfathomable. Be it the school boy look, or the engineering college guy, or the guitar swinging lover boy, or the hardcore drug addict, and last but not the least, the army officer with his 6 packs, he slips easily into the different caps he dons in this movie. The first half goes off quickly with key content being Surya-Meghana [Sameera] love story and some splendid music by Harris Jayaraj. Tragedy strikes as Meghana is killed in the Oklahoma blasts. He is devastated and finds it very difficult to come to terms with reality, and thereby takes to drugs. But he comes out of it with support from his parents no rehab camp, mind you!] and goes on a path to self discovery. An incident where he becomes obsessed to save the life of a 5 year old kid brings out his true colours, and shows him what he truly wants to become in life. He later becomes a major in the army, and thus his missions.
Surya Senior is very subtle as the middle class man giving his everything to his family. VA has its special moments. Examples are: the scene where Surya is encouraged by Krishnan to bash up the local bully, the scene where he sees Meghana for the first time, the scene where he calls up home and cries that she is dead, his seething anger against the kidnappers, or the one where he tries hard to tell his grandson a story, but fails to do so as his Vocal Cords fail; are heart rendering. The dialogues stay in your memory for a long time to come, the music is haunting and the lyrics immaculate. The name Vaaranam Aayiram means “the strength of a thousand elephants”. It epitomizes the mental strength of the lead character, sometimes even when he loses his way in life.
On the slop side, the second half is a little dragged; and Surya keeps referring to Krishnan as ’Daddy’. I somehow don’t connect to that and sincerely feel ‘Appa’ would have sounded better. All said, this movie is a must watch, the sole reason being that it is good cinema; and that it has its heart in the right places…
PS : Thanks Hari for the help with the title for this post