Friday, March 11, 2005

RAAM A wonderful movie watching experience!

I happened to see Mounam Pesiyadhae one and a half years back. It was a very simple love story of a tough guy who hates to fall in love, finally does the inevitable. Though the film was a love subject (genre), the director had a nice touch of deliberate misdirection and twist in the tail, more in touch with thrillers. Then I wondered what if this director could indeed make a thriller. After 1-1/2 years, Ameer, the talented director makes my wish come true. This time around, he comes back with a thriller worth mentioning. Typical of a 'chela' (disciple) challenging the guru, Ameer proves that he is a master of both arts, that of conceiving deep and disturbing characters and that of weaving an intelligent screenplay moving at a good pace. He has thrown a challenge to his Guru-Director Bala, whose skill with the first art is all too well known.

When do you classify a movie as a great thriller? In my personal opinion, it is not when cars are chasing on the highway at breakneck speed, but when you feel a twitch that brings you to the edge of the seat while all the camera is doing is pan slowly across a landscape. In Raam the director has used all arms of the craft, photography, audiography, music, acting, backdrops, sets and editing in their fullest possible extent to cast a spell over the audience. The people behind the craft can feel really proud of the superlative work they have done.
Characterisation is an important aspect of story telling. To put in simple words, it is the art of looking at an actor on the screen and not relating to him/her as a 'Doctor', 'Advocate' or 'Policeman'. The character behind the stereotypes have to be identified by the audience and the moment they do, the movie watching moves on to the next level as you are not bored or irritated when oft repeated cliche lines come from the characters. In fact , you start believing in those characters and your cynicism is overcome by this sense of reality. If Director Bala scored by making central characters enjoyable and refreshing with elements of reality and imagination mixed in right proportions, here Ameer goes few paces further. In Raam, every constable in a police station is a unique character(the PC who asks inspector to spare the SI). His actors have delivered convincing portrayals right from the writer in the station to the lead character played by Jeeva. Full marks to Ameer for taking his sweet time and chiselling out each individual characters to the minutest of their detail.The characterisation of Raam is indeed a unique one. When Raam is introduced, one felt that hopefully it is not "Chithan" from Pithamagan. Thankfully the director has created a unique character who is a bundle of contradictions, yet comes across clearly to the viewer. the character of Umar played by Rahman is another worth mentioning. There is a dignity in the character,a sincerity and intelligence. Rarely you come across "Inspector" stereotypes portrayed with care and detail. For most part of the movie, Umar's character is the witness to the unfolding of the mystery. Hence portraying that character as one free of bias helps the viwer also in no small means. All other characters are etched with full care to detail and in this area, Ameer improves on what Bala began.
Screenplay of this movie is something very different for two reasons. Though the movie's screenplay reminds one of Andha Naal or Roshomon by Akira Kurosawa, Ameer has made some fine tuning so that the viewer is not completely confused in the end. Of late Manoj Night Shyamalan has brought in the "twist in the tail" with a lot of misdirection (misleading the viewer so that the twist in the tail will come as a huge surprise) pattern. Thankfully Ameer does not succumb to all that temptation and sticks to keeping it simple. Where the screenplay works magic is though different versions and accounts of witnesses are recorded, they do not change the nature of the chief character (Raam) before the eyes of the observer (character of umar the inspector) in any way. Rather they keep on adding parts to the whole. So as a result by the end of the movie, the screenplay dilligently assembles one full character in all its details, its emotions and its contradictions. Though the inspector questioning the witnesses to get to the truth about one character and one incident is all too similar to Roshomon, the character of the involved parties does not change. Second reason for lauding the screenplay by Ameer is the way at various scenes I found myself thinking, will it be like that? For example, regarding the role of Saradha, the mother of Raam, one gets to hear various information and the viewer (Umar in the story, us the audience in the theatres) is forced to construct a mental picture to which we add to or subtract from elements after hearing a dialogue or seeing an image on screen. This experience has happened to myself very rarely while watching a movie. Only other time it happened was when I saw Kevin Spacey in "The Usual Suspects". It has happened to me a couple of times reading Jayakanthan's Oru Manidhan, Oru Veedu, Oru Ulagam. So full marks here as well to Ameer.
Performance deserves special mention in this movie. The success of their performance is universally acknowledged and as I mentioned earlier, even the minutest of character makes a lasting impression and contributes immensely to the unfolding of the mystery in Raam. First time, there is a thamizh movie where not even a single character can be termed as unwanted in the story. Jeeva as Raam has done a terrfic job. He has changed himself to get into the soul of the character admirably. Rahman makes a comeback as umar and his effortless acting is indeed impressive. Murali who has innumerable performances in the malayalam screen comes up with another subtle essay aided by the voice of Rajesh. I wonder if Rajesh himself could have essayed this role, but full marks to murali for coming up with a remarkable performance. The tension between these two characters is aptly brought out on the screen. Ghazala as Karthiga and Sakthi as her brother bring out full essence of their characters and put up good show. Charanya as Saradha who is the distraught mother of Raam etches out a touching performance without overdoing on histrionics.Ganja Karuppu as Vaazhavandhaan has made a name for himself as comedian in this movie and heartening aspect is that his character does not sidetrack the main story and therefore doubly enhancing the humour effect.

Technical aspects of the movie are of world class. The biggest compliment to all those involved behind the scenes is they never got noticed on the screen. Yet Ramji's lens and camera that slipped into and out of the haunted house,hils and lakes of Kodaikanal and the house of Raam and present all of them equally beautifully. Special credits to Raja Muhammadhu in charge of editing, Lakshmi Narayanan in charge of sound mixing for DTS, A.C.Pillay for the sets(especially that house! wonderful) and last but not the least, Yuvan Shankar Raja who is scaling new heights in music. Yuvan SHankar Raja's sense of styling th music according to script is in line with his father, the legendary Ilaiyaraaja. We hope that this team of Ameer and Yuvan continue along the same lines as Balu Mahendra and Ilaiyaraaja.
Human beings are the only species that have externalised instincts and evolutionary intelligence as knowledge and therefore have no need to transmit biologically. They do it through Guru-Sishya tradition. We see the example of it in the style of Ameer, who has inculcated the best of BaluMahedra and Bala and blended them with his own vision to create a new style of movie making. Bouquets from eminent film critics and film makers are bound to shower Ameer on this superlative effort. I wish this"Guru-Chela" tradition all the best. Looking to see Raam another time and anticipating the next project of Ameer and his teamwork production house. All in all interesting movie watching experience.

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