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Painting the Screen

All these years into socializing, I have observed one important thing. Whatever be the topic the allegory seems to fall on painting. Be it music, literature or any other distinct art you could name the comparison seems to be with painting at some point or the other. I for once off late in my thoughts, when I get awed by a piece of music started remarking in that way too – “the way he pulled up the vibrato and his strokes; gosh at times it seemed as if his hand had turned into a brush and he was painting a masterpiece with his magnificent strokes.” Like the art, creating an art itself is an art – it’s more of a visual spectacle. The beauty of the swift movements of the hand, the sway here and there, the bend of the brush to create the art in itself is a treat to watch. And that exactly is what this topic is about: Painting the screen.

Being a film enthusiast; a person whose religion if you may ask will always be films, I have come to look for the visual painting more importantly in a film. It is what many critics (reviewers to be morbidly true) call “form” “presentation” et al. This phenomenon is what dictates the amount of attention a person gives to the idiocy that is being displayed to him. As rightfully said by Mani Rathnam – film is all about how you show it and it should always be that way. Here I would like to point out that am not referring to Avatar and it’s “whatever it is” telling. Avatar was a display of tool and it stops there itself. It is an example of “showing” and not “how you are showing it”. For the skim-through readers I meant; while the latter has an idea and its all about appreciating the beauty in which it was shown the former remains only as a pretty doll.

A film need not have a strong baseline or what you technically call it “thread”, but the idea has always been about how you are showing it. This tool has been used in various forms: from showing allegory –what we off late call the directorial touch to beautification of the content. It wouldn’t have been mesmerizing had it was only about Devika playing the veena while singing a great song (Sonnathu neethaana) in Nenjil Or Aaalayam. It was about the swift movement of her hands the cry of her dry eyes the silence of Muthuraman and the excellent camera angles. This is what I call “how you tell it”. Recently I saw Paiya, a movie I knew would suck (okay people I do go into a movie hall with presumptions but it has got nothing to do with my opinion on a film – I make it a point to call a spade a spade) but I didn’t expect the visuals to be this bad. After conversing with few people, I was horrified to learn, they all loved the way the songs were picturised. Before you come to conclusion here – what I found bad about the visuals was that, the idea that sounded very pleasing, but it didn’t come out the way it was supposed to (for people who want to question: how the hell you do know how it was supposed to look – Get lost); and my shock was how come people couldn’t see that. In most of the songs I kept thinking – wow, had it been done well it would have looked great.

In musicals like Paiya, the choreography (not typical dancing) dictates the final output. The order of the present is going for the slow-motions and the beautiful arches and postures that the people display in them. The weak smile, the glimpse of her eyes, the dancing hairs are being concentrated more. This film falls under the beautification of scene and scenes to show beautification that I was talking about earlier. In “katrukulle” song from Sarvam, picturised by the most daring song visualizer of this generation, Vishnu Vardhan, he does what I would term it – painting the screen. The way how the camera turns in the opposite direction to Aarya as he slowly leans towards Trisha; the way how Trisha performs the blushing and turning towards us scene (intentionally to give a view of the obvious through her single strap top) as Aarya nears her, displaying great amount of intimacy that would only come if she is oblivious about her exposure; the way the sun glimpses between the pair as Aarya romanticizes the walk of Trisha towards him, clearly is a benchmark for others who wants to go in the path of “scenes for beautification”. While the example of “sonnathu nee thaana” is for visual poetry, “katrukulla” is a VISUAL poetry in strict sense.

With Paiya, Lingusamy apparently had tried to create VISUAL poetry. As “tan thane tan thane tane …” starts he wanted to show a guy breaking free and dance to the tune of rain but all we could see was the free-form movement of Karthi’s side packs. Even though Tammanah does a neat job in the same song with her chivalrous movements that showed poise, the amateurish act that will be up to display if a first timer like me were to dance is what comes on screen when Karthi performs – and they remark he has great screen presence. Okay, if you were to argue that the accolades were for his screen presence that doesn’t require dancing then what about the all important walk he does at in the interval block (or his introduction scene – another important scene for a masala movie)? It should have displayed fiery power and suave; but all I could see was the imbalance act that his father is infamous for. This imbalance act doesn’t stop with the talkie portion and continues into the song too. As the line goes “unn vizhiyaale …” in the song “en kadhal solla” were Yuvan climbs to another scale signifying the break free attitude of the protagonist, Karthi actually breaks the rhythm of the dance and does a tripping act that again reminds me of painting the screen aspect of a song. A good dancer is one whose body motion if drawn should depict a beautiful diagram (again reference to painting) even with the hell breaking lose ruthra thaandavam kinda dance. It is what dancers call “measured steps”. How else can I describe the audacious misadventure kinda dance at the beginning of “suththe suthuthe boomi”. To be true I wouldn’t have been surprised had someone got fainted seeing the ugly posture (yes that was indeed like that – I usually don’t insult actors and I feel Karthi was a revelation in Aayirathil Oruvan). This seems to be problems in almost all the songs barring, “poongatre”. However Lingusamy even if he gets the points correct, like –the location of the arc, or the curve that the dancer creates with his movements, he misses out with the unwanted placement, like in the filler shots of “thuli thuli mazhaiyai” song.

Like how Selvaragahvan jumps from one theme to another in his past 3 films am jumping to painting the scene ie; visual spectacle in scenes. I mentioned Selvaraghavan intentionally because the best example I could come up with at this time of the day is the preclimax sequence of Pudhupethai (My favourite Selva film after Aadavari Matalaku Ardhalu Verule – which again was a full length example of how to tell). Everyone around me was complaining about the violence in the film but I could only see art in them. The mad rush to kill all the people at the entrance of the bungalow was captured concentrating on the emotions of Danush. If you remember he shows the place to be fogged and all white and as the fight ensues the blood paints the screen red and that at the end clears the air, symbolizing the violent path of those people. It certainly is not a message but, the directorial touch, the thought is what uplifts and shifts the focus from violence to art. In the scene before that, with nothing more than a camera inside a dustbin and Danush face popping inside the bin, for nearly 3 minutes Selva arrest us with the face expressions of Danush which you would really appreciate even if the language is unfamiliar to you. Such is the power of “how you tell”. For the same reason, I respectfully don’t like Dil Se; created by the man who perfected the craft of “screen poetry”.

PS: I haven’t watched the 1st 3 movies of Mani Rathnam and Dil Se is the only movie I don’t like of his, closely followed by Bombay for its bull shit climax and village part – both (of Bombay) juvenile and half backed.

PPS: For they who know, I copied this format from Baradwaj Ranjan and hopefully this plagiarism ends with this post. J


saravanan said…
after reading this atleast people will search for one song!

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