Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa

Back in college while reading Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" one of the sections that stuck with me over time was the fact that one never is really very vocal about the obvious. If my memory serves me right the passage went "The sun rises from the east, but no one shouts that it rises from the east". And so when in Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya (VTV) Gautham Vasudev Menon's (GVM) latest movie the protagonists Kartik (Simbu) and Jessie (Trisha) decide that they will be "just friends" and keep repeating it over a space of a few scenes one realizes that over the rest of the movie they are going to be anything but just that. For before this conclusion to be "just friends" is reached Kartik travels to Allepey (but not before one of the endless self-referencing ode to other lovers who have traveled to the US for love) where he apologizes to Jessie for declaring his love to her to be an act of impulse and you notice as Jessica's eyes flicker that this is not what she had hoped for. And hence the vociferous declarations of being "just friends" which precedes yet another brilliant sequence shot in a train after the absolutely charming one in "Vaaranam Aayiram".

And let us make no mistake, this is a movie driven entirely on the weight of the conversations throughout the movie between Jessie and Kartik and occasionally between Kartik and Ganesh. (As an aside how long has it been since we have had such situational humor that Ganesh creates in the movie while at the same time staying relevant to the advancement of the plot.) It may not be entirely in the "Pulp Fiction" class, but I cannot recall any Tamil movies that have made me pay so much attention to the dialogue in the movie with me straining to not miss any word that is being spoken. Handled excellently by a director who is on much surer ground than either Minnale or Vaaranam Aayiram both of which we personally were very dis-satisfied with, especially since both promised so much but followed an all too familiar path.

GVM is probably to Tamil cinema what Imtiaz Ali is for Bollywood. And in what must be an astonishing parallel we see an almost Rashomon-esque story presented from the point-of-view of Kartik and so are left guessing as to what is the truth and what is a product of his imagination. A similar thing can be seen in the love story of Rishi Kapoor in Love Aaj Kal where we thought the whole black-and-white part of the movie may or may not be reality. It is also quite novel to see a Tamil heroine who wears normal clothes, seems to have a normal job and speaks Tamil the way it is spoken.

But there are still some discordant notes in the movie especially the part about the hero being a boxer and having the mandatory fight scene where one hero bashes up an army of goons. The sequence at the end of the movie where what we consider a holy tenet of film-making "Show-don't-tell" is violated while explaining the difference about what happened in the movie-within-the-movie and in VTV. That was a let down, almost seemed patronizing about the way the director thinks about his audience. The endless self-referencing petty jokes about his own movies was a source for irritation for us throughout the movie.

But these are minor quibbles about a movie which is so far above the average that we are seriously tempted to buy into the "Tamil New Wave" argument.

P.S : While we had immense respect for the ending, we have come to know that they are now running a modified ending in the theaters which makes me wonder about this post by Jai.

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