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    The Price You Gotta Pay

    It was five in the morning. It was a balmy October day and the trees stood still. The town of Chittoor was pregnant with expectation. Chiranjeevi's Raakshasudu was releasing that day. The Chiru fans' association had arranged for a special show. Quite a few people I knew were going for the special show. I wished I knew someone that would get me inside MSR movie hall for that show but I wasn't lucky. But, that didn't dampen my spirit. Srinivas and I were ready with our star: a bamboo and cardboard affair with an assortment of Chiranjeevi's pictures stuck on it. That was the tradition then. If you were a real fan, you installed a star (no matter how small) in the movie hall. On day one of the release.

    I have to tell you about movie stars and their fans in Andhra Pradesh. Guys were fanatical about their heroes. In 1984, fans of Superstar Krishna created a record of sorts by erecting the biggest star for the release of Kanchu Kagada, outside Srinivasa movie hall. The imposing star made of bamboo and gray paper stood more than 25 ft tall. I don't think that record was ever broken. If that wasn't crazy enough, they showered rose petals, money, and what not when their beloved star appeared on screen. The movie hall would erupt and explode what with hundreds of fans screaming. I know of people that were injured when a one-rupee coin hit them. Fans would take over the balcony, the high price ticket area, days on end. It was easy to shower flowers and coins from the balcony. If you were one of those budget types that chose to sit in 'First Class,' well, a coin or a coconut just might hit you.
    Altercations broke out between fans of different stars quite often. Chiru vs Balayya was the most debated topic. All fans had the numbers on their fingertips. How many centers recorded 100 days? Fuck the 100 days, what were the collections? Oh! Balayya's fans forced the movie hall to run the movie for 100 days! He can't dance! Chiru is dark! Balayya wears high heels to hide his short stature. And so on. I know a guy that broke his nose because he forgot Balayya�s fans outnumbered us and yet, he commented on Balayya. Pow! Came the punch. We kids called it 'Mukku Pachhadi' (Nose Salad) in Chittoor.

    Srinivas and I biked it to MSR Movie Land, on his dad's ancient Hercules bicycle. He sat in the 'Carrier' behind the rider's seat, holding to our 'Star'. And I pedaled hard. By the time we reached the movie hall, it was already six. There were a million stars occupying every nook and corner of the movie hall's facade. We ran like our lives depended on it. The special show crowd was already there. The show was about to start.
    'We'll get tickets for the evening show. Don't worry.' Srini said. I was disappointed nevertheless. What kind of fans were we! But what can a couple of 12 year olds do? We had trouble finding a nice spot for our tiny star. It appeared tiny now. There were bigger, better stars. Some even had serial electric bulbs that blinked as if mocking us.

    Just as we were climbing a wall to reach the massive billboard that faced the road, a security guard screamed 'Get the fuck down you bastards!' And he pointed a stone at us. As I slid down the wall, I slipped, and hurt my leg. The skin on my knee peeled. It was white one moment and in the next, it filled up all crimson. I bit my lip and faced the security guy and said, " association. They asked us to put this star."
    "Of course, why don't you convince me you are Chiranjeevi himself? And, what star are you talking about!?" He said and laughed. I hadn't noticed, but Srini had dropped the star and it was crushed beyond recognition. The special show crowd had trampled it. I stared at Srini for a moment that lasted forever. He was devastated. He adjusted his spectacles a million times. And we both broke down. The tears broke free, washed my face. The special show started. It was just the two of us. We were about to leave when we heard the security guy screaming at us.
    "Park your cycle. Do you have money?" He said.
    We were perplexed.
    "Don't just stand there like idiots. Get in. Sit on the floor in front of the front row. All for two bucks! Now!"

    We paid the security chap and parked the cycle. We flew through the tiny opening in the Iron grill gate. I almost tripped and fell again. That's when I noticed that the cut on my knee was bleeding profusely. The security guy signaled to the usher guarding the Entry door. And, we walked in and squatted on the ground, right under the huge screen, next to a bunch of gypsies. They were smoking beedies. Some were chewing scented tobacco and spitting all over the place. One gypsy woman was trying to feed her wailing baby. We didn't care. My knee hurt a lot. But as the lights went off, and the screen came alive, I felt no pain. We didn't let our hero down. That's what mattered then.

    When we were riding back home, I asked Srini
    'Do you think all this trouble was worth it?' I was sitting at the back and he was riding.
    He mulled over it for a moment and said,
    'There's a price for every experience. And what you get is a priceless memory.'

    I honestly don't know what the heck he meant, I mean, not too many 12 year olds spoke like that. But that line stuck with me.

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    99 Movie Review

    A low-profile movie (by Bollywood standards) that has no real star power releases. It doesn't get too much media attention (by Bollywood standards again). But slowly but surely it creates a buzz. A friend mentions it on the phone. Colleagues talk about it. No, they are not gushing about it or anything. It is a calm acknowledgment of a good movie. It has grossed 7.24 Crores under two weeks. To me that's an indication that people enjoyed the movie. It is solid testimony to the fact that if you stuck to fundamentals and create a rewarding, engaging experience for the viewer, you will succeed. Star or no star. Media hype or no hype.
    99 the film
    99 is a laugh-out-loud funny movie that tells the story of two young men that want to make it big (hit a century, if you will). Centered around the match-fixing, betting controversy, this tightly scripted tale is a laugh riot. Mahesh Manjrekar who plays the bookie called AGM will be long remembered for his role. Except for Soha Ali Khan who plays Pooja, each character in the movie pulls it weight and helps in making 99 a cohesive, endearing, and thrilling movie experience. Cyrus Broacha is a revelation on the big screen!

    Directors DK and Raj painstakingly recreate the mad mad years gone by... when the mobile phone was still a fad. When polyphonic ringtones were not mainstream yet. The attention to detail was fantastic.

    The humor is not the typical filmy slapstick but is more like funny situations and one-liners that we come across in our day-to-day life. You will relate to it. Also the irreverent, Guy Ritchie-meets-Tarantino style kind of worked out.

    However, the first half slightly drags but in retrospect I understood that it is that way because the directors were setting it all up for a racy, thrilling second half. Save the best for the last I guess.

    Watch out for DK and Raj. Their best is yet to come. I am guessing their second or third Bollywood venture will make history. Good luck boys!

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    A laid back suburb of Madurai. A gang of friends that have no (real) jobs. A politician. A girl. The rich, rural 80s life. And, um, violence. Yeah. That sums it up. Is that it? No. The 80s backdrop is what makes the movie Subramaniapuram intriguing and watchable. I hear quite a few disapproving groans out there, but to me the movie started with a lot of promise and fizzled out in the second half. The 80s backdrop alone is not enough to make it a cohesive story. But boy did I love the 80s theme! Director Sasi Kumar uses Ilayaraja's music cleverly to tap into your nostalgia. I have to take my hat off for the attention to detail Sasikumar pays in creating the 80s theme. And I don't know why, but I love that girl. I love the way she rolls her eyes while flirting with the hero. Her face lights up with a thousand titillating tales. This girl's got a future Jack. Mark my words. Unless she is devoured by the mediocrity that ails our movie makers. The boys in the movie are, well, ordinary. Don't want to waste screen space on them. I really hope that one day they learn to act and not talk like drunk Langurs.

    James Vasanth's music is dreamy and poignant. But of course. He uses a lot of material from Ilayaraja. That song Kangal Irundhal is a take off on Chinna Kannan Azhaikiraan. Me thinks.

    Sasikumar, how does a jobless, infatuated youth turn into a monster? He needs strong motivation. I am from a violent small town and I know how it was. But it takes a lot for one to become a killer. The excuse of 'they made me beg for my life from a woman' does not stick sir and is cliched. You became lazy or you were too anxious to finish your script. What kind of a love affair is that? The hero doesn't even want to hold her hand? Ganja Karuppu's character does not stick either. Sometimes a simple closure is the best way out, instead of scrounging for, and ending up with, a brittle 'twist-in-the-tale' closure that is as convincing as lipstick on a pig.

    I don't agree with people complaining about the gore and the violence. What the fuck! The real world is worse. If you really don't like gore, close your eyes when the scene arrives. And shut up.

    P.S. I am glad this new breed of directors is trying to tell captivating stories unlike the so called veterans like KamalHassan. Kamal has become self-congratulatory and suffers from a serious case of delusion. I hope this new breed does not succumb to the hypocrisy of Kodambakkam. Good luck gentlemen.

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    Sudish Kamat breaks up with Chiyyaan Vikram

    Sudish Kamath is pissed off with actor Vikram. Now, I don't know either of them personally but the way his post panned out, accusing Vikram of being a self-congratulatory, hot-headed asshole, I am left to assume that Sudish is washing dirty underwear in public. Sudish tries hard to couch his raving but his eloquence (or the lack of it thereof) does not come to his rescue. So he tries to hide behind journalistic ethos. A good, principled journo is one who does not tell us that Sudish.

    I have a question, if Sudish had picked up an altercation with one of his buddies, not someone famous, but an ordinary Joe, would Sudish have gone on to post a letter on his blog? You tell. So the cynic in me tells me that Sudish is trying to gain some sympathy, some popularity... but you know what? This is going to blow up on his face. That said, Sudish need not have gone on the 'friend' trip when he is actually pissed off. Sudish you are trying to steal his shoes while licking his feet. Make up your mind. You want the shoes or his feet? There is nothing called half a fuck my friend. See how the Kollywood strikes back. Don't you know what happened to Aachi Manorama? And you think you can get away with this.

    Now, wait Sudish. I am not a fan of Vikram. I don't know him personally. I don't know you. And, I think you write like a stuck up virgin 70 year old man. Can you take this criticism and not lose your cool? Heh!

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    R.I.P Raghuvaran

    It is not often that an actor like Raghuvaran comes by and captures the imagination of a generation of movie fans. He was a breath of fresh air: in a landscape that was dominated by stereotypes and in a time when exaggeration was the norm. He didn't have the wannabe-flamboyance of Kamal Hassan or the in-your-face antics of Rajinikanth. Nor did he belong to the old school of Sivaji Ganesan. He charted a new path called subtlety. Though most of us didn't understand what it was then, we were enchanted by this tall, lanky actor who for once appeared like a real person on the otherwise regressive Tamil screen.

    Take for example, his role of a troubled father of a dying child in Manirathnam's Anjali. It was a stunning performance to say the least. However, he was better known for his villain roles. I choose not pick any but I can't help talk about Bhavani in Ram Gopal Verma's Shiva (Telugu). Raghuvaran was mind-blowing as the bad guy in it. He shed the baggage of generations of stereotypes and blazed new trails as a bad guy.

    I remember watching him on TV as Madan interviewed him a few months (or a year back?) and as the interview was concluding something in me told me that Raghuvaran was not going to come back like I wanted him to. I hope he finds peace at least after he has crossed over to another world. Or maybe he was one of those that needed pain to thrive, hurt to survive, and misery to exult. Raghu, I pray that you find what you've been looking for, for far too long. May you rest, in peace or otherwise.

    P.S. In a display of shoddy journalism, the media couldn't even get Raghuvaran's age right. Some say it is 49 and some 60. Sad!

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    Screen Writing Commandments

    Writing a script is relatively easy. The real work is in preparing, building and "arc-ing" out the story and defining the characters. Once the "blueprint" is in place, the writing itself is usually a welcome enterprise. Many writers have trouble being patient enough with this process and it can cost them dearly in the long run.


    It feels good when someone else echoes your thoughts.

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    If you were to make a Tamil movie...

    ...something that's based on the theme of vengeance, what would be your storyline? Leave a comment.


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    For Tamil speaking readers only:

    "En peru Madan, aana friends surukkama Subramanya Raju nu koopduvaanga."

    From the timeless Michael Madana Kamarajan

    Do you remember any other lines from this movie? If yes leave a comment.


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    Desperately Seeking KingKong

    Oh no not that monkey. I am talking about this midget actor from Tamil and Telugu movies (late 80s through 90s). Apparently he is a super star now, thanks to the Internet, Kingsely tells us.
    Why? This is why!

    A million views! Wow!

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