Ratnam’s work leads Indian run at Tokyo Film Festival
October 21 2015 12:30 AM
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MOZART OF MADRAS: A R Rahman

By Gautaman Bhaskaran

Three Indian movies will travel to the Tokyo International Film Festival, which kicks off tomorrow. These include Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani in Tamil, starring Nitya Menen and Dulquer Salmaan, Irrfan Khan-produced Kaash and Umesh Aggarwal’s Jai Ho.
To be part of the World Focus section, O Kadhal Kanmani will have its Japanese premiere in Tokyo.
Ratnam’s work is an unconventional tale of romance mapped out in Mumbai, and weaves its lyrical tale through the fabric of the city’s drastically bipolar persona. Set against the backdrop of Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, the movie is contemporary, young, vibrant and colourful, much like the metropolis, capturing its many moods and faces. The film deals with today’s youth, their attitude towards man-woman relationship — all set against the older values of tradition and marriage. It delves deep into the psyche of this generation.
The second movie, Kaash (If Only), is in Hindi and English. Directed by Mira Nair’s nephew, Ishaan Nair, and produced by Irrfan Khan, it stars Kalki Koechlin as a French traveller. Ishaan Nair’s debut film explores the endless heartbreaking possibilities of chance in urban India. Frustrated with his troubled relationship, Aadil — a dreamy young photographer — sets off to meet a girl he has been corresponding with over the internet. Far from the urban dystopia of Mumbai, he falls into Khushali’s simple world of earthly delights. In her, he finds the strains of Samira, his former love. Tormented between the past and the present, Kaash is the beautifully crafted journey of a boy exploring love, himself, and the endless possibilities that life affords.
Umesh Aggarwal’s Jai Ho is on the Mozart of Madras, AR Rahman. Aggarwal will explore the evolution of Rahman’s style — a fusion of eastern sensibilities and western technology. However, it will not be a biopic. The man who has till date given 120 film scores, Rahman won an Oscar for Best Original Music Score in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
The Indian entries are not part of the Festival’s Competition.
The Competition  will have six world premieres, including Turkish director Mustafa Kara’s Cold Of Kalandar, Hao Jie’s My Original Dream from China and Thai movie-maker Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s Snap.
More importantly, the Competition will have three Japanese titles — the first-ever occasion since 2004 that so many films from the country have found this berth. These will be Kohei Oguri’s Foujita, Yoshihiro Nakamura’s The Inerasable and Koji Fukada’s Sayonara.
The other titles are either Asian or international premieres. Plots dealing with war and the influx of refugees are two common threads running through the Competition fare.
Another interesting section in the Festival will be called “Masters of J-Horror”. It will screen the chilling works of the three most influential directors in this genre, Hideo Nakata, Takashi Shimizu, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. These movies will be shown late at night on October 28, the darkness adding to the suspense and thrill.  
The J-Horror genre has been extremely popular the world over — with even Hollywood paying tribute to it with remakes of great J-Horror films such as Ring and One Missed Call.
More than 20 years have passed since the J-Horror boom began, and 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the legendary horror movie, Don’t Look Up, directed by  Nakata.
Nakata, who helmed films like Ghost Theatre (2015) and his groundbreaking works — Ringu (1998) and Dark Water (2002) — terrified audiences worldwide and made horror a household name in Japan.
Some of Shimizu’s horror movies were The Grudge (2004) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (2014).
Kurosawa’s Pulse (2000) won the international critics’ award at Cannes, and his Bright Future was part of the Festival’s Competition in 2002.  In May, his Journey To The Shore clinched the Best Director Award in the A Certain Regard section. Kurosawa’s  Retribution went to Venice in 2006.
The Festival runs till October 31.

In the spirit of Rudhramadevi
Gunasekhar’s bilingual historical costume drama in Tamil and Telugu, Rudhramadevi, certainly captures the spirit and valour of the 13th century queen who ruled Kakatiya, a small kingdom in what is today Andhra Pradesh. But her coronation was not smooth, for her father and king had to hide for many years the fact that his child and heir to the throne was not a son. In times when people were averse to a queen as head, and with many detractors to the kingdom waiting to grab it, a clever prime minister, Shiva Deviah (played by Prakash Raj with admirable ease and dignity), helps Rudhramadevi (Anushka Shetty, who for long disguises as a boy/man and calls herself Rudhradeva) through wily statecraft to retain her hold over the kingdom.
Rudhramadevi in 3D is picture perfect, with hauntingly expansive visuals by cinematographer Ajayan Vincent, the most colourful of costumes and ravishingly beautiful women. Admittedly, Shetty blooms into a woman only towards the very end of the 158-minute film, with the earlier part seeing her as a rather plain boy/man.
But when the switch does take place, a palace dance and song (with Illaiyaraaja’s music) and a romance with a neighbouring prince, Chalukya Veerabhadran (Rana Daggubati), give ample scope for Shetty’s Rudhramadevi to appear gorgeous, a resplendent look that she does not let go even in the final battle scene — where she rides atop an elephant with a “trishul” in hand, looking every inch a figure, who has descended on earth to vanquish evil.
The battle scene in 3D captures not as much as the bloody gore as the patterns the two opposing armies — one defending Kakatiya and the other invading it — create on the battlefield. While soldiers from one form a snake-like shape, the opposing men spread out like an eagle, and the aerial shots of these formations are just magnificent.
Admittedly, on a closer look, the sword fights tend to look a trifle artificial, and the computer graphics in especially sequences where huge boulders are rolled down to crush men, are not quite up to the mark.
However, the smooth story-telling, an impressive performance by Prakash Raj and Nitya Menen, in a small role as Rudhradeva’s wife (a marriage to fool people that Rudhradeva is indeed a man), do not allow the narrative to sag at any point.
But, Shetty, sadly, does not pass the test, looking dead most of the time.

♦ Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Tokyo International Film Festival, and may be emailed at [email protected]

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