Formulaic yet Surprising: MOANA (2016)

moanaWell, I must say I approached the film with the old misgivings and contempt I’ve specially reserved for Disney (and of that kind) products. The change of setting, though, is welcome. The bodies of the characters broke stereotypes yet crafted new ones. For a start, the protagonist looked healthy. And the delineation of the hair, achieving milestones ever since Brave, was dazzling here. The deranged rooster as sidekick is hilarious, and especially so since I knew one of its kind, unbelievably daft and unfathomable. The story of the young adult girl having a ‘dream’ and pursuing it no matter what her father says or any stick-in-the-mud detractors might say, and finally achieving success and glory — same-old theme — is predictably boring.

That is, until Maui aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson started to sing “You’re Welcome”. The quirky animation, the genius of the “animated” tattoos (the only hand drawn animation in the film, ref. Wikipedia), and the cheeky suavity of the lyrics, found me actually, unconsciously enjoying it. I soon retained my composure, however, and was back at nit-picking, when alas! Continue reading

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Idealism and its Aftermaths – ZOOTOPIA (2016)

Zootopia.jpgIt appears that I’m simply against animated film produced by mainstream, popular animation studios. So I found it hard to ignore the hardened prejudice that gloated maliciously at the premise of American-Dream-turned-sour-but-yet-somehow-managed-to-save-face-due-to-the-individualism-of-the-hardworking-underdog, or precisely, the hardworking bunny rabbit. While the story was one of empowerment and social mobility, and therefore, the same-old, I was delighted at the meta-generic Godfather spoof and the Sloth bureaucracy. The Fox is charming and suave, basically the same-old Flynn Rider, with an adorable suave shrewdness, bad only due to circumstances, and not incorrigible; the Bunny whats-her-name naïve and optimistic like those rote female protagonists representing a better future and converting the beast into prince–in this case, good cop. Continue reading

Unquestionable: Review of DANGAL (2016)

Dangal, the new Aamir Khan production in collaboration with Disney studio, is in the tradition of Pink (2016), made under the ‘girls are great’ banner, but with lesser didacticism and better cinematic sense. Dangal is directed at the crude, patriarchal, institutionalized mindset characteristic of the average Indian man or woman, and, this is important, not at the enlightened, highbrow, nitpicking intellectual, like you or me. It is, first and foremost, an entertainer. And does it’s job well. 

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An Inquiry into Madness: A Feminist Reading of Manichitrathazhu

manichitra

In the ghost motif in Indian popular culture wherein, almost invariably, a woman lingers post-death seeking revenge, equipped with supernatural powers, there are usually two alternatives: the story garners sympathy for the ghost so that its aim is met and has been avenged properly, or, the ‘evil’ ghost is exorcised through traditional magic. In Manichitrathazhu (The Ornate Lock), both these aims are carried out with a clear departure from the conventional narrative. The psychiatrist, Dr Sunny allows the madness its full rein, before outwitting the patient using an unconventional technique of ‘exorcism’—not a coupling of science with traditional ritual, as the film says, but more of a mechanical ploy, in which science and tradition merely produce the backdrop. As the title itself makes explicit, the focus of the story is the ‘lock’, the confinement of madness, the secure manacling of the unpleasant, unknown mental forces within social acceptability. Continue reading