Tag Archives: Hitchcock

Birdman Review

Birdman Review – Birdman  or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a American Black comedy released in 2014. Riggan Thomson is a washed up Hollywood actor who is very famous for his role as a superhero by name Birdman. But he has given up the job of doing the role of a superhero and is giving everything into put up a show at the Broadway. The voice of Birdman constantly criticizes him for the decision he has taken.

The movie is constructed like a single shot for most part of the movie similar to the attempt Hitchcock had made in Rope. This treatment itself makes the movie special as it is not easy to put a continuous tone to such a complex screenplay. The performance of Michael Keaton is perfect and there is equally powerful performance by Edward Norton as a broadway actor who practices Method Acting.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu have taken the risk of keeping the climax open ended as according to them that would be the most powerful ending for the script rather than ending this in a logical way. Anything else I write here would be a spoiler.  You could watch this and draw your own interpretation.  There is a very interesting sequence in the movie where the lead actor is interacting with a famous critic and the dialogues have a very strong take against the stereotypical way a critic looks at creative work and they have nothing to lose.

High Points: Single shot construction for the movie, The Birdman sequence in Times Square, the screenplay and the performance of Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, the dialogues are pretty interesting.

Low Points: Not many low points apart from the fact that there is a risk of the audience not entirely connecting to the plot

Overall Birdman is a brilliant piece of work that would be remembered for a long time and would act as an inspiration for many new wave film makers.

Must Watch

S.S Vasan’s Chandralekha – A Milestone in Indian Cinema

S.S Vasan’s Chandralekha  – A milestone in Indian Cinema

In this week’s Friday Fundas I decided to write about a movie that is considered to be the milestone of Indian Cinema.

The movie name is Chandralekha which got released in the year 1948.

What is so special about this movie? Well this has been the most expensive movie made during its time. The movie was in production for five long years from 1943 to 1948. But the most interesting part is the perseverance, obsession and conviction of its producer / director S.S Vasan. I loved watching the latest movie Hitchcock which is based on Alfred’s Hitchcock’s filming of the Psycho. However after reading about S.S Vasan I found his story to be many folds challenging, visionary and what a true obsession of an individual could produce. Someone could make an interesting movie out of this one. Here is the summary of events (courtesy: Wikipedia)

After producing very successful movies Bala Nagamma and Mangamma Sapatham, S.S Vasan decided to produce an extravagant movie which would not have any budget constraints. He asked the story department of Gemini studios to come up with a story line but they failed to impress him with any story. Without having a story or plot ready S.S Vasan made a public announcement that his next movie would be Chandralekha which would be made on an extravagant budget. One of his story board artists Veppathur Kittoo developed a story based on a chapter from George W. M. Reynolds’ novel Robert Macaire which eventually got made as Chandralekha. During the 5 years of its production the script and cast underwent multiple changes. M.K Radha played one of the princes and Ranjan played the role of his younger brother who was also the villain of the movie. Initially the film was to be directed by Raghavachari who left the film in midway due to creative differences and S.S Vasan who was only a producer till then took up his first ever directorial venture. The film had circus scenes and the technology of zoom lenses were not available during those days to show the expression of the lead heroine Chandralekha played by T.R Rajakumari flying on a trapeze. In order to capture her expression the cinematographer Ramnoth used a crane at that height to capture her expression clearly. He took 20 shots and chose the best one.

Another interesting trivia is when they were scouting for an actor for the role of the bodyguard of the hero, a struggling stage artist Villupuram Chinniah Pillai Ganeshamurthy wanted to do the role. He also grew long hair for the role. But S.S Vasan rejected him and said he is unsuited for films and asked him to find a different profession. Villupuram Chinniah Pillai Ganeshamurthy later went on to become Sivaji Ganesan one of the best actors in Indian Cinema who won many accolades for his acting including the most prestigious award of Chevalier title from the French government. S.S Vasan had cast Seetharaman who was later known as Jawar Seetharaman for the character.

The film is also known for its extravagant dance sequence on drums which occurs during the climax of the movie. This involved 400 dancers who had practiced daily for about 6 months before they did the final performance. The production cost of the song itself was equal to production cost of a Tamil movie in those times. Here is the video of the song.  You can guess the amount of effort it would have gone into this.

The movie’s production cost increased day by day and S.S Vasan had to let sell off his wealth and jewels to complete the movie. During these five years he ignored his family responsibilities as well. Finally the movie was done in Rs. 30 lakhs (3 million Rupees). This was only next to the cost of producing a Hollywood movie at that time. The movie was made in Tamil and when it got released it had a very good response from the audience but however it could not recover the production cost. So immediately S.S Vasan made a Hindi version of the movie with some minor change in the cast and released it all over India in the same year and it was a super hit. Finally the movie made a booking of Rs. 1 crore  (10 million rupees). This was the first time ever someone proved movies made in one part of India can be marketed and earns more revenue by releasing it in other parts in different language.

You would find many such gem of movie makers when you read through Indian film history who were no less creative than the likes of Hitchcock, George Lucas, Kurosawa. They made movies which had set a bench mark and the Indian Cinema was never the same as before.

Friday Fundas: McGuffin

McGuffin – Also referred as MacGuffin is a plot device which is used in many of the suspense, thrillers or adventure movies. McGuffin is a plot device which might be any object, place,  person or a goal for which the protagonist is ready to give up anything including life. However in the end it turns out to be unimportant to the over all plot. This has been a very old technique described in literature. The director who made this very popular was Sir Alfred Hitchcock and he used it very successful in many of his movies. If you have seen Hitchcock movies you would understand this very well as he was master of this technique and many new directors are still following this.

Some of the recent movies where this technique has been used very well. In Avatar the unobtanium is the McGuffin. The briefcase in Pulp Fiction, the Crystal Skull in Indiana Jones – The Kingdom of Crystal Skull are other examples of McGuffin. Some of the Indian movies recently used this technique very well. In the blockbuster Kahaani, Arnab Bagchi is the McGuffin, in the recent Tamil movie Pizza the mystery house where the hero delivers Pizza is a McGuffin. Its is a very hard technique and needs to be handled well. The success of the script is all about how the audience like the McGuffin in the plot. If they like it the movie becomes a successful one. You might be able to find many movies where you did not like the McGuffin and hence disliked the movie.