Breaking Down Jigarthanda’s Recipe For Awesomeness: Final Part Of The Trilogy

What makes Jigarthanda so special? Here are my thoughts about the recipe for the movie, penned down in chronological order as per the running structure of the film. (Contains Spoilers)

Here is the link to Part-1 and link to Part-2 of this article.

PART-3

Plot point 2:  shock it up!

As I stressed earlier, the director is not about half measures. If you want to shoot a scene in a bus, better make it engaging. If you want to record an interview, have it brimming with nervous energy. If you want to stage a spirited folk song, better put it inside a goddamned empty well! Simha taps the raw performer inside him as he gyrates wildly to the delightful beats of “Puzhudi Parakadhu”, clad in a dhoti! The tempo rises slowly and we are literally on our feet. This to me, is a perfect example of intelligent film making – having only one full track in your script right at the 100 minute mark. Myshkin did it in style in his ‘Yudham Sei’ and here Karthik repeats the trick. At a moment of heightened spirits, Karthik brings in plot point two through Lakshmi Menon, who is hungry for revenge against Sid for having used her just for gathering information about Sethu. In a fit of contempt, she suggests Sethu to play himself in the movie based on him. And that’s it! We laugh with Sid. But after a minute, we smile. Wow, here is a leading lady who doesn’t behave like one! When Simha gets obsessed about it, we know all hell is about to break loose. The mood is further intensified by Simha’s ‘maranakuthu’ right after his revelation – something I would cherish for long! Watch out for a follow-up scene where Sethu proceeds to give a taste of fear to Sid, where the proceedings are intelligently interwoven with the screening of ‘Thalapathi’ on television. The whole of this segment truly belongs to Simha, who has a field day with his punny punches and dialogue delivery, keeping us right at the edge of our seats.

Jigarthanda Poster 5

All is lost. Or is it?

The moment a battered Sid is joined by shop vendor Palani in the streets, we know we are in to witness an epic scene. Karthik weaves some pure emotional magic as Palani starts recounting his early days as an assistant director, with dialogues like “The thing about opportunity is that it mostly strikes only once. A lot depends on how you choose to treat it!” Piloerection stuff, again. And as the scene progressed, I was wondering at the screen writer’s skill at inciting his protagonist and the audience using the power of words. Here was a scene, where a character spoke a few lines, but conveyed a lot of unspoken emotions. Karthik has managed to charge us up for the last act.

The knight rises

In what pans out as a separate film altogether, Sethu and his henchmen are directed to take acting classes for the film by Sid. But I also had a feeling that this transition in mood was intentional. This segment of the movie has perhaps the best moments of the film humour-wise, but it’s also true that the character arc of Sethu doesn’t sync with this kind of a drastic transformation. True that Sethu has seen the potential for fame, and will go to any lengths for the sake of it. But the kind of abuse he withstands from his acting teacher, though hilarious, kind of undermines the character. But Karthik knows this and hits gold with casting Simha as Sethu. Simha’s ease at both ruthlessness and comedy comes to his rescue, as he along with Karan and his gang take us through an insanely funny ride, so intense that our stomachs hurt. Karan in fact tries to steal the thunder right under the nose of Simha with his Silambattam practise, while Simha hits back by bringing the roof down with his attempts at romance.

Jigarthanda Still 4

Lights. Camera. Laughter!

Jigarthanda-Simha 2Enter ‘Aaranya Kandam’ fame Guru Somasundaram as the acting guru, and what had already been a laugh riot, just turns totally explosive. Still trying to make sense of the bizarre con-job that had been played on us, we laugh our guts out at Simha and Karan explaining parotta and mutton sukka in ‘gibberish’. In an extremely manipulative move, Sid returns the favour to Lakshmi by hooking her to Sethu, and the dialogues here like ‘Ivaru periya Virgin Rowdy!’ at unexpected times work really well. Karunakaran’s emotive brilliance shadows all others in an extremely well executed scene, where Guru shortlists the actors. We are still caught between getting lured into this and asking “Why the hell then did Karthik build up Sethu’s character so much in the first half?” But before we start looking for answers, the atrociously hilarious ‘shooting sequence’ starts in the background of Santhosh’s inventive ‘Baby’ soundtrack. Despite the characterisation going for a toss, Karthik Subbaraj does sell off his deception pretty well, mainly because of some smart writing and non-stop black comedy sketches. Take Simha off from the equation, and this part of the film might fall flat. Every movie will have a line which defines it. You would know when you hear it! Here, it comes from Simha in a moment of mismatched sentiments. The way he mouths the “Acting the part of a gangster is tougher than being one!” line is enough to identify the real protagonist of the movie. Though the director is able to extract what he wants for his storyline, it’s also true that some of the sequences feel like a stage drama. But we don’t care. We have been sucked into the con-labyrinthine with a confidence and freshness that couldn’t be debated.

The reveal

As the film featuring Sethu is completed, curiosity about the consequences starts getting the best of us. Karthik deftly builds up the suspense here by including some tongue-in-cheek scenes, showing Sethu’s ‘heights of power’ techniques to bring in the audience to the theatres. As Sid waits outside and the first show is screened, Karthik takes the final plunge. I found the reveal perfectly timed (literally, with a countdown!), logically quite well-explained and skilfully orchestrated. Though it reminded me of quite a few earlier films, I found Karthik’s version different. My greater concern was in fact the way he was going to plot Sethu’s character arc and take the story forward from here. Sethu had been royally transformed from an arrogant fearsome gangster to something very polar, without his knowledge. Would that mean something?  We can’t take our eyes from the screen. We are glued waiting for answers.

Jigarthanda-Siddharth

The final showdown

The beauty of the final showdown is that it is shown as repeating jump cuts of events occurring in three contrasting places – A beautiful landscape, a house with an ongoing funeral and a theatre. That’s certainly a award-deserving, phenomenal show by the editor Vivek Harshan, who silently proves his brilliance with every opportunity he gets.  Cinematographer Gavemic brings in frames which seem straight out of a big budget Hollywood movie. The final confrontation in the open fields in particular is so well conceived and crafted that along with Santhosh Narayanan’s soulful background score, it becomes an instant classic! There is a particular long shot where Sethu opens the tall doors of the theater and walks in, the sole window lighting casting a long shadow behind him,  which slowly reduces in length as he walks into the theater until it becomes the same as the man. Talk about similes! Having wondered about the significance of Sethu’s mother in this story, I was literally moved to tears when the scene involving her unfolded. Sethu realizing the fact that spreading happiness is much tougher and more rewarding than demanding fear has been brought out exceptionally well by Karthik by staging some well-planned and written sequences. We have been just treated to a stunner!

Stunning closing images

In arguably the best resolving sequence in recent Indian cinema, we cross-cut between the first scene we were introduced to at the beginning and another scene involving Sid narrating the story of his next film to Vijay Sethupathi. The first scene is played from the front this time, and Santosh again grabs the opportunity to show why he is such a talented musician. The scene involving Sid and Vijay Sethupathi amused me to the core, especially for the subtext in it. Does Karthik Subbaraj convey a subtle message, to be picked up only by the discerning eye? Was it an indirect reference to the plight of directors who want to stay true to their script? Is this the only way, a filmmaker today can pursue the film of his dreams today? As Sethu started falling off the chair in slow motion, and Sid began walking back from Vijay’s office, I was smiling uncontrollably. And as the screen turned black, the theater rose for a standing ovation. I had just witnessed a beautiful work of art, which was perhaps one of the best genre defying efforts in contemporary Indian cinema. Hats off, Karthik Subburaj for giving us an entertaining film, where art and commerce make a cheerful pact!

The end.

Breaking Down Jigarthanda’s Recipe For Awesomeness: Part Two Of The Trilogy

What makes Jigarthanda so special? Here are my thoughts about the recipe for the movie, penned down in chronological order as per the running structure of the film. (Contains Spoilers)

Here is the link to Part-1 of this article

PART-2

The nerve-wracking ‘Game of Thrones’

You have been warned. “When you play the GOT, you win or you die” 

Karthik Subbaraj’s dazzling writing prowess blends with some top-notch technical assistance from cinematographer Gavemic and editor Vivek (akin to milk, china-grass and nannaari syrup in Jigarthanda) to make this segment of the movie delicious, yet brimming with raw gritty nervous energy. Karthik stages a couple of convincing incidents to get Sethu suspicious of a clandestine spy shadowing on him. Lo and behold, the game of thrones swings into motion and the tension is gradually mounted as Karthik Subbaraj makes an attack on Sethu seem imminent. In this tense atmosphere, he again brilliantly sneaks in a ridiculously funny segment where Sid and Karan get caught spying on Sethu’s house. Karunakaran in particular is at his hilarious best in this scene, completely overshadowing Sid with his impeccable timing in slapstick. This segment results in a young enthusiastic chap (Soundar) from the gangster gang being called upon to have an eye on Sid and Karan. While this prospect has us expecting some hard-core action, Subbaraj utilizes it initially for extracting some nervous chuckles. Intelligent! Somewhere in between these riotous scenes, when we are least expecting it, Karthik once again unleashes the trickster in him, in style.

Jigathanda-Siddharth and Simha

The chef-d’oevre sequence

In probably Karthik’s master-scene, Gavemic’s camera shows the gangster gang sharing a loud joke in a theater canteen, while Sethu gets up with a bhajji in hand and starts walking. The camera follows him as he makes small-talk with a cook and proceeds to take a plate to protect himself from the rains as he crosses over to the adjacent theater premises. The tense unease keeps scaling as the camera still follows him through the hall’s passage to the toilet, where he meets the cleaner. Still nothing. We wait in bated breath for the scene to explode. But not yet! Where is Karthik leading us to? A vomiting alcoholic is about to get thrashed. Is it? No. Then it happens. We stare astonished at the pomposity of the scene, and the way the scriptwriter in Karthik has staged it in the background of the “Ennadi Meenaatchi” track from ‘Ninaithalae Inikum’. And after a minute of mixed emotions, when Sethu nonchalantly proceeds to do the ‘thing’ he came for, we just can’t help but clap at the brilliance we have just witnessed. Simha makes it look so easy and believable, and it has grandly served its purpose. We are hooked, surrendering ourselves to the mastery.

Deception’ – Level: Awesome

The master of deception in Karthik starts to take over slowly. On befriending ‘Soundar’ from the gang, Sid hides a spy mike inside his MP3 player after coming to know that the chap has been called upon for accompanying Sethu for an ‘event’. Here again, the detailing is top-notch as the ‘shadow-trail’ is triggered into action. The sketch to murder Sethu’s rival Sekar is so convincingly pitched that even with our now heightened cop instincts, we fail to doubt it. Now, Sekar has to make an escape! But Karthik doesn’t want an inch of lazy film-making in his frames and hence what we get is a hint of a bizarre half-orgy, which has us pondering over the countless possibilities it opens up for the next scene. But then, in a moment of sudden reveal, the tables are turned and we gape at our glorious deception. Having been royally cheated, we turn our attention to the plight of Sid and Karan, who have been eavesdropping on these events through the spy-mike. But the awesomeness of that sequence is not over yet. In another esoteric and superbly offbeat moment, Sethu wearing a Leonardo mask himself, returns the favour to Sekar. Now if that’s not genius, what is?

Jigarthanda Still 2

The electrifying mid-point

Karthik wants to heighten the tension a notch higher and raise the stakes of the protagonist. What better way to do it than have Simha (playing Sethu) converse directly over the microphone to Sid. Sparks fly and incessant claps mask the words, as Simha in a tight close-up once again proves why he is such a versatile actor. His eyes speak volumes and his tainted teeth grit in anger, as he figures out the people behind the spy job. And the inevitable happens within minutes. Santhosh Narayanan and Gavemic make this sequence stirringly ‘Tarantinoesque’ with an outré background score and awe-inspiring visuals. As Sid and Karan trying to make an escape, are greeted at the door by Sethu’s gang, our pulses go racing to one twenty beats per minute. And as the letters ‘Intermission’ pops out of the gun with a whistle, Karthik Subbaraj can take pride in making our hearts pop out to our mouths.

The ‘real’ con-job begins

In a unique demonstration of one of the best con-jobs ever done on a cinematic audience, Karthik Subbaraj pulls off an extreme sort of irreverent hilarity on us, the unsuspecting spectators, especially after a nail-biting interval segment. Personally, when Sid and Karan lure Sethu into being excited at the prospect of a feature film based on him, I found it quite convincing (at least at this moment, especially with the ‘Thalapathi’ reference and all). Karthik uses this platform to create an uproarious interview segment with the gang facing a mounted DSLR. This did offend the rationalist in me for a while, but the explanation that Sethu was blinded by a strong yearning for fame sounded quite persuasive. Here again, the unapologetic tone with which Karthik Subbaraj continues to portray his protagonist surprised me. Sid wants real crime events for his script and he doesn’t give two hoots about the appalling nature of the offences, narrated to him by Sethu and his gang. He even breaks into a broad smile as he fixes Vijay Sethupathy as Sethu in his mind, and lets the events narrated by Sethu play out in his mind as an organised screenplay.

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Irreverent humour, brilliantly unleashed!

The character delineation of Sethu is set up from an interesting incident in his school days, which later comes across as an extremely smart move by the director. The writing is exquisite in these Sid’s script-writing sequences, with some spine-chilling dialogues delivered in a comic tone. Simha as Sethu lives up to his part and Santhosh provides the necessary mood with his quirky ‘Thanda’ soundtrack. Two absolute gems in ‘black comedy’ in this segment, one involving Sid asking Sethu to infuse some real action into a Panchayat scene while filming it for his reference and the other involving a charge-drained camera, delve deep into the character of Sid, in addition to bringing down the roof with laughter. Karthik writes arguably the best hilarity of all, when he doesn’t spare even the Russian roulette in his spoof. In yet another side-splitting scene, Karunakaran and Simha are at their rocking best when the former gets his throat almost split. Writing comedy is no mean task, and the element of surprise is what makes it click. Surprise, yes! Both the scriptwriter and the con-man in Karthik are in their elements as he slowly steers the story away from our imagination.

To be continued…

Breaking Down Jigarthanda’s Recipe For Awesomeness: Part One Of The Trilogy

What makes Jigarthanda so special? Here are my thoughts about the recipe for the movie, penned down in chronological order as per the running structure of the film. (Contains Spoilers)

PART- 1 

The magical intrigue

In one of the most enigmatic opening sequences ever in Indian cinema, Karthik Subbaraj gives us an audacious blend of contrasting antithetical emotions, when the camera follows a character into a make-shift bar in a closed warehouse setup, who eventually gets a ‘gift’ from someone called ‘Karthik’. The song ‘Malarndhum Malaradha’ from Paasamalar is being projected on a huge screen when the ‘act’ happens, and subsequently the camera lingers on the screen for a minute in a ‘divine moment of introspection’, as we see Sivaji on-screen epitomising ‘tender care’. The ‘unserene’ act of brutality has been rendered in an atmosphere of serenity. The character has been taken care of. Karthik Subbaraj’s magic of juxtaposition has started. The audience have been irreversibly intrigued.

 

The grand thematic premiseJigarthanda Poster 3

Karthik Subbaraj and his able cinematographer Gavemic with the help of sound engineers Vishnu and Sree, take us through an exceptional audio-visual journey, as Siddarth is followed from the back-stage through dark alleys to emerge on the dais for the decisive judgement of a short-film competition. We get a brief, yet aesthetic glimpse of the film’s theme in an exceptional single shot. An ugly spat unfolds between an award-winning director and a pragmatic producer over the protagonist’s rejection, which is taken to the next level by Karthik’s clever injection of the film’s undertones into it. While Nasser, the director snubs the film as garbage, the producer sees it as a crowd-pleaser. When you scratch the surface, what you see is a heated argument, cut in stylish shots. Dig deeper and the subtext catches you grinning. The conflict has been established in style in probably the best thematic scene in recent years. The protagonist is not named ‘Karthik’ by routine or accident. Karthik Subbaraj wants us to take a cue from his protagonist on his burning desire to bridge art-house and mainstream cinema, even if it amounts to resorting to the extremes. Boy, are we in for the ride!

Setting up the catalyst

The protagonist’s dramatic need and the ensuing drama are delightfully set up by Karthik, when the producer throws up an exciting challenge on stage. He then proceeds to troll himself and the industry amusingly with a scene, where the producer asks Sid to just remake ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Pulp Fiction’. What follows is a witty tracing of the protagonist’s character arc, with Sid on the lookout for a blood-curdling gangster to base his film on. Sid’s meeting with the police officer Ajay Ratnam through his journalist uncle turns out to be the perfect catalyst scene, which teases us with disjointed horrific facts and vivid imagery about Sethu (Bobby Simha). The magician in Santhosh Narayanan (Background score) and the sorcerer in Gavemic (camera) together with the performer in Simha bring alive Karthik’s visualization of Sethu’s menacing ‘intro’ scene happening in a barren landscape. That’s some bewitching stuff! We are hooked and we are dazed. So, very much unlike Siddarth who is more vocal about it, we break into a silent whisper “Bring it on, man! Talk about effectual catalytic set-ups. We have just witnessed a live demo.

Jigarthanda Banner

The hilarious debate

Karthik Subbaraj is not happy with anything that rhymes with the word ‘routine’. So even in an otherwise ordinary scene, he makes an attempt to escape the constraints of lazy screenwriting. So when he writes a scene where Sid has to land in Madurai in a bus, he gets us tensed and curious by having an auto driver nearly man-handling Sid to his auto, which has the poster of Sethu on its rear end. And the moment of reveal is staged in style, with the slowly emerging Bermuda pyjamas. Karunakaran as Oorani starts his riotous antics and smirk reactions without a moment’s delay. His initial interactions with Sid are cheery, but truly he brings the roof down with his brilliant overnight transformation. Karthik Subbaraj is spot on with his lively and witty dialogues in this segment, which travel seamlessly from grumbles to self-doubt to excitement and finally to inappropriate heroism. Gavery’s to and fro shots from Sid’s point of view on the wooden swing make this scene a memorable one.

Plot point – 1: The journey starts

In arguably the best character developments in recent Tamil cinema, we get to witness a multi-dimensional protagonist who goes about his goal of researching the life of Sethu, with the conviction of a real spy for his ‘based on a true story’ gangster movie.  It takes a lot for a young actor to accept a role with grey shades all over, but you have to give it to Sid for his courage and vision. Sid plays the self-centred Karthik, who is ready to fake friendship, false-hopes and even love, in return for any reliable information about Sethu. Each of the three characters, Sid singles out to milk details about Sethu has been detailed to perfection by Karthik; while among them Sangili Murugan playing the unsuccessful director – turned shopkeeper impresses with veteran ease, narrating his hilarious ‘Sivanesan and Kuruvamma’ stories non-stop. The ‘hallucinating’ scene of Sid and Karan is definitely one of the better thought-out comic sketches in recent times. The adult film episode and the bar sequence have also been cleverly tapped for some worthy chuckles. And in the midst of all these light-hearted mayhem, Sethu (Simha) struts around in his red Mercedes with the air of a cold-blooded murderer. Santhosh Narayanan chips in brilliantly yet again here with his ‘Ding Dong’ rap number, which lifts the character establishment scenes of Sethu to a totally new level. That ‘gethu’ moment when Simha goes into the Mercedes wounded and comes out through the other end after one hell of a shoot-out, with the scorching sun and the lines “Villaadhi Villanendru Perudutha… Seiyaadha Paavam Ellam Serthu Veika!” in the background… Goosebumps! Karthik’s writing has no dull moments as he cleverly uses the backdrop of some genuine laughs to build up on the gruesome Sethu. Brilliant!

Jigarthanda-Simha and Siddharth

The B story

Karthik Subbaraj brings in the ‘B’ story or the love angle in yet another departure from the etched ‘hero’ standards. Having failed in all three attempts in getting to know Sethu’s journey, Sid targets the daughter of Sethu’s chief cook for source material (played by Lakshmi Menon). Lakshmi’s introduction is innovatively staged, and her subsequent encounters with Sid are tastefully done. But the love which Lakshmi seems to develop for Sid never gets justified. Lakshmi Menon also comes across as somewhat bland and one-dimensional in these episodes, though quite a lot is salvaged by some skillful cuts by Vivek Harshan (editor) who makes the transitions between the infiltration attempts and the romance smooth and offbeat. Karthik does away with dedicating a full song sequence to the couple at this time, and in good sense too, as he cuts the proceedings back to the gangster drama within a minute of the ‘Kannamma’ track. We second guess that the plot B might serve to bring in a pivotal twist at a later stage and keep watching in curiosity. Despite Lakshmi’s weak character sketch, Karthik Subbaraj does manage to hold on to our attention in probably the weakest segment of the film. And that’s a feat for sure.

To be continued…

Jigarthanda: Six Red Herrings

Moments after the final reveal begins (there is even a countdown before the final reveal!), Karthik Subbaraj shows us a few moments from  Chaplin’s “The Circus” and chooses to lay bare the reveal for discerning movie-goers. I could not help but smile at the clever audacity. The same concept was used in a Malayalam film before and its Tamil remake, but Karthik Subbaraj has the craft to pull this off and the way he pulls this off would have even made the Little Master smile!Continue reading “Jigarthanda: Six Red Herrings”

Jigarthanda Movie Review: Cold Revenge,Sweet Success

Five Star Films ‘Jigarthanda’ is clearly one of the most awaited Tamil films this year. The movie has been under production for some time and the expectations have grown manifold thanks to the individual successes of a lot of key people working in the movie, over the last year or two. Karthik Subbaraj set the bar high for himself with the very novel Pizza. Karunakaran and Bobby Simha, who like Karthik are products of the ‘Nalaya Iyakkunar’ (short film reality contest) ecosystem have done very well both together in ‘Soodhu Kavvum’ and independently with ‘Yamirukka Bayamey’ and ‘Neram’ respectively. The promos and songs of Jigarthanda too were very unique and promising.Continue reading “Jigarthanda Movie Review: Cold Revenge,Sweet Success”

Jigarthanda: Trailer

Jigarthanda PosterKarthik Subbaraj shot to fame with his debut Tamil feature film, Pizza (2012). He is now ready with his second film, Jigarthanda which is produced by S.Kathiresan. Featuring Siddharth in the lead along with Lakshmi Menon, Bobby Simha, Guru Somasundaram, Prathap Pothen etc. While Bobby Simha did play the antagonist in Alphonse Putharen‘s bilingual film Neram (2013), that was a role which still had a bit of humour involved. Here in Jigarthanda he plays an out and out baddie, an interesting move. This also seems to be a departure of sorts for Siddharth who his more known for his lover-boy roles.Continue reading “Jigarthanda: Trailer”

Naiyaandi: Trailer

NaiyaandiWriter-director A.Sarkunam has been noticed with his 1st and 2nd Tamil films, Kalavani (2010) and Vaagai Sooda Vaa (2011) being commercially and critically accepted. His films have also been appreciated for the good use of humour which blends with the narration pretty well.Continue reading “Naiyaandi: Trailer”