Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 12 Tamil Films of 2015 (with NO spoilers!)

Please don't hate on me if your favourite movie of the year did not make this list. I only watch what movie they show at my local cinema or if its DVD is out on rental. That is why certain critically acclaimed movies like Kaaka Muttai are not featured here because I have no way of watching it. Anyway, it has been a good year for Kollywood, with some really good and high quality films. So let's check it out. 

1) Indru Netru Naalai

"Okay, so which set of American films has Kollywood decided to rip-off this time?" is what most people might have thought condescendingly when they learned there was going to be a Tamil time travel film. Kudos to debut director Ravi Kumar. R for shutting up those eye-rolling critics with a completely original, if not fresh take on the genre. It still maintains certain masala features like a love angle, the comedic sidekick and a gangster villain. Despite not being the perfect time travel film, films like this should be supported so that more of it can be made in the future.

2) Bahubaali: The Beginning

So this is the Indian Ben-Hur. India's answer to Hollywood's 300. An Indian epic great enough to rival Gladiator. This is not a Ridley Scott film. It is still very much a South Indian one. The best way to describe this one is as a 90s Dreamworks animated film like Prince of Egypt or Sinbad but in life-action form. The premise is actually very basic - a lost prince raised by a tribe in the jungle who falls in love with a warrior girl and eventually learns the truth of his birth. But thanks to director SS Rajamouli, the whole treatment of the subject matter has been given a new light. The movie ends with a cliff hanger. I can hardly wait for the sequel to hit cinemas next year. 

3) O Kadhal Kanmani

Yes, this is a film about a live-in relationship that does not condemn it, nor does it preach it. Ace director Mani Ratnam explores the theme of living together by still considering the idea's sensitivity given the conservative society the film is made for. After two other highly critical romance films made almost two decades apart from one another, Mani Ratnam proves he can still create a love story even for the latest generation of urban Indians by understanding their influences and aspirations on marriage and tradition. Despite the nature of its subject, its a film with carefully crafted premarital sex scenes with no form of vulgarity or even any lip-locking.

4) Uttama Villain

This film's unique narrative of close to three hours in length and slow screenplay must have been a turnoff to some audiences. It is easy to love Kamal Hassan the actor, but it takes certain effort to truly appreciate Kamal Hassan the writer. His script is so heavy with different layers and substance that the the alternating between what is real and what is reel is blurred when we can hardly tell apart the narrative from the meta narrative. What better way to make a satire about mortality than through a movie about an actor with terminal cancer playing a character in a movie within a movie who is immortal. The transition in mood from slapstick comedy to emotionally dramatic is hard to follow and could have been improved, but this is a film that any movie lover would love.

5) Thani Oruvan

One mistake that most heavily plot-driven movies do is that they focus too much on the twists and turns that they leave no space for character development. That is not the case for this film which has probably the most well-rounded characters, even the villain. No. Especially the villain. Never before has a villain been given such importance in Tamil cinema. You understand where he is coming from. You understand why he is doing all the bad things he does. M. Raja has really made the rivalry between the hero and villain in his first ever original film one of the best in recent years. This is the end result when a director hires proper writers, in this case Subha, to co-write the story with him.

6) Maya

Most Tamil horror films of recent years have been horror-comedy types. This one is unique in the sense that it is a horror-thriller. Not to mention this is by far the scariest Tamil horror film many has watched. Arjun plays a cartoonist for a magazine and he narrates the story of a mental hospital that has had mysterious deaths over the years. One of the deaths is that of a patient named Maya. The movie also deals with young single mother Apsara who does ads. How are the lives of Arjun and Apsara interlinked and their connection to Maya is what makes up the crux of the story. 

7) Yagavariyimun Naa Kaaka

Two things prevented this film from being the ultimate gangster film that it should have been. One; the unnecessarily long romance portion. Two: the identity of the real villain who was responsible for the chain of events that drives the film's story. It was almost like the director decided to throw in a big surprise in the climax for shock value. However, the best twist ends always come with little clues hidden throughout the story. Despite this, the second half of the film has everything a gangster film needs for audiences to be at the edge of their seats, rooting for the hero to save the day.

8) Thoonga Vanam

This film did what Vishwaroopam failed to do. Despite being set within the span of 24 hours in one a limited number of settings, Thoonga Vanam grabs your attention and never lets it go. If only Kamal Hassan understands this and leaves directing to his associates while concentrating on story writing, all his films would do much better. What makes this film different from other Tamil thrillers is that it is strictly a genre film with no song sequences or love angles. The film does feel a bit a claustrophobic towards the end even though it moves between different areas of the same nightclub. If only the film had a bigger budget, the sets could have been made at a much grander scale to truly fit the classiness of the story. Trisha, who dubs for herself in this film, manages to shake off the lover girl persona successfully with some great action scenes. Other cast members like Prakash Raj and Sampath also play much more convincing villains than the usual one-dimensional ones they have played in the average masala films. 

9) Yennai Arindhal

Being the last part of director Gautham Menon's police trilogy, this film is clearly the weakest of the three, although it is much more well-made compared to most Tamil cop flicks these days. It lacks a moving protagonist like in Kaaka Kaaka that audiences can connect with. It is also low on style and suspense that made Vettaiyadu Vilayadu one of the best police procedural films in Indian cinema. The film focused much on the protagonist, which is what this cop trilogy is all about. But it does not explore the organ trafficking subplot as well as the gangster and serial killer subplots were explored in the two earlier installments. The fate of the main heroine also comes off as as repeated plot device, although that is understandable since this film is an extension of the previous two films. All in all, this is far from being a bad, or even a mediocre film, but considering it is a Gautham Menon film, it should have been much higher on this list.

10) Papanasam

It pains me to put this movie so low in the list but then again, it is a remake of the Malayalam blockbuster, Drisyam. So, it does not get credit on its own. Nevertheless, what a movie this was! If it had been an original film, it would have been somewhere in the Top 3. But still, thanks to the legendary Kamal Hassan, the movie gets a small twist of its own at the end. The film is about how a family try to cover up the murder of a sex maniac, whose mother turns out to be a renowned police officer who ends up investigating the disappearance of her own son. If you thought the cat-and-mouse game between the hero and villain in recent films like Thani Oruvan and Yennai Arindhaal was thrilling, you have seen nothing yet. Just watch Kamal and Asha Sarath's characters trying to outwit each other from one scene to another. Just went you thought Asha has managed to figure out Kamal's tricks, Kamal somehow manages to be many steps ahead of them. A thrilling watch. 

11) Oru Naal Iravil

Sekar is locked up in a garage with a sex worker one night. The rickshaw driver that was supposed to come pick him up does not show up and this leads to a series of problems for everyone involved. This is one of the many Malayalam remakes on this list. Like Papanasam, this one has a few significant changes of its own to make it more thrilling. It is significantly shorter than the original version, since the director is a renowned film editor who knows what scenes to keep and what to snip out. The film could have been better than the original had the different point of views did not seem too disjointed. Unlike the different perspectives, the different characters are conveniently linked to one another, though. Despite these drawbacks, the film keeps you at the edge of your seat all through the way. 

12) 36 Vayathile

After eight years, the queen is back to take her throne. This film is realistic enough to be a true story. The heroine's dreams and aspirations are not larger than life. She years to be respected by her husband, to be admired by her daughter, and to run a successful organic farm in her apartments' terrace. The only reason this film is not higher up on this list is because it is a remake of a Malayalam blockbuster, so it looses points there for originality. But Jyothika still brings in her own interpretation of the character, which takes us on her journey to unearth her own identity as a member of the society she is apart of.

Honourable mentions:

1) Kirumi
2) Kuttram Kadhithal
3) Enakkul Oruvan
4) Naanum Rowdythan
5) Rajathanthiram

Monday, November 30, 2015

'The Invisible Ones' Book Review, by Stef Penney

Reading 'The Invinsible Ones' is like going on a long holiday. You enjoy it at first, but then you get to the middle and you're like, when is this going to end? Then, once you reach the end, you're like, why did this have to end? It was so good! 

The story is told through the perspective of two characters who take the wheel through alternate chapters. The first main character is Ray Lovell, a part-Gypsy private investigator who is hired by a Gypsy man to find his missing daughter whom her husband, Ivo and his bigoted father, Tene claim had run away six years ago after giving birth to a sickly child, Christo. The second main character is Jimmy Janko a.k.a JJ, Ivo's teenage relative who looks up to him as a father figure. It is interesting to read about these two characters who are very similar and yet different. Ray is the outsider who is partly and insider to this community. On the other hand, JJ is an insider who is conflicted about his own culture in relation to how the outside world views his world. 

I love a good mystery, which this story has. But it is more than just that. The story also explores the lives of Gypsies in England, and how they are prejudiced towards outsiders and vice versa. There is one part where Jimmy brings home a classmate, who views his family's trailer and lifestyle as a whole in a weird manner, making him almost feeling ashamed of being Gypsy. You can't help but feel sorry for Jimmy. It doesn't help that his great-uncle, Tene is always preaching about Gypsy culture, as if it is superior to everything else. So, an ardent mystery lover like me will be left feeling cheated halfway through this book. But I beg you to carry on.

Don't worry because the book is not really an in-dept study on Gypsy culture, but it does show readers how and why these people can be very private and even wary of people who are not part of their community. Because of the mutual prejudice that exists, Gypsies mostly keep to themselves. This is especially the case for the Jankos who are not part of a large travelling community but are rather living on the edge of mainstream society. 

Something else that drives the story is how the Jankos are plagued with an illness they call their 'family curse', which is a form of hereditary blood disorder passed on through mothers which has killed almost every male family member before they make it to adulthood. Only Ivo survived this following a miraculous recovery. However, his young son, Christo is now afflicted by it, much to Tene's disappointment since he is the last surviving Janko male to carry the family name. Jimmy is technically not a Janko since his last name is Smith. But the family curse is more than the blood disorder, what with Ivo's own sister, Christina having died in a road accident while she was a child. While investigating, Ray cannot help but feel sorry and intrigued that a family can be plagued with so much misfortune. 

Ray's investigation forces him to become more and more involved with the Jankos. He also slowly unearths many skeletons, both literal and figurative which Ivo and Tene would prefer to keep hidden. In the process, Ray also becomes attracted to one of the Jankos, Lulu, who has committed the ultimate Gypsy sin; like Ray's father, she had abandoned travelling and became a house Gypsy. JJ also becomes fascinated with Ray's line of work and aspires to be like him one day. 

I guessed the ending a few paragraphs before the big reveal. But then again, I am always on the lookout for big twists. It was still a big 'oh crap' moment for me. It was far darker and far more disturbing than I had anticipated, which only makes it all worth it. Definitely recommend this to mystery lovers who like a little bit of drama in their stories. 


One night, Ivo goes missing after he is supposed to be tested at a hospital that is treating Christo. Because of this, JJ and his mother are forced to adopt the little boy. They then decide to abandon the travelling life and live in a proper house for Christo's health. 

Ray also eventually tracks down the missing girl, who has remarried and living happily in Wales. She also reveals that she cannot be the mother of Christo since she is barren, which makes sense considering the fact that the sickness is passed down through mothers. Christo's mother has to be a Janko.

Nothing is proven, but it is hinted that that the skeletons found belong to the real Ivo, who never made it passed puberty and actually died of the disease. The person pretending to be Ivo all along was Christina, his long-presumed dead sister. Tene probably did this to save the family line. He actually let his missing daughter-in-law run away, probably impregnated his own son (daughter, whatever), all to make sure his grandson was pure blooded. 

Twisted, isn't it? Hope you will enjoy this book!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Marjon Chronicles 3: The Spice Girls Fan

I remember it as if it was only yesterday. I was stressed out because of my dissertation. I had to redo part of an entire chapter. To calm myself down, I decided to listen to a Glee playlist on Glee. I assumed nobody was at home since it was rather quiet and played the music on full volume. 

At about 7 or so in the evening, I left my room to take a shower with my laptop still playing the music. Showering with some therapeutic shower gel also calms me down immensely. When I got out of the shower, I noticed my downstairs housemate, Dublin, had returned home and was with a couple of his drunkard friends. At the moment, I was not sure why, but they were laughing their hearts out at something. 

As I climbed the stairs to my room, I could hear Glee's cover version of the Spice Girls' 'Tell Me What You Want' song blasting away. Not exactly a personal favourite  but I was in the shower while the song was playing. I suddenly remembered that it is not cool for people my age to be fans of the Spice Girls because they are seen as a kind of 'guilty pleasure' option of music. Funny story, the song was featured in a Glee episode all about guilty pleasure songs. 

After getting dressed, I went back downstairs to the kitchen to prepare my dinner. Dublin came in to get something from the fridge and commented on how he had no idea I was a Spice Girls fan. I was too occupied with slicing stuff that I just nodded and smiled. 

Then later, the two guys in his room were leaving. As they passed by the kitchen, they started singing out loud, "Tell me what you want, what you really really want!" Up till that point, I had never seen them acting so crazy while sober. Anyway, I was too busy thinking about my dissertation to realize why they were singing such an uncool song out loud. 

It was only after I started bumping into them every now and then, and they would sing, "I wanna... I wanna... I wanna..." that I finally realized - oh, these donkeys are making fun of me. Oh well, if I had so much acne that my face looked like a slice of stinky pepperoni pizza, I would go around finding a reason to make fun of others to make myself feel better. 

Note to self; never leave your laptop on full volume with a YouTube playlist in the background without knowing what the next song might be. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Marjon Chronicles 2: The Daydreamer

I remember it happening like it was just yesterday. Eight of us traveled to Edinburgh for the Christmas break of 2010. We had the time of our lives. Before going back to campus in Plymouth, we stopped by at London for some exciting Boxing Day shopping. 

It was Christmas Eve in London and the city was freezing cold. My friends and I left our hotel in the evening and headed to Trafalgar Square to see the large Christmas tree there. Thank God we had a senior with us to guide us through London's complicated underground Tube service. I tried looking at the Tube map to see how to get from one place to the next so it will be easy when I travel to London someday on my own. I just got dizzy looking at it. That's a problem for future Kangga, I thought. Present Kangga can relax at the moment. 

Present Kangga had no idea what God had in store for him. 

So this is how the journey was to be made. From Bayswater Tube Station, we had to take the District Line to Notting Hill Gate. Once at Notting Hill, we had to change to the Central Line and head for Oxford Street. At Oxford Street, we had to change lines yet again to the Bakerloo Line that would take us straight to Trafalgar Square. If you are following me correctly, you will realize we had to change Lines not once, not twice, but three times to get from our hotel to our destination. Sounds simple? It's not. 

Bear in mind this is my first time riding the Tube. Unlike our Malaysian MRT system, there are no interesting sights to see through the windows because it is all underground. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the people on the Tube. There were hardly any locals. People from all around the world came to London to study, work or stay permanently. It was like Kuala Lumpur on steroids. Also, I kept looking out for brick walls along the Tube line which used to be passageways for former Tube stations that had since been closed. Did I mention I am also an avid daydreamer? 

I was sitting quite far away from the rest of my group during our trip from from Notting Hill Gate to Oxford Street. As I got carried away with my daydreaming, I had not noticed my friends getting down at Oxford Street. It was only at St. Paul's Cathedral station that I realized my friends were nowhere in sight.

Here I was; first time in the heart of London.. all alone... separated from my friends. Panicing seemed like the most acceptable, if not right response at the time. Still, I kept trying to get my head to calm down, although my head never agrees with my heart. I get down at the station I was at. I look into the Tube map on the walls. I got dizzy again. Well at least this was not Paris, or Rome, or some city where I don't know the local language. 

I then ask this one pak cik waiting for the next train. I will never forget his response. 

"Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me where I can see the Christmas tree lighting?" That's right. I did not even remember the name of the station I was supposed to get down at. Before I could even finish my question, he took up his hand, kind of like his way of saying, don't bother me, I'm not interested in helping you. Ass. 

I go up to the counter and ask the person there how do I get to the Christmas tree lighting, hoping that in such a large city, there will only be one major Christmas tree lighting tonight. The really nice counter person, who was a young black man pointed out that the lighting will be at Trafalgar Square. He had a thick accent which I could barely understand. Might as well be lost in Paris or Rome, right? What I could make out was I had to take the Tube to Soho and then change Lines or something. So I made it to Soho. This time I looked at the Tube map and it was a direct line to Trafalgar. Thank God Almighty. 

I took the next Tube there and was reunited with my friends, whose first response was to laugh at my face. Still, I could see it in their eyes that they were relived that I was okay. Or maybe that's just how I try to remind myself I have good friends. 

Lesson of the story is; there is a place and time for everything, including daydreaming. That's what boring classes at school are for. Stay alert, especially if you are traveling for the first time in a foreign land. 

Marjon Chronicles 1: The Submission

I remember this happening like it was only yesterday. It was submission day for one of our final assignments. I was at the computer lounge on campus after sending in mine. I was waiting for one of my good friends, A to e-mail me hers for me to print and send in on her behalf. There was only about half an hour left and still no word from A. I was getting nervous, and so were our other friends, B and C, who A had also commissioned to help out in case she could not make it to campus that day. 

And then, like literally 10 minutes before the deadline, she sends her stuff. But the 'last minute mafia' were lining up at the printer. So we had to wait for our turn too while the clock was ticking. Seriously, things were tensed. Finally, we got to the printer, printed out everything, but my stapler was out of bullets. After asking about half a dozen people for their stapler, we finally found one. 5 minutes left. Then we realized, B had not changed her name from the cover. Once again, back to the computer. 4 minutes left. Edited my cover. 3 minutes left. Have to wait to use the printer again. 2 minutes. Printed out the cover. 

Then, tragedy strikes: library card out of credit. Borrowed someone else's card and promised to pay them back later. 1 minute left. Printed out cover. 45 seconds left. Clipped everything together. And then, I was like...

"Aku tak boleh lari, C. Kasut ni ketat..."

"Takpa wei. Biar aku lari.."

"Tapi, kau pakai jubah..."

20 seconds left. In storms B, the hero of the day.

"Takpe, C. Kau lari lambat (kuangsam). Biar aku pergi!"

Grabs the wretched assignment, runs like freaking Forrest Gump to the submission office. Meanwhile, the rest of us are praying that she makes it in time. B comes back, her full set of teeth on display like a Colgate commercial with the submission slip that shows the submission time literally 1 second away from the deadline.

Such memories. I wonder if I can ever return to that time. To the comfort of the company of people who really got me. We had our fair share of ups and downs, but what made it either fun or bearable was the thought that we were in this together, through thick and thin. C, please come back to us. Can we go back?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Top 10 Parts of the Harry Potter Books That Should Have Been In The Movies

I often find myself caught up in arguments with people who claim that why should they read a novel, no matter how good it is, when there is a movie adaptation in the making. As a book lover, naturally I would disagree with the motion. I often cite the Harry Potter saga as a good example. Yes, the movies are incredible but it is the books that truly give the whole Harry Potter universe its magic. For instance, there are crucial parts from the book that are left out in the movies. The inclusion of these parts would have made the movies much darker and interesting, in my humble opinion of course. There are times where I wish the books were instead adapted into an HBO or Netlflix original TV series, where each season explores each book with much more depth. But I am getting ahead of myself. So, here is my list of Top 10 Parts of the Harry Potter Books That Should Have Been In The Movies in no particular order.

1. Professor Trelawney's First Prophecy 

In the movies, Neville is only given much importance in the final one. However, in the fifth book, we learn of a prophecy that led to Voldermort attempting to kill Harry. Professor Trelawney predicts that the only one who would have the ability to destroy the Dark Lord will be born at the end of July, 1980 to a set of parents who had thrice defied Voldemort and survived. This description fits both Harry and Neville. Since there were two babies who could fulfill the prophecy, Voldemort tried to eliminate both Neville and Harry at once. Fun fact: It was Snape, a loyal Death Eater at the time, who overheard the prophecy being made to Dumbledore at the Hog’s Head Inn and relayed this incomplete information to Voldemort. Only when he realized that he had unintentionally set his Dark Lord upon the Potters did he volunteer to become Dumbledore's double agent. For some reason, Voldemort saw his fellow half-blood as the bigger threat and chose to go after Harry himself while sending a group of Death Eaters after the pure blooded Neville.

2. Neville's Parents

Neville's backstory is just as tragic as Harry's. Around the same time Voldemort went after the Potters, he sent the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr to attack the Longbottoms. Neville's parents were tortured with the Cruciatus Curse and were eventually driven insane. Since then, Frank and Alice Longbottom have been institutionalized at St. Mungo's wizarding hospital, and Neville was raised by his grandmother. Although not as wicked as the Dursleys, Neville's grandmother keeps chiding him for not living up to his parents' legacy, partly becoming the reason for his lack of self-confidence during his early years at Hogwarts. Neville visits his parents regularly although they do not recognize their son.

3. Winky, The Crouch Family's House Elf

If there is a character that can truly capture the hardship elves face better than Dobby, it is the Crouch house elf, Winky. In the fourth book, she is sacked by Barty Crouch Sr. after he finds out that she failed to guard his fugitive son, Barty Jr. as instructed. Unlike Dobby who cherishes his freedom, Winky undergoes depression and turns to drinking when she relocates to Hogwarts. For years, she served the Crouch family loyally, even going so far as to care for the dangerous Barty Crouch Jr. who was put under his father's Imperius Curse to prevent him from rejoining the Death Eaters. Out of love for her young master, Winky successfully persuaded Barty Sr. to reward his son's good behaviour by taking him to the World Cup, which led to his escape and rejoining Voldemort. Despite Winky's screams and pleas, Barty Sr. coldly dismissed her. Barty Sr. mistreatment of the elf whose family loyally served his for generations led to Hermione setting up the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.) to fight for elves' freedom. Winky's depression worsens when she learns her older master had been murdered by her young one.

4. Peter Pettigrew's Death

Throughout the book and movie series, Pettigrew a.k.a Wormtail is portrayed as nothing more than a cowardly traitor. Despite being their friend since Hogwarts, he was the one responsible for leading Voldemort to the Potters' location and then left Sirius Black to take the blame. After being exposed to have been hiding as Ron's pet rat for years, he escapes once again after Harry stopped Sirius and Remus from killing him. In the following book, Wormtail sacrifices his own hand in a ritual to resurrect Voldermort, and the Dark Lord would replace his hand with a beautiful silver one. All these are in the movies. However, what they left out was the part where Wormtail tries to prevent Harry from fleeing Malfoy Manor by strangling him. Only when Harry reminds him of the life debt he owes him does Wormtail stop. Then, that magical artificial arm of his strangles him to death for doing something right for once in his life and betraying Voldermort.

5. The Gaunts

It would have been interesting to see more of Voldemort's origin story since it is his family history that triggers his villainy. As revealed in the second book, Voldemort is a direct descendant of racist Salazar Slytherin. Only in the sixth book do we learn that his maternal family is the result of generations of inbreeding, which explains the mental instability that runs in the family. Merope, his mother, lived a horrible life under her racist father, Marvolo and psychopathic brother, Morfin. Desperate for human affection, Merope used a love potion on the handsome muggle, Tom Riddle Senior, who then left her after her spell weakened. Not wanting to return to her family who would kill her for eloping with a Muggle, the heartbroken Merope eventually succumbed to death at the orphanage that took a young Tom Riddle Jr. in. No wonder even Harry felt a bit of pity for Voldemort. A vengeful, teenage Voldemort would later return to the birthplace of his parents to murder his father's muggle family and frame his maternal uncle for the crime.

6. Petunia's Yearning For The Wizarding World

Petunia might have disliked her sister for having magical powers, but it was fueled more by jealousy rather than fear of the unknown. In the last book, it is revealed she even wrote to Dumbledore to accept her into Hogwarts, but he kindly turned her down. She also knows more about the Wizarding World than she cares to expose. She knows about Azkaban, Dementors and who knows what more. But that is not the end of their correspondence. Years later, after the Dementor attack on Dudley, Dumbledore sends Petunia a Howler to remind her that Harry must stay with her in order to remain protected by Lily’s bloodline.

7. Percy’s Feud and Reconciliation With His Family 

It appears that the Weasley brothers only have red hair in common. In other ways, they cannot be more different. Take Percy for instance. He is worlds apart from Fred and George. Just like his eldest brother, Bill, Percy was both a prefect and Head Boy during his time at Hogwarts. However, unlike Percy, he was very ambitious and chose his career over his family. His father did not take his quick rise through the Ministry of Magic lightly, as he saw it as a way for the Minister to keep a watch on the members of Dumbledore's Army. Percy ever wrote to Ron to congratulate him on becoming a prefect and advised him to keep away from Harry since he no longer sees eye to eye with the Ministry. Percy only sees the error of his ways after the fall of the Ministry and came to join his family during the Battle of Hogwarts. However, he did not have time to reconcile with his brother, Fred who dies during the fight.

8. Any Chance For Sirius?

Sirius' death in the fifth book marks the lost of the closest person to a loving family member Harry has after only two years of knowing him. In the last few chapters, we see how desperate he is to still keep Sirius in his life by looking at the magic mirror he has been given. He even goes to Nearly Headless Nick to ask if there is any chance Sirius would return to the human world as a ghost. Nick explains that only wizards who fear death might choose to return as ghosts, and such a fearless person like Sirius would unlikely do something like that despite his love for Harry. After apologising to Harry for not being of much help, Nick leaves for the End-of-Term Feast, leaving Harry further distraught.

9. The Marauders 

The Marauders are more than the inventors of the Marauder's Map. The movies ignored an entire backstory about James, Sirius, Lupin and Pettigrew's a.k.a The Marauders' school days. I mean sure there was that few-seconds flashback during Harry's Occlumency class which showed the four friends tormenting Snape, but that was it. There is a whole chapter on this in the fifth book. Since their best friend was a werewolf, James, Sirius and Pettigrew became unregistered Animagi just to keep him company. We know how things end for all four Marauders, but they were merely a bunch of really naughty and borderline mean students at school. Sirius almost caused Snape's death by luring him into the Shrieking Shack where Lupin was going through his werewolf transformation. It would have been interesting if the movies explored this a bit so viewers can see where Snape's mixed feelings for Harry comes from. 

10. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Another backstory that was left out of the movies, it would have been interesting to learn that the all-perfect Dumbledore was actually very much human. He is considered the most powerful wizard to have ever lived and was the only person Voldemort ever feared. There was a reason Dumbledore hardly mentions his family throughout the series. His early years were very much troubled. His father, Percival was sentenced to Azkaban where he later died after attacking a group of Muggle boys who harassed his daughter, Ariana when they witnessed her performing magic. His first few years at Hogwarts were met with rumours of him being as violent as his father. Despite this, Dumbledore grew to become an exceptionally excellent student, becoming Head Boy and making many other achievements. It was only after his mother's accidental death at the hands of his traumatized sister did his life take a turn for the worst. Back at his hometown, Dumbledore became friends with the overly ambitious Gellert Grindelwald who influenced him on world domination by wizards for the betterment of society. An eventual falling out between the two led to a violent duel, in which Ariana was caught between the crossfire and died. Grindelwald fled, leaving behind a devastated Dumbledore, who swore to never trust himself in matters of power. This is probably why he rejected offers on becoming Minister of Magic countless times. While Dumbledore became a professor at Hogwarts, Grindelwald went on to wreck havoc across the world. Dumbledore tracked his old friend down and defeated him in a duel, despite the latter possessing the all-powerful Elder Wand. Dumbledore kept the Elder Wand for himself while Grindelwald was imprisoned in Nurmengard. Years later,  Dumbledore managed to track down one of Voldemort's Horcruxes in the form of Marvolo Gaunt's ancestral ring, which was made up of the Resurrection Stone, which could allow anyone to communicate with the dead. Desperate to see his family again, Dumbledore forgot that the ring was cursed and put it on. Despite his great powers, the curse spread throughout his body. Knowing that he would die anyway, Dumbledore orchestrated his own death to save Harry and the rest of the wizarding world from Voldemort.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Baahubali: Some Predictions on The Story

So the trailer for the latest Indian film, Baahubali has come out recently. Like most Tamil film trailers, it does not give audiences any idea on what the story is about, which is a good strategy as it heightens our curiosity. However, it compensates that by giving us snippets of the grand scale of its production. Most of the sets and special effects we see are most definitely a first in Indian cinema. 

The film is described as an epic war film. Despite its title, the film is not about the Jain religious figure which shares its name. As revealed by the cast and crew, the film is a fictional story and Baahubali literally translates into "the one with strong arms." Due to its length, the film is split into two parts, with this trailer being for the first part, hence its tagline "The Beginning." 

Here are screenshots from the trailer that might allow us to predict what the film's story is about. 

We are first shown an aerial shot of the kingdom where the story probably takes place. From an interview with Karan Johar, who will be releasing the Hindi version, it is hinted that film is probably based on Vedic stories. 

 From interviews, members of the cast and crew reveal that the story is about the battle of two brothers, Shivudu and Palvaalthevan for their kingdom's throne. 

Seriously, the graphic shots are simply stunning. 

Anushka Shetty plays Devasena. This is perhaps her only scene in the trailer. She probably plays the love interest of the older character Prabhas plays, now imprisoned after her stepson, Palvaalthevan has taken over the throne. 

There is no information on what character Rohini plays. From her costume, one can speculate that it is a tribal woman who probably adopted the younger Prabhas after he was banished from the palace or maybe survived a murder attempt. 

 The first shot of Prabhas who plays dual roles - Amarendra Baahubali and Shivudu. Both characters are probably father and son, with the latter being Devasena's husband and might have been murdered in a plot to take over the throne. 

Growing up in a jungle tribe, it is apparent that Baahubali is a very strong and agile young man. Imagine watching this scene in the cinema in 3D with the accompanying background music!

This looks like what might be scenes from a fantasy duet between Baahubali and Avanthika, the warrior princess played by Tamannaah, the second female lead.  

Hopefully the song sequence fits in well with the story and is not forced into it for commercial value. A film of such a big scale deserves to be given a mature treatment if it is to be appreciated across India and the Indian diaspora. 

There are scenes with snow, showing that the film not only takes place in ancient South India. This surely gives the story and the film as a whole a much richer look. 

One of the first scenes of war. Large sets were erected in Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad to shoot certain war sequences like this one. 

There is no information on whose statue this is since both Prabhas and Ranaa spot relatively similar looks in this film. 

There is a possibility this is the older Prabhas, Amarenda Baahubali, before being killed by his enemies. One line in the trailer even describes a character, albeit off camera, as Bahubaali's son. 

Another CGI-enhanced scene that can simply take your breath away. The production quality clearly surpassses that of the director SS Rajamouli's previous endavour, Maaveeran. 

 Sathyaraj sports a Tonsured look for his role as Kattappa in the film . From the look of the sword, it is safe to say the production team did not leave out a single detail in making sure every cent of the budget was used to the fullest. 

Nassar plays Pingala Devan, a negative role with a disabled arm. He described his role as the main catalyst behind Palvaalthevan's evil doings, maybe like what Shakuni is to the Kauravas. 

You just have to check out this CGI bull! 

Many characters in the trailer spot from Shivite looks. Even Prabhas is seen holding a large Shiva Lingam over his shoulders in the movie poster.  

Watch the trailer in HD on YouTube. Almost every scene like this looks like a beautiful painting depicting South Indian civilization in medieval times. 

"Who am I?!" Prabhas screaming this line put many fans to rest who were worried this was just a Telugu film dubbed into Tamil. 

Ranaa admitted he was chosen for the part because of his looks. The filmmakers had to go with an actor that could match Prabhas' height and physique if they wanted the film to have a proper villain. 

It is easy to see how epic this war scene is going to be. 

The trailer has many snippets of the various war sequences in the film. They do see in par with those in Braveheart and Ben-Hur. 

 Actress Ramya Krishnan plays Sivagami, another important role in the film. She might be the stepmother of Shivudu and mother of Palvaalthevan. Seeing how close she seems to a younger Pingala Devan, she could be related to him, maybe his sister.  

It is hard to say with all the makeup, but this might be weapons merchant Aslam Khan, the character played by Sudeep. It is reported that he will have a fight scene with Sathyaraj's character. 

From the look of the film, let's hope it has more of a dark and gritty vibe similar to historical epics such as Gladiator and Asoka rather than the playful nature of typical Indian ones. 

A lot of work must have gone into shooting battle scenes such as this one. 

For his role in the film, Ranaa had to go on a strict high-protein diet and intense muscle bulking to match his co-star, Prabhas' sturdy figure. 

  For each role, Prabhas is reported to spot two different looks; a large, beefed-up body for Baahubali's character, and a a more lean frame for Shivudu.

Some battle shots from the trailer like this one does remind us of the Hollywood flick, 300, although this film might not be as violent as that one to attract family audiences. 

If you haven't already, feel free to feast your eyes to the film's trailer below: