ARANGETRAM Part 1: The Critics


Initially, I was planning to do mini-diagnosis about the movie “ARANGETRAM” (aka The Debut)… But after a little pondering, I thought why not kill three birds with one stone… This movie sort of changed the tradition of Tamil Movies, K.Balachander (KB) is a very unique director and that’s probably why he has so many critics trying to execute his movies… Part 1 will deal with KB’s critics (critiquing of the critics)… Part 2 will be Simpleton’s critique of KB’s career… Part 3 will be a focus on the movie “ARANGETRAM”…

A few years back I had  picked up a book called Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen (from a store that specializes in selling books which people refuse to buy at book marked price or better known as Old & Used Bookstore) …

OK… The book is really thick with over a 1000 pages (and a lot of B&W pictures), so I guess my $25 wasn’t really wasted… Obviously, Ashish & Paul must have felt it was time to play Siskel & Ebert (Sorry! But I’m still having problem saying Ebert &Roeper)… Now I have always used S&E to decide which English movies to warch, so whenever I see both give two thumps down, I go and see it … 085170669X.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_1.jpg

In this book, KB’s bio reads like this: “K.Balachandar is the most consistent manufacturer of morality tales reinforcing middle class conservatism”…

The out of state critics of KB have never really bothered me because his movies revolve around elements of South Indian Arts, Literature and Language… If the critic is unfamiliar with these elements, the person is going to misinterpret certain things…

KB’s remakes rarely succeed at the box office for the same reason…

The success of “Ek Duuje Ke Liye” at the box-office had more to do with music and a script that was easy to adapt… All KB had to do was replace the Telugu Family with a North Indian one…

103b.JPGWhereas a movie like “Ek Nai Paheli” was bound to fail… Why? The Tamil version of the movie was released in 1975 as “Aboorva Raganagal” (aka Rare Melodies or Unusual Ragas)… The Tamil script was very Carnatic Oriented with KB trying to find other uses for Ragas than just music… Again, for those who are familiar with Indian Classical Music (Hindustani or Carnatic),you would know ragas are associated with Time and Mood… He uses Freeze frame with the subtitle of a raga to introduce each major character, so that the audience who are familiar with ragas know the mood each character is going try to create in the movie…

Of course, this sort of gets lost in a layman’s mind, so what does KB do to satisfy the layman? He begins his on-going project to reduce alapana and add more ragas with words (Sindhu Bhairavi probably the most successful project in this attempt)… So he brings in one of the best in the business,the Late Kannadasan to add verses to ragas… For Instance, in Aboorva Ragangal, if the movie had began with Bhairavi just rendering an Alapana and moving on with a carnatic style, KB probably would have lost half his audience… But here he gets Kannadasan to come up with these verses:

Aezhu swarangalukkul eththanai paadal?
Idhayach churangaththul eththanai kelvi?
Kaanum manidharukkul eththanai salanam?
Verum karpanai sandhoashaththil avanadhu gavanam!


How many songs within the seven Solfeges¹?
How many questions within the passages of a heart?
How many afflictions within the humans we see?
But their attention is always on imaginary happiness!

The problem with the remake (Ek Nai Paheli) here starts with casting… Its easy to get a younger person to play an older character, but getting an older person to play a young character is hard to do… Yes! I’m referring to Kamal… I mean, how can you get Kamal to play the same role he did almost a decade ago… Prassana in Aboorva Ragangal was suppose to be a very immature 19 year-old rebellious boy, where as Sandeep is just an angry man… Of course, the translation from Carnatic to Hindustani is not easy, but can be done; unfortunately it was never done in this movie… For starters, Bhairavi in Hindustani is really Hanuma-Todi in Carnatic…

Now if you really want Ek Nai Paheli, then try solve the puzzle on how you could have one set of critics claiming KB as a manufacturer of morality tales reinforcing middle class conservatism, while another set blaming KB for manufacturing movies to corrupt human minds…

Another group that often takes shots at KB (Esp. about Aragetram) comes in the form of movie critics from the press in TN … And you can’t really blame these people because they usually build this imaginary wall around their brains and often find themselves bumping into it… They first try to review a movie from a social approach, if that doesn’t work; they look for a humanistic one… If they can’t find these two, they come to the conclusion the movie either has to do with Psychology or Ideology…

So you probably are wondering (after bad mouthing all these critics) how on earth is the Simpleton going to handle KB’s ARANGETRAM…




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