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‘Poi’

September 7, 2011

‘Poi’ means ‘lie’ in tamil. The movie is released some years back but i got to see it only today in TV. Veteran director K.Balachander’s film – KB has bagged the Dada Saheb Phalke Award this year which comes to him a little too late.

Creativity and direction peaking for over 50 years, KB should have been awarded the nation’s highest honour for entertainment much earlier. He is definitely a cut about the rest

Its a shame. he has been awarded it now, almost like an afterthought – much later than those like Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand and Latha Mangeshkar and even thespian tamil actor Shivaji Ganesan.

Should popularity alone define the parameters for choosing the artists for the coveted award, may I ask? Where is KB and where are those like Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. Only those who have seen all the films by all these 3 will know where each stands.

For KB is someone who has played with and crafted the minds of generations of tamils. His films have a social impact in the society i live in. Have Raj Kapoor or Dev Anand managed to do what KB has done to his audience – firing up their thought process? And what has Lata Mangeshkar done other than singing some 10,000 songs which none in the south have ever heard of? In what way is her career more significant to the public than those of men like KB?

KB was way ahead of his time and all these men = back in 60s and 70s. His subjects and the essence of tamil cinema from those times cannot even be comprehended by routine bollywood audience. His creations are a feast to those like me even today – they stroke my mind, speak to my heart.

In bollywood, you see trendsettters of fashion. In southern film industry – especially in KB you see, the trendsetter of fertile minds…

And who says commercial success is not feasible with such mature/heavy concepts? Its myth – as even very recently a very poorly pictured ‘Bol’ has demonstrated with its ‘documentary like’ feel that refuses to go away.

Finally what stays with us viewers is, the substance, the message. The rest is irrelevant, redundant.

Its the man’s magnanimity that KB has not refused the award. This year, its a clean sweep by tamil films at National awards ceremony with both the best actor, actress and film awards going to tamil actors and films. KB bestowed with DSP Award is like a jewel in the crown. (the winners of national awards are always either bengali/tamil/mallu/marathi films how is that? why not a single hindi film?)

From KB’s stable: Actors Kamal Hassan & Rajni Kanth and some more like Prakash Raj are KB discoveries. Kamal & Rajni shot to fame with KB’s b&w works of 70s – both have acted in a no. of tamil films together. Its not by sheer luck or by using their dear daddy’s lucky ticket that they have reached the spot where they are.

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Anyway, i started seeing this picture with a lot of expectations because its a KB film.

In the field for over 50 years spanning my mother’s generation as well, its astonishing how the man has evolved, improving his skills, moving along with successive generations and keeping abreast with latest developments.

He has still not lost his magic touch, and in this picture, he has done a guest appearance as well.

I was kind of dumbfounded with 2 strange entities in the film (or how else to describe them?)

Like KB is the love god (not young, but the old & wise but helpful cupid) playing with the hero’s heart. He is also upto a game of ‘ the snake and the ladder’ with the villain of the story called ‘destiny.’ Such a personification of both these elements of life, took me by complete surprise. A different approach to an otherwise stale love story. First it gave me a creepy feeling. Later i found it a welcome diversion.

But every frame is made interesting,so natural, so gripping – that i found that i could not leave my sofa until the film ended. Very clever moving of scenes, sustaining the audience interest.

Shot mostly in Sri Lanka – the film is full of such beautiful visuals. Simple, clean beaches, long lonely coast lines, Lush greens…. Easy to mistake it for Kerala or Karnataka or even some parts of Tamil Nadu. (My bro went for honeymoon with his wife to SL and returned disappointed that is just like any other Indian state).

Cheap & best foreign locale! But outsiders don’t know the emotional bonding this state people might/might not still have with this island nation. Its one of those few countries in the world where our mother tongue tamil is considered an official/local language: the others being Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius & Fiji. So i don’t consider Sri lanka as a foreign location.

Heroine is Vimala Raman. I learned of the hero’s name – Uday Kiran – only now from internet. Otherwise no idea.

The knack of the director is in keeping the story line interesting without boring the viewers as any love story is bound to be run-of-the-mill tale only at the end of the day – and i am sure there is NOT a single angle in romance that is not tried and tested in the world cinema already… so what is new?…

So this is where the director’s touch comes in. Its in making this difference that sets apart this picture from the rest… and KB has succeeded yet again, i must say…

‘Poi’ means ‘lie’ – and this lying (influential) factor comes into play only in the climax. Like an unexpected twist. That is when a small supposedly harmless lie wrecks havoc in 2 peoples lives throwing everything out of gear.

This is where so destiny wins. Cupid surrenders. But destiny says, its still with the individual humans to make him theirs. Each has to have the will to find him out, seek him out the way he wants him to be. Its strange to think of ‘destiny’ like a separate entity lol – rather a friend. An unknown, unfamiliar friend.

The moral of the story is thus destiny – the way we shape for ourselves… and we are what we are for what we have always been and continue to be as of today and will continue to be in future ….!!! (confusing?!)

But the romance is so cute – although the film could have been cut short in length by some 15 min.

I still cannot agree with the way the film ended in gruesome tragedy. Needless i must say. What on earth for? Just to prove to critics how our choices shape our destiny? Ridiculous. So are pictures only for preaching ethics? What about entertainment value?

Conceded, there is no lack of entertainment in KB’s pictures. His subjects are heavy – and the romances are fiery : kinda hero and heroine are always engaged in wordy duels/war of words… Its amazing that love has to blossom between such bi-polar characters! (or is it why they say opposites attract?) KB is always a master of love of minds and fiery passion. This film is not as strong as some of his – but i salute him for the kind of film he has made even at this age. In this particular picture, love is in surrender,not in domination or ego clashes. And as usual, women are his central characters, very strong characters. Just to fall in love with such women is NOT SO EASY! Average men naturally falter – and it takes the strongest willed to conquer these women….

To my disappointment, the hero character is chiseled weak in ‘Poi’ – purposefully. The script rules – and naturally, the hero’s compromise is as demanded by the script, i can see.

I am willing to pardon KB finally for the tragic end which i cannot agree with though, and that which i also somewhat find irrational (which is not his trademark – rationality is KB’s biggest plus) – still its a good watch, an exceptional film once again and it stands out of the crowd for its sheer quality, dialogue delivery and strength of characters.

Bhrathi’s mother and father (hero’s) – especially the father’s – roles are outstanding. The disclosures the father should have made at some point of time to his son but stops himself from – is direction at its best. Words unspoken when they need to be – can also wreck havoc in lives, leading to untold misery.

Heavy subject. A challenge to my mind to keep close track of dialogues. If you are a person with similar tastes and one not for junkies – you will love this one.

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