Prime Time Viewing

We got the Amazon Prime Free Trial and watched two movies. The first one was the Ponniyin Selvan Part 1 which I was so apprehensive about and the other one was No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s last movie as James Bond.

Ponniyin Selvan Part 1

Translating a 5 book story into two movies is no small feat. Especially when it is historical fiction with loads of characters spanning two or three generations and loads and loads of plot twists. I knew that Vikram would do justice as Aadhitha Karikalan and he has. He made it look easy, maybe because he has done similar roles in the past with shades of grey. He does get a mention because he is one of my favourite actors πŸ™‚ Jeyam Ravi as Ponniyin Selvan has done a decent job, which surprised me as I have seen him mostly in romance movies. Karthi is apt for Vandhiyathevan oozing trouble and charm and so is Jayaram as Aazhvaarkadiyaan. I don’t know why in my mind, Aazhvaarkadiyaan was someone shorter and fatter as described by Kalki but Jayaram fits too. Aishwarya Rai Bachhan as Nandhini and Trisha as Kundhavai has got the meaty role as the whole story revolves around them and with the surprise about Nandhini at the end of Part 1, we know Aishwarya landed a hefty one. They have all done their jobs very well. The songs are already popular and are good. But, I am not sure I want to hear so many of them while watching the movie. I wonder if there were fewer songs would there have been time for a bit more of the background story in its place? Mr M found the movie alright and interesting without knowing anything about the story (not for a lack of trying, mind).

Now to the story part. I am not entirely sure if I liked how the story is cut from many places and stitched in other places to get the essence in place. It works and they have done a good job but as a person who loves the books more than their movie adaptations, I think I preferred the elaborate thinking process that is involved in such a complicated drama. What was going on in Karikalan’s mind when he decided not to heed Nandini when she begged for the Pandya King’s life? What was the reason for Kundhavai’s move to bring back PS home? I also missed the romance between Vandhiyathevan and Kundhavai which in the book is very subtle, humourous, and cute. Vanathi’s role is reduced to a couple of scenes, sadly. It is hard to switch your inner critic while watching the movie especially when you love the book so much! I really really tried very hard but in the end, I decided to see it as another good movie and not bother to look at it as a translation of the book into its screen version. That is the only way I will be able to convince myself to watch Part 2 now. There is no pleasing some people I tell you πŸ˜€ Mr M thought I was being very harsh and I was or rather I am, but it is what it is. Over time I might forget it and be happy with my book. When I read it again though, I wouldn’t mind having Karthi take over as my Vandhiyanathan and Vikram as my Karikalan but I will replace others with my own representation.

No Time To Die

Daniel Craig’s last movie as Bond not necessarily 007. Now that was interesting. Here is a woman as 007. What does that mean for the next movie? Will there be one? Will be a Bond movie anymore given how this one ends? It was slightly bittersweet. I might have missed a lot of clues that they have used throughout the movie as a homage to Bond (like the song at the end, the one-liner that Bond says about having all the time etc.) if not for Mr M who remembers those old ones. This post is more about what I felt when I watched the movie rather than about the movie. While watching it, I realized how much the Bond movie changed when Daniel Craig became Bond. I got introduced to Bond movies when Pierce Brosnan was Bond and he is like our Rajnikanth, all style and full-on Hollywood masala and such, which called to me and I absolutely loved him as Bond. Over the past couple of years, I have watched the rest of the Bond movie and have got to notice each one’s style (I think Pierce Brosnan imitates Roger Moore a lot). But Daniel Craig’s style is unique and so is his Bond. They have more depth to them, more emotional, and have some continuity in their stories (not all, but some). There is still those small pieces of Bond charisma and the blowing up of places when they so please but beyond that there is something more human. May be it is the passage of time, the change in culture, the emphasis on diversity, equality etc. Honestly, I wasn’t too happy with Daniel Craig in his first Bond movie because I was having withdrawal symptoms from Pierce Brosnan, but as an actor I have come to appreciate him in Bond. It’s not an easy role to fill with so much expectations already set by his predecessors. I think if I ignore the fact that his movies are Bond movies I will enjoy them and with this one I thought I kind of miss the silliness of the story line, the blowing up of stuff, the fancy gadgets and Bond just taking those for granted, the mindless way Bond shrugs off the dust after the whole place is demolished and not just that he emerges without a single scrap on his self etc. It is like reading a romance novel because I know how it ends, I know that there will be a set formula and I don’t have to invest my brain power to think too much and I need that in between my intense murder mysteries and thrillers, which render me sleepless most of the times. I do miss the old Bond formula. But the ending was somewhat unexpected (I have managed to not read about it so far) and that left me with “what are they gonna do now? what were they thinking? why then were there so many news articles about a new bond?” etc. etc. Can’t wait to know more about what’s gonna come next.

Now that I have got my free trial, Amazon Prime has started bombarding me that I am missing out by not listening to their music, not watching their recommended shows etc. etc. I hate that part. Can you not just leave me alone. I will watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it. If I got Amazon Prime only to watch two movies, that is my perogative isn’t it? Every single commerce site is now doing that. I just wish there is a way to turn them off (unless I unsubscribe which most of the times don’t really work) . If there is an option to turn off recommendations, kindly let me know. I will also have a nose around their website.

That’s it. Rant and opinion sharing time over πŸ˜‰ It feels nice to let it all out rather than just whinging about it to all the time to Mr M. I missed writing about my whinging and sharing my unwanted and unwarranted opinions. I hope this year I will be able to do it at regular intervals.

The TV and the Drama

I remember one time (and I am unlikely to forget the incident ever) when a student (year 6) in my school in London asked me if I had seen some TV series on Amazon Prime and I responded that I don’t subscribe to Amazon Prime and so I haven’t. They then asked me which platform I watch my TV on? Netflix maybe? I responded in negative saying that since I pay my TV license I stick to good old BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5 etc. for my entertainment. A few students who were listening in on the conversation looked at me in horror and this student commented that I live a very sad life. I burst out laughing and told them that I am happy with my free views and they are welcome to enjoy their various paid subscriptions (although is it a free view if I am paying for the TV license? that is a thought for another day…not that it makes any difference to me now mind…).

I knew that in India, it is not possible to watch any TV in prominent cities (at least it was 5/6 years ago) unless you get a DTH service and that is why when I was in Bangalore I had to subscribe to either Sun DTH or a local DTH provider based on what language programmes you are likely to watch more. Now it seems that Netflix, Amazon Prime, Airtel XStream, and Tata Sky are the key players (anyone else I missed?). My siblings have both Netflix and Amazon Prime and my nepotes are bored when they come to my home because we have so far refused to subscribe to any of these. I know that I don’t have much time left because just like paying for a TV license in the UK, I have to subscribe to one or more of these services to get my normal TV too, which is very sad indeed. But it is what it is. Now the problem is though, these providers are so smart that we can never find what we need in one of them. We end up subscribing to at least two or even more to switch between the stuff we might end up watching. In this day and age, that seems to be a smart business move but hurts the consumers badly and we are not up for it. I am forever trying to find ways to circumvent the problem. For now, we watch our news and other stuff through the free channels available from Roku (Al Jazeera, Sky News, Wion, Plex etc.)

When I finally decided that it is time to watch Ponniyin Selvan Part 1, it was already out of theatres. It took me a long time to even convince myself that it is ok if they mess up the book which is my absolute favourite one (the first name of my pseudonym is a strong female character from that book…) and just watch it as another grand movie. But it was now available only with Amazon Prime. I have to get a 30-day Free Trial to watch this movie. Whenever my siblings and their children come home, they strongly suggest that I get Netflix. We had already done a free trial of it while we were in the UK, but we didn’t find many programmes that we would watch and it was very American, which Mr M wasn’t very keen on πŸ˜€ If we are to get this free trial for Amazon Prime, it would help us check out its contents and see if we would watch any programmes in it at all apart from the odd movies now and then.

Oh! Why does it have to be this hard and so much drama (and money to shell) to watch some good TV heh?

Kantara

As you might know from my pseudonym, I am a massive fan of Ponniyin Selvan. So when the movie got released recently my first instinct should have been to go and watch it. Thankfully almost all films here (AFAIK at least in Coimbatore) are being played in the theatres with subtitles in English. Which is brilliant as I could take Mr M to the movies too. All the cast is perfect according to the trailer and I love that Vikram is playing Adhitha Karikalan as no one could bring that passion in the character like he does. He is so apt for that role. I like that finally Aishwarya has got a meaty character which mostly is portrayed in a negative sense which means that she has to bring her A-game to it. But in spite of all this, something is holding me back. Maybe it might be that I don’t want my own visuals from reading the book mixed up with the movie version and also I would have to wait for the 2nd part of it for a little while. So I have been postponing watching the movie. In the meantime, my brother went to the movie Kantara and he insisted that we watch it, especially for Mr M as he would get to see some local culture in the movie.

When I had a day off work during the week, we decided to utilize it to watch the mid-day show hoping that there would be less crowd. Nope, the theatre was full! We had booked the Tamil dubbed version even though I hate dubbed movies but it had English Subtitles (The Kannada version was only available for a late evening show which didn’t suit us 😦 ) I forgot how loud the theatres can be πŸ˜€ I was glad that I had my earplugs in my handbag (it is a constant resident in my handbag…you never know when you need one).

The movie had a good pace and having grown up in the era of Veerappan and having grown up on the stories of the local people (including the tribes) and how they get affected by the rules and regulations of the government and such, it was relatable to me. It also had some humour laced throughout which made it a little light-hearted otherwise it could have become a dire and very heavy movie. It is still a very heavy movie in terms of its essence and what it is trying to convey and such …so interlacing the story with some romance and some lightness was done very neatly. For me personally, the movie kicks into the third gear only after the intermission when the unexpected death happens. The fact that you kind of know who had done it but not being able to articulate the rationale behind it was quite frustrating, I should say πŸ˜€ I like a good whodunit as you might know. The way it was all neatly tied at the end gave it a good finish. The use of the local folklore, local dance (belonging to the Mangalorean region), and local dialect (there were a few Kannada dialogues which were spoken in the local dialect and for those dialogues, there were additional Tamil subtitles provided), were all done very well. The dance form resembles Theiyyam which is a Kerala speciality. The spirituality of the people was also woven into the story very well. The other aspect which I found interesting was the environmental issues that were brought up. There wasn’t any resolution found in the movie, because that would have been difficult to achieve but they touched upon those aspects and left it to viewers how they want to take it.

My only grudge was the amount of violence in the movie. It was kind of needed to emphasize the attitude of the protagonist and his quick-fire anger but it sometimes gets too loud and too violent rendering the movie not suitable for young children. Also, I think the folk dance performance has a very ruthram effect to it which means there is a lot of anger and screaming so that might also scare the children.

Other than that, I enjoyed the movie immensely and was glad that I chose to go and watch Kantara instead of PS1 (not that I have anything against it.. I am just waiting for the 2nd one to be released and would like to watch both together). This was Mr M’s first Kannada movie. It doesn’t matter which Indian language it is in as long as it has subtitles but this is the first almost-Indie movie that he has seen in a South Indian Language. I have subjected him to Rajnikanth and his Robot movies so far. This movie was a huge deviation from the commercial masala movies he is used to. He totally enjoyed the movie and even tried to imitate the scream (very unsuccessfully might I add). It gave us points to discuss after the movie which I think is always a good thing.

Definitely, a must-watch movie. I should also say that the performance by the actors, especially Rishabh Shetty is top-class.

Magic in the New Year

We decided to start the New Year with some magic, and so we booked the Making of Harry Potter tour by Warner Bros Studio, London on New Year’s Day.

We drove to Watford on New Year’s Eve and stayed in a hotel near the Bhaktivedanta Manor (ISKCON temple). We visited the temple that evening (given it was safe to do so on New Year’s Eve than on a New Year’s Day). Given that it was at least 20 mins away from the Watford Town Center, it was quiet and apart from some fireworks we had a relatively calm and quiet end of the year 2021. On New Year’s Day, we went to the Town Center (parked at Atria Shopping Center) and roamed the almost empty high street for a while. Found a place called “Crispy Dosa” where we had our lunch. They had very good south Indian food. I loved my Chettinad Dosa.

After that, it was a 15 min drive to the studio. Mr M was getting on my nerves as he was very leisure and wanted to arrive at the studio only a few minutes before the start of the tour. I wasn’t so sure but given the new year and the new me thing going on in my head, I decided to give him the benefit of doubt and tried to do my calm breathing exercises (it worked!!!) We were spot on time and the tour began as soon as the majority of the folks had arrived. Didn’t realize that there would be that many people in there and this was reduced count. I wonder how many normal attend the tour in a non-pandemic situation.

They warned us that the tour takes around 3 hours and there would be a cafe halfway through for us to sit and have some rest and refreshments if we wish to do so. The entrance was well done, with interactive screens and people talking etc. From there you go on to a small theatre room where they show the video of what the place is about and then the screens go up and you see “The Great Hall” and that is the actual entrance of your self guided tour. The lady who was explaining the stuff in the Great Hall was too fast and too loud. She could have done it a little better, but I zoned her out and was on my own exploring stuff.

There is so much to see and experience and enjoy. This tour also shows how much goes on in the background for something that comes up in the movie for a mere 2 seconds. I have always appreciated the effort by the artists who work behind the scenes to bring something which might closely resemble the imagination of an author or a fan. It is not easy and sometimes it fails, but when it clicks and succeeds you get something like Harry Potter which becomes a huge sensation. The detailed sketches on the architecture of the buildings that were built, the makeup, the costumes, the food that is shown on the tables, the automotive used, the amount of mechanical and electronic wizardry involved in all these things is amazing. It was so much fun.

One of the highlights of the whole tour for us was the awe-inspiring Gringotts Bank and the way the dragon demolishes the bank. It was amazing. The Diagon Alley was another one of those places which I loved πŸ™‚ and when we were ooh-ing and aah-ing over these things we come to the halfway point and then we have to go out for a bit to find the Knight’s bus and Potter’s Place in Godric’s Hollow, the Privet Drive and the Hogwart’s Bridge all sprinkled with some snow. Such fun! πŸ™‚ The Goblins was one more thing that surprised me. How much work has gone into their makeup and I didn’t know that Warwick Davies played two Goblins apart from being Professor Flitwick. Interesting. Since we didn’t take a break at all and didn’t linger too much on the things which are more catered to be more interactive with kids (where kids could practice their spells for the battle, or do the Yule Ball steps, etc. etc.) we kind of completed the tour in about 2 hours and 15 mins or so. But by the time we browsed the shop towards the end and bought a souvenir and came out to the Food Hall our legs couldn’t hold us up.

If you like Harry Potter this is a definite must-see place. Makes you appreciate the effort that has gone into the movie more and also the effect of a series on a whole generation (or two). I am glad that I belong to the generation of Harry Potters (not necessary grew up on it, but was there to see it grow into a phenomenon). Also, it would be wise to stay after the trip (unlike us who had to drive all the way back to Swansea afterwards) as the tour can be tiring. And they have a food place (apart from a Starbucks and a Frog’s cafe which sells amazing milkshakes) inside the studio which we weren’t aware of. If we had known then we might not have stopped off at Watford (and then I might have missed my dosa!!!).

I am glad we started this year with this tour. I truly enjoyed it. Here are a few photographs from the tour.

In retrospective (how clichΓ©!)

I have already spoken about my journeys this year as part of the weekly photography challenge. So I thought, why not talk about other stuff.

WordPress: I wrote ~260 posts this year on this blog. Fewer posts since August but then I have tried and kept my weekly posts as much as possible.

Instagram: I posted ~215 photos on my Instagram. The number might have increased since last year, but that might be because I compensated my lack of blogging by photo blogging in Instagram πŸ™‚

Goodreads: 108 books recorded (which is less than last year but given my current work conditions I do take a very long time to read one book especially during school days) I also moved my Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited account from US to the one in the UK because payment was becoming an issue and I couldn’t get hold of any local novels that I find in some of the shops around here.

TV/Movies: Didn’t watch many movies except for the odd ones here and there. We recently watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We did complete a couple of series which we miss so dearly. Inspector George Gently & New Tricks were our favourites. A Touch of Frost is coming very close to the end. We miss the old group in Are you being served? The ones from Season 8 is alright, but they do miss something from the earlier seasons.

Apart from those, well, I moved to this new country, got my residence card, quit my 13-year job and anΒ 18+-year-old career, moved to my favourite career of Teaching, gave up my Zumba creds (can no longer teach Zumba), travelled to a new city (Padua), missed a friend’sΒ wedding in India and she eventually moved to the US, enjoyed my snow for a couple of days and so on and so forth. Too many things crammed in a year. All exciting and leading the way to another hopeful year.

I am not going to talk about all the other news items that have happened over the year because those have been talked about everywhere. All I wish is that people be more sensible in terms of their own self and that of others, be more hopeful, be more truthful, be more supportive, be more considerate, and be healthier in the years to come.

Wishing you all a very Happy and a Healthy New Year.