Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eega : Some thoughts

Teasers for Indian movies have always been quite revealing. In fact there are some movies that have such explicit teasers that they contain almost all of the best scenes the movie has to offer. Bitter experiences ensue later when the same movies are watched on the large screen and it is realized that the sequences from the teaser were perhaps the only tolerable portions of the entire thing. SS Rajamouli’s ‘Eega’ (‘Naan Ee’ in its Tamil avatar) is no exception in that department as the teaser pretty much captures the basic plot while also brazenly giving away hints about the predictability of the whole affair (a brave move for someone who is investing everything on a story based on a CGI character). Hence, to save us all time I shall focus on some elements that were not covered in the teaser.

The opening credits run with a background track of a child pestering his father for a bedtime story. With great reluctance the father begins telling the child the story of a housefly. This is an important sequence for two reasons: One, with just that the director sets up the premise for the entire film – it is a bedtime story. And two, because it is a bedtime story the idea that whatever is to follow, however fantastical and unrealistic it may be, will seek respite in that setting.

So the plot is as old as time itself. A young couple is head over heels in love with each other albeit they are yet to confess the same to one another. The fact that they are neighbors only allows the hero to apply some reflection based physics to impress the girl next door. Things seem a little too sweet to be true. All is color and song in slow motion amid flying autumn leaves.

Enter: the much needed antagonist. A playboy millionaire with a flair for money and women – in no particular order. As the teaser already reveals he manages to eliminate the competition by killing off the boy. As if to drive home the point of a harmless housefly being the real focal point of the plot the director makes the villain literally squash the hero with his bare feet – like an insignificant bug.

The girl is devastated by the news (of course she isn’t clued in on who did it…yet) as the villain swoops in to claim his prize. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the woods, the soul of the deceased young man has found home in an insect. Before you know it (and before the movie marker hits 25 minutes) you are introduced to the central character of the film – the buzzing housefly Eega.

As is evident from the teaser the rest of the movie is about how the housefly, generally deemed harmless by humans, can take on such an impossible task of plotting and killing one of us. What struck me as interesting was how the film maker here is so convinced of his vision that he leaves no stone unturned in getting us to look at the plot from the housefly’s perspective. We see the extremely-larger-than-life sequences of the visions the housefly has of the world around it. We are shown the titanic nature of seemingly trivial things like a water droplet falling to the ground when seen from the eyes of so small a being. We are led into a world of such small proportions that our existence as human beings fascinates us. The smallest of things we do so spontaneously are shown to have such catastrophic consequences in the worlds of beings smaller, much smaller, than us. These are sequences that act as gentle reminders to us about the fact that we, as a species, are not alone. We are not the only ones who matter in the big scheme of things.

The scenes that show how the housefly goes about bothering the villain are creatively done. If buzzing around and biting is the only annoying thing we thought a mosquito can do then seeing some of the outrageous things a harmless seeming housefly is capable of took me by surprise! There are scenes with just one human protagonist in them but the way Rajamouli utilizes the furniture, the carpets, the walls, almost all the props available in the frame to act as catalysts for the housefly to do it’s deed is remarkable. Everything from a glass of iced lemon tea to a bed sheet is used as a potential ‘actor’ in the scene. This is an achievement that the director deserves a pat on the back for. The ability to understand the importance of inanimate objects in a frame.

What is also curious is how much emotion is added to a rather dull creature like a housefly. Without the anatomy to give it expressive eyes the creative team of the movie still manages to get it to display anger, grief, shock and best of all – happiness – quite effectively. Since the context is completely Indian (and given our insatiable appetite for the whimsical) the antics the housefly indulges in are entertaining to watch. Once the villain has the plot figured out (that the housefly is the re-incarnated version of the young man he brutally murdered earlier…) his reactions aimed to kill the fly make up for the perfect clash: human vs fly, both wanting the other dead.

There is rarely a dull moment in the film after the first half an hour. It is perhaps for this reason that a lot of the plot holes can be ignored. One can tell that the director just couldn’t wait to start animating the fly and get the antagonist (Sudeep in what is arguably one of his most memorable roles thus far) to make his lethal moves in response. The CGI is well done, as mentioned earlier, and despite the predictable nature of the plot it makes for an engaging watch. Attention to detail, especially from the fly’s perspective, is remarkably accurate.

Performances belong largely to Sudeep (although the leading lady lights up the screen with her graceful presence quite often) and the CGI generated housefly. The two display remarkable chemistry despite the barrier of existence that separates them. Sudeep is extremely expressive throughout the film fully aware that it is through his act of rage and despair that his opponent gains life and worth on screen. And so he breathes hard, and often, to make both of them glow. What shows up as a result of this is a product of much honest hard work and dedication that is hard to ignore. The bottom line I took away from the movie was that of courage. Not just from the story’s perspective where a classic David vs Goliath method is used to deliver but also from a film making point of view where the director’s conviction with the story is so clear. For a director, known for his widely acclaimed commercial attempts over the years, to get his hands dirty with something so ‘out of tradition’ is worth appreciation. It shows his courage not just with the potency of the plot but also in the trust he has with the audience. An acknowledgement all film makers can take a leaf out of. Such an effort to ensure a bedtime story for a child is done justice on the screen needs to be lauded.

With ‘Eega’ what Rajamouli has done is created a benchmark where the protagonist of the story need not be a human. This opens up new ways to tell a traditional story. It offers room for stories that have the human element in them without the visible presence of them. It creates space for the much needed aspect of human existence – empathy. One can only hope both Rajamouli and the nation’s film fraternity continue to find new stories that hinge on this much needed human attribute. Even if they appear only in bed time stories.

1 reflections:

Sirulu said...

Nice thoughts and a super point you have brought up here 'The smallest of things we do so spontaneously are shown to have such catastrophic consequences in the worlds of beings smaller, much smaller, than us.'

Agree bedtime story idea is a master stroke, but most of the bedtime stories I have heard would have started as "అనగనగ ఒక ఊరిలో ఒక నాని వున్నాడు అదే ఊరిలో ఒక బ్యాడ్ బాయ్ సుదీప్ వున్నాడు" instead of "అనగనగ ఒక ఊరిలో ఒక ఈగ వుంది అదే ఊరిలో ఒక బ్యాడ్ బాయ్ సుదీప్ వున్నాడు". Though this doesn't take away anything from the movie, thought's been bugging me, there is no Eega when the story starts. Brilliant efforts, great conviction and the result is an incredible n amazing movie.