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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

tinseldom's love with gangster movies !


The  recent launch of Amazon Prime’s gangster saga Mirzapur marked another milestone in the evolution of the Indian screen gangster. The TV series will go head-to-head with season four of Netflix’s Narcos, providing rich pickings for those wanting to see the grittier side of life outside the western world.  Telling the story of a crime dynasty ruling the town of Mirzapur in the dusty outlaw hinterland of Uttar Pradesh – a vast Indian state with more than 200 million people,  somehow touted to be plagued with violence and corruption – the show is the latest to feed India’s perennial appetite for seeing the raw underbelly of its society on the big screen and on TV.

In recent years, Anurag Kashyap made a series of bloody, hard-boiled gangster movies, including the outstanding two-part Gangs of Wasseypur – a five-and-a-half-hour epic charting the destinies of warring coal-mafias in the lawless backwaters of rural Jharkand – while Netflix launched his hugely successful Mumbai gangster series Sacred Games that delved deep into the city’s underworld of gaudy mobsters, sassy molls, crooked cops and politicians.   Tinseldom be it Hollywood or anyother wood,  has always had larger-than-life gangsters ! ~ glorifying the gory has been the passion and way of money-making of many a movie makers.   

Chi-Raq  released in  2015 is an  American musical crime drama film, directed and produced by Spike Lee and co-written by Lee and Kevin Willmott. Set in Chicago, the film focuses on the gang violence prevalent in neighborhoods on the city's south side, particularly the Englewood neighborhood.  The story is based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a Classical Greek comedy play in which women withhold sex (heard this dialogue in Unnal Mudiyum thambi !) and porn from their husbands as punishment for fighting in the Peloponnesian War. It was the first film to be produced by Amazon Studios, released in select theaters on in Dec 2015.

Amazon.com, Inc., doing business as Amazon is an American electronic commerce and cloud computing company based in Seattle, Washington, that was founded by Jeff Bezos on July 5, 1994. The tech giant is the largest Internet retailer in the world as measured by revenue and market capitalization, and second largest after Alibaba Group in terms of total sales. The Amazon.com website started as an online bookstore and later diversified to sell video downloads/streaming, MP3 downloads/streaming, audio book downloads/streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry. The company also owns a publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, a film and television studio, Amazon Studios, produces consumer electronics lines including Kindlee-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo devices, and is the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS and PaaS) through its AWS subsidiary.

Beginning in 2013, Amazon.com distributes original television programs through its Amazon Video service, some of which are developed in-house by Amazon Studios. Amazon Studios is a television production distributor that is a subsidiary of Amazon. It specialized on developing television series and distributing and producing films. Content is distributed through Amazon Video, Amazon's digital video streaming service, a competitor to services like Netflix and Hulu.  In 2008, Amazon expanded into film production, producing the film The Stolen Child with 20th Century Fox. In July 2015, Amazon announced it had acquired Spike Lee's new film, Chi-Raq, as its first Amazon Original Movie.

Now something on Tamil (a Tamil serial to be precise) - On paper, Vellaraja is as exciting as Sacred Games, and that’s a compliment the former really deserves. In both these series, the existence of the primary character – about whom we hear a lot throughout - is in question. If it’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Sacred Games, it’s Bobby Simhaa (Deva) in Vellaraja. Both are dreaded crime kingpins, wanted for various unlawful activities. 

Directed by Guhan Senniappan, Vellaraja predominantly unfolds in a lodge where Deva seeks refuge with a large consignment of cocaine in his possession. It revolves around a cocaine heist gone wrong, corrupt police officers, a fearless lawyer willing to take on the system and much more. For a story that pretty much revolves around Deva, we’re introduced to far too many characters which really don’t make sense in the bigger picture of the story. It just feels like all the characters were brought under one roof to build suspense which then gets dragged for ten episodes.  Parvatii Nair  plays Teresa, a cop who is specially appointed to deal with the drugs situation in the city.  For those who have a fixed mindset on TV serials as soap operas of females crying, this could be a different one !

Anything on gangster life and movie will not be complete without ‘Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan’ – 1987 released Kamal starrer.  The song dance of Kuyili onboard a fishing boat with drugs was a hit.  It loosely portrayed the real-life Bombay underworld don Varadaraja Mudaliar, and sympathetically depicted the struggle of South Indians living in Bombay.   The soundtrack and the background score of the film, composed by Ilaiyaraaja were the strong points of the film.

If you can recall, the kidnap and murder of two children ‘Geeta and Sanjay Chopra’ also known as ‘Billa Ranga kidnapping’ case in 1978 hogged limelight.  The two unfortunate children  were kidnapped by two young men, Ranga Khus (Kuljeet Singh) and Billa (Jasbir Singh), who planned to demand ransom from their parents. Their plans went awry when their car was involved in a traffic accident with a public bus. They subsequently raped Geeta, murdered the children and fled the city. They were arrested on a train a few months later, tried and hanged for the crime in 1982.

Sadly, tinseldom used their names for some adverse publicity the names could generate.  In 1980 a film named ‘Billa” a Rajnikanth starrer was produced by K. Balaji and directed by R. Krishnamurthy. It was a commercial success.  In 2007, it was remade with Ajith in the lead; with Nayantara, Prabhu, Namitha in the cast.  There was another film made with Rajni in the lead, titled ‘Ranga’. That is Tamil tinseldom’s love with gangsters and criminals ..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th Dec 2018.


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