08 May 2016

'Tithi' (Kannada Movie): Review

Review of Kannada movie 'Tithi':

One day in a village in Mandya district, a 100-year-old man ('Century' Gowda) dies. 11 days later, his death ceremony is performed. During these 11 days, his three descendants - son Gaddappa, grandson Tammanna and great-grandson Abhishek - go through various adventures and misadventures.

The old Gaddappa spends his time walking around, playing with children, drinking and smoking. The young Abhishek makes some money through several activities (not exactly legal) and spends it on drinking and gambling with his friends. Stuck in between the two is the middle-aged Tammanna whose life revolves around one thing: money problems. Their paths keep intersecting comically with one another in the small universe of their village.

The three characters represent the three different stages of life. The grandfather has seen everything in life and has become a quasi-Buddha. The grandson is just entering life and is full of boyish enthusiasm. The hapless father is stuck in the middle of life - and tries to deal with it by telling some lies and breaking some rules.

Tithi is like a documentary on an Indian village - with a ton of comedy. It looks as if the filmmakers landed up in a village with a camera and simply recorded whatever happened. The actors are all, well, non-actors (ie, real villagers). The language is the rough dialect of rural Mandya - and is outrageously funny (English subtitles are provided).

The multiple intersecting/converging storylines is reminiscent of Alejandro Inarritu's Death trilogy (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel). The stages-of-life approach would get a nod of approval from Leo Tolstoy. And the authentic portrayal of a village is like an S L Bhyrappa novel come to life.

Director Ram Reddy and scriptwriter Eere Gowda have created a masterpiece. Tithi is a hilarious village comedy on the surface. But beneath the humour and simplicity is a beautiful statement on the fundamental truths of life. Tithi is honest, courageous and brilliant - a milestone in Indian cinema.

Tithi won two awards at the Locarno International Film Festival - Best Picture and Best Director.

01 May 2016

'The Man Who Knew Infinity'

Srinivas Ramanujan was born in Erode (250 km south of Bangalore, in today's Tamil Nadu) in 1887. He worked as a clerk in a shipping company in Madras. A devotee of Goddess Namagiri (Lakshmi), he used to 'see' equations that were unknown to mathematics at that time. He wrote about his equations to Godfrey Hardy, a mathematician at Cambridge University. Hardy brought him to Cambridge in 1914. Ramanujan's equations included:
a) An equation to tell the number of prime numbers upto a given number
b) An equation to tell the number of ways in which a number can be obtained by adding other/smaller numbers
c) And many more.

There was just one problem: he didn't have the proofs for these equations. Proofs? What proofs? Goddess Namagiri had told/shown him the equations. There was no need for any 'proofs'. Hardy patiently told him that there is a science called 'mathematics' (and also ordinary humans who don't talk to Goddess Namagiri) that needs proofs. Under Hardy's guidance, Ramanujan studied mathematics at Cambridge, developed the proofs for his equations and published them. He was recognised for his genius with Fellowships at both Cambridge and the Royal Society. But in the meantime, his health had suffered. He returned to India in 1919, and passed away the next year - at the age of 32.

It is difficult to make a good movie about a great man. The few good ones are Gandhi, Patton and Lawrence of Arabia. It is even more difficult to make a good movie about a scientist. A Beautiful Mind? Hollywood gave it a bunch of Oscars just to look smart. Making a good movie about Ramanujan - who is a mystery not just to ordinary people, but also to mathematicians - is almost impossible. British writer/director Matthew Brown makes a heroic effort to turn American author Robert Kanigel's 1991 book (I haven't read it) into a movie. Dev Patel is OK as Ramanujan. Jeremy Irons as Hardy turns an English textbook lesson/chapter (with some maths thrown in) into a movie with life, colour and passion.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is the story of a great mind and its great achievements - which we cannot fully understand. It is also the story of the friendship between two good men - which definitely touches our hearts.