Navarasa: Only a few Rasas connect with you.

First things first, before discussing the anthology, I sincerely appreciate the efforts made to help the industry providing entertainment for many years. Mani Ratnam and Jayendra truly deserve applause for bringing many artists under one roof and making this anthology.

I’ve been an ardent fan of cinema and won’t miss out on visiting a theatre whenever I get an opportunity. Some people help us directly/indirectly throughout the journey of watching a movie in a theatre. My humble thanks to them (usher, watchman, etc.,) and I appreciate Mani and Jayendra for taking the initiative of helping them during this pandemic.

Now, talking about anthologies, most of them made here are based on short stories, either adapted or written for the screen. And when we talk about a short story, filmmakers have less time to engage the audience, take them into their world, and enthral them.

Recent Netflix anthologies like Lust Stories and Paava Kathaigal have handled it well. As an audience, I was immersed in their zone while watching them, irrespective of the duration. The primary challenge, however they have is the time constraint — we weren’t making anthologies earlier, and it also takes time for filmmakers to adapt to the short format and for us, the audience, to accustom to them.

When this project was announced, there were speculations on the filmmakers going to handle the nine emotions. It turned out well — we have experienced professionals like Priyadarshan and GVM; we have newcomers like Rathindran R Prasad and Arvind Swami, and auteurs like Karthik Subbaraj. I was excited after going through the social media posts of Netflix announcing the filmmaker and the emotion he handled.

I watched this anthology in 2 weeks, not because of the total duration, but due to personal issues. I had decided not to watch it in the prescribed chronological order and kept GVM’s and Karthick Naren parts towards the end.

I started with Rathindran R Prasad’s Inmai (Fear). I loved the way he handled fear. Rather than the usual horror/thriller genre, he chose a psychological story with its world, and who doesn’t love it when the actors perform their roles so well (Siddharth & Parvathy ❤).

The cinematography and framing immerse us straight into the zone, and the music, by Vishal Bharadwaj underplays and enhances the scenes. Staging scenes (if that’s the right word to use) is brilliant, and it takes no time to get completely engaged into this part.

Next, I watched Payasam (Disgust) by Vasanth. I’ve seen only one Vasanth film before this, Rhythm, and I liked it instantly. When I saw his name in the list of filmmakers, I thought he’d handle peace or compassion as I felt those are his comfort zone. Proving me wrong, he made Payasam based on a short story, and I thoroughly liked it. I never thought that I’d enjoy watching a story about an older man’s dislike towards his relative and his behaviour during an event of his relative.

The cinematography is fresh, and it feels like you’re part of the wedding, with Justin Prabhakaran’s music bringing good vibes to the function. I paused the film when Delhi Ganesh was walking towards the cooking place and said to myself, “No man! Don’t put poison in the payasam,” and he didn’t do it :)

See how disgusting a person can think just by anticipating the actions of a character (Its a personal reflection, you know ;))

Now, it’s time for Karthik Subbaraj’s Peace. I saw Jagame Thanthiram just a day before watching Navarasa. There’s a slight disconnect in the movie, which made me feel Karthik wasn’t up to his mark, compared to the kind of films he made earlier. Dealing with a global issue like immigration policies and amnesty is complex, and he tried to commercialise and stylise it.

Without any doubt, Mani’s Kannathil Muthamittal is one of the best films I’ve seen that had sensible dealing with Sri Lankan Tamils issues. Peace deals with the story of a group in LTTE, who are closely monitoring the SL army and planning something big.

I thought that preventing a small fight by sending out a peace message would be the crux of the story, but I liked the way things unfold here. The slight twist about young boy’s thambi and Bobby Simha rescuing it was a brilliantly made single shot. I appreciate Karthik’s way of handling it and can’t disprove it.

I was done for the day. I logged out of Netflix after watching the above three on Day-1.

“It is time to make my heart feel light,” I thought and started watching Summer of ’92 by Priyadarshan. Him getting/choosing Haasya is no surprise. I’ve not seen any of his films until now (yes, not even Hera Pheri) and thought this was a good place to start.

The film is based on real incidents that happened to a person, and it is underwhelming. I agree that making films with clean comedy is difficult these days, but I was expecting a lot from this man, and he disappointed me.

The film has lines that humiliate people, which I didn’t like, and I feel the story could’ve been thoroughly reviewed and discussed before they went ahead with the shooting. I felt disgusted at a few places while watching it.

With disgust in place, I thought it’s time for GVM to do his magic, to make my heart fly, eyes shine :D

Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru (Sringara)— a typical GVM title starring Suriya and Prayaga, with music by Karthik surprised everyone while releasing songs on YouTube. There are three songs, and I felt it’s too much for a short film, but I had confidence in GVM that he creates magic.

PC sir handled the cinematography for this part, and you can’t wait to see the visuals he creates. See how excited I was even before watching this part! This is where GVM vexes us with his never-ending conversations with the lead pair, taking us through the main roads of Chennai, giving us all the boredom in the universe.

Handling romantic movies is tricky — if you get connected to it, you get a feeling of heart flying in the air, but if you’re not, the heart feels the annoyance, and you start to ridicule the characters and story. I was expecting the first thing to happen here, but no luck! GVM was in good form when he made Paava Kathaigal, and I eagerly wait for his next outing.

With two continuous setbacks, I mustered courage and watched Thunindha Pinn (Courage) by Sarjun.

The story is credited to Mani Ratnam, and no offence, I felt this as a lacklustre spinoff of Mani’s Roja. I felt no connection with either the characters or the depth of the story. It all feels superficial and half-baked. The premise seems ambitious, but it all goes in vain with the poor handling.

I felt it could’ve been much better if there was no time constraint for them. You tend to travel with the characters with such a good premise, but it gives no room for you.

Now, I glanced at the remaining ones, kept the two Arvind Swami’s to the following day, and started Edhiri (Compassion) by Bejoy Nambiar. The story, again, is credited to Mani Ratnam, and this story has terrific performers — Revathi, Prakash Raj, and Vijay Sethupati. No offence again, but I felt VJS's character is similar to what he played in Iraivi.

Not denying that this film is good, but with the powerful actors at your home, you could work on the script multiple times before going for the shoot. I expected a lot from this film, which might have caused that dissatisfaction.

Without much satisfaction, I was done for the day, waiting to watch the two remaining parts of the anthology, with two powerful emotions — Rowthiram and Adbhutha.

Ten days passed, and I finished the John Wick series before resuming Navarasa.

Started with Rowthiram (Anger)— directed by Arvind Swami (his debut directorial), with music and cinematography handled by ARR and Santosh Sivan. This story deals with two timelines proceeds non-linearly with a good screenplay work. Though it sounds cliche, the story unfolds with a low-income family aspiring to be prosperous and happy and the mother being compromised for money. I’ll never listen to the Vennila song from Iruvar in the same mood again.

Arvind Swami, though it’s his debut, handled the story well, and I think Santosh used top-angle shots (if that’s what they are called) to distinguish the timeline. ARR music is again top-notch. It is like a flowing river with its beautiful magic. Music-wise, I enjoyed listening to the tracks of this, Inmai, and GVM’s GKMN. Special mention to Sarang for his work in using colour to immerse us into the story’s mood.

This brings us to the final part of the anthology — Project Agni (Wonder) by Karthick Naren. I enjoyed watching it. Though people are trolling him by accusing him of taking references from Hollywood movies, as I’ve not seen them, I liked it.

Appreciation to this young man trying hard to bring us an experience that excites us every time. He has the guts to do his kind of movies. Also, the short format works best for Sci-Fi concepts as you can have a tight-knit screenplay and leave certain questions unanswered. If you are making a feature on Sci-Fi, you need to hook the audience throughout, and you’re held accountable to explain everything.

On the whole, Navarasa has hits and misses. Though I heartily appreciate the noble initiative they took, I strongly feel they could have spent some more time on the scripts and selection of directors (it’s not a complaint, I am just putting out what I felt).

I will continue to starve for good cinema. Until then :)

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