Tamasha (2015) #SherylPuthur


Directed By: Imtiaz Ali

Written By: Imtiaz Ali


Ranbir Kapoor – Ved Vardhan Sahni

Deepika Padukone – Tara Maheshwari

Javed Sheikh – Ved’s father

Vivek Mushran – Ved’s Boss

Language: Hindi                                                            Genre: Romance; Drama

Tamasha (Spectacle) refers to the local folk performances of popular oral narratives either from the epics, religious texts or popular ballads. This is a tradition by no means unique to India as every country possesses a tradition of local theatrical performances. These performances work on the fore knowledge of the audience and frequently include artistic deviations.

Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha has these local performances strewn through the film (both Indian and foreign, such as in Corsica there is a local procession). Performance and spectacle is central to the film, interestingly, even in human relationships. What is appropriate behaviour and how should you project yourself in a socially accepted manner.

The film follows Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) who grows up with an understanding that there are two lives to live – one the socially accepted life and the secret pulsating life of dreams. As a child Ved, visits the local storyteller to be transported into a world of fantasy.

So when he meets Tara (Deepika Padukone) for the first time at Corsica, he tries to live his ‘once upon a time’ moment – an escapist fantasy, by projecting his imagined idea of himself. So they decide not to tell each other the truth of their identity, he introduces himself as Don and she is Mona Darling. They spend a few days in Corsica and decide never to meet again. Tara however, cannot get over him and eventually searches him out. But now he turns out to be the anti-thesis of everything Don was. She rejects him and everything spirals out of control.

Like Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, this too is a ‘finding yourself’ narrative and as in both the focus is on the male character. The female character is exuberant and holds a commanding presence on the screen but ultimately is just the muse or the catalyst that sends them on a journey which has destructive consequences but is eventually creative in expression.

The storytelling is riveting and replete with popular culture references. Such as Catch-22 – this is significant, because a catch-22 situation is what underlies Ved’s dilemma.

The performances are compelling much like the narrative with both actors giving mature performances. A special mention – Ranbir Kapoor presents with frightening intensity the cracking up of an invisible character (in fact, a very Fightclub moment does exist in the film). If he in the future chose the role of a psychopath/sociopath – it would be chilling. However, in comparison to earlier films, there is a drop in the exuberant energy that had become almost synonymous with his performance. Deepika on the other hand, has scaled heights as an actor. Coming so close on the heels of Piku, her performance has a riveting fluidity to it.

Certain sequences in the film were too contrived. The segment in Corsica for instance, was at its worst – unfunny, and the scene between Ved and his father (Javed Sheikh) – unbelievable. The song Agar Tum Saath Ho was moving, with Deepika’s performance leaving you with a tightening sensation in your chest. Strangely though, others in that space do not react to their rather vocal argument which wasn’t very logical but I would like to assume Ali crafted the scene to emphasise the alienation in society.

While absorbing, the storytelling does lose out in the editing, making the screenplay haphazard. Something I found even in Rockstar which makes the story a little scattered.

Do stay to watch the credits to the end because Imtiaz Ali gives a beautiful tribute to the various performers by having the cast list begin with the names of the dancers, musicians etc who are so central to the narrative. To me, that was outstanding.


Centurion (2010) #SherylPuthur


Directed By: Neil Marshall

Written By: Neil Marshall


Michael Fassbender – Quintas Dias

Olga Kurylenko – Etain

Dominic West – Titus Flavius Virilus

Liam Cunningham – Ubriculius

David Morrissey – Bothos

J J Feild – Thax

Ulrich Thomsen – Gorlacon

Noel Clarke – Macros

Riz Ahmed – Tarak

Dimitri Leonidas – Leonidas

Imogen Poots – Arianne

Paul Freeman – Gnaeus Julius Agricola

Language: English and Gaelic   Genre: Historical, Action-war; Thriller

Centurion is a 2010 British action thriller war movie set in Scotland during the time of the Roman occupation of the British Isles. Rome had already conquered England and Wales and was trying hard to bring Scotland under them. The film focuses on the Ninth Legion whose fate is still unknown or unclear, giving an alternative reading to the story.

Stories have circulated about the fate of the missing Ninth Legion. Some scholars believe it happened on the main continent of Europe while fighting off a warring tribe, others that it was the Jews who routed them. But most scholars feel it may have happened on the British Isles while fighting off the Picts. The Picts were the ancient inhabitants of Scotland and were called Picti (painted people) by the Romans because they painted their faces, especially before war.

The film is from the perspective of a Roman centurion Quintas Dias (Michael Fassbender) whose garrison was ambushed and destroyed by the Pictish warriors, leaving him the sole survivor. Dias is tortured for information by Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) a Pictish leader because he spoke the Pictish language.  He refuses to help them and escapes captivity seeking refuge with the Ninth Legion under General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West).

Governor Agricola (Paul Freeman) wants the Ninth Legion to take some decisive action against the Picts and asks Virilus to make use of the skills of Etain (Olga Kurylenko), a Celtic Brigantian who can lead them into Pictish territory. They, however, are ambushed by the Picts. The end result – Virilus is taken captive.

The seven survivors of the ambush – Dias, Ubriculius (Liam Cunningham), Bothos (David Morrissey), Thax (J J Feild), Macros (Noel Clarke), Tarak (Riz Ahmed) and Leonidas (Dimitri Leonidas) decide to sneak into the Pictish village and rescue Virilus. What adds a trying measure of responsibility and guilt on Dias is the promise that Virilus demands of him. It is this journey, of fulfilling the promise and reaching to safety, fraught with danger and sure death that dominates the rest of film.

The film shows how the ruling faction – the Romans, is reduced to being the chased and the hunted. They are shown slowly descending into unethical behaviour just to survive, breaking whatever codes of honour they were expected to follow. Yet Dias does emerge as a throwback figure to the old order of chivalry, the ‘I give you my word’ kind of honour.

Etain on the other hand, comes across as a formidable opponent – a tracker and a hunter, she inspires fear yet plays an ambiguous role in the narrative making her a character you also sympathise with.

The Picts too have their flaws. It is in the character of Arianne (Imogen Poots) that it becomes most apparent. She is branded as a witch by Gorlacon, scarred and then made an outcast.

The film does not present one side as villains and another as the heroes but tries to present both sides as violent and sometimes, justified.

The engaging aspect of the movie is that the Picts are not projected as this barbaric tribe but given a voice to express their struggle against the foreign invaders – which is an alternative view to Roman Britain.  The general opinion projected about the Roman Empire in Britain has always been about pride in its still existing symbols like the holiday spot Bath for instance. This then highlights the resentment that probably still exists in Britain about the subjugation by the Romans.

There is much violence and gore in the film – torture scenes, decapitated heads but the spurts of blood seem more video game-like and hence not very realistic. Nevertheless, the violence is a little startling.

Centurion may have taken liberties with actual history, presenting characters that may have not actually been there during the time period of the story (Agricola). Also it may have not given much of a curve to the characters but it does seem realistic as opposed to The Last Legion which fused the Arthurian legend into the fate of the Ninth Legion making it supernatural and a tad bit unbelievable.


Shirley Valentine (1989) #SherylPuthur


Directed By: Lewis Gilbert

Written By: Willy Russell


Pauline Collins – Shirley Valentine-Bradshaw

Tom Conti – Costas Dimitriades

Julia McKenzie – Gillian

Alison Steadman – Jane

Joanna Lumley – Marjorie Majors

Sylvia Syms – Headmistress

Bernard Hill – Joe Bradshaw

Tracie Bennett – Millandra Bradshaw

Gareth Jefferson – Brian Bradshaw

Gillian Kearney – young Shirley

Catherine Duncan – young Marjorie

Language: English                                   Genre: Romantic-Comedy; Drama


The interesting thing about Shirley Valentine is that it overturns the stock terms used to describe the genre and theme of the film – romantic comedy about a bored housewife who goes on a holiday to Greece and rediscovers herself; love and life. This description would be too simplistic.

The romance in this film isn’t about Shirley (Pauline Collins) being enamoured by the Greek bar owner Costas (Tom Conti) who helps her rediscover pleasure but it goes back to a far older and poetic meaning of romance or otherwise known as romanticism.

The Illustrated Dictionary of Essential Knowledge defines romanticism by saying it “stressed the value of personal emotion and imagination and freedom from the strict rules of form…” (72). It also laid emphasis on man’s, “innate powers of creativity, his spontaneity and his relationship with the natural world” (145).

When looked at from this lens, the film isn’t about a bored housewife (two words that carry its fair share of connotations) but about a woman who has given up on herself. Shirley is someone who has judged herself to be irrelevant or just a fixture in the house because she is in her eyes, a failure.

Her days are spent talking to the kitchen wall or ‘The Wall’ because there is no one else she can confide in. Making her husband Joe’s (Bernard Hill) routine dishes for tea is the other exciting diversion of her life.

The older Shirley also carries baggage from her high school days of not measuring up to the exacting standards of the headmistress (Sylvia Syms) who believed that the young Shirley (Gillian Kearney) was incapable of amounting to anything.  She felt unfairly compared to the school’s ‘perfect girl’ Marjorie Majors (Catherine Duncan).

However, a chance meeting with an older Marjorie Majors (Joanna Lumley) makes her realise that she does not the live the glamorous life Shirley assumed she would. And when Marjorie confesses that she envied her at school, it comes as a surprise to Shirley that a nonentity like her could be envied.  One realises that people love making assumptions about themselves, situations and others so the first step to rediscovery comes from breaking them.

The film shows that while visiting an exotic location for a holiday may be romantic, living there day-in and day-out takes some of the romance away. But the point of Shirley staying at Greece was not about an exotic experience alone but as a new take on life.  So doing even mundane activities like talking to ‘the wall’ or making chip and eggs for ‘unwilling to experiment’ British tourists are still charming.

A scene that was both hilarious and warm was when Joe begins talking to the wall. You notice a man who was once willing to experiment but responsibilities made him choose stability instead. Now when external circumstances force him to reconsider, it is with a sudden awareness that he is actually lonely and has been so for so long. So he converses with the wall to retain a connection with Shirley.

The reactions of her children add to the drama of the narrative but what takes it forward is her self-righteous neighbour Gillian’s (Julia McKenzie) open-hearted support of Shirley’s decision to take her life in her hands. It is moving to see the honest appreciation and the vicarious longing behind her action of gifting a silk robe.

By turns droll and stirring, the film is an honest and ordinary woman’s decision to fall in love with life. Not as a mother, or a wife or a lover but as Shirley Valentine. It falls within that special bracket of films about women who strike out on their own, either by choice or circumstance such as English Vinglish, Queen, Under the Tuscan Sun – to accept the changes in themselves; without guilt.

Special mention: the script – unemotional, funny yet warm it conveys a woman’s journey without the usual clichés of travel romances.

Me Without You (2001) #SherylPuthur

me-without-you michelle anna

Directed By: Sandra Goldbacher

Written By: Sandra Goldbacher; Laurence Coriat


Anna Friel – Marina

Michelle Williams – Holly

Oliver Milburn – Nat

Kyle MacLachlan – Daniel

Trudie Styler – Linda

Allan Corduner – Max

Marianne Denicourt – Isabel

Deborah Findlay – Judith

Nicky Henson – Ray

Adrian Lukis – Leo Muller

Language: English                                                          Genre: Romance-Drama

Me Without You is a poignant film about the toxicity of long friendships. It follows the friendship of Holly (Michelle Williams) and Marina (Anna Friel) from 1973 when they are 12 years old to 1978; 1982; 1989; 2001 – each time period marking an important curve to their relationship.

Marina and Holly each have something the other desires. They are not happy with their lives and want the other’s life. This discontent grows as they grow. Marina feels unloved because her parents are separated and seem particularly self-involved. Holly’s family is Jewish. Her mother is both overprotective and seems to highlight Holly’s insecurity about her appearance. Marina wants stability and Holly wants to be as beautiful and carefree as Marina.

When they are kids, their ‘admiration’ for each other’s life does not get out of hand. But with the passing of years they realise the truth of the circumstances around them and find they cannot hold on to childish fantasies anymore. It is then that their jealousy becomes obvious.

For Marina, her looks and outgoing personality becomes the superior ‘skill’ she can lord over Holly. But when ‘mousy’ Holly manages to attract the attention of Nat (Oliver Milburn), Marina’s brother, at a drugs and music party his girlfriend organises, Marina is unable to deal with it. She instinctively realises that they will probably be great for each other even though at that point Nat wouldn’t date her since he was with someone else but just maybe later. This is the point when the poison seeps in and there is no more childlike excitement at being ‘Harina’ – Holly+Marina.

However, there is an awareness that they need the other, so no one overtly rocks the boat but covertly they try to undermine the other. For instance, when they are studying at university Holly finds herself attracted to her professor Daniel (Kyle MacLachlan). Marina finds him silly but later makes it a point to seduce him and it is as though she wants to hit out at Holly. When this incident nearly escalates into a full-fledged fight, Marina instead of letting it damage their friendship deflects it by damaging the fledgling relationship Holly and Nat develop after he returns from his French sojourn.

Holly and Marina are frequently referred to as being each others’ mothers, Siamese twins, a married couple – hinting at their cloying proximity. A proximity, that is rather desperately maintained but has no real engagement.

A pivotal scene in the film, which marks Holly’s growing frustration at Marina’s controlling behaviour, and yet fear against openly voicing it out is when she mentions being puzzled at Marina’s decision to become Jewish after marriage since her fiancée is Jewish. Marina’s retort – “Why shouldn’t I be Jewish? Huh? It gives me a sense of identity” and Holly’s response in an undertone, “Really? Whose identity?” underscores what has happened to them.

In an unequal relationship, one will play the role of the manipulator and the other the victim. The victim will eventually either lash out or accept the victimisation and grow to use it as a cloak to garner sympathy resulting in possibly an even more warped personality. What would be healthier would be to claim individuality and strike out alone. However, it is hard when that said relationship is with your closest friend.

Me Without You isn’t saying that female friendships are warped or that the idea of childhood friends sticking together in a healthy manner is a fairytale but that true growth can only happen with some distance from those who know you too well. The truth is, they know only one aspect of you and would find it strange if you became something else. But moving away, isn’t to destroy an older relationship but to discover yourself in newer relationships.

Maybe why female friendships are more prone to manipulation has probably to do with female socialisation. Boys are socialised to ‘let out’ their frustrations especially with each other so they get into physical brawls when there is a tense moment. But girls are told to ‘rein in’ their emotions and hence let it fester.

I found this an incredibly moving and beautifully shot film because of the rounded characterisation, the chemistry between the lead characters and how the narrative keeps you hooked without being soppy. Also, the ending I find is interestingly open-ended.