Tag Archives: Indian


AKA Naan Ee (Tamil), Eecha (Malayalam), Makkhi (Hindi), The Fly (English)

DIRECTED BY: S. S. Rajamouli

FEATURING: Kiccha Sudeepa,  Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Nani

PLOT: Nani pursues the beautiful Bindu, but the jealous Sudeep murders his rival; reincarnated as a housefly, Nani sets about exacting revenge.

Still from Eega (2012)

COMMENTS: Tone is a tricky thing. A film can have a consistent, unwavering emotional level, but can end up feeling bland or boring. On the flipside, a movie that lurches from wildly comic to intensely emotive can feel disjointed, even schizophrenic. It’s the mark of a special film that can find just the right mix of comedy and drama, of action and dialogue, of widescreen spectacle and closeup character study.

This is a long walk to tell you that Eega shouldn’t work. A musical romance that lurches into a revenge blockbuster, a goofy comedy laced with scenes of intense violence… the cavalier way in which the film regularly jumps tracks surely presages viewer whiplash. It’s a measure of the supreme confidence that director S. S. Rajamouli—years away from the global success of his epic RRR—has in his story that he doesn’t hesitate to vary the tone wherever he feels it appropriate. The strangest thing about Eega may very well be that a housefly is an action hero and a romantic lead, but the full commitment of the film to the bit ensures that it’s the most normal thing of all.

Because once Nani (the human character, not the actor) is murdered, he is not coming back, and we’re relying upon a CGI, nonverbal, lightly cartoon-ized Musca domestica to carry the movie, and I daresay he does. We get all the hallmarks of this kind of story: the training montage in which he devises his revenge plan and builds himself into a warrior, the confrontation scene in which he promises his opponent that he will prevail, the moment where all seems lost until the hero finds an inner reserve of strength and cleverness to win the day. And the plucky little guy at the center of all this is the very same creature you’ve probably thwacked with a swatter a time or two.

Some of the mental disconnect surely comes from its framing device: an unseen daughter pleads with her father to tell a new bedtime story, and this is the result. This might prime you to expect a jolly romp for the kids. However, the tale the father unspools kicks off with a scene set at a gun range in which villain Sudeep (the character, not the actor) shows off his skill with both his rifle and his gun, if you catch my meaning. That dichotomy is present throughout; at its heart, the story feels like it should be a Disney fairy tale, with songs and a cute anthropomorphized creature, but it’s balanced with intensely realized violence and adult situations not normally encountered in the genre. It’s the kind of movie where, after our hero housefly has used the liquid from his beloved’s tears to spell out his identity and to tell her who was responsible for his demise, her response is an immediate and definitive, “How do we kill him?”

There’s probably something to the fact that this is a product of the Tollywood system, and not cinema as it’s produced in the West or even in Mumbai. Think of the American approach to this idea. In a movie like, say, Home Alone, the villains are unquestionably bad guys, but their evil is leavened with a goofiness that sands off the edges. We have to believe that they are dangerous, but if they were too mean, too amoral, then their face-off with an adolescent boy would be intensely uncomfortable. In Eega, this is (and yes, I do truly regret saying this) a feature, not a bug. There is a part of Sudeep that is clearly masquerading as a man of power. When he absent-mindedly sets his own safe full of money on fire, or when he shows up to an important business meeting in a motorcycle helmet to keep his ears insect-free, he is appropriately ridiculous. But we have watched this same Sudeep brutally beat and murder Nani, and we will see him cold-heartedly slice open the throat of a close associate. He’s over-the-top silly and over-the-top nasty. Eega sees no contradiction.

A special note should be offered for one of the most intriguing aspects of the film’s production: the producers essentially shot two films at the same time, replicating every scene in both the Tegulu and Tamil languages with slight differences here and there. (Readers should be advised that I most decidedly did not go the extra mile for them, watching only the Tegulu edition with English subtitles. So, no cameo by brilliantly named screenwriter Crazy Mohan for me.) This isn’t unheard of; the 1931 production of Dracula utilized the same sets to film the classic during the day and a Spanish-language version at night. But it does show an unusually strong commitment to reaching a local audience.

At its most basic level, Eega is a pretty typical David-and-Goliath story. It doesn’t really advance the form significantly, except for the fact that it makes a little hero out of the damned housefly, to the point where he gets his own Indian-cinema style dance number to end the film. That exception is nothing to sniff at, though. Anytime a bug can make you put down the Raid and pick up the popcorn, it’s doing something special.


“The film is completely insane, endlessly enjoyable, and absolutely unique. Eega is the best film about a man reincarnated as a housefly avenging his own murder that you will ever see… Every time I thought I had a handle on Eega, it threw me for a loop in the best possible way.”–J Hurtado, Screen Anarchy (contemporary)

(This movie, in its Hindi dub as Makkhi, was nominated for review by Elaine Little. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)


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Sarangi (Tarun Thind, United Kingdom): Florescent eeriness, late-night study, and then an incongruous, but familiar sound. An unnamed student hears the tones of “God Save the Queen,” but performed on an instrument native to his ancestral land. When the witch appears, each run of the bow and turn of the wheel further traps the young man as the echoing pitch of his adopted home’s anthem severs him from his past.

Two Sides (Luo Mingyang, China): This animation was cryptic and circular, and prominently featured an ominous blade. Effectively silent, as well, as a troubled boy, the least-worthy member of a gang of toughs, is alternately challenged to rough up a victim, or petrified by a vision of a two-faced spirit. It doesn’t make much sense, but it has a “vibe”, a climax, and a post-credits coda that, for whatever reason, seared a deep impression in me.

English Tutor (Koo Jaho, South Korea): Comedy and horror from Korea! Few things are more of a delight. An (you guessed it) English tutor seeks work and is summoned by a mother desperate for her young daughter to write, one word, any word (!), in English. The tutor succeeds in her task after calming the weeping child. But, alas, something is very wrong: and things turn from sweet to creepy to violent with due haste.

Foreigners Only (, Bangladesh): Ohohoh, this was the best of the lot. Our hero (if you will) is a tanner by trade, desperately seeking lodging away from work. Bug bites from ambient animal skins vex him something fierce. His girlfriend is appalled to learn his trade (“You hurt animals!” —”No I don’t! They… they come pre-hurt.”) But Continue reading 2023 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: “THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE EAST” SHORTS SHOWCASE


“Circo Animato” 2020 program

Screening online for Canadians at 2020’s online Fantasia Film Festival

For a well-deserved break from reality, instead I spent my Sunday morning enjoying thirteen cartoon shorts from around the world.

“The Spinning Top” – dir. by Shiva Momtahen

An ornately told tale from Iran about an enthusiastic child who ends up trading his ability to sing and shout for a spinning top. The animation is distinctly non-Western, and beautiful. The little boy in question travels within an  ever-shifting frame of stylized flowers as he encounters the quilt man, pool man, and the salt man. The up tempo feel is brought down to earth when the salt man takes away the boy’s youthful vigor, leaving only the memories within the top.

“Kkum” – dir. by Kim Kang-min

This is the only foam-imation I’ve ever seen, and accompanying the weird look achieved by animating its weird narrative about a young man who is protected by his mother’s dreams with polystyrene. Four dreams in particular–“Fire,” “Insect,” “Pumpkin,” and “Corpse”–are highlighted, each heavily symbolic and lovingly rendered in Styrofoam. The short ends with the mother advising her son (grown, with wife and child) not to go out that day; the grateful lad thanks the heavens for the meticulous fence his mother has constructed around him.

“There Were Four of Us” – dir. by Cassie Shao

By a whisker, this was the strangest short of the crop—both to listen to, and to look at. The sound is purposely muted, as if one is listening to the dialogue (actually, mostly monologues) through a telephone propped against an old tape recorder. The visual element, however, practically shouts from the screen. What is going on here? There are too many clues, too many things going on, to be certain; the final shot suggests a hospital. And the garbled vocal exposition suggests a mental one, at Continue reading FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2020: GILES WATCHES CARTOONS


Or, “Dead Dad Double Feature”

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Screening online for Canadians at 2020’s online Fantasia Film Festival

Happenstance, more than anything else, brought me a double feature that centered on the deaths of fathers. Cody Calahan’s The Oak Room is best described as a “Canadian thriller”: subdued, sparsely-populated, and blanketed in driving snow. Showing up after closing time at his father’s favourite bar, Steve requests his old man’s ashes. Paul, friend of the father, bartender, and all-around bastard, has them—in a tackle box. But he demands that Steve pay up “what he owes” before handing them over.

The Oak Room‘s action takes place in two different, but eerily similar-looking drinking dens. What seems a simple story of a ne’er-do-well son returning after his father’s death becomes a collection of stories: Steve’s story about “the Oak Room”, Paul’s story about Steve’s father’s story about hitch-hiking in his 20s, Tommy Coward’s story about the goings-on in the Oak Room, and, twice, Michael’s story about his father’s pig farm. For those counting at home, that’s five interlocking pieces of one narrative—each unlocking a piece of a puzzle. By the time the unclear ending rolls around, each narrators’ unreliability sloshes into the stew of truth and fiction, and the film’s seemingly scant body count may rise. Or, is Steve—seemingly some kind of idiot drifter—merely harnessing the power of storytelling to trick the bitter bartender?

In Sidharth Srinivasan’s Kriya, a DJ named Neel gets more than he bargained for when he returns to the home of Sitara, a fiercely attractive young woman who catches his eye. Expecting sex, instead he finds he’s been drafted into being a male mourner for her father’s death rites. Sitara’s family is incredibly traditional, and Hindu tradition demands that the father’s son lead the ceremonies. But Neel is not this man’s son—and he realises too late that he’s gotten roped (at times, literally) into an attempt by the family to break a generations’-long curse. Pity poor Neel.

The Oak Room is obviously a thriller, and Kriya is obviously a horror movie, but they stand out in the same manner that they stand together: both meditate on the death of a patriarch, and both explore the vagaries of human memory and tradition. Steve’s father, Gord, told stories; his son does the same. It is an attempt to make sense of things, perhaps improving on the past through retelling (“goosing the truth”, as explained by bartender Paul). Kriya echoes this technique of ritualizing a narrative through repetition, focusing much more blatantly on rites—centuries old, in this case. Kriya‘s first third is almost entirely devoted to the death rites of Sitara’s dying father; it’s final third is almost entirely devoted to the magical rites that relate to the family curse.

The thread tying these films together–films made 7,000 miles apart, about two very different cultures–was a reminder of why I love cinema and how it underscores the universality of humankind’s need to tell stories. It has been no small relief that even though Fantasia’s festival trappings have been canceled this year, the stories continue.