Thursday, May 21, 2009


I plan to re-vitalize the underground movie club I helped set up in my company this January. RAGe (Roshan, Aravind/Aditya, Glenn entertainment) provided an excel sheet with the movies set for 'release' every Friday. The sheet had details about the movies like the running time, size, quality, parental guidance (eg- Naomi Watts goes nude 45 minutes into the movie, so be sure to shoo your parents away round about that time), awards or nominations won. There was also a link to a one-page review of each movie we covered.

RAGe started off really well, but lost steam as time wore on. The company's annual day, pressure at work, lack of feedback and appreciation for our work were the chief culprits.

Reproduced below is the first review I wrote for RAGe. Its on one of my favourite movies, Thank You for Smoking:

Thank You for Smoking

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes
Director: Jason Reitman
Review: Aditya Changavalli
Don’t hide the truth, just filter it.
I’ve got a confession to make. I absolutely love to argue. Nothing brings me out of the dull stupor of daily existence as a nice, long, pointless argument whose result is as non-consequential as its subject. I chose ‘Thank you for Smoking’ as it’s as much about smoking as about the arguments surrounding it. The central character actually makes a living out of his penchant for sparring with words.

I should probably warn you though - it is not your typical movie, with a love story and some action sequences thrown in around a loose plot. No movies I select are going to be like that. There is no love story. No action. It’s a wonderful rendering of innovative story-telling.

The plot revolves around Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a guy who ‘pays his mortgage’ by talking. He is a ‘lobbyist’ (a Public Relations guy) for the tobacco companies. He hops from one News channel studio to another ‘to defend the defenseless’, as he calls it. His rationale will be familiar to those who watched The Dark Knight: “If you are good at something, never do it for free”. Yes, Nick Naylor is good at his job. In fact, he is so good at ‘spin control’ that he has the anti-smoking campaigners running for cover at every live TV encounter.

As the movie canters along, the director manages to expose not only the unabashed greed of the cigarette makers, but also the self-serving and publicity-seeking politicians, the ‘art’ of product placement and the under-the-covers brand of journalism – without ever getting didactic. Slip in a sprinkling of a blossoming father-son relationship, and the picture is complete. The twist in the tale comes with Nick, just when he looks like he can never lose, loses his job and, nearly his life. Here, the exchange between Nick and his son is worth going through the movie for, if nothing else.

The climax is a Congressional hearing and the ‘happy’ ending is one that you don’t often get to see.

Watch ‘Thank You for Smoking’ for its ability to convey serious issues through light-hearted and refreshingly direct treatment hardly witnessed in the world of cinema. Watch it for the dialogues and the clever play of words used. Watch it for the sub-text and subliminal messages that it sends out through suggestive scenes. (There’s one where Nick and his friends - PR for guns and alcohol - are all having a ‘piece’ of a pie with an American flag sticking out of the middle) Watch it for the director’s amazing ability to use the smoke-screen of tobacco to paint a masterpiece portraying the dynamics of human relationships and glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes in the corridors of power.