Look Around: Cinema of the neighborhood - Super Deluxe
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10 September 2019

These are the times when telugu cinema has indeed started to spread its wings and soar above formulaic, assembly line offerings. The change is no less because of the increased exposure of the audience and the makers to movies beyond the geographical and conventional boundaries. In this age of open information, cinema cannot but open up. Keeping in step, presents a new series - Look Around - that aims to shine a light on the brilliant cinema made beyond our borders, and thanks to all the streaming platforms and subtitling options, should rarely be missed by film enthusiasts. Entertainment cannot be guaranteed here, but engagement, surely...

Is everything connected? Is life one big hyperlink story that only reveals itself, the extent of it, only when totally unrelated pieces fall into place at some non-contiguous location? While the answer may seem obvious and opaque at the same time, the fact that in an interconnected world teeming with intersecting priorities and intertwined destinies, the ability of some event in one part of the world to affect the outcome of some other far removed in space (and sometimes, even time) is not a mere plausibility, it is a mathematical certainty. The seismic impact of geo-political, social, economic, religious, and even personal decisions of people in power are felt across the length, breadth and circumference of the whole world on a daily basis, and the more fickle and whimsical the deicion maker, the more chaotic and turbulent the effects are. Now that is the key to being a true influencer of events, not being strong and dynamic (which can still influence, but its sphere is pretty limited), but being fickle and unpredictable.

History has shown that the world has changed its course more on the craziness than on the uprightness of the strong willed. So throw both the craziness and the interdependecy together, there's the story of Anne Frank in Belgium, who had nothing to do with Hitler in Germany, but who had her world turned upside down on the whims of a madman, there's the story of a small kid who accompanied her mother on a casual stroll to the park nearby on a fateful evening in Amritsar, when the both of them were gunned down in a hail of bullets ordered by General Dyer in the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh massacre. Unrelated? Seemingly.... Unlikely? Not even close... As the narrator (Ricky Jay) points out in 'Magnolia', another hyperlink movie, 'this was not a matter of chance, this cannot be, they happen all the time'.

'Super Deluxe' joins such ambitious fare as 'Magnolia', 'Nashville', 'Syriana', 'Cloud Atlas' et al, which try to connect seemingly random dots on a widespread canvas of space and time to illustrate the concept of destiny as not just a metaphysical or a philosophical construct, but indeed a scientific or at least a natural phenomenon, and all one needs is a wider lens and an open mind to find the causations and correaltions. Each of the above hyperlink movies usually bank (focus) on a single aspect - redemption, freedom, greed etc - and plot the interconnections around it to finally reveal how the different stories arrive at the congruent conclusions while traveling through their individual arduous journeys. And so 'Super Deluxe' has a bunch of horny kids salivating at the prospect of unsupervised time at home with a TV and a DVD all unto themselves, an ex adult film star's past racing fast to catch up with the daily grind of the present, a preacher who suddenly develops doubts about his faith, a newly married couple being confronted with infidelity of one partner, and finally, a newly transitioned transgender reentering his erstwhile life of a husband, this time as a lady, into a joint family.

From each of these disparate threads, the writer(s) string through the aspect of "Reconciliation" using the crisis in one story to serve as the solution (bringing about acceptance) in another. As mentioned above, tales of such interconnecting fates work (in movies) only when characters are on the far ends of the normalcy spectrum, in that, they themselves need to trigger the crisis and then work furiously at resolving it, while inadvertently serving as a catalyst to some other scenario that would then meet a totally different ending. Theoretically, these interlinking stories are easier than a regular soup to nuts setup, as the focus is more on the billiard table effect, where one balls bumps off the other which then passes on the favor to the rest, and the pay off is all about witnessing how the well laid plans have a way of turning against one another. But the true test lies in honing in on how characters in one compartmentalized section end up healing others holed up in another without each other's knowledge and 'Super Deluxe' comes up all trumps both in the setup and the payoff.

The two stories that stand out among the 4 are the one about the preacher and the transgender one, both of whom strain hard to retain their faith under very trying circumstances. Faith, on face value, seems to lack the necessary moorings to anchor the logical side of life. When faith (in an institution or in one's own belief system) is tested to the extreme, the only one thing that can act as a bulwalk to the belief is, quite ironically, faith itself. Faith is the act of ceding control to an external authority, either to God, an ideology or to another individual and losing the faith is trying to reclaim the belief that has been given away on good faith.

When a preacher, who is in the business of advocating belief, slowly loses his own faith in the divine and by some stroke of fate finds himself in a situation that is beyond his control, the dichotomy is deliciously diabolical - whether the situation happened because he lost his faith (and it is God's way of testing/punishing him) or whether God is indeed presenting him an opportunity to look past a blind belief and embrace the factual side of life. Same goes with the recently transitioned transgender - if biology is indeed the culprit and it is beyond one's control accepting (or not) one's own sexual idenitity, and knowing fully well that the society around stigmatizes the "choice" of finding comfort as a different gender, the only motivation factor for making the much needed transition is Faith (again) - this time, in oneself, in one's own inner calling.

Faith, though antithetical to logic, however calls for a lot of courage. And it is the same theme of faith tested to the extreme, even in the case of a young couple suddenly confronted with infidelity, causing them to question the fundamentals and foundations of the marriage system but eventually finding their answers in the same institutuinal belief that brought them together. The concept that everything in the world - nature, life, relationships, biology - is quite illogical to begin with and that trying to organize them into a structure is a fallacy (a fantasy even) in itself, is downright scary. But once there's an acceptance/reconciliation with the illogic of life, and living becomes an act of ceding control, instead of taking control, the ride in "Super Deluxe" becomes a pleasurable one.

Kaatru Veliyidai

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