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Some Ramblings - There will be blood
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
There will be blood

Rags to riches stories generally gain halos around them with the passage of time. People never get tired of listening to them and media never gets tired of writing about them. For all intents and purposes, they are the contemporary fairy tales. There once was a man who was poor and destitute. He failed at everything he tried. Until, fate dealt him a hand that he bet big...and won. And the rest is history, as they say. The factual aspect of the story has a great deal of drama already built into it, that fits quite nicely into the standard three act structure. Setup - poverty stricken character, has been trying for long to get that break, until he finally stumbles on one. Conflict - how, braving all elements, he swims against the tide, against conventional wisdom and emerges victorious. As he reaches the top, the same traits that have helped him survive the competition and stay ahead of the pack, start working against him, causing him to tumble down from his throne. And finally the resolution - how he overcomes the adversity and redeems himself. Take any public figure who has risen through the ranks to becoming the kingpin in his field. The stories of Dhirubhai Ambani selling his fabrics door to door before he founded Vimal, the lore of the media baron Ramoji Rao peddling his pickles on his bicycle, the legend of Nirma Washing Powder are all public knowledge. All these stories celebrate the indomitable spirit of the human nature. It is not somuchas sticking it to the system, as it is the joy of seeing somebody succeed against all odds, through sheer effort. It is the reaffirmation of faith, reassurance on a set of principles. It is the very reason why the public hangs on to their every word, and even a badly written book by one of them becomes an instant best seller at the newsstands. As a wise man who once said "a rich man's joke is always funny", so can be said about the profoundity in the cliche of a self-made millionaire. People believe they earned their right be boorish and boastful, and so the nouveau rich remain the permanent fixture on the celebrity circuit.

But what about all the things that happened on the path from rags to riches? Surely, fate has not spread a bed of roses in their path, making it easy and convenient at every important juncture, and paved the road to success all by itself. What actually happened behind closed doors, the boardrooms, across the negotiating tables? Was it all fair, just, right and moral? In a world with limited resources and unlimited players, is there room for rectitude, or is it even the right strategy to remain straight? When two players contend for the same item, where does wisdom lie - in going hard at it regardless of the ground rules and winning it or recognizing the futility of the exercise and shortcomings in the approach and giving up the race for the right reasons? On whom does time bestow the title of victor - the winner or the just? The phrase 'creation of wealth' is a misnomer for most of the times. Like the energy conservation principle, the creation of wealth always comes at the expense of something/someone. It could be a loss of friendship/relationship or it could come at the loss of oneself. Convenience calls it 'compromise', instead of preferring the more direct 'loss'. A man compromises with his principles, trades his values, and makes a deal with his beliefs, and society lauds it as entrepreneurship. At the end of the journey, after he finally made it to the top, the question would remain whether he is the same person who was at the beginning of the journey. The concept of capitalism muddles the water even further. Rarely has an idea shook the foundations of society and fundamentals of humanity, by celebrating and promoting a culture of selfishness in the name of betterment/advancement, than capitalism. Now if this underbelly of the game, the actual machinations of what really goes behind 'fair' trades and practices, is exposed to the public, would it still put its billionaires on the high pedestal and regard their word as the next commandment from God?

"There will be blood" is a searing saga that examines the effects of growing weight of wealth on a person's psyche, at the turn of the 20th century. Set against the early days of oil exploration in Southwest America, the movie steadfastly remains with the protagonist through all his twists and turns, his choices, his tough trek, his grand rise and his eventual fall. What is interesting in "There will..." is how a set of characters in a desolate place, far flung from the rest of the suave civilization, behave when confronted with new found wealth, particularly when rules guiding the conduct under such circumstances, weren't even set. As a contrast, consider the current times' scenario of a super store opening in a local community. The first act is a Public Relations campaign undertaken by the super store management, wherein it goes above and beyond allaying the fears of locals, assuring that it would usurp the local competition, in fact, it would promote it for the eventual benefit of the customers, goes ahead and makes contributions to the local causes, charities and congregations, and of course, the politicians. Once it is firmly entrenched in the neighborhood, it goes ahead and does exactly opposite of what it has promised - eat up the competition, stifle the opposition, and takes the usual route of lobbying to safeguard its interests, all in the name of standard business practices. Using a similar setup for the movie, the maker relocates the situation to a hundred years ago, and observes how his protagonist deals with a similar dilemma, of rallying the local population around for his cause of drilling an oil well in the area. If it is political demagogues that need to be bought out now, it was religious demagogues then, that need to be placated. The promises were the same then as they are now - new money in the community would usher schools, roads, hospitals, better standards of living - anything for the benefit and welfare of the community, of course.

The brilliance of the direction is how the maker does not reveal the true character of his protagonist until midway, whereby the audience is lulled into believing that all practices the protagonist had been indulging in his rise to the top, is nothing but good business, even if it is at the expense of a little morality. After all, what is morality, if it comes in the way of a good opportunity, and what is opportunity, but the basic building block of the capitalistic society. The dramatic turn which reveals the true identity of the protagonist, as one of cunning, selfish, jealous, and even cruel behavior, blends in nicely with the nature of his work, to the point that it becomes impossible at times to differentiate between the two - his real nature versus his business sense, impossible to figure out, if he is, in fact, enjoying his vitriolic act in the name/line of duty. "There will be blood" is as much about the businessman, as it is about the business itself. In commenting on the lives of the people that built this nation, it offers an uncompromising social commentary on the contemporary society. As the title indicates, a closer look of the underpinnings of the society reveals a gory and a ghastly detail.

More Ramblings on films
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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