Amar Akbar Anthony (2015) Movie Review: A Social Movie Masked as a Fun Entertainer

There was a time in the early 1990’s when Malayalam cinema saw a lot of comedy films getting made, mostly having multiple leads.  Those films excelled as the actors in the lead roles themselves had a great sense of comic timing and the bonhomie between them on the screen in most cases looked very genuine. I can think of various films as examples including Ramji Rao Speaking, Mannar Mathai Speaking and In Harihar Nagar. So popular did these films go on to become that they are still remembered fondly by people and evoke nostalgia when played even now on any of the Malayalam satellite channels. A lot of these films would even have some serious topic at its core but then it would always be masked in the garb of a fun film, never ending up heavy and quite pleasing the audience. The latest Malayalam entertainer, Amar Akbar Anthony is a film which makes me remember those buddy films of the 90’s in many ways.Continue reading “Amar Akbar Anthony (2015) Movie Review: A Social Movie Masked as a Fun Entertainer”

Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam: Trailer

Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam PosterAfter their successful outing in the form of Punyalan Agarbathis, writer-director Ranjith Sankar and actor Jayasurya join hands once again with the Malayalam film,Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam. Based on a true story,the film is produced by Ranjith Sankar and Jayasurya and features Jayasurya in the lead along with Mukesh, Aju Varghese, Shivatha, Sunil Sukhada, T.G.Ravi,KPAC Lalitha etc.Music is by Bijibal while Vinod Illampally is the DOP and V.Saajan is the editor.Continue reading “Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam: Trailer”

Amar Akbar Anthony: Trailer

Amar Akbar Anthony PosterActor Nadirshah turns director with the Malayalam film Amar Akbar Anthony (no connection to the Manmohan Desai classic) which is produced by Dr.Zachariah Thomas and Alwin Antony. Written by Bibin George and Vishnu Unnikrishnan,this comedy entertainer features Prithviraj, Indrajith and Jayasurya in the lead along with Namitha Pramod, KPAC Lalitha, Kalabhavan Shajon Saju Navodaya, Bindu Panicker etc. Songs are composed by Nadirshah while BGM is by Bijibal, Sujith Vassuudev is the DOP and Johnkutty is the editor. Continue reading “Amar Akbar Anthony: Trailer”

All About ‘Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam’

Just one week to go for the shoot of my next film, Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam, a film I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

It started as a random idea in early 2000s as one of the potential movies that could cherish my dream of making a movie. Passenger was one among them then.Interestingly both were inspired from different traits of a close friend and my cubicle mate in office then,Sudheendran.The hook in susu was some unique peculiarities in Sudhi and it seemed a totally unexplored area in movies.

Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam PosterInitially susu was conceived as a “local” romantic comedy between a rather peculiar software engineer and a diametrically opposite music teacher mostly happening in a train (ala passenger).I tried to pitch the story to couple of young actors and Directors(dream was to be a writer then:)).Somehow nothing materialised.

Passenger was hooking people more easily as in the idea.All the years Passenger took to make and during the desperation in between susu used to pop in.Sudhi was also coping up with challenges in job, life etc etc. I started interacting with some of his “special” doctors.Some peculiar weekly groups he visited looked super exiting in a movie. I got married in between and again Sudhi’s peculiar condition to ‘Pennu Kanal was that he would see only one girl and that would be his wife:)

It happened exactly like that and he got married.He was looking for a change of job. We attended many job interviews together during this time. Me looking for a break from my failed movie attempts, him for an actual change in job.The software engineer,music teacher,the train and the genre kept changing their premises to suit the changes in the story.

Sudhi found another job finally and decided to relocate to Banglore. Probably a tough call away from home but that was life.

Passenger happened. Opportunity for another movie came with its success. Varsham,Arjunan Sakshi and susu were the best probables.To my complete dismay a highly appreciated international film released then and it dealt the same subject although both were different movies. The fire to make it immediately vanished with it and Arjunan Sakshi happened.

I met Sudhi one of those days in Banglore.He was trying hard to cope up with Banglore and his new life. The story was extended to Banglore and it took a new shape from there.Many friends tried to collaborate to give it new dimensions. The project was announced.It was about to be made then.But what stopped us then was the strong feeling that something was wrong. The script needed more depth, it needed a lot of preparation time for actors to play the parts given its complexities.It was a difficult movie to be made for its cost,commerce and everything. That gut feeling always has proved right for me. For sure it was a movie to be made but only with complete confidence. Susu was again pushed.

The wait continued. Molly Aunty Rocks, Punyalan Agarbathis and Varsham happened. The success of Varsham made me think of susu again.There was a space for susu.

I went to Banglore and met Sudheendran again. He was a completely confident, changed n purified man now when he came to pick me in his new car, talking to his Punjabi neighbour,having his game of evening badminton,his weekend hangout partners,his family vacation plans, his same love for his village and ulsavams but from a different angle..

SuSu was complete that evening.It took 15 years and 15 years of a person’s life virtually and probably it was all worth it.

Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam-Ranjith Sankar and JayasuryaNow it needed an actor who had the time and potential to play him. Jaysurya was an obvious choice. Jayan himself told me he won’t work for 45 days to prepare for Sudhi.Even more difficult was the decision was to produce it given its budget,effort and risk involved.Jayan stood as a pillar of support and we are producing it together once again after Punyalan Agarbathis.

Creating music for susu was tricky. It needed songs which suited the story at the same time popular. Bijibal and Santhosh Varma took up the challenge and it took us 3 months to create them:) .

As I write this I get a detailed message from Sudhi on how to improve the climax a bit more..We offered him credits and remuneration for susu. He refused both claiming he’s not a writer despite having contributed to almost all unique situations for susu.We insisted on both as it would be very unfair from our part and finally he obliged.

A day later I receive a message from him saying he donated the entire amount to a fund raising program he was part of all these years which was lacking funds and which could support many many more susu’s.

I smiled reading it. This was what susu was all about…

Humility, humanity peace and happiness!

Ranjith Sankar

Note- We at MAM wish Ranjith Sankar and his team all the very best for his new film, Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam.






Iyobinte Pusthakam Movie Review: Amal Neerad Merges Style with Substance, Finally

Amal Neerad entered the Malayalam film industry with some amount of promise. After being a cinematographer in a few Hindi films, he turned to direction with the Malayalam film, Big B (2007). Big B had its share of supporters and critics alike and Amal hasn’t shied away from the fact that it wasn’t an original film. The film went on to redefine style as seen in Malayalam Cinema and appealed especially to fans of Mammootty. But with similar attempts in Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded (2009-Mohanlal), Anwar (2010-Prithviraj) and an outlandish Bachelor Party (2012), it became an overkill and a lot of people including yours truly started getting disappointed. What was even worse was seeing more and more filmmakers adopting a similar approach and failing even more miserably (take for example Aashiq Abu with Gangster earlier this year). Continue reading “Iyobinte Pusthakam Movie Review: Amal Neerad Merges Style with Substance, Finally”

Iyobinte Pusthakam: Trailer

Iyobinte Pusthakam Poster 1Cinematographer turned filmmaker Amal Neerad is more known for his films being high on style quotient but not so high on the content as such. Which is why his short film, Kullante Bharya which was recognized as one of the better parts of Anchu Sundarikal, the anthology Malayalam film last film, came out as a surprise to all those following Malayalam Cinema, Amal Neerad is now back with his latest film, Iyobinte Pusthakam (Iyob’s Book) which is produced by him along with Fahadh Faasil. Written by Gopan Chidambaran and Syam Pushkaran, Iyobinte Pusthakam has an ensemble star cast comprising of Fahadh Faasil, Jayasurya, La, Isha Sharvani, Padma Priya, Reenu Mathews, Lena, Vinayakan, Chemban Vinod etc. The music is by Neha S Nair & Yakzan Gary Pereira while cinematography is by Amal Neerad himself,sound design is by Tapas Nayak and editing is by Praveen Prabhakar.Continue reading “Iyobinte Pusthakam: Trailer”

My Best Of Regional and World Cinema In 2013

Yet another hectic and eventful year at the movies comes to an end. Every year we see films which we love, hate, abhor, feel indifferent towards. And this year has been no indifferent.

As the year draws to an end, every film buff (including yours truly) loves making a compilation of films under various such categories (good films, bad films etc)

As a movie buff this year too was no different.  There were some films, which made for pleasurable viewing while some films induced sheer boredom and made for a rather tedious viewing.  Regional cinema (esp. Tamil and Malayalam films) in my opinion once again reiterated that they are churning out films which are different from the regular fares, yet makes for some good viewing  while being commercially viable .

Besides there were a lot of foreign language films which made all the right noises amongst movie buffs and the film festival circuits.

So here goes my list of best films in the foreign films and regional cinema section.

Too many films and too little time has been the bane of every film buff. As always there were quite a few films I wanted to watch but could not due to various reasons. So in case you do not find a particular favourite of yours mentioned in this list, kindly excuse me. 🙂
Continue reading “My Best Of Regional and World Cinema In 2013”

Punyalan Agarbathis Movie Review: A Light Hearted Satire That Works

Punyalan AgarbathisNote: This review is dedicated to all my friends from in & around Thrissur, a city with a lot of warmth and character. Ranjith Sankar is a new generation Malayalam writer-director who has so far shown a lot of care in ensuring that he gets to work on films that are always different from each other. Though his films are contemporary they are still rooted to the Kerala context and that’s why his films have been accepted largely (his debut film Passenger was a critical and commercial success and though his next film Arjunan Saakshi failed, he did bounce back with Molly Aunty Rocks last year). Ranjith has also been noticed for working with popular actors and managing to get them to work on interesting characters, often different from what they’ve done earlier. Getting a big star like Dileep to work in Passenger where the focus was more on Sreenivasan showed his competence and his equation with his actors. This was again seen in Molly Aunty Rocks where in a rare case of a film focusing on a middle aged female character (played by Revathy) he managed to get a popular actor like Prithviraj to play second fiddle, albeit with an interesting character.

After the success of Molly Aunty Rocks it was expected that Ranjith’s next venture would probably be either Sudhi Valmeekam or Mayflower, the former being a film with Prithviraj again and the latter being a romantic film against the I.T background. But surprisingly in June this year, Ranjith announced that he would be doing pushing these 2 films a little ahead and instead come up with a totally different project, Punyalan Agarbathis. Born out of his love for Thrissur, a city with a lot of warmth and character, it was interesting to learn that Jayasurya would not just be playing the main lead in the film but also co-producing the film along with Ranjith himself. Considering that it was the first time that the two of them were working together it was quite commendable to see the alliance, something that told me this was a film to look forward to. The film went on the floors on August 17th and with the first look poster and the trailer coming out in October I was more than hooked to the project. Not only did I get the feel that the city of Thrissur would not just be a background but also play a character by itself in the film, it was also good to see some innovation in the film’s promotions which included setting up a stall in Thrissur where actual sale of Punyalan Agarbathis (the brand being seen in the film and the title of the film) took place.

Punyalan Agarbathis is centred on Joy Thakkolkaran (Jayasurya), a typical Thrissur chap with dreams in his eyes and with an ambition to make it successful. He keeps trying out various business ventures, none of which have worked so far for various reasons. He then sets up a small scale factory to manufacture incense sticks (agarbathis) from elephant dung under the brand name of “Punyalan Agarbathis”. Once again he realizes that despite what he believes to be a killer concept the going is never easy for him. He not only has the bank officials breathing behind his back to repay the loan taken to start the factory, he also has to fight a legal case against the Thrissur Devasom board for their failure to honour their earlier commitment to provide him with elephant dung, without which he cannot manufacture the end product. To make matters worse he ends up being on the receiving end of a political party’s ire during a harthal day. And now he once again takes the legal route to sort out his problems. All through the days of struggle he is well supported by his wife Anu (Nyla Usha), a working woman who ensures that they have a steady income and his friend as well as employee Greenu Sharma (Aju Varghese). The rest of the film is a close look at how Joy goes about trying to handle his problems in his own characteristic way.

Punyalan Agarbathis-Jayasurya and Nyla UshaThough the film addresses some serious issues and leaves you with some food for thought, care has been taken to ensure that there is no overdose of moral preaching over here. There is an element of satire clearly visible and the humour is of the light hearted every day variety. Getting manpower to work in Kerala is not an easy task especially in industries and we all know that the state has perennially been bogged down by the numerous strikes and harthals called out every year for almost any reason that catches the people’s fancy. Hence while we relate to these topics easily it is also important to handle them in an entertaining way as well and Ranjith Sankar has managed to maintain the balance fairly well. The city of Thrissur as I had expected more than emerges as a character by itself in the film. The last notable Thrissur based film being Pranchiyettan and the Saint, this is a welcome addition to the list of films based in this wonderful city.

Bijibal’s music does justice to the film and both the prominent songs (written by Santhosh Varma) – “Poorangalude Pooram” (sung by P.Jayachandran) and “Aashichavan” (sung remarkably well by Jayasurya) do justice to the film. Sujith Vaassudev’s camera captures Thrissur in all its glory and the film’s pace remains consistent; Lijo Paul’s editing ensuring the momentum never slacks. The film also needs to be appreciated as we see that the women in the film are not just props and relegated to the background. Nyla Usha as Anu lends perfect support to her husband Joy both financially and emotionally. Check out the scene where she literally coaxes a tensed Joy to come along for a drive at night with her on her scooter for example. Rachana Narayanankutty as the advocate representing Joy also has a good presence in the film. Though reluctant to work with him as her fees are due, she continues to make sure that he has adequate legal support.

The film has a host of interesting characters, all of whom enrich the film in their own ways. Sunil Sukhada as Magistrate Baby is superb and his sense of humour is evident from his very first scene. It is always a pleasure to watch Innocent on the screen and though here he does not have much screen presence, he does lend a lot of grace with his presence as John Thakkolkaran, Joy’s grandfather. T.G.Ravi as the social activist, Mala Aravindan as Ayyappan, the head of the elephant mahout’s association, Idavela Babu as K.C.Mathews the politician who becomes the thorn in the flesh for Joy Thakkolkaran are all apt for their roles. A special word of mention is rightly reserved for Sreejith Ravi as the mini lorry driver Abhayakumar. A native of Thrissur himself, Sreejith has totally sunk into the character and brings it out to perfection on screen. This is easily one of the best characters of the film.

Rachana Narayanankutty is very good as Advocate Sai and her constant love-hate relationship with Joy is carried out pretty well. Nyla Usha looks completely different from her role in that of her previous film, Kunjananthante Kada. She plays ideal foil to Joy and it’s good to see the contrast in their characters. While Joy is a simple guy who is more rooted ad more at peace with his simple shirt and dhoti avatar, Anu is certainly trendier and is fashionable. The scene where we get to see Joy and Anu meeting for the first time (flash back) is wonderful and Joy telling her in his characteristic style that he wants to get into business and promises that thus she will either be the wife of someone like an Ambani or that of a madman is hilarious. Aju Varghese as Greenu is very effective and when you hear him tell Joy after he gets beaten up by political goons that though his parents have asked him to stay away from Joy he’ll continue to be with him, makes you warm up to him. He is the kind of friend and supporter one would always wish for in life.

Eventually it is a Jayasurya show and the actor seems to have worked hard on getting the typical Thrissur accent and playing the simple entrepreneur with global ambition. I have always felt that he is a good actor with a lot of potential but somehow he hasn’t found the right space for himself. But with back to back out of the box films like Philips and the Monkey Pen and now Punyalan Agarbathis, it looks like a new chapter in his career has now opened up. It’s a pleasure watching him play Joy Thakkolkaran and he brings out small nuances in the character very well, like the way he refers to two of his employees as “Angry Birds” because he sees them playing the game on their mobiles when they have nothing else to do 🙂 .

Ranjith Sankar eventually makes the audience feel a little nostalgic as well as the film is in the feel good satire space that was once used effectively by filmmakers like Sathyan Anthikkad and Priyadarshan in the 80’s and early 90’s (think of films like Sandesham, Varavelpu, Mithunam, Vellanakulade Nadu etc). Though the film isn’t’t exactly in the league of those films which by now have attained legendary status, it is still a step in the right direction. But despite all this it’s a little surprising to see that the way Joy manages to clear his issues and emerge on top comes across as way too simple. Though the film ends on a good note, I wish the way to reach there was shown in a slightly more convincing fashion.

Go watch Punyalan Agarbathis, it’s a film which is light and easy to assimilate and yet touches a space that’s way too relevant as well.

Philips and the Monkey Pen Movie Review: A Children’s Film with Universal Appeal

Philips-n-the-monkey-penFriday Film House which is helmed by actors Vijay Babu and Sandra Thomas entered into the field of film production with Linin Jose’s Friday (2012). This was followed by the recent Zachariyayude Garbhinikal, written and directed by Aneesh Anwar.Continue reading “Philips and the Monkey Pen Movie Review: A Children’s Film with Universal Appeal”