Well in my previous article on this year’s Eid releases I had tried to draw attention to 3 different films across 3 languages, each one of them being different from each other but appealing to the intended target audience in their own ways. I did not realize that I will write another post carrying off from where I had last left, but sometimes things just happen by surprise. As mentioned in Part 1 of the Eid round up there were 4 Malayalam films which made it for Eid this year- Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi (NPCB from hereon), Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum, Kadal Kadannu Oru Maathukutty (KKOM from hereon) and Memories. After having watched NPCB during the Eid weekend and also analysed it in my previous post I have gone on to watch the other 3 films as well and hence this write-up is to throw a look at these 3 films.
Without further ado let me get going with some thoughts on all these 3 films.
Lal Jose is one of the more consistent Malayalam filmmakers around. He is known to repeat actors and technicians with whom he shares a good rapport and doesn’t shy away from exploring various genres & themes. Also post the debacle of Spanish Masala he has been on a roll with films like Diamond Necklace , Ayalum Njanum Thammil (both in 2012) and Immanuel (earlier this year) doing reasonably well commercially. Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum (Leopards and a lamb) sees Kunchacko Boban teaming up with Lal Jose for the 3rd time. But while he played second fiddle to Ann Augustine in Elsamma Enna Aankutty (2010) and Dileep in Spanish Masala (2012) this time he plays the main lead in the film. In a very interesting move the makers brought out an animated teaser of the film which was later followed by an interesting trailer. The teaser and the trailer was very open in revealing the plot of the film. Kunchacko is the meek Chakka Gopan, who runs a house boat in Kuttanad and is the sole bread earner in the family.
His family comprises of his mother (K.P.A.C.Lalitha) and his 3 brothers Chakka Maniyan (Irshad), Chakka Vijayan (Shiju) and Chakka Suku (Joju George). The 3 brothers are nothing but paid goondas who would do anything for money and booze and it is always Gopan who ends up paying for their misdeeds. In a curious turn of circumstances Kainakeri Jayasree (Namitha Pramod) agrees to perform classical dance for the foreign tourists using Gopan’s houseboat. Though Jayasree and her stage actress mother (Bindu Panicker) initially act pricey, it doesn’t take much to guess that Jayasree and Gopan would soon fall in love. Also some unfortunate circumstances make Kuriyachan (Shammi Thilakan) a local big guy bay for Gopan’s blood. How does Gopan manage his brothers and Kuriyachan, convince Jayasree’s mother and eventually work out things completely is what the rest of the film is all about.
At the very outset let me make it clear that the film is extremely simple and quite predictable. So if you are going in expecting something unique and novel you are in for a major disappointment. But the film is a family entertainer and has all the elements in the required proportions. S.Kumar’s cinematography brings to life the wonderful scenic visuals of Kuttanad. Vidyasagar and Lal Jose have always shared a good rapport as evident in the kind of music in the films they have worked on together and this film is no exception as songs like ‘Otta Thumbil’ (Shankar Mahadevan and K.S.Chithra), ‘Kooti Muttiya’ (Najim Arshad and Shweta Mohan) in particular demonstrate. The lyrics by Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma are also extremely soothing and it’s no surprise that this has gone on to become of the most popular Malayalam film albums of the year by now.
The choice of actors couldn’t have been better. Both K.P.A.C.Lalitha and Bindu Panicker play their roles as mother of the hero and heroine respectively with natural grace. Shammi Thilakan manages to be funny and yet menacing as Kuriyachan which makes him appear better than a standard villain. Irshad, Shiju and Joju play their parts well and it’s good to see Suraj Venjaramoodu and Harisree Ashokan appearing in slightly subdued avatars and actually not disrupting the proceedings. Kunchacko’s character of Chakka Gopan reminds us of Dileep’s character in Marykkundoru Kunjaadu and being one of Lal Jose’s favourite actors I won’t be surprised if the role was originally written with him in mind. Nevertheless Kunchacko manages to pull it off fairly well and that’s quite a tribute as it’s not easy to go the Dileep way when it comes to such characters. Overall Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum is nowhere close to Lal Jose’s best but as a family entertainer positioned as a festival release, it works fairly well.
Kadal Kadannu Oru Maathukutty
Ranjith has over the last few years turned out to be the best example of a writer-director who has been able to straddle the middle path between critical and commercial success comfortably in Malayalam Cinema. Of course his recent works like Spirit and Bavuttiyude Namathil (which he wrote and produced but didn’t direct) were not in the same league of his earlier films but nevertheless he managed to get away with these films too thanks to his own following and that of the lead actors- Mohanlal and Mammootty respectively. So why was I enthusiastic about KKOM? Well simple- as they say form is temporary and class is permanent. Moreover who can forget that Ranjith along with Mammootty had only in the recent past given us gems like Paleri Manikyam- Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha and Pranchiyettan and the Saint? The teaser and the trailer looked promising and thus I waited for the film’s release eagerly.
Much before I could get to watch the movie I got to know that out of the 4 Eid releases this is the weakest of them all and the only one struggling at the box-office. Now this made me all the more curious and thus I watched the movie enthusiastically. George Mathew aka Maathukutty (Mammootty) is a man on a mission. He has been entrusted by the Malayali association of Mettmann in Germany to rope in actor Mohanlal for their silver jubilee celebrations. Though having spent 15 years in Germany, Maathukutty still misses his homeland as here is bullied by his wife (Muthumani) and ignored by his children. So when this opportunity comes up thanks to the Malayali association Maathukutty grabs the opportunity and heads to Plankamon in Pathanamthitta, his hometown.
The initial days back home are good both for Maathukutty and the audience. Maathukutty tries to spend time with his childhood buddies and people he has grown up with. In parallel we see the people from the Malayali Association calling him regularly (Siddique, Suresh Krishna etc) trying to check upon the status of his assignment while his wife keeps calling him & asks him to quickly rush back home. Maathukutty also gets to slowly understand that everything is not as rosy as it appears to be in his homeland and things take a curious turn around him to his utter dismay. Also to the dismay of the audience things take a downward spiral as the film totally gets boring beyond comprehension sadly.
This was probably a concept which looked good on paper as you have an NRI Malayali wanting to go back home and relive his memories, his few days of happiness around the people he loves to be with and in the background you have his regular life in Germany which he desists. What could have been a light hearted entertainer centred around the mission to take back a celebrity to Germany and tackling his own personal life ends up becoming a sob tale of how Maathukutty faces some really tough times unknowingly. Even the cameos from people like Mohanlal, Jayaram and Dileep do not help the film in any way, which is very depressing to note. The film does boast of some fine performances from the cast especially Nedumudi Venu, P.Balachandran and Tini Tom. Mammootty is more than comfortable as Maathukutty but the film really doesn’t provide him any real scope to push himself beyond the usual. Ranjith’s writing which has always been his weapon seems to have deserted him completely as seen by the more than ordinary way the tale unfolds. The worst is at the end of it all when you wonder what really was the film all about, a fact which makes you wonder what made the producers- Santosh Sivan, Prithviraj and Shaji Nadeshan go wrong as well.
All in all KKOM is a disappointing film in every way and here’s hoping that both Ranjith and Mammootty treat this as an exception and move on from here.
Prithviraj has been on a roll of late with back to back interesting films like Molly Aunty Rocks, Ayalum Njanum Thammil, Celluloid and Mumbai Police. Even his recent Hindi film Aurangazeb was critically well received though it may not have done well commercially. One thing interesting about all these films are the fact that none of the films bear any similarity whatsoever to each other both in terms of treatment and his own character portrayed. Writer- director Jeethu Joseph had started off with an investigative thriller – Detective (2007) but had since then gone on to make successful family entertainers like Mummy and Me (2010) and My Boss (2012). My Boss though evidently influenced by the Hollywood film The Proposal went on to strike all the right chords with the audience and hence I was a little surprised to know that he has moved out of the family entertainer zone to come up with another investigative thriller i.e Memories with Prithviraj. Considering that he could have easily gone on to make another light hearted family entertainer it was interesting to see if this slightly risky move would pay off.
Sam Alex (Prithviraj) is a cop mourning the loss of his wife and daughter who were killed during the course of an operation he was handling. Holding himself responsible for their deaths in a way Sam is on long leave and drowning his sorrow by taking the help of alcohol. While his own colleagues like Vinod Krishna (Suresh Krishna) despise him and even his own younger brother Sanju (Rahul Madhav) now cannot stand him anymore, he still has the support of his mother (Vanitha) and his well-wisher and senior cop, Aravindaksha Menon (Vijayaraghavan). Once known to be a brilliant cop, Aravindakshan approaches Sam to solve what looks like a case of serial killings. While Sam initially refuses, he is coaxed back by his mother who wants to give it a try. And thus Sam enters the scene after agreeing to handle the case in his own way, without any restrictions with respect to the way he works.
Initially Sam is a little too reluctant to handle the case seriously as he even feels he may not have it in him anymore to function like a cop. But as the case progresses things take an interesting turn and Sam finds himself at the crossroads once again. What happens from thereon and how does the case unfold is what the rest of the film is all about. Investigative thrillers of late either tend to get downright silly or manage to remain taut till the end. It’s not often that you find the filmmaker willing to risk the chance of pointing us towards the killer midway through the film and yet maintain grip almost till the end of the film. That Jeethu Joseph has managed to do so is itself a major achievement for the film.
Ok at times you may question the methods used by Sam to unravel the case or even find it a little too simple but those are minor blemishes if one can say so. The film in a way also reminds one of B.Unnikrishnan’s Grandmaster but the similarities are not very deep in nature. While Vijayaraghavan and Vanitha are competent both Meghana Raj (who plays Prithvi’s wife) and Mia George as the journalist have nothing much to do. Eventually the film rests on the shoulders of Prithviraj who pulls of the brooding, alcoholic cop act extremely well. Generally there is a possibility of an actor losing his way by going a little over the top while handling such characters but never once do you get the feeling in the film. I guess credit goes to both Prithviraj and Jeethu Joseph for managing the same. Memories may not be best thriller around, but it’s worth the time spent especially to see a confident looking leading man in control of himself.
At the end of it all when I look back at all the 4 Malayalam Eid releases of this year I’d say that NPCB is the best of the lot, followed by Memories. Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum works very well as a family entertainer while KKOM is the only major disappointment of the lot. In a state where the number of theatres is constantly a problem especially when other language biggies like Chennai Express and Thalaivaa are also in the fray, it’s nice to see many Malayalam movies managing to do well.