Abhay/Aalavandhan (2001): Twenty years of Kamal Haasan’s Magic Realism

There are some films which you miss, despite they hype and your eagerness to watch it. I remember Abhay/Aalavandhan was one of the most awaited films but it meet with mixed reactions when released. But it is a film which always comes up in discussion with cinephiles.Continue reading “Abhay/Aalavandhan (2001): Twenty years of Kamal Haasan’s Magic Realism”

Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol Movie Review: It’s never too late to Fall in Love…Again

The men who share a camaraderie in the apartment complex have all gathered for their daily round of drinks on the rooftop (after all the days of the regular bars in Kerala is now history) and Ulahanan (Mohanlal) is pissed off because he realized that the chapter of the lady who was enticing him over the last few days is now a closed one. Irritated and angry at the same time, he forces his neighbour and friend Venukuttan (Anoop Menon) to make him speak with one of his numerous girlfriends over phone right then. Though initially unwilling, Venukuttan does go on to dial someone on his mobile phone eventually and gives the phone to Ulahanan without revealing the name of the lady. Ulahanan goes on to speak to the person over the phone, only to realize that he has been tricked by Venukuttan, as the person on the other end is none other than his wife, Annyamma (Meena). This is just one of various wonderful moments from Jibu Jacob’s Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, which has finally hit the theatres after a delay due to the film industry strike in Kerala.Continue reading “Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol Movie Review: It’s never too late to Fall in Love…Again”

Leela Movie Review: A Tale of an Unusual Individual

At times the human mind does play around with us quite a bit, or else how can we easily account for fantasies, fetishes and all sort of (weird?) desires that we come across or think of from time to time. There are some characters whom we encounter or hear about, who seem to revel in following a slightly convoluted path towards achieving satisfaction on various levels. Popular writer-director Ranjith‘s latest Malayalam film Leela talks about one such interesting character, Kuttiyappan. Ranjith has always been one of the few filmmakers who have managed to maintain a fine balance between art and commerce, as seen by a majority of his films. But it’s also true that he hasn’t really been in form of late, with his previous film Loham being especially disappointing. Leela also sees him play the producer, a role that he takes upon from time to time and not for all his films.Continue reading “Leela Movie Review: A Tale of an Unusual Individual”

Anarkali Movie Review: Old Fashioned Romantic Tale Yet Fresh and with a lot of Zing

Falling in love and willing to wait endlessly for your beloved isn’t something new to us Indians.There seems to be some satisfaction even in waiting, painful it indeed is but the very prospect of their love emerging triumphant keeps them going. For them distances are not a problem at all, being unable to meet or talk to their dear one doesn’t dampen their spirits. Are such people for real? Does it even make sense in today’s times to give up everything for love? Irrespective of sceptics questioning the sanity of such people, by and large even today there seems to be something in these tales which appeals to a majority of the people. What else can explain the phenomenal response to R.S.Vimal’s blockbuster, Ennu Ninte Moideen which is still playing in a few theatres in Kerala. Now that Sachy’s Anarkali has released and has already been declared a hit, there seems to be some validation of people supporting and believing in such tales of love.Continue reading “Anarkali Movie Review: Old Fashioned Romantic Tale Yet Fresh and with a lot of Zing”

Loham Movie Review: Yellow Metal without the Required Shine

Writer-director Ranjith and superstar Mohanlal have had a long working relationship. From writing some of the popular films of Mohanlal like Devasuram, Aaram Thampuran, Narasimham etc Ranjith went on make his directorial debut with Ravanaprabhu featuring Mohanlal. While not all the films from this combination may have worked, some of their films did manage to win the appreciation from both audiences and critics alike. Back in 2012 they came out together with Spirit, winner of the National Award for Best Film on Social Issues. Spirit may not have been the best of Ranjith but nevertheless had its moments and went on to find appreciation at the box office as well. Incidentally this was the last commercial success seen by Ranjith as writer-director, the films he made after that did not really bear his magic like before. Hence it was exciting to hear of the dynamic duo coming back together with Loham: The Yellow Metal.Continue reading “Loham Movie Review: Yellow Metal without the Required Shine”

Mr. Fraud Movie Review: Once Again a Case of “Old Wine in New Bottle”

Mr.Fraud MovieCouple of days ago I was looking forward to doing a rare three back to back film session, rare not because I was to watch 3 movies on the trot, that’s something I do very often. But rare because all the 3 were to regional films, 1 Tamil (Vallvanakku Pullum Aayudham) and the 2 brand new Malayalam releases- Mr. Fraud and How Old Are You. Now for a film buff in Mumbai, this sort of a scenario doesn’t happen too often. My heart nearly skipped a beat when I was trying for tickets for the 2 Malayalam films and I was told that there is an uncertainty regarding the shows due to some technical issue and it would be confirmed only by evening. Needless to say I was just about hoping that things would get sorted out and that I would get to watch the films as already planned. After all why would I let go of a chance to watch a Mohanlal film on the very first day of release (and also Manju Warrier’s come back film-How Old Are You) and hence was relieved when I heard of the shows happening as scheduled.Continue reading “Mr. Fraud Movie Review: Once Again a Case of “Old Wine in New Bottle””

Mr.Fraud: Sneak Peek

Mr.Fraud 2014The combination of director B.Unnikrishnan and ace actor Mohanlal has produced reasonably successful Malayalam films at the box office like Madampi and Grandmaster in the past. Now the same combination is back with Mr.Fraud,produced by A.V.Anoop and written by B.Unnikrishnan himself. Slated for release on 16th May, the film has an ensemble cast which includes Dev Gill, Manjari Phadnis, Pallavi Purohit, Mia George, Siddique, Vijayakumar, Vijay Babu, Suresh Krishna etc. The film has music by Gopi Sunder while Satheesh Kurup is the DOP and Manoj the editor. After the super success of Drishyam it will be interesting to see how Mr.Fraud turns out.Continue reading “Mr.Fraud: Sneak Peek”

This Year’s Eid at the Cinemas (Part 2): With Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum, Kadal Kadannu Oru Maathukutty and Memories

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.

Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum

Pullipulikalum-Aattinkuttiyum-PosterLal 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.

Pullipulikalum-AattinkuttiyumAt 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

KKOM NewRanjith 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.

KKOMThe 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.

Memories

Memories PosterPrithviraj 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.

Memories-MalayalamInitially 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.

Memories: Trailer

MemoriesJeethu Joseph made his entry into Malayalam Cinema with a detective thriller quite simply called Detective (2007). Featuring Suresh Gopi in dual roles, it may not have been a big commercial success but it’s definitely one of the better Suresh Gopi films one has seen of late.Continue reading “Memories: Trailer”