The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta)

US Presidential hopefuls take RVs, Che went on a motorcycle. The point is you need to go on a road trip to become a successful leader of the people

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently)

Strange and familiar make an appearance together for the first time in Malayalam cinema and the pair is a hit

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

Four feisty ladies, upbeat music and a handsome conman. Anushka gets Ranveer. Bollywood gets Parineeti

Das Boot (The Boat)

Best WWII film ever, in fact the best war film ever. In true German fashion, restraint is applied by shooting the entire movie inside a U-boat

Neelathamara (Blue Lotus)

Blue lotus shares the same stature of blue moon in Malayalam, so do good remakes. This one bucks the trend.

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Oct 15, 2013

Honeybee Its Trippin'


Youth does not always acknowledge or realize how being young looks good on them and how invigorating it is for the world to watch them shimmer, shine and rise. Honeybee…it’s Trippin’ as the title says is indeed a tripping ride through the kingdom of youth. 

Jean Paul Lal’s directorial debut is aimed straight at the box-office bull's eye. There will be talk about quality and content but with a song like ‘Neeyo’ capturing exploitative grace in slow motion with lithe young bodies tumbling over lyrical gun shots, I am sold. On screen I see that time and space in life where indiscernible love, gut-load of guns, inquisitive suitors, possessive brothers, platonic boy-friends, weirdly funny Kochi slang and NDEs in ocean are all justified – in the cauldron of boiling youth.

A generation ago, Lal.Jr’s Dad who was known as plain ‘Lal’ back then, now he is Lal.Sr, made his first movie with his friend and directorial partner Siddique. It was a movie that became a trend setter, beating out a new path – Ramji Rao Speaking showed us in 1989 that you can be young and hopeless yet emerge victorious on the other side whistling one of its chart topper songs. 

Almost a quarter century later (whoa, has it been that long!) HoneyBee  tries to find the same vein in new generation under the guise of kindling a love story to life. I could have done without the love story, but then there goes the plot, right? In fact Bhavana and Asif Ali – the leads are the ones who have the least juicy roles in the movie. The film belongs to its second benchers – Sreenath Bhasi, Baburaj, Balu, Vijay Babu and the beautifully handsome junkies. Fight sequences and chases on foot with its effective melding of slow motion and background music tells me Junior does know some tricks of the trade. It will be interesting to watch where he goes from here.


 Song: Neeyo

Apr 11, 2013

Petrified Forest

Humphrey Bogart looks uncharacteristically handsome in the movie that changed the course of his career from a failing actor to a super star. His voice delivery still sounds like metal grating on metal in slow motion, was it considered cool in those days to drawl like that ? Bogart signature deadpan drawl contrasts effectively against Leslie Howard's impassioned character of a washed-up writer vagabond and the half-French desert rose played by Bette Davis. As a lover of history, anthropology, culture and as a curious onlooker of societal evolution, I love to watch old black and white Hollywood movies - what once was, why it was and why it never will be, all explained in a nice two hour package.

Apr 3, 2013

Drive

A film created with an Instagram filter called That Seventies filter. A burnished LA flickers in the background as Ryan Gosling, everybody's ideal boy friend and Hollywood's answer to an exemplery human being, goes about on four wheels as a lone ranger dispensing justice on behalf of people he cares about.

True to director Nicolas Winding Refn's non-American roots the movie goes easy on smart talk, one-liners or any talk for that matter. The hero barely speaks unlike Tarantino's team but it is a movie worth watching nevertheless. Cinematography, sound track and script cut a new path in the Hollywood territory of defined by gangsters, mobsters, violence, gore,molls, fast cars and bags full of green bucks.

Mar 28, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Holden Caulfield simplified and brought into the nineties.

I was a little disappointed to learn that Logan Lerman is unlike the nerdy Charlie he portrayed, as a viewer I had invested so much into liking Charlie. I read the book first. Maybe because the writer himself was the director of the movie (Stephen Chbosky) there is nothing amiss in the movie that was in the book.

Mar 19, 2013

Movies about afterlife, reincarnation and what lies beyond death

 In their own separate ways, all these movies deal with death or after life or questions what lies or could lie beyond the cessation of our physical being. I have watched all the 10 in the list, but have written reviews for only six.

Below are the six from me....

21 grams: Probably the one movie in the list that actually doesn't deal with after life directly Its only connection is the mysterious 21 grams.

Source Code: If we could right a code to sustain our yearning for life.

Happy Accidents: Love and time travel, life or afterlife you decide.

The Lovely Bones: Looking down from a heaven above - life lost, lives being lived, the play goes on.

Five People You Meet in Heaven: This review is of the book, but the movie also has the same name and can make you teary eyed the way only a Mitch Albom creation can.

Ditto(Donggam): Kind of like the Lake House(in the list below), Korean with younger actors.

and the five from IMDb

Flatliners: I was bowled over by the doctors experimenting with dying when I saw it twenty years ago. 

Sixth Sense - M. Night Shyamalan had arrived and you began to see dead people.

Abres Los Ojos or Vanilla Sky - Illusion and reality, life and death.

What Dreams May Come - The one film that directly deals with afterlife and shows you what it might be like.

Lake House - Communicating across time beating the life-death cycle at its own game.

and the three I want to watch.

Wristcutters : A Love Story

The Dark

Enter the void




Feb 16, 2013

Watch Hulu's Critireon Collection for Free

...for the next two days, that is Hulu's Presidents' Day weekend gift. Hulu says its Criterion Collection is comprised of over 800 films from the masters of movies.  If you subscribe to Hulu Plus you can watch the collection commercial free but for the weekend deal has commercials. Feb 16-Feb 17 2013, you can catch the masters like Kurasawa, Truffat, Bergman, Polanski, Chaplin, Fellini, Wenders for free. Missing in the Criterion Collection are Latin American and Middle-Eastern, Indian film makers. But can't really complain abut free stuff.

Feb 11, 2013

Amitabh Bachchan in The Great Gatsby

Amitabh Bachchan does a peek-in-peek-out role in Baz Luhrmann's yet to be released 2013 version of The Great Gatsby. In the trailer you can watch him at 1:09 -1:18.

In Bachchan's own words, " My role is hardly of a minute. Baz Luhrmann was touring India on a motorcycle couple of years ago..going all over the country. He dropped in at my office with a friend who did some painting work for me. We just had a casual conversation and he left. A year-and-half ago he called me and said he has a small role for me, which he felt was not worthy for me. He asked if I would do it and I readily agreed. I did it as a gesture. It is not remunerative...I have not charged anything...just a gesture." He essays the role of the gangster Meyer Wolfshiem who I don't remember seeing the first Gatsby(1974), directed by Jack Clayton and starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

Luhrmann's Gatsby has the ultimate period hero of all times - Leonardo DiCaprio with Carey Mulligan and Tobey McGuire. It is interesting to see Indian actors in non-Indian roles in Bollywood.

Sep 28, 2012

The Road

The road is hopeless, long and grim
But they’ve to go on, his boy and him
To South and sun on some ocean’s rim
To South and sun on some ocean’s rim

That is the whole of The Road or my pseudo Frost-ian take on it. Cormac McCarthy won’t spare you like the pithy Mr.Frost. When I read the novel some years ago its apocalyptic vision haunted me for days. It also made me feel blessed, for what we human beings have today – the gift of life on the most beautiful planet in the Solar System and the entire known universe. The Road is very different from McCarthy's previous book that was also turned into a movie which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2007 - No Country for Old Men.

It’s been a long time since I read the novel, The Road. As usual I’ve forgotten most of its details except its pervasive air of doom and grey and its final flicker of hope. I think the movie has captured most, if not all of the core story and the portentous mood of the novel.

If you can appropriately capture the vision of a ghastly, leaden, blown open Earth and make the right casting decision for the roles of father and son, you’ve the movie in your pocket. Director John Hillcoat finds a perfect actor pair in Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee and along with cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe and script writer Joe Penhall he creates a masterful visual poem of  life after the death of Earth.

If you want a little gloom and doom with your pizza and beer this Saturday night (now, isn’t that a perfect combo), check out The Road.

Sep 27, 2012

Mayamohini

Mayamohini is all about Dileep. If you like the actor, who goes by the honorary title of "Janapriya Nayakan" (vaguely translated by me as darling hero of the crowds), this is one movie you cannot miss and you probably have already watched it. When Dileep revealed his 'Chanthupottu' act in Chanthupottu in 2005, it was established that no other actor in current Malayalam cinema can do a transgender role with the natural ease and daring of Dileep, that too without being ridiculed for the loss of masculinity. Kerala State film award committee overlooked his ground breaking performance in favor of Mohanlal’s exaggerated portrayal of an Alzheimer’s patient that year.

Since Chanthupottu was a tough act to follow, I didn’t think a story/movie would come along with the same hilarious-to-the-boot appeal anytime soon. Mayamohini was a pleasant surprise. Not only does Dileep shine in an entertaining transgender role, he (with the help of script writers Udayakrishna and Sibi K Thomas) also presents the character without causing any deja vus of the 2005 film.

In addition to Dileep, Mayamohini sees the transfiguration of Babulal, the brawny "ex-villain actor" into a full-blown comedy talent. Biju Menon, one of the other actors in a main role is also seen experimenting with comedy, progressing upwards from his slightly humorous role in the film, Ordinary. There are two female leads in the movie Lakshmi Rai and Mythili, but their roles are negligible.

Dissecting a movie into first half and second half is not a technique I enjoy, but this is one movie that begs for it. Sorry director Jose Thomas, you have given us a good entertainer, thanks to fantastic acting by the lead actor, but I regret to say the second half sucked. Same thing happened with Chanthoputtu too. As long as we get to keep Dileep in his transgender role, it is a laugh riot. But movie makers in order to give a proper ending and to reaffirm the status of hero as a man, make a 180 degree turn in the second half and in the end we have the same formulaic pot boiler with an annoying climax with stunts, car chases and villains galore.

That said, I’ll watch and re-watch it just to ruminate over Dileep’s wonderful performance as Mayamohini unlike many commenters and reviewers who are lamenting over the vulgarity, crassness and cheapness of the movie. Chill, people, relax and get into the zone, the Dileep zone that is, after all this is the first Malayalam movie with a gay kiss scene (don't take your family lest homosexuality is contagious from screen to audience), a bold move for a product of a hypocritical and conservative society such as Kerala.

Sep 26, 2012

Diamond Necklace

Joy Alukkas got a 2 hour ad, Malayalis got a box office hit of the highest quality and Lal Jose and his team proved that they can give us good films more than once in a blue lotus (Mal: neelathamara.)

Diamond Necklace has us smack down in center of Keralites ‘sankalpa rashtram’ (means ideal nation, source: Gandhinagar 2nd Street) - Dubai and it doesn’t stop there, it takes us to the most coveted address in this emirate mecca – Burj Khalifa. There are cool cars and hot chicks, that’s the way Dr.Arun(Fahad Fazil), the hero of our movie, rolls. He’s into all that, while practicing oncology for sourcing his cash flow. Somehow the money stops rolling, while Dr.Arun continues to roll downhill, demonstrating a classic example of Newton’s first law and inertia of motion.


Dr.Arun is a ladies man, but he is not portrayed as ‘despo’ as Saif Ali Khan is in the first scenes of a recent Bollywood movie, Cocktail. In fact he is equally devoted to curvaceous four wheelers as he is to lithe two legged human females, no partiality there. He must have had a colorful history, but we meet the hero while he is working his charms and non-native language skills on a beautiful nurse from our neighboring state, Tamilnadu. That goes on for a while before his credit cards max out and he has to resort to extreme measures (read marriage) to save his future.



You cannot make a movie about Dr.Arun without a a bevy of belles, thus we have Gautami Nair, Samvruta Sunil and Anushree Nair crossing paths with our leading man. Dr.Arun has a support network outside his girl friends and colleagues, a group of hard working blue collar Malayalis led by Sreenivasan. The story is believable and  all the different angles are explored to the right extent. I couldn’t find any lose ends hanging or the captivating cinematography hid all the unwanted threads from my view.

The casting is perfect and all the actors have contributed their due share in making this movie a success. Fahad Fazil’s name has become synonymous as the thinking (wo)man’s actor. Anushree Nair, winner of the reality contest Vivel Big Break gets her big break and uses it to the hilt as one the three female protagonists.

The film has captured the changing ethos of Malayali society where the financial elite are going for diamonds over gold, for gold is so yesterday. If you don’t believe me, watch the segment where Joy Alukka pops in to affirm the value and the resale ability of a Joy Alukkas diamond necklace. But I am willing to overlook the diamonds in a movie named Diamond Necklace because it is all about people, really. 

For people who just can't get enough of Diamond Necklace, try these links...
  1. Lal Jose's own blog has a series of posts on the movie.
  2. If you really want to buy a diamond necklace, but don't want to pay for it, visit Alibaba in China (where else will you find Alibaba?)
  3. Or else satiate your diamond craving by buying a Diamond Necklace DVD from these places if you live in the United States. 
 

Aug 22, 2012

Vicky Donor

It is the season of wonderful word play in Indian cinema. I see this trend of superior screenplays picking up steam both in Bollywood and South Indian movies. Subramaniapuram and Ee Adutha Kalathu are representative of this change in Tamil and Malayalam. Vicky Donor penned by Juhi Chaturvedi and directed by Shoojit Sarcar is one of the best scripts that has come out in Hindi in the recent times. Well done, John Abraham, you chose an cheeky subject for the first film you produced and your gamble paid off ! I'd have never suspected you had that in you with all that brawn.

The subject of (!!!spoilers!!!) sperm donation is such a progressive and unconventional topic for a traditional society as India. Juhi Chaturvedi - a woman writer with a flair for local humor and an astute observer of human character has taken Hindi movies to a place where no man has gone before. With two new faces in lead and majority of the cast comprising of no name actors the success of the movie proves the merit of the film.

Anu Kapoor - the multi talented character actor is the backbone of the movie as the irresistible Dr. Chadha. Credit should also go to the debutante hero, Ayushmaan Khurana. The casting is excellent with the traits of Delhi Panjus and Bongs captured to a T.

Aug 21, 2012

District 9

It was a chance encounter. I was at the neighborhood public library scrounging for DVDs. As expected of a person with low expectations all my movie requirement filters were turned off. I'd have taken any movie which looked remotely like Independence Day. That is, any movie that could afford the same adrenaline rush, the tumult of emotions, the invigoration that comes after listening to an impassioned speech of a US president, the CGI and the final triumph of mankind offered by an Independence Day. I felt like I hit the target when I saw District 9. On the cover loooming over a not so innocent looking metropolis was an alien aircraft, what could I ask for more, I grabbed the DVD and left.

When I started watching the movie, I realized that for some unknown reason best known only to aliens, aliens had skipped dazzling cities like NY, LA or Paris and had decided to hover over Johannesburg. WTH? Not only that, when humans finally had a peek at aliens they turned out to be in worse shape than refugees from civil war torn African republics. At this point I was certain that there would be no Will Smith to save humanity.

Instead what we have in District 9 is very un-Hollywoodsy take on aliens alighting upon Earth from a uniquely South African perspective. Directed by Neill Blomkamp who finds an amazing lead actor in Sharlto Copley in his debut role(what?!) District 9 is like an alien sighting in the world of alien movies. The realism of the real, magical and news footage kind is bound to blow you away. A very human film about aliens, don't miss this sighting.

Aug 20, 2012

Ishaqzaade

Ishaqzaade was an unexpected treat. I had seen its posters before the film came out and was baffled what made Parineeti Chopra chose such a film after her amazing debut performance in Ladies vs Ricky Behl. And Arjun Kapoor was nothing more than yet another star spawn who zipped up the fast track thanks to his genes, squashing the chance of many struggling, aspiring Bollywood wannabes.

The first half of Ishaqzaade proved me wrong. It also affirmed the age old adage that you can never judge a film by its poster, even if it looked twenty years too late or Ek Duje Ke Liye-ish. The second half of the movie was mostly directionless in terms of story but I could excuse that considering its beautiful frames, audacious tunes and a genuine lead couple.

Arjun Kapoor's movie collection has stood the actor in good stead, it has definitely helped him learn acting. Parineeti is so honest and natural it is hard not to like her ebullient spirit. Habib Faisal, the director of Isqzaade has his finger on the pulse of North India. Or to be more precise New Delhi and the towns and villages surrounding the capital city forms the geography and the language of his films.The dusty cow belt city of Almore where this Hindu-Muslim love story is set is your everyday North Indian town and the dialogs and the characters are just what you'd hear and see if you happen to land in such a town. Amit Trivedi's defiant and upbeat music sets the tone for the story. Another low cost-high returns hit from Yashraj films.

Aug 4, 2012

Best story in a Malayalam movie, ever

 അപരാഹ്നത്തിന്റെ   അനന്തപഥങ്ങളില്‍ ആകാശ നീലിമയില്‍  അവന്‍ നടന്നകന്നു. ഭീമനും യുധിഷടിരനും ബീഡി വലിച്ചു. സീതയുടെ മാറ് പിളര്‍ന്നു ചോര കുടിച്ചു ദുര്യോധനന്‍. ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന് ജല്ദോഷ മായിരുന്നു അന്ന് . അമ്പലത്തിന്റെ അകാല്‍ വിളക്കുകള്‍ തെളിയുന്ന സന്ധ്യയില്‍ അവള്‍ അവനോടു ചോദിച്ചു "ഇനിയും നീ ഇത് വഴി വരില്ലേ ആനകളെയും തെളിച്ചു കൊണ്ട്?"



From the 1985 movie Boeing Boeing directed by Priyadarshan, dialogs by Sreenivasan and enacted by Jagathy Sreekumar as an aspiring writer presenting his story in front of news editor played by Sankaradi, IMHO this is the best story ever to have hit the silver screen in Malayalam. Take a bow, Sreenivasan!

For those people who can't read Malayalam: Aprahnathinte ananthapathangalil aakashaneelimayil avan nadannakannu.Bheemanum Yudhishtiranum beedi valichu. Seetayude maaru pilarnnu raktham kudichu Duryodhanan. Guruvayoorappanu jaladoshamayirunnu annu.Ambalathinte akaal vilakkukal theliyunna sandhyayil aval avanodu chodichu, "eniyum nee ithu vazhi varille aanakaleyum thelichu kondu?"

Aug 3, 2012

Live Streaming Malayalam TV channel site


Malayali’s tendency to emigrate is well known. From chayakkada (tea shop) on the moon jokes to meeting a Malayali in Alaska(that would be me), we Keralites think that we have a monopoly in the category. The problem is the Chinese, the Punjabis, the Gujaratis , the Philippinos and the Koreans, to name a few, also claim that they are in the driver seat when it comes to driving away from their home countries. Just look at all the China towns in all major cities across the globe, you’ll see that the Chinese have a strong case.


The emigration competition can wait, that was not I came here to write about. As usual, meandering thoughts took control of my keyboard. What I wanted to post about is a  website I chanced upon recently – turbotv.in, that brings live streaming of major South Indian TV channels and a few Hindi channels to your home anywhere on the planet, provided you have an internet connection. Goes without saying, it should preferably be broadband.

For Indians like us who live in places where the scarcity of sub-continental Indians(South or North) have failed to entice satellite TV providers to generously beam down our desi TV channels, turbotv.in is quite a find. Reception is fabulous, even in this remote niche of the world called Alaska. It is almost like I never left home more than a decade and a half ago. 

Some observations after watching a few hours of Malayalam TV:
  • Move over prescription medicine ads, make way for gold jewelers. Both items promise to make us better than we are, through different approaches. Clearly a Malayali prefers wearing a three stone (precious of course) gold bracelet specially anointed and blessed by his astrologer to ward off his Pharmacophobia. 
  • Politicians continue to bicker and reconcile over power, liquor, women and prayer.
  • TV presenters still can’t enunciate Malayalam properly and insist on speaking in some version of English undecipherable outside Kerala . Along the lines of Lou Gehrig Disease this affliction can hitherto be called the Ranjini Haridas Disease after its most famous proponent and propagator.
  • Reality television has become a reality. ‘Inspirations’ of Judge Judy, The Amazing Race, Maury and Survivor are all over the place bringing the traditionalist Malayali to bare and give all in front of a television audience for fifteen minutes of fame.  

Jul 23, 2012

Ee Adutha Kalathu

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently or In recent time) is one of the best movies which has come out in Malayalam recently. In the years to come it will be heralded as one of the key players who introduced a paradigm shift in Malayalam cinema that started in the second decade of twenty first century.

The old power house institutions of Malayalam cinema like the mighty M&Ms, the stories guaranteed to unleash a deluge of tears(sthreejanangale onnadakkam kanneeraniyikkunna katha), the scripts which pamper to the whims of the State's morality police and the teetotaler women are all on their way out. Thank goodness we are finally ready for a dose of reality and there are people bold enough to show us just that.  

 
Its posters by OldMonk were the talk of the town before the movie was released. There was also quite a buzz about the story by Murali Gopi – a journalist in his own right and the son of the late actor Bharath Gopi, lately trying his luck in acting. Then there was the interview the actor Nishan, who plays a significant character in the movie, where he was quoted saying, 'this movie will surprise you'. Since we Malayalis have been running really low on the above mentioned element in our films, this film with the tagline – the familiar becomes strange and the strange familiar was looked forward with anticipation.

Ee Adutha Kalathu doesn’t fail us. From detailed characterization, even for the smallest of the roles to the suspenseful hook that the movie hangs us all by till the very end, the team under Murali Gopi(story & script) and Arun Kumar Aravind(direction) has produced a winner par excellence. The strange and the familiar blend with an interesting background score to create a concoction, the tastes of which makes the audience come back for more.
 
The casting that can screw up even the movies made with the best of intentions(don't get me started on the heroine in Thattathin Marayathu) is just perfect. The movie has a couple of non Malayalis in key roles but the roles themselves justify their need and they have turned out better than if film makers had used local products. Strategically placed paperbacks with ominous titles, Rubik’s cube and Thiruvananthapuram city play important parts in this movie which also stars talented actors such as Indrajith, Tanushree Ghosh, Nishan, Murali Gopy, Lena, Anoop Menon, Baiju, Jagathy and Mythili.

Ee Adutha Kalathu is a movie that gives us hope that all is not lost yet. We, Malayalis, don’t always have to lament about the bygone golden age of Padmarajan or the endearing youthful days of Mohanlal or the humorous all perceiving pen that Sreenivasan used in the eighties and early nineties. Some of life’s truths remain - the old gives way to the new and if we are lucky the new kids on the block might turn out to be better than the old.

Jul 22, 2012

22 female Kottayam

Know what this movie reminds me of, not any of the movies the director has confessed to have served as inspirations (from Kill Bill to Ek Hasina Thi and Caberet Dancer) but an Urvashi starrer from more than twenty years ago - Varthamanakalam. Tessa K.Abraham (portrayed by Rima Kallingal) could have been Arundhati Menon in her past life. Before we were 'Banglored' and our new age directors thankfully decided to address the plight of the underdog aka the emancipated Indian female, through their lens there was this unlikely director in Malayalam who directed movies with strong woman characters. Guess who?  

None other than I.V.Sasi! IMHO Avalude Ravukal and Varthamanakalam had two of the strongest female characters in the history of Malayalam cinema, females who didn't really whimper and sob blaming everything on their fate but went on with their lives anyway with a devil may care attitude.

22 Female Kottayam also belongs to the same category. The film is essentially scripted out for Rima's role and she does a good job at it. This makes Fahad Fazil's slightly negative character even more difficult to emote and make an impact. But surprisingly Fahad uses whatever screen time he gets to his maximum advantage. The story by Abhilash Kumar and Shyam Pushkaran and Aashiq Abu's direction hit bull's eye at the box office. 

The film also showcases the talents of veteran actors like Prathap Pothen, Sathar and T.G.Ravi in a different and interesting light.The director has succeeded in bringing the best out of his crew whether it be the old timer actors or the new age music composers like Rex Vijayan & Bijibal. Good going, Aashiq Abu!


Jul 19, 2012

Kerala State Film Awards 2011


Kerala State Film Awards were announced yesterday just as food poisoning was acquiring the status of a major terrorist threat across the State and hogging 99% of the ticker tape real estate. Being a last minute entry ‘Shawarma’ – that famous Middle Eastern leaning-n-rotating street-side stunt-tower/food-item, was denied the award in the Best Villain category. Oh, they don’t have such a category yet, nevermind.

Dileep(film:Vellaripravinte Changathi) and Shwetha Menon(film: Salt n Pepper) bagged the best actor and actress trophies while the Best Movie award went to Ranjith’s Indian Rupee and Blessy’s position as the resident Director-laureate of Kerala was confirmed once again. Shwetha Menon is becoming the thinking man’s leading lady if her two best actress awards in the last five years is any indication. Aashiq Abu’s Salt n Pepper was adjudged the film with most mass appeal.

It is surprising (to me atleast) that despite being years in the industry as a leading man, this is Dileep’s first Kerala State Best Actor award. Google just revealed to me that he had lost out to Mohanlal in Thanmatra in 2005 and had to be satisfied with a Special Jury award for his path breaking and titillatingly funny performance in Chanthupottu. That was gross injustice!!! 

Lalettan’s over the top Alzhemier’s patient vs Dileep’s authenticly endearing transvestite, I’d take Dileep anyday, his role even added a new word to Malayalam’s Urban dictionary. I am glad he hit the bull’s eye this time, although he clicnched it by running over a more deserving Fahad Fazil. Jury members always seem to weigh in on the side of age and experience than really evaluating the performance of the actors. 

Although they do not have a best villain category, they do have a best comedian trophy which went to Jagathy Sreekumar this year probably as a show of crowd support to the ailing actor who is arguably one of the most talented in that category.

To me the most disappointing prize winner was the one for the best story – Manikyakallu. A story of an educator trying to uplift the downtrodden kids through education has been told many times in many languages across many landscapes and add to it the fact that it is fifty years too late. The award for this story only highlights our jury members’ frog-in-the-well existence.
There were so many interesting and orignal stories like the City of God, Traffic, Chappa Kurish and doesn’t the release date of Ee Adutha Kalathu qualify it to be reviewed for 2011 awards? Ee Adutha Kalathu has the best story/screen play for any Malayalam movie in ‘ee adutha kalathu’(recent past.) If by any chance, Ee Adutha Kalathu was indeed overlooked, we should be screaming holy murder here.

Best Actor : Dileep [Vellaripravinte Changathi]
Best Actress : Shwetha Menon[Salt N' Pepper]
Best Movie : Indian Rupee
Second Best Movie : Ivan Mekharoopan
Best Director : Blessy [Pranayam]
Most Popular Movie : Salt N’ Pepper
Best Supporting Male Actor : Fahad Fazil [Chappakurishu]
Best Supporting Female Actress : Nilambur Ayisha [Oormakkuyil Padumpol]
Best Child Artist : Malavika [Oormakkuyil Padumpol]
Best Screenwriter : Bobby-Sanjay [Traffic]
Best Comedian : Jagathy Sreekumar [Swapna Sanchari]
Best Male Singer : Sudeep Kumar [Rathinirvedam]
Best Female Singer : Shreya Ghoshal [Rathinirvedam]
Best Lyricist : Sreekumaran Thampi [Naayika]
Best Music Sirector : Sarath [Ivan Mekharoopan]
Best Background Music : Deepak Dev

Jul 2, 2012

Eat Pray Love

A film about a uniquely American predicament - finding yourself! Where there is time and money this affliction quickly starts making it rounds. I couldn't get past a few pages reading the book, Julia Roberts is a more enthralling than the book, despite the fact that I am not a fan of her as an actress. I can imagine how it could have been worse, imagine SJP traipsing across Italy, India and Bali,  'the Ms sexy in the city'  a two-legged human bird leg on stilettos. I am glad casting people made a better choice.
Julia Roberts at Eat Pray Love shooting location in India

In fact this is one of the very rare movies where the movie is really better than the book. Maybe it is because many of the over-the-top self discovery journeys in the book were edited out when they turned it into film.

The whole premise of the movie - an affluent western woman taking off on a self discovery trip to three chosen countries because she can't get along with her husband who seems to love her and want her in his life, but she is not finding herself in that marriage, is not a subject majority of viewers across the globe can relate to. In these days of recession, more than half of Americans are not privileged or rich enough to relate it to either. If you are in the mood for bitching(yes, men too) pick this DVD and it'll give plenty of material to vent your frustrations.

Jul 1, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Hollywood vs Original

Cast: The Swedish cast is more naturally Scandinavian (of course) but on a whole I liked the Hollywood casting better. Looks-wise, Rooney Mara is a much better Lisbeth Salander than Noomi Rapace. Mara embodies the petite Ms.Salander I had visualized in my mind while reading Stieg Larsen's novels, whereas Rapace looks more like a chunkier Sporty Spice in a goth avatar and she is definitely over five feet tall.

As Mikael Blomkvist, Michael Nyqwist is more real than Daniel Craig, but if Blomkvist is irresistible to women as Larsen had portrayed him to be then Craig is the better choice. Armansky's character looks totally miscast in the Swedish one when his Armenian roots clearly show through in the Hollywood movie. On a whole the Swedish actors look a lot older than their Hollywood contemporaries.

Location: Again I've to choose the locales in the Hollywood version over the Swedish version. The bridge to Hedestad, Vanger's estate and his palatial house (which I read is the same in both versions) but the instances of weather showing up in the background make a lot of difference- all of these I believe, Hollywood shows a much better grasp. Maybe it could be attributed to a couple of facts, money at its disposal and two drafts (the novel and the Swedish original movie) to work off of.

Treatment of the story: There are sections of the novel left out by Swedish and Hollywood versions while adapting the story into motion picture format. Although these are different in both, in both versions the cuts don't affect the story telling.

Moving on to watch The Girl Who Played with Fire (Sweden).....

Jun 27, 2012

Remembering Nora Ephron


Nora Ephron died yesterday. I could’ve said 'passed away', but Nora would understand, died is ok. Who is Nora Ephron? If Google led you to this page while you were searching about some movie or the other, you probably know who she is. If you landed here searching for "Mallu movie hot bathing scene", you would skip out of here faster than a heartbeat. You and I both know there is nothing of your interest here, the hot bath is ready for you in the next site over.

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron, for me - the unknown non-American viewer(female),  who has physically inhabited American geography and culture for a really long time, is the intelligent laughter that stirs me amidst indistinct forgettable celebrity chatter that fills up the media ether around here. I have watched many of her movies starting from Silkwood, but have to watch all the movies she did post-2000.
Although well known as a director and script writer, my personal affection for her stems from reading her essays. Smart and sassy yet relatable to every woman, her words were witty and thought provoking at the same time. I am sad I had to use past tense in the previous line.

As I drove to work this morning, I heard one of her quotes from an earlier NPR interview, "I think it's like a lot of things about getting older — you have absolutely no imagination that this is actually going to happen to you, you think for quite a while you're going to be the only person who doesn't need reading glasses, or the only person who doesn't go through menopause… and in the end, the only person who isn't going to die. And then you suddenly are faced with whichever of those things it is, and you can't believe how unimaginative you have been about what it actually consists of."

Again her words, simple yet so wise make an impression on me. Nora’s death from leukemia is one of those few celebrity deaths that actually makes me stop in my tracks and worry about my own mortality and ponder about the vacuum left by their passing in my own intellectual future, just like that of Christopher Hitchens, Randy Pausch and Carl Sagan.

Apr 23, 2012

Melancholia

In Melancholia, Lars von Trier is dealing the dope of depression as the fate of the Earth hangs in balance, under the threat of a planetary collision. Another movie where people get married for all the wrong reasons. The marriage is not the focus though the film starts with the wedding of its main character, Justine played by Kirsten Dunst and spends a fair amount of time dragging through the wedding ceremonies while adding depth to its characters. As all these events slowly proceed on the moody blue marble of ours, outside, in outer space a rogue planet Melancholia is hurtling towards the earth.

What vexes me is, why do these people have to hold a crude hand crafted loop of wire to chart Melancholia’s progress towards the earth. Don’t they have internet? We can even track Santa (a totally imaginary creature), so can’t we track Melancholia – a real planet(for the purpose of this story) in a way befitting 21st century homo sapiens rather than doing it like cavemen. The movie is not at all scientifically accurate from the inter-planetary collision perspective, which is beside the point, the planet is there to add to the magnanimity of visuals and to act as proxy for depression.

The beginning of the film with its Wager overture showcasing a tableaux of extremely slow moving images reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey, so does the structure of the film set in parts. The opening scenes lets you know this film is serious, it requires your hundred percent presence on the couch/ or your seat to understand it fully, not something you can watch while cooking dinner. If you are in the mood for heavy stuff and some retrospection or in the mood for art check out Melancholia.

Apr 18, 2012

Limitless

Limitless is my kind of Hollywood movie. I don’t watch Hollywood movies for intellectual stimulation or art, not to see the gritty reality of life or break my teeth on cold hard facts although every once in a while Hollywood goes above and beyond its call of duty and brings out movies like Fargo, Lost in Translation, Punch Drunk Love, Melancholia, Requiem for a Dream, Full Metal Jacket etc. That is all well and good, but I don’t want Hollywood to make it a habit.

Hollywood is at its best when money, power and technology comes together with some good looking faces and a decent script. Matrix, Gladiator, Avatar, Babel, Memento, Castaway, Kill Bill(s), Forrest Gump are all examples of unsurpassed entertainment only Hollywood can provide. Limitless might not make it to the top rung of these entertainers, but it is highly watchable.And of course it has Hollywood's the other most handsome Brad.

Apr 17, 2012

The Help

The Help is  a Civil Rights era chick flick, if ever there was one. By calling it a chick flick I don’t mean to demean it, I just mean that most of the characters are ladies, it tells the stories about the lives of women – black and white in the Deep South in the middle years of last century. Engrossing, in the way we all secretly cater to gossip without admitting and informative from a historical perspective.

It’s kind of unsettling to me that the most of pop fiction best sellers, which later got labeled as classics showcasing African American life are/were written by white people. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sue Monk Kidd and now Kathryn Stockett (whose novel is the basis of this movie) joins the ranks of non-black writers telling the tales of oppression and struggle of the black community with black characters in their books.

Except for Alex Haley’s Roots(a phenomenal book, thank God this Bible of African American fiction was indeed written by a black man), I cannot imagine the general public making a beeline for a single book of fiction written by an African American author at airport kiosks or at the beach. Of course there is Tony Morrison, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston and many other talented African-American writers, but their impact on the general public who are hard to be enticed to read serious fiction is almost nothing outside high school English classes, compared to the ones penned by white writers I mentioned in the paragraph above.

Stove, Monk Kidd, Stockett all have produced extraordinary absorbing novels, whose movie rights were probably bought long before the books hit the stands. I wish there was an African American novelist, you know I like it straight from the horse’s mouth. That said The Help is a highly watchable film, especially for women – thus my label Civil war chick flick.

Apr 7, 2012

Shor in the City

Shor in the City a portmanteau movie about Mumbai with its eyes trained on the city’s under belly. It has a Mumbai noted by the absence of Parsis, Malabar Hill, Bollywood starlets and Lokhandwala complex. It is not quite Slumdog either, Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru are in the right place – the slums. But there are no millionaires in this one, only people with dreams of making millions. Each trying to make it with  his own honest effort through guns, bribes, counterfeit products, bank robbery or other countless ways you can make a million in Mumbai.
 
The best reason to watch this movie is its assembly of actors. After a long while it was good to see Tusshar Kapoor in a different but good role. Somehow Ramakanth, the aspiring director in The Dirty Picture didn’t register with me. Another delectable find is Sendhil Ramamoorthy, US born Indian actor who is a perfect fit as an American of Indian descent trying to set up a business in India. Pitabash Tripathy as Mandook, a small time crook and Tusshar’s friend is a find.
 
Although the story line is tense, the script by Sita Menon and the director duo add touches of compassion and comedy that go with the flow. In the end it is a feel good movie which imparts a certain humanity and the sense of triumph of the good along with a couple of hummable songs.

Apr 5, 2012

Sangre de mi sangre (Blood of my blood)


Sangre de mi sangre (Blood of My Blood) narrates the story of two young Mexican illegal immigrants in Nueva York locked in a battle of survival. Director Christopher Zalla’s debut venture, this Mexican story of existence, endurance and identity theft in the mean streets of New York is dark and gritty.

The four main characters, which include two protagonists – Pedro(Jorge Adrian Espindola) and Juan (Armando Hernandez), the undocumented young workers who arrive in New York hidden in a truck and two supporting roles played by Jesús Ochoa and Paola Mendoza pretty much carry the film on their shoulders. It gives the audience a view of a different Brooklyn, away from the brown stones, dark, trapped spaces where souls suffocate and die, where hope is buried behind bricks only to be taken out when lives are on line. A forceful movie from a first time director, maybe a sign of things to come from him.

Mar 27, 2012

Beautiful - Malayalam Movie

Beautiful reminds me a lot of Blessy’s Pranayam albeit with a younger cast. Maybe the presence of an invalid main character, three central characters – two male and one female(female actor exported from a neighboring state) creating a sort of a triangular love story and the abuse/misuse of monsoon might be the reasons. But the film is also thankfully unBlessy by the absence of one dimensional characters and over the top sentimentality.

Anoop Menon, Jayasurya and Megna Raj play the main roles in a movie about a bed-ridden billionaire in search of companionship, music and love. I also like the way supporting roles are etched out with the right amount of detail and dialog.

It is a well-executed film, story, screenplay, direction(V.K.Prakash) and acting departments have worked together to produce a well-rounded product. Though I’d not call it a path breaker(in my world, that title goes to Chappa Kurish) I hope Beautiful will be one of the forerunners who will herald a new beginning for Malayalam cinema.

Mar 23, 2012

Rockstar

Many of today’s pop icons and stars are all style without much substance. Although their medium is music, the music industry too perfects the image first before it tests the sound. Susan Boyle – she of the incredible vocal chords had to fight and claw her way into a talent show in her late forties to make her mark in the music world when Spice Girls (no substance and all style) were picked out to form a music band based just on their looks and stage presence(if they could sing it’d be a bonus but it was optional) while still in their teens. Rockstar Janardhan Jakkar aka Jordan is a documentation of India’s version of such a pop icon, if we ever had one.

For this film, the requirements for the hero were - had to be born a star, with a silver-screen spoon in his mouth, should be able to rock a guitar, lip sync a tune and had to have incredible screen charisma. Given these conditions, in present day Bollywood it became very easy for director Imtiaz Ali and producer Dhillin Mehta to find their leading man. Not many choices really – either a Khan or a Kapoor. 

With most sellable and captivating Khans tending to look more like Steven Tyler and less like Elvis in his prime, they went for the hottest Kapoor on the block. Ranbir Kapoor works his charm and appeal into the skin of Jordan, the rock star. Counter balancing his rock star act is the impossibly beautiful New York based Pakistani–Czech model Nargis Fakri as Kashmir ki kali and college beauty – Heer Kaul. A semi-gori unattainable foreign export kudi is a must have accessory for a successful Bollywood movie.

A.R.Rahman’s music faithfully adheres to my hypothesis about a present day rock star, music is only secondary, the personal style of the star is the more important part. Therefore it’d be safe to say that I didn’t find the songs earth shattering although all the award shows (Apsara, Fimfare, Stardust – you name it) unanimously gave RockStar the best music director award.

Rahman is like Sachin Tendulkar, both are elephants in their own rooms, there is no way getting past them. If Rahman composes music for a major movie in any year, other music directors can kiss their award hopes goodbye. No matter how baffling a Rahman tune(more mysterious the better) is it just adds depth to audience’s musical experience and therefore deserves all the accolades that can be given in a given year.

The story is flimsy, but the script, the dialog and also the lyrics of the songs are the solid scaffolding that prop up the movie. Imtiaz Ali’s direction is also commendable. If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d say “czech it out,” there is more than one czech in the movie – the city of Prague and Nargis Fakri.

Mar 22, 2012

Snehaveedu

I recently saw a clip of Prithviraj’s interview where he said Malayalam’s superstar’s Mohanlal and Mammootty should choose to act in roles that reflect their age. Unlike the majority of Malayali audience and Youtube commenters of that clip I agree one hundred percent with Prithviraj. It surely might have had M&M supporters crying for Prithviraj’s blood but it is a brave statement to make in these perilous age of AMMA, Achchan and other similar career wrecking controversies.

Snehaveedu is kind of like Mohanlal’s answer to Prithviraj.(On a side note I consider Pranchiyettan and the Saint as a movie Mammootty played his age and is one of the best characters he ever emoted on screen.) The veteran actor plays almost his age as an evergreen Gulf returnee bachelor turned entrepreneur agriculturist , Ajayan in a Palakkad village. Simple life, ordinary travails, story-book village/town, neighborly neighbors, good hearted protagonists – all classic features of a Sathyan Anthikkad movie appear without fail in Snehaveedu too.

Sheela’s Ammukutty Amma looks and sounds just like her character, Kochu Thresia from her comeback movie Manasinakkare – another Sathyan Anthikkad vehicle. In fact the core of both the movies is very much the same – a mother son relationship or a relationship along those lines. The picturesque village and affable villagers repeat themselves in both movies, only the element that introduces tension differs slightly in each.

Mohanlal does exhibit caution without going overboard as the village’s favorite bachelor. There are sub stories with Lena, Biju Menon, Innocent, KPAC Lalitha and with Padma Priya who could be nurtured as a love interest at a future date. I am glad the director didn’t let the story develop too much along that path. Debutante Rahul Pillai plays his role well, considering he is acting alongside a stalwart like Mohanlal, the teenager exudes the right amount of vulnerability and rebellion.

Snehaveedu should be a win for Sathyan Anthikkad-Mohanlal team provided the crowds do not get cross at Anthikkad for not letting our 50+ year old super star frolic around the fields with his murapennu half his age.

Mar 20, 2012

Saheb Biwi aur Gangster

Old havelis where they still live out raja rani ki kahani – potent with intrigue, secrets, concubines and political games is a fascinating brew for commoners like me. Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster delivers it promise of the foibles, follies and frivolities of old money in new age of corrupt politicians and gun totting thugs somewhere from the heart of India’s cow belt.

Jimmy Shergill, Mahie Gill and Randeep Hooda give their best portraying the title characters in a film with strong performances from the supporting cast. When I first heard about this movie I thought this might be a remake of Guru Dutt’s Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam in the lines of Shahrukh’s DevDas. But this is more like how Abhay Deol’s Dev D was to the original Devdas without making it too urbane.

IMHO the best part of the movie once you get past the film’s handsome leading men is the location. The crumbling haveli, the palace grounds, the servants quarters, the lake and the bungalow across the lake looming like a smudge. Where did they find such a beautiful location? Tigmanshu Dhulia’s direction has delivered the whole movie as one taut package. It is definitely a movie worth watching for lovers of serious cinema.

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