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 31, 2006

Goodnight, and Goodluck

From the elder statesman of the United States and the one man opposition of the current Republican party, George Clooney, comes the film about the fifties newsman Ed Murrow's face-off with Senator Joseph McCarthy. Clooney's directorial venture takes up a story(real) that's highly relevant to the post 9-11 political climate of the US. The entire narrative is shot in black n white rendering it sober and serious.

In the age of Fox News, it is seems surrealistic that American media had a past where newscasters spoke out against the elected representatives who refused constituional rights of citizens in the name of fake charges and mock trials.David Strathairn plays Murrow and Clooney plays his affable producer, Fred Friendly. Clooney and Strathairn in the film.

All of the footages of Senator McCarthy are from actual archival tapes, which elimnates the need for any actor to play the Senator. A film about a time when journalists really reported the truth to the public, not fabricated disinfected fiction doled out by those in power. Kudos to Clooney.

Oct 30, 2006

Agnisakshi

The film is an adaptation of Lalithambika Antharjanam’s award winning novel of the same name. In the eighties Mathrubhoomi weekly used to serialize the novel for its loyal readers, one of which included my mother. She was a big fan of the author and this novel because of its stirring feminist message, inspired by my mother I tried reading it, but as a seven or eight year old I miserably failed and continued pledging my unwavering allegiance to Poompatta and Balarama.

Agnisakshi is a realistic portrayal of the inhuman living and social standards high caste Namboodiri(Brahmin) women had to endure at the turn of this century. The story is told from the eyes of a half caste Namboodiri girl, who had access to the inner sanctums of Namboodiri household due to her parentage(her father was a Brahmin) but was still considered untouchable because her mother was from a lower caste. Praveena plays the young girl, Thankam and in the later stage of life the same role is acted by Srividya. The story starts in Benares, the holiest of the holy Indian cities, at the banks of the sacred Ganga. An older Thankam has come to immerse the ashes of her half brother in the Ganga – the river of eternal salvation. There she goes searching for her sister-in-law(the wife of this deceased half-brother), Devaki acted by Shobhana, who had become a sanyasin some time earlier. From there on the story is told in flashback.

Shobhana and Rajit Kapoor in Agnisakshi

It is a story about the age old struggle of old and new, the traditional and the modern, told from the twilight hour when the change is imminent but is not yet there. Rajit Kapoor, the Hindi TV-serial and independent film actor portrays the eldest son of the Namboodiri household, the half brother of Thankam and Shobhana’s husband who has given his life over to practicing the traditional values of Hindu dharma. This leaves the newly-wed Devaki in a lurch, a virtual prisoner in a traditional household where even reading is considered as a crime for women.

The story progresses through the tribulations of Devaki, her friendship with Thankam, the effect of wider social changes like the independence of India from the British and the emancipation of women thereafter. The direction by Shyamaprasad brings to life a very moving and hard-hitting visual statement.

Oct 24, 2006

Poocha Sanyasi

One of the first full length comedy films in Malayalam, Poocha Sanyasi(1981) stars Raj Kumar in the leading role as the flirtatious playboy son of a millionaire businessman(K.P.Ummer). I wonder how Raj Kumar came to play lead role in Malayalam movies, he obviously doesn’t look anything like a Malayali, infact to me he looks a typical Kannadiga or Konkani. Anyway the guy did a load of Malayalam movies in the early eightier, most of them in the comedy genre.


Rajkumar and Madhavi in Poocha Sanyasi

Coming back to the movie, since the leading man is a playboy there is a bevy of beauties surrounding him in the first half and in the second half he is blissfully (which is soon to be lost as his earlier girl friends start plotting against him) married to Madhavi(again a non-Kerala import from Punjab who tried hand in Bollywood movies where success eluded her that she had to move South, she was a strong presence in Malayalam movies in the eighties.) The wife(Madhavi) was chosen by the playboy’s strict disciplinarian father(K.P.Ummar) to correct son of his wandering ways. Comedians Bahadur, Kuthiravattam Pappu and Sukumari has major roles as well. A surprise role was that of Balan.K Nair, who excelled in villain roles during this period, but has an interesting part as an Anglo-Indian party-animal, the brother of one of the girl friends who morphs in to a convincing villain in the climax scenes. I also glimpsed Silk Smitha – the one-time sex siren of the South as an extra in one of the dances.

Oct 15, 2006

Waco: The Rules of Engagement

(Repost from Nov 2003) A decade ago, when I was just out of high school, I remember reading something about Waco in Times and Newsweek at the local library. It was about a 'sinful messiah' - David Khoresh, the leader of a Christian cult in Texas who committed mass suicide with his disciples - the Branch Davidians. Today 10 years later, I saw William Gazecki's award winning documentary on the incident, "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" and boy oh boy wasn't it a jolt into reality or what?!! Or should I say it was just another reminder about the exceedingly manipulative control, the media has on the way we live our lives and judge other people.

I'd be the last person to hold any sympathy towards any cults, or so called sects or offshoots of any religion which promotes their way of religious preaching as the best way to reach God than all the numerous other religious paths out there. For me Khoresh could have been one of the many crowd puller messiahs making a living out of their magnetic personality and their gift of gab, but the massacre (dubbed as mass suicide by media barons) at Waco and this realistic documentary which doesnot take any sides, has changed it all.

Whether you are the next incarnation of God or not, as long as you tread on terra firma, at a time when everyone and everything quits on you, who do you ask for protection? When the agencies which are supposed to protect and safeguard your rights as a citizen of a free country, turn on you where do you go and hide? And what do you do when your subterrenean hiding place, with just one door to the outside is pelted with cynide tipped tear gas shells, well... you and your little children undergo muscle contractions that shatter your bones to pieces and die by suffocation in minutes. This could add a new meaning to the term 'mass suicide'. "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" will surely sit heavy on your conscience, raising questions about what you should or shouldnot believe, whom you should or should not trust and ofcourse you wish the vision of hell was true to the last word, otherwise where will the perpetrators go?

If you want to know more about this documentary, go here

Oct 13, 2006

Sreekrishnaparunth

Long time back, sometime in the prehistory when I was in primary school I was a voracious reader of.., now comes the important part, "Ma" magazines in Malayalam. 'Ma' magazines that published serialized equivalents of Mills and Boons type novels and had huge readership across Kerala. I quit this juicy reading habit three of four years in to it when I got bored of similar stories in differnt guises. Sreekrishnaparunth(or Kite - the bird) was a serialized novel, if I am right, which used to come in Manorajyam, one of the leading Malayalam weeklies at the time. It was quite an enthralling read beacuse it had scandal, voodoo, sex, gore and all the other masala wrapped up in a seemingly historical plot.


Mohanlal, who plays the main role of the magician/healer in the film along with other actors


The story takes place in a Kerala Namboothiri tharavad(Brahmin household), the patriarch of the family are magician/healer/shaman. Mohanlal, plays the lead role of Kumaran, the next head of the family but at present a local Casanova of sorts. Sreekrishnaparunth a.k.a the Kite is the family diety which protects the family and the master shaman from evil powers thus the title of the movie.

The movie starts off with a disjointed narrative without much character development, stories and people cropping up as it unfolds. It seems like it has been lifted straight off the novel and made in to a film sans a coherent script. For me it felt like reading a comic book with human characters come to life.

Oct 12, 2006

Oceans Twelve

Typical Hollywood sauve heist fare. I like heist movies, used to love them, now I have lowered the affection level a notch because I've seen so many of them like this one's predecessor - Ocean's Eleven, Heist, Le Cercle Rouge, The Italian Job(both versions), The Score etc. Now it only nail biting if there is something totally new. Ocean's Twelve is not as engrossing as when Ocean's team was one member less. This one is a lighter flick, Hollywood A-liners mouthing some slick lines - like turning the pages of People magazine but with some sort of a heist serving as the background score as you progress. Hollywood at its best visual and celebrity appeal, not much of a story, not much of a movie - but slick, sauve, smooth and glamorous.

Oct 7, 2006

Thazhvaram

Thazhvaram, directed by Bharathan and penned by M.T.Vasudevan Nair is perhaps the first real Western in Malayalam cinema. Highly remniscent of Sergio Leone masterpieces like The Good The Bad and The Ugly and For a Few Dollars More, the wild west in Kerala is the 'thazhvaram' or the valley. The high-ranges or the Western Ghat region of Kerala and the valleys thereof have always attracted the adventurous and the pioneers. Symbolically these places are the closest Kerala has to the unchartered frontier that was the old West in America.

Mohanlal is Bharathan's protagonist, so often portrayed by Clint Eastwood in Leone's movies. The terse talking lone ranger seeking revenge is wrapped in a signature Indian poncho in case of Eastwood, here Mohanlal sports a black wool shawl striped with red which is infact worn by farmers in the region.

The film opens with a long shot of the lone human figure, slowly advancing against the magnanimity of the landscape(or whatever magnanimity you can wrestle out of a Kerala landscape.) A wailing, haunting instrumental typical of Westerns plays in the background.

There are four main characters in the movie, they are pretty much all the people that feature in it, there are not many distractions. It is beautifully shot and never wavers from its course. Salim Ghouse, a Hindi TV serial actor, remember Bharat in Doordarshan's campus drug drama of the late eighties - Subah, is the guy who plays the villian in this film. Shammi Thilakan has dubbed for him here. Sumalatha and Shankradi makes the rest of the caste along with the villian and the hero.

The final scenes are also very Leone-sque with the fight taking place in a large open space with vultures watching over. And then the lone ranger leaves once the fight is over, end of story. A very good movie by Malayalam standards.

Oct 3, 2006

Malayalam : Uyarangalil

The current quality of Malayalam film is so deplorable that old I.V.Sasi movies look like classics now. Or it could be that I.V.Sasi is an underrated director, atleast he was in my view. It changed considerably after I watched Avalude Ravukal, supposedly semi-porn, but with Sherif's script and I.V.Sasi's direction I found it to be classic, earthy and real.


Nedumudi Venu and Rehman in Uyarangalil


Uyarangalil, has Malayalam super hero Mohanlal in an anti-hero role, a choice not often made by up and coming actors as he was in 1984 when this movie came out. Rehman, the then teenage heart throb also has an important side role. The two Bollywood wannabes who failed to make it in Hindi films and took resort in Malayalam, Swapna and Kajal Kiron also feature in the movie. I wonder where these actresses are and how they look like these days. There is so little information about these actresses, infact Kajal Kiron is not even mentioned having acted in a single Malayalam movie in her IMDb page, though she has acted in quite a few of them in the early eighties.

Kajal Kiran and Mohanlal in Uyarangalil

Coming back to the movie Uyarangalil, story and screen play is by M.T.Vasudevan Nair, one of the gifted writers in Malayalam literary arena. A supposedly masala movie of the 80s, it has good dialogues and unpretentious and taut story and direction. Although this definitely was not a path breaking movie of any sort, just an ordinary run of the mill stuff in those days, it seems so polished and precise when compared to the movies dished out by Malayalam movie industry these days.

Oct 1, 2006

AIFF 2006: Expiration Date

Is Rick Stevenson, the director of Expiration Date an American Benigni in the making? The premise of the film is that the main character, Charles Silvercloud III(played by Robert Guthrie), has both his grandfather and father killed by milk trucks on their 25th birthdays. Charles thinks there is no way to escape the horrible fate that awaits him and starts making preparations for his final farewell from the earth. What follows is a comedy of errors played out in the refreshing romantic landscape of Seattle.

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