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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Dec 31, 2007


It is hard to make a realistic film with Mohanlal these days. His superstardom is the stumbling block, especially when it is the younger film-makers who is directing him. That is what happened to Ranjan Pramod. He is not a Shaji N.Karun to make a Vanaprastham. I am not comparing the talents of two directors, but the age and the experience which prevents Shaji N.Karun go weak-kneed infront of the star power of Mohanlal is absent in the younger, first time director. Under such conditions, what results is a fiasco like Photographer.

Mohanlal is a freelance photographer, Dijo John, whose photos have made it to the pages of big name magazines like National Geographic. He married a Brahmin girl against his family's wishes and has a son. Like many of the recent movies which has cashed in on the plight of Adivasis, this movie makes use of the infamous Muthanga Incident of Feb 2003, where Kerala police and the Adivasis of Muthanga(Wayanad Dist., Kerala) clashed in a bloody battle. In the film the Dijo John happens to be in the adivasi village on the fateful day and ends up saving his tribal guide, a little boy named Tami. Tami's father is shot down by police bullets right infront of their eyes and there is no news about his little sister.

This personal link leads Dijo to get involved in the volatile issue which had taken on immense political proportions by then. So far so good. The problem I have with Mohanlal films these days is, no matter what the social standing of the character played by Mohanlal, the rest of the cast act in a way that conveys utmost reverence to him. The final nail on the coffin is driven in by the director himself who gives long, weighty dialogs tailored for Mohanlal - the super star, but is no way justifiable to the character he portrays. This is not exactly his flaw, but it ruins the film. Photographer is just one in a long series of movies with this fatal flaw, but I am sure it is not going to be the last one.

Dijo John, the photographer has loud conversations with God himself. The God of Malluwood 'hotlining' to the God of the Universe. The Central Govt. has its own designs on Dijo and doesn't like him playing God to an adivasi kid and secretly takes him into custody and he disappears from the scene for a while. As if the thousands of movie-goers across the state of Kerala cannot languish in a Mohanlal-less void for any length of time during a Lal movie, the director springs a twin for Mohanlal - Joe John, a planter, writer and a totally uncalled for character. Except that through this double role of Joe John, Mohanlal gets a chance to live unleash his star power, which was kind of restrained in his former character, Dijo. Stunts, cheesy jokes, a beautiful maiden in the wings, exaggerated acting are all part of the Joe John package.

There are a lot of half-baked parts - Biju Menon, the Forest Minister, Ganeshan(ex-transport minister of Kerala) who plays an investigating officer, Manoj K.Jayan as an evil incarnate police officer who disappears without trace from the script in the second half and what was the role of Saranya Bhagyaraj(daughter of Malayalam heroine of yesteryear Purnima Jayaram and Tamil actor-director Bhagyaraj)? It felt as if the director lost the sense of direction midway through the movie and ended up wandering in circles in the forest, like the character of Dijo does in the second half. The redeeming aspect of the movie is the camera which lets the audience take in the beauty of Wayanad's forests and the script when Mohanlal was not mouthing the lines.

Despite all this I'd consider Photographer one of the better Mohanlal movies to hit the screens in the recent past, because of its toned down version of the actor. Probably that was why it didn't sit well with the Kerala audience who have placed Lal on a pantheon with their other personal Gods and ended up being a mega-flop.

Dec 29, 2007

Black Friday

A lesson in contemporary Indian history that no self respecting Indian should miss. Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday starts a few days before the fateful Friday in March(12) 1993 when the city of Bombay was blown apart by extremist bombs and follows the subsequent police investigation that solved the case. Based on S.Hussein Zaidi's book of the same name, Black Friday, despite being a feature film is the most realistic and comprehensive account of the infernal Bombay blasts that I've ever seen.

It is hard to believe it is a movie and people are acting. It feels like there was a hidden camera recording the actions of the real people as they planned and schemed and died and fled and bled through those gruesome days. Anurag Kashyap wrote the script of Ram Gopal Varma's much acclaimed film about Bombay's underbelly, Satya. This is his second film as a director, although I believe Black Friday reached the public(despite a two year delay) before his first film Paanch did.

For a large part, the movie reminds me of trying to see the world from the other-side, like a German movie about WWII or a Soviet film about the Cold War. Getting under the skin of the character and breathing his air, you realize why people did the things they did. The credit goes to the director and script writer - in this case, Kashyap and the writer Zaidi for providing the original well researched content which the director built upon. Kay Kay Menon plays Additional Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria, Badshah Khan(played by Aditya Srivastav), one of the accused in the bomb case, represents the pawns, who in the hands of terrorist master minds, Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim becomes a terrorist. Pavan Malhotra plays Tiger Memon and Vijay Maurya, who was also in Paanch, plays Dawood Ibrahim.

An important slip that Kashyap has avoided is that it doesn't become another Satya, especially considering Kashyap scripted both the movies and both are about the darker side of Bombay. Black Friday appeals to me because it is hard to come by a powerhouse of a feature film loaded with information and details about contemporary event(s) depicted in a truthful manner.

Dec 28, 2007

The Angrez

For Hyderabadis, Of Hyderabadis, By Hyderabadis - that is the short version of the Angrez. There has been so many movies about Bombay in this vein and probably many of us can do the Mumbaiyya slang without ever having to travel in local trains during Mumbai's rush hour. The Angrez is a tribute to the life and lingo of Hyderabad, an amateurish one, but entertaining nevertheless.

The life of the movie is Salim Phekku(Mast Ali), Ismail bhai(Raju Shrivastav) and the old city gang along with their Hyderabadi Deccani Urdu mixed Hindi. Delivered by true blue Hyderbadis, the movie you takes you on a romp through the Hyderabad of the locals. When you take a movie about the city that makes a living minting NRIs at a record rate, it has to be about NRIs. Nikkil Kunta(the director of the movie) and Ganesh Venkatraman plays the two NRIs who have come to India to become partners in a software company. Nikkil Kunta draws from his real life experiences as an American returned desi and two years of roaming around with his handycam in the Old City of Hyderabad capturing the life and lingo.

If you exclude the Old city guys and their antics, what remains is mostly half-baked, especially the NRI part. I am not sure NRI vocabulary is limited to sh*t and its variations. The last scenes of the movie which involves a girl crying over, what in my eyes, is a very decent way to propose a marriage could have been avoided.

Chudi bazaar,Bonalu prasadam, Banjara Hills, Hyderabadi Biriyani, Ganesha pooja and the quintessential NRI - the raison d’être of this movie was to showcase Hyderabad and it did that successfully. The rest of it could be forgotten, because if somebody had taken a movie about my home-town in this manner I'd have loved every minute of it, no matter how lousy the story.

Dec 24, 2007

Dor or Perumazhakkalam

What I watched yesterday was Dor(a thread, a connection in Hindi), from the NRI turned RI director Nagesh Kukunoor. If Hyderabad Blues - his path breaking first film was a true original in Indian 'movie-wood', Dor cannot be called so. The story is based on a real life event and first time it hit the screens was in 2004, away from the Bollywood spotlight, when Malayalam director Kamal, made a movie out of it by the name Perumazhakkalam. Perumazhakkalam went on to win the National Award for the Best Film on Social Issues in 2004 and numerous awards for its two leading protagonists played by Kavya Madhavan and Meera Jasmine. Kukkonoor supposedly bought the story from the Malayalam film makers. There is still a lot of controversy surrounding it.(Read Here.) I'd say better he than anyone else, Priyadarshan might have cast Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty as the two leading female protagonists who happen to be behroopiyas(person who takes on different roles/costumes to make a living aka an actor) and gotten away with it under the cover of a few kaleidoscopic dance numbers.

What Dor has going for it is the finesse, Kukonoor has certainly evolved as a director since the amateurish Hyderabad Blues(despite being a big hit of the times.) Technically Dor is a cut above the usual Bollywood films. Then again I am wrong in two counts. First, Kukunoor is not a usual Bombay masala movie-maker, he is from the contemporary alternate cinema in India, he just happens to be successful(which is a quality that sometimes evades parallel cinema makers.)Second, Bollywood is not what it used to be. Most of the Bollywood movies now have a certain level of perfection which places them far above the majority of mediocre regional flicks. Money could be an element here, but whatever it is the grade of the Bollywood end-product is commendable these days.

Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia have the leading roles in Dor. Gul has the more stronger character and she is the right actress for it. Ayesha Takia is ok, but something is amiss, I cannot point my fingers on to it, but it is there. Shreyas Talpade is funny, a very likeable guy, although he falls a little short of the Rajasthani behroopiya. He'd have been great if he was a Maharashtrian or a Hyderabadi. It looks like he had immigrated to Rajasthan in his teens and could never quite cut-off his central Indian roots. Oh..and the cameo by Kukonoor, is a total misfit. I couldn't take the clean-shaven, too well-mannered to be corrupt Nagesh as the scheming lecherous Chopra Saheb. I mean Nagesh Kukonoor could be a lot of things but he cannot yet copy the flitting evil glint of Gulshan Grover.

Perumazhakkalam on the other hand had an excellent choice of actors. I saw it a couple of years back and my memory is getting rusty befitting my age. So I'll start off with what is easiest to recollect, the title. To captivate the Kerala audience who feast on tears, the title of the movie aptly means the Season of Incessant Rain. The rain is one of the important characters in the film, so much so that it is over-used and you can really make out that most of the rain is coming straight off a fire hose. Kavya Madhavan won the State Award for the Best Actress of the year(2004) for her restrained and teary-eyed performance. Same award cannot be given to Ayesha Takia who plays her role in the Hindi version.

There are no beharoopiyas or Chopra Sahebs in the Malayalam version which is truer to real life. Cannot blame Kukonoor for making Dor a li'l vibrant because the film should be packaged to suit the tastes of the audience. Where Keralites pride in their work horse tear glands and prefer the exact portrayal of the grittiness of real life on screen, Northern Indians fancy fantasy and colorful scenes. Dor is set in two of the most touristy destinations in India - the green snow capped mountains of Himachal Pradesh and the stark, sandy and colorful Rajasthan. Had Kukunoor gotten this 'original story idea' from T.A.Razak(the story and script writer of Perumazhakkalam) before Kamal got hold of it, he might have won the Best Picture award for National Integration, bringing together the Muslims of northern-most Northern India and the Hindus of the cow-belt - Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP region. Alas, original happens only once!

The story of Perumazhakkalam is about a death(or a murder?) which happens in Saudi Arabia and involves two young-men(one is murdered and the other one ends up accused) from India who had gone there to work. Saudi court rules death penalty for the accused and the only way the sentence can be reduced is if the wife of the victim forgives the accused. With the males in the story killed or imprisoned, the film takes on a feministic edge, because the females has to do all the work, like in real life. Gul Panag(Dor) / Meera Jasmine(Perumazhakkalam) is the wife of the imprisoned man. Ayesha Takia(Dor) / Kavya Madhavan(Perumazhakkalam) is the Hindu widow. The untimely demise of her husband has the widow in charge of a super power - the power to give or take the life of a human being(one particular human being, her husband's supposed killer.) After that it is the power play between two women of two contrasting cultures - Hindu and Muslim, translated by two different film makers(Kamal in Malayalam and Kukonoor in Hindi) for two widely differing sets of audience.

Perumazhakkalam is a mature take on the subject for a grown-up gallery who doesn't know or care much about Shah Rukh Khan. Dor is for a congregation of devotees who had just finished watching a King Khan movie, on bended knees and have worked up enough courage to watch a 'really serious' Hindi movie. Both movies, I believe, hit the right spot with their target audience.

Dec 20, 2007


Aayirappara literally translates to 1000 'para', where 'para' is a unit for measuring rice, one 'para' equals 7.5 kgs. In the movie it is a reference to the Aayirapara paadam(the field that yields a thousand paras or a field of bumper harvest.)

Directed by Venu Nagavalli, the film is set in the rice trough of Kerala - Kuttanad, incidentally it is also his native place(Ramankarry). The movie dabbles in history, it is a period piece, my guess is the story is from the early 1960s, around the time when the first Communist ministry came to power in Kerala.

Madhu and Narendra Prasad in Aayirappara

Aayirappara paadam is owned by the benevolent landowner, played by Narendra Prasad and his faithful servant, Pappi. - a role veteran actor Madhu carries of with ease. The central character in this movie is the colorful Shauri, Pappi's son, played by Mammootty in perhaps the only Venu Nagavalli(directed) movie where Nagavalli chose someone else other than Mohanlal to play the lead.

The film portrays the tumultuous period of economic and social change in Kerala, where the land and the earnings from the land started to be distributed more democratically, religious tolerance increased albeit as a result of numerous sacrifices from the people involved. Actress Urvashi has the female lead, as the daughter of the landlord. Music is composed by Raveendran and one of the songs 'Yathrayaayi' is quite a melodious number.

Dec 13, 2007

Cheeni Kum

Thanks to the presence of the oldest angry young man in Bollywood, sixty plus guys have finally received the green signal to go ahead to fall in love and marry women half their age. If not for Amitabh Bachchan, Indians could not have been persuaded to sit and watch such a 'sacrilegious' movie(lol.)

Cheeni Kum has the sixty four year old, sharp-tongued, restaurant owner-chef Bachchan wooing Tabu, a woman half his age. Tabu with her carefree elegance is just the right person to match up to the sarcastic and proud Bachchan. Thankfully Zohra Sehgal is still live(let her continue rocking us with laughter forever and ever) which is good news for Jaya Bachchan otherwise she could have been called to play his mother's role. Let us not forget Paresh Rawal(Tabu's Dad in the film), he has evolved as a comedian so much so that I've forgotten that he used to be the stereotypical bad guy once upon a time.

All could have gone well and we could have gotten a new age Hindi romance if they had not imported the cruel stock villain which guaranteed a flood gate of tears at the box-office in the seventies and eighties - blood cancer. IMHO the overly-'literate', smooth (adult-)talking kid was a needless character. The screenplay is really a long tit for tat affair, quite enjoyable one at that. Direction is also good for a first time - R.Balki. If not for the abnormal proliferation of leukocytes which ruined the movie, it'd have been one of the good modern Bollywood movies of recent times.

Dec 3, 2007

Disco Dancer

A decade of video players imported by NRIs from Arabian Gulf were tested using this movie, Indo-Russian bilateral relations reached a peak in the eighties, even in the absence of Raj Kapoor, thanks to this dance musical and with this movie Bengal added a Bollywood superstar(ofcourse his national award winning feature Mrigaya came long before that, but who watched award movies?) to its already bursting bag of talent, filled with Nobel laureates and freedom fighters. You know the movie I am talking about – it defined a decade, with its legendary stature it has etched its name in history as the icon of the eighties – Disco Dancer.

As a kid I was one of the under-privileged who never got to watch the said film but only heard exponentially glamorized versions from our lucky friends who had not only seen it, but also had the video cassette in possession, thanks to their Gulf-employed relative. The unpardonable crime of not watching the Disco Dancer struck back in my late twenties when I met the Russians. Being close to Bering Strait and Siberia our neighborhood is overrun my Russian émigrés, most of them close to my age who try to strike up friendship with us with the intro, "Mithun Charkraborty. Disco. Disco Dancer," with accompanied animation and dance moves. The immense gravitas of those opening words, they believe, is enough to forge a lasting bond between two great cultures. Who grew up in the eighties India without knowing the power of the Bollywood cultural ambassador, Mithunda?

The situation was rectified this weekend. We learnt to spell D-I-S-C-O and refreshed our memories with eighties costumes, hairdos and those hit songs which made Disco Dancer what it was. The one who was most entranced by the movie was our one and half year old, which brings me to the point that it is like a fairy-tale. You don’t need any language to understand it, that’s probably why the Russians and the Middle-Easterners took to it so easily. The story is rich vs poor singer, rich defeated by singing, poor guy gets the rich girl via disco and in between a terrible disease called ‘guitar-phobia’ makes a guest appearance so does Rajesh Khanna. Karan Razdan(ex-husband of Priya Tendulkar of ‘Rajni’ fame) plays the bad guy along with Om Shivpuri –the bad guy’s dad who is a really bad guy. Mithun is his lithe rockin’ younger self, a treat to watch. Other than that there is not much in the movie story-wise. I’d take Disco Dancer as a vehicle to deliver Disco to the masses and Mithunda to the Russians. Think it accomplished both those tasks successfully. End of review.

Nov 29, 2007

Yaadon Ki Baraat

From the father of formula films in Bollywood, Nasir Hussain, comes one of the biggest hits of the century - Yaadon Ki Baraat. This is probably the third or fourth time I am watching this 1973 classic. A vanguard in its own right Yaadon Ki Baraat was a nested product of formulas many of which Hindi filmdom has been recycling to this day. The important ones include son avenging the death of his parents, brothers torn away by circumstances reunited by a talisman(a song in the typical Bollywood fashion in this case), the utterly honest poor guy with incredible singing capacity wooing the rich girl, the high-tech villain in his seventies gadget-infested dungeon bent upon destroying the hero while wearing shoes of two different sizes(a dead giveaway!) and a Miss India(Zeenat Aman.)

The incredible soundtrack of the film composed by R.D.Burman is another selling point. The song 'Chura Liya' defined an entire generation and beyond, so did Ms.Aman. Vijay Arora stars opposite to her in the movie, as the second one of the three brothers. Dharmendra is the elder brother and the youngest is played by Tariq, a nephew of the director. Neetu Singh makes a guest appearance in one of the songs, so does the later Bollywood heart-throb Aamir Khan. This is his first movie(well, the director was his uncle) and he appears as a child artist - the youngest of the three brothers. Yaadon ki Baraat is your quintessential Bollywood movie of the swinging seventies. If you have to give someone an introduction to the proverbial Hindi masala movie, you can pick this one sans hesitation.

Nov 24, 2007

Nee Varuvolam

Directed by Sibi Malayil, this is one of the first movies of Dileep as a hero. It has Divya Unni as a village belle where she looks totally out of place in long silk skirts and a made-up innocence which is hard not to notice. Dileep is okay, the story thrives on what a typical Malayalam movie should ooze in tons - grief and insurmountable obstacles only solved by suicides or sudden deaths.

Nov 21, 2007

Manorama Six Feet Under

A quirky black thriller from Navdeep Singh. The movie, Singh’s first directorial venture establishes him as one of the latest breed of talented film-makers who are crawling out of the Bollywood wood-work with their original and offbeat creations. Abhay Deol is a Deol of a different breed (after Sunny, Bobby, Esha and Papa Deol), this cousin Deol is the proverbial everyman yet handsome and talented.

The movie is set in a Rajasthani desert town, beat up by heat and overlooked by rain clouds for years. Nothing is going anywhere, life languidly flows with what is at its disposal, which is to say not much. This is not the Rajasthan of typical Bollywood movies or tourist brochures. The colorful village belles and the multi-tasking singer-dancer camel herders are noticeable by their absence, so is the thakur-thakurayin duo and the big haveli where it is always the wedding or the infighting season. This is the small town Rajasthan of everyday India – hot, parched, corrupt, Hinduized, politicized and middle-class.

Abhay Deol plays a PWD engineer who moonlights as an author, albeit a failed one at that. The novel which was supposed to make him a household name ‘Manorama’, sold just 200 copies, but it plays an important role in the movie. Gul Panag(a former Miss India) is Deol’s wife in the movie, a role which she carries off with natural panache. Vinay Pathak, ex-Channel V VJ has a very distinct role in the movie as the local police officer and Deol’s brother-in-law. Raima Sen plays her usual role as a guy-trap. Sarika and Kulbhushan Kharbanda plays other important roles.

What is interesting is that unlike in the usual Hindi movies, there is no easily readable black and white as such in this movie, it covers a lot of grey zones. Gold fishes are used to expound life’s big lessons since people keep on making the same mistakes you and me would make and are no good. Natural, darkly comic and a lot like real life.

Nov 12, 2007

Life in a Metro

Hindi movies are going places. I heard the songs of Life in a Metro perhaps six months ago and as expected of my tin-ear, promptly forgot about them, except for the title of the film – which was a bit different for a Hindi film. The songs came back from the dead, a couple of months ago when my more sensitive other half resurrected them from a dusty back-up drive, wrote a CD and made it our traveling companion. Have been hooked on the songs, composed by Pritam with lyrics by Sayeed Qadri, ever since.

Then came the quest to get hold of the movie and watch it. The mission was completed successfully this weekend. It is a slickly produced version of life in India’s primero uno metro, Bombay (or Mumbai as it is known now.) The film deals with the emotions and sentiments in the lives of its nine protagonists, all whose stories are intertwined in a way, although the characters themselves are not aware of these connections in the beginning.

What impresses me about this movie is its photography, music, editing and direction. What takes away some of the glory is its plot-lines, some of which looks like they may have been borrowed from some Hollywood originals. Shilpa Shetty, Kay Kay Menon, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sharman Joshi, Shiney Ahuja, Kangana Ranaut, Dharmendra, Nafisa Ali and Irfan Khan play the nine main characters who inhabit the four interconnected plots.

Although it might go against majority’s idea of how a movie should be made, I loved the inclusion of the band who composed the music for the film in the song scenes. It gave the songs a music video effect, not bad considering this is not the run-of-the-mill Bollywood movie. Life in a Metro is one of the movies which catalogs the evolution of Bollywood cinema. It might not be mind blowing, but it makes you aware what’s blowin’ in the wind and gives an idea where that wind might take you.

Nov 1, 2007


Alexandru Inarritu - the king of multiple story threads, all with connecting elements which will be revealed as the story progresses, is the director of this trans-continental cinematic odyseey. His second foray in to Hollywood as a full length feature director sees him paired with his favorite writer and literary twin, Guillermo Arriaga. All Arriaga's screenplays are written for the movies, has a one of a kind feel and is assured to give the audience the edge-of-the-seat anticipation with events that happen to real people. Inarritu and Arriaga had a fall-out after Babel was released and the director banned the writer from attending the film's screening at Cannes, that's another story.

The events in Babel take place in three continents and four nations - Morocco, the USA, Mexico and Japan. With an ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Cate Blanchett, Adrianna Barraza(nominated for Oscar for her role in this movie) and Rinko Kikuchi, Babel got seven Oscar nominations in 2007, although only one materialized in to the coveted bronze statue - Best Original Score.

Like Inarritu's Amores Perros and 21 Grams - the other two his Death trilogy, Babel is driven forward by the tension experienced by the viewer just as it'd be if the viewer had faced the situation in real life. Unlike the other two, Babel is more topical. It touches more contemporary issues like the US governement's definition of terrorism and how it affects the rest of the world, illegal immigrants from across the Mexian border and shows a side of Morocco most Americans would never see. The two young Moroccan boys who plays goat-herds in one of the stories have shown exceptional acting skills, so has Adrianna Barrazza, the Mexican actress.

Although the film is peppered with brilliant pieces of direction, cinematography and acting, one that I'll mention here is the Rinko Kikuchi's drug induced evening at the park and discotheque. If you plan to stay away from hallucinatory drugs or has never taken any ever, this sequence is a must-see, it is the next best thing.

As the lyrics from Mike and the Mechanics song, 'The Living Years' goes, "You say you just dont see it, He says its perfect sense, You just cant get agreement, In this present tense, We all talk a different language, Talking in defence....." all of us are right in the light of our plights and many a time, all of us are wrong. That is the premise of Babel.

Oct 14, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine

A very European movie from the United States. Most of the American indies I've seen are individual obsessed, this one has as its core a dysfunctional family or rather a normal family which is not perfect like all the other normal families. It is a commendable effort from the first time feature film directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

A road-trip in a rickety old VW van with quirky characters - although everyone looks alright on the surface, brings about unexpected events. The choice of actors is brilliant and everyone fits into their roles perfectly. The title character of the movie, the youngest of the family who is going to enter a beauty pageant called Little Miss Sunshine is played by the seven year old, little Miss Abigail Breslin who lives upto the role.

The movie shows the triumph of common man against not so-gigantic but the everyday-type odds. The film identifies with the average, the everyday, the common-place yet different, which is how the human life is and that is the recipe for its success.

Oct 7, 2007


Pakal is the first movie of the producer turned director M.A.Nishad. Before I go postal on the movie with an acerbic review, let me confess it is one of the true to life, watchable movies that had been made in Malayalam in the recent years. Wonder why all of them has Prithviraj as the hero? Although to tell the truth that point shouldn't cause much wonder, because lately he is the only believable hero in Malayalam.

Pakal takes up a contemporary social issue - the suicide of farmers trapped in debt, an issue that has caught national media attention. Prithviraj has the role of a TV journalist who has taken up the cause of bringing public attention of the plight of poor desperate farmers in the hill-district of Wayanad in Kerala. T.G.Ravi acts as a debt ridden farmer whose family's story becomes the central plot of the movie. Jagadish has a very different role as a unscrupulous money lender, a role he handles with panache. The main female characters in the movie, the farmer(T.G.Ravi)'s daughters are played by Sreeja and Jyothirmayi, who do justice to their roles.

What disturbs me about the movie is that, the anger it exemplifies is the blood-boiling-rage of the youth and it is shown that this anger does finally bring results, bring down the bastilles of the establishment. Knowing the political pandemonium in India it is hard to believe that truth is going to triumph this easily. In a way the movie gives an idealistic solution, which is hardly the case ever.

Then there is the usual resort of Malayalam filmdom to win the ladies' votes - send them a truckload of tears and get them over to your side. Maybe the subject matter of the film will justify the presence of sentimentality.

For a first time director it is a not-so-bad film, exceptional if you consider the current state of Malayalam movie industry and thankfully M.A.Nishad's direction is not as cliche-ridden as Blessy's - the other director who is driving the social cause-current issue bus in Malayalam.

A watchable movie, which is a rare treat in Malayalam these days.

Sep 12, 2007

Ek Chalis ki Last Local

This is one of the best movies to have come out of Bollywood recently. From the debutante director Sanjay Khanduri comes the most under-estimated flick which will endear you with its all pervading quirkiness, its original story line(that’s something that’s hard to come by in Bollywood movies) and believable characters. The movie reminds me of the dark humor in Tarantino’s films, quirky and unpredictable, but delightfully watchable.

Abhay Deol is a perfect fit for the protagonist who misses the last train to his home in Vikhroli. Mumbaiites know how important trains are in their lives and missing one changes the life of this young man forever. The story, the dialog, the camera, the perfect characterization and the general ambiance of the film in the hands of a director who knows what he is talking about delivers a winner. Khanduri tells that the story(he is the story writer and the script writer of the movie) is inspired by a night he was forced to spend in Mumbai’s under belly after having missed the local train himself. Well then, nobody could have made it better, right?

Another bit of trivia about 1:4O ki last local: 'Ek Chalis Ki Last Local' created a record by selling 1.18 lac DVDs in just first 14 days of its release. Its surprising for such a small film to do such a good business. Moser Bayer had launched its first commercial feature film DVD in Indian market by this film. It has sold more than any DVD VCD combined of any Indian film in first 2 weeks of its release.

May 22, 2007

Hard Candy

Hard Candy is a psychological thriller that keeps you riveted on the edge of your seat, with knitted brows for almost two hours. The frames, tight close-ups against bold single colors provided by the setting - a modernist house of an art photographer, imparts the feeling that you are inside the character. You switch your loyalties many times with each return volley served by the two characters.

Ellen Page is intense and believable as a teenage over-achiever with a cause written in stone and nothing is going to deter her from her course, not even an innocuous looking photographer(Patrick Wilson) of the models. For her portrayal of Hayley - the teenage protagonist in this film Page won the Best Actress Award from the Austin Film Critics Association. This is also the first film of the British director, David Slade.

Apr 12, 2007

Kabul Express

Directed by Kabir Khan, Kabul Express takes us on a roadtrip with five travellers across the barren landscape of post-Taliban Afganistan. The Taliban has just been ousted and the country is in shambles. Two Indian journalists, played by John Abraham and Arshad Warsi reach Afganistan to cover the events following Taliban's exit and American occupation. They run in to an American journalist, played by Linda Arsenio. They have an Afgani driver-guide, who is the fourth main character. Salman Shahid, a Pakistani actor portrays an ex-Tliban with Pakistani military roots.

It is hard to believe that the film came out from Bollywood, from Yashraj Films, it has a dry subject matter befitting the times and people it portray but very much unlike what is the typical Bollywood fare. For me it was totally unbelievable that the people who brought Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the mushiest Bollywood romantic hit of all time has tried their hands at an almost documentary like feature film.

The only glitches, minor though, are - Abraham and Warsi looked too polished for journalists in a war zone. The script, thought I do not exactly pinpoint what it is, lacked a certain something. All in all it is a quite different movie to come out of Bollywood lately