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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Feb 25, 2008

Palunku

Palunku means crystal in Malayalam, the movie is the third offering from Blessy one of the much touted directors of contemporary Malayalam cinema. The wiki link for Blessy I've posted above makes me want to bang my head against the wall and question the basic concept of wikipedia letting no-namers no-experts(like myself) update crucial information about people, places and history. The link equates Blessy's talents with Padmarajan and Bharathan - the maestros of Malayalam cinema which is like saying moon could take the place of the sun if only it rose during the day. Blasphemous!

Anyway moving on with the movie, the central character Monichan, a high-range farmer who migrates to the city with his family is played by Mammootty. The film starts off in serene village settings, where in spite of the burgeoning odds against survival in the form of un-payable loans, schools without teachers, the world is still fresh and innocent. That is one thing I've against Blessy's interpretation of stories - the absence of grays. The idyllic scenarios like the 'golden past' or the 'unspoilt village' is juxtaposed against the 'dreadful present or the 'sinful city.' One has all the good qualities and the other has all the bad qualities and the characters invariably have to fit in to either of these settings and are devoid of any shade of gray.

Monichan's family of wife and two kids are living in a blissfully tranquil high-range village with cows, tailor-birds and chickens when the children's school run out of teachers. This forces the family to shift their base to the city which is like the hot-bed of evil. But the Monichan parivar is unaware of it, they remain largely innocent and wide-eyed except for Monichan who takes to the city like a fish to water. From there on he takes the worst route possible to making a living in the city. The story despite its shortcoming becomes more interesting in the second half.

Mammootty is a good choice for the role, atleast he is 'acting his age.' Blessy introduces Kannada actress Lakshmi Sharma as Monichan's wife,she's good too, so are the two little girls who play the roles of their kids. Jagathy has a very interesting part. The story is tighter in the second half. There are no diversions from the main theme and it progresses fluidly on to the ending, which although I didn't see it coming, was not a total surprise either. It was like the movie had to impart this message of poetic (or is it Biblical) sense of justice or there had to be a 'moral to the story'. Afterall you spent two plus hours watching the film, did you get to take home a message? That is what the current Malayalam film makers are aspiring to achieve, which makes their stories predictable as fairytales or nightmares - whichever is the flavor of the moment.

After the much hyped Kazhcha which fell flat on my face and the award winning farce of Thanmatra, Palunku is infact a winner. It looks like Blessy is getting better as a director and a script-writer, although he has a long way to go before he can be anywhere near his mentor - Padmarajan.

Feb 11, 2008

Idavela

Many of the cult classics in Malayalam came out in the early eighties and escaped media attention because most films made in that era were of above average quality. Today, looking back at those, a quarter century later, all that I could do is to lament and curse at the speed with which the value of Malayalam movies have eroded to pathetic nothingness.

Idavela is one such classic movie of the eighties(1982.) The humble beginning of the movie without any flashy overtures, how the story progresses in a natural manner unpretentious of its merit and reaches the final crescendo which itself is underplayed is not achievable these days. Idavela stands in stark contrast to what could a present day director could have made out of its story. If it was today there would be rib-damaging tickles meant to invoke laughter, ostentatious costumes and over-the-top dialogs that bear no resemblance to life in campus - living or dead, strict adherence to the formula loop one has to follow- comedy followed by a song n dance routine, followed by a tension-some chase scene, a fight - it is all oh-so-predictable these days and the only difference to look for is, which of the 50 year old M and M superstars duo is playing the 'college kumaran' in the particular film.

M.Mohan's understated classic starts out as a campus story involving four boys. Much of the credit goes to the script, written by one of the master writer-directors of Malayalam movie-world, Padmarajan - he who never wrote or directed the same story twice yet churned out refreshingly new movies and scripts one after the other. The main two characters are played by Ashokan and Babu(who later became famous as Idavela Babu after this movie) who are themselves in their late teens or early twenties. I do not know the name of the other two actors although one of them seems to be familiar.

There is the usual pranks that the boys of the age do, although the movie doesn't just revolve around these. Every character including the ones of the boy's family members, the college staff is explored and evolved to exact proportions as is required, nothing more, nothing less. The conversation and the story is natural and free flowing. Somewhere halfway through we get an inkling that this is going to be a coming-of-age movie. But like in real life the coming of age does not happen with fan-fare and hoopla, it just unfolds along the narrative path.

The second half of the movie takes us to scenic locales of Munnar, which itself was an unsullied hill station in Kerala in the eighties, away from the beaten path of tourists. The second half also introduces the major female character, played by Nalini, an eighties actress and the story takes a turn. It is a relief that the characters talk like you and me and not like people from soap operas, even in situations which could've justified the insertion of soap talk. The ending is perfect and there are no sudden jumps or cuts to reach that conclusion, things just fall in to place.

I wish the present day Malayalam directors would take some time out and sit down and watch eighties movies produced by the same industry they are affiliated to now.



(p.s- It's interesting to note the extent to which IMDb is riddled with mistakes when it comes to early eighties Indian regional language movies and actors. So much false information which is worse than no information. )

Feb 8, 2008

Shingari Bolona

A pathetic product of the contemporary Malayalam movie industry with a eunuch of a name which is neither hindi nor malayalam.


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