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 29, 2010

Re'kindle' Your Reading : Best books of 2010

People are rediscovering reading, thanks to Kindle™ and Nook. Those who used to get books for Christmas as gifts now get e-readers. And if you want to go beyond reading there is always IPad. I do not have any experience with any of these e-readers to do a review. The title and opening lines were to bait Google's spider and naive reading enthusiasts into reading/crawling the rest of this post.

What I really like to do is to showcase some books I read (or heard, audio books) in 2010. In short, these are some of the best books I read in 2010. They are not necessarily those published in this year I just happened to read them sometime during the last 12 months. If you think you'll like these books you can buy those to read in your e-reader. Maybe I'll pull out my charitable keyboard and type out 5 reviews. BTW this reviews are not really in the order of preference, they are according to my memory time line, those I read earlier in the year come in the first spots and vice versa.


First in the list is Open: An Autobiography :- I am not an authority on sports autobiographies unless you consider Kite Runner an essential guide to running kites. I love films based on sports stories(Escape to Victory, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Breaking Away, Chariots of Fire, Field of Dreams etc)  though this is my first time with a book on any kind of sports. Despite my naivete in the subject matter I will still take a bet on Andre Agassi's autobiography, 'Open', to be one of the best of the lot. It is frank, down to earth and exuberantly American - in short very much Agassi, the real man behind the facade of pink lava compression pants and acid wash denim shorts, tennis's original rebel without a cause. More about Open, if you are interested.

Next comes, Mike Leonard's ride across America with his eighty plus year old parents and his grown-up kids called The Ride of our Lives. Mike Leonard is a feature correspondent of Today Show on NBC, his garage(which might probably looks like yours or mine) won't qualify him as a celebrity on Today Show. It is an interesting journey into life, through life and across life with Mr.Leonard, his parents and his children, something I'd love to emulate if I could get them all together in one place and in one time zone.


How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely comes next.  Every aspiring writer at some point in time has read a must-read book for aspiring writers. The one I can remember reading,... oh, you think I cannot aspire? Everyone can aspire, respire and perspire, it was too fundamental to be included in any constitution or Bill of Rights. Anyway the one book on writing I read, was Stephen King's On Writing. I don't remember much of it, I did what I do with books, read and forgot. But Steve Hely I like. If you want to write popular sale-able fiction this is one book you shouldn't miss. I have a strong feeling that Dan Brown stole the manuscript of How I Became a Famous Novelist to figure out the right way to write all those trashy best sellers. (I shouldn't be trashing Brown, I cannot even come up with a 100 word story, but then reviewers are people who can't write to save their pens/typewriters/IPads, right?) Hely is an insider in this book business and he knows what he (or rather his hero, one book wonder Pete Tarslaw) is talking about. How come I read two books in a year written by correspondents/writers for late night shows? Steve Hely is one of the writers for The Late Show with David Letterman.

I got to read one of the controversial books that came out in Malayalam in the recent past Njan LaingikaThozhilaali: Nalini Jamilayude Aatmakatha (Translated into English as Autobiography of a Sex Worker, by Nalini Jamila) this year, five years after it took Kerala and Malayalam literary circles by storm. I am glad I am one of the Malayalis who can actually read Malayalam and speak Malayalam differentiating between the different bha, ba, ta,tta, da, ddas unlike the present day Malayalam TV anchors. When some one like Nalini Jamila, who is not a literary scion by far, writes in her native language it should be read in the same, no amount of honest translation can give it the right kind of honesty it deserves. Jamila's book is an interesting insight, a cart load of information for most of us who don't know what goes on in the red-light areas of life. I'd not call it a literary masterpiece, it is a memoir told in simple straightforward everyday language, about a life 99% of us have no clue about, but are secretly interested in knowing, that is what sells(sold) it.

The other fiction book in my list of five is this last one by Assaf Gavron called Almost Dead, English translation of the Hebrew original. When we get up in the morning aren't we plagued by the same old question getting up from the bed along with us, the way it always did ever since we could think - "what is really going on between Palestine and Israel?" Oh, a different question wakes up with you? No way! Well I have always wanted to know about house prices, high school syllabus and real house-wives of Gaza Strip. This book looked like it had the answers to some of my burning questions, the added incentive was the metaphysical/paranormal aspect of the story - the hero escapes suicide bombings not once but thrice. I swoon at stories that offers a view into the mysterious other side of life - you know where time machines are what you drive to work, coincidences are commonplace, well you get the drift, the cover of this book promised something similar and the cover-art is pretty cool too, isn't it? The book doesn't disappoint but it is not a thriller either. It is the writer who interests me, it kindles(kindle strikes again)in me an interest to read his other books, namely Hydromania.

There are more books that I'd like to review, like Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner which had been incalculably influential in my life that I am thinking of replacing Gideon's Bible with a copy of Freakonomics in every hotel room I ever stay in. I do not remember whether I read it in 2009 or 2010. Then there is the very feminist The Women's Room by Marilyn French, first published in 1977 which eventually reached my hands after a long journey of 33 years, losing none of its impact in the transit. I read(listened to audio books) Obama's two memoirs - Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope this year, both  testaments to the incredible writer, statesman and the Grammy award winner that he is. Reviewing all these will require patience and time and my anti-procrastination pill is already wearing thin. If I finish everything now, what will I do in 2011, that is one whole year before the world ends and all will be well. Later.

Dec 20, 2010

Grown Ups

It is supposed to be a funny movie and it tries very hard at achieving that end. It should have been called Half-Baked, not Grown Ups. Wait, there is already a movie called Half-Baked and it is more grown up that Grown Ups.

I cannot believe this movie has been in the oven for this long(James Farly was slated for the role played by Kevin James before his untimely death and production of this film was shelved indefinitely), it had the potential to be a good comedy movie considering the main cast - Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and David Spade are all actors known for their comic talents. Over and above that Adam Sandler is one of the writers, but the script is hodge podge, there are one liners at awkward places, with no cohesion between the script and story, nothing much for actors to do. It looks as if the actors came for a day job, mouthed their lines in between the breaks from their real life and left in the evening.

Dec 4, 2010

Kick-Ass

Comic book lovers will love this movie. But they are such a marginal section of the population that they alone cannot be trusted to make a movie profitable. If you like movies that kick ass, not with the help of extra-ordinary super heroes but someone from your own high school or your boring work place where you wouldn't suspect in the next cubicle resides a masked super-hero(his night job, of course) then this movie is your type.

Aaron Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and a very 'mature' Nicholas Cage pushes the envelope for super heroes in an ordinary world. Directed by Matthew Vaughn it is an off-the-rocker entertainer that you wouldn't want to miss if you walk a bit apart from the crowd.

Dec 2, 2010

Mr.Brahmachari

It is 2003 and Mohanlal is middle aged and is a Brahmachari. You wish! Well, this is about Thulasidas movie Mr.Brahmachari, where Mohanlal plays the Hanuman worshipping main character in an effort to make a come-back with more down to earth roles. Ananthan Thampi alias Mr.Brahmachari does get the short end of the stick many a time, but it is hard to exorcise the ghost of a super star completely and therefore Lal doesn't make a full touch-down as an ordinary man. Yet movie does have some funny moments at the expense of Mohanlal. Nedumudi Venu, Kaviyoor Ponnamma(if there is a mother role required in a Mohanlal film, only Kaviyoor Ponnamma has the physical stature to be Lal's mom and is chosen by default), K.R.Vijaya, Meena, Jagathi, Jagdish, Prem Kumar and Vijaya Kumar make up the supporting cast.

Dec 1, 2010

Inception

Dive in to the dream and let the inception begin. If there is a movie that can be a one word answer to the term - "movies that blow your mind", Inception is it. It is as Hollywood as only Hollywood can be, you get your money's worth and more. I wonder how Di Caprio finds himself in all the mega hits and how  Ellen Page often finds herself as the off-beat female? Christopher Nolan can be appointed as a messiah for mind candy movies and can start a religion for the same soon. I hope this is just the inception of things bigger down the road for Nolan, which will mean an era of brain crackling entertainment for us, viewers.

Nov 24, 2010

Dabangg

Salman Khan or is it Arbaaz pulling the hare out of the hat, anyway Salim Khan's sons prove that they are indeed their father's sons, story tellers weaving tales out of India's heartland. At a time when most successful Bollywood flicks have stories set in the Western hemisphere, where dashing heroes in Armani jackets woo their heroines prancing around the planet in Jimmy Choos, Dabangg is set firm in Bhaiyya-land, UP(Uttar Pradesh.)

I have always thought that if Salman had any appreciable talent as an actor, it is his perfect comic timing. Right from his fledgling days in Andaz Apna Apna to Dabangg, he is at his most natural when his role has a slightly comic edge. For Dabangg he gets full stars in my book ( I have never been a big Sallu fan, but still) because not for once does he take his shirt off. Wah bhai wah, if you can exercise such control you surely do believe you have more talent than muscle mass.


Sonakshi Sinha, who plays Salman's love interest and Sonu Sood, the villian are good choices for their roles, make the whole story more believable. (Not to forget Arbaaz himself, he does get some good roles like the one in this, the fashion mogul in Fashion etc.) The story as such is not something we haven't heard before but it is the presentation and the presence and acting of Mr.Khan which make the impact. In Dabangg they have successfully translated the stereotypical old style Hindi movie in to a contemporary framework. Chulbul 'Robinhood' Pandey steals the show and probably the cash registers are still ringing in the cow belt. Good work, Abhinav Kashyap(director, script writer) and Arbaaz Khan Productions.

Nov 17, 2010

Race

Race is just a vehicle to showcase sexy sizzling Bollywood babes and leading desi hunks in an exotic locale. The babes in short dresses are Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif and Sameera Reddy. The men muscle power is provided by Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna and an eternally young Anil Kapoor and the locale is South Africa. Most people in government offices in S.Africa are Indians, those whose forefathers didn't have the foresight of M.K.Gandhi who left Durban in 1914 for a meaty role in Indian Freedom Struggle (Original, Version 1.0.) The real race was between me and the movie, who will retire first in the race, RACE the movie won, no guesses there.

Nov 14, 2010

Robinhood (Malayalam movie review)

The only reason you should watch Robinhood is Prithviraj. His good looks cuts like a knife, the rest of the movie is just 'knife'(kathi in Malayalam) if you can bear for 2.5 hours the way it will take repeated stabs at your intelligence.

Kochi, is the modern day Sherwood, ATM robbery is what Robinhood excels in these days. Traveling across 800 years of Robinlessness, the new Robin in the hood seems not only to have lost most of the characteristics of his namesake but also has inherited a few Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde genes. He is an entrance tutor by day and a high-tech swindler by night. The rest of the cast is all high-tech as well, Naren is the flirtatious hacker computer whiz kid detective, Bhavana is the lead systems administrator and the only one who has a little less number of 1s and 0s in his system is Jayasurya's character who is the investigating IPS officer, but he has been to the famed Mussorie training camp and we all know who goes there, right?

The story is wrought with technical errors, which I'd not even dare to question because that'd be like insulting my intelligence and wasting my time. Yet I am grateful to director Joshiy, an old war horse of Malayalam cinema still going full steam ahead, that he used a young story which needed younger actors, thus giving them an opportunity. For once he restrained himself from casting M & M's for the leading roles, I mean he could've very well gone ahead and done that and malayali audience would have given 5 out 5 points for perfect casting. My guess is that Joshiy might have even lost some revenue having cast Prithvi and Naren, we need more directors like him who will make that gamble.

Nov 8, 2010

Aisha


Aisha is Jane Austen on Janpath. I was never a big fan of Jane Austen's novels, though I do understand they filled social and literary vacuum in nineteenth century chick-lit. To me Austen's novels gave a thru-the-looking-glass view into the world of 19th century English ladies, their frivolous concerns and travails, in the end everything boiled to one(or many) "man"-hunt. I didn't know Aisha was an adaptation of Emma, not that it'd have made any difference to me since at this late age I'd not be able to distinguish one Austen heroine from another even if they came with name tags.

In Aisha, Sonam Kapoor has been offered a generous role and she does make use of it perfectly, so does all the name-brands with over-the-top brand placement. The movie looks like a fashion magazine, which taunts their middle class readers with glossy ads of unattainable yet coveted bric-brac like say a Versace scarf for $5000 or a Hermes purse for $8000. It always makes you wonder about the kind of people who'd own such a thing, Carly Simon once wrote and performed a hit single about this particular sub-species: Here it is, take it as a unisex message.

The rest of the cast is well chosen, from Abhay Deol to Ira Dubey to Cyrus Sahukar, everyone plays the stereotypes they have been entrusted with quite convincingly. The film is a chick flick and has to be taken lightly if your wife insists that you watch it with her.It is well shot and executed(thumbs up to the director, Rajashree Ojha) and has a decent sound track by Amit Trivedi and lyrics by Javed Akhtar.

Oct 5, 2010

Bhargavi Nilayam


Bhargavi Nilayam is one of the best ghost stories to come out of Malayalam ever. Vaikom Muhammad Basheer's literary gem was transformed for screen by director A.Vincent. It was probably a high grossing film of those days with two dashing young heroes and a beautiful heroine at the helm of a haunting and popular story.

I saw this movie a long time back. The reason I am writing a review now when my memories of the movie is almost unreadable is because today I read an article about Madhu, one of the heroes of the movie. Madhu is perhaps 'the' unsung hero of Malayalam film industry. He was a mainstream actor, had done considerable number of hero roles during his heyday and is perhaps the only remaining member from the old school of Malayalam cinema who is still acting. He indeed did have an incredibly long innings, I hope he continue to prosper.

In Bhargavi Nilayam Madhu plays the character of the novelist(Mr.Basheer himself) who rents a house inhabited by a young female ghost(Vijaya Nirmala). He befriends the ghost and thereby comes to know the story behind her untimely demise. In true Basheer fashion, even though it is a ghost story, it is a light-hearted romantic flick. Prem Nazir plays the ghost lady's love interest in her life before death.

The movie has some incredibly melodious and yet simple songs, which became a part of Malayali's musical heritage once they were released in 1964. The hit song machine team was composed of P.Bhaskaran, Baburaj, Yesudas and Janaki.

I read some interesting trivia about Madhu(of course that is why I wrote this post.) Madhu's original name was P.Madhavan Nair. He began his career as a Hindi lecturer, quit it to pursue his dream of acting. He had acted in a Bollywood movie in a major role before acting in Bollywood movies had become a fashion or news. It was Saat Hindustani, which was also Amitabh Bachchan's debut vehicle. Madhu got several Bollywood offers after this to be cast as a handsome villain which he rejected because of longer shooting schedules of Hindi movies and also to avoid being typecast a tall handsome villain who didn't do much else than kidnap the heroine and get beaten up by the hero in the climax scene.

Sep 22, 2010

10 Most Inspirational Songs : My List

This is the tin-eared music lover's list of the ten most inspirational songs ever. If music was a parking lot, I'd be using the handicapped parking spot, because my genetic makeup lacks enough music genes for genuine appreciation of the subject. As a result, I am prone to go for the lyrics(I words) and even include some rap tunes in my list. Some of it might be cheesy or country, loud or mushy, but this post is my bookmark - a personal list tied to events, people and places in my life, a mix-tape for the long journey home, whenever I need to come home.



10.John Mayer: Waiting on the world to change
Music man with his fingers on the pulse of change, reflecting on our times.



9. Alles: Sabrina Setlur and Xavier Naidoo.
I do not know German, but I used a translator because this song was so soothingly likeable, esp. Xavier Naidoo's part.





8.I'll be Missin' you : Puff Dady, Faith Evans,Sting
(not the original but the tribute to Notorius B.I.G.) A song of tribute, memories.



7. UB40: Higher Ground 
Reggae effortlessly lifts you to a higher ground



6. Blake Shelton: Some Beach Somewhere
 A simple American pleasure, go to Hawaii or the Caribbean when you need sunny skies.
Link to the music video


5. The Last DJ: Tom Petty
Get back at the system that got you down song.





4. Tim McGraw: Live Like You Were Dying
Carpe Diem. 'nuff said.


3. Vangelis: Chariots of Fire 
Only instrumental in the whole list. Even without words it soars the spirit. Wonderful movie too.
 


2. Baz Luhrmann/Mary Schmich : Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
The ultimate advice column ever, in a good away. Mary Schmich, I like you better than your mistaken identity - Kurt Vonnegut.





1. Lee Ann Womack : I hope you dance.
This songs pops up like my guardian angel, quite unexpectedly in the darkest of the hours.




Aug 27, 2010

Karthik calling Karthik

Don't tell me Farhan Akhtar is not Karthik and that he is really a Bollywood actor called Farhan Akhtar. No way! Are you sure? Incredibly amazing transformation. Where is the "I like" button for Mr.Akhtar? Will anyone know if I press it more than once and rig his ratings chart?

Karthik Calling Karthik is a contemporary movie with faces to match. Oh, Bollywood I never thought you'd come this far from the cheesy melodramatic eighties and nineties. I am glad I was wrong. 

Keeping Farhan company is a sauve Deepika Padukone. I love the her makeup and clothes for this movie, very believable and real for a young architect in a corporate Indian office. Her acting, just where it should be. Despite their height difference they make a nice screen couple.

 To me the trump card of this movie other than the perfectly cast hero is the story and screenplay. I googled to find out whether it was lifted out of some unknown Philippino or Thai flick, couldn't find any leads. I read people comparing it to Phone Booth! Yeah, Titanic was a remake of the biblical Noah's Ark since both involved ships, get a life. Vijay Lalwani's story is enigmatically original(at least for me I have not seen it anywhere else) and it seamlessly fits into the current professional and personal life of a young, emerging India. The script is noticeable by the absence of cliched scenes, direction by Lalwani(again) is slick, there are some nice songs and of course, a part of the movie is shot in Kerala(the icing on the cake for me) and the director has restrained himself from adding the prototypical South Indian with his 'madrasi' accent. Well done Lalwani, Akhtar, Deepika and the team. My rating: Cool



Aug 21, 2010

Extract

Extract is funny, funny in the way it portrays stereotypes. Since it is from Mike Judge you watch it with a certain expectation, it didn't fail me. It is the kind of movie you'd want to rent because it is not much about visual gimmicks but more about the story, characterizations and dialog.

Mila Kunis as the scheming beauty with a criminal record, Ben Affleck as the bar-tender jack-of-all-trades, Jason Bateman the innocent geek who is a company owner, Dustin Milligan's as gigolo Brad(that dude did some awesome acting for the small role he had), Clifton Collins Jr as Step are some of the distinct and well-developed characters in the movie.

It is hard to live up to the cult status of Office Space, but Mike Judge is trying. A nice movie for a popcorn and a movie day at home.



Aug 17, 2010

Sarvam

An interesting Tamil movie. I haven't seen Arya before, but there were other familiar faces like Trisha, Indrajith(yeah strange to find him here) and Chakravarthy. It is a love story/thriller. 

The best thing I liked about this movie is the way the songs have been shot. Great camera, unusual choice of locales not very exotic but looks good on camera, neat props, angles, costumes and digital manipulations. This means no money spent on a thousand extras or a bevy of Russian beauties(both same cost, I guess), their costumes and no expenses to travel to distant locations. Easy on producer's pocket at the same time looks good on screen to attract the audience. 

The movie is a good looking one, story is ok, Trisha provides eye candy and disappears after a while. Chakravarthy has tried hard to look menacing, partially succeeds, all credit to his omnipresent beard. A movie for time-pass, if you care to bear some 'horror'. 

Aug 5, 2010

The Paradine Case

The Paradine Case, it is Hitchcock for sure, but may be the master should've stayed clear of boring courtroom dramas. Starring Gregory Peck, Alida Valli (an Italian actress of royal heritage in her American debut), Louis Jordan(a famous French actor of the time making his American debut in this film) and Ann Todd, the Paradine Case tells the story of a lawyer(Peck) getting involved with his client(Valli) accused of murdering her husband.

I do not know the story somehow didn’t jive well with me. I’ve read that Hitchcock wanted Garbo for the part played by Valli, but in my opinion even Garbo wouldn’t have fared much better. There is nothing really wrong with the actors, but there is something elementally wrong with the story that no amount of acting can make it better. 

For example Ms.Paradine(Valli) is supposedly a gold-digger from fringes of society who marries into money and distinction, thanks to the blind and rich, Mr.Paradine. But she is almost regal in her conduct, only thing missing is a tiara, maybe if you are a really good actress of a gold digger that must be the way you present yourself.

I had wanted to see a less famous Hitchcock movie, this fit the bill.

Aug 3, 2010

Happy Husbands

Happy Husbands is a bearable comedy movie of the recent past. I had higher expectations after seeing Krishna Poojappura’s name as script writer and with the movie being a hit in Kerala, I was looking forward for two hours of non-stop laughter or something similar. But I was disappointed, not very sorely though, because my senses go on automatic lowering of expectancy threshold these days if film is comes with a prefix ‘Malayalam’. 

The most atrocious eye sore(save the good things for last) was the set design and costumes. The color palette of the sets would have made KPAC of the 1950s proud, but this is 60 years hence and we are supposed to have done away with cardboard cut-outs and red curtains for every window, at least the art guys should have photo-shopped those out, right? Costumes, the kind that made Reema Kallingal look ugly, thought that was an impossible feat, but no, the costume designer accomplishes it with ease. 

The movie got more bearable for me after the first half hour. All of the actors are good with whatever role they’ve been given. Bhavana looked a little bit too made up for a housewife or my information could be a bit dated when it comes to Kerala housewives these days. I last had a glimpse of a Malayalam mega serial in the pre-2000 era when ‘Sthree’ had just taken Malayalakkara by storm, house-wives had mutated beyond recognition ever since. 

Happy Husbands also takes us to Malaysia, just in case the Kochi traffic was getting on your nerves. I am running out of steam to do a proper review, after all it is a time-pass movie, doesn’t need any serious surgery to cure its ills. Considering other products available in the market, I’d seriously consider buying a ticket(had I been in Kerala) and going to watch this movie just for the colors and actors.Saji Surendran scores with the Kerala movie-goer.

Jul 27, 2010

Summertime

Summertime has Katherine Hepburn as a vacationing spinster in Venice. To me it was charming to see Venice of the 1950s, in the company of Ms.Hepburn as lonely Ms.Jane Hudson. She wonderfully emotes the loneliness, despair and craving for human company while on her dream vacation in the middle of a crowded and colorful city. Venice was all gondolas, piazzas, canals, architecture and alleys then(maybe more so then) as it is now. In the midst of her forlorn vacation(it is never portrayed as such but the heroine's emotions and her conversation convey this idea to the viewer) she meets a Prince Charming(Rossano Brazzi). But as human as the story is Prince Charming's presence in the story is transient and not very fairy-tale-ish. Rossano Brazzi oozes with Italian charm and fits the role perfectly. I loved the ending of the film, so un-cinematic. It is film that has to be ruminated rather than watched, I liked it all the same.

Jul 20, 2010

Paleri Manikyam : Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha (Oru review)

If Paleri Manikyam was a Miss World contestant in a throng composed of recent Malayalam movies, it'll definitely win one or two of those special awards. Ones I have in mind are Miss Personality, Miss World Best National Costume(which in this case will be period costume) and probably Miss World People’s Choice as well.

Now who would win the Miss World title itself is left to debate. If it was in my hands I'd suspend giving the main award altogether until we can secure a time machine and go back to the future to that golden era of Malayalam cinema, the latter half of the 1980s and exhaust all the Miss World Malayalam Cinema awards till AD 2100 when there could be some hope of recovery, because all the current audience(the worst culprits, including me) and the film-makers will be dead by then.

Back to 2009-2010 and Ranjith’s latest offering, Paleri Manikyam : Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha. I am picky so be assured that even in this model of a contemporary malayalam movie I’ll find some flaws. But let us hear the good news first.

As a born-North Malabari I am excited by the trend of Malayalam movie hits moving northward, beyond the Northern edge of the Nila(or Bharatapuzha, M.T’s favorite haunt) and embracing newer writers for their source material. Case in point: Paleri Manikyam, Pazhassi Raja. As Dylan strummed famously, ‘old road is rapidly agin’.


Point # 1+ Original story

By a Malayali writer – T.P.Rajeevan about a in a distinctly Kerala village of the fifties. I read somewhere that Paleri is a real village in Calicut, near Perambra and the case of Manikyam is the first ever recorded murder case in the history of Kerala Police, after it was formed in 1956.

Point # 2+ Art direction

By Murugan Kattakada, the period feel, costumes of the characters and locations reflect the amount of thought and work that had gone into them. Manoj Pillai’s cinematography is also praise-worthy to some extent.

Point #3+: Mammootty.

Although I strongly oppose the reign of M & Ms, there is a reason why Mammootty and Mohanlal are where they are. Mammootty’s multiple roles in this film showcase his range and flexibility as an actor.

Point #4+ Other supporting actors

Like Shwetha Menon, Sreenivasan and the actors who played Velayudhan, younger Sreenivasan and Pokkan.

Point #5+ The director’s restraint

In not giving into the temptation of inserting a few foot-tapping songs.
Now for the Razzies.


Point #1- The script and screenplay

By Ranjith. It sounds too bookish, and explicitly suggestive, which instead of letting the audience decipher, kind of pushes and shoves them onto a path intended for them by the director. I have not read the original novel, so I am not sure whether the blame could be the script writer’s alone.

Point #2— Sarayu Sharma

The character seems out of place, patched on to a script at a later date when director failed to tie up all the ends in the story in a convincing way. Like a Microsoft Windows Service Pack or the iPhone4 rubber band, with a smoking cigeratte propped onto her hand just before someone shouted ‘Action’.

Point #3- The sepia filter

For flash-back scenes. Not sure what could be an alternative, but that’s why I am on this side of the screen, nitpicking on the movie makers.
My overall review: Paleri Manikyam has more stuff going for it than against it, no wonder it was a hit. A welcome drizzle in a season of endless drought. I am not going into an in depth analysis of the story and the characters as many bloggers have gone that way before and carved out a readable path if you care to read.

Jul 19, 2010

La Misma Luna (English title: Under the Same Moon)

It is the ideal mother's day movie, it is my kind of chick flick, it's what the doctor will prescribe when you need a dose of the best medicine to reinstate your faith in humanity,  it's a movie that makes a statement - a very relevant one in the light of United States Govt vs The State of Arizona over the controversial SB1070, it is a fail-safe formulaic movie - the hard working immigrants, families separated by borders, visas and passports, an angel of a kid who'll steal all your hearts with his eyes and his smile and it is not just me who is bowled over by this movie. La Misma Luna had highest opening weekend for any Mexican film for all of 2007.

The boy who plays Carlitos, Adrian Alonso is a perfect catch. Once an actor for this role has been cast the fate of the movie is almost sealed, either he will steal the show or drag it down the drains. Adrian Alonso doesn't just sell the movie to you, he's a pirate of the hearts, making the audience root for the boy with their smiles and tears.

The characters whom he meet on the road, although most of them have only small parts, are remarkable and well developed within the small time frame each of them has been allotted to. Written by Ligiah Villalobos and directed by Patricia Riggen , most of the movie was filmed in Mexico, even the many locations depicted as the US of A(like the US-Mexico border crossing, towns in Arizona etc.) It is a modern day fairytale,with its guaranteed happy ending.


Jul 2, 2010

Loudspeaker

Loud and atrocious and it is a super hit! Praise the Malayali viewers swooning at the acting prowess of Mammootty and sending the cash registers ringing all the way to the bank. I don't blame the film maker, he explicitly stated in the title it is about a bullhorn and if you wholeheartedly bit the bullet, why complain now, right?


The story is about a loud mouthed simpleton(who else but our megastar), who becomes a kidney donar for a rich NRI for money. My problem is I can endure the audio levels, but it is hard to disguise a superstar as a simpleton, even if he tries his level best, the admiring gazes and gestures of idol worship are hard to hide from the body language of other actors and on-lookers. The story as it progresses just adds and abets the icon making process with every detractor falling away one by one in cliched clashes.

 It was interesting to see Sashi Kumar, the former Doordarshan newscaster turned founder President of Asianet, playing the NRI astro-physicist. The role of a non-resident Malayali fits him like a well worn glove. The other surprise was Gracy Singh(she of Lagaan and Munnabhai fame), maybe not enough work for her in Bollywood ?


The child characters in these contemporary Malayalam films makes me want to make sure that my travel or moving plans for the next 20-30 years will stay clear of God's Own Country by a thousand miles. What passes of as smartness in Kerala kids would get them branded as a$$holes in any other part of the world. Why are movies bend on promoting such behavior so that a generation of kids can turn out as morons with an attitude problem?


Jun 29, 2010

Snow Cake

Finally Sigourney Weaver is not the headstrong scientist or the alpha female anymore. Snow Cake has her in the role of an autistic woman, an accidental mother and one in the center of a horrible tragedy but unaware of it. She is brilliant, so is Alan Rickman who has the other best role in this movie. It is a British movie by Marc Evans shot entirely in Canada, probably that is why it didn't capture much of US's indie audience attention. An interesting movie could also be considered a window in to the world of autism without being very technical about it.

Jun 18, 2010

Seeta Kalyanam

Seetha Kalyanam or holy (cinematic) wedding (the term owes it origin to the wedding of Sita and Rama in Ramayana) of Jayaram and Jyothika lay in the cans longer than most films awaiting release. When it did finally come out during last Onam(2009) Jyothika had already left movies for a blissful family life, Jayaram – lesser said the better. What ever happened to the tall fresh-faced youth who was presented to us by Padmarajan in Aparan(1988.)

All that said, Seeta Kalyanam is a tad more bearable than Rajasenan’s farce of movie where Jayaram had paired with Urvashi called MadhuChandralekha (2006). In Seeta Kalyanam director T.K.Rajeev Kumar borrows the legendry theme on which Bharjatya School of Movies survives on – multi-day long wedding in a traditional Indian joint family. Since Tamil Brahmin community is perhaps the only community in Kerala where such weddings still take place, we have Jayaram as a Brahmin bride-groom going thru’ these rituals to wed Geetu Mohandas.

Jyothika’s character is Jayaram’s friend from work. They both don’t realize till very end of the wedding celebrations that they love each other. Geetu conveniently has another man in waiting, Indrajith, - a character necessitated for a potential happy ending. A wigless Siddique provides sufficient villainy as is required for a movie taking place in a placid agraharam. Other actors include Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Sukumar, Manorama, Devi Ajith, Baiju, Kalpana, Jagdish, Janardhanan and a host of others.

Jun 16, 2010

Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya

Will You Cross The Skies For Me?
After having seen three Gautham Menon movies so far, I can boil them down to three statements or formulas.

Hero + Heroine1 = First part of the movie

Hero-Heroine1 = Middle portion of the movie

Hero + Heroine2(w/ Heroine1 optional) = Second/final part of the movie.

Proportion of Heroine1: Heroine2 will depend on which part the more box-office worthy heroine plays.

The above formula will be juiced up with music from Harris Jayaraj or A.R.Rehman. The hero, although his story will start in Chennai and thereabouts, will take a B1/B2 visa  to the United States at some point in the movie and will invariably find himself in a major American city with a prominent bridge (which takes all US cities except San Francisco and New York out of contention.)

By now you might have deduced which of Mr.Menon's movies I had the privy of watching. Yes, Vaaranam Aayiram, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya.

Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya is the least 'filmy' of the three. The positive aspects of the movie for me:


1. Cinematography

All I carry back from the movie is the cool blues and greens, fluid likes of water and traffic, instead of the dusty grimy India that one is used to, here we have a vibrant refreshing country and what is more, it has one of the best shot movie scenes in Kerala's landscape. Shame on you Malayalis, a Tamil film had to cross the ghats and come to Alleppey to do that. Beautiful. 

2.Script

Natural, off the cuff dialogs go with the age and subject of the movie, so does the snippets of technology like texting. I also like the way they have interspersed dialogs in Malayalam when it is an internal dialog in the girl's family(whose character is that of a Malayali Christian settled in Chennai.)

3. Art direction

Set design, locales - thought of and brilliantly woven together into the fabric of the story

4. Actors

Simbu and Trisha look very much the part and seem to have a good chemistry between them which they don't spoil by their 'acting'. Neat.
What I didn't like was the that the movie started losing its pace in the second half, dragging along at parts. I wanted to fast forward but didn't do it so as not to miss the amazing camera work. A.R.Rehman's music, didn't really click for me this time, maybe it'll grow on me like Yuvvraj(another A.R.R musical I didn't appreciate much in the first place but ended up doing rounds on my music charts.) Overall a good entertainer.




Jun 11, 2010

Swantham Lekhakan (Swa Le)

A newspaper man's life in a land before mobile phones: That is Swa Le in a nutshell. Swa Le stands for Swantham Lekhakan who is the anonymous writer whose words fill up most of the pages in a newspaper since columnists usually cost money and only deal with a few columns in one paid session.

In this movie Dileep dons the role of the hard working, chained to the print-grunge newspaper reporter who is worked to the bone by his bosses, has a pregnant wife(Gopika) to support, lives across a river with no bridge and doesn’t own even a bicycle(But there is a bicycle in the promo stills, did I forget?) It is a not-so-bad Dileep movie considering the toned down version of the actor that is on display.


There are not so veiled references to Kerala's major newspapers and a major literary figure who is shown at the verge of death with the newspaper men keeping vigil in front of his house for 'breaking' news story that might break at any time. Innocent, Ganeshan, Ashokan, Nedumudi Venu, Vijayaraghavan, Salim Kumar Jagathy, K.P.A.C Lalitha and a forgettable Harishree Ashokan forms the supporting cast.


An off tangent observation: Sona Nair as the gynecologist will hereby be instrumental in spreading the false myth in Malayali society that psychological disturbances arising from lack of spousal support during pregnancy will lead to false labor. Can’t blame her, can't blame the script writer either, doctors in Mallu land rarely discuss technical details of the illness with the patient, silencing all discussion with a question, "Who is the doctor, you or me? Then leave the technical details to me, don't bother your little cranium with such heavy stuff."

May 25, 2010

The Great Gatsby

Now I want to read The Great Gatsby, the movie tells me it has the makings of a great literary work - the bleeding handsome hero, the young narrator, the heartless leading lady and an era of magic and possibilities - the roaring twenties.

Robert Redford is a manifestation of Hollywood hero by the book. Unbearably handsome with a face that can emote, I realize Brad Pitt is the Robert Redford our age, or he is the best shot of this generation for the post of the quintessential American hero, but he is still not Redford. I have seen two Mia Farrow movies in a row never having seen a movie of hers before this. She is good, playing two distinctly different characters in the two movies. The other movie is Rosemary's baby.

The Great Gatsby was a movie I didn't expect to like and was surprised when I did. I was also surprised to see Sam Waterson in a film, as opposed to Law and Order. An interesting movie for a student of history and the growth of America, of course there is story thrown in. Well that's me, for you the story could be of two lovers separated by circumstances, time, culture and all that usually works against uniting lovers. I wind off with a quote from the original novel by F.Scott Fitzegerald,

"Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3

May 24, 2010

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's baby is stylishly creepy, quite unlike low budget teen horror flicks or shaggy zombie movies. No wonder it is a cult classic and a quintessential late-sixties film.

After never having seen a Mia Farrow movie other than those with Woody Allen, it was quite a revelation to see a younger Farrow, chic and vulnerable as a newly married twenty something in New York. I almost saw two Mia Farrow movies back to back - this and her as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, very different characters inhabiting different eras - thus be able to witness her acting eloquence.

Roman Polanski  who wanted his first movie to be a ski film was cajoled by Paramount to do this first and Rosemary's Baby did turn out to be worth it. The ski film by the way was Downhill Racer. There is a lot of interesting trivia associated with Rosemary's Baby, some of them scary if you could really believe in the connections that writers make like this one from IMDb,
"Directed by Roman Polanski, whose pregnant wife actress Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson and his followers, who titled their death spree "Helter Skelter" after the 1968 song by The Beatles, one of whose members, John Lennon, would one day live (and in 1980 be murdered) in the Manhattan apartment building called The Dakota - where Rosemary's Baby had been filmed."
Adapted from a novel by Ira Levin it is supposedly a very faithful translation of the novel in to visual media, a result also stemmed from the fact that as his first Hollywood film Polanski was unaware of the fact that he could improvise the novel.

May 16, 2010

Vellathooval

Looks an early eighties movies with half-baked actors of the noughties. Not to pass the blame to two young actors in the main roles - Nitya Menon and Ranjith Menon, they were passable.

For two and half we were trapped in an eighties masala movie. We almost thought it was an I.V.Sasi movie of that time, then we look at the credits and realize it is indeed made by I.V.Sasi, but about thirty years past his prime. Not much of a story except it relies on brat of a girl(Nitya Menon) to carry it forward. Seema is good as the tortured mother of the brat. Lalu Alex in his current incarnation as a lovable rascal Dad figure which he has a copyright on these days, Vijayaraghavan is a no-good drunkard who can be trusted on to provide occasional bad-guy effects when the movie meanders to meaninglessness. The rest of the cast is forgettable.

Yeah almost forgot about it, there is a white feather(hence the title) which floats into the scenes at inopportune moments, probably meant to save the name of the movie, but it looks like photoshop gone bad.

May 15, 2010

Salt of the Earth

It is the only black-listed American film ever. Produced by the people who were black-listed by the McCarthy era administration and whose names featured in 'Hollywood 50'(50 creative talents in Hollywood who were rumored to be communists and studios wanted nothing to do with them.)
Some of these 50 people started searching for good stories to be made into film thru' their independent production company when a strike by Local 890 of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union against the New Jersey Zinc Company in Bayard, New Mexico caught their attention. Salt of the Earth was born.

Shot on location with almost all non-actors, except for two, the film also addressed the growing concern of illegal immigration from south of the border, from Mexico. Although most of the real workers, most of them Chicano who were in the film where as much American as the 'anglos' or whites in the film, it is film that foresaw a lot of ground-breaking issues of American culture and politics like immigration, race and union issues.


To me it looked like a picture from my home state of Kerala, India. A state well-known for its communist leanings and hot-blooded workers who'd take up any cause to stage a march or a demonstration at the drop of a hat. Salt of the earth shows us that when it comes to the workers, the ones at the rock-bottom of social pyramid, issues are pretty much the same - whether it is in the US of the 1950s or India of 1970s. 

May 14, 2010

The Lost Horizon

Shangri-La is a popular name for Chinese, Indian and Tibetan restaurants all across the world. Although we all know that the name has more to do than just being a gastronomical experience.

James Hilton's 1933 novel, Lost Horizon is where the fictional utopia, Shangri-la came to life. Nestled deep in the Himalayas this exotic ideal world is hard to reach, but a British foreign service man, Robert Conway reaches there when his plane crashes in the Himalayas.

In 1937 Frank Capra adopted the novel into a film. The film's story differs from the novel in very important aspects, although if you just see the film it has all the details preserved to transfer the crux of the story to the viewer. It is a technically superior movie for something that was produced more than 75 years ago. Although the Himalayan scenes involving the plane, especially the one where the plane lands in the middle of a huge field, filled with marauding villagers looks authentic, Shangri-La itsel is set in a dated(!920s) landscape framing the wide vistas of early 20th century architecture.

The current print of the film is missing some scenes which are redone by voice-overs with still pictures. It is an interesting film to watch for those interested in older films and film history and maybe it has a story idea which is ripe for remake sometime in the future considering its metaphysical message and oriental setting (we lives in the times of crounching tiger and kung-fu panda.)



May 13, 2010

Take Care of My Cat

I love watching contemporary movies from different parts of the world. Many 'foreign' films that make it big in the western world are usually about themes that are done to dust already or about subjects that western audience can empathize with safely ensconced in their living room couches. In this context films about slums of the third world - like havelas of Rio or chawls of Mumbai and films about Japanese mobsters come to mind.

Sometimes some not-so-significant yet interesting movie will slip through the ranks of local film scene of a country and make it over to the West. Take Care of My Cat is one such film.

A coming of age film, centered around five new high-school grads, all girls living in South Korea. This 2001 film is the debut feature of Jeong Jae-eun. It is a peep into the world of modern Korean youth, from different strata of society trying to cope with their first brush with real life. An interesting film from the perspective of social scientist with a flair for movies.


May 10, 2010

The Band's Visit

An Egyptian police band is stranded in an Israeli village. The different members of the band is put up at different homes by village people - it is the story of that one night and the interactions between these strangers.

I got the movie to learn about Israel, what does a village in Israel looks like and who are these so called villagers. I have a better idea about Egyptians, which the movie didn't change. Israeli villages look like suburbs of a desert town, not a village in the conventional sense - when you think of villages in say Iran or Pakistan or somewhere else in Asia.

You will enjoy the movie if you are prone to watching art-house movies.

May 4, 2010

Neelathamara vs Neelathamara

Lal Jose is emerging as an undeniable promise from the wreck that goes by the name of Malayalam cinema. Neelathamara, probably the first remake ever made in Malayalam movie history lives to prove it. It is 'the' consummate Malayalam movie I've ever seen and I've seen some movies including the1979 original which was actress Ambika's debut vehicle.

Considering the kind of flicks preferred by Malluwood audience these days it comes as a surprise that movies such as Neelathamara can be made, but what's more it also became a success at the box-office! If only more film-makers will create such blue lotuses, they seem to be as rare as blue moons these days in Malayalam film industry.

Neelathamara, I read, was a dream project of Lal Jose. Here's a link to Lal Jose's own blog where the film-maker has noted down bits of creative process which went into the making of themovie.  The story is real simple, penned by M.T.Vasudevan Nair, one of the stalwarts of Malayalam literature, the script was adapted to fit the nuances of modern times although it is a period piece and the events take place in a pre-eighties period.

It has been a long time since a good female oriented film hit Kerala's screens, this movie puts an end to that drought. There is the maid servant, the mother, the newly-wed bride and the son - all these characters inhabit a flash-back which forms the core material.The movie begins in the present where all or some of these characters have matured / aged in life and are looking back at a past that was.

The flashback portion is the adaptation M.T and Lal Jose has interjected to make the movie fit for consumption for a newer audience. There is a character of a grand-daughter added, maybe to give some more depth to the story, to visualize the passage of time perhaps. It is also a nice touch that it is a grand-daughter, not a grand-son. After all, the story is all about women.

The 1979 version starring Ambika, Ravi Kumar and Sathar and directed by Yousef Ali Kacheri definitely lacked on the 'dream-project' front. M.T's story's being made into films was an everyday occurrence back then. The Eighties, characterized by movies with long takes, sparse dialogs and earthy characters was just a year away. Neelathamara(1979) was a typical sensible Malayalam movie of the age like Peruvazhiyambalam or Thakara, nothing much to write home about because movies like it was the norm in those days.

If you compare the new version and the original, although I do think it is a crime to compare because they were  products of different eras and different circumstances, you realize that except for the story and the characters the two movies are a world apart. So I'll just limit my comparison to the characters / actors.

Archana Jose Kavi plays the main role, played by Ambika, cannot tell who is better. Archana could've used less kajal, because kajal was not something a rural girl, esp. a maid servant puts on every day, it was a part of her make-up which she reserved for special occasions like while going to the temple festival. Kailash, the new hero vs Ravi Kumar. Kailash is such a natural, less filmy and the new script makes the character less of a feudal scion and more of a mischievous rich kid fooling around. Thank God Ravi Kumar is not acting. Sathar vs Suresh Nair, the script has toned down the villainy of this character, today's character is more suave and matter of fact-ly which suits Suresh Nair's acting.

The mother Sreedevi Unni(2010) vs Kozhikode Santha Devi(1979), Santha Devi was/is a veteran actress who has excelled in mother roles whereas Sreedevi Unni doesn't have much in the experience column to write home about, still she holds the fort just fine. The one character that I thought was better in the old movie, not because of acting per se, but because of the director's choice in casting was that of Ammini. Reema Kallingal was good as Ammini in the new version, but somehow the older Ammini felt more like a real character. Samvruta Sunil, is getting better as an actress with every new film of hers that I see. She is not usually the main character, but she is morphing into a kind of character actress, some one the director feels okay to entrust strong characters with. She plays the new bride in the 2010 Neelathamara.

In the seventies, Kerala was coming out of a feudal set up. The under class of society still felt exposed, was wronged often and more importantly mobile phones were not rampant. Cut to 2010, there is not a clear-cut section of society which  can be branded as underclass anymore, it has been replaced by the emerging middle class, sporting mobile phones. The playing field is more level than it was thirty years ago. That explains the flash back element added by the writer and director. The maid servant is now placed in a better rung of society, the down-trodden hapless girl is not there any more. She is looking back from a comfortable present to a forgettable folly of the past.

The mood of the film(the new one) is therefore less stifling, the characters are less villainous, the emphasis is more on perfecting the locale, the camera(the camera work is brilliant, hats off to Vijay Ulaganath), the costume and the casting. A near-perfect Malayalam film after a long time. May the tribe of Lal Jose and directors like him prosper.

Apr 28, 2010

Up in the Air

If you are a frequent flyer, you value your miles more than many things in your life.In Up in the Air, George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, who lives more than fifty percent of his life, mile high and loves it while going on with his everyday job of a down-sizer (down-sizers are hired by companies to lay-off people, because the companies themselves cannot bring themselves to do it, in other words he is their dirty laundry man.

It is a chick flick trying to capture it's ever elusive audience - men, flipping the gender of the main character. Nice movie if you are a chick or like George Clooney (or is that a tautological situation?) I liked it except in certain places where the new-preppie recruit breaks-down or when Clooney is let down by his mile-high fling.

Apr 20, 2010

Idiocracy

Idiocracy is what future holds the world, or more specifically America, if you consider America as the beginning and end of the world in general. With a precise observation of the current social fabric of the US of A the film-makers start thus, "As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species."

It might be said that Idiocracy is more of a skit than a movie, the chocolaty presence of Luke Wilson notwithstanding. I consider it as a commentary, a warning of sorts, the way the script and the director captures the cultural nuances of the current age and extrapolates it to a dumbed down universe, five hundred years into the future scores a bull's eye in my book. Let's go to 2505 where Costco is like a city state, in terms of geographical coverage. There is no water, even plants are irrigated by something like Gatorade called Brawndo which employs half the human race, that is if they ever get off their butt.


This is a movie about quotes, perceptions and ideological visualizatons of the future, I cannot say it any better than the script, I leave you with another quote from the Idiocracy, "Unaware of what year it was, Joe wandered the streets desperate for help. But the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valleygirl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and faggy to them."

Apr 15, 2010

Inglorious Basterds

Tarantino never disappoints. With Christoph Waltz in tow, it makes watching the movie all the more worthwhile.I read an interview with Tarantino where he says that if he was not able to find an actor fluent in German, English and Italian he'd have scrapped this project all together, which seems pretty plausible considering the fact that the whole movie kind of rides on the shoulders of Christoph Waltz. I came to know that he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar 2010 for this role, so much for my current affair awareness.

Brad Pitt is Lieutenant Aldo Raine, leader of a secret squad of Jewish American soldiers deep in the enemy territory with a mission to scalp all the German soldiers they come across, with their ultimate aim as Der Fuhrer. I loved Pitt's impersonation of an Italian, a la Corleone with a forward protruding jaw and a grating voice to match, comically entertaining. 


As always Tarantino's pick of music is highly commendable, it looks as if the movie is made around the sound track. He has also used some of Ennio Morricone's(one of the greatest living composers in my opinion)tracks. Tarantino's Hitler is a funny guy, not funny in the usual funny sort of way, but subtly funny. There are tributes to older movies(not his) hidden in frames, try fishing them out if you can or google. 

Tarantino is one of the best directors to come out of Hollywood in the recent times, every one knows that. Every movie of his is a consummate product - script is articulate and unpretentious and beyond words, frames flawless and sound track an extraordinary compilation of tracks which otherwise would've looked odd together but perfectly suits his film. Take a bow, quirky Quinten, you've done it again!





 


Apr 13, 2010

Twenty Twenty

This movie is a buffet lunch for Malayali - all the various dishes for the price of one dinner. Although how much of a dish each Malluwood actor is, is a question of debate. You get to see M & Ms , Dileep, Suresh Gopi, Mukesh - all in one movie. Of course there are female actors included for the sake of inclusion - like Bhavana, Kavya Madhavan, Gopika and a bone in the form of an item number thrown to the Generation Y of Malayalam cinema viz Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Kunchako Bobban and Nayantara. There, that took care of them, most of the movie belong to the mighty M & Ms - Mohanlal and Mammootty, the Generation A or B or something which has not exited Malayalam cinema even when they have completed half a century on the screen of life.

A mega hit in Kerala, all the actors play the part they are now assigned to in Malayalam cinema, not the one assigned to by the script, not that the script was very different. It was written with the signature elements of each actor and their place in Malayalam filmdom. In that way you can say the actors were not really acting, just living their real life roles in film industry.

20-20 was produced as fund raiser for AMMA by Dileep and directed by Joshi.Mohanlal is Devaraja Pratapa Varma, a character he should by now play in his sleep after doing a slew of such roles in the nineties and noughties. Mammootty is the astute lawyer with a conscience and a sister, Bhavana. Siddique and Sai Kumar are their devious villian selves, again playable in their sleep. There is the usual coterie of comedy characters composing of Kalpana, Salim Kumar, Innocent etc.Suresh Gopi gets to do his cop act, peppered with his usual cache of English swear words. Dileep's natural comic sense is the only thing I could tolerate in the movie.Again, if the box office is any indication the average Malayali movie-goer is at the other end of the spectrum compared to me.


Apr 10, 2010

Ritu (Rithu) :

If you ask me (a big mistake, because I don't stop speaking in the blogging medium), Ore Kadal was good, Ritu is better. Not a popular opinion shared by many in this virtual world of no-name movie reviewers. The reason may be because I could associate myself to Ritu or Rithu, coming from a similar academic and professional background, and could not find many personal parallels in Ore Kadal.

Shyamaprasad has beautifully captured the beautiful friendship of the three characters during their college days in some flash-backs and a song. The three musketeers - Sarath Varma(Nishan), Sunny(Asif Ali) and Varsha(Reema Kallingal) have done work comparable to many of erstwhile acting powerhouses, despite this being their debut film.

The atmosphere of an IT company has been realistically captured, after having worked in a few in India and in the US, I can vouch for that. The trials and victories of  ITstartups, the pragmatic idealists that the new generation of information technology workers are and the presence of an older leftist leaning society have all been truthfully captured in Joshua Newton's original script. Shyam Dutt's music provides a fittingly melodic framework to this contemporary film. The art work and the photography is above par, rising above the flotsam of present day Malayalam cinema.

It was indeed a welcome change from Shyamaprasad's part to go with an original script rather than adapting a famous novel or play which itself might have undergone numerous adaptations in different media before it reached Shyamaprasad. Ritu proves that he is definitely getting better at his art.

Apr 1, 2010

Sunset Boulevard

There were a lot of others like Sunset Boulevard - the premise of an aging star, a struggling new comer, both at different corners of the ring and the beast they've to fight is the same - the movie industry, but they all came later this is the grand original of all those scripts.

For all the lovers of movies about movies, Sunset Boulevard should be a staple. You get to see the Hollywood right after WW2, those b-w streets of LA with little or no traffic, the grand mansions of the yester-year's stars with Sullivenisque architecture and those struggling to make big it in the movie industry (same then as now.) William Holden and Gloria Swanson are the two pillars which hold this movie named after the most famous road in Hollywood, thereby the iconic of tinsel town dreams of many a man and woman, together and they do a fine job at it. A fine movie to take trip down the memory lane to 1950s with distinguished director Billy Wilder.

Mar 29, 2010

Kerala Cafe

Kerala Cafe falls into the category of anthology films or portmanteau films - films consisting of multiple short films, often with a common theme or framing device.I think this is the first time directors in Malayalam cinema has teamed together for such a venture. I can think of an anthology film from recent past, Adoor's Nalu Pennungal, but all stories were directed by one director. Bollywood came out with a nice package of a portmanteau film a couple of years ago called Dus Kahaniyaan. Similar anthology films that I can remember are Anlat Istanbul, Paris, je t'aime, New York I love you, Toronto Stories etc.

The good thing about an anthology film is that there is something for every one, like a movie buffet of hors d'œuvres.The bad thing about this movie in general is that it has the Shelley syndrome, ie "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts" , 9 out of 10 stories(or maybe 8) embrace the sure-fire recipe for success with Malayali audience aka the language of sorrow.

The first movie directed by M.Padmakumar is called Nostalgia has the familiar theme of Gulf Malayalees starring Dileep and Navya Nair, not much of a story, more like a condensed episode of one day in the life of a 'pravasi' Malayali which is better because there is no unnecessary fluff. 

Then comes Shankar Ramakrishnan's Island Express starring Prithviraj,Rehman and a host of others. It is good film, but gets a little too poetic with a hint of Malayali's inner budhijeevi surfacing at times. It is about one of the biggest train tragedies that happened in Kerala, the Perumon disaster.

Shaji Kailas directs Lalitham Hiranmayam, a tale of marital infidelity starring Jyothirmayi and Suresh Gopi. The film shows a different side of Shaji Kailas, sans the smart-talking English dialogs and the guns.

Uday Ananthan's Mrityunjayam is one of the entrancing ghost stories to come out of Malayalam in the recent past, I wish it was a full length movie, but then who knows, there might not be enough mystery and paranormal to last two long hours, part of the charm of it was its super short length like a thick strong brew. Thilakan and Reema Kallingal stars in Mrithyunjayam.

Next in line is Anjali Menon's Happy Journey, an incident during a bus journey starring Jagathy Sreekumar. An interesting piece. After that comes B.Unnikrishnan's Aviraamam, a contemporary story, good story and the choice of actors -Siddique and Shweta Menon makes it all the more watchable. Shyamaprasad disappoints with Off Season, I for one had high expectations of him.. It has good camera works, is set in a scenic locale - Kovalam, but that is all it has going for it. I have to give to it  that it is the only story which is not a sob story, other than Mrityunjayam(the ghost story.)  

Anwar Rashid's Bridge is one of the better movies in this set of 10. It takes place in Cochin, with Salim Kumar, Kalpana and Kozhikode Shanta Devi. Cinematography, story and the actors are above par and it really wrenches tears out of your eyes.

Revathy's Makal addresses a social issue of child trafficking, a woman oriented subjected as expected of the director. It stars a convincing Sona Nair, Sreenath and others along with a peacock feather - one would think Revathy as a director should be past filming cliches by now, maybe not?

Last, but not the least and probably the best is Lal Jose's Puram Kaazchakal starring Sreenivasan and Mammootty. Kudos to Lal Jose for selecting such a brilliant story, C.V.Sreeraman's story of the same name,  for a short film. With such a story, only precaution the director has to take is that he doesn't mess it up with the script or camera, Lal Jose does neither and what we have is winner.

In my opinion, PuramKazchakal is the best film of the whole bunch, closely followed by Mrityunjayam and Bridge. Island Express is like a poem in a short story anthology, a little mis-matched from the rest. All in all, Kerala Cafe is a commendable effort, a world away from the current masala Malayalam movies and shows that inherent problem of Malayalam cinema is with its viewers because directors if given half a chance can make good movies it is the audience who wouldn't let them.  

Mar 16, 2010

Calendar

Malayalam movie makers have a penchant for movie titles totally unrelated to the story or the theme. As audience used to these antics, we the faithful viewers of Malluwood never question their intentions, just do our duty and watch each movie and offer our scathingly critical reviews of each one.

Calendar is one such gem of a title. I have no clue what a calendar has to do with this movie 'specially that it didn't have to do with gazillion Malayalam movies released so far. Ok, let us not get riled up about the title, I was just bringing to your attention an interesting fact about Malayalam cinema.

Calendar brings back some old faces from the eighties - Zarina Wahab and Prathap Pothen, with youngsters Navya Nair and Prithviraj and the forever young Mukesh. I had no clue where the movie was going till the very end. Even then I had to read a review to understand what it had been trying to say all along. I wonder why Zarina Wahab said yes to the role, probably she was told she was the central character and they were telling the truth. Only after they made the entire film did they realize they had veered so far off course that it was now impossible to get back.

The story could've been told straight-forward, but emphasis on certain characters where it was not needed, getting caught up in trivial issues, blowing up events totally unrelated to the development of the theme saw to it that the movie lost its way from the very beginning. Mahesh the actor turned director has created a veritable avial of a movie from which it is hard to save him.


Mar 15, 2010

Ditto (Donggam)

Romance fails to capture my heart most of the time, it sinks like Titanic down the abyss of my logical brain, except some edgy SF romance like Happy Accidents. Ditto is not Happy Accidents, but it is different from the usual run-of-the-mill romances. The added charm is, it takes place in Korea in 1979 and 2000 and stars two HAM radios.

Ditto has HAM radio as the instrument of connection and happens in a college campus in Korea. HAM radios - that niche elitist technology(at least for us growing up in the third world in the eighties) when cell phones(or satellite phones) were more than a decade into the future, was something  I had yearned for, but I knew I would never get. Rajiv Gandhi, our erstwhile PM was a ham, the guy with impeccable English who did countdown for ISRO's rocket launches was a HAM - these were the kind of people who becamse HAMS, not scrawny little girls.

In addition to 'HAM'ming, the historical events that played out in Korea, the issues that concern the national psyche are also subtly portrayed in the film. One part of the film happens in Oct, 1979 an eventful month in South Korean history and other is set in 2000 - a time of modernism and relative stability.  Also to be noted is the stark contrast of Asian cultures with Western materialistic culture, which has also intruded into Korea of the present.

I liked the movie immensely, I am a sucker for time travel, chatting across time, conducting exchanges with parallel universes all that kind of will-never-happen phenomena. This movie gives me a peek into it, worth spending my time.

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