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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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'Ĺ“uvres.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.

Mar 14, 2010

The Uninvited

A good ghost story is hard to find, especially a good b-w movie. It sets a nice ambiance when I am folding laundry away on a Saturday night. The Uninvited is good old fashioned ghost story that takes place in England.

The movie was made in 1944, stars Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell. It is about a city bred brother and sister who falls in love with a vacant house by the sea and buys it on a whim. They not only inherit the property but also a couple of ghosts thrown in for some haunting fun.

All the actors who were in this movie are dead and gone by now, the last to go was Ruth Hussey in 2005. Like the Sue Thompson song of the sixties, which goes like "Sad movies always make me cry,", black and white movies from yesteryears always make sad, even the happy ones. All those actors, young and radiant once, gone dust to dust, ashes to ashes, no ghosts haunt us, it is all just recycling of carbon.

Mar 13, 2010

Twin Sisters

Nominated for Foreign Film Oscar in 2003, Twin Sisters is typical Oscar fare. I consider these kind of films too polished, presenting the grim face of holocaust reality for 21st century living rooms. Some heart-wrenching tale in dark brown and sepia, usually rewarded with an Oscar nod at the end. To me all of them kind of look the same and I call these type of movies 'Oprafication of the Holocaust'. Twin Sisters,The Boy in Striped Pajamas are one of the recent ones I saw which fall into this category.

I hope Elie Weisel's Night won't be made into a film like this. It needs to be more raw, a bit different from the rest like Schindler's List was. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy these movies, they are eminently watchable, reminds the humanity once more of the horrible crimes committed during the reign of Hitler.

Twin Sisters as the title says is about twins sisters Anna and Lotte, separated and brought up in two countries during WW2. They find themselves aligned with opposing countries which affects their decisions and loyalties to each other as well.If you haven't watched many movies about the holocaust, this is a good starter. There is not many graphic scenes at all, pretty tame compared to many other WW2 movies.

Mar 12, 2010

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year

One thing I am certain, I have a liking for films made by Shimit Amin-Jaideep Sahni combo. They are like films that should be shown in film schools about how films should be made, IMHO. Though I don't think my opinion is shared by many Indian film goers because Rocket Singh tanked at the box office. If I could swish my fairy wand at the cash register, this movie would've put the Las Vegas slot machines to shame.

Ranbir Raj Kapoor is a natural at acting and even more natural when it comes to playing a Sardar (well mother's genes, what else, right?) He reminds me so much of Neetu Singh with a mustache and a beard.

Character development and choice of actors to play the roles is one of the most interesting and innovative approaches of Shimit Amin. He brings in people from God-knows-where, but all of them fit into their roles perfectly and I've not seen any of them in a significant role in any other film before. That was the case with his earlier venture, Chak De India and it is the same with this film. Both had a big name actor in the lead role and all the rest of the people are virtual unknowns although they have real meaty roles.

Rocket Singh is a portrait of the new urban India, entrepreneurial, bursting with ideas and gutsy. The characters are so original that you might have met them in Mumbai's suburban trains. Unlike formulaic Hindi films it doesn't veer from it course and end up being the run-of-the-mill running-around-trees-romance at any point of time, even the romantic sub plot is very subtle and not overly stressed. Good script, good direction, good movie. 4.5/5 stars.

Mar 7, 2010

Up

Finally finished watching Up. I had never gotten around to watching it in full, always catching glimpses of it while wandering around the house. An interesting story and nice execution (what else do you expect from Pixar?) It seemed to me more like a grown-ups' movie than kids', but kids in our house don't seem to think so.

Mar 6, 2010

Nammal Thammil

Nammal Thammil is youthful eye candy movie with the reigning youth icon of Kerala, Prithviraj in the lead with Geetu Mohandas and his real life brother Indrajith in a supporting role. The film is a campus flick, set in Govt. Engineering College, Thiruvananthapuram (my alma mater) The main building and the entrance area are  featured in the scenes, but nothing much else.

It is a film geared for commercial success, I wonder how it fared at the box-office. In addition to the three young stars, there is also veteran actors Balachandra Menon, Revathy and Suhasini in prominent roles.