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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Jan 28, 2011

Raavanan

Raavanan is good. I have always believed Raavanan, the real one in the real epic, suffered misportraiture at the hands of victors. The inescapable short end of the stick that favor the vanquished might have distorted the real Raavanan character as well. Mani Ratnam in AD 2010 tries to bring some justice to the man and he recruits actor Vikram(real name John Kennedy, no Fitzgerald) to the task.

Vikram is magnificient in his portrayal of twenty first century Raavan. I saw the tamil version. Prithviraj is the anti-hero, aka Ram aka the bringer of justice. If you had any doubts, you can lay them to rest after watching this movie, it is indeed Kaliyug, where else can you find Lord Rama as the anti-hero?

The same Kaliyug is also responsible for Aishwarya Rai (aka Sita Maiyya) pancake make-up. She is gorgeous at 37, but Prithviraj who plays her husband is a good ten years younger and it shows despite the make-up. Indian movie industry is hard on women, Aishwarya is going as far as it'd let any woman to go without becoming another Rekha.

Cinematography(Manikandan and Santosh Sivan) and locales are brilliant. Maybe this film will win the best movie award for national integration based on just the shooting locations. Raavanan's village is set amidst the picturesque sarson ka khet (or mustard fields) of Punjab, they go to temple to perform pujas and weddings at the architecturally quaint Lakshmi Narayan temple at Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, they hide out in the scenic surroundings of Athirappally waterfalls in the forests of Kerala, sometimes hiking over to Malshej Ghats near Pune or Saheb Kuthi in Agarpara(WB) for a neighborly chat. The whole of India is Raavan's one village, ""Yatra Viswam Bhavathyeka Needam"" as they say in the Vedas.

Raavanan is a brilliantly executed film. It should have been a hell of a task shooting simultaneously in two languages with slightly differing set of actors. Definitely worth a watch.

Jan 27, 2011

Hot Fuzz

Action and comedy (of the British kind, non-slapstick) in an exhilarating package - that's Hot Fuzz. My needs are simple, I like movies that provide entertainment value while keeping me hooked , Hot Fuzz fulfills those needs.

A super cop from London is transferred (demoted?) to a placid village where there has been no crime for the last twenty(? not sure) years. Look at the picture on the right, if that doesn't say 'bad-ass', what would?  Simon Pegg(the guy on the right) and Nick Frost(the chubby guy) rock the sleepy village of Sandford in the climax of this movie. It is the second one in the series of  Blood and Icecream Trilogy also known as the Three Flavors of Cornetto trilogy.

The team of three, Edgar Wright - the director, Simon Pegg(actor and writer) and Nick Frost are the perpetrators of the ice cream trilogy. The first movie in the series was the super hit zombie thriller comedy Shaun of the Dead. After watching the first two, I cannot wait for the third one - The World's End.

If you haven't watched Hot Fuzz, it is a good buddy movie, to be enjoyed with your friends on a Saturday night maybe. It is like that upbeat song you'd sing aloud in the car at the top of you voice and maybe if you have a crazy buddy to join you in your private concert, it'll be all the more fun.

Jan 26, 2011

Kutty Srank

Watched Kutty Srank after staying off it for long. The reason for my hesitation was, as I have grown older I have become much wary of the "award-winner" type movies which is typically what you expect from a director like Shaji N.Karun. His 'Vanaprastham' only served to increase my skepticism. It is the same reason I do not want to watch his 'Piravi' again, it might feel too slow for me and ruin the good opinion I had for the film when I first watched it way back when I was a kid.

Maybe because I didn't have expectations and was geared up to thrash it, to my own surprise, I liked Kutty Srank. Kutty Srank is like a lesson in the text book of movie making. The director himself wrote the story of a mariner(Kutty Srank means boat captain in Malayalam) who moors at different ports and as we all know a sailor cannot escape being a sailor, there is indeed a woman at every port. Three ports, three women. Now don't get your hopes high on sleazy and rein in those wayward thoughts - can't it be that these three women could be an embodiment of three main female roles one comes across in life? I think maybe that is what the director-story writer intended them to be.

There is Revamma, the local aristocrat's daughter, her part of the story is set in Malabar("Yeah yeah yeah, I am a believer" in the director, that definitely bought me off.) Padmapriya plays her, a Ceylon returnee, newly converted Buddhist doctor turned nun. Padmapriya is becoming the Smita Patil of the South, if there is strong female character role, directors choose her by default. The film is also set in three seasons. Kutty Srank(oh, that's Mammootty, if you didn't know it already) arrives in Malabar in the middle of summer. He is the boat captain and the right hand of the local Mooppan who takes care of all Mooppan's dirty tasks.

The one time the movie turns slightly artsy is when there is an allegory of a wounded swan depicting Revamma's state. But that's ok in my books, the director doesn't repeat it. Kutty Srank see the shades of his mother in Revamma. The other two women are in the other two principalities which merged to form the current Kerala state, in addition to Malabar - Kochi and Travancore.

We meet Pemmana(Kamalinee Mukharjee) in Kochi during the monsoons and Kali in Travancore in winter. I didn't know there was winter in Travancore. After living in Arctic for almost a decade I could snub at a Kerala winter but the people of Travancore(or Kerala) I know would kick me off the planet if I denied them winter. So don't tell them of my transgression.

The story and the script is rich in the ways of the land, as it was 70-100 years ago. For me Anjuli Shukla's cinematography is the highlight of the movie, of course I cannot comment enough on the talents of the director and the actors.The movie pays tribute to the verdant landscape of Kerala, himself a whiz behind the camera I can understand the director's foresight while creating his scenes and characters making maximum use of the the visual bonanza provided by nature herself.

One thing I found jarring was the location and the set of the police station. It looked like a set, erected on the beach, flouting CRZ(I know there was no CRZ back then, that's just an additional jab), looking and smelling of cardboard and new paint(made to look old of course.) I don't care much about music in a movie like this, I vaguely remember there were songs, native folk song type. Other than that I draw blank when it comes to the sound track treats.

The film won the National award for the best film and best cinematography and 3 other awards(see, my expectations were not far off the mark.) I wonder about the etymology of the word Kutty Srank in Malayalam. Did it come from Cutty Sark - the British clipper chip, whose name is from Scotland? As I have become acquainted with different English accents, I am amazed how much of Indian English accent is shaped by Scottish and Welsh influences.

My final verdict: Give Kutty Srank a try, it might surprise you.

Jan 14, 2011

Mummy and Me

Kunchako is almost ready to taken on Shivaji Ganesan. Used to be a time in Tamil cinema when a 60 year old Mr.Ganesan will wear shorts and show up nonchalantly at the neighborhood primary school reciting Thiruvalluvar verses and no one will even bat an eyelid. At that time a 60 year old playing his 6 year old self was perfectly normal, even if he had a mustache that might have taken 50 years to reach its full bloom.

Kunchako Boban is not Mr.Ganeshan's competition yet, but with every passing year he is getting closer to that goal. His time machine is stuck at Aniyathipravu and Guinness book of Records is about to award him the MBA student of the century, which is given to people who take 100 or more years to complete an MBA.

All said Kunchako is the most bearable of the characters in this film. Urvashi needs a shoot-at-sight restraint issued against her, she is just plain unmanageable. Archana Jose Kavi had chosen a movie that had the spotlight on her, can't blame her for the director or the audience who made this movie a roaring success at the box-office. Malayalam movie goers, you deserve this and nothing better, you are the culprits. Suffer biatches!

Apoorva Ragam

Something that was personally 'apoorvam' (apoorvam = "out of the ordinary", "strange") for me while watching this movie was its ability to keep me hooked. It started out as a college romance and to its merit I should say it didn't deteriorate to become just another college romance movie. When it was about to reach that stage interesting things began to happen which kept me riveted on my place before the screen.

Young faces are a treat to watch - Nithya Menon, Nishan Naniah and Asif Ali play the main characters. Script is not bad, heard that it was written by newcomers, if so then it is good for it had all the making of being a run-of-the-mill story, but it didn't, thanks to the director and script writer(s).Speaking of which, I don't know how I could've been oblivious to a Malayalam movie titan like Sibi Malayil for this long that I do not have a label in this blog for him. The maker of all those big hits like Kireedam, Dasaratham, Mutharam Kunnu P.O, Kamaladalam etc and  I didn't even acknowledge him in this measly blog, too bad. Today I stand rectified.

Apoorva Ragam is definitely an interesting movie to watch. I approached it without expectations and was rewarded, maybe that'll work for you too.


Jan 2, 2011

My Best Movies Picks of 2010

Another best of 2010 list, includes Hollywood, Bollywood, Kollywood and Malluwood movies in random order. Some of these were released at the end of 2009 and I watched them in 2010.
1. Avatar
2. Kickass
3. Karthik Calling Karthik
4. Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya
5. Inception
6. Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year
7. Ritu 
8. Qurbaan (review coming soon)
9. True Grit (review coming soon)
10. Neelathamara

Jan 1, 2011

True Grit

History fascinates me when it is played by true-to-life characters. Coen brothers are masters of re-telling old tales. Plain earthy stories where there are no exalted glories or flag waving millions or stiff parades of generals, history of O,Brother Where Art Thou variety.

Stories like True Grit is the meat and potato of Coen brothers. It takes us back to the turn of the century to the Deep South bordering the unruly West. The land of outlaws and bounty hunters, landscape stretched as wide as it is earthly possible, forlorn outposts manned by lost souls at the frontiers humanity where someone is always on the run and somebody is always in pursuit. 

This is the un-chartered territory where a young girl goes looking for her father’s killer. Her interesting journey made all the more interesting by a couple of quirky companions – unadulterated account of the West when the frontier was still a wild country, now it has shifted to the southern fences of Arizona, but that’s another story. Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin make up the cast of this remake. 

The original 1969 movie was a western adapted from a serial in a magazine and the original also spawned a sequel called Rooster Cogburn. It is the kind of movie that runs on the strength of the screen play and its characters, with someone as colorful as Rooster Cogburn it is hard not to notice it and Jeff Bridges is the perfect dude for this part. An interesting movie for the lovers of good scripts.