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Feb 28, 2011

Malarvadi Arts Club

Einstein once famously said, the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. Only creative people know how messed up it has been ever since Google made its appearance. I read some reviews comparing Malarvadi Arts Club (MAC) with Subramaniapuram and Rock On. Why stop running the similarity-checker after coming up with just a handful of films, that too in “foreign” languages. If you feed in the same variables - friendship, unemployed youth and music – a truckload of movies will come up. Throw in a filter for Malayalam and we have a manageable quantity. “Ganamela”,  “In Harihar Nagar”,  “Friends”  etc come to mind.  

This is to say the theme of Malarvadi Arts Club is not anything new.  There have been innumerable movies which showcase a bunch of jobless youth (the species was more rampant in the eighties, now call centers have become their calling) extolling their fathomless friendship set in a particular geographic location which brings with it, its own quirks. There will be a singer in the group belting out Ekantha Chandrike …while others provided the chorus. These days the one guy who can hold a tune inevitably finds himself as a participant in a music game show (Malarvadi Arts Club, Katha Thudarunnu.)  

What is an Indian movie without its trademark romance angle, right?  For this we will employ heavily made-up ladies who have escaped from teary-kajal-laden-soaps for their chance on the celluloid. The whole package of drama, mellowed drama and over-the-top drama will be propelled towards the inevitable climax (or climaxes) to bring in the money and keep people guessing.  One would think all the guessing should be done by now, after a generation of such movies.

No, Malarvadi invites us to play the same old guessing game. In MAC Vineeth Sreenivasan returns to his roots  - North Kerala. Gibran is good guide for those of us who make the mistake of thinking Vineeth as a clone of his father, Sreenivasan.  I don’t think I can imagine Sreenivasan singing without a seriously raised eyebrow(mine), while Vineeth is a fairly decent singer. In the same vein, Sreenivasan in his heyday wrote several noteworthy scripts keeping his funny pen moving in tune with the pulse of society. If Malayalam had an urban dictionary, the dialogs from Sreenivasan scripts would own half of it. But MAC is no world changer when it comes to scripts, it has an average script, tolerable by current standards, nothing compared to the witty eighties spearheaded by the director’s own Dad.

Despite all such flaws I liked Malarvadi Arts Club, the reason is personal. I am from Malabar. Manassery, the fictional village in which it is set, could be my village. I feel kinship with the carom board in the Arts Club, the red flags, the slogans, the framed portraits of European and Latin American comrades in the party office and the revolution simmering in young heads. The five guys, the lead characters, whom Vineeth had the good sense to cast all new comers, could’ve been my brothers growin’ up.  He has captured the essence of a North Malabar village/small town and the lives of youth (male) in a way no one has ever done before. He has done it so well that I felt the characters of Jagathy Sreekumar, Kottayam Naseer and Suraj Venjaramoodu were misfits in a perfect Malabari small town.

The new kids on the block are good, although I don’t think any of them has the guts to take a stab at the superstar crown Prithviraj has his eyes on.  Dileep proves he has good business sense and luck on his side investing in a movie that was guaranteed to bring him profit and trusting a new director based on just his genes.

The songs are hummable from my tin-eared receiver. The last song which signed off the movie should have been more of a power ballad with uplifting, foot thumping rhythms. Instead what it felt like was actors were trying to lip and body sync to a rock song in their heads while an insipid Malayalam song played in the background. The kind of language that Malayalam is, it is hard to come up with something that will sit pretty with a rock tune, but Vineeth Sreenivasan was/is a singer before he became a director or he could’ve let Avial compose that one song ;-)

p.s: Young directors, and old ones too, who is going to do a Malayalam padam just like that Thamizh Padam?



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