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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Oct 22, 2011


Dileep and Nayantara vs Vijay and Asin – which combo is better? I have not seen a full length Vijay movie before, only bits and pieces or songs from his movies made up my fleeting impressions of Vijay. Now after watching him with Asin in Kaavalan I can see how he is an actor at home in Tamil movie industry and having a producer-director father definitely helps. What really surprises me is this guy trumps Shahrukh Khan at not looking his age. He is playing a dude in early twenties in this movie and he doesn’t look a day older, definitely not 37 - his real age

Kaavalan is a remake of Malayalam movie Bodyguard starring Dileep and Nayantara, directed by Malayalam’s ace director Siddique – formerly of the famous Siddique Lal duo. The success of Bodyguard spawned a slew of remakes in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. I am glad I watched the Tamil version for Dileep could’ve caused a Repetitive Stress Syndrome to my eye muscles. Though he is overwhelmingly funny, if you have seen one Dileep movie you’ve seen them all.

Asin and Vijay are supported by Vadivelu, RajKiran, Roja, Mithra Kurian and a journal. Kaavalan’s story and execution smells of a movie dressed for success. It is the tried and tested to death formula of Indian movie-dom : guy meets girl in the backdrop of a college or university where they can party their days away wearing outrageously colorful clothes, sing around trees, make room for some villains to create a much needed climax and then guy and girl goes off forever-happy land. Same old comfort movie food in a shiny new package – we starry-eyed Indians always fall for this kind of emotional atyachar.

Oct 20, 2011

Plus Two

Plus Two is the newest addition to Malayalam's list of high school romances. Plus Two in India corresponds to junior and senior years at high school in the US. This period is often cited as the years when teenage emotions go haywire in the subcontinent, as rightfully documented in Malayalam movies like Notebook, Kshanakkathu and Venal Kinavukal. Yeah, we are late bloomers, goes well with our arranged marriage system.

Sheby Chavakkad – a first time director uses the niche access door of teen angst and romance to enter Malayalam filmdom. It must have worked as blessing to him and his producer as this kind of entry undeniably cuts production costs by not needing a super star. M&Ms are only in their fifties and it’ll be a few years before they can get past the late 20s characters they are doing right now and tackle more complex teen roles. Till then people < 20 still have a chance.

Even with all new faces, it is a watchable movie. Roshan Basheer and Shafna play the lead pair, with four sidekicks(Justin John, Vishnu Mohan, Deepak Murali, Sajin), all of them are actual teens which also must have saved a lot on wig and makeup costs. Just imagine the state of producer’s wallet if Jagdish was to play one of those roles. Salim Kumar, Maniyan Pillai Raju, Sona Nair, Sai Kumar, Geeta Vijayan and Suraj Venjarmood play supporting characters.

There is not much of story, dialogs are tolerable and I don’t remember the songs (could be me.) What I remember is Shafna walks too slow even when situation demands her to be P.T.Usha and acts timid and helpless enough as is required of Malayalam heroines. Roshan has telltale signs of a newcomer, but as they say – that too shall pass. But what in the world made them name him Prince? Was he MJ’s lost son while he did his secret sojourn in the 90s through Kerala? Michael, rest in peace, I will not blame this on you. Meanwhile if you come across +2, it is an easy watch, go for it (without many expectations.)

Oct 11, 2011


Elephant could pass off as a documentary if you didn’t know it was a feature film by Gus Van Sant. It is a typical high school day in the US of A – jocks, nerds, hicks, geeks, druggies, emos and freaks and sometimes that means a gun(or more) might creep up in the middle of all these social strata.

Based loosely on Columbine massacre, it received the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. Like people looking at an elephant from different perspectives and trying to describe it, film’s camera follows different students in long tracking shots on the fateful day.

Shot in an autumnal Portland, van Sant’s hometown, Elephant is a powerful examination of teenage mind within the framework of a single day.

Oct 10, 2011


Had I known it was a Stephen King story, I'd not have taken it. Nothing against the author, just not my style. It is an interesting movie if you are in the mood for some horror. With money, motivation and talent at its disposal nobody does CGI better than Hollywood, so 1408 is riveting, although the premise of a haunted hotel room is as old as bed bugs. The story recognizes this and shows our hero, horror writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack) tracking haunted rooms across the country finally finding the real McCoy at Dolphin Hotel, Room 1408.

This can easily be transformed into a one act play because most of the action takes place inside one hotel room. In addition to John Cusack, Samuel L.Jackson appears in a small but significant part.

Oct 7, 2011

Delhi Belly

If this film was made in Hollywood, ideally, it will be titled Hershey Squirts or McShits, had it been a Canadian indie Beaver Feaver will be the name, in Arabic hands it’d have been called Yalla Yalla. For more ideas for suggesting a location-specific name for Delhi Belly when Aamir Khan Productions dubs the film for international audience and holds a public competition for the title of the dubbed version, visit Wikipedia.

With a team of Indians with roots and learning experiences from outside India, it does not come as a surprise when the movie speaks to the audience in English and identifies more with slick story-telling style of a Guy Ritchie or a Quentin Tarantino flick, with lot less gore and lot more $hit. Script writer Akshat Verma who went to film school in LA to make non-Bollywoodsy films in Bollywood finds his luck with Aamir Khan Productions and director Abhinay Deo.

Imran Khan, Aamir’s US born nephew and an actor in own right plays one of the major roles. The ensemble cast comprises of LA based actor Poorna Jagannathan, stand-up comedian Vir Das, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Shehnaz Treasurywallah, Vijay Raaz and Paresh Ganatra among others.

This is not a film you’ll take your family out to the theaters to watch. It targets the 20-50 urban demographic with connectivity, access and an open mind to non-traditional India. There are not many LOL situations but rather some well-timed brain chuckles and farts (what else do you expect from a film named after traveler’s diarrhea) packed in a tight script.

Quite unlike a typical Bollywood movie there are no song interruptions in the story line. It does have a few songs, the controversial Bhag Bhag D.K.Boss amongst them, but they form part of the background score like in Hollywood movies, marketed later as from the sound track of the movie.

If you are not from India, but would like to get a taste of Bollywood movies and prefer to take it slow and easy, this’d be a good starter. Enjoy!

Oct 1, 2011

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobarah

India’s yuppie film genre is coming of age. It has been a ten year long trek from Dil Chahta Hai to Zindagi Na Milegi Dobarah while the film going populace became economically empowered with BPO jobs, nano (as in the size) cars, cellphones and ‘phoren’ vacations. All those cars and vacations have increasingly led to the development of a new breed of Indian – a road-tripper with an indulgent wallet.

Bromance movies are no strangers to Bollywood – the original woods where the bromantic saga Sholay played out for years in front of generations of changing audience. Today’s crowd will still lap up the bromance, but they know ‘zindagi na milegi dobarah’, so please make sure to delete Gabbar and all the related blood and crime. Keep the motorcycle and the chicks. Better still let’s change the Enfield into a convertible and a SUV, in tune with the changing times. Since everyone Rampur is an NRI, let’s go to Spain.

Road trip + Bromance in an exotic locale and we have Zindagi Na Milegi Dobarah. It is a bachelor-party road trip through a Spain tourism commercial. We have the San Fermin running of the bulls festival and Tomatina festival in Bunol. Had the characters really stayed in Spain and went to Tomatina festival first and then to San Fermin as it is shown in the film they’d have road-tripped thru’ Spain for a year for the Tomatino festival happens in August and San Fermin bull run in July.

Since our director Abhinay Deo is not training to be Ken Jenkins or Watson, only trying to achieve a minor task of scoring a Bollywood hit which I believe he does succeed in doing, I will not engage in a trivial pursuit . Farhaan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Kalki and Katrina Kaif supports Deo in his efforts. Although Javed Akhtar’s poetry is nice, had it not been there it’d not have made any difference to the viewing experience (atleast not to mine) or the box office bucks.

Milh Hadha al-Bahr (Salt of this Sea)

It was time to give Palestine a shot. I had seen a few Israeli movies like Late Marriage, The Band's Visit and Paradise Now(the best of the three), Salt of this Sea is my first true-blue(or kufiyyah) Palestinian film. Made by Annemarie(is that an uncommon name for a Palestenian?) Jacir, supposedly first woman film director from Palestine, this film made it to Cannes in 2008 and received Camera D'Or nomination.

Soraya, born in Brooklyn to exiled Palestinian immigrants, travels back to rediscover the land of forefathers, the land from which her parents had to escape as refugees. The best thing about the film is it shows how ordinary Palestinians go on about their daily lives and the stark contrast of Palestinian areas with Israeli territories which are usually just separated by a wall and guarded check points. The ordeal of tough scrutiny, pat downs and questions on faith, dignity and last names every person of Palestinian descent has to go through at check points , counters and even on open road surveyed and manned by Israeli guards is an eye-opener.

Every year thousands of Western tourists arrive in busloads to visit the holy sites in Israel. Sometimes, on rare occasions they encounter stone-throwing Palestinians – the one and only face of Palestine they see while they are in Israel – the militant face. Salt of the Sea, shows you the other side, Palestinians as ordinary people trying to make ends meet, who wants to make movies, sing and study, presenting them as a bunch of people with aspirations like the rest of us. The only difference is, they are foreigners in their own land, living under a grim exclusionary shadow which makes them carry visas, IDs and endure fierce police questionings while they go on with the business of life.

My only gripe with film is, can a person who has not grown up or lived in Palestine who only came to know of it from the stories and thoughts of her parents be so attached to a house which she is seeing for the first time? I cannot empathize with the character, a progeny of displaced people maybe because I have not undergone a similar experience. Still I could not justify Soraya flaring up at the Israeli woman who welcomed three complete strangers to stay at her house as long as they wanted after they told her that it once belonged to Soraya’s grandfather. The reason for Soraya’s outburst was that the affable Israeli woman refused to take up Soraya’s offer to get kicked out of her own house since the Soraya’s grandfather used to own it 70 years ago before he had to flee Palestine and Soraya who has never lived in that house wants to have it back.Talk about trying to cash in on generational guilt.

Another way of looking at it is metaphorically – similar to Israeli justification of its occupation of Palestinian lands based on Biblical and pre-Biblical facts/stories. If that is the case, point taken, Anne Marie.