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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Nov 30, 2011

Salt N Pepper

Woohoo! Malayalam has its first real food-porn film. We did not have Babette's Feast, Ratatouille, Julie & Julia or Chocalat but we now have Salt n Pepper.

For a film that is path breaker of its genre  Salt N Pepper  has managed to set high standards to anyone attempting a food-centered film in the future.  At the same time, it has remained a high grosser appealing to different sections of 'discerning' Malayali populace.

Lal, the lead actor in the role of an officer in the State Archeology department(in the pic: wearing blue shirt on the left) whose passion in life is food,  looks like he had his kattan chaya(or kaappi) in the morning and walked right into the set, into the movie and into your life. Shweta Menon has carved a niche for herself in Malayalam with hitherto non-existent roles being  written for her considering her talent and ‘advanced age’, which is a good sign for all actresses in Malayalam film industry. Shweta is in her mid thirties in an industry where it is the norm for actresses of that age to play mother or mother-in-law roles for our forever young fifty and sixty year old super stars. Asif Ali(in the pic: sporting neon green jacket) – the easy going, probably the one of the best in the new crop youngsters in Malluwood has a role that suits his style. 

 The actor who hits a gold mine with this movie is none of the above, it is Baburaj(in the pic: guy in the center murdering the chicken) who has appeared in umpteen Malayalam movies as the quintessential bad guy. Baburaj plays Babu the bachelor, hanuman-devotee super-chef with a personality to match. As an actor, this movie has to be a milestone, giving him a new image to explore.

On a personal front, Salt N Pepper is more attractive to me because it showcases my home city - Thiruvananthapuram and its more likeable parts like the Rajaveedhi from Kawdiar to Vellayambalam, the new underpass at Palayam, Napier Museum  and other familiar landmarks.

The opening and closing segments of the film are entertaining and innovative. Various famous restaurants and foods in Kerala are featured as the opening credits role in, which sets your lip smacking for the movie to begin. Once the whole fare is served – which was indeed a feast par excellence- we have the Malayali rock band Avial (coincidentally ‘avial’ is the name of a Kerala vegetable dish usually served with rice) signing off with foot thumping song, Aanakallan.
 Ashiq Abu has directed an irresistible hit, a delightful entertainer.

Nov 29, 2011

Mujhse Fraandship Karoge


If I am not mistaken(which I often am) Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge is Bollywood’s first movie directly based on Facebook social networking interactions.  Starring four youngsters, set in a modern day fictional campus director Nupur Asthana manages to keep our attention on a much rehashed plot through a fast and fashionable story line.

Saqib Saleem and Saba Azad play the lead pair with  Nishant Dahiya, Tara D'Souzah who have strong supporting roles. It is a easy breezy campus flick if you are in mood for one. It is good to see old war horses like Yash Raj films moving with the times, promoting young directors and contemporary ideas.

Nov 25, 2011

City of God (Malayalam movie)

The end is the beginning is the end as Smashing Pumpkins had it figured out, on behalf of Batman. City of God, the newest movie from Lijo Jose Pellissery lives by this rule. I have decided to craft this review in the same vein – results first, facts later. I liked City of God, one of the better movies to come out of Malayalam in the recent past, Prithviraj’s superman act could’ve been toned down a bit. Well, you can’t have it all, right?

Multi narrative tracks are the flavor of the season in Malluwood. City of God joins Traffic, The Train and The Metro in an ever lengthening list, which I am sure is only in its infancy. I am expecting to see the list mature into a full-fledged Godzilla at the end of this decade. 

City of God is comparable to its Brazilian namesake in that the favelas of Rio are replaced by the cheris (slums) of Kochi and both are multi narrative films portraying the chaotic lives of a bustling, breathing third world metropolis. But I find the story structure more similar to another multi narrative film – Crash, where everything begins and ends with a road accident and the viewers are taken down different threads at the same time to be led back to the beginning in the backdrop of the City of Angels (LA.)

Prithviraj as Jyothilal, a high profile bodyguard/hitman/buddy of young industrialist Sony(model turned actor Vinod Pillai) has been bestowed with a fist and physique to deliver dialog, so he broods a lot and talks less. Reema Kallingal has juicy role as an actress under duress. She delivers a good performance talking in her own voice, literally without any dubbing artists to share her success. So does Shweta Menon  in a short but strong role. Indrajith lands a winner again with Swarnavelu,  a happy go lucky Tamil laborer and we get to see a very different Parvathy (debutante in Notebook) in her comeback to Malayalam as a migrant laborer with a lot of dark grease makeup.

Lijo Jose Pellissery, the director has created an interesting, true-to-life movie, esp. when compared to other movies of the same genre, maybe that's why it didn't set the box office ablaze. Despite its obvious Hollywood and international 'inspirations', it is one of watchable new movies(not for kids though.)

Nov 21, 2011

Shaitaan

Shaitan is like an Indian tribute to Tarantino. It is an A-list film in terms of technical quality with fast paced camera and editing keeping in track with it.  Running around trees when boys and girls meet of the traditional Indian past has been completely abandoned in favor of cruising around in a gas guzzling Hummer.  ‘Bade baap ke bigade hue aulaad’ (Hindi for rich spoilt brats) form one team of actors led by Kalki Koelchen and other talented new comers. 

On the other front we have the locals, everyday Indian and public servant policemen led by Rajeev Khandelval. It's a good long while after Aamir, Mr.Khandelwal. It was good to see Nikhil Chinnappa in a non-VJ/RJ/DJ role. Pawan Malhotra has an interesting role too. 

In the audio segment, Shaitaan has an awesome remix of Khoya Khoya Chand. IMHO this is the first time a modern remix is as good or better than the original classic(from Kala Bazaar sung by Mohammed Rafi.) Produced by Mikey McCleary and sung by Suman Shridhar it jives well with the spirit and pace of the movie.
From the production house of Anurag Kashyap, directed by debutante director Bejoy Menon who comes from the Mani Ratnam line of movies Shaitan is a slick movie to watch. If you are an adrenaline junkie even when you are couch-prone and watching a movie this might be a good choice.


Nov 20, 2011

Three Kings

If there is a category called self depracating comedy movies or what I’d call a contemporary version of slapstick humor, Three Kings will fall into that group.  When a movie knows it is not trying to sell a moral but only some cheap laughs and the audience knows that the movie knows, all that its creators have to do to make it successful is to bring on the laughter. 

Three Kings is a happy go lucky movie with characters to match. Indrajith, Kunchako Boban and Jayasurya are three kings without a kingdom, in search of a lost treasure. To help them in this quest we have three damsels – Samvruta Sunil, Ann Augustin and Sandhya. The movie tries to be funny and nothing else and succeeds for the most part, except when the humor becomes too slapsticky.
Just make sure not exercise your brain at any time while watching the movie.

Nov 18, 2011

Goodbye Solo

Goodbye Solo is a film festival circuit movie  - produced cheap with lofty ambitions starring talented but not big name actors and zero CGI. You’ll like it better if you like the way people from Africa speak English – I like it, the way they talk sound to me like if there was a big-hearted way of  speaking English their way would be it.
        
Solo is an immigrant cab driver in NC and just as I’d have guessed from his accent and place of birth(Senegal) a guy with a generous heart. He befriends an old guy, William who hires his cab once, though William doesn’t care much about Solo’s friendship as he is intent on turning his back on everything including life and the relationships it brings with it.

Nothing much happens, can be used by someone who is interested in studying the art of movie making.

Nov 13, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Philip K.Dick's stories are becoming more relevant as years pass or Hollywood seems to think so. The latest one of Dick's fictional contributions to roll down the California movie conveyor belt is The Adjustment Bureau.

Any futurologist, by which I mean anyone who has ever read their own daily horoscope in a newspaper will find this new class of movies interesting to say the least. If it features Matt Damon, the super flexible man of all trades, the movie is sure to find easy doors to dollars. Doors, by the way are important elements in this film.

The movie starts out with an up and coming young politician, played by Damon caught in an election scandal and has to quit running for whatever political office he was running for. But that's really not the film is all about and you don't want any spoilers, right?

The subject of the movie requires a technical perfection only Hollywood bucks can buy and they do the task as is expected. The Adjustment Bureau is a good watch for anyone who likes romantic sci-fi, Matt Damon or Philip K.Dick or all of those.


Nov 12, 2011

Aarakshan

The triumph of the little guy is often irresistible movie material. In this film the little guy is the tall old man(used to be the angry young man) of Indian cinema – Amitabh Bachchan.  The issue it has tried to tackle, I’d say boldly, because not many movies attempt it in this age of the rising, economically empowered Indian middle class who are not overpowered by the ‘glamor’ of government jobs. And therefore caste-based reservation, which decided the availability or non-availability of a government job to a person belonging to a particular caste is not a hot topic as it used to be. 

Much like the reservation becoming a non issue in the real world, the story of the film also switches its priorities midway. Yeah, it keeps the title the same through out the movie (Aarakshan = Reservation), but the focus shifts towards private coaching classes or tuition centers. The lead characters also go through a confused and stunted growth period in between. When we had just started thinking Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone will be the focus of the story, Saif is torn away from fighting for his burning cause and sent abroad.

With Saif off the scene and Deepika fading into the background, it is Bachchan all the way. The talented and experienced actor that he is, he handles the movie with right amount of restraint and starts a free coaching class for poor students when he is fired from his job, which turns out to be the right thing to do.  Manoj Bajpai gets to play the scheming professor and Tanvi Azmi is the loving and dutiful mother and wife. 

It is an interesting movie to watch movie about social issues and you’d rather watch something Indian than say, Erin Brockovich.

Nov 10, 2011

Violin

Sibi Malayil is a director known to spread emotions real thick on his films. From Kireedam and Dasaratham via Aakashadoothu to Apoorvaragam (2010), many of these hit the right spot with Malayali movie audience who wear emotions on their sleeves. Violin is yet another attempt at the same. Apoorvaragam had a novel story despite the hackneyed currency of emotions it was trying to trade, which made it a surprise hit at the box office. Unfortunately Violin lacks sorely in the story department.
Fort Kochi, Anglo Indians, old money, characters walking around in outlandish 19th century European costumes are all themes that have been done to dust by our idea hungry movie writers.

Now that “nightie” has been anointed as the official casual wear of Kerala women, why are the ladies in this movie still wearing frumpy frocks?

Violin is another example of a recent movie that I’ve seen which is thirty years too late.
The only bearable part of this film is Asif Ali. Nithya Menon’s role demands her to be over the top which she adheres to faithfully. The rest are best forgotten just like the movie.

Nov 6, 2011

Pyar Ka Punchnama


A twenty something software guy from a middle class Indian family, working his as$ off at some corporate code(sweat)shop in Noida, where do you think his priorities lie? Where else, in girls of course.

After probably two decades of strait-jacketed life India’s society prescribes to its kids and young adults, twenties is that short gasp of wild breath before it is all smothered down by an arranged marriage. Pyar Ka Punchnama is peek into that wild place, through guys’ eyes. I am sure there are girl versions of this movie, the most recent one I remember seeing is Turning 30. Compared to that, I like Pyar Ka Punchnama better.
 
Three guys who write code for a living, share an apartment somewhere in Delhi and get caught in some serious girl trouble. This is the male chick flick that Bollywood sorely lacks, in the lines of Superbad or 40 year old Virgin.

It is not a great script but its success lies in the fact that many young males in 20-35 age group can identify with the characters and the life portrayed in the movie makes sense to them.

Divyendu Sharma, Rayo Bakhirta and Karthikeya Tiwari - all three new comers handle the role of the three male protagonists with ease, with Sharma taking the gold medal had they been awarded medals for their acting. Another actor worth mentioning is Nushrat Barucha who delivers a convincing performance.

You've seen chick flicks like this before, now you know if someone had kept a hidden camera in the lives of guys in those movies this is what you'd get to see. 


Nov 5, 2011

Bubblegum

Jamshedpur, Jharkhand is transforming into ‘the’ place for coming of age movies. Maybe lot of new crop of directors/writers grew up as offsprings of steel plant or ONGC employees which provided stable white & blue collar work in Northern India from seventies onward.

Bubblegum is teen coming of age story narrated in first person by a guy who is probably in his thirties looking back at a Facebook-less cellphone-less world. A time of sweet innocence, right? Wrong, FB, Twitter and texting might be new but teenage was a wicked time since time immemorial, even before language and written word started making matters worse. 

A housing society in Jamshedpur is the setting of this good-natured teen drama which has the fourteen year old Vedant(Delzad Hiravali) in lead vying for the attention of girl next door, Jenny(Apoorva Arora.) Two other significant characters are Ratan, Vedant’s arch enemy who has his eyes set on Jenny as well and Vedant’s deaf and mute brother – Vidur.

The life of teens back in that era has been vividly captured by the script and characters, so is the life in a housing society (apartment complex in urban India) of the eighties shown with its small but important nuances. The events of the story happen around the days leading up to Holi and the festival forms the thread that holds the story together.



Stanley Ka Dabba

Stanley ka Dabba is a fresh faced children’s movie about Stanley’s Lunch box. Stanley is an 8-9 year old kid who comes without lunch box to school every day. The interesting thing about the movie is the way it was shot at a Montessori school in Bombay as a part of acting workshops on Saturdays. It has the feel of a movie shot with an invisible camera in an actual class room and school environs.

All the kids look and act natural and the easy going script allows them to be just kids. Amole Gupte, the director plays one of the important roles in the movie as Kadoos, the Hindi teacher and his son Partho Gupte is Stanley.

Nov 4, 2011

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

To be serious on a Friday evening is sacrilegious. It is also a good excuse not to go at My Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride) with a cinematic laparoscope, when it is not pretending to be anything other than a vehicle for fun. If you want to watch a Bollywood movie, with its staple of North Indian wedding, a few colorful songs, eye candy actors and toned down drama suited for a global audience My Brother Ki Dulhan is a light entertainer for you to consider on a weekend.

Katrina Kaif is getting better as an actress though she is not playing a character far removed from her real life references. Dimple Dixit, a boisterous, fun loving girl had all the fun in the world and is ready to settle down with the man her parents will pick for her via the arranged marriage route. Then the unthinkable happens, that is if this is your first Bollywood film ever. If not, go to kitchen, grab a bag of chips, get back into the story without missing a beat.

Imran Khan, not a comedian by nature, fits well into comic story lines as I had witnessed in Delhi Belly. Ali Zafar is a comedian at heart kept in check by his London address in this movie. I’d like to see more of this Pakistani music star’s Bollywood forays (maybe start with Tere Bin Laden.) It was good to see Kanwaljeet Singh and Parikshit Sahni, old horses from Doordarshan’s hey days, back together in a main stream film.

Music is forgettable, cinematography is neat with shots of Taj from across the Yamuna as our Bollywood cinematographers prefer to show it and the director holds the game together without getting lost in creating spectacles for drama or tears.

Nov 2, 2011

Manikyakallu

A selfless teacher on a mission to set straight a bunch of unruly kids - where have I heard this theme before? Every language in human history with an established film industry might have tackled this subject in one form or the other at some time. Hollywood produced classics like Blackboard Jungle, To Sir with Love and Stand and Deliver where an inspiring educator elevates underprivileged or inner city kids who have no interest in education to shiny beacons of the future.

In 2011 movie Manikyakallu, Prithviraj – Malayalam’s leading contender for the next superstar, goes noble as newly appointed teacher Vinayachandran at Vannamala High School notorious for its 100% failure rate. His altruistic mission to make prodigies out of distracted kids is beset with troubles and trouble-makers. But as expected of an upcoming superstar none of these can rein in our self-sacrificing man on a mission for long. Every enemy is brought to his/her knees through an event or incident reminiscent of Aesop’s fables. Lessons on morals and ethics are served to these fallen adversaries and thus indirectly to viewers in the form of fawning dialogs, songs with lyrical messages and implausible character turnarounds.

Most characters in this movie fall into either black and white category with only a few showing shades of grey. Those who are fortunate to play these roles include Samvrutha Sunil, KPAC Lalitha, Nedumudi Venu, Jagdeesh, Anil Murali, Jagathy Sreekumar and others. By the end of the movie though every part actor has given up his dark aspect and joined the forces with the light, thanks to our self-effacing hero. All I can ask at this point overpowered by a story of gooey-goodness is, isn’t this movie fifty years too late?


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