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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Jul 23, 2012

Ee Adutha Kalathu

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently or In recent time) is one of the best movies which has come out in Malayalam recently. In the years to come it will be heralded as one of the key players who introduced a paradigm shift in Malayalam cinema that started in the second decade of twenty first century.

The old power house institutions of Malayalam cinema like the mighty M&Ms, the stories guaranteed to unleash a deluge of tears(sthreejanangale onnadakkam kanneeraniyikkunna katha), the scripts which pamper to the whims of the State's morality police and the teetotaler women are all on their way out. Thank goodness we are finally ready for a dose of reality and there are people bold enough to show us just that.  

 
Its posters by OldMonk were the talk of the town before the movie was released. There was also quite a buzz about the story by Murali Gopi – a journalist in his own right and the son of the late actor Bharath Gopi, lately trying his luck in acting. Then there was the interview the actor Nishan, who plays a significant character in the movie, where he was quoted saying, 'this movie will surprise you'. Since we Malayalis have been running really low on the above mentioned element in our films, this film with the tagline – the familiar becomes strange and the strange familiar was looked forward with anticipation.

Ee Adutha Kalathu doesn’t fail us. From detailed characterization, even for the smallest of the roles to the suspenseful hook that the movie hangs us all by till the very end, the team under Murali Gopi(story & script) and Arun Kumar Aravind(direction) has produced a winner par excellence. The strange and the familiar blend with an interesting background score to create a concoction, the tastes of which makes the audience come back for more.
 
The casting that can screw up even the movies made with the best of intentions(don't get me started on the heroine in Thattathin Marayathu) is just perfect. The movie has a couple of non Malayalis in key roles but the roles themselves justify their need and they have turned out better than if film makers had used local products. Strategically placed paperbacks with ominous titles, Rubik’s cube and Thiruvananthapuram city play important parts in this movie which also stars talented actors such as Indrajith, Tanushree Ghosh, Nishan, Murali Gopy, Lena, Anoop Menon, Baiju, Jagathy and Mythili.

Ee Adutha Kalathu is a movie that gives us hope that all is not lost yet. We, Malayalis, don’t always have to lament about the bygone golden age of Padmarajan or the endearing youthful days of Mohanlal or the humorous all perceiving pen that Sreenivasan used in the eighties and early nineties. Some of life’s truths remain - the old gives way to the new and if we are lucky the new kids on the block might turn out to be better than the old.

Jul 22, 2012

22 female Kottayam

Know what this movie reminds me of, not any of the movies the director has confessed to have served as inspirations (from Kill Bill to Ek Hasina Thi and Caberet Dancer) but an Urvashi starrer from more than twenty years ago - Varthamanakalam. Tessa K.Abraham (portrayed by Rima Kallingal) could have been Arundhati Menon in her past life. Before we were 'Banglored' and our new age directors thankfully decided to address the plight of the underdog aka the emancipated Indian female, through their lens there was this unlikely director in Malayalam who directed movies with strong woman characters. Guess who?  

None other than I.V.Sasi! IMHO Avalude Ravukal and Varthamanakalam had two of the strongest female characters in the history of Malayalam cinema, females who didn't really whimper and sob blaming everything on their fate but went on with their lives anyway with a devil may care attitude.

22 Female Kottayam also belongs to the same category. The film is essentially scripted out for Rima's role and she does a good job at it. This makes Fahad Fazil's slightly negative character even more difficult to emote and make an impact. But surprisingly Fahad uses whatever screen time he gets to his maximum advantage. The story by Abhilash Kumar and Shyam Pushkaran and Aashiq Abu's direction hit bull's eye at the box office. 

The film also showcases the talents of veteran actors like Prathap Pothen, Sathar and T.G.Ravi in a different and interesting light.The director has succeeded in bringing the best out of his crew whether it be the old timer actors or the new age music composers like Rex Vijayan & Bijibal. Good going, Aashiq Abu!


Jul 19, 2012

Kerala State Film Awards 2011


Kerala State Film Awards were announced yesterday just as food poisoning was acquiring the status of a major terrorist threat across the State and hogging 99% of the ticker tape real estate. Being a last minute entry ‘Shawarma’ – that famous Middle Eastern leaning-n-rotating street-side stunt-tower/food-item, was denied the award in the Best Villain category. Oh, they don’t have such a category yet, nevermind.

Dileep(film:Vellaripravinte Changathi) and Shwetha Menon(film: Salt n Pepper) bagged the best actor and actress trophies while the Best Movie award went to Ranjith’s Indian Rupee and Blessy’s position as the resident Director-laureate of Kerala was confirmed once again. Shwetha Menon is becoming the thinking man’s leading lady if her two best actress awards in the last five years is any indication. Aashiq Abu’s Salt n Pepper was adjudged the film with most mass appeal.

It is surprising (to me atleast) that despite being years in the industry as a leading man, this is Dileep’s first Kerala State Best Actor award. Google just revealed to me that he had lost out to Mohanlal in Thanmatra in 2005 and had to be satisfied with a Special Jury award for his path breaking and titillatingly funny performance in Chanthupottu. That was gross injustice!!! 

Lalettan’s over the top Alzhemier’s patient vs Dileep’s authenticly endearing transvestite, I’d take Dileep anyday, his role even added a new word to Malayalam’s Urban dictionary. I am glad he hit the bull’s eye this time, although he clicnched it by running over a more deserving Fahad Fazil. Jury members always seem to weigh in on the side of age and experience than really evaluating the performance of the actors. 

Although they do not have a best villain category, they do have a best comedian trophy which went to Jagathy Sreekumar this year probably as a show of crowd support to the ailing actor who is arguably one of the most talented in that category.

To me the most disappointing prize winner was the one for the best story – Manikyakallu. A story of an educator trying to uplift the downtrodden kids through education has been told many times in many languages across many landscapes and add to it the fact that it is fifty years too late. The award for this story only highlights our jury members’ frog-in-the-well existence.
There were so many interesting and orignal stories like the City of God, Traffic, Chappa Kurish and doesn’t the release date of Ee Adutha Kalathu qualify it to be reviewed for 2011 awards? Ee Adutha Kalathu has the best story/screen play for any Malayalam movie in ‘ee adutha kalathu’(recent past.) If by any chance, Ee Adutha Kalathu was indeed overlooked, we should be screaming holy murder here.

Best Actor : Dileep [Vellaripravinte Changathi]
Best Actress : Shwetha Menon[Salt N' Pepper]
Best Movie : Indian Rupee
Second Best Movie : Ivan Mekharoopan
Best Director : Blessy [Pranayam]
Most Popular Movie : Salt N’ Pepper
Best Supporting Male Actor : Fahad Fazil [Chappakurishu]
Best Supporting Female Actress : Nilambur Ayisha [Oormakkuyil Padumpol]
Best Child Artist : Malavika [Oormakkuyil Padumpol]
Best Screenwriter : Bobby-Sanjay [Traffic]
Best Comedian : Jagathy Sreekumar [Swapna Sanchari]
Best Male Singer : Sudeep Kumar [Rathinirvedam]
Best Female Singer : Shreya Ghoshal [Rathinirvedam]
Best Lyricist : Sreekumaran Thampi [Naayika]
Best Music Sirector : Sarath [Ivan Mekharoopan]
Best Background Music : Deepak Dev

Jul 2, 2012

Eat Pray Love

A film about a uniquely American predicament - finding yourself! Where there is time and money this affliction quickly starts making it rounds. I couldn't get past a few pages reading the book, Julia Roberts is a more enthralling than the book, despite the fact that I am not a fan of her as an actress. I can imagine how it could have been worse, imagine SJP traipsing across Italy, India and Bali,  'the Ms sexy in the city'  a two-legged human bird leg on stilettos. I am glad casting people made a better choice.
Julia Roberts at Eat Pray Love shooting location in India

In fact this is one of the very rare movies where the movie is really better than the book. Maybe it is because many of the over-the-top self discovery journeys in the book were edited out when they turned it into film.

The whole premise of the movie - an affluent western woman taking off on a self discovery trip to three chosen countries because she can't get along with her husband who seems to love her and want her in his life, but she is not finding herself in that marriage, is not a subject majority of viewers across the globe can relate to. In these days of recession, more than half of Americans are not privileged or rich enough to relate it to either. If you are in the mood for bitching(yes, men too) pick this DVD and it'll give plenty of material to vent your frustrations.

Jul 1, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Hollywood vs Original

Cast: The Swedish cast is more naturally Scandinavian (of course) but on a whole I liked the Hollywood casting better. Looks-wise, Rooney Mara is a much better Lisbeth Salander than Noomi Rapace. Mara embodies the petite Ms.Salander I had visualized in my mind while reading Stieg Larsen's novels, whereas Rapace looks more like a chunkier Sporty Spice in a goth avatar and she is definitely over five feet tall.

As Mikael Blomkvist, Michael Nyqwist is more real than Daniel Craig, but if Blomkvist is irresistible to women as Larsen had portrayed him to be then Craig is the better choice. Armansky's character looks totally miscast in the Swedish one when his Armenian roots clearly show through in the Hollywood movie. On a whole the Swedish actors look a lot older than their Hollywood contemporaries.

Location: Again I've to choose the locales in the Hollywood version over the Swedish version. The bridge to Hedestad, Vanger's estate and his palatial house (which I read is the same in both versions) but the instances of weather showing up in the background make a lot of difference- all of these I believe, Hollywood shows a much better grasp. Maybe it could be attributed to a couple of facts, money at its disposal and two drafts (the novel and the Swedish original movie) to work off of.

Treatment of the story: There are sections of the novel left out by Swedish and Hollywood versions while adapting the story into motion picture format. Although these are different in both, in both versions the cuts don't affect the story telling.

Moving on to watch The Girl Who Played with Fire (Sweden).....

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