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Mar 29, 2010

Kerala Cafe

Kerala Cafe falls into the category of anthology films or portmanteau films - films consisting of multiple short films, often with a common theme or framing device.I think this is the first time directors in Malayalam cinema has teamed together for such a venture. I can think of an anthology film from recent past, Adoor's Nalu Pennungal, but all stories were directed by one director. Bollywood came out with a nice package of a portmanteau film a couple of years ago called Dus Kahaniyaan. Similar anthology films that I can remember are Anlat Istanbul, Paris, je t'aime, New York I love you, Toronto Stories etc.

The good thing about an anthology film is that there is something for every one, like a movie buffet of hors d'Ĺ“uvres.The bad thing about this movie in general is that it has the Shelley syndrome, ie "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts" , 9 out of 10 stories(or maybe 8) embrace the sure-fire recipe for success with Malayali audience aka the language of sorrow.

The first movie directed by M.Padmakumar is called Nostalgia has the familiar theme of Gulf Malayalees starring Dileep and Navya Nair, not much of a story, more like a condensed episode of one day in the life of a 'pravasi' Malayali which is better because there is no unnecessary fluff. 

Then comes Shankar Ramakrishnan's Island Express starring Prithviraj,Rehman and a host of others. It is good film, but gets a little too poetic with a hint of Malayali's inner budhijeevi surfacing at times. It is about one of the biggest train tragedies that happened in Kerala, the Perumon disaster.

Shaji Kailas directs Lalitham Hiranmayam, a tale of marital infidelity starring Jyothirmayi and Suresh Gopi. The film shows a different side of Shaji Kailas, sans the smart-talking English dialogs and the guns.

Uday Ananthan's Mrityunjayam is one of the entrancing ghost stories to come out of Malayalam in the recent past, I wish it was a full length movie, but then who knows, there might not be enough mystery and paranormal to last two long hours, part of the charm of it was its super short length like a thick strong brew. Thilakan and Reema Kallingal stars in Mrithyunjayam.

Next in line is Anjali Menon's Happy Journey, an incident during a bus journey starring Jagathy Sreekumar. An interesting piece. After that comes B.Unnikrishnan's Aviraamam, a contemporary story, good story and the choice of actors -Siddique and Shweta Menon makes it all the more watchable. Shyamaprasad disappoints with Off Season, I for one had high expectations of him.. It has good camera works, is set in a scenic locale - Kovalam, but that is all it has going for it. I have to give to it  that it is the only story which is not a sob story, other than Mrityunjayam(the ghost story.)  

Anwar Rashid's Bridge is one of the better movies in this set of 10. It takes place in Cochin, with Salim Kumar, Kalpana and Kozhikode Shanta Devi. Cinematography, story and the actors are above par and it really wrenches tears out of your eyes.

Revathy's Makal addresses a social issue of child trafficking, a woman oriented subjected as expected of the director. It stars a convincing Sona Nair, Sreenath and others along with a peacock feather - one would think Revathy as a director should be past filming cliches by now, maybe not?

Last, but not the least and probably the best is Lal Jose's Puram Kaazchakal starring Sreenivasan and Mammootty. Kudos to Lal Jose for selecting such a brilliant story, C.V.Sreeraman's story of the same name,  for a short film. With such a story, only precaution the director has to take is that he doesn't mess it up with the script or camera, Lal Jose does neither and what we have is winner.

In my opinion, PuramKazchakal is the best film of the whole bunch, closely followed by Mrityunjayam and Bridge. Island Express is like a poem in a short story anthology, a little mis-matched from the rest. All in all, Kerala Cafe is a commendable effort, a world away from the current masala Malayalam movies and shows that inherent problem of Malayalam cinema is with its viewers because directors if given half a chance can make good movies it is the audience who wouldn't let them.