Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Pehli Pehli Malayalam Movie Review!

I am delighted as I write this post. It is surprising that I never wrote about my thoughts on any Malayalam movie before! It's not like I watched a lot of them while I was in Hyderabad. Still, there were a couple of them. May be because they were so rare. May be I would just sit and relish the experience of hearing Malayalam on DTS (and not Hindi) rather than blog about it! Anyway, better late than never, right?

Within a month of reaching Kerala, do you know how many Malayalam movies I have watched? Five of them - To Harihar Nagar, Banaras, Bhagyadevatha, Passenger and even Kancheepurathe Kalyanam. Those are just the ones I watched on Big Screen. The others would be Mayabazaar, Alibhai, Annan Thambi and Romeo. Quite a cool number of movies to have caught up on, na? And how could I have not told you about it?

Please don't be worried that I will draw up a thesis instead of a movie review to do justice to all these movies. Of course, I won't. I will stick to one that I liked a lot and one that I regret watching. Deal?

Passenger is an offbeat movie. Yes, it has Dileep, Mamtha and Lakshmi Sharma who are all commercial artistes. It has Sreenivasan who has risen to be a minimum guarantee hero of his own stature. Its director is not a Film Institute graduate and was trained under hardcore commercial directors. Yet, it is an offbeat movie. Why?

Just because it breaks the rules of being 'commercial' as laid down by today's Malayalam cinema. For one, the movie does justice to the script in terms of weightage given to Dileep's character. He is called the Janapriyanayakan of Malayalam cinema and is very close to superstardom. He could have been used to do all kinds of gimmicks, had the director ventured. But Ranjith Shanker did not. Adv. Nandan Menon played by Dileep tries to show off heroism, not for a second. Throughout the movie, the character has been downplayed and Dileep did a great job of it.

Second, the song that has been composed for the movie was used only for promotional activities. As a regular filmgoer who has gotten used to the recipe of a commercial movie, I was expecting at various moments through the movie "may be now, a song will come." To my pleasant surprise, it never came. The result - a tight narration with absolutely no non-sense to obstruct the flow.

Boy, the screenplay! It was simply fabulous (for lack of a better adjective). As the caption of the movie suggests, most part of the story happens in a day's span. Also, the story is not told from one character's perspective. The way Ranjith has linked the happenings to each other and blended the multiple perspectives to form a perfect symphony is commendable.

Also, he proved that one need not get preachy to deliver a message to the audience (except in a scene towards the end where Dileep makes a speech). The undying humaneness even in adversities is the theme of this story. The protagonist Satyanathan is a testimony to the fact that there are people who put at stake all that they have to help someone (quite contrary to popular belief, right?). Of course, Sreenivasan pulled off the character with elan.

Mamtha's return to Malayalam cinema after a brief hibernation is marked by a very balanced and believable performance as journalist Anuradha Nandan. I fail to understand though, why our heroines can't dub for themselves. Come on, Mamtha has won a Filmfare award for the best playback singer (Telugu). How much sweeter should one's voice be? Or may be, Mamtha was too busy. Whatever the reason is, it is high time Malayalam heroines understood that not lending one's voice to a character is leaving the performance half baked. One cannot be called a complete artist without an original voice.

In this movie, the relief is that the voice was fresh - Vimmy Mariam's and not Sreeja's or Bhagyalakshmi's. Otherwise, it is as though Kavya and Gopika are gone, but their ghosts linger around. Hold on though; Vimmy was heard talking from Kaniha's frame (Bhagyadevatha) too. It won't be too long before she becomes another cliche voice.

Passenger is not a cinematic masterpiece or so. Of course, the debutante diretor did commit a few mistakes in terms of lagging the narration at times and creating certain utopian situations. Nevertheless, I choose to have a short term memory loss about that. Just because I genuinely liked the movie, despite these flaws.

I particularly loved the final scene where Satyanathan comes home exhausted after an eventful day of life-risking incidents. Not knowing any of that, his wife checks his bag and shouts for having forgotten to buy tea powder. The plain reaction Satyanathan gives saying "Oh I forgot" with deep undertones of sarcasm and numbness that she, of course, does not understand, was a real cinematic moment, according to me. This movie train rode right into my heart.

And then, there is this mess of a marriage that I went for. For God's sake, Suresh Gopi was the hero! That's the only reason I stretched myself although I had enough clues from the posters that the film is going to be a disaster. And surprises happen rarely with Malayalam movies.

Two event management groups, two brother-in-laws who cannot see eye to eye, a rich girl who is getting married, two prospective bridegrooms, and lots of colour threads all around to indicate Kancheepuram - that is Kancheepurathe Kalyanam in a nutshell.

A helpless Suresh Gopi with a pathetic expression that reads something like "Why are you torturing me?" is seen adorning multiple bright coloured Khadi silk shirts and walking past the frames. A genuine attempt to recreate the look and humour of Thenkasipattanam; but unfortunately, the screenplay has not been penned by Rafi Mecartin. So the result is quite haphazard.

Sorry to say, but Muktha was a total miscast. The character was supposed to be a charming young lady with lots of style and screen presence. But she could not pull it off. Her introductory song was so damn insipid - also because of a lukewarm composition by M. Jayachandran that lacked punch and a predictable picturisation, but more because of her frame that gets lost among group dancers. And the thought that Muktha will end up as Suresh Gopi's pair scared me throughout the movie. No surprises again; that is exactly what happened. Thankfully, there weren't many romantic scenes or songs together. Still, imagine Suresh Gopi tying a Thali to Muktha. For me, the concept of wedding lost its sheen right at that moment.

Jagathy Sreekumar was the only saving grace in the film. The film had an ensemble cast of most comedians of Malayalam; yet nobody except him made me laugh. I cannot understand how he makes a golden twist with his part even if he is in a C grade movie. That is what is called talent I guess. And yes, there is a vibrant teenage girl who is obsessed with Sarath Kumar. Credits said 'Introducing Pooja.' I am guessing that's her. She looked quite promising.

And what can you say about bad editing? Forget it. I don't think I should waste my energy.

Forgettable, formidable and plain frustrating. That is KK.

PS: The only good thing this movie did is remind me of the gem of a movie called Kanchivaram. A masterpiece that I had forgotten to tell you about. That's coming up in my next post!

Monday, 25 May 2009

The High of Media!

The way I ended my last post, I am sure you thought I am hating whatever I am doing at Manorama. That was intended only to confuse you! ;) I meant that driving a car in the rain is a far better proposition to me than sitting in an office. Just that!

So what am I doing right now? An internship! Right when the internship question was popped at the university, I made a note in my mind - manoramaonline.com is where I want to be. It is close to home, ensures exposure to a daring combination of print and new media (my stream for Masters), gives a chance to flaunt my bilingual capabilities - the pluses were obvious. Of course, there were also people in place who could easily get me in. ;)

So when everyone serenaded their way to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, I crept my way further South to this tiny town of Kerala, my home, Kottayam.

And guess what I am doing? Reading, writing and dreaming. In that order. All the magazines that I am a fan of, are available here. I am not going to tell you which they are for risk of destroying any image that you may have of me ;) Okay fine, here is a clue for one of them - think on the lines of f-letter words. Oops, please abstain from the obscene path. Remember? I love films. Enough now. :)

So I read a lot of what I love. Then, how can I not write about all of that? I write at least a couple of articles a day and see smiles blooming on those people's faces who are saved from some work. Need I clarify that it gives me a huge high? Come on, I am a Leo. Very very easy to please. Ego boosts come almost naturally to our breed with the slightest stimulation.

Just imagine how I felt when I saw my first story online, then? Okay, story means just an article and not a 'story' as my mother thought the other day. She read Purushothamanayi Prithvi and innocently asked me "Ithengane kathayavum?" (How can this be a 'story'?)

Anyway, find some more of them below. Disclaimer: These are not creative masterpieces or my magnum opera. They are just stories written to suit the style of cinema and lifestyle sections of manoramaonline.com which is not half as serious as a traditional newspaper would be. All of them are in Malayalam and the site can be viewed only on Internet Explorer.

No, I am not done. Remember, I told you about a third activity called dreaming? My conclusion is that I am best at that one. Gazing at the computer screen, I literally get lost in my thoughts. The other day, I was jobless and was watching an interview of Kavya Madhavan on YouTube. (Thank God, YT is not blocked here like GMail is. Google, I miss you. Freedom is what you gave me!) Apparently, my supervisor was calling me at the top of his voice from a distance of roughly a meter! A colleague had to literally shake me up before I responded finally. My tolerant supervisor thought I was engrossed in the interview. Now, you tell me how engrossed can I get with Kavya Madhavan? With Prithviraj, I can try! ;) Only I know that my mind was lost in some place which I myself have not figured out where.

The concluding note is that I am on a creative high of seeing my articles on a platform of Manorama. As of today, the only downside is that I have been moved from the seat that I adorned for the last two weeks. The guy whose system and chair I was allotted came back from leave. And talk about invading a Leo's space. You will hear a roar! Grr....

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Monsoon has come, so have I!

The other day, one of my cousins was ruthless enough to tell me that he has totally forgotten me. Apparently, the only way he used to remember me was through my posts. Now that the profile is full of dust, I have been reduced to a dusty corner of his memory as well. That's when I realized, I should change the equations!

So here I am, back to the grind. I won't even get to the usual explanation and excuse grind. Three months lost are three months lost. Gone with the wind and the rain too!

Rain! Oh yes, I am at home, the land of letters, latex and lakes enjoying my summer break. Sharada sent me an SMS yesterday calling me a 'lucky one' for being from the land where monsoon originates! I was flattered. Truly, monsoon is monsoon only when it happens in Kerala. It is so effervescent and so omnipresent! Travel from Parassala to Parassinikkadavu on a rainy day and chances are, your car will be rainwashed throughout.

Coming to the monsoon this time, weather experts 'predicted' three days back that monsoon will arrive in Kerala in a week's time. And lo! The rains really had to prove them wrong. It arrived bang on the very next day. Those experts must be sheepishly smiling now, right?

The nature around has suddenly taken a different hue of green. A very dark shade that makes you want to go deep into it and explore the secrets and the stories behind. The brown of dust has gone into oblivion and this mysterious green has completely taken over. Oh, there is a famous smell that people talk about when rains first hit the earth, right? I could not sense it at all mainly because the very first downpour was, well, indeed a heavy downpour! I guess that smell (famously called puthumanninte manam in Malayalam) just melted away in the water. Anyone knows what this smell is called in English? Most times, my vocabulary is just not enough to talk about my God's own country. ;)

A friend of mine is a fan of long drives on rainy days. He keeps telling me how he loves the left-right movement of wipers as the car tries to evade the rain and rush fast. The screech like sound of rubber against glass 'exhilarates' him in his words! I could never fathom his energy as he voiced his wiper mania. But yesterday, I got a taste of the thrill. As I drove after a second show from Kottayam town to my home in Arpookara, I realized that it was the first time I was driving in such torrential rain. Add to it the tension of driving through an almost invisible road in darkness, I was quite on my toes. Plus there is dad by the side nerving me consistently saying “Slow Down” even at 40 kmph.

Nevertheless, it was truly an 'exhilarating' experience. Water is an amazing thing, you see. Even if your skin cannot feel it, it cools you from within. The gush sound, the translucency.. I can feel it as I write about it. It is that magical! When it comes directly from the heavens, in its purest form, it is all the more beautiful. Almost breath-taking.

The feeling of being in a cozy enclosure with an air conditioned breeze to add to the comfort and witnessing the most energetic flow of water right in front of you – I think that's what adds the exhilaration element to drives on a rainy day! Think about it. Just hundred centimeters away, there is a world of water out there waiting to rush in and drench you. It holds a huge suspense within– what if the front glass just breaks off right now? Now, I do think it is a phenomenal space to be in.

But right now, I am in a different air conditioned enclosure which is not so exciting - Manorama Online's office in the Manorama building on K K Road. More from this space, later. :)