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!

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