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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Sep 30, 2017

Tiyaan

What the heck is Tiyaan? 

Murali Gopy must have started off with an honorable intention of exposing fake religious gurus and their charades in the name of religion. To that end, he even played the evil mastermind god man and wrote the story placing a mirror on the 1990s infamous Babri Masjid demolition.

The result should have been - after watching Tiyaan, all of us movie-goers coming out movie hall, spitting and fuming at the religious charlatans who had been deceiving us for so long and the worst-hit (by the message of the movie) among us turning into resolute atheists.

We came out spitting and fuming alright, but not for the reason intended by the script, the story or the director - Jiyen Krishnakumar. The lofty ambition of the film has been marred by glaring mis-steps and outlandish lead characters incongruously propped up like towering, flimsy flex posters.

The dialog gives off the feel of an exaggerated play of shadow puppetry enacted by ginormous cut-outs of actors with  stupendous names (e.g: Pattabhirama Giri, Aslan Mohammad, Mahashay Bhagwan) getting preachy in arcane tongues. So we the audience came out infuriated, searching for words. What the heck did we just watch? What was Murali Gopy thinking? Left, right, left, then straight down the garbage chute?

Tiyaan wants to make us socially aware and rally against pretenders of all kinds - religious, political, commercial or the one next door- your double crosser of a neighbor. But these messages are mutilated on delivery coming out of the mouths of characters with unconvincing back stories.

The film lost me at the moment Pattabhirama Giri (Indrajith) pulled out his brahmanical sacred thread as something more powerful than an AK 47 in the event of an attack by Hindu nationalists. Though in the very next scenes it was illustrated that Brahmanism is no superhero cape, even those couple of scenes could not escape the under currents of caste-ism and patriarchy omnipresent in the film. The movie breaks it back under the weight of heavy symbolism it is girdled by. The glue that was supposed to hold it together was Hindu - Muslim brotherly love, to the extent that real life brothers Indrajith and Prithviraj Sukumaran play the representatives of the two religions, a la brother from another mother.

Prithviraj's character Aslan Mohammad is the first born-again Hindu in the history of Malayalam cinema. The character is permitted to keep the religion he was born into (Islam) by his yogic baptizers. By now it is an established fact in Malayalam cinema that even those who have conquered all the senses go senseless in front of Prithviraj's charisma.

The directors and cinematographers are no match for Prithviraj's universal allure. Jiyen Krishnakumar, a directorial newbie does not even stand a chance. Every once in a while, the protector Prithviraj playing Aslan is placed as an arresting subject in sweeping frames featuring high Himalayan passes. He is seen sending out his calming gaze over the landscape, while strictly observing the rule of thirds. Other than these frames, I could find nothing arresting about the film. I do not know how people who are not Prithviraj fans (unlike me) survived this movie ?!

One unintended comical scene that caught my attention was when Aslan parted ways with his semi-nude saviors in the high Himalayas (location: go to Rohtang Pass and hang a right) with a Nama Shivaya , his dread-locked yogi friends retorted with Aslam Alaikum! Then both groups drew crosses and went in separate directions to the save the world. That is the inter-religious super glue I am talking about - didn't work for me, maybe it worked at the box office? (Ok, I added that last part about the crosses, couldn't resist the temptation. Which brings to mind that Christians are notably absent in the film, maybe because it takes place in the Northern Indian heart land where there is not a significant population of Christians? Yet this being a message-laden film which even goes back to a 14th century battle for particularly no reason, adding a few Christians in the mix would have hardly been a noticeable offense.)








Sep 29, 2017

Ayal Sasi

Sreenivasan looks like a terminally ill patient in the film, 'Ayaal Sasi', where he plays the protagonist in his last lap of life. His physique or the lack of it almost convinced me that director scouted for an actor who was indeed sick and made him the hero. But I couldn't have been further from the truth - Sreenivasan supposedly lost 15 kgs for this movie by sticking to a leaner diet. Salud! Sreenivasan, that speaks of quite a commitment.


Sasi is a human looking glass, perched to reflect and respond to the prejudices and vacuousness of society and the narrow-mindedness of religious groups. He is also depicted as someone who has a fondness for superfluity. Sreenivasan has tried to affect an air of detachment as a spacey artist floating by in an alcohol induced haze on the fringes of society.


I do not how box-office responded to story of an ailing frivolous artist and his run-ins with religion and greedy relatives. This is the kind of subject Sreenivasan excelled in as a writer. I wish it was his pen that wrote the script for this movie which could have unearthed many humorous possibilities, but at least they cast the right actor as Sasi.

Sep 9, 2017

CIA - Comrade in America movie review

Comrade in America (CIA) is a feather-light film drifting across borders, told through stories and lives it flits through on its way to the destination - a defined terminal point in a present day utopia (this promised land's promise is highly debatable these days, the film recognizes that.) 

The movie also features one of the most pumped-up entries for any young star I've watched recently in any movie in any language - the beat, the music, the rap, the Molotov cocktail, the blazing fires, the resolute red flag in the ascendant and of course the assured slow motion accompanying the grand entry of Dulqar Salman - if the youth of the nation does not fall for this, I do not know what else they will fall for.

For Dulqar Salman, playing the protagonist - a young communist Aji Mathew, it is love that shines as a beacon on a distant shore. He scorns the idea of visas, distances and border walls in a way only foolish and impulsive twenty somethings in love can. It only seems natural that being a bona-fide communist Aji should have routine midnight conversations about his love life with his three trusted, official mentors - Marx, Lenin and Che (pretty good lookalikes for a Malayalam movie.)

If you can look beyond the foolhardiness of the central character and forgive Amal Neerad, the director for building a movie around such an inane cause, the film in fact is enjoyable with its sprightly dialogs, interesting vistas, well crafted side characters and informative like a memoir documentary.

Kudos to the director and team in attempting a subject - U.S (southern) border crossing in an Indian regional language film. It is also the first film, international or otherwise, that I have watched recently, dedicated to all refugees from all over the world. With refugee crisis holding center stage in the news I am sure there will be more and there should be more, but glad to have seen it first in a Malayalam movie.

The film rides on the star power of Dulqar Salman with good support from Siddique, Dileesh Pothan, Soubin Shahir, Parvathy, Jinu Joseph and new comer Karthika Murali. The only character that felt out of place was the Malayali girl with an unconvincing story who turns up in the U.S-Mexican border crossing group, named Pallavi played by Chandini Sreedharan - not to reflect adversely on Chandini's acting skills. Pallavi's grand father might have been the Malayali who had that tea-shop on the Moon when Armstrong made the giant leap for mankind and was (tricked into) thinking he was the first man on the Moon. Then again I can understand the director and writer's justification of allowing our handsome, charismatic hero an incidental female crutch, if the movie had to be a commercial success 😊 - which it was.

Sep 8, 2017

Achayans


Achayans is a loud movie - both literally and figuratively with a multi-star cast headed by Jayaram. To keep things interesting beyond the antics of the four Achayans (informal usage to reference a group of Malayali Christian men) made up of Jayaram, Unni Mukundan, Adil Ibrahim and Sanju Sivaram, the movie also tries its hand at being a crime thriller. 

The 'crime' excuse is used to bring in Prakash Raj as the newest avatar of astute South Indian detective. Brainiac cops in South Indian movies usually make their entries, exits and other perambulatory exercises to the background roar of Vedic chants while fingering their sacred thread (worn diagonally across the torso.) The thread-fingering is to reinforce the notion of the intelligent "Brahmin", the most intelligent and venerated of all castes - therefore excellent detective material, in case the audience were tone-deaf and missed out on the suggestive accompaniment of decibel shattering Sanskrit howling.
Another issue I have with Kannan Thamarakkulam (director of this 'epic') is the extreme distortion of his lead female characters.  The world of women in Thamarakkulam's head is a house of mirrors. Every time he needs inspiration for a female lead, he peers into this carnival attraction in his head and comes out with gruesome caricatures of women reflected on its mirrored walls. Achayan's has Amala Paul's Reetha Fernandez - a closet lesbian(?) caricatured to literal perfection with an askew wig, ill fitting jeans and operating in a perpetual pissed-off mode as dictated by the script and director's understanding of the said category of women.
Now that I think about it, the entire movie is a burlesque platitude, a rehash of rehashes. There are not many moderate characters nor is there anything new, but there is a pleasant surprise - Jayaram. In this melee of over-acting and contrived ruckus, this improved version of Jayaram comfortably sporting his natural grey hair and exuding confidence without overdoing it, offer tiny breaks when we audience can ease off on our hyperventilation.