Sunday, February 14, 2016

35mm: Maheshinte Prathikaaram

Spoilers ahead...

  In the class room scene from the trailer, Mahesh’s friend asks him to name the girl he likes the most in their class. Mahesh whispers back “Soumya”, which the friend promptly shouts to the teacher. It’s actually a big moment because that’s sort of a proposal scene. The teacher, who I guess, is an ‘extra’ actor, turns back and gives a disgruntled look before proceeding to ‘punish’ Mahesh. That look given by the teacher, a ‘barely 2second’ shot, in a frame where almost the entire class is shown, can be used to surmise the experience of the movie for me. Such fine care to the details, besides the obvious good work in all the departments, is what makes Maheshinte Prathikaaram, one of the best feel – good, underdog movies in Malayalam!

To paraphrase from the wiki plot summary - “A seemingly trivial incident catapult into various events which will culminate in a fight with Mahesh Bhavana and some strangers. He then takes a pledge that he will only wear his slippers after he fights back.” And the hilarious, rich  in local- milieu, well directed sequence from the ‘trivial incident’ of Mahesh being a bit early to a funeral and asked to have a banana while he waits, to the ‘fight’ with strangers in Prakash kavala is more than worth the ticket money. It can’t really be called a fight. It’s more of a thrashing. Mahesh is just an ordinary regular guy, who has never even ‘raised his voice to anyone’ kind of person, who gets embarrassingly beaten up by a stranger. The stranger, the very effective Sujith Shankar, oh, how I wanted to beat the pulp out of him! It worked on multiple levels. We feel for Mahesh, but also, we hate the villain!

Mahesh’s woes don’t end there. His long time girlfriend, Soumya, would dump him for an alliance from a nurse working in Canada. Again more of the details - when this suitor meets her for the first time, he would talk to her mainly in English. After all, first impression is the best. Then later, after their wedding reception, he would be shown washing his hands and at that unguarded moment, when nobody is watching him, when there is nobody for him to impress, he brushes his teeth with his finger. Canada or not, a localite after all!

Mahesh seething for revenge get the details about Jimson, his sworn enemy, only to miss him by a day before he left abroad for a job. He can just set aside the entire incident and just continue his daily life. But Mahesh, newly single, with no passion for his job as a photographer, wants to win something. He has the right mentality to face up to his opponent, but to strengthen his ‘technique’ he enrolls for a Kung fu class in town. Why not hit the gym instead? As Master tells Vijilesh, Kung fu is a defensive martial art and not for beating up people. But Vijilesh lacks even basic courage to stand up to a guy. His problem with an auto driver, who is in fact one of Jimson’s friend, could have been solved just by confronting him and talking straight. This is evident from the auto drivers meek surrender when later, Vijilesh uses his Kung fu skills on him. But what Vijilesh lacks in courage and attitude, Mahesh packs in plenty. But his opponent is an ‘experienced’ rowdy. Just courage and attitude won’t do. Mahesh necessarily might not know Kung fu is a defensive martial form. But in a small town that might be the only option.

A good, hard working, sincere person should have his share of good fortune amidst all the troubles and Mahesh would find love, and not in any random girl. But in Jimson’s sister, Jimsy! But not before, finding love in his job first. Mahesh at the start of the story is a photographer because he inherited his father’s studio or as he called it, a shop. He believes a good photo is all about getting the subject in the frame and then playing with editing software - lowering opacity, applying dodge, smudge and then sharpening. Jimsy questioning his credentials as a photographer leads him to reassess his profession and to become better at that and more importantly to enjoy his work. Aparna Balamurali as the strong willed, smart Jimsy is a revelation or as Crispin (Soubin Shahir) puts it, pennu mass aanu!

Mahesh finally gets his chance for revenge, when Jimson returns home, having fought with his supervisor. Accompanied by thumping background music, a single - take shot of Mahesh walking up to Jimson through a ground where many are playing different games leads up to the climax fight. True to his Kung fu training, though Mahesh is not able to land a single proper punch, he blocks many and wriggles out of tough positions, to finally lock Jimson down. It’s not just Mahesh who wins. But every single one of us, with him.

Not just names like Jimson and Jimsy, which are typical middle class Christian names, but every character and their circumstances, feel so relatable. Every actor from the leads, to the extras and even Mahesh’s pet dog has done a great job! Thank you Dileesh Pothan and Syam Pushkaran for this beautiful movie! Idukki never looked so beautiful and inviting. And for me, its shoulder down, chin up, eyes open and re-watch.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

35mm: Terminator Genisys

Many years ago, when I was not yet in high school, I saw Terminator 2: the judgment day on TV. I didn’t know who James Cameron was but had heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Didn’t know how to pronounce correctly though.) He and Tom Cruise being the only Hollywood stars, me or my friends knew of till then. Then the movie happened! That was the best action movie I had seen till then. Nearly fifteen years later, it is still one of my favourites.

Terminator Genisys is not a bad movie. But as with any franchise movie, it bears the pressure of being compared to its predecessors. Compared to the ones after Judgment day, Genisys fares pretty well. But quite not enough. The best thing is that Arnie is back. As he puts it – old but not obsolete. Better machines/models with upgraded, refined powers have come. But no matter what, how many beatings he take, he will save the day! Writers have taken a quantum leap of logic to explain his aged look, relating it to his ‘living tissue over metal endoskeleton’ bearing the brunt of time! I wonder how the ‘living tissue’ is being fed. Terminator is the perfect role for Armies’ acting skills. He plays a machine. So absolutely no need to emote!

Judgment day was based on a complex premise. Machines vs man in the future, time travel etc etc. But basically it remains a very very simple plot. A good guy protects a weaker (read humans) kid and his mother, from a much powerful bad guy. The biggest problem with Genisys is that it’s anything but simple. And what is even worse is that there is nothing much new about the villains, provided no major change is possible for Armies’ character. So there is time travel, shape shifting terminators, altered time lines, cryptic warnings, nano machine hybrids, all thrown in to make it more complicated and a bit confusing. CGI is great. But then nowadays every other big budget action movie has great CGI.

Terminator is protecting Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and she calls him ‘Pops’! Terminator in turn goes Chappie and draws pictures of them together and keeps photos and all. Desperate attempts to tug that emotional cord with the audience. Emilia is great but it’s hard not to see her as the Khaleesi of The Game of Thrones and we kind of expect a dragon to pop in when she gets into a situation, and feel that would have been much more fun!

Genisys is fast paced, action packed with reasonably good writing. A good entertainer. But its place in my heart would only be till the next big action movie hit the screens.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

35mm: Kaaka Muttai

Whenever I go for a movie with great expectations, even if it turns out to be reasonably good, I won’t usually be satisfied. But Kaaka Muttai is no such movie. Go in with great expectations and it will deliver a lot more. (Well I should warn it’s no typical mass pot boiler as well.) it has a simple plot of two young brothers from a Chennai slum and their desire to eat pizza. But it’s actually an allegory of the disparity between the affluent and the poor in our society.

The film is all light hearted and feel - good and witty on the surface but it pivots around the serious issue of class divide. The rich throwing their influence and money around for further advancements of their interests, wily politicians and their cunningness to exploit both the rich and the poor according to how the situation suits them, the poor and their hardships with no chance of any advancement, the media with its penchant for sensationalizing any news, it’s all very well depicted.

There is a scene where the brothers, who unassuming to them are in the middle of a media/social storm, walk by a TV reporter covering about them, are shooed away from getting in the ‘frame’ of the shoot. The message is not emphasized upon. But it gets through clearly.

Vignesh and Ramesh who play the lead characters.. how can they act so well? Iyshwarya who plays the kids mother, have given a performance that could shame any established star. And what a directorial debut by Manikandan! He is a name to look forward to.

It was heartening to see subtitles being played in a theater in Kottayam. The film having had a run in the festival circuit before its mainstream release might have had something to do with it. Subtitles would only bring in more crowd to theaters and I don’t understand why regional movies don’t use them.

Beautifully shot, very well written, Kaaka Muttai is definitely worth a visit to the theater.

Friday, June 5, 2015

OST, Where art thou?

The movie Premam is amassing both critical and mass appeal. I was sent a recording from the theater, of a particular piece of music played in the movie, over whatsapp. It’s an incredibly beautiful piece of music. It corresponds with the character Malar in the movie. The piece evokes the romance, the desire, the loss associated with Malar. Rajesh Murugesan! Thank you!

I wonder how a music director feels after creating such a beautiful piece of art! Truly blessed they are! I have been listening to the said piece on loop in spite of it being a recording from inside the movie hall. Am hoping the producers would release an official version of the tune soon.

Background music plays a really really important role in setting the mood and tone of the film. But very few tones make it to the music CD. Even A R Rahman’s bgm scores, in spite of them being acclaimed over the years, don’t make it to the CD. Mostly one tune, named ‘theme’, would be released but the others remain just as background to the main movie. Many fans rip these bgms from the movie DVDs and post it online and cater to the satiety of technologically inept music lovers like me.

But these pieces of music deserve more respect. It deserves to find an audience as complete works than as ‘dialogue fillers’. Hollywood movies release such tunes as part of their soundtrack. Well, of course they don’t have original songs like our movies do. But even our movies should release them. If releasing as part of the music CD is not feasible then at least online. The music director deserves that. The music deserves that.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Short story: The Pillion ride.

The movie was to start in half hour. It is late evening and street lights have just been turned on. I had just started from my room. I had to walk nearly 2 kilometers from my home to reach the bus stop. From there it would take another half hour by bus to reach the movie hall. My friend called me from the movie hall and calmly told me that he won’t bother coming out of the movie to give me ticket if I was late. I increased my pace. As always, when in a hurry, I felt, I forgot something. I checked my pants pockets.
Wallet! Check.
Mobile! Check.
House keys! Check.
Oh wait! Did I lock the front door? I pressed the rewind button in my mind. I saw myself coming out of the shower, tripping while trying to put the pants on and to comb my hair simultaneously, grabbing the keys from the holder and .. Blank. Damn! Just the part I want to remember would get erased from my memory. What are the odds somebody would try to steal on that one day when you forget to lock the door? Aahh, I will take the risk. Well, it’s a Mohan lal movie and I don’t want to miss any part. Especially, his introduction scene! That’s after all the priority. I consoled myself thinking that locking the door after grabbing the key would be part of my muscle memory by now and I should have locked the door.
It was getting darker with each step I took. My leg muscles seemed to be pissed at having asked to work so soon after cooling down in the shower and protested by small twitches, making it harder to walk fast. Crickets were singing away without any inhibitions. I was hoping for some auto rickshaws to pass by. They never come when you need them!
I kept checking my watch, though I couldn’t make out the dial in the dim street light. What’s the deal with these street lights anyway? They are placed at an interval of 100 to 150 meters and their light is powerful enough to just throw a halo around the bulb. And some bulbs have not been working for a long time. Scores of insects are merrily flying around each bulb. Wait, so, this could be the actual purpose of street lights. To distract the flies from the headlights of two -wheelers’ and thus to save a motorist, from in turn, getting distracted by these insects, smudging on to their faces, when they are riding by. Hmm.. I should tell this to someone.
Just then I heard the distinctive sound of a Bajaj Chetak scooter from a distance. Oh, it could be that guy who lives near the bus stop. He is a veterinarian. He has got very curly hair and sports a thick mustache. Crap, what was his name? I have exchanged smiles many times when he has passed by my home. I have seen him wait for the school bus with his kids in the bus stop when I used to ride my cycle to school. We have attended marriage receptions of neighbours’ and have exchanged pleasantries. Though not ‘immediate’, he is kind-of-a-neighbour. And in a village like mine, everyone is supposed to know everyone.
The scooter was getting nearer and nearer. He still had his lights on ’bright’ and it was flashing on to my eyes. I couldn’t really make out his face. But could see the outline of the helmet he was wearing. I waved my hand as a plea for a ‘lift’. He slowed down and stopped a bit ahead of where I was standing.
“Are you going by the bus stop? Can you drop me there? I need to catch a bus to the town.”
He didn’t take off his helmet. But he turned his face to me. “Sure sure. Hop on.”
My eyes were still sore from the glare of the bright light. So I smiled in gratitude to the area where I presumed his eyes would be.
“Thanks a lot. I’m in a rush and no autos were passing by.”I spoke loudly as I was sitting behind him. I thought he didn’t hear it over the helmet but then he nodded. He resumed his driving and I looked at my watch but couldn’t make out the time. It would take at least five minutes to reach the bus stop. I was thinking whether I should talk to him. Wouldn’t it be rude if I don’t? After all he stopped because he recognized me. I still couldn’t remember his name.
“So, are you getting back home?” I asked. Yes, pretty lame since he is going in the direction of bus stop which is near his home. But it’s better than the awkward silence.
“No, am going to the medical store. “He said and I noticed a distinct hoarseness in his voice. So that’s why I couldn’t place his voice.
Since am going to medical school and I guess he would know that, I thought it’s an obligation to give my opinion. “Yeah, your voice is hoarse. How long has it been this way?”
“Three – four days. I thought it would get better by its own. But it’s not improving”
I have been in such situations before, where I should not talk like a lay man but give a reply worthy of a med student and non committal enough, to not name a drug. “You should take saline gargles and drink only hot water. You know. They say, if you take medicines, you will get better in 7 days and if you don’t, then in a week”. I sat back and straightened my back, smiling and admiring my own ‘coolness’ quotient. He just nodded his head and gave an ‘audible’ smile.
Again the silence! It would take another five more minutes to get to the bus stop. “So.. How are your children?” I asked, in want of any topic to have a conversation. I really don’t know his kids. I have seen them with him but never really noticed. I was wondering if he had two or three kids, when he replied “she is fine. Exams are starting next week. So, busy with that.”
Most of the middle aged people, I have noticed, have their calendar based on their children’s academic schedule. And they tend to expect everybody else they meet to follow the same. Since I am now in college, it’s a different case. I don’t even know what month it is now. Or even what day of the week!
“My neighbour, Mr.Gopal, he have wanted to meet you. Something about his cows and the dung colour bein-“
“Do you recognize me? I live near the bakery”, he said interrupting me.
“Yeah, yeah. I know you. What a question? How many times have we met!” I said laughing. Many ask this the first time they meet me after a long time like when I come home for vacation. They know I haven’t ‘forgotten’ them, but they still ask anyway. “But are you staying near the bakery?”
“I moved there, like, few months back. I was in the north”, he replies. North! What does he mean north?
We turn a corner and I can see the bus stop. There are a couple of people waiting. He slows the scooter and stops it near the waiting shed. I get down and look at my watch. I have plenty of time left and wouldn’t have to hurry anymore. I smiles at him and thank him. He takes off his helmet and a bearded man smiles back at me. “I shall see you around” he says. I have never seen this man before. He puts his helmet back on while I look at him with my mouth gaping at him. He rides away and I can hear a bus honking to let us know its imminent arrival.

This content is published at 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

35mm: Ennum Eppozhum

                                                              Ennum Eppozhum

As we come out of the movie, we would feel the title refers to the actor director-combination. Mohan lal - Sathyan Anthikad combo has always churned out memorable movies. This one is not one of their best outings but delivers most of what the ‘brand’ promises.

Mohan lal as usual has given a superlative performance. His impeccable comic timing, screen presence exuding grace and charm, we malayaalees are indeed lucky to have him. Though the story revolves around Manju Warrier’s character, her role doesn't have enough meaty situations to bring out her best.

Sathyan Anthikad’s world is full of ‘basically good’ people. There are no evil characters. Flawed, yes. But never outright evil. So it was kind of surprising to see the buildup given for THE  villain. I even had a couple of names in my head as to who would play that role. But then who am I kidding! The villain is given a name and just looms in the background as the epitome of all evil and never shows up. Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. It did sync well with the general feel of the movie.

The turn of events seem a lot contrived and the characters very much clich├ęd and not that well written. But Lalettan's histrionics and the general feel goodness makes it worth a watch.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year Sister..

I was reading a news paper report of the uber rape victim in Delhi, speaking up about the incident. She laments that in spite of the hue and cry made all over the country after the Nirbhaya case, nothing much has changed. And it is indeed ironic that the driver threatened to use an iron rod on her!

She has returned to work and she says her office and her colleagues have been supportive. I really admire her courage to report the incident immediately after such a traumatic experience and her spirit to stand up to rape. Many people had commented on this article. Many admired her and her family’s courage and spirit. Many were blaming the government, politicians, migrant workers, humanity and many other things. Many said they support her and sympathize with her.

But do we really? It’s very easy to ‘support’ and empathize within the anonymous confines of a virtual world. How will I treat my colleague when she returns to work? Will I go out on a date with a girl after knowing she was once raped? Or will I seriously consider a proposal for alliance from such a girl that comes to me through the great Indian institution of arranged marriage?

It’s extremely necessary to prevent such heinous crimes. It’s equally human and our responsibility to respect the victim and to make her feel safer.

It’s another new year. But how many more till this is a better place for women?