Thursday, October 27, 2016

"New-Gen" Malayalam movies with heart!

I don't write much, but last weekend while I was listening to the Ustad Hotel track (again!), it got me thinking about some of the really well crafted gems that has come from the Malayalam Movie creation fraternity in recent times - gems that had a message to tell, gems that touched me at some level.

You can either hate or love the new-gen genre of Malayalam movies, but cannot ignore  the amazing possibilities it has bought along - new actors (some old actors/support crew re-invented!), new technicians, new writers, new directors, new ideas , endless list of all things that is new, but is still familiar and old.

Not exhaustive, but some great movies with heart. Almost all featuring the new promising talent that Malayalam cinema and us viewers, had the privilege of getting.

(Key Note: I am not a movie reviewer, and there is no particular structure to each, its just in random sequence based on my key takeaways for these movies)

Ustad Hotel

The poster I chose is on purpose - this beautiful movies is as "old meets new" as one can get, starting with the chemistry between the incredible Thilakan (may his soul rest in peace) and the charming boy next door Dulqar Salman.

This is a movie of hope, about the real things that matter in life, all of which is positioned around the theme of food - the core to a Malayalee being a Malayalee! Of course many parts are predictable and centered around some cliche's along with some real incidents (eg. the 2nd half Chennai angle). But, as a package, Ustad Hotel delivers the intended message, without sounding preachy and boring us.

Projects like Operation Sulaimani (spearheaded by the District Collector (Bro!) of Kozhikode, the food capital of Kerala.), are a direct outcome of the movie.

Writing: Of course the 'direction' is critical, but, I believe the backbone is the writing, and boy has Anjali done an amazing job (Manjadikkuru first & Bangalore Days later). Each character and situations neatly crafted into a story that flows well - be it the hardcore traditional muslim set-up and detailing or even the seemingly insignificant poocha kutty (kitten) which has a critical role to play! That is the fine detailing I am in love with. Kudos to Anwar Rasheed for bring it to life in a very meaningful way.

Music: There are Gopi Sunder haters all around. References to him ripping songs etc. But, really, I don't care! Amazing talent, beautiful sounds - one with a spanish-sufi influence, and man, is he the master of background music or what?! Amazing stuff.

As Mamukkoya says about Faizi/Dulqar early on in the movie when Thilakan asks his opinion about him:

"ജീൻസ്‌ ഇട്ട പൂച്ചക്കുട്ടി ഓടി പോകാൻ ആണ് സാധ്യത, പക്ഷെ നിന്ന് കിട്ടായാൽ, ഇവൻ പുലി ആകും "

Aren't we all glad that DQ s/o Mammootty has decided to stay!

Maheshinte Prathikaram

Let's be real - this is a 1 line story. Period. The storyline has a high chance of falling flat when positioned in a pitch to any lead actor. But, Fahad Fazil, the most amazing actor among the new crop, found potential in the 1 line story, and placed trust in the makers! That itself is testimony of the maturity and intelligence of Fahad Fazil.

Casting - Have not seen a more perfectly casted movie in recent times. Don't want to go into Fahad, the actor and risk sounding repetitive! Fahad aside,

  • The dog: As trivial as it may sound, each time I see this movie, I cannot ignore the dog in the movie, the one chained at Mahesh's house and later set free. If you have grown up in a similar setting to Mahesh's house and vicinity, you will know for a fact that, such a dog is a given! The way the dog is chained, the way the dog is fed, what the dog is fed etc is standard. Perfect casting - even the dog is not spared!
  • Aparna Balamurali: Fahad aside, Jincy - what a find! Now we have a great talent who can act natural, and sing as well. Really a natural in the role. No makeup, no pretence, Aparna Balamurali, is just living the role - nothing more nothing less!
  • Alencier Ley Lopez: No one will ever identify Artist Baby by his off screen name! Alencier is a mainstay now in Malayalam movies, and this one role will definitely support his resume! What a natural!. I can laugh non stop just thinking about the mouth to mouth resuscitation "CPR" scene -എൻ്റെ ഐഡിയ ആയിപ്പോയി, നിൻ്റെ ഐഡിയ ആരുന്നേൽ നിന്നെ ഞാൻ കൊന്നേനെ പട്ടി.
  • Saubin Shahir: There is nothing much to say about this guy. He need not say a single dialog, he just has to stand there and we can start laughing! Looking forward to his directorial, Parava.

Marketing: I am a marketing person by profession, so this is one area I am passionate about. Movie marketing has come a long way with the advent of social media, and they are really kicking butt these days. Notable was Bangalore Days promotions, and many others. for eg. There are agencies now, like Iced Tea, who only specialises in movie marketing! These guys did Bangalore Days.

That said Maheshinte Prathikaram did not engage in any of that actively! Apart from all the modest marketing done prior to the movie, the movie caught on much like the low-key "Vellimoonga", based on word of mouth.

But what caught my attention was the clever marketing (or lack of it!) for Jincy's character, who is only shown once for few seconds in the trailer, and no reference to her in any marketing material like pre-release posters! One of the key reveals for anyone who watched the movie in a theatre, had definitely been Jincy! For a new actress like Aparna, that would have been a bummer early on/or even after release, hadn't the movie gone on to become the massive hit it is now!

Story: The story is, like 1 said, 1 line - or maybe 1 picture? Spoiler alert - but the picture below is the story! (kudos to Ashiq Majid, who did this minimalist poster. Him and few others - amazing talent)

There are real meaningful gems spattered throughout the movie - one such is from Mahesh's dad in the movie, who subtly teaches Mahesh (and us) the relevance of the oft forgotten cliche - Work is Worship.

When Mahesh, the photographer, says "കടയിൽ പോകുവാ "
His dad, the founder of "bhavana studio" corrects him saying: "കടയല്ല സ്റ്റുഡിയോ"

Beautiful movie, definitely one with lot of heart. The second movie of any successful-1st-movie- director, I believe, is the real test. So "Thondi Muthalum Driksakshiyum" in 2017 it is - with a title as amazing as this, the movie cannot fail!! Bring it on, Dileesh Pothan!


Lot of arguments around why Dulqar should not have been given the State Award for his performance here - really? whatever! I love this guy. His heart is in the right place and he gives it his best, and that matters, and he deserves an award (and many more) for that!

Like with Ustad Hotel, great old-meets-new moments with the combination scenes Dulqar & the incredible Nedumudi Venu, Kalpana (may her soul rest in peace) - always a treat to watch.

Costumes: Sameera Sanish became even more popular after this probably, but I realise she has been an integral part of costume  even in Ustad Hotel and all the movies I feature in this article! Excellent unique style sense that enhances the characters and the story.

Art: I would say the Charlie Mystery house is a key character in the movie, and the mystique and beauty is thanks to Jayashree Lakshmi Narayanan, the art director. The detailing of the house and surroundings simply breathtaking.

Camera: Words cannot express the way Jomon T John sees the world through his eyes & camera lens. Its breathtaking, and he takes the movie viewing experience to another level - be it Charlie, Moideen (rain is not as beautiful in real!), and the movie I have below this - Jacobs Kingdon of Heaven! I used to be a sucker for Santosh Sivan photography, but now that he doesn't do mainstream movies that much, Jomon is my pick!

Aparna & Parvathy: One with a heavy stage/drama focus, and the other who is already a sensation in Tamil after Maryan! Grouped together because, both are equally passionate about anything they sign-up for. Both get into the skin of any role they do, and give it their all - probably because they do not run from set to set! This maturity is very commendable, keeping in mind, they only have handful of movies behind them.

Saubin Shahir: Ditto as with Maheshinte Pratthikaram! A കള്ളൻ we cannot hate! If such a thief comes to rob, I am sure, the house owner would be quite supportive and help him out!

Great movie - For me, Charlie fell in the same genre of larger-than-life movies, if there was any such genre - i.e same category as devasuram/narasimham/aaram thampuran etc (ofcourse all of these are lalettan movies! love him!). But, the twist here is that the central character is not restricted to the generalizations of the larger than life in the said movies, but is more a do-gooder all the way - and larger-than-life in that aspect. A definite feel good movie, with lot of heart.

Bonus Movie: Jacobinte Swargarajyam

We are all suckers for rags to riches stories. India went to  the oscars with it, thanks to Slumdog Millionnaire. This one from Vineet Sreenivasan is not Slumdog nor is it rags to riches, its more riches to rags to riches! The story of a well to do familyin Dubai, who were at the receiving end of some brutal misdeeds and deception, from trusted partners and the like, and how they overcame all odds - a story that is real, and still unfolding in Dubai & Kerala!

Like with Fahad, Nivin Pauly, is one guy who has proven to go all out if the concept is good, irrespective of whether he is THE central character or not. Like with Mili in the past, even here, Nivin is not "Jacob" the central character (and to start with, the movie was not conceived with Nivin in mind - it was supposed to be Vineet himself doing that roles, until Nivin forced himself into the movie!)


  • Ranji Panicker: Earlier when I mentioned "some old actors re-invented", this extends to people like Ranji Panicker - what a transformation isn't it. From being Shaji Kailas's trusted steed, to totally re-inventing himself by creating a space for himself as an actor, so much so that, we cannot think of any alternate actor who can fit into the character of Jacob - someone, who needs to standout in a crowd, someone with a powerful voice, someone who is fit, someone who is strong!
  • Bhasi: I have seen him for a long time, doing some quirky interviews, singing in between those interviews, doing small gigs in big movies etc. One wouldn't imagine anyone else in that role of Nivin's brother. Kind of the prodigal son, but then, not quite (I hear the real brother is not quite close to this character - but don't we all want some drama!)
  • Lakshmi Ramakrishnan: As the wife of Jacob - again amazing casting, genius and foresight of Vineet, the director. What a transformation of a tamil actress into a malayalee "achayathi" from Dubai! Very believable.
Music: I love teams that Vineet builds and work with, and an integral part of that is Shaan Rahman - the music director with a passion for life and music. Vineet-Shaan duo is like Rahman-Mani Ratnam, where Rahman saves the best for his Mani sir! Similarly, the fact that Shaan is part of the story development much early than the project becomes a project, is a real help in coming up with the most apt songs for the situations. It just falls in place. 

Another great movie, with soul, and close to heart for the director, since he is basing it on people close to him, who are alive.

വാൽകഷണം/Bottom Line

The beauty of my picks and the real twist in the tale is  - there is nothing new-gen about any of these! There is no parallel narration, there is no 3 stories merging into one, or any other definition you would attribute to so called new-gen cinema - not even obscenities in visuals/dialogs & boxer shorts!

These are simple tales, tales of goodness, tales of kindness. Tales told with passion and heart!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Apple and the big cat connection...

Came as a big surprise that Apple announced OS X v10.8 "Mountain Lion" yesterday! It's not even an year post releasing "Lion" (even though they announced Lion in Oct, 2010). This is when I thought I should backtrack a bit on Apple's rather unique OS naming.

Apple's penchant for consistently naming its products after felines dates back to 2001, when they internally codenamed their OS 10.0 as 'Cheetah' in 2001.

Why the code name?

Simple - It's less confusing to remember a name like Lion instead of a number like 10.7, and the fact that these cats look royal and unbeatable!

Here is a chronological look at Apple's big cat (except once!) connection:

2000 - Public Beta (Kodiak)
The codename was that of an animal, but not from the cat family! - Kodiak, a bear found in Alaska.

2001 - Cheetah (10.0)
This remained an internal codename, but the start of the feline naming!
(* internal codename, so no approved Apple images, just the box below)

2001 - Puma (10.1)
This remained an internal codename.
(* internal codename, so no approved Apple images, just a fan boy image below. For your viewing pleasure only)

2002 - Jaguar (10.2)
This remained an internal codename again, but this is when the rage caught on, and Apple considered to take the naming public and do Marketing around it.
(* internal codename, so no approved Apple images, just a box picture. Even that looks grand!)

2003 - Panther (10.3)
The codenames go public. Apple starts marketing around the names.
(*not sure if this one was approved by Steve though, but looks good and the beast looks stunning!)

The OS-CD looked like this:

2004 - Tiger (10.4)
(*Not sure if this is the Steve approved Tiger shot, most probably done by some fan boy,  the animal looks ROYAL!)

The OS CD looked like this:

2006 - Leopard (10.5)
(*Again these do not look like a Steve approved Leopards, most probably done by some fan boy,  but I liked these wall papers!)

The OS-CD looked like this:

2008 - Snow Leopard (10.6)
Note the transition from Leopard to Snow Leopard. Now I'm getting to the Steve approved cat shots! Yeah, he had a big say in the actual pictures and the shots used - as per Adam Lashinsky's, Inside Apple

The CD looks stunning again!
2010 - Lion (10.7)
It's Lion time! And again the actual Lion used is below!

2012 - Mountain Lion (10.8)
I didn't know an animal called Mountain Lion existed, until I read today morning about this new OS announcement (will do another post about what I like about this Mountain Lion - No! not about the animal.). Also, the image below is Apple approved. Would Steve have approved this before he left?

Leopard in 2006 to Snow Leopard in 2008
Lion in 2011 to Mountain Lion in 2012

What will they call the next one?

How many felines are left?  Lynx? Cougar? (both of these had been trademarked earlier, but the TM lapsed)

Apple is super famous and super particular about packaging. Even the boring OS has to be packed up so well! Checkout some of their older packs, from a time when Apple was not kicking real ass:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Apple Press Invites - Over the years!

Apple press invites have amazed me. A week before Apple announces a new product or an update to an existing one, they send out an invite to selected press.

The invites don't tell the whole story, but the rumour mills (who were already on the case) are on it the moment they see it - some predictions turn out correct, most of them wrong. It's more like solving a puzzle, for people who are into that kind of thing, and the fanboys, like me!

Managed to do some online research and pull out some of the press ad's. The one invite that I badly wanted and could not find (if it exists), is the press invite for the iPhone launch in 2007!

Here you go 2003 to 2012 in Apple invites!

2oo3 - iTunes for Windows

Very clearly aimed at the music market, and carrying heavy iPod branding this event was rumoured to be an unveiling of iTunes for Windows, and that’s exactly what it was.
2005 - iPod Nano Launch:
A slim small device that fits in your jeans pocket, but can hold 1000 songs!

2005 - Video Playing iPod 
2nd event same year for the same device, hence 'one more thing', it is video 

2006 - Apple Hi-Fi and a Mac Mini Core Duo
People were expecting what we now know is the iPod Touch and some of the first Intel powered iBooks, but instead they got the Apple Hi-Fi and a Mac Mini Core Duo.

2006 - Films on iTunes from Disney, Pixar etc
Spotlight associated with celebrities, is now on apple!

2006 - Aperture 1.5
This invite was sent out very shortly after the previous invite (“It’s Showtime”, above) and the event was only a week or so later.  There was no mystery at all to this particular event, held at the photokina photography event, and clearly referencing Aperture, everyone knew what was coming.  This was the announcement, and almost immediate release, of Aperture version 1.5.

2007 - Final Cut

Many in the industry hailed some of the Apple products announced at this special event as revolutionary.  The headliners were Final Cut Studio 4 and Final Cut Server. 

2007 - iPod Touch
The cover flow design points at an ipod announcement

2008 - 2nd generation iPod Touch
Invite that looks like the iPod display!

2008 - New Macbooks launch
Yeah the sunbeam reveals a notebook, a NEW one!

2008 - WWDC - iPhone 3G, Snow Leopard etc
The images used in the invite has the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco duplicated and heading to two different locations.  The keynote was similarly split into two.  The first half was concentrated almost entirely around the iPhone SDK and even included a demonstration on stage of a basic application being built.  The second half of the keynote was far more consumer orientated and included the revealing of Mobile Me and the iPhone 3G.

2009 - iTunes got a huge update, the third-gen touch was introduced, the nano got a redesign (complete with a camera) and the shuffle went button-free.
An invite heavily loaded with music hints. Lots of updates on iPod

2010 - iPad launch!
By the time this invite was out, everyone knew it was on its way. But no one knew what to expect. 

2010 - The shuffle got its buttons back, the nano went square, and tiny with a touchscreen and the fourth-gen touch featured cameras.
No text in the invite !. very obvious that it is music, and hence the iPod

2010 - Beatles on iTunes
This ones not for the press, but for the online public that were baffled at this invite for everyone!

2011 - iOS Future
All the app icons inside the logo, boy ain't apple going to talk about all those gazillion apps on the store plus more to come!

2011- iPad 2
March 2 and an iPad going to be revealed. iPad2 indeed!

2011 - OS X Lion
The lion is replacing the snow leopard. Yeah, the iphone is out, the ipad is out, lets get back to the Mac!

2011 - iPhone 4S
'Lets talk' bit turned out to be Siri!!. The evnt is on the 4th. The time is 10 am. The location is interstate 280 - Cupertino apple HQ!! Marvellous!

2012 - iBook Author Text Books on iPad
The creative is done like chalk writing on a black board to signify class room and hence Education related; the evnt is at NY, hence the 'big apple'!

2012 - Amsterdam Apple Retail Store Opening

The three stacked logos and the orange color are plays on the official logo for the city of Amsterdam and the official colors. 

The flag of Amsterdam is the official flag for Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands. The current design of the flag depicts three Saint Andrew's Crosses  and is based on the escutcheon in the coat of arms of Amsterdam

(official logo for the city of Amsterdam)
(flag of Amsterdam)

Can't wait for the iPad 3 (or is it 2S) invite!

And the wait is up ladies & gentlemen, the 'new' iPad announcement invite is out.

2012 - 'new' iPad
Apple does it yet again, the invite is as confusing as its predecessors! 

Yeah, it clearly shows the date of the event, March 7, but the keynote icon & the maps icon are bit confusing, if you are not the straight-thinking kind!

It could just mean that the event is a keynote presentation on the 7th of March somewhere around HQ or it could mean (apart from the new display) that they are making some major announcement dealing with the location based 'maps' app, thanks to some recent related acquisitions. And what is this about 'see' & 'touch'. 'See' is display resolution, but 'touch'?? What about it?

Lets wait and see!


So what was it? The new iPad indeed. What it was all about was best captured by 
M G Siegler from Tech Crunch:

It’s sort of funny that the only major thing those in the rumor business got wrong was the name of the new iPad. It’s not the previously presumed “iPad 3, nor is it the “iPad HD”. It’s just the iPad. And that’s what it will be from now on.

This was surprising because our expectations were set for a new name. But it really shouldn’t be all that surprising. My iMac is not the “iMac 11. My MacBook Air is not the “MacBook Air 4. The iPod line changes, but the name remains the same. This will undoubtedly happen to the iPhone line as well. Just as the spec is dying (more than partially ushered to the grave by Apple), the ascending number naming race is dying too. It’s about simplicity.

Apple can pull this off because they have so few products and they’re in complete control of all of them. Their software isn’t licensed to other OEMs. The iPad doesn’t have to be called the “iPad 3X HD S” just to beat the “iPad 3X Turbo” made by a competitor. There are no real competitors. Not yet, anyway. The naked “iPad” name alone is enough to win.

Monday, September 24, 2007

IF - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling