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!

1 comment:

SJ said...

Wonderfully written Thariyan, felt like I watched those movies again :) As you said, the beauty of these movies are their simple threads, presented in a more simpler way. Charlie is an exception though, the movie reflects according to the spectator's perspective, Unni R's magic. And not sure if you have noticed this, all these movies, most of their scenes are under dim light. Personally I did not felt anything special about JSR, it dint have that magic element the other movies in this list had. To me, the first MP & charlie brought old lalettan movie feel to me and ustad hotel Tilakan stole the show, he is a loss to the industry. Keep writing!!