27 October 2015
There are hardly any films made where female artists get to be on equal footing with the male protagonists let alone films with female being the lead character so when a director makes a film with to female protagonist with no male with the star value to speak of to accompany them, this by itself becomes a novelty and attracts audiences to the theatre. Director Ashiq Abu takes up this gamble and makes Rani Padmini with his wife Rima Kallingal and Manju Warrier doing the title roles without overtly having any feminist slant.
This is a typical story of two people being at the extreme ends of the spectrum and put together by fate. Here Rani (Rima Kallingal) who is tomboyish and ready to take up cudgels against male or female to prove a point. And Padmini being introverted and docile to the hilt. Rani has grown up in Delhi without any male protection while Padmini grows up in a traditional house hold with her father being a practitioner of aurvedic medicine. She migrates to Delhi after being married to Giri (Jinu Joseph) with Sajitha Madathil playing her mother in law. Giri is a car rally enthusiast and has been the winner of the Great himalayan car rally for the last couple of years.
Giri’s mother had put this thought forward that she was looking for a homely daughter in law so that she has a companion while her son roams around rallying but after marriage Padmini who is a physiotherapist by training and wishes to join a hospital near by. The reaction to which is extreme, Giri signs mutual divorce application at the behest of his mother before leaving to participate in the Himalayan car rally. So Padmini gathers courage and catch us the next bus to Manali which is the starting point of the rally. In the bus she bumps into Rani and from here their adventurous journey through the northern India where money plays an very important role begins.
One thing needs to be emphatically said here is the fact that this film present some of the most enthralling visuals of northern India where snow capped peaks and verdant surroundings are seen to be believed.
As for Rani’s back story she has got into trouble with a self-styled goon who had come into her neighbourhood very recently. And, he is running away from them to save her life.
This film has humour ranging from very subtle to being slapstick in the true sense.
Acting wise both the female guard their space with power house performances. While Manju is presented as having feminine attributes while Rima is shown as having masculine traits. Once she even jokes that they are lesbian lovers and this is their honeymoon trip.
Dileesh Pothan as a malayalam news reporter covering the car rally and Soubin Shahir as his camera man bring the house down a few times.
Finally we can say that Ashiq Abu has given us a real entertainer with Rani Padmini which is not a feminist film per se.
As it appeared in Rediff.
26 September 2015
Life of Jossutty Jeethu Joseph's new venture after the stupendous successes of Drishyam and its Tamil remake Papanasam carried very high expectations. This film starring Dileep is a coming of age story of a young man which is told with a sensitivity that we least expect from a Dileep film and humour is kept at a low boiling point which forces a smile or a chuckle from the viewer.
Josutty (Dileep) is a typical malayali hero who is naive and with a heart of gold and to top it his family is debt ridden with a younger sister yet to be married and another sisters dowry yet to be paid. As a child he wished to be a priest and serve the lord but he falls for the charms of Jessy his neighbour. And as luck would have it this relationship is doomed to be a failure as Jessy's father would not accept an uneducated and a pauper as his daughter's husband. So, he somehow makes Jessy understand the gravity of the situation and she gets married to the man of her father's choice. On the other hand Josutty readies himself to marry a divorced nurse who is working in New Zealand and promises to take his family out of financial trouble.
The rest of the story was expected to be a humorous take on how an uneducated house husband takes in the experiences of being in an alien land. But, the director gives us is a kind of shocking surprise. We not only see the ego battering condition of a house husband has to survive in a foreign land, but also the exploration of the layered man woman relationship without being judgmental. The story by Jayalal Menon’s story does try to hammer down the message that lots of conflict in life can be avoided if we think by being in the person’s shoes. That just feels as a slight glitch if you see the overall impact it delivers.
We even feel that there is an attempt to appease the Star’s fan clubs by inserting a line and there in his voice over narration that induces a few claps from them otherwise Dileep’s performance is subdued and realistic as it could be. In the beginning he does give a feeling that it is one of his typical kinds of films with actors like Noby and Saju Navodaya on his side. But, they depart once he is in New Zealand and here it is Chembil Asokan who takes their place along with Aqsa Bhatt (who is one of the three women in his life).
Rachana Narayanakutty as Jessy appears and disappears once in a while. Her appearance is to provide comic relief as she is pregnant every time she makes an entry. Jyothi Krishna as Rose who appears as Jossutty’s wife impresses depicting a complicated character.
Hareesh Perady as Jossutty’s father gives a moving performance as the character who is idolised by his son.
On the whole, with Life of Josutty director Jeethu Joseph carries on his good form that he showed in Drishyam giving Dileep one of the best character of his acting career.
24 September 2015
The digital technology has made the process of film making so easy that anyone with a decent cell phone and internet connection can claim to be a filmmaker, so, eyebrows are not raised or people do not get shocked when they hear the phrase “I’m going to be a director” as they did in the past. But, veteran actor-director Balachandra Menon would like us to believe that things have not changed and breaking into this field is an arduous thing as it was when he was in his prime. Why else you will have a mother of a daughter on the threshold of her twenties doing a degree in visual communication freaks out when her daughter expresses a desire to be a film maker after completing her graduation.
But this is not story of the young girl trying to break into a male bastion called film direction, it is the story of her middle aged father who on a whim decides that he will direct a film after chucking a cushy job as a bureaucrat in a film corporation.
Basically, this film is just about Balachandra Menon’s observations about the happenings in the industry while he was away. He begins with leading ladies opting to marry and leave the industry at the peak of their career and coming back after a couple of years and seeking divorce. This topic discussed in the television news and chat shows, we see a bank manager named Gayathri making a few progressive points about leading a happy family life where she talks about an individuals freedom inside the marriage, trust , faith and such things. The next thing we see is she conducting a homam at home for her daughter who is adamant to become a film director.
Gayathri is the wife of Krishna Das (Balachandra Menon) who has stayed separately from his wife due to his transferable job. She shows a brave face in public but she is insecure from inside regarding her husband’s lifestyle. She calls him back to advise their daughter against going into films, but he eventually announces that he is going to direct a film. It takes just a little while to convince her and the film gets made in a jiffy . It is praised in the preview for its natural and realist treatment in the previews.
In the second half the attention shifts to the jury of the state awards comprising of Menaka, Renji Panikkar, Vineeth, Ravindran and others. Here we get to see the deliberations, fights, manipulations and such things going on inside the jury and how deserving and meritorious films get discarded for some undeserving and crass works. Here too Balachandra Menon takes the events that have happened in the state award juries in the last few years.
The treatment of this film is tacky to put it mildly it does not have anything. That feels of some substance or having an emotional core making us feel sorry for the director we knew as Balachandra Menon in the past.
23 September 2015
It is believed that tragic love stories have more power to stay in the memory than the successful ones where the lovers walk away into the sunset with their hand in hand. Débutante director R S Vimal seems to be aware of this fact so, he has made a love story inspired by real life yet have ingredients that will make any director rub his hands with glee. It is based in an era when let alone inter religious marriages even talking to your spouse in front of elders was considered a taboo. Now, imagine in such a scenario two rebellious youngsters from different religions not only fall in love but are even adamant to unite come what may.
Ennu Ninte Moideen tells the story of Moideen (Prithviraj) and Kanchanamala (Parvathy), who are family friends till the cupid’s arrow strikes. Moideen is a zealous youth wearing socialist ideals on his sleeves preaching that ‘India is not Indira and Indira is not India’ while his father (Sai Kumar) is a staunch Congressman with an unflinching loyalty towards the Nehru-Gandhi family, which gives the director a chance to have some comical interludes in the beginning.
On the other hand, Kanchanamala is shown to be leading a revolt against hostel management for the disparity in the quality of food given to the students according to their economic status.
As the story moves forwards the intensity of emotions and violence increases making us ask where will all this take us? But, the lovers keep the hope and humour alive in their communication (by whatever means they can).
We see that these two lovers have provided ample fodder for the film makers in the past or is the other way round where director Vimal got influenced by love stories made in the last couple of decades and incorporated them in his screenplay? We cannot be sure of that.
He has claimed that he did not take any cinematic liberties as this story of the lovers in itself was very interesting that it did not require any mending. But, some situations and dialogues mouthed by the stars make it hard to believe the director’s claim maybe that is why they say that fact is stranger than fiction.
Prithviraj does succeed giving Moideen’s character a ‘larger than life’ aura yet displays vulnerability of a lost lover in his private moments. It is difficult say if the character benefitted by the presence of Prithviraj or was it the actor who gained by portraying such a character.
Parvathy does not have to try very hard to make us believe that she the feisty Kanchanamala, be it for her resolve to face the odds in her chosen path or being the girl who is full of life in the beginning.
Jomon T John’s camerawork provides the gloomy ambience for the doomed love story capturing the cloudy sky when the action is outdoors or shooting indoors with pale lightings.
It all make Ennu Ninte Moideen worthwhile effort that we can savour.
03 September 2015
These days we see a lot of young blood being infused in malayalam cinema and it is trying to tweak the formula or to make a new grammar or narrative style that the audience will find novel or refreshing. The youngster Basil Joseph tries to do the same in his début feature film Kunjiramayanam . He has cast the two progenies of actor Sreenivasan namely Vineeth and his brother Dhyan Sreenivasan. It tells the story of fictitious village called Desam. The citizens of this village are dumb and do not take much time to believe in any kind of superstition.
Kunjiraman [Vineeth Sreenivasan] and Lalu [Dhyan Sreenivasan ] are first cousins. Lalu is the son of Well Done Vasu [Mammukoya] who has made his fortune by working in the Gulf. Kunjiraman is his sister’s son, whose marriage is fixed with Vasu’s daughter Thankamani. But a small issue between the boys takes the proportion of a family feud and the marriage is called off. Kunjiraman takes off to Dubai after that. Lalu, who is the apple of Vasu’s eyes is a dimwitted fellow who is finding it difficult to even pass the tenth standard exam even after appearing for it many times.
We see that Kunjiraman’s marriage is fixed with the character played by Srinda. And at the time of engagement the bride to be takes a promise from kunjiraman that he won’t touch alcohol from now on. So, before returning to the call of duty he symbolically breaks a bottle of the brand of alcohol he had started drinking with. But after he has left for the Gulf it comes to light that his favourite drink has become jinxed nobody can bring it into the village. Thus this superstition spreads like wild fire and anyone daring to get it into the village has to face dire consequences.
The unfolding of these events takes a lot of time served with dollops of humour with actors like Aju Varghese, Neeraj Madhav and Deepak Parambol with Dhyan being at the forefront with the sub plots like Lalu’s numerous attempts to succeed in the tenth standard exams and he being under the wings of cut piece Kuttan (Aju Varghese) for learning to stitch garments and essential things in life. And, etching out the characters of cut piece Kuttan and Vasu does take some time.
There are a few inside jokes and subtexts if we give it a thought like the mention of Oru Thundu Padam in Biju Menon’s narration in the beginning, which is the title of a short film that director Basil Joseph had made a few years back. Now, coming to the subtexts, the siblings Vineeth and Dhyan seems to be making a statement for their father Sreenivasan in Malayalam cinema, who was always cast as a sidekick of a good looking hero and became the butt of the joke. Here Vineeth who resembles his father is made smarter, confident and more successful while the good looking Dhyan with his gym toned biceps is made a dimwitted person.
These are the things that keep us interested in proceedings which tend to get repetitive once in a while in an effort to justice to a pantheon of characters. And, we can confidently say that this is the thing that makes Kunjiramayanam a time pass film.
22 August 2015
We had seen a large haul of gold smuggled from the Gulf countries being caught across the airports in Kerala, some time back. There were many conspiracy theories doing rounds, stories of hapless carriers and the names of big fishes doubted to be involved in this precarious business were thrown around. All these things make good fodder for a masala film. And, who better to do it than director Ranjith. So, Loham - The Yellow Metal, written and directed by Ranjith with Mohanlal in the lead carried the heavy burden of expectations being an Onam release. But, sorrily it fails to deliver on those expectations.
We begin with the arrival of human remains of a young man in Karipur airport, this man had died in an accident at a construction site in Dubai. And, none other the local MLA, played by Hareesh Perady had come to the airport to expedite the customs clearance of this body. The back story of the young man portrayed by Musthafa with the Malabar backdrop playing a significant role in it and the song Kanaka Mylanchi that has topped the charts for the last few days featuring here.
Next we see Jayanthi Ramesh (Andrea Jeremiah) landing in Kochi. Here Mohanlal enters as her cab driver Raju, he is talkative and bubbly to the boot. But, she is the silent sort and it is obvious from her body language that something serious is going on in her head. She has come here to find the whereabouts of her husband Ramesh (Ashvin A. Mathew), the customs officer who has gone missing after clearing the dead body of the youth in the Karipur airport a few days back.
Numerous other characters make an appearance as Jayanthi and Raju drive around the city adding to the thickness and the mystery of the plot. It feels as if the director is deliberately on the simmering point in the first half relying on Mohanlal’s comic prowess and we sit expectantly for the narrative to explode with vigour and wit. But, it never comes to the boiling point and the excitement that was anticipated never comes to the fore. Things just fizzle out without providing us any real thrills.
As we go along it is revealed that the coffin of the young man had 100 kilos of gold hidden in it, which has gone missing while the body was delivered at his home. And, everyone around is after that without the distinction of being a good guy or a bad guy. Then there many twist and turns in this tale that are not original or interesting.
There is an endless list of characters making an appearance in the frame and a couple of them like Sasi Kalinga and Shankar Ramakrishnan do not even contribute anything to the plot.
Others like Renji Panicker who is becoming very active as an actor these days appears as a member of Mohanlal’s gang is the only one who shows some spark as an actor, all others in the ensemble cast seem to be going through the motions as instructed.
After testing this Loham we can only say that it lacks glitter and lustre, and is not original at all.
08 August 2015
If re-imagining or recycling an old theme can be called an experimentation then Ayaal Njanalla can be termed as one of the best experiments in the recent times in Malayalam cinema. We have seen lookalikes of superstars used by directors to make spoofs or stories where the dupe of a superstar using his looks to get rich quick or to get out dicey situation. But, here Prakashan the lead character of film played by Fahadh Faasil, a simpleton who had migrated to arid Kutchh from Koyilandy some fifteen years back after failing in his tenth standard exams. And, on a short trip to Bengaluru realises that he has uncanny resemblance to an upcoming star Fahadh Faasil. This may be a rare occasion where a star duping himself.
To begin with; we see Prakashan as formulaic hero of Malayalam films, a simple person with a heart of gold, working hard to stay afloat in the face of financial crisis. He is such a naive fellow who cannot convey his feelings to his lady love. He works in a tyre repairing shop run by his uncle. He does have big dreams of setting up Dhaba there in the future.
The story by Ranjith helmed by actor turned director Vineeth Kumar does have the novelty in the form of the atmospherics o f Gujarat and the way Prakashan looks. He is vulnerable and does not win the kite flying challenge (his entry point into the story) as a typical hero would.
His life goes into further tailspin when his uncle dies in a freak accident and he has to make a short trip to Bengaluru. Prakashan has come here to sell his share of ancestral property in his home town. There is his school friend Arun (Jins Bhaskar) to help him. Apart from using his connections of Malayalis in Bengaluru to help his friend Arun also gives Prakashan a taste of urban life by taking him for an exotic facial and fish pedicure, after that Arun takes him to an upmarket shopping mall to get him a few new dresses, it in a way changes Prakashan's life; here a couple of young girls mistake him for being Fahadh Faasil and request him to pose with him for a selfie.
Till now we had seen Prakashan in a full grown beard and head full of hair and an angelic smile. Now, to cut the long story short the circumstances make him pose as Fahadh Faasil with a clean shaven face and receding hairline for a public function in a women's college, which drags his life into further complications.
There is no denial that there are a few genuinely laughable moments, but on thinking back the situation seems to be far fetched where stars even keep a close watch in the cyberworld to stop people from robbing their identities, here a fake person attends a public function with hundreds of people there and gets out unscathed. The situation is dragged further where Prakashan has to be Fahadh with peppering of humour that is sprinkled by actors like, Sreekumar, Tini Tom, Noby and others.
The resolution of all the problems faced by Prakashan is too simple to be believable where the makers have tried to present a layered narrative that goes beyond just being an ordinary comedy.
So, we can only suggest that you go and see Ayaal Njanalla without high expectations and come out happy.
20 July 2015
In our films we have only that seen love happens, like two people getting attracted towards each other as if there was a magic or some divine intervention. This thing happens only to young people who are still students or young people who are on threshold of entering real life. The rest of the story will be about how they fulfill their destiny of being together for a lifetime after overcoming every hurdle presented by this world.
Writer director Sreebala K Menon attempts to do something different and natural in her first feature film Love 24x7 where two mature adults start liking each other and then discuss how to take their relationship forward, do they like each other enough to make a commitment they would like spend their life together?
The backdrop of this story is a television news channel where everyone is professionally committed but also knowing that their work isn't the ‘be all and end all’ in this world. The director presents the inner workings of a newsroom in a light hearted way. She weaves a love story into the narrative as seamlessly as possible. Roopesh Nambiar (Dileep) is the face of this channel, yet, he is very casual about it. When a new trainee Kabani (Nikhila Vimal) comes in, he rags her in a mild manner, then it goes on to become banter between the two and then a slow brewing romance. Still, this film does not become only the love story of the hero and the heroine, there are other things going on parallel to this. The entry of Dr. Sarayu (Suhasini) is one such thing. She is a friend of Roopesh's mother and his local guardian of sorts, she was widowed at a young age and had to bring up her son single handedly, he has migrated to the US and has a family of his own. She takes Kabani under her wings and the wisdom she provides to Kabani (without being preachy) is immense. Her early widowhood, leading a campanionless life and then the revival of romance of her youth with her college mate played by Sasikumar, becomes fodder for Kabani, and how it subtly changes her and makes her ask her mother if she wishes to have a companion.
All these things makes Love 24x7, a few notches above the typical films made targeting the box-office collections. Here even Dileep’s histrionic instincts of going over the top are curbed, yet he seems to be comfortable in the skin of Roopesh Nambiar. Nikhila Vimal seems to be worthy of the confidence reposed in her by the director.
Suhasini is her charming best throughout, only the guitar in her hand when she is singing Chura Liya feels to be too big for her comfort. Sasikumar’s aristocratic presence adds more depth to the proceedings. Sreenivasan is unduly subdued without his brand of self-deprecatory humour.
Verdict: Love 24x7 is a promising debut by Sreebala K Menon as a filmmaker and it makes us wait for her next outing.
Read Sreebala's interview here.
17 July 2015
Eid is one of the four festive seasons when Malayalam Cinema presents its bounty for the viewers. This year too there are at least four big films slated for release during this period and one of them is Love 24 X 7 starring Dileep and newcomer Nikhila Vimal. It is directed by Sreebala K Menon who is a long time associate of Sathyan Anthikkad, she is also known as a short story writer and a columnist. She has also made her name as short film maker with ventures like Panthibojanam and Journey from Darkness to Light, which won accolades at the first Abilityfest held in Chennai in 2005. Here she talks about her first directorial venture, feelings about being a female director and also about the rigours of being a film maker making her miss the isolated process of writing.
Tell us something about the genesis of Love 24 X 7.
I had started it as a short story in 2013, then as I went forward with it I felt the subject has the scope of being developed as a full fledged script as I was also searching for a subject for a film but it got delayed as the film industry went through a churn as the TV channels became very strict with the satellite rights and the industry virtually came to a standstill.
About Dileep being the leading man as his trademark is lowbrow humour.
I feel that Dileep is a director's actor, a director can mould as he or she wishes. If you see the spectrum of characters that he has handled you can see that, on the one end there is Kathavasheshan (directed by T V Chandran) and at the other end there is Chanthupottu (directed by Lal Jose). He is branded as a hero who excels in lowbrow humour because those are the films that have been most successful. He did take some time to decide to do this film or no but once he came on board he even decided to be a partner in production.
About the others in the cast.
The story is about five characters and Sreenivasan was the first one to read the script and had agreed to do the character I had in mind for him. I had mailed the synopsis of the story to Suhasini Mam and then went to meet her and narrated the script she had agreed on the spot. I also went and met Sasikumar Sir and he also agreed to do the film. It was very comforting for me that all this senior artists stayed with me even after the inordinate delays in the making of the movie.
How was the experience of directing them as most of them are directors and writers?
Most of my cast was technically well versed beginning from Dileep, who started his film career as an assistant director, Sreenivasan Sir, Suhasini Mam, Sasikumar Sir to Siddharth Siva and Shankar Ramakrishnan is an accomplished director. But, they never interfered with my work, if there was anything that was discussed it was the scene to be shot that day as we had discussed the script in detail beforehand. In fact it was an advantage to have such people around who understood the job, so, they gave their best to ease my pressure.
The leading lady played by newcomer Nikhila Vimal.
When I was writing the story I felt a new face would be suitable for the character. Nikhila had played the role of Jayaram's younger sister in Sathyan Sir's Bhagyadevatha where I was an associate, she was a very young girl then studying in eighth or ninth standard. She had also appeared in a programme about Sr. Alphonsa on Shalom TV. We are facebook friends and she had uploaded a few recent pictures there, I liked them and requested her to send me a few more with different looks. I didn't feel that she needs to be auditioned as I had liked what she had done in Bhagyadevatha.
On being a female director…
I think carrying your gender as publicity gimmick are over. Generally, being female director does not make much difference. When I go for a narration to an artist, he or she will see if the story is good or bad and not whether it is narrated by a male or female. The same way a lay viewer does not buy a ticket thinking that this film is directed by a female, he just wants a feeling that his money was well spent in the end. Yes, sometimes it does give a special feeling when I introduce myself as a director.
What would you like to be known as, a writer or a director?
I like to think myself as a writer. I came into films to learn scriptwriting as there was no one outside to teach me. And, as I went along I understood that scripting and direction go hand in hand. The only I miss now is pure writing, there are lot of people depending on you when you are directing a film, so, you cannot seek solitude and peace when an idea strike you. There are lots of stories that have gone unwritten because of this.
Finally, how was the experience of seeing something you had written transform into a visual experience on the big screen?
It was a totally new and marvellous experience for me. Till then I had just seen something I had written in printed or book form. And, seeing that the characters you'd conceived coming alive and uttering the lines you'd written for them. Or the actor getting a totally different meaning from what you had originally thought while writing a seen is unbelievable and I am totally satisfied by it.
*The edited version as it appeared in Rediff. Felt something amiss there, so, posting the whole thing here.
*The edited version as it appeared in Rediff. Felt something amiss there, so, posting the whole thing here.
07 July 2015
18 May 2015
“Well, some people are just weird,” the male protagonist of Lal Jose’s new film Nee-Na utters these words shortly after we are into the story. He may have said it in the spirit that empathising with them without being judgemental will make the world a better place to live or he may have said it out of selfishness as this statement was about one of his supremely talented subordinate who is haughty to the hilt and an alcohol abuser of A+ grade. And, the film goes on to show the turmoil that his accommodative nature brings into his life.
The tagline of this film may say that it is a ‘tale of two women’, but it feels that the hyphen (or the man between the two women) in the title becomes as important as them by the end of this film. Neena (Deepti Sati) and Nalini (Ann Augustine) are poles apart; one detests norms and traditions like poison and the other adheres to them as if they her lifeline. Between them the only common thing is the man they both love; Vinay Panikkar (Vijay Babu). One is a normal housewife who would not mind anything as long as her husband is physically faithful to her, and, the other would go to any extent to charm her man.
In most of the films and TV serials we feel that this story would not be happening if the characters would have spoken their minds out at the right time, there are couple of instances when we feel that here too. But, when we absorb the whole content of the film, these are just minor glitches.
Neena is an alcoholic, this fact overshadows her brilliance as the creative director of the Ad Agency she is working for. Vinay decides to something about it when he becomes her boss. This decision somehow makes his life go upside down. Neena begins to like him and does not refrain from showing it. Thankfully, his wife Nalini is not insecure and does not keep him on a leash. Though she extends an olive branch of friendship to Neena and when she does not get it she just warns her. Things never really get to boil. Sometime we doubt that Vinay is playing along with the girl’s fantasy. But, when things become unbearable, he lets her know that his priority is his wife and his kid. So, he cannot go with her beyond friendship.
As expected, the rejection has devastating effect on Neena and she attempts suicide. When the hospital contacts Vinay, he is informed that his number was found under the title My Man in Neena’s phone. So, he is assumed to be her husband and he does not try to clarify the situation beyond a point even after reaching the hospital. The doctor there suggests that she should be taken to a rehab centre for de-addiction. It is a twenty two day programme where the patient should be accompanied by the spouse or a parent. He comes to understand that Neena’s dad is indisposed with jaundice so he calls Nalini, she just tells him to think rationally and do what he feels right.
The rest of the film goes on to elaborately show the de-addiction process and Vinay himself is de-addicted of Neena’s obsessive love as she comes out of her drunken stupor. In fact, Vinay himself goes through the withdrawal symptoms along with Neena.
A few years ago director Ranjith made Spirit (2012) that showed alcoholism as a social menace. With Nee-Na director Lal Jose tries to analyse the impact of drinking on an individual and the people around that individual, and he does it triumphantly.
21 April 2015
I’m biased to write a review of this film as such because I have known Malini Chib (the inspiration behind this film) for a long time and been her fan even before meeting her in person. She maybe the first person to broach the subject of sexual deprivation among the disabled people in India that too in the mainstream media. And, have read her autobiography One Little Finger just a few months back.
All this made me wait for this film to hit the theatres with bated breath. But, what the film has isn’t her story per se but something really over the top. Here the story about a talented teenager named Laila (Kalki Koechlin), who composes music using her laptop and writes lyrics for her college band. She even goes to the sites that people using computer in the dead of the night are doubted to visit... She is in love with the lead singer of her band while being physically intimate with another wheelchair using person. And, when that wheelchair using person tries to put some sense in her head and tells what she has done to him, she calls him a name that arouse claps from a few members of the audience. We are all for flawed characters with shades of grey, even the ones with disability, but, isn’t this stretching it too far?
Her first heartbreak is treated with subtlety, just a few tears and she crying into her mother’s (Revathy at her stoic best) bosom; “Aai, he doesn’t love me”.
After that the action shifts to New York as Laila gets admission in NYU for a creative writing course. It is here while agitating against the police atrocities towards the African-American people she bumps into Khanum (Sayani Gupta) a Paki-Bangla cross breed who becomes her girlfriend in a while. Who said a film dealing with the sexual curiosity of a disabled girl can’t be politically correct, a lesbian (or gay as Laila calls her) of Indian origin would have been a downer. The next best option was to make her a Paki or even better a Paki-Bangla cross breed.
Same sex relationships are often used to thicken the plot in the stories about disability as there are lots of things running parallel in both of them. They both are marginalised and fighting the battle to be in the mainstream of the society. This point is proven when Laila retorts “you never believed it when the people said it when I was born”, when her mother said that her relationship with Khanum wasn’t normal. It can also be used as a manipulative device to hook the urbanised or western audience like here Laila asks Khanum when did she realise she was a ‘gay’, Khanum says fourteen and goes on to describe how violently her mother reacted when she ‘came out’ to her. She goes on narrate that she was even taken to doctors and psychologists to find a cure as if her sexual orientation was a malady. In Laila says it is wonderful to know who she really is and she is happy to be with Khanum. But, at the same time it is scary too. We as viewers implicitly know why such a piece is set up in the story.
That is not all, Laila even seduces her cute classmate (or did it happen in the spur of the moment is a million dollar question) who had volunteered to help her as a writer. And, her justification to Khanum about this after a long while was “he was ready for it even after seeing me”. Whatever it means...
Unfulfilled dreams and heartbreaks are part and parcel of growing up or of life as a whole and there would trouble ahead if one develops a fiendish attitude towards the things missed. Hope Laila gets into the process of learning that soon.