26 April 2016


Director Ranjith had announced Leela based on a short story by Unni R long back, after that names of many actors did rounds to play the main lead, a complex character named Kuttiyappan. But, the project took off the ground only recently with Biju Menon (an actor who has created a niche for himself playing the comic second lead). It seemed to be a curious choice as the story on which it is based on is of serious nature and provided very little cinematic scope. Then the trailers came out, they convinced us that it is more of a Biju Menon film than a film inspired by Unni’s story or a film directed by Ranjith.

Here Kuttiyappan (Biju Menon) makes an entry on horseback with a cowboy hat and all the paraphernalia, in the town centre in the middle of the night. This ingenious choice of transport is to avoid blowing into the breath analyser that cops put in front of you and being booked for drunk driving. This sets the tone for things to come.

Kuttiyappan is a scion of a rich plantation family of Kottayam. He is single and can throw wads of currency notes to get whatever he wishes to have and that includes call girls from all round the State. He has an ageing lady as domestic help and Pillechan (Vijayaraghavan) as his mate. He is a typical hero who looks lecherous from outside and golden hearted inside as he does not take advantage of a female who was compelled to enter the flesh trade. He even finds a respectable job for her.

These are the facts about Kuttiyappan’s character. But, the core of the story is Kuttiyappan wanting to fulfil one of his sexual fantasies that involves an elephant. For this he goes on a search of an elephant owner who would spare an elephant for an hour or so. And, he would also need a courageous lady to accompany him near the animal, lean on its tusk and engage in an act of love with our man. Such a scenario can be crisply explained in a short story. And, we can put it aside with a smile or a grimace on our faces as per our temperament. On the other hand, in cinema it should be acceptable to a wider audience so, it should be wrapped in something glitzy; here it is Biju Menon, every second line he utters is laced with humour and he does have an opinion on everything, be it the politics, religion or the dignity deserved by sex workers who are the true socialists in his opinion. All these utterances does make us wonder whether these lines were fed to him by the writer Unni or was he expressing the thoughts of the director as he does not seem to have the depth to contemplate about such things.

Kuttiyappan is new-gen feudal Themmadi, not as harsh as the original one Mangalassery Neelakantan created by Ranjith himself for Devasuram (1993). The new-gen one roams around in shorts and sleeveless vests when he is home. He has tattooed biceps, yet he does not let us forget that we are watching Biju Menon act and the trademark one-liners keep coming thick and fast. Vijayaraghavan who acts as the hunchbacked and the ageing mate of Kuttiyappan. His father was the caretaker of Kuttiyappan’s household and his wife accuses him of carrying on with that servility in this generation and he does impress us doing that. Jagadeesh is another actor who surprises by taking up a cameo that we could never imagine he would be fit for.

The females make just fleeting appearances as if they are punctuation marks amidst sentences, telling us that things would have been messier if they were absent from the scene. Be it Parvathy Nambiar donning the title role or be it Pillechan’s wife played by Parvathy Sr. do leave an impression.

Leela may carry the buzz that it deals with a controversial subject, but if a band of moral police or a family with children go in expecting another comic caper from Biju Menon in the vacation time; both sets of people will come out happy finding nothing objectionable in the film.

So, you can safely that Leela is not an adaptation of a bold story by Unni R or even a piece of Ranjith cinema, but just a film catering to Biju Menon fans.

As it appeared in Rediff.

29 March 2016


Siddharth (Dulquer Salmaan) is perpetually irritated and on a short fuse. There is nothing wrong with the world around him. It is just that his brain is wired in a peculiar way, he dislikes noise and even a casual chat beyond a point makes him uneasy. The only person who can keep a check on his mood swings is his wife Anjali (Sai Pallavi). They were lovers from their college days and have married against the wishes of their parents, so, they are leading a lonely and mundane life as any other young couple. But, we anticipate the worse to befall on them any moment because of Siddharth’s volatile nature.

This is the basic premise of Kali, the new film directed Sameer Thahir. This film runs a few minutes lesser than two hours and the first half is spent in establishing the characters and the plot. The writing by newcomer Rajesh Gopinadhan goes on adding layers to the characters thereby giving more substance to the subject as we move forward. 

Take for instance the fact that Siddharth works in a bank where he has to be in direct touch with the customers and his grumpy nature puts his career in jeopardy. This thing is further enhanced by showing Siddharth going into a car workshop after a minor accident and the executive there gives him the sad news that he cannot claim insurance and has to pay from his pocket, he says it with an accompanying laughter. When asked why he does not stop laughing even while giving a bad news? And, the reply he gets is; “I’ll lose my job if they don’t see me smiling while talking to a customer.”

There are many such instances where exclamation marks are given to bring a point home. Like there are loud drumbeats when Siddharth’s temper is boiling then there is silence if he gets it under control and we know that a crisis situation is temporarily averted.

It would be apt to say that this is a social film in the first half where a man with quirky personality trying to fit in the society by being ‘normal’ and by behaving in a socially acceptable way. And, in the second half, the narrative changes gear to be in a thriller mode by taking the form of a ‘road movie’. This transformation is smooth as we see the characters we care for getting embroiled in undesirable situations. 

Here too the teamwork of the writer and the director is highlighted as they time to build up the scenarios before making their characters jump into them.

As for the characters, they do have shortcomings and they are aware of that. Take the case of Siddharath, he understands that something is wrong with him and tries to improve or control it. He is not boastful of his righteousness or does not try to justify himself often.  Dulquer Salmaan is near perfect in portraying the character. Sai Pallavi brings a magic potion with her as Anjali that would make any man change for her if she tells him to. Chemban Vinod Jose does gives us goosebumps with his villainous act in the second half. 

All things seen and considered, Kali has the potential of becoming a rage with the viewers in the coming days.

As it appeared in Rediff.

27 October 2015

Rani Padmini

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 Josutty

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.

As it appeared in Rediff.

24 September 2015

Njan Samvidhanam Cheyyum

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.

As it appeared in Rediff.  

23 September 2015

Ennu Ninte Moideen

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.

As it appeared in Rediff.

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.

As it appeared in Rediff.