Okay. Writing a blogpost about a movie after a really long time. And its about a movie which has been made by some very close people. VK Prakash Sir is my Guru, Shanker Ramakrishnan, Fahadh Faasil, Arun James, Mahesh Narayanan, Mridul Nair, Prasant Varma, Sajimon, Liji Preman, Rima Kallingal and many more close friends and colleagues have worked on this film. And I've also been involved here and there in this project (mostly in the pre-production level). Couldnt be part of it because our project Kili Poyi was happening simultaneously but I had loved the concept of the movie and was very skeptical as to how this would work out for the Malayalam audience. But now, after watching the movie two times, once with some extreme reactions from a really senseless crowd and the second time with a more mature crowd, I can really say that this is a fantastic movie watching experience, especially for those who've tried writing (anything - a story, novel, book or a screenplay) at least once in their lives.
Now to detach myself and write about the movie. I'll speak about how I've liked each person's work and then summarize the rest. The three main people being VK Prakash, Shanker Ramakrishnan and Fahadh Faasil. I'm not writing this post to praise people whom I'm close to, but to express what all I loved about the movie.
VK Prakash - I can surely say this is the most challenging script that has come his way and he has done full justice to it. To simplify such a complex concept and portray it on screen within an entertaining format is no mean task. From creating the right atmosphere to tell the story where you completely relate to Preman's frustrations of being the Natholi trapped in an apartment full of wild animals in the form of humans, to portraying the screenplay that Preman is writing based on those same people as it was happening for real; VKP Sir has pulled everything off with ease. And if you still say that you dont understand the film, you need to be a little more cinema literate. Or else you can still go watch the regular run of the mill films that are being churned out every week and kill your time.
VKP's usual stylized shots and amazing visual appeal might be a little less here, but still we do get some great visuals which help in carrying the story forward. Loved the way he has portrayed the imagery of Vyasan and Ganapati through a Pappaan played by P Balachandran (who comes at key points in the movie as various inspirations) and his elephant during sunset, when Preman decides to start writing. And of course, the self-mockery at the end was just too good, especially for people who know him and his restlessness when he doesnt have a movie to make. :) Thumbs up VKP Sir, this is one of the best movies you've made in the mainstream format. And yes, all this stemmed from VKP's own earlier offbeat film Freaky Chakra which was based on a similar concept.
Shanker Ramakrishnan - Truly hats off to the vision here, Shankerettan! A writer taking revenge on the world around him through the story he's writing, what a thought! And that too while he's being guided by Dronacharyar to follow Vyasan's path. Like his contemporary and friend Anoop Menon, Shanker Ramakrishnan is also excellent with dialogues. And he has used all the opportunities in this screenplay to give us some great lines. The screenplay works on many levels - its a surrealistic account of a writer's imaginary world where characters slip away from his command when he stops writing on one level, and on another level a lot of the movie is also treated as a spoof. Like Fazil's own son playing a character who was born on the 100th day of Manjil Virinja Pookkal. Like the best actor we've had since Mohanlal, Mr. Fahadh Faasil being born into the story twice, once when Mohanlal makes an appearance in Manjil Virinja Pookkal and the next time when the same guy makes his character with the same name, Narendran appear as a villain who comes out of nowhere like Manjil Virinja Pookkal's Narendran. Kariyilakkulangara's Krishnan being a 'balalsangha' expert inducing memories of Balan K Nair and his brother being Sathar with names as innocent as Leelakrishnan and Geethakrishnan. A small nod to his Guru Ranjith when Arjunan tells his brother - Shekhara, Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla, in true Mangalasshery Neelakanthan style. The whole Natholi Puranam episode was one where Shanker could pull off all his tributes and spoofs in all their glory.
And of course, the writer taking sadistic pleasure in the second half by twisting around his own story to take revenge on each of those characters who'd been harrassing him. A complex concept like this is not easy to bring out on screen, but VKP and Shanker have been able to do that very well. And ya, thanks Shankeretta, for using our title (Kili Poyi) in one of the lines in the movie. :D That was quite a surprise. The connect of this whole concept to the Mahabharata was also a brilliant touch. And of course, P Balachandran appearing at key points, as Dronar, Vyasan and a writer who's talking about how characters are the ones closer to the audience than the writer and that characters have a life of their own, on a TV show while a completely wacky practical joke is happening in the story.
But I do have an issue as well. He had created some fine characters and characterizations in the first half taking a lot of time to establish each one of them. And they werent fully utilized once Preman starts writing his screenplay. Preman's screenplay was mainly focusing on Prabha & Narendran. He could've used the other characters much more in his screenplay. Dont know if that would've cluttered the film or made it lengthier, but I felt they had more potential to be used. And the scene which has been chopped off now - the one where Prabha tells Narendran about her past could've been a little better. (But now that it isn't there, no point talking about it). But otherwise, I love everything about the screenplay, especially because I could relate to Preman sitting there and trying to create a world of his own through his screenplay.
Fahadh Faasil - Such a concept and such an execution would've completely fallen flat if not for a solid leading man. As I said earlier, Fahadh is the finest lead actor we've had since Mohanlal. And the both of them were introduced by his father Fazil. While he's used to playing a character like Narendran in many of his films so far, Preman is a completely new character. He's innocent, he's naive, he's cruel, he's insecure, he's talented, he's frustrated and so much more. From being a very naive boy-man who's treated like filth to the cruel man who has all the power in his own literary world, the transformation is portrayed extraordinarily by Fahadh. The peculiar laugh where he imagines things if it happens his way and the very weird way of running are enough to know how much of a solid actor this guy is. To analyse his acting chops, you just need to watch two shots from this movie - One where Preman is smoking beedi for the first time and his mother calls for him. He plucks some leaves and puts it in mouth before running to her; and the other when Narendran looks at the CCTV screen towards Preman helplessly after being the one accused of killing Zarina's child. The range of this actor can be defined in these two shots. Chappa Kurishu, Akam, 22 FK, Annayum Rasoolum and now this, we should be proud that we have this guy here in our industry now.
Coming to the others - Kamalinee Mukherjee did a decent job, but an actual Malayali leading lady would've worked much better. (But since I know how much they searched for the perfect cast, I think she's not actually a bad option). Mukundan in a reincarnation of sorts is excellent. Aishwarya hams it up, but that suits her role. Sathar had nothing much to do, but his presence was nice. Krishnaprabha played the sultry servant very effectively. Joju George shined in the one scene he appeared. Mridul being his usual self, was very good. :D Rima Kallingal in the special appearance, quite frankly, was too heavy for the role. People expect much more from her when she makes an appearance, especially after her pairing with Fahadh in 22FK. So her playing a dumb-bimbette like character wasnt gelling well with the movie. Chinnu Kuruvilla, Jayan Cherthala and others were adequate. P Balachandran was excellent in his different cameos. Arun James made a very impressive debut setting the perfect look for the movie staying very subtle throughout and not taking the attention away from the story while giving some beautiful frames. Mahesh Narayanan's editing is also very important in such a screenplay and he has done full justice to that. Abhijith has composed some great tracks and Bijibal's background score is excellent. Liji's costumes were very real and authentic.
All in all, Natholi surely isnt like any other movie we have seen in Malayalam Cinema and VKP, Shanker and crew have to be appreciated for daring to do such an experiment here in Malayalam where experiments are met with boos and brickbats initially and termed as classics ages later. Also, Aji Medayil and his co-producers for supporting such an experiment. Watch it with a mind open for experiments and to see what all one may go through during the process of writing.
PS - Its been a year since I wrote a blogpost. Havent checked this post for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and all that. Just wrote whatever came to my mind, out of my love and respect for the movie. Hope it makes for a good read. :)