Saturday, October 31

First Look - Ividam Swargamaanu

Movie - Ividam Swargamaanu (Malayalam)
Director - Roshan Andrews
Producer - Antony Perumbavoor
Cast - Mohanlal, Thilakan, Sreenivasan, Shankar, Jagathy Sreekumar, Innocent, Lalu Alex, Priyanka, Lakshmi Gopalaswami, Lakshmi Rai, Anoop Chandran, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sukumari and others
Music - Mohan Sithara
Cinematography - Diwakar
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - James Albert
Lyrics - Bichu Thirumala, Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri
Editor - Ranjan Abraham
Status - Shooting In Progress

If you arent excited already after reading the names mentioned above, you are not fit to be a Malayali. A true Malayali would genuinely feel happy seeing all these names. A Mohanlal film always ensures excitement. What if it is directed  by one of the most promising directors in the industry, Roshan Andrews? What if it has Thilakan acting along with Mohanlal as his father 9 years after the mega blockbuster Narasimham? What if it also has Sreenivasan teaming up with Mohanlal again in a Roshan Andrews film after the team's contemporary classic Udayanaanu Thaaram in 2005? What if it is written by James Albert, one of the most talented new writers in Malayalam who wrote the wonderful Classmates and the clever Cycle, earlier? And what if it takes us back to the villages with agriculture as the main occupation?

Other than all these excitement generating factors, there is also a huge star cast which includes Jagathy Sreekumar, Innocent, Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Sukumari, all of whom share amazing chemistry with Mohanlal, the lead actor of the film. The film has three heroines - Priyanka, Lakshmi Rai and Lakshmi Gopalaswami. The movie also brings back the jodi of Mohanlal and Shankar, a successful combination of the 80s, right from their first film, Manjil Virinja Pookkal. The movie is set in an agricultural village and is about a Christian family and would be a treat for the family audience for sure. 

Mohanlal plays an agriculturist and his from the looks of his character, it seems like the old Lalettan of films like Vellanakalude Naadu, Midhunam, etc is back!! The last time Mohanlal played a simple villager, was in Sathyan Anthikkad's Rasathanthram, and the film turned into a huge hit. 

Roshan Andrews, who is one of the most respected filmmakers out of the newer lot, is making this movie after his critically acclaimed superhits Udayanaanu Thaaram and Notebook. He was supposed to make a big budget movie called Casanova with Mohanlal this year, but that project got postponed and this one happened. He is supported by writer James Albert who came into the film scene with the brilliant Classmates and followed it up with a smart film Cycle. The music of the film is by Mohan Sithara, a grossly underused music director who has given only good songs whenever he has composed for films, the most recent one being Bhramaram. The cinematographer of Notebook, Diwakar does camerawork for this movie also. He is an extremely popular cameraman who covers big stage events all over India, including the various Bollywood award shows and the hugely popular television show Dus Ka Dum. The movie is produced by Mohanlal's man friday, Antony Perumbavoor. This is their next venture after the big budget action flick Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded.

The shooting for the film is going on now, and if we are lucky enough, the movie would come as a Christmas release. Otherwise, we would have to wait till next year to see the movie. From the stills, I can already smell a superhit which would be hugely popular among families. I found some lovely stills from the movie. Leaving you with some of those stills. 

Swa Le - Fizzles out after a promising start.

Movie - Swa Le (Malayalam)
Director - P Sukumar
Producer - Anu M Warriar, P Sukumar
Cast - Dileep, Gopika, Innocent, Nedumudi Venu, Ashokan, Ganesh, Jagathy Sreekumar, Harisree Ashokan
Music - Bijipal
Cinematography - P Sukumar
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Kalavoor Ravikumar
Release Date - 29th October 2009

I watched this movie right after I watched Kerala Cafe, on Thursday. I expected a good movie from the promos I saw on TV and the fact that the movie is based on the war between leading newspaper dailies during the early 90s. Its been a long time since Dileep gave a solo hero hit (Passenger cannot fully be called a Dileep film even though he was great in that movie) and I wanted this film to do well for his sake. The film begins with an interesting narration by Ranjith, the creative head of the other release, Kerala Cafe. He introduces us to the time when there was no cable TV, no mobile phones and where people like Unni Madhavan (Dileep) struggled to get exclusive stories for their dailies. 

The story is about Unni Madhavan, a talented, but struggling journalist working for a comparatively lesser read newspaper. He has a wife Vimala (Gopika) who eloped from her house to get married to him. They live in a small house where Unni struggles to make the ends meet. On top of all this, Vimala is pregnant and needs care but has nobody with her. Not even Unni, who is on the run for his work, working hard to earn more for his family which would soon have one more member. He is sent off to cover all sorts of events and get exclusive stories. But due to an irresponsible photographer (Salimkumar), he is not able to get there before the reporters of the major dailies (Ashokan, Ganesh and team). Unni is not even paid properly for all the work he has been doing and he does not believe in hunting for jobs in bigger newspapers. He believes that they will come and call him one day seeing his work. The situation worsens when they get an information that a literary giant, Palazhi Sivasankara Pillai (Nedumudi Venu) is on his deathbed. Unni is sent to cover the death of this great person, whom he has had a personal attachment with, in his childhood. The wait for his death goes on and on and Vimala's condition worsens day by day too. The events that follow makes up the rest of the story. 

The film has an interesting premise and it also succeeds in bringing out a lot of facts about journalism and the director and writer bring out those facts through black humour. All that is very effective and makes us laugh and think as well. But after a very impressive first half, the film loses its grip totally. The story takes an eternity to get over and the movie moves at a snail's pace. I felt more restless because I had just come after watching Kerala Cafe, where each story was only 10-15 minutes long. So it was like watching a slow test match, after seeing an exciting 20-20 match. They could have easily made the movie much shorter and the movie would have gotten a much better impact if it was shorter at least by half an hour. Or it would have been perfect, if this story was narrated in 10 minutes, as part of Kerala Cafe. I'm saying all this because this movie had a very nice premise, but the pace of the movie and the never-ending second half does all the damage. 

Dileep is perfect as the struggling journalist Unni Madhavan. He gives a sincere and earnest performance, to which we can take an immediate liking towards. It is good to see the performer in him utilized well. He has started doing roles with more depth these days, like in his previous movie, Passenger, where he was absolutely brilliant.  Swa Le belongs to Dileep and if you like this film, it is only because of Dileep. Gopika makes a comeback after her wedding through this film. She looks better than she used to be and does well in her short role. I heard that she was actually pregnant while playing the role of a pregnant lady in this film. Innocent as the manipulative news editor is okay. The director could have used him in a better way. Salimkumar's scenes with Dileep are hilarious, but his separate comic scenes were vulgar and totally unnecessary. Jagathy Sreekumar as a tea shop owner who makes the most out of the situation at Palazhi's house is good. Harisree Ashokan is completely over the top. I've begun to hate him completely in all the recent movies he has been doing. Ganesh and Ashokan are good in their respective roles. Nedumudi Venu leaves an impact in his short role. A wonderful actress like KPAC Lalitha is wasted in a role where she's got nothing to do. On the whole, everyone performs well, except for Harishree Ashokan. 

The film has 2 good songs, though the placement of the romantic song could have been better. Since the film is directed by a cinematographer, you expect some magical cinematography (remember Ananthabhadram?). But P Sukumar's cinematography is nothing unusual. He does a good job like he does in his films with other directors, nothing extraordinary. He can be a good director, but he should have more grip over his story and should be able to sustain the interest of the audience throughout. Kalavoor Ravikumar's story is interesting. But his screenplay takes an eternity to get to the point. Dialogues are good. When the story is stretched so much, you expect at least an explosive climax, but here, the climax also is pretty ordinary. This film would be a perfect example of a good story gone wrong on screen, though it has its moments. 

All in all, the movie has a very interesting first half with a lot of black humour and hilarious scenes, but fizzles out with a never-ending second half. And the movie has released at a wrong time along with biggies like Kerala Cafe and Pazhassiraja, which is still running to packed houses. The movie has an earnest plot, but not so earnest execution. So I doubt if the movie will be able to have a good run in the theatres. I hope it does well for the sake of Dileep. 

Rating - 2.8/5 

Aladin - Falls short of expectations, but not bad too...

Movie - Aladin (Hindi)
Director - Sujoy Ghosh
Producer - Sujoy Ghosh, Sunil A Lulla
Cast - Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Riteish Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandez, Ratna Pathak Shah, Saahil Khan
Music - Vishal & Shekhar
Cinematography - Sirsha Ray
Art - Sabu Cyril
Editor - Suresh Pai
Story - Sujoy Ghosh, Suresh Nair
Screenplay & Dialogues - Sujoy Ghosh, Ritesh Shah
Action - William Ong
Background Score - Jody K Jenkins
Release Date - 30th October 2009

When I first heard that a movie called Aladin is being made, I thought it would be the recreation of the Arabian fairy tale into Hindi. But when I saw the first trailer of the movie, along with Love Aaj Kal, I understood that the fairy tale myth is used to narrate the story of a duffer, whose name by the way, is Aladin. The movie boasts of superlative special effects, a cool new genie played by the Big B, a menacing villain by Sanjay Dutt and some good music and great sets by Sabu Cyril. Sujoy Ghosh who made an impressive debut with Jhankaar Beats and made a horrible film Home Delivery after that, is at the helm of affairs and we expect a fresh treatment, since we cannot just ignore the guy who made the wonderful Jhankaar Beats because of one mistake. 

The story set in an imaginary city called Khwaish, is about Aladin Chatterjee, who is ridiculed all his life for his name that is taken from the hero of the Arabian fairy tale. He is made to rub lamps just for the heck of it, by his bullying friends right from his childhood to college days. A new girl called Jasmine comes to his college on an exchange programme, and Aladin falls for her on first sight. But he doesnt know how to charm her or win her heart. On his birthday, he is ridiculed once again by his friends, who make him rub yet another lamp. But to Aladin's surprise, an actual Genie called Genius comes out of the lamp and tells him that he can grant any three wishes of Aladin. An evil ex-genie called Ringmaster is also in search of the lamp, to execute his evil plans of ruling over the world with his powers. The adventure that follows is the story of the movie. 

It is a very interesting premise, something which has never come before in Hindi or Indian Cinema. But it doesnt really become something spectacular, as one expects. The movie is narrated in a simple and sweet way, something which is very basic for this kind of a movie. This works favourably during the romantic parts, but does not work when it comes to the fantasy part of it. That needed a much grander treatment. 

It is Riteish's film all the way. He is a multi-talented actor who is yet to be fully utilized by our filmmakers. He plays the duffer effectively and is outstanding in the comic scenes. Thanks to an extremely natural performance by Riteish, the new Aladin comes across as a goofy, but lovable character. Things start to spice up once Amitabh Bachchan comes into the movie with a dance number. He walks on a thin line between going overboard and being hep and cool and manages to stay somewhere in between. He plays the new, improved, wacky version of the Genie very well and we start enjoying the proceedings once he appears on screen. He also does a lot of song and dance and even fights quite effectively at this age. We can see that he has had a lot of fun playing this role. He had played a friendly ghost earlier in Bhoothnanth wonderfully, now it is his turn to play a similar, but more hep genie. Sanjay Dutt plays the menacing Ringmaster, wearing a black & red costume probably inspired by Magician Mandrake. He has his set of assistants who are a circus version of the X Men. One among them even has Wolverine-like blades coming out of his fists. Jacqueline Fernandez is extremely cute and has a fresh screen presence. She can probably be the next Katrina Kaif if she gets the right films. Ratna Pathak Shah, a wonderful actress is terribly wasted. Victor Bannerjee has nothing to do. Saahil Khan has to play an irritating character and he does that well by irritating both Aladin and the audience throughout. 

This film depends a lot on visual effects. But there are quite a few instances where the VFX is overdone. Effects are used when they are totally unnecessary. They should have kept it more simplistic. Even Sabu Cyril's excellent art work is implemented more through graphics rather than building actual sets. There are some really good use of effects as well. 

The film has good music, but almost 3 songs come back to back in the first half. Big B's introduction song, his rap number and folk number come without much gap between each of them and tires the viewer. The beautiful romantic number 'You May Be' comes in the second half and is extremely soothing, both to the eyes and the ears. There was absolutely no necessity of a song just before the climax. Without all these songs, the film would have been much better. Even though it was unwanted, Big B did a fabulous job in the rap song.

Sirsha Rai's cinematography is okay. Nothing much to boast about because the film relies mostly on graphics to do the tricks. Editing by Suresh Pai is decent and the film has some interesting cuts. The screenplay is very simplistic and becomes extremely complicated towards the end, thereby confusing the viewer. Like in the movie, the opportunity of using the three wishes are completely wasted.  Sujoy Ghosh has tried his best to narrate an engaging tale and almost succeeds in doing that. If it was a little more exciting than being so simplistic, it would have done wonders for the movie. The climax also could have been better. Having said that, the movie also has its share of lovely moments and hilarious scenes involving Riteish, Bachchan and Jacqueline. Sujoy must be appreciated for creating and handling those moments effectively. 

All in all, Aladin may fall short if you have huge expecations, but is still a decent watch. I didnt feel bored at any point of time. The movie will surely fascinate the kids, who are the main target audience of the movie. It also has some nice comic moments, without any shade of vulgarity. That aspect should bring in a lot more family viewers. If all goes well, the film could even turn profitable. All in all, a decent movie. 

Rating - 3/5

Friday, October 30

London Dreams - Watch it for deadly performances from Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn!!

Movie - London Dreams (Hindi)
Director - Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Producer - Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Cast - Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, Asin, Rannvijay Singh, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Om Puri
Music - Shankar/Ehsaan/Loy
Lyrics - Prasoon Joshi
Cinematography - Sejal Shah
Editor - Amitabh Shukla
Background Score - Salim/Sulaiman
Story, Screenplay - Suresh Nair
Dialogues - Ritesh Shah
Release Date - 30th October 2009

Vipul Shah has hardly made any bad movie so far. Be it his debut Aankhen, or the other films Waqt and Namastey London and his production Singh Is Kinng, all of them were good entertainers and were received well by the audience. London Dreams is probably his biggest movie so far in terms of scale as well as star value, because it has 2 superstars, Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn, last seen together in the classic, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The movie is based on music and is set in London for most parts. It is the first time that Vipul is making a movie without his lucky mascot Akshay Kumar. It is Salman's third release within two months, after the blockbuster Wanted and the lukewarm Main Aurr Mrs Khanna. Ajay also had a release two weeks back called All The Best, an out and out comedy, which is completely different from this one and is still doing quite well. It is also Asin's second movie in Hindi after a very impressive debut in last year's biggest hit Ghajini

London Dreams tells the story of two friends, Arjun and Mannu. The whole story is narrated by Arjun (Ajay Devgn) who is just about to get close to realizing his ultimate dream. He remembers the incidents that led him till that point of life. Arjun was always passionate about music and wanted to be a musician right from his childhood. His father who was against it, dies suddenly, and he's taken to London by his uncle, played by Om Puri. He learns that his uncle is also dead against music, so he runs away from him and starts to live on the streets, making money by playing a flute and singing songs. He joins a music school and grows up to be a talented musician. His ultimate dream is to perform at the Wembley Stadium in London and he would do anything to get there. At the same time, Mannu (Salman Khan) is a carefree soul who lives in Punjab, sleeps around with girls, causes lots of trouble to the villagers and has his share of fun all the time. Arjun forms a band in London and a beautiful girl Priya (Asin) joins him. He slowly develops a liking towards but decides not to tell her about it till he fulfills his dream. On a visit to Punjab, he learns that Mannu has got amazing talent in music and he decides to take Mannu on to his band in London. Mannu goes to London and joins the band. But slowly, Mannu starts getting all the popularity that Arjun wished for and even Priya slowly falls in love with Mannu. Seeing all this, Arjun becomes jealous and insecure thinking that God gave everything what he wanted to Mannu, who never had any dream or dedication to music. He decides to ruin Mannu, to make himself the bigger star. What happens after this is what the movie is about. 

The movie is said to be inspired by a European classic, Amadeus. But since I havent seen that film, I cannot comment on it. For me, the premise of jealousy between two musicians who are also best friends was very interesting. This is the second movie I saw today written by Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah, first being Aladin, today's other big release.  The movie has millions of plot holes, but is still an engrossing watch, thanks to the performances and the decent screenplay. 

Ajay Devgn in intense roles is always good. He gives a great performance this time around too. His passion for music and the struggle for success is brought out very well in the initial scenes. But it is in the second half, that the actor in him gets challenged to perform even better, when he has to portray the emotions of jealousy, anger, hatred and all, without making the role being outright negative. He does it with comfortable ease and deserves an applause for that. His outburst in the climax was an awkwardly written scene, but he saves it to some extent with his performance. But his performance in the song sequences is very bad. He is stiff most of the time and does not look convincing as the rockstar who has such a huge fan following. But he makes up for that through his performance in the intense scenes, especially in the second half. Right after displaying great comic timing in All The Best, he does this intense role in London Dreams. This proves why Ajay Devgn is called a versatile actor. 

The heart and soul of London Dreams is Salman Khan. Though the movie is about Ajay's character, it is Salman who shines both in the story and in the movie. It is perhaps one his best performances ever. He is given the best scenes, lines and songs and he emerges as the star of the movie, by the time the movie gets over. We all know his talent in doing comic scenes. Here, apart from his comic talent, Vipul Shah also makes him perform well in the heavy duty emotional scenes, and makes us realize that Salman Khan can also act well. He does each scene in his own style, bringing a raw and earthy appeal to the character. His performance in the song sequences is awesome and he proves that he is a true rockstar. He is lovable and endearing throughout and you cant help but love him in the film. This year has been very good for Salman. He reinvented himself with Wanted, the second season of his show Dus Ka Dum was a runaway hit and he put in an okay cameo in Main Aurr Mrs Khanna. With London Dreams, he gives one of the year's best performances too. Watch out for him when he imitates Dharmendra so naturally in the song 'Manko Ati Bhavey'. He is absolutely brilliant in a scene where he creates many tunes for the same lyrics during the second half. 

Asin as Chennai Express (as Salman calls her in the movie) Priya puts in a decent performance. But she has a very short role and her talent is not given enough justice. Her South accent is lesser now, even though it would have worked if she had an accent since she plays a South Indian in this film. She makes a good pair with Salman and their song together in Paris was lovely to watch. Rannvijay has nothing to do but give stares throughout in the movie. He doesnt impress. Aditya Roy Kapur impresses in his short role. Om Puri is wasted.

The movies is illogical at many places. How did Ajay Devgn get the money to survive in London and go to a music school? Why wasnt he caught for not having a passport (which obviously would be with his uncle)? How can a mediocre song by an Indian capture the attention of so many Londoners so fast, turning him into an overnight sensation? If you are able to overlook these glitches, the movie would be quite good for you. I didnt mind these plot holes, but the writers should definitely have thought about them, especially when a good writer like Suresh Nair is in the writing department. 

Vipul Shah has narrated the film on a giant scale and the film has lavish production values and amazingly choreographed song sequences. The concert sequences are executed brilliantly, except for the fact that the computer generated audience/crowd were actually too huge for the group. The much more realistically filmed audience parts in Rock On!! were far more effective.  But still, Vipul has succeeded in showing the on-stage parts with maximum effect (though Ajay's acting in those parts could have been better). He uses Salman Khan very effectively and extracts a great performance out of him. Vipul is an expert at handling emotions as well as comic scenes with ease. He does it well in this film too.  There are several scenes which stay with you long after you leave the hall. 

Since the film is about a rock band, the music is very important. The music is good, but did not reach the brilliance of Rock On!! which was based on a similar theme. People expect much more than Rock On this time around, but Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy could not live up to those expectations. The songs 'Barso Yaaro', 'Khanabadosh', 'Manko Ati Bhavey' and 'Khwaab Jo' are brilliant. But the songs which come at crucial points, like the one where Ajay makes the first impression through 'Shola Shola', or the song at Wembley stadium, 'Jashn Hai Jeet Ka' are very poor. If the songs were better, the film would have made a better impact. But the Hanuman Chalisa during the Barson Yaaron and Salman's performance in that song takes it to another level. The movie goes to a great high due to all this, just before the interval sign appears. 

Cinematography by Sejal Shah is outstanding. The night scene in Bhatinda where Salman and Ajay talk after getting drunk is great work. The concert scenes have some awe inspiring lighting techniques used and we get thrilled seeing the play of the lights in the concert scenes. Editing by Amitabh Shukla is ok. The movie moves at a slow and steady pace. It could have been made crisper though. Salim-Sulaiman's background score is very good. 

All in all, Vipul Shah has made a good film with great performances from Salman and Ajay, especially Salman. If the music at crucial points was better and the writing a little more mature, the movie would have been brilliant. But now, the movie can just be called good. It is surely one of the better films of the year. Watch it for Salman Khan, the rockstar and Ajay Devgn, the intense actor. 

Rating - 3.5/5

First Look - 3 Idiots

Movie - 3 Idiots (Hindi)
Director - Rajkumar Hirani
Producer - Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Cast - Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani
Music - Shanthanu Moitra
Cinematography - CK Muraleedharan
Lyrics - Swanand Kirkire
Writers - Rajkumar Hirani, Abhijat Joshi
Release Date - 25th December 2009

  • Vidhu Vinod Chopra Productions
  • Directed by Rajkumar Hirani
  • Stars Aamir Khan along with some other fabulous actors as well
  • Raju Hirani's first movie out of the Munnabhai series
  • Supposedly inspired by the best selling novel by Chetan Bhagat, 'Five Point Someone'.
  • First time pairing of Aamir and Kareena
Arent all these reasons enough to be super excited about this movie? Last year, one movie released on December 25 and broke all records and is India's biggest grosser till date. It was an Aamir Khan starrer called Ghajini. The year before that, on December 26th, a heartwarming tale of a child touched the hearts of the whole nation and turned out into a blockbuster also. It was also an Aamir Khan starrer called Taare Zameen Par. This year, again during the same time period, another Aamir Khan starrer is releasing, where he joins hands with the supremely talented National award winning director, Rajkumar Hirani. This movie has all the chances of ending up as the movie of the year even though it releases just a week before the end of the year. The first look of the film is out and promises loads of fun. I dont know how Aamir still manages to look like a college kid when he's cast in such roles.  Cant wait for December 25th.

First Look - Neelathamara

Movie - Neelathamara (Malayalam)
Director - Lal Jose
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - MT Vasudevan Nair
Producer - Menaka Suresh Kumar
Music - Vidya Sagar
Lyrics - Vayalar Sharath Chandra Varma
Cinematography - Vijay Ulaganathan
Art Direction - Gokuldas
Cast - Kailash, Archana Kavi, Rima Kallingal, Suresh, Samvrutha Sunil

This is a much awaited movie because of many reasons :

  1. It is a Lal Jose movie. Lal Jose is one of the few sensible directors left in Malayalam and all his movies generate a certain kind of buzz.
  2. It is being written by MT Vasudevan Nair, Malayalam Cinema's strongest scriptwriter ever. Director Priyadarshan has been waiting for MT to give him a script for a long time now. But MT chose to work with the younger Lal Jose.
  3. It is a remake of a yesteryear classic with the same name, written by MT himself. It is for the first time that an old film is being remade into a new one in Malayalam.
  4. It has music by Vidyasagar, who is returning to Malayalam after a long back, that too with Lal Jose with whom he has given some huge hits. (Meeshamadhavan, Chandranudikkunna Dikkil, etc)
  5. The cast majorly consists of fresh faces and it would be a delightful change to see these young actors display their talent under the guidance of Lal Jose and MT. 

I have already given 5 good reasons to watch the movie. You can find more reasons while watching this first video that is out now of a song from the movie. It was posted by Lal Jose himself onto YouTube and his blog recently. From the voice, I am guessing its Shreya Ghoshal who is doing the vocals. The visuals look great as expected from Lal Jose.

Kerala Cafe - Change is here!!!

Movie - Kerala Cafe (Malayalam)
Directors - M Padmakumar, Shankar Ramakrishnan, Shaji Kailas, Uday Ananthan, Anjali Menon, B Unnikrishnan, Shyamaprasad, Anwar Rasheed, Revathy & Lal Jose
Producer - Ranjith
Release Date - 29th October 2009

This is a completely experimental film though the posters may suggest it as another mass multistarrer like Twenty-20. My sincere request to all the viewers is that please dont go for this movie with that expectation. The makers should have kept the photos of the 10 directors in the poster instead of the stars. Because, this movie completely belongs to these 10 people and the mastermind behind it all, the producer, Ranjith. The audience here for the first show of the movie in Cochin was pathetic, as they were all howling throughout the first half. They became a little more settled once the movie got into its second half. Fans of a certain superstar in the movie were getting restless waiting for their hero and were booing for every other short film. I couldnt hear many dialogues of 2 of the short films because of the extensive howling by all these people. If it was a Hindi or a Tamil film with the same theme, the same people would stay quiet and watch the movie seriously. Just because it is a Malayalam film, they get restless and start doing all sorts of nonsense. They dont deserve great movies like this one. They should be continuously given brain-dead movies with more than middle-aged heroes fighting, singing, dancing, romancing and giving one-liners. What has the Malayalam film audience come to? Having said this, let me move on to my view about this wonderful experiment by Ranjith.

The film is introduced by Sathyan Anthikkad, one of our best filmmakers and he gives a clear idea on what to expect out of the film. The censor certificate appears after this introduction and the movie begins by showing a coffee shop at a busy railway station, called Kerala Cafe.

Director - M Padmakumar
Cinematography - Anil Nair
Editor - VT Sreejith
Art Director - Salu K George
Music - Tej Merwin
Based on the poem 'Naattuvazhikal' by R Venugopal
Cast - Dileep, Navya Nair, Sudheesh, Babu Namboothiri, Suresh Krishna

This is the first one among the short films. It begins from Dubai and shows us Johnny Kutty (Dileep), a gulf based Malayali who keeps singing praises about his homeland while drinking along with his other Gulf Malayali friends. Interestingly, his mobile's ringtone is the anthem of Gulf Malayalis, 'Thirike njaan varumenna'.But when the same person comes back to his town, he has nothing but complaints. He always talks about nostalgia when he is abroad, but he doesnt have time to get nostalgic memories when he is in his hometown. He hurts his parents, children and his wife too, and says that he is doing all that for them. He returns to Dubai and continues talking about nostalgia. Dileep plays the Gulf Malayali convincingly, complete with gold chain and mobile phone which is always in his hand, rather than being in the pocket. Though his acting could have been better at several instances, Dileep gives a certain likeability to the character (which has a slight negative touch) and we all have seen such characters many times at many places. Navya Nair puts in a decent performance. M Padmakumar has finally made a story different from Devasuram after his debut, Ammakkilikkoodu. (His 3 other films, Vargam, Vasthavam and Parunthu had the same basic storyline of Devasuram). All in all, an interesting movie, though the idea could have been conveyed in a better way. 

Rating - 3/5

Director - Shankar Ramakrishnan
Cinematography - S Kumar ISC
Editor - Mahesh Narayanan
Art - Manu Jagadh
Music - Manu Ramesh
Screenplay - Shankar Ramakrishnan
Cast - Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Rahman, Sukumari, Manian Pillai Raju

The very first shot of the movie featuring Prithviraj was received with such maddening applause heard only for superstar movies usually. And when he utters the word Mangalasshery Neelakanthan, the crowd goes even more wild. I couldnt hear any of the first few dialogues because of the noise. Later, we realize that Prithviraj is writing a story about a certain incident and that he is now going to revisit the place where the incident happened. Rahman, Sukumari and Manian Pillai Raju are also people affected by that particular incident and all of them meet at that place. Jayasurya plays a non-Malayali who decides to cancel his plans of going to Vallikkavu Ashramam, in order to help out Sukumari. From a narration by Prithviraj, this movie moves on to Jayasurya who shares his experience to a senior officer sitting inside Kerala Cafe. This is a technically slick movie with some great cinematography by veteran S Kumar and art direction by Manu Jagadh. Prithviraj looks dashing, so does Rahman. All the actors perform well, and Sukumari, who is not seen regularly these days plays a strong role. Jayasurya does a neat job in his short role. A very impressive debut by Ranjith's assistant, Shankar Ramakrishnan. 

Rating - 4/5

Director - Shaji Kailas
Cinematography - Sujith Vasudev
Editor - Samjith Mhd
Art - Salu K George
Music - Shan
Writer - Rajesh Jayaraman
Cast - Suresh Gopi, Jyothirmayi, Dhanya Mary Varghese, Jayan

This is the most poor movie among the 10. When you think of a Shaji Kailas - Suresh Gopi movie, you expect some sparks flying and action happening. But here, Shaji Kailas narrates a story of an extra marital affair and how the protagonist is affected because of it. The story does not gel with the undercurrent theme of 'Yathra' and does not have a strong base too. Shaji Kailas doesnt go for fancy camera movements and editing gimmicks this time around. He gives some neat shots and also tries to bring about a change in colour tone in the present and past sequences. Majority of the audience were howling throughout for the film and I couldnt hear any of the dialogues that Suresh Gopi said. I had to figure out the story from the visuals alone. And from that, I think Suresh Gopi and Jyothirmayi did a good job, while Dhanya Mary wasnt very impressive. The television actor Jayan shows how much of a natural actor he is in a miniscule role. I dont know what is there so much to howl about in this movie. It may not be as good as the others, but it certainly shows us a different approach of Shaji Kailas, who is known to make complete action potboilers. 

Rating - 2/5

Director - Uday Ananthan
Cinematography - Hari Nair
Editor - Samjith Mhd
Art - Manu Jagadh
Music - Ouseppachan
Writer - Ahmed Siddique
Cast - Thilakan, Fahaadh Fazil, Rima Kallingal, Unni Shivapal, Anoop Menon, Meera Nandan

This one also doesnt gel with the theme of 'Yathra' directly. (The makers may explain some indirect links). It is basically a horror story. A horror fiction writer comes to meet his half-sister in Kerala Cafe and talks about an incident that happened in a spooky 'mana'. It is about a journalist who goes to the old mansion's owner to find out about the unusual deaths that keep happening inside it. In spite of several warnings by the owner, the journalist decides to spend a night inside the scary house. In between this, he also proposes to the karanavar's granddaughter. What happens to him finally? Uday Ananthan is not so successful in creating an effective horror mood, which is required for this movie. The audience were booing away to glory for this one also. At one point we would be confused whether all those voices were actually in the movie, or were made by some talented mimicry artistes among the audience. Fazil's son Shanu, in a new name, Fahaadh, reappears after his pathetic debut Kaiyethum Doorathu. His acting is impressive and he looks good too. Rima Kallingal is a natural actress and as what usually happens to heroines who have a little brain, she is also booed at strongly. Thilakan is credible as always. The mediocre movie surprises you with a good and clever ending, though a lot of questions are left unanswered. (It can be excused, as short films have that advantage of leaving a lot to the audience's imagination).

Rating - 2.5/5 

Director - Anjali Menon
Cinematography - MJ Radhakrishnan
Editor - B Lenin
Art - Suresh Kollam
Music - Issac Thomas Kottukappally
Sound - AS Lakshmi Narayanan
Writer - Anjali Menon
Cast - Jagathy Sreekumar, Nithya Menen and Bindu Panicker (Voice).

This movie is certainly the second best among the ten movies. And it can also be called technically as the first Malayalam movie by a lady director. (Anjali had already made a beautiful film called Manjadikkuru, which is yet to release). The basic theme of this movie is battle of the sexes. How a man tries to take advantage of a young vulnerable girl and how the girl faces him strongly and scares the living daylights out of him forms the story of the movie. Jagathy Sreekumar is absolutely stupendous as the flirtatious (or slightly horny, if the language can be excused), typical Malayali uncle. Kudos to Anjali for extracting such an amazing performance from one of our best actors, who is grossly wasted in all the recent movies that he has been doing. Nithya Menen has already proved that she is a good actress and she does a neat job here too, other than appearing really beautiful also. Almost the entire film was shot inside a bus, and in spite of that, the technical departments have done a great job including cinematography, art and sound. This is the first movie of the lot where the whole theatre was clapping together in unison. Each and everyone present there loved the film. Anjali Menon is a filmmaker to watch out for. (I have already seen her debut film Manjadikkuru, and it is absolutely brilliant). The movie has its interval point where this movie ends. 

Rating - 4.5/5

Director - B Unnikrishnan
Cinematographer - Shamdat
Editor - Manoj
Art - Joseph Nellickal
Music - M Jayachandran
Writer - B Unnikrishnan
Cast - Siddique, Shwetha Menon, Sudheesh

This movie is a tale of a nuclear family affected by global recession. It is a very relevant topic and the movie has a superlative performance by Siddique with great support from Shwetha Menon. The camerawork is very impressive and the interior designing of the house which is the main location for almost the entire movie, is also effective. The whole credibility of the movie is solely based on Siddique's performance, and the brilliant actor gives a great effortless performance. The audience feels for him and sympathizes with him, and that is Siddique's success as an actor, and B Unnikrishnan's success as a director. Shwetha Menon is also very good. B Unnikrishnan already has the experience in directing short fiction, especially for some very impressive telefilms in Amritha TV. Since this movie was in the second half, and the audience became used to the film's format, it got a good round of applause when it ended. 

Rating - 3.8/5

Director - Shyamaprasad
Cinematography - Alagappan
Editor - John Kutty
Art - Raju Chemmannil
Music - Rahul Raj
Writer - Joshua Newtonn
Cast - Suraaj Venjarammood, Vindhyan

Shyamaprasad deviates from his usual serious kind of cinema to make this light hearted short film, which begins with a scene which shows what happens when a Slumdog meets a Millionaire during an off season at Kovalam beach. Suraaj Venjarammood plays the lead role in the movie and his Thiruvananthapuram style dialogue delivery is utilized once again. Thankfully, it does not appear repetitive and is quite authentic, since the movie is set in Kovalam. Suraaj plays a happy-go-lucky guy who makes his living by doing all sorts of jobs at the beach. He comes across a Portugese couple and he thinks he can make some easy money by conning them. But he realizes soon that all his attempts were in vain. But in spite of this, a bond comes across between them and the movie ends depicting this bond, which doesnt have the barrier of culture, region or language. This movie also talks about the global economic recession and how it has affected people around the world. Suraaj puts in a decent performance. His first shot is received with maximum applause (probably as much as Prithviraj and Mammootty got in the movie, and definitely much more than what Dileep and Suresh Gopi got). I had begun to hate him and was irritated by the undying love for him shown by Malayalis in spite of the atrocious things he keeps doing in movies in the name of comedy. But in this movie, he is controlled by an excellent director like Shyamaprasad and is made to deliver a good performance. Alagappan's frames are excellent. Art by Raju Chemmannil is very impressive. Rahul Raj recreates a happy version of the classic sad song 'Manasamaine Varoo'. All in all, a decent effort. 

Rating - 3/5

Director - Anwar Rasheed
Cinematography - Suresh Rajan
Editor - Vivek Harshan
Art - Diljith
Music - Rex Vijayan
Writer - Unni R
Cast - Salimkumar, Shantha Devi, Kalpana and others. 

I wanted to give a standing ovation for this movie so badly. It is clearly the best piece of cinema to have come out in recent years in Malayalam. And that too, from a total commercial masala filmmaker who has given back to back blockbusters with superstars like Rajamanikyam, Chotta Mumbai and Annan Thampi. You never expect such a movie from the Anwar Rasheed who gave us all the above mentioned movies. Ranjith has given him the creative space and freedom to express himself without thinking about the commercial fate of the project. And this has helped him create a beautiful work of art, called bridge. It is a tale about two rejected souls. I'm not mentioning anything about the story, as it would spoil the experience when you watch it. Salimkumar puts in yet another credible, serious performance after Achanurangaatha Veedu. Kalpana is completely natural. But the best actor in this one, and probably in the whole Kerala Cafe movie is the old actress Shantha Devi. She definitely would bring a tear or two to your eyes. The film has some truly exotic frames captured by Suresh Rajan, who is a pass out of Kolkata film school (the one where Amal Neerad came from). I heard that this guy is going to do Mani Ratnam's next film. So you can already guess the talent of this guy. Absolutely stunning. Vivek Harshan's editing is also perfect. Unni R, who wrote some kickass dialogues in Big B, has written this touching story with ample scope for Anwar to give a visual treat. Bridge is definitely the best among all the ten movies in Kerala Cafe. 

Rating - 5/5

Director - Revathy
Cinematography - Madhu Ambat
Editor - Rajalakshmi
Art - Shankar
Music - Bombay Jayashree
Story - Revathy
Screenplay, Dialogues - Deedi Damodaran
Cast - Sona Nair, Augustine, Srinath, Sreelakshmi, Archana, Jayarao, Sasi, Master Arun, Sai Shree

Revathy is known to make movies with women as the main protagonists. Here, she talks about a girl child who is sent away from her family in exchange for money to the comforts of a rich family. What finally happens to that poor child, forms the rest of the story. Revathy has narrated the story with a great sensibility and each member of the cast has given great performances. Sona Nair and the lady who acted as the child's mother were really good. The shot where the younger brother runs behind the speeding car from a top angle, by legendary cameraman Madhu Ambat is sure to haunt you. The movie leaves you disturbed and Revathy and Deedi Damodaran (who wrote Gulmohar earlier) make you sympathize with their characters. A well made movie in all aspects. A beautiful short song composed by singer Bombay Jayashree is used very well in the movie. 

Rating - 3.5/5

Director - Lal Jose
Cinematography - Vijay Ulakanathan
Editor - Ranjan Abraham
Art - Mani Mannarkkad
Music - Bijipal
Screenplay - Lal Jose
Based on CV Sreeraman's short story Puram Kaazhchakal
Cast - Sreenivasan, Mammootty, Sreelekha

This film narrates the story of a bus journey. It begins when a middle aged man, played by Sreenivasan who goes on a bus route which he had long forgotten because of a tragic past. He remembers those incidents while traveling through those routes and seeing those places. A stranger, who is in a hurry comes and sits next to him. He tries to begin a conversation but he is totally not interested. He appears to be in a hurry and seems to have an upset mind. The movie then proceeds to a great climax which startles the viewer. Sreenivasan is good and gives a controlled performance. The track of his past wasnt really necessary. Mammootty was brilliant in his miniscule role. The actor in him is utilized fully just through mere reactions and looks. He hardly has any dialogues in the movie. He emotes completely through his expressions. And the best part is that, you will realize that it was a really amazing performance, much more when you see the climax. This movie would certainly be disappointing for Mammootty fans who expected him in a lengthy role. They would even think that he had nothing to do in this movie. But he is here as just another talented actor who is perfect for that particular character. Being part of this experiment is a great gesture from Mammootty's side as his presence would certainly bring in more attention and hype to this movie. The great locations were captured very well by cinematographer Vijay Ulaganathan. All in all, a great movie by Lal Jose though it might not satisfy the huge expectations caused due to the coming together of Lal Jose, Sreenivasan and Mammootty. 

Rating - 4/5

Different characters from all these movies come to Kerala Cafe at certain points of time and wait for the train that is about to arrive. Finally, after we know the story behind each one of them, the train arrives and all of them go away in a hurry from Kerala Cafe. And we are left with a haunting shot of 2 characters from the best movie of the lot, Bridge, sitting at a corner of the railway station. The movie then proceeds to the end credits which appear along with the awe inspiring song 'Kadhayamama Kadhakalathi Sagaram'. 

Ranjith has effortlessly merged together all these 10 stories into one great cinematic experience which Malayalis have never had before. In Hindi, there was one such movie called Dus Kahaniyaan, but in that, most movies were ripped off from foreign short films and half the movies were directed by the producer Sanjay Gupta himself. This movie stands way above that one and is certainly a must watch for all lovers of good cinema. It was conceptualized, shot, edited and released, all within 4 and a half months with over 1800 people as part of the crew. This can certainly be the change that Malayalam Cinema badly needs. But if the crowd continues to react in the way they reacted during the first half of the movie today, I dont think they deserve such good movies anymore. But I hope this type of crowd will go away in some days as more and more people will become aware of what the movie actually is about and watch it for that, not for the star studded poster of the movie, which gives an impression that it is yet another Twenty 20

But it is interesting to note that, Malayalam Cinema is suddenly getting a fresh lease of life. Movies like PassengerBhramaram, Loudspeaker, Pazhassiraja, Kerala Cafe, Swa Le, etc are coming and people are slowly appreciating such movies, even though the mass crowd still prefers the other kind of cinema. This should also change gradually and we can all hope that we get back to the glorious period of our cinema which we had during the 85-95 period. 

Thank you Ranjith Sir for giving us this movie. You have always been a trendsetter. Whether it is by writing movies like Aaram Thampuraan and Summer in Betlehem at the same time or giving a Nandanam after a Ravanaprabhu, you have always surprised the Malayali viewers with your offbeat as well as commercial ventures. Now that you have shown the capability of the amazing producer in you and has tried to bring about a change in our declining film industry, we have huge expecations out of your next movie Palery Manikyam. Hope it turns out to be even better. Thank you for Kerala Cafe. The coffee was delicious!!

Rating - 4.5/5 (An extra .5 just because such efforts should always be appreciated and promoted). 

Thursday, October 29

Angel John - Oru Rasavumilla!!

Movie - Angel John (Malayalam)
Director - SL Puram Jayasurya
Producer - KK Narayanadas
Cast - Mohanlal, Shaanthanu Bhagyaraj, Nithya Menon, Lalu Alex, Ambika, Jagathy Sreekumar, Baiju, Vijayaraghavan
Cinematography - Ajayan Vincent
Music - Ouseppachan
Editing - Bijith Bala
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Manaf
Release Date - 22nd October 2009

Being a Mohanlal fan, I usually watch his movies on the day of its release and the very first show itself if possible. But I couldnt do so for this movie because I was in Chennai on the release day. After coming back to Cochin, I tried calling some of my friends for the movie, but all of them backed out because they had all heard enough bad things about the movie. I decided to go alone for the night show then, but my family felt 'paavam' for me and decided to join me in this adventure. So I dragged them into an almost empty Kavitha theatre for the night show which had already started 10 minutes ago. I felt sad seeing that the hall was almost empty, that too not even a week after the release of the movie. I havent seen such a poor crowd for a Mohanlal starrer in the first week ever before. (Maybe because I watch all movies on first day itself) ;) And after seeing all this, I started watching the movie which was already 15 minutes into its running time with zero expectations. 

The story is about Maradona, a carefree youth who has no goals in life and one who doesnt care about anything or anyone around him. He gets into lots of trouble (which are way too many to be written here) and finally, Maradona decides to commit suicide and just before he does that, an Angel comes down from heaven and stops him. The Angel gives him two offers and Maradona chooses the easy way out, even though it had a dangerous clause at the end. From here on, Angel grants all of Maradona's wishes at the rate of one wish per day. But what happens finally when the choice that he made proves dangerous? This is what the movie is about. 

The first half gets over rapidly in less than an hour. The first half is plain uninteresting to watch. The worst part of all was that, Fort Kochi was shown as Goa in the movie. This is effective cost cutting, I must say!! There is nothing much to mention about in the first half as it is very lackluster. And when Shaanthanu gets drunk and goes on top of a lighthouse to commit suicide, there are some real bad composite shots with pretty bad graphics work. It is only then that Mohanlal appears, in outlandish, flashy costumes and a very bad wig, as Angel John. He is givens some really bad dialogues in his very first scene itself and suddenly, another Mohanlal pops out of nowhere. The other Mohanlal comes in mundu and shirt and one cannot help but clap when Lalettan comes in a mundu. He makes some mediocre lines sound great with his great delivery at that particular instance. But it is way too short and the intermission sign appears then and there. 

Shaanthanu's acting varies from decent to bad. He has improved a lot from his disastrous debut, Sakkarakkatti (which is remembered only for Rahman's chartbuster Taxi Taxi). I should say that this chap is indeed very lucky. His first film had music by AR Rahman and he could act alongside a legend like Mohanlal in his second film. He was decent in many scenes, but in the scenes where he is required to emote, he just stands expressionlessly, without doing anything. And in the drunk scene, he shows us a new level of overacting. Coming from the Tamil industry, he has a tendency to raise his hands and utter punch dialogues, even for the simplest of scenes. The deficiency of young actors in Malayalam is the sole reason why this guy was imported from Tamil Nadu to play the role of Maradona. (Who would name their son Maradona? As Salimkumar says in the movie, 'Vaayil kollaavunna peru vallom ittaal poraayirunno?') Having said that, I shoud also say that Shaanthanu definitely has lots of scope for improvement. He can be moulded into a good actor, if he gets to work with good directors in the future. The dubbing for him, by Sharath, was good, though sometimes he sounded like Vineeth Sreenivasan too. 

There is absolutely nothing that Mohanlal, the actor has to do in this film. This role is just written to manipulate Mohanlal, the superstar. But the director fails to utilize both his acting talent and his superstardom. If Pattanathil Bhootham was Mammootty's terrible mistake, Angel John is Mohanlal's mistake. (Though it is not as bad as Bhootham). I dont understand why these two actors take up similar roles and try to compete with each other. Last year, when Mohanlal made a good entertainer Madambi, Mammootty mad a really bad Parunthu. This year, after Mammootty made a horrible Pattanathil Bhootham, Mohanlal replies with a lackluster Angel John. In fact, he even takes a dig at Bhootham through one of the dialogues.  Both of them should realize that they are much above all these silly things. In spite of all this, if Angel John is watchable, it is only because of Mohanlal's presence in the movie. He tries his best to save the movie and is not quite successful in that, though he gives some of his wonderful comic expressions at times, which is always a delight to watch. But why is he wearing such bad costumes and a horrible wig?? All these made him look really bad in the movie. Only when he came as an army man, he looked nice. And the idea of morphing Mohanlal into Rajnikanth, mouthing some of his most popular dialogues from various films together, in a scene from Kuselan, was clearly done to get applause from the audience. But since hardly any audience was there, that scene didnt work. In short, Mohanlal is wasted in the movie, but if he wasnt there, the movie would have been a total waste. 

Nithya is beautiful and has got good talent (she showed good potential in Aakashagopuram). Lalu Alex is just ok. Ambika hams it up. Jagathy is good as usual. Salimkumar was great in the movie's only hilarious comic scene (meaning the only one that works). Bijukkuttan, Baiju and the new villain are all just there. 

The movie has a good message for the youth of today, but the director is not very successful in bringing it out. The script and dialogues are quite juvenile at many points and the direction is just okay throughout. If treated well, this story could have been an intriguing watch. The only scenes that work, at least to a certain extent, are the scenes where Jagathy tries to create a world record by staying underwater and the climax scene involving Mohanlal and Shaanthanu. The idea of expressing Maradona's state of mind through his T-shirts was good, though it is hardly seen in the second half. Cinematography is very average. We dont see any greatness that Ajayan Vincent showed in his last movie Bhramaram, in this one. The one song by Ouseppachan is pretty bad. Why is Hariharan made to sing some tongue twisters in Malayalam, when he can hardly pronounce the basic words correctly? There is nothing much to be talked about regarding the other technical aspects of the movie. The story by Manaf could have been good, if he had not written such a poor screenplay and juvenile dialogues for it. 

The question that comes to your mind when you leave the theatre is that, why do such movies get made? It doesnt do any good to the director, producer, actors or technicians. Then what is the point of making the whole movie and that too by wasting the talent and dates of such a huge superstar along with it. Though the movie is certainly better than Mammootty's clownish Bhootham act, it is nothing much to be proud about, as the movie is quite below average and leaves you with a bland feeling. The movie is faring pretty badly at the box office and will ultimately be a failure, because a lot of negative publicity is doing the rounds as well. And the timing of the release too, has affected the movie a lot, because Pazhassiraja is doing great business and is being appreciated by critics and audience alike. I hope the team realizes their mistake and does not make such attempts from now on. And a sincere request to Lalettan, we all love you, but we would like to see you in much better roles than this, because you are much above all this. Give us more Bhramarams, or even entertainers like Chotta Mumbais or Twenty 20s, but not Angel Johns. 

Rating - 2/5