Friday, December 25


Movie - Chattambinaadu (Malayalam)
Director - Shafi
Cast - Mammootty, Lakshmi Rai, Vinu Mohan, Mythili, Meenakshi, Siddique, Suraaj Venjarammood, Salimkumar, Manoj K Jayan, Saikumar, Janardhanan and others.
Music - Alex Paul
Cinematography - Manoj Pilla
Editing - V Saajan
Art Director - Joseph Nellickal
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Benny P Nayarambalam
Release Date - 25th December 2009

If you're not yet tired of the innumerable flicks with a tamil/kannada nativity shot in Pollachi, based on the same formula, you might just end up liking this film. I had written a post with 30 steps to make a Tamil mass movie. The same can be done for this one. But this movie is not worth it to take so much efforts in writing that. Even the makers have made it only as a concoction of all their films. Thus, we get a mixture of Rajamanikyam, Thommanum Makkalum,Annan Thambi and even Gillie. The only difference is brought by Mammootty. If he was a buffalo seller who spoke in a crass Thiruvananthapuram accent inRajamanikyam, here he is a rich Kannada rogue who speaks Malayalam with a heavy Kannada accent. Other than that, most of it is the same.

The story roughly goes like this - Chembattu Naadu had officially turned into Chattambi Naadu because of the several notorious activities and fights that kept happening there. Siddique and Manoj K Jayan are members of 2 of the biggest families there and are at constant loggerheads because of an old flashback (Cliche No.1). Manoj K Jayan is the weaker one, so he seeks the help of Veerendra Mallayya (Mammootty) to buy his house from him and give him money to pay back his debts. (Cliche No.2). Mammootty also has a reason in coming back to this place, something which connects him also to the old flashback. (Biggest Cliche in the movie :P). Mammootty has a trusted aide, Vinu Mohan, who is obviously younger and more educated than him. (a la Rahman in Rajamanikyam). As soon as he lands in the village, trouble starts brewing between him and Siddique and Siddique waits for the right opportunity to get back at him. In the meanwhile, Lakshmi Rai, the heroine is also introduced in a song and constantly fights with our hero, to finally fall head over heels for him. The rest of the story moves on very predictably with the addition of goondas like Salimkumar and Suraaj for comic relief.

There is absolutely no novelty in the story, and the movie holds interest only because of the presence of Mammootty. He looks dapper in his white and white costumes, Ray Ban glasses and white shoes. And with a really funny Kannada accent, he makes sure that the audience do not get reminded of the 100 odd cliches in the movie. Even though his character, and the change in accent were all first brought in the much more effective and entertainingRajamanikyam, the actor manages to succeed in his portrayal of this Kannada man also. He is the only good thing in the movie. Siddique repeats his villainous act seen in several other films and has even the same look he sported in Madambi. Manoj K Jayan plays a useless guy, whose destiny is to be saved by our great hero, yet again. Salimkumar and Suraaj Venjarammood try to provide comic relief with many stale and old jokes, which rarely work. Thankfully, Suraaj has not used many of his vulgar jokes in this one, even though he tries to show that side of him at some parts of the movie. Lakshmi Rai looks beautiful and has precious little to do. Mythili hardly has any dialogue. Meenakshi was the better one among the lot, but then she gets married off to Boban Alummoodan (whose main job in movies is to marry females whose marriages dont happen due to various reasons. :P) and is conveniently forgotten after that. Janardhanan, Saikumar, Vijayaraghavan and all are just there to be part of the ridiculous flashback, something which we have been seeing in all such movies.

15sli2When would our filmmakers get enough of this Pollachi location!! That same house is shown in a 100 movies, right fromThenkasippattanam to Love in Singaporeand has been the main location in most of them. The stories are based in this Tamil Nadu-Kerala-Karnataka border and are mostly about goondas or rowdies. Lots of gags in the name of comedy, fight scenes, colourful songs with Tamil extras, stupid villagers, menacing villain and a God-like hero with a troubled past. This is the formula for most of them. Movies likeRajamanikyam were at least successful in giving the right treatment to this formula and making a very entertaining film out of it. Now, yet another such film is being shot there, which stars Mammoootty along with the younger actor Prithviraj - Pokkiri Raja. Lets hope at least that one has to offer some difference in treatment. Benny P Nayarambalam, who used to write very entertaining scripts like Kalyanaraman, Chanthupottu, Kunjikkoonan, Thommanum Makkalum and Chotta Mumbai, has turned into a very mediocre writer off-late with films like Lollipop and Chattambinaadu. Shafi has not taken any extra effort to make this movie different from all the above mentioned movies based on the same formula. I think all their attention was diverted towards Mammootty and his accent, more than the whole movie itself.

Alex Paul's music is very sub-standard. Lakshmi Rai's introduction song sounds like a readymade copy of the Jassie Gift song 'Themma Themma Themmadikkatte'. Manoj Pilla's cinematography and Joseph Nellickal's art direction were very good. There is nothing more to say about the other technical aspects of the film.

The success of this movie proves that the audience are not yet bored of these formula films in Malayalam. While the Tamil audience have begun showing indifference to such formula films (the most recent example being the lukewarm business of Vettaikkaran) and started appreciating different films, our people still loathe such formula films in our language and even in Tamil and the dubbed Telugu movies. (People are more excited about Vettaikkaran and Arya 2 in Kerala than in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively). There is nothing wrong in making entertainers. But making the same movie again and again, without even changing the setting and only changing the characters and characterizations, is a really sad thing. If such movies keep becoming hits, then more such movies would keep coming. And our superstars would again be forced to act in such films. Why blame them when the audience themselves, along with the producers and distributors are asking for more such movies?? Disappointing!!! Watch only if you're a hard-core Mammootty fan and if you're not yet tired of these formula movies.

Rating - 2.5/5 (Just for the entertainment that Mammootty provides).

Ividam Swargamanu

Movie - Ividam Swargamanu(Malayalam)
Director - Rosshan Andrrews
Producer - Antony Perumbavoor
Cast - Mohanlal, Thilakan, Sreenivasan, Shankar, Lakshmi Rai, Lalu Alex, Jagathy Sreekumar, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sukumari, Lakshmi Gopalaswami, Priyanka Nair, Innocent and others.
Background Score - Gopi Sundar
Cinematography - R Diwakar
Editor - Ranjan Abraham
Art Director - Cyril Kuruvilla
Story, Screenplay, Dialogue - James Albert
Release Date - 25th December 2009

2009's Christmas has two superstar movies coming together after a long time. This one featuring Mohanlal and 'Chattambinadu' featuring Mammootty. The latter is a formula movie made for the masses in the regular format and this one promised to take us back to the good old times of Malayalam Cinema where our heroes were ordinary people, not superheroes or Chattambis. Rosshan Andrrews is one director everyone looks up to, in spite of having done only 2 films so far. But those 2 films are the reason behind this expectation out of him as one of the best new generation directors in Malayalam Cinema. The movie had a dream combination of Mohanlal and Thilakan, coming together after a long long time, setting aside all their long-term ego-clashes, to give us a great film. To add to that, there is a huge cast including Sreenivasan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Innocent, etc, all of whom have shared excellent chemistry with Mohanlal on screen. There were humungous expectations from the movie, and the end-result might have different impacts on different people. Lets get to the detailed review.

Mathews (Mohanlal) is a farmer who loves his crops and cattle as much as he loves his family. He lives a simple, happy and peaceful life with his father Jeremias (Thilakan), mother (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) and aunt (Sukumari). But the problem begins when a real estate mafia kingpin, Aluva Chandy (Lalu Alex) sets eyes on Mathew's farmlands. He wants to get that land at any cost and takes several steps towards that, whereas Mathews and Jeremias are very strong in their stand on not selling the farm, which is their life. But with more and more legal hassles coming their way, thanks to Chandy's political influence, they go through a rough time. Sunitha (Lakshmi Rai), an advocate and Betsy (Priyanka) are on the side of Mathews knowing that he has taken the right stand. But a goverment officer Maria (Lakshmi Goplaswami) doesnt really believe Mathews and his problems, because her marriage proposal had been rejected once by Mathews. The second half is all about the steps taken by a desparate Mathews to save his land from going into the wrong hands. And when the character of Sreenivasan joins the proceedings, things become much more interesting.

Watching Mohanlal in this movie is a delight. Nammude pazhaya Lalettan engum poyittilla ennullathinu thelivaanu, ee padam. ;) He reminds us of the golden period of Malayalam Cinema where he came as the common man and not a superhero. He brings back those lovely expressions, great, gentle smiles and wondrful body language through his character Mathews, who is nothing more than an innocent, ordinary farmer. The old Lalettan is certainly the USP of this movie. Watch out for his subtle acting in the scene where he gets emotional about his father and his helplessness to Lakshmi Rai, nobody other than him can do that perfectly. Like in the director's earlier film with Mohanlal, Udayanaanu  Thaaram, he underplays his part brilliantly and lets the negative character Lalu Alex hog the limelight, just like Sreenivasan did in UT. Thilakan has a short but strong presence in the movie as the righteous father Jeremias. It was simply great to see the best on-screen father and son in Malayalam back together after a long time. But Thilakan is hardly seen in the second half of the film. Sreenivasan, in a crucial role is very effective. But if the movie belongs to somebody else after Mohanlal, it is Lalu Alex. He gives his career-best performance as the manipulative, but slightly dimwitted villain Aluva Chandy. His character is perfectly etched out and reaches its peak towards the climax portions. Jagathy Sreekumar is exceptional in a short role. Shankar is good as Mathews' support system. Among the ladies, Priyanka is the best, followed by Lakshmi Goplaswami and then a mediocre performance from Lakshmi Rai, even though Lakshmi Rai has a great screen presence. Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Sukumari do not have much to do. Maniyan Pillai Raju shines in the climax. Innocent hams it up a bit.

05look3Rosshan has managed to capture the innocence and nativity of the village and villagers of Kodanad very effectively. The whole setting of the movie takes us back to the good-old 80s and 90s. But the difference in film-making that he brought out through his 2 films - Udayanaanu Thaaram andNotebook, is missing in this one. As he could have done much more with this script. Also, the first half is quite slow, taking its own sweet time to establish things. In spite of that, he is able to hold the attention of the audience for 2 hours 45 minutes even without resorting to songs and other commerical elements. The guts he has shown by making a songless Mohanlal movie for a producer like Antony Perumbavoor, should definitely be appreciated. James Albert's script is well-written, but could have been more concise, getting to the point a little earlier. But the climax was certainly a master stroke from both these people. It is super-hilarious and absolutely effective. The story reminds one of the National Award winning 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' at times, but then takes a different route and reaches a completely innovative climax. A certain word used in the climax is sure to be a rage in the coming days. ;)

The movie is not devoid of negatives. First of all, the length could have been much shorter. The absence of songs didnt really matter, and if songs were there, it would have further affected the impact of the movie. The fight in the second half and the heroine angle in the end looked really forced in the movie, which was all about innocent people. (I guess they were included due to the insistence of the producer since I'm quite sure that Rosshan isnt the kind of person who would add such scenes just to play safe.) The much-hyped coming together of Mohanlal and Thilakan wasnt utilized fully and kept one wanting for more scenes featuring the two veterans. But compared to the positives, these negatives do not really matter.

Cinematography by Diwakar is really refreshing. He has captured the beautiful locales wonderfully. Background Score by Gopi Sundar is very minimal and could have been more effective. One expects more from him after some electrifying work in Sagar Alias Jacky. Ranjan Abraham could have trimmed a movie a little more. Art director Cyril Kuruvilla created the entire farmhouse at different locations and even cultivated an entire farm just for the movie, much in advance before the movie's shoot commenced. Amazing work!! 

The movie has a strong message and really good intentions. It has all the rights to be among the best of 2009 and fall into the category of 'Nalla Cinema', which is slowly becoming extinct in our industry. Families should love this movie and I hope the youth also would lap up this movie as the regular masss-masala movies have become inane and repetitive these days. Movies like these bring some fresh air and lots of hope to our industry. Mohanlal and Rosshan Andrrews are immediately starting with their big-budget extravaganzaCasanova, after completing this small, simple feel-good film. A huge thanks to James and Rosshan for brining back the 'common man' and his life back into our films and an even bigger thanks for showing us that the old Lalettan hasnt gone anywhere. It deserves a hig rating just for the sincerity and truthfulness put into it. :) :)

After watching this movie, one feels, 'Ividam theerchayayum swargamanu'. :) :)

Rating - 4/5

Friday, December 18


Movie - Vettaikkaran (Tamil)
Director - Babu Sivan
Producer - AVM Productions
Cast - Vijay, Anushka, Salim Ghouse, Srihari, Srinath, Sukumari, Satyan, Shayaji Shinde
Music - Vijay Antony
Cinematography - Gopinath
Editing - VT Vijayan
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Babu Sivan Action - Kanal Kannan
Art Direction - Milan
Release Date - 18th December 2009

A Vijay film, or for that matter, any Tamil mass hero film, would have a certain template on to which different ideas are placed. I will try to write down that template (30 steps to make a Tamil mass movie) before getting into the actual review of the film. So beware, this post will be quite long.. :P

1. A villain/group of villains are shown doing some socially unacceptable activity.
2. One or many of the natives of the our hero praises him endlessly giving a build up that he'll soon take care of the problem.
3. Introduction of hero with stunt scene where he deals with the above mentioned villains.
4. Justice is done towards the poor whom the hero has no relation with. They also sing praises about the hero and say that he is their God.
5. Hero introduction song where the hero sings about himself and his commitment to society.
6. Some comedy involving the hero's family.
7. Time for introducing the heroine - they meet either in a bus, train, railway station or kovil thiruvizha. Most probably by accidentally bumping into each other. Hero is immediately smitten by her.
8. Hero moves to city (not to fight evil, but eventually ends up doing that), surprised to find heroine there also.
9. Hero goes to college. Gives advice to his teacher itself.
10. Some more comedy scenes involving hero and heroine where the heroine keeps fighting with the good-natured hero.
11. The intermediate villains of the movie are introduced with their horrifying activities, which the hero is not aware of, at a different part of the city.
12. Heroine shows first sign of her liking towards hero. First folk song.
13. More comedy involving hero and heroine.
14. Hero unknowingly insults the ego of the violent villain. Villain becomes angry and wants to kill him the next time he sees him.
15. Hero's friend gets into trouble with the villain. Hero stands up for him/her.
16. Hero fights the villain without knowing the villain's strength.
17. Villain's ego is hurt and he hatches a plan to do away with hero. Almost succeeds with it until the hero escapes and turns into revenge mode just before the interval.
18. Hero meets bigger villain (the main one), if any.
19. Hero starts keeping 'aappu' for the villain, with a touch of comedy.
20. Heroine pops out of nowhere suddenly, has one scene with the hero and then proceeds to a romantic duet in foreign location.
21. Again, fights and aappu continues.
22. Song showing hero's growth and might.
23. Heroine is hurt, kidnapped or a rape attempt happens on her. Hero comes right in time to save her.
24. 'Kuthu paattu' with folk dance.
25. If there is any best friend of the hero, he is either killed or tortured like hell.
26. Hero's fury comes out in full form. He gets into the final showdown with the villain.
27. Hero is badly attacked and hurt.
28. Either mom, sister or heroine give strength to the hero to get up and fight again. If none of these happen, then there is always a chance of divine intervention.
29. Hero either kills the villain and walks away scot free or surrenders the villain to law.
30. Hero and heroine walk away with the director's name appearing on the last card with the audio of the kuthu paattu/hero's power song.

(If a star comedian is hired, there will be a separate comedy track featuring him, with its own story, which has no relation with the main plot).

So that was a Tamil mass movie in 30 steps. The screenplay order is ready for any director who attempts this genre. The tough task is, making an interesting potboiler out of this oft-repeated format. Sometimes people create the most paisa-vasool entertainers out of this format and sometimes the most terrible and outrageous films you can imagine. It all depends on how the director handles the movie. And thankfully, Babu Sivan has not messed up this formula in Vettaikkaran. So its time to rejoice for Vijay fans, as he gives them a decent entertainer with good proportions of the required masala. There is no separate comedy track in this movie and Vijay does most of the comic scenes in the himself, relieving us from those inane comedy tracks by either Vadivel, Vivek or Santhanam.  All the elements in a usual Vijay movie, except the mandatory comic track is present and is done neatly as well. But if worked out well, this film could have been an awesome entertainer like Pokkiri or Gilli. But it stops at being just okay, because of the screenplay in the second half.

The story is about 'Police' Ravi who aspired to be a great police officer like Devaraj IPS (Sri Hari) and follows the same path that his idol went through. After some fooling around in his village, he goes to the city to join the same college where Devaraj studied, drive an auto to make money for his fees and join the police after that, exactly how Devaraj did when he was younger. He meets a beautiful girl Susila (Anushka) on his way to Chennai and is immediately smitten by her. After fighting with him initially, she also has the same feelings for him quite soon. In an attempt to impress her, Ravi does some traffic control and unknowingly insults the villain Chella (a long haired goon whose name I didnt get). Chella is the ruler of Chennai and his speciality is that he gets any girl whom he lays his eyes on (how innovative!!). So one day, he happens to see the cleavage of Ravi's friend Uma by mistake and decides that he has to get her immediately. So takes away all the belongings of Uma's dad (who is also the owner of Ravi's auto) and threatens him that if he doesnt send his girl to Chella, he'll never get his belongings back. Hearing this, Ravi gets enraged and takes Uma to Chella and then beats up everyone who comes forward. Chella is beaten to pulp by Ravi and Chella's people ask the policeman Kattabomman (Shayaji Shinde) to frame Ravi in an encounter case and kill him. Ravi is beaten up badly in the police cells before he is framed in a case and is supposed to be killed instead of some other criminal. Susi asks Devaraj's help but he behaves rudely to her and asks her to get out from there.  Ravi narrowly escapes from the encounter killing and goes to Devaraj's house to shout at him. But Devaraj tells him about the atrocities done to him by Chella's father Vedanayakam (Salim Ghouse) which is why he is in such a condition. Ravi decides to stand up against Vedanayakam along with the help of Devaraj and a bunch of friends from his village. The rest of the story is about Ravi's fight against Vedanayakam.

The first half goes smoothly with lots of comedy and songs and one impressive fight sequence. But it is the second half which is in trouble. After the introduction of the bigger villain Vedanayakam, you expect much more fireworks, but everything is so rushed after that. Vijay suddenly starts appearing in designer wear and luxury cars and all that, in the course of a song praising him. For quite some time after that, the movie strikingly resembles the second half of Rajnikanth's Sivaji. A scene at a minister's office, ends up looking like a poor replica of a similar scene in Sivaji. A detective agency pops out of nowhere (I should be kicked for trying to find logic in such a film, but still, some establishing scenes should have been done before something like that). Anushka appears twice or thrice in the second half. First for a romantic song, and then for her to be kidnapped by villain and saved by hero following a 'kuthu paattu'. All in all, the director does not go completely overboard like Vijay's recent movies and manages to keep things under control.

Vettaikaran_Stills_Vijay_Anushka-3-300x2791Vijay is at ease doing the same things he has been doing in all his movies. He dances, fights, says punch dialogues and does comedy, all with comfortable ease. It was a great relief to see him doing comedy himself instead of separate comedy tracks by professional comedians. Anushka is nothing more than eye candy. She looks hot in the songs and cute in the scenes. But she couldnt dance properly in sync with the Tamil folk beats, especially in the last 'kuthu paattu' and her dance looked very awkward in that song in which she was wearing very skimpy clothes. Sri Hari as Devaraj is loud and annoying. Sukumari gives a delightful presence. Salim Ghouse as Vedachalam sends a chill down your spine with his cold-bloodedness. He was the best among the whole cast in the movie. The very sight of him in movies used to scare me as a child (Thaazhvaram, Thiruda Thiruda), and now I realized that he still has that effect on me. Shayaji Shinde who is usually very over-the-top and annoying in Tamil films, is quite good in this movie as a villainous cop with a comic touch.

Songs by Vijay Antony are already chartbusters and the audience response to the first two songs were unbelievable. The theatre went into a frenzy when Vijay's son Sanjay was introduced in the 'Naan adicha thaanga maatte' song along with Vijay. From that short bit, we know that he will surely step into his father's shoes when he's big enough. All the other songs are also equally good. Vijay's ridiculous wig in the 'Chinna Thamarai' song was really funny and could have been avoided. Gopinath's camera and VT Vijayan's editing go with the mood of the film. Kanal Kannan gives some neat stunt sequences where the stunts are not as over-the-top as usual Tamil movies. He packs a solid punch in many of the action scenes.

I wasnt bored or irritated at any point and the movie was fairly engaging till its end, even though I had become sick of Vijay's usual masala flicks after seeingKuruvi and Villu. It is high time the actor changed his track rather than doing the same thing again and again. It would be nice to see him in movies likeKhushi or Sachin once in a while. Babu Sivan makes an okay debut as a director, but as a writer he still needs to go a long way. All in all, the package works in many parts and Vettaikkaran is quite entertaining, provided you go in expecting nothing more than the 30 points I have mentioned above. :P

Rating - 3/5

Friday, December 11

Rocket Singh : Salesman of the Year

 Movie - Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (Hindi)
Producer - Aditya Chopra
Director - Shimit Amin
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Jaideep Sahni
Cast - Ranbir Kapoor, Shazahn Padamsee, Gauhar Khan, D Santosh, Mukesh Bhatt, Prem Chopra, Manish Chaudhary and Naveen Kaushik
Music - Salim/Sulaiman
Cinematography - Vikash Nowlakha Anshum
Editor - Arindam Ghatak
Art Direction - TP Abid
Release Date - 11th December 2009

Yash Raj Films are known for promoting their films flamboyantly and agressively showcasing all the glamour and style quotients of their films. But for this movie, the promotion was completely unlike Yash Raj. All the promos and posters of the movie featured just the lead actor Ranbir Kapoor dressed in formal attire and a turban, presenting himself as a salesman. It requires courage to promote a big budget film from a huge banner on the strength of a 4 film old actor alone. But this time, Yash Raj dared to be different and did the promotion for this movie, exactly how the movie required to be promoted. And if u see the names Shimit Amin and Jaideep Sahni together, you know what to expect because of the earlier venture of this team, called Chak De! India, which was the last good/great film from the Yash Raj stable. One of our most popular critics, Raja Sen, said on Twitter - 'Getting hold of Jaideep Sahni is the single smartest thing Yash Raj Films have done since Silsila.' He is indeed very true as Jaideep is one of the best writers we have in our country at present. He has given us landmark films like Company, Bunty Aur Babli, Khosla Ka Ghosla and Chak De India and an average Aaja Nachle. I have loved all his films so far and when he gets together with a director like Shimit Amin, the expectations go to another level.

Rocket Singh is the story of Harpreet Singh Bedi, a young Sardarji who scores quite a disappointing score in his B.Com exams. He decides to join a company called AYS Computers as a salesman. The company offers sales and services of computers and hardware. Despite a poor interview, Harpreet aka HP, manages to get himself a job as a trainee in the company. But his meeting with his very first client goes terribly wrong when he refuses to accept a bribe offered by the client. (HP was always taught to be 'nice' and truthful and honest, by his dadaji). He does not understand the world of corruption. His bosses humiliate him and ask him to leave the company as soon as he's done with the training period. He is ridiculed by all his colleagues who throw paper rockets at him. But HP doesnt want to give up. He makes up his mind that he should also learn the tricks of the trade. He decides that he should prove to his peers that business can be done with honesty, and still be successful. So HP coaxes 3 of his fellow colleagues into forming a new company, Rocket Sales Corp. The movie follows the series of events after the formation of that company.

Shimit Amin told the story of the underdogs who become the champions in Chak De India. In this movie also, he follows more or less the same theme. But instead of hockey grounds exploding with action, he sets it in the office rooms of a corporate, something which we seldom see in our cinema. The working of an office, the people there, the lives of the salesmen whom any random person would try to avoid, all are there in this movie, with great detail. Jaideep and Shimit take a lot of time to set up the characters including the good-hearted HP (Ranbir Kapoor), his righteous and cute Dadaji (Prem Chopra), his circle of friends, the hot but strong-headed receptionist (Gauhar Khan), the porn-addicted hardware engineer (D Santosh), the chaiwala (Mukesh Bhatt), the super-smart sales supervisor (Naveen Kaushik), HP's cute girlfriend (Shazahn Padamsee) and the cunning boss (Manish Chaudhary). This establishment of characters in the first half moves at a very slow pace and would make the regular audience quite restless. But for those who like well-written cinema, there are lots of amazing lines written by Jaideep that keep coming in the first half. The second half of the movie is super-exciting as it shows a complete transformation of events. The proceedings become much more interesting when more and more characters become part of it. There are two amazingly written scenes where HP and his boss have conversations, both are indeed brilliant. Especially the one taken inside the office. The other conversation towards the end could have gone completely wrong if the movie had some other director. But Shimit handles it extremely well and makes it work big time. The eye for detail is evident throughout the film in each department, from art direction (superb detailing in the atmosphere of the whole office) to cinematography to the dialogues. Each and everyone of these departments have contributed tremendously to the movie.

I have said this before, but I am repeating it again - Ranbir Kapoor is the next superstar!!!! This year certainly belongs to this young lad from the royal family of Hindi Cinema as he has given us three spectacular performances in Wake Up Sid, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and now Rocket Singh. I am officially a die-hard fan of Ranbir Kapoor from now onwards. He has amazing confidence and screen-presence and he knows where exactly to overplay or underplay. If you see his performance in the last film Ajab Prem and this one, you will know what I'm talking about. I'm sure that he'll be a much bigger star than an SRK or a Salman in no time, and he has an extra edge over them, as he is also a great actor, already getting critical acclaim with just 4 releases so far. He underplays Harpreet Singh effectively. He has prepared very well for this role, including his authentic beard (unlike the stubble Saif Ali Khan grew forLove Aaj Kal) an body language. He makes the honest and lovable Harpreet Singh very memorable through his outstanding performance.

Rocket Singh is not just about Ranbir Kapoor. It has an amazing ensemble cast, each one performing better than the other. Gauhar Khan is great as the receptionist. D Santosh and Mukesh Bhatt bring the humour quotient through some clever scenes. Naveen Kaushik is the find of the film as he plays the sales supervisor effortlessly and delivers a complete performance. Manish Chaudhary as the boss is equally good. Debutante Shazahn Padamsee does not have many scenes. But the screen lights up whenever she appears. Prem Chopra is really good after a long long time. His character's goodness makes one remember Anupam Kher from Khosla Ka Ghosla. I am not explaining the scenes where these people shine as it would take away the fun while watching.

The film hardly has one complete song in the narrative. But the film never required songs. Yash Raj could have easily ruined the film with foreign locations and item songs, bikinis and beaches, but thankfully they dont do all that here. The one song that is there in the film, is shot very well. Salim/Sulaiman's background score is quite okay. Vikash Nowlakha's cinematography is very good and it captures the ambience of the corporate office very well. The movie could have been a lot more crisper in the first half. Art director gets full marks for the detailing in his work. Costumes and make-up are very authentic.

But people who want naach-gaana, maar-dhaad, slapstick comedy and masaledaar scenes alone from cinema, should stay away from this film, as it is totally not their cup of tea. Also make sure you watch this film only if you follow Hindi completely, as you may not get some of the great lines in the film. Otherwise, wait for the DVD to come out with English Subtitles. Those who have a problem  with the movie's pace, should also stay away. I heard many people saying (including a top-critic), that the movie was like a documentary. I feel really sad for them, as they couldnt enjoy such a great film. All these aspects can be counted as flaws or certain characteristics of the film, depending on the way you enjoy the films you see. The people who think these are flaws, please stay away from the film. Dont come back saying bad things about this movie after watching it. The movie retains the Punjabi element though, as the lead character is a Sardarji. But he is indeed the most normal Sardarji to have come out in Hindi films. No jhappi-shappi, no bhangra-shangra and definitely no Hadippa!! :P. Instead, this film gives us a great Punjabi character who is considered a zero by everyone, but he proves by the end that when zero has the heighest value, when it finds its right place.

Summing up, Rocket Singh is a completely feel-good movie which lifts your spirits, even without any obvious fireworks on the screen. The movie remains subtle, sensible, intelligent and witty throughout its length. It also reinforces a movie buff's belief that Shimit Amin and Jaideep Sahni are two of the most talented people in the film industry today. And that Ranbir Kapoor is the future of Hindi Cinema. A special thanks to Aditya Chopra for making a wonderful film very unlike the other stupid/mindless films that keep coming out from his banner. Jaideep continues depicting the life of the middle-class in India with full authenticity in this film also. People have already started calling him as the RK Narayan of our generation. This movie can certainly boast of one of the most well-written scripts in recent times. Watch Rocket Singh for its inherent goodness, watch it for Ranbir, watch it for Jaideep's screenplay and dialogues, watch it for Shimit Amin's direction, watch it for the wonderful ensemble cast and finally, watch it if you love good/intelligent cinema. But I should also say that it is not everyone's cup of tea, and the length could have been much shorter. The makers have taken a huge risk by taking up such a subject and an even bigger risk through the different promotional campaign. But if you are ready to think a little bit, and look within yourself, you will find this movie quite relatable. Did I forget to say 'must-watch'??

Rating  - 4/5

Saturday, December 5

Palery Manikyam: Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha


Movie - Palery ManikyamOru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha(Malayalam)
Director - Ranjith
Producers - AV Anoop, Subair
Cast - Mammootty, Mythili, Shwetha Menon, Sreenivasan, Siddique, Gauri Mangal and a host of newcomers.
Music - Sharath, Bijibal
Cinematography - Manoj Pillai
Editing - Vijai Shankar
Story - TP Rajeevan
Screenplay, Dialogues - Ranjith
Release Date - 5th December 2009

This movie cannot be put into the genre of the usual 'Investigative Thriller' films in Malayalam. As the title suggests, it is the 'Story' of a murder of a girl called Manikyam that happened at midnight at a village called Palery. So if you're going in expecting a CBI style narrative where a lot of irrelevant investigation is done only to find a completely different culprit, you will be grossly disappointed. This film has to be watched for the unraveling of the story, rather than the suspense thriller element. And it is that unraveling, which makes this movie very interesting. And let me tell you in the beginning itself, that this film is not everyone's cup of tea. It has a mature, adult theme and many bold dialogues as well, which may not go down well with children and families. (They can watch if they come without their children though, and I didnt see the Censor Certificate, so I dont know about the rating of the film). Having said this, this film tells the story of the murder very interestingly and keeps the audience hooked throughout. It was very surprising to see lots of lady audience for a film like this on second day at Thiruvananthapuram Anjali theatre. That is indeed a great sign. Lets get to the review now.

The movie is about the first rape-murder case that was registered during the jurisdiction of the first elected cabinet in the Government of Kerala, in 1957. Haridas (Mammootty), a private detective, gets an instinctive feeling to investigate this 52 year old onsolved mystery and solve the mystery behind it. Later it is revealed that he also had a personal reason for the investigation of the case, which was as old as him. Manikyam (Mythili) was the bride of the village idiot Pokkan, who was the son of one of Palery's most desired women, Cheeru (Shwetha Menon). The morning after the whole village leaves to see a brand new drama in the town and Pokkan leaves along with a magician to perform some rituals, Manikyam is found dead in Cheeru's house. An investigation follows when Manikyam's brother finds out that she had been murdered. But the case does not reach anywhere, even though the whole town thinks that the rich landlord Ahmed Haji (Mammootty again) is behind the murder. Haridas travels through Palery finding out more and more about the story of the murder, which had become a legend in the town, 50 years later. He is assisted by his girlfriend Sarayu (Gauri Mangal). Haridas' findings form the rest of the story.

Ranjith begins the movie by showing visuals of a rape attempt and a child being born and cuts to Mammootty as Haridas, who begins his narration saying that the child was none other than himself. The whole background of the Palery Manikyam case is established through Haridas' narration, which is addressed directly to the audience. I found that a little putting off first, but it became better and I got used to it as the movie progressed. Ranjith has used a different writer's story for the first time in his career. TP Rajeevan had written this story as a novel which was serialized for a popular weekly earlier. Ranjith writes his own screenplay keeping that story as the base. As I have not read the novel, I do not know whether Ranjith has done justice to the novel or not. But his screenplay works big time and the unraveling of each mystery is done very interestingly keeping the audience hooked throughout the movie. The characterizations of many key characters are really good. Ranjith had conducted an extensive workshop to select actors playing various important roles in the movie. Except 3 of them, most of them disappoint with no expressions, poor dialogue delivery and out-of-sync dubbing. But this hasnt affected the impact of the movie thankfully because the content is very interesting. Even though the acting might be bad, the dialogues by some of these people were written very well. And as far as the others in the cast are concerned, Ranjith has been successful in extracting good performances from most of them. Dialogues are one of the most interesting parts of the film. The film is full of brilliant dialogues, delivered by various characters ranging from random villagers to the characters played by Mammootty. The film also criticizes both the Communist and Congress parties for their hypocritical ideologies and presents the political situation of Kerala in the 50s very subtly, without deviating from the main story. In fact, it only adds more value to the main story and works as a good backdrop for the turn of events. I want to discuss some more really good aspects of the characterizations by Ranjith, but since that would give away the plot, I am forced to stop myself.

paleri-manikyam-pictures-mamootty-mythili-7The role of Haridas is a cakewalk for an actor like Mammootty. He plays a character quie close to his age, after a long time. Haridas is a 52 year old, even though he never looks like one throughout the movie, thanks to Mammootty's suave looks (People who say superstars never play their age can shut up now). There is nothing special about Mammootty's performance as Haridas. It is a role which he can sleepwalk through. Haridas has a girlfriend, Sarayu who travels along with him as his companion when both their respectives spouses are in some other place. Gauri Mangal as Sarayu gives a disastrous performance. She cannot emote at all.  I wish Ranjith had selected a better person for that good role. Mythili as Manikyam has very few scenes even though the movie revolves around her character. She is decent in the few scenes she has and those scenes haunt us throughout the movie. The newcomer who played her husband, the demented Pokkan, was really good and is one of the few who has been a valuable find from the acting workshop. Shwetha Menon is very sensuous as the younger Cheeru and gives a really good performance during both the younger and older versions of Cheeru. Sreenivasan as an old barber is very effective. He has one of the film's most quotable dialogues as well. It was great to see Sreenivasan playing a full-on serious character without any kind of humour or sarcasm involved. The newcomer who played the younger version of  Sreenivasan was excellent. He has a striking resemblance with the veteran actor and a good screen presence as well. He is probably the best among the newcomers in the movie. The veteran screenwriter T Damodaran plays the communist Hamsa with perfection. Siddique, in a short role is extremely natural, as is expected out of him. But it is again Mammootty who gives the most effective performance in the film as the other character Ahmed Haji. He has played very few characters with negative shades in his long career. So it is exciting whenever he takes up such a role. And he gives a strong performance in that role, making you hate that character as much as possible, successfully. He delivers some great dialogues as both Haridas and Ahmed Haji. Those who missed his firebrand dialogue delivery in Pazhaasiraja would be happy hearing them. (But his dialogues in English are pretty bad. It just does not seem that he is casually speaking the language). Watch out for him in the scenes depicting his cruel and lecherous behaviour, he shows us why he is considered one of the best actors we have. Ahmed Haji is yet another brilliant performance from the actor. But it is in the climax portion that his performance as one of the characters disappoints us. Ranjith should have handled that particular scene in a more effective way. After a consistently great performance throughout the movie in his different roles, Mammootty lets us down a little in the climax sequence.

There is one song in the title sequence by Sharat and a short ghazal sung by Hariharan towards the end. The title song is sure to haunt you much after the film gets over. It keeps playing at crucial points in the film either as the song or background score and strengthen the impact of those scenes. Background score by Bijibal is effective in some places and lets us down in some other places. Cinematography by Manoj Pillai is excellent and this film would probably be his best work till date. He captures Palery in two different moods differentiating between the past and the present. The locations showcased in the movie are really good. The night shots are also done well, revealing certain things and not revealing some other things. Editing by Vijai Shankar could have been better. Art direction, costumes and make-up are really good and capture the essence of the bygone years quite effectively.

Opaleri-manikyam-palerimanikyam-wallpapers-3n the whole, Palery Manikyam: Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha is a very intriguing watch. It might not be liked by the common mass audience. But for people who like watching interesting stories and ideas and good cinema, without the trappings of usual commercial cinema, this film would be very interesting. Ranjith is slowly turning into a new-age Padmarajan of sorts. He is trying bold, mature and different themes (Thirakkatha, Kaiyyoppu) and daring experiments (Kerala Cafe) and his storytelling skill is intact in this new movie also. It is interesting to note that Ranjith has always given author-backed serious characters to Mammootty and larger than life characters to Mohanlal. He was never really successful in creating larger than life characters for Mammootty (Prajapathi, Valyettan, Nazrani, Black). And whenever he has tried to do something different with Mohanlal, the movies have flopped (Chandrolsavam, Rock n Roll, Mayamayooram). But I'm sure he will be able to be successful soon in creating much more greater roles which would work very well for both the superstars.

Coming back to the movie, it may not suitable for children as it handles an adult theme based on sex and rape and has certain scenes which may not be suitable for children to watch, even though they are done very aesthetically and effectively. Those scenes and certain dialogues (including abuses) are the crucial parts of the movie and cannot be avoided at all. Mammootty gives fine performances in his different roles. It is great to have the actor in him back through movies like Loudspeaker, Pazhassiraja, Kerala Cafe and this one now after a series of duds. Ranjith has delivered an intriguing film with a minor hiccup in the climax (not that it was bad, just that it didnt rise up to the standard set by the rest of the movie).

The movie has taken a good opening and it was great to see all kinds of people, including a lot of ladies, watching the movie on second day.  With the help of some good marketing, this movie should end up being a success. 2009 has been a year of promise for Malayalam Cinema where a lot of great movies have come out. We have one more movie which has generated tremendous hype, Ividam Swargamanu, releasing in the coming weeks. Gulumaal, this weeks other release is also getting a lot of positive response and doing very well.   Looks like this December is a good time for Malayalam movie lovers. Thank you Ranjith Sir for giving us yet another great movie soon after giving us the amazing Kerala Cafe. You are making Malayalam Cinema proud!! :) :)

Rating - 4/5

Friday, December 4


paa-movie-poster-3Movie - PAA (Hindi)
Director - R Balakrishnan a.k.a Balki
Producer - Abhishek Bachchan, Sunil Manchanda
Cast - Abhishek Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Arundhati Naag, Paresh Rawal, Pratik Katare and introducing Amitabh Bachchan as Auro :)
Music - Maestro Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography - PC Sreeram
Editing - Anil Naidu
Art Direction - Sunil Babu
Lyrics - Swanand Kirkire
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - R Balki
Release Date - 4th December 2009

Amitabh Bachchan playing a 13 year old at the age of 67. Now, this news itself was the biggest promotion for the film Paa. And add to that, Abhishek playing reel-life father to his real-life father, the media went crazy creating story after story and speculations about the movie. When the first look of the film was out, everyone went all out saying that the movie was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button told in reverse, because of the Progeria disease. (At least this film explains the cause of the abnormality, there was hardly any explanation about the curious case in that movie :P) And since the disease was featured in another Hollywood film Jack, they started saying Paa is a rip-off of that one. 'The media should be more responsible' as Abhishek says in the movie, because Paa is none of these and is a completely heart-warming tale of a wonderful child called Auro played astoundingly by Mr.Amitabh Bachchan.  After Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi, Auro is here to steal your hearts.

Paa is the story of Auro(Amitabh Bachchan), a child who is affected with an extremely rare genetic disease called Progeria, where the child is 5 times his age, physically, while his mental age is perfectly normal. So when he is a 13 year old child and behaves like one, he looks like a 65-70 year old man. Auro was brought up by a single mother Vidya (Vidya Balan), who is a gynecologist. Auro lives with his Maa and Bum (his grandma, played by a brilliant Arundhathi Naag) in a beautiful house and goes to one of the most prestigious schools around. He has a great circle of friends whom he has loads of fun with. But Auro is not aware of his father, Amol Aarte (Abhishek Bachchan), whom Vidya broke up with once she became pregnant (because he wasnt ready to accept the child). Amol is now a hot-blooded young politician who is focused on making the country a better place and proving that Politics, is not such a bad word after all. What happens when Auro and Amol become friends, forms the story of Paa.

Balki should really be appreciated for one thing. He has taken away everything that we have been relating to Mr.Amitabh Bachchan for all these years, in this movie. His personality, his grace, his new trademark goatee, and most of all, that voice of his. How can you get Bachchan without that baritone?? But Balki proves us wrong. You dont see Amitabh Bachchan anywhere in this movie. It is Auro right from the introduction scene till the end of the movie. And God, what a performance by the man as Auro. He is absolutely stupendous. Auro is witty, mischievous, sensitive, emotional, stubborn, loving, and of course, loads of fun. He breaks into a cheerful monkey dance whenever he is happy. By the time the movie gets over, you also feel like getting up and dancing like that. And another interesting fact is that, they have used the disease only as a backdrop for Amitabh to play this peculiar character. The movie is not 'about' Progeria, but Progeria just acts a catalyst in the narrative. 15 minutes into the movie, you completely forget about the disease, and start seeing Auro as a child only. Amol is an idealistic politician who makes 3 mistakes in the movie, according to Auro. The scene where he realizes his first mistake, is a gem. The movie is as much about Auro's Maa as it is about his Paa. Vidya, Auro's mother is a strong woman and she doesnt lose hope even when she knows her son is suffering from such a terrible disease.

amitabh-in-paaI just dont have enough words for Amitabh Bachchan's performance in the movie. I was really skeptical about the movie and his performance after I saw the promos and heard his voice in one of the songs. But he charms you like never before. Auro is one of his finest performances till date. Despite being covered almost fully by prosthetic make-up, Bachchan Saab emotes exceptionally. His body language, voice, behavioral pattern, everything is just like a child. His body language is truly exceptional. He gets clumsy when he gets nervous or excited, just like a child would. There are several similar nuances in his performance throughout the film. I thought Mohanlal would be getting the National Award this year for the Malayalam film Bhramaram, but after seeing Paa, I'm afraid the Big B will probably beat him at the awards this year. You do not get to see a 67 year old performing so wonderfully as a 13 year old very often. I can go on and on about his performance in the film, but I think it is best when you see it yourself. And one more thing, his performance is way better than Brad Pitt's in the extremely tedious Benjamin Button (for the losers who would want to compare both these films :P)

Paa-Movie-Stills-9-754951Abhishek Bachchan is wonderfully understated. He gives a credible and subtle performance throughout the film. Even though his episode with the media seems a little far-fetched, he makes it believable through his fine performance. To play screen dad to your real life dad, is not such an easy thing, especially when it is someone like Amitabh Bachchan. Watch out for him in the scenes where he breaks down in the second half. Fabulous acting, I must say. But the one who shines the most after Bachchan Sr, is of course, Vidya Balan. She was written off after some flops. But she is back with a vengeance. She looks absolutely stunning and delivers a fantastic performance. How many actresses of her age would dare to play mother to Amitabh Bachchan? Vidya pulls it off extremely well. Watch out for her in the scenes towards the end of the movie, she is brilliant!! Another brilliant example of good casting is Arundhati Naag, who plays Auro's grandmother, whom he fondly calls 'Bum' (for obvious reasons :P). She is truly wonderful. And its such a relief that Kirron Kher was not cast in that role. Paresh Rawal is impressive in his short role. Last time, he got Amitabh Bachchan as his son-in-law. This time, he gets him as his grandson. :D Just like 'Sexy' from Balki'sCheeni Kum, here we have another wonderful child, Pratik Katare, who plays Auro's best friend Vishnu. He gets the best lines in the movie and certain whistle-worthy scenes as well. Even the other friends of Auro from school are really good, especially the girl. Balki knows how to use children effectively, I must say. And thankfully, he doesnt show children in the stereotypical way they are portrayed in our films.

Though the subplot of the slums and corruption scam wasnt needed, it doesnt do much harm to the movie. Balki showed he is wonderful with sharp, witty dialogues in his first film Cheeni Kum itself. Same is the case with Paa. The film is full of witty one-liners, most of them delivered by Auro. Some of them really make you think. And the constant reference to potty by Auro stays true to the child's mindset at that particular age. Even though the screenplay is predictable at many instances, it is filled with wonderful moments that leave you smiling, so you dont really mind it. Balki keeps the narrative sweet and simple throughout, which works so well for this movie, which could have turned into a melodramatic bore in the hands of any other lesser director.  Employing new devices such as video-chat, mail, etc to carry forward the narrative, was a great idea, and it works very well too. And the part where Balki succeeds the most, is extracting exceptional performances from each member of the cast. This is only his second feature film, and he has shown so much maturity and sensitivity as a filmmaker. He is sure to go places in future. The innovative opening credits featuring the other most important member from the First Family of Hindi Cinema, would bring a smile on everyone's face. After all, Its all about loving your family. ;)

12Now about the two legends from south, PC Sreeram and Ilaiyaraaja. What can I say about them, that has not already been said!! PC shows why he is the best in India through his amazing cinematography. Be it the locales in Britain or the beautiful house of Auro and Vidya, he gives them the right colour tone and treatment through his camerawork. There is a shot where a car moves towards the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, through the Rajpath. It reminds you of a shot from Mani Ratnam's Mouna Ragam, where the camera was on the same Rajpath, but facing the India Gate, on the opposite direction. Both those shots are nothing short of brilliant. Ilaiyaraaja's music works wonders for the film. He lifts our spirits through his background score and has given some great melodious songs as well. 'Mudi Mudi' and 'Gumm Summ Gumm' are the picks of the lot. Too bad that Amitabh Bachchan's 'Mere Paa' is not used fully in the movie. But the theme music of the film is better than all the Hindi songs of the year put together. It gave me goosepimples each time it was played in the movie. So, PC sir and Raja sir, hats off!!! The jumpy editing by Anil Naidu worked very well in the 'Mudi Mudi' song. But it was jarring at certain other parts in the movie. But for most of its running time, the editor did a good job. Art direction by Sunil Babu was really good as well. The space of Auro's room was done really well. The prosthetic make-up by Christien Tinsley and Dominie Till is first-rate.

If you do not feel touched by this movie, then there should be something wrong with you. Such movies are not made quite often in Hindi Cinema. I thought Kaminey was the best film to have come out this year so far. But Paa has acquired that place now. Lets wait for 3 Idiots to see if that position would be changed. I'm sure Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan would be walking away with almost all awards next year for their performances in the film. The good thing is that the movie does not get all sentimental and melodramatic as one expects when such a theme is taken. But for most parts, the movie makes you laugh out loud with its extremely witty dialogues and scenes. And otherwise, it would make you smile with so many great moments.Balki seems to be another Rajkumar Hirani in the making. He is all heart and we love it. :) :)  After a long time, I got moist-eyed while watching a Hindi film. (The last one to do this was Taare Zameen Par in a December 2 years ago). Paa should not be missed at any cost. It is truly a beautiful, heart-warming film with a landmark performance by the biggest superstar in the country, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Hats off to you, Sir!! And Abhishek would be a very proud Paa, quite literally as he has also revived their home production company AB Corp Ltd. with such a beautiful film. :) :)

Rating - 4/5