Tuesday, March 29

First Look - Vaanam

Movie - Vaanam (Tamil)
Writer - Director - Krish
Producers - Ganesh, R Ganesh
Cast - Silambarasan, Bharath, Prakash Raj, Anushka, Vega, Santhanam, Soniya Aggarwal, Saranya, Radha Ravi, Jayaprakash, Ganesh
Music - Yuvan Shankar Raja
Lyrics - Na. Muthukumar, Simbu
Cinematography - Nirav Shah, Gnanashekhar
Editing - Anthony
Art - Rembon Balraj
Stunts - Silva
Release - April 2011

Vaanam is one of the most awaited Tamil films of the year 2011. A remake of the critically acclaimed Telugu film 'Vedam', this movie stars Silambarasan or STR as he calls himself now, after he got a makeover through Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya last year, along with his contemporary Bharath, the super-hot Anushka Shetty, the amazing Prakash Raj along with Santhanam, Vega, Saranya, Jayaprakash, Radha Ravi, Ganesh and Soniya Aggarwal who is making a comeback to Tamil films. True blue multistarrers like these are an extreme rarity in Tamil Cinema where we dont see two leading actors acting together in the same film very often. Slowly things are changing and more and more multistarrers are being attempted in Tamil Cinema now. Vaanam is one of the first movies to take that initiative. Simbu plays a cable guy in the film, Bharath plays a rockstar, Anushka plays a prostitute and the other characterizations are not revealed as yet. (People who have watched the Telugu original might know more about them). The movie has been delayed quite a number of times when it was actually supposed to release first in December 2010 & then in February 2011, but finally the movie is ready for release in April 2011. Yuvan Shankar Raja released a single track from the music album 'Evandi Unnai Pethan' written & performed by Simbu and the song became a rage all over soon enough. The rest of the tracks were released last week amidst much fanfare and have been received very well. The movie narrates 5 stories which criss-cross each other within the narrative of the film. Krish who directed the original Telugu version directs the Tamil version as well. The hilarious cameraman Ganesh from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (also one of the producers of VTV) has produced this film along with acting in a role in it as well. Nirav Shah and Gnanashekhar have done the cinematography and Anthony dons the editor's role yet again. Here is the theatrical trailer of the film, featuring its soulful theme song performed wonderfully by Yuvan Shankar Raja. 

Monday, March 28

August 15 is a damp squib.

Movie - August 15 (Malayalam)
Director - Shaji Kailas
Producer - M Mani
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - SN Swami
Cast - Mammootty, Siddique, Nedumudi Venu, Lalu Alex, Saikumar, Thalaivasal Vijay, Madhu, Biju Pappan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Shwetha Menon, Meghna, Balachandran Chullikkad, Ranjith & Krishna. 
Cinematography - Pradeep Nair
Editing - Bhoominathan
Music - Shan
Release Date - 25th March 2011

A sequel to the cult film August 1 directed by Sibi Malayil, August 15 is directed by Shaji Kailas, with SN Swamy penning the screenplay yet again and Mammootty reprising his role of Officer Perumal. The first part was inspired by the best selling novel 'Day of the Jackal' by Forsyth and was made brilliantly by Sibi Malayil with a taut script by SN Swami and brilliant performances by Mammootty, Sukumaran and Captain Raju. The second part came into being when Mammootty offered dates to Shaji Kailas and producer M Mani to help them out after the debacle of the disaster called Drona 2010, which they made together last year. 

The storyline is the same as that of August 1. The life of the Chief Minister of Kerala (Nedumudi Venu) is under threat. DSP Perumal (Mammootty) who is in charge of the investigation finds out that a nameless professional killer (Siddique) is the one who wants the CM's life at any cost. The rest of the movie is about how Perumal will stop the killer from getting the CM's life and how he discovers the master brain behind the whole plan. 

While August 1 was a thrilling experience, August 15 fails to engage you at any level, be it the screenplay, the direction or the performances. It follows the same narrative style of Baba Kalyani, made by the same team of Shaji Kailas and SN Swami, with Mohanlal in the lead, which neither grips you or makes you tear your hair out in frustration. A movie which plays out and gets over without any interesting events or scenes in it. SN Swami introduces us to all the villains in the movie in the first act of the film and therefore, there is no suspense element. So the next interesting point becomes that of how Perumal will tackle and nab the killer played by Siddique. But even that is told in a boring and uneventful way. And of course, SN Swami's mandatory part of introducing another main villain character as a shock in the climax is there in this one as well. But Sir, anyone who has seen enough of your films, would easily make out who that guy is gonna be within two or three scenes of his. We as an audience expect the final plan of the killer executed on August 15 to be something of great magnitude, but what we get is a laughable plan which even villains of Vijayakanth films would find lousy to execute. 

Mammootty looks deadly as the cop Perumal. In fact he even looks better than how he looked in the first part. But thats all he's required to do in the film. The great actor is not given even a single scene to shine or do something special. The characterization of Perumal is quite different from what we saw in the first part. Here he flirts with young girls, cracks jokes and gets into fights, which is in stark contrast to the Perumal we had seen earlier. And yea, the goggles are inseparable from him in almost every scene and the loud theme music starts playing each time Mammootty bats an eyelid.  Perumal deserved a much better comeback. 

Lalu Alex is the best thing in the movie. He's brilliant as the additional DGP Peter Scaria. His senior cop role with a comic touch is the only thing that entertains you in this movie. Nedumudi Venu plays the Chief Minister and Saikumar plays the role of the Party Secretary and both actors do a good job of emulating the real-life personalities on screen. Siddique, who plays the main villain is nowhere as effective as Captain Raju was in the first part. The extremely talented actor tries to make the best out of his poorly written role, but with no effect. He also tries to ape Kamal Haasan in some scenes. Jagathy Sreekumar is delightful as usual. Madhu, Thalaivasal Vijay, Biju Pappan, Ranjith, Krishna, Balachandran Chullikkad, etc have nothing much to do. Shwetha Menon and the 'Yakshi' Meghna appear in brief roles and do not make much of an impact. 

The movie also serves as a propaganda film for the 2 leaders of the ruling party in Kerala, as the elections are round the corner. The difference of opinion within the party forms a major backdrop for the story. The CM is praised to the skies and the Secretary is also portrayed in a very good light, which makes it look like a major promotional material for the two of them in the coming elections. Another interesting part is when Perumal looks up the meanings  of words like 'poison' and 'chemical reaction' on Wikipedia with utmost seriousness as part of his research. This must be SN Swami's idea of making his heroes technologically up-to-date. And then there was a random scene where Perumal is stopped by a traffic cop for not wearing a helmet and then he pays a fine of Rs.500 for the same. The scene just pops up randomly in the movie, probably to silence  the question from the audience about Mammootty riding the bike around Trivandrum without a helmet, when there's a law that wearing helmets is compulsory. The movie would make a great advertisement for Royal Enfield Motors as their bike gets the most footage in the movie apart from Mammootty. (Not to forget Ray Ban goggles, or was it some other brand?) The light hearted scenes involving Mammootty and Lalu Alex were funny and deserve special mention, especially the one at Saikumar's office. 

Shaji Kailas has sobered down a bit and there are not as many irritating shots and edits in this movie as compared to his recent ones. But that doesnt mean that there arent any. Its just that they are lesser in number compared to his other movies. Pradeep Nair's camera keeps shaking, zooming in and out in many shots which are purely eyesore material. But otherwise, he has done an okay job. Bhoominathan's editing is also not as haphazard as Don Max's cuts in usual Shaji Kailas films. The theme music created by the great composer Shyam has been remixed and re-used in this movie. But the same music playing out each time Mammootty bats an eyelid, was too irritating. The stunts are very mediocre and they happen in the usual locations like buildings under construction and stuff. 

On the whole, August 15 is a damp squib. Mammootty's great looks and Lalu Alex's performance are the only good things in the movie. The movie further reinforces SN Swami's embarrassing deterioration as a writer. Shaji Kailas has sobered down and has done a much better job compared to the horrifying Drona 2010. But again, its tough to believe that the same person made once made such awesome movies like Commissioner, Ekalavyan, King, Truth, Aaram Thampuraan & Narasimham. Mammootty's kind gesture of helping out the director and producer seems to have backfired because of the same problem that their earlier movie faced - the extremely weak content. 

Bottomline - Watch, only if you have nothing worthwhile to do. 

Friday, March 18

Christian Brothers

Movie - Christian Brothers (Malayalam)
Director - Joshiy
Cast - Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Sarathkumar, Biju Menon, Saikumar, Vijayaraghavan, Devan, Suresh Krishna, Kavya Madhavan, Kanihaa, Lakshmi Gopalaswami, Lakshmi Rai, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Harisree Ashokan, Salimkumar, Jagathy Sreekumar, Anand, Kaviyoor Ponnamma & Jayan
Cinematography - Anil Nair
Music - Deepak Dev
Editing - Ranjan Abraham
Background Score - Rajamani
Stunts - Anal Arasu, Mafia Sasi
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Udayakrishna - Sibi K Thomas
Release Date - 18th March 2011

Joshiy and Udayakrishna - Sibi K Thomas joined hands the last time to create the biggest blockbuster in Malayalam Cinema - Twenty 20, a multistarrer which starred almost every actor in the Malayalam industry. Christian Brothers is also a movie mounted on that scale, starring Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Dileep and Tamil star Sarathkumar. The movie which was announced in 2009, took more than a year to get completed and has released in 240 screens all over India thereby ending the dull phase Malayalam Cinema has been going through for the past 5-6 weeks. If the reports are to be believed, the movie has taken a thunderous opening and has all the chances of breaking the opening day collections of Twenty 20, Pokkiri Raja and Pazhassiraja, three of the biggest openers in recent times. Joshiy has always been a master at making thoroughly entertaining multistarrers using each star to the best of their potentials, and he continues to do that in Christian Brothers as well. 

The story is almost the same as in all Udayakrishna - Sibi K Thomas movies, minus the Pollachi backdrop and toilet humour. A son who has to leave his house because of a misunderstanding his upright father has about him comes back to the same place on another mission. This time its Mohanlal playing Christi, the son who is a high profile Police informer in Mumbai. His brother Joji (Dileep) is also almost an outcast from the house since he decided to give up his life as a priest and romance a Hindu girl, Meenakshi (Kavya Madhavan), who happens to be the Home Minister (Devan)'s daughter. Meenakshi is kidnapped on her return from London and Christi lands in Cochin to nab the culprits, on special request from the Home minister. He's constantly at loggerheads with the Police Commissioner Hariharan Thampi (Biju Menon), whose family already has a problem with Christi's idealistic father (Saikumar). Thampi engages a certain Mathayi (Suresh Gopi) to attack Christi and later an underworld don Andrews (Sarathkumar) also joins the plot, which proceeds forward with many twists and turns from here. 

Mohanlal has clearly pwned the movie!! His fans can rejoice as their favourite hero is back in mass hero avatar after a really really long time and its such a pleasure to watch him playing to the galleries in the most natural manner possible. He has made optimum use of his dialogue delivery and gives much more 'punch' to the punch dialogues. And his irresistible charm and smile has worked wonders in so many scenes in the movie. In addition to that, Mohanlal looks his best in this movie, compared to all his recent movies. He deserved a much better intro though. Fans will go crazy over their Lalettan's antics in the movie. Suresh Gopi is right behind him in a role which he was born to play - that of an IPS officer. He gets to shine in a role tailor made for him, after the awesome work he did in Twenty 20. He is pitted against Mohanlal for a lot of crackling scenes which are thrilling to watch and also has some comic moments with Dileep in the second half. Dileep's role is much lesser compared to the other two superstars and after his intial song and dance, he comes much later into the movie with some comic sequences and does a good job at that. Sarathkumar's role is more like a cameo with him making an appearance in two important scenes alone. He has dubbed for himself in Malayalam, which is a good thing. And he makes an awesome impression in the very little screen time that he has. Suresh Krishna goes through the same trecherous villain act yet again. Biju Menon is good as the Commissioner even though he's playing a different variation of the same role for the umpteenth time. Jagathy Sreekumar was effective in a very brief, serious role. Saikumar does his part well as expected. But the camaraderie that he and Mohanlal shared as father and son in Chotta Mumbai is missing here, maybe because this one's plot is very different from that. Vijayaraghavan and Devan play their routine parts. Surprised that Siddique was not a part of the movie. Suraaj Venjarammoodu managed to be decent in the recent movie Make-Up Man, but in this one, he's plain pathetic. It looks like he was added just for the sake of having him in the cast. Just ignore him as Mohanlal does in the movie. The ladies have nothing much to do in the film. Kavya Madhavan looks so overweight in those ugly costumes she wears during the duet in London and she doesnt have anything else to do after that other than crying and acting scared. Kanihaa gets the better role among the ladies and she does a good job. Lakshmi Gopalaswami is okay. Lakshmi Rai appears in two songs and we have no idea what happens to her character even at the end of the movie. 

The movie has been written in the most predictable fashion and one who seen a good number of films in this genre can easily predict almost all the twists in the movie. But in spite of that, if the movie holds your attention, it is all because of Joshiy's deft direction and handling of the movie. Udayakrishna & Sibi K Thomas wouldnt have had to work much on their screenplay, but they've worked well to construct scenes where the stars are pitted against each other. Since they've made that their forte, they've done a good job at that yet again. They've recognized the plus points of each star and given scenes to them accordingly, which is a good thing. There are ample family sentiments, which actually dont do much harm. And the best part is that they've avoided the Tamil - Pollachi angle completely as well as the lewd humour which is mandatory in almost all their films. (Suraaj's scenes are an exception. Just ignore). Talking of the negatives, the film is a little too long. The stretched flashback sequences, songs and stuff could have been avoided. And the absence of a strong villain is also another drawback. If one of the stars could have been a full on villain, the movie's impact would've been something else. The climax seems a little rushed and could have been done in a much better way giving equal importance to all four of them. Their punch dialogues for Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi are excellent. Suresh Gopi gets to make a dig at another popular investigating officer and Mohanlal takes a dig at a certain old man as well, all in good humour. Also, watch out for the scene between Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi in the police station. Joshiy has always extracted good work from the very mediocre writers Udayakrishna & Sibi K Thomas and almost all their decent/good flicks have been in Joshiy's direction. This movie is no different and all the flaws mentioned above dont matter at the end of the day. 

The songs are decent, but placed very badly in the film. 'Moham Kondaal' (with some very funny lyrics) is actually the only song which was needed. 'Karthaave' is the same Dileep-Kavya-Foreign Location song which we've seen so many times, shot like 'Kavilinayil Kungumamo' this time around. Plus, Kavya looks terribly fat in that song, the low angle shots doing more damage to her figure on screen. 'Kannum Kannum', which sounds very similar to 'Teri Ore' pops out of nowhere and has Mohanlal and Lakshmi Rai in an embarrassingly bad music video. Background Score by veteran Rajamani is decent, but could have been better. Anil Nair has lit up the movie like its some Ekta Kapoor soap. Every pixel on the screen is lit up, just like he did in Happy Husbands and other movies. Boss, movies become visually interesting when you play with lights and shades, not by lighting everything up. Stunts are quite good. Editor Ranjan Abraham could have applied his scissors a little more in the second half. 

Summing up, Christian Brothers is a high voltage multistarrer which is meant to be enjoyed with a housefull crowd consisting of fans of all the actors present in the movie. Mohanlal gets 3 times more screen time than what he got as an action hero in Twenty 20 and he is a delight to watch on screen. Fans would have a completely satisfying experience watching their favourite superstar beating up goons and delivering punchlines with so much gusto. Suresh Gopi, Dileep and Sarathkumar do what they are best at and with Joshiy's able direction also coming into the picture, you get a paisa vasool commercial entertainer.  The film is only about star power and that is the exact reason why you would have fun watching this movie. The wide release all over the world is a great trend to earn some quick bucks from the untapped overseas market for Malayalam films. Lets hope this one and the upcoming multistarrers bring in a lot of big bucks for the deteriorating Malayalam Film Industry. 

P.S. - The fanboy in me was regretting the fact that I was away from Kerala for the first day first show of Mohanlal movie probably after 5 years. And exactly then, the movie turned out to be a celebration for all Mohanlal fans. 

Bottomline - Go watch at a housefull theatre!! Mohanlal alone is worth the money spent!! 

Wednesday, March 16

The Best Multistarrers in Malayalam

This month and the coming months will see the release of a slew of multistarrers in Malayalam - Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Sarathkumar, Kavya Madhavan & Kanihaa in Joshiy's Christian Brothers; Prithviraj, Arya, Prabhu Deva, Genelia, Amole Gupte, Vidya Balan & Tabu in Santosh Sivan's Urumi; Mohanlal, Dileep, Jayaram & Kavya Madhavan in Rafi-Mecartin's China Town; Prithviraj, Indrajith, Shwetha Menon, Parvathi & Rima Kallingal in Lijo Jose's City of God and many more in the pipeline. Malayalam Cinema has had much more multistarrers compared to any other industry in the country and most of our actors/stars are also very close friends and generally the industry is quite closely knit, with few exceptions of course. So here's looking at some of the best multistarrers we've had. I'm not touching upon movies before the 90s in the Sathyan-Naseer-Madhu era or the Jayan-Soman-Sukumaran era and not even the IV Sasi multistarrers. This is a list based on multistarrer films I've seen and enjoyed the most from 1990 onwards. :) 

Important - The ranking is not based on the quality of the movies. Its based more or less on how the dynamics between the stars have been utilized in the movie by the writers and directors. 

15. Thommanum Makkalum (2005)
Cast - Mammootty, Lal, Rajan P Dev, Salimkumar, Anand, Laya, Sindhu Menon
Director - Shafi
Writer - Benny P Nayarambalam

A cracker of a comedy from the super-successful Shafi - Benny P Nayarambalam team, this movie had the late Rajan P Dev playing a super-awesome father to the awesome Mammootty & Lal. A family of thiefs and the problems they get into formed the story of the movie. The chemistry between the three lead actors were crackling. Lal showed us a great new comic side of him and 'Smart Boys' became an epic dialogue. Mammootty was growing more and more comfortable in the comedy genre through such movies and he was a treat to watch. But the star of the show was Rajan P Dev who made Thomman immortal with his amazing act. Salimkumar provided comic relief, Anand was a good villain, Laya and Sindhu Menon played the female leads. The movie turned out to be a record breaking hit. 

14. Friends (1999)
Cast - Jayaram, Mukesh, Sreenivasan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Meena. Divya Unni
Writer, Director - Siddique

Siddique's second independent directorial venture had Jayaram & Sreenivasan working with him for the first time and had his favourite Mukesh in a very important role as well. And when another favourite Innocent backed out, one of the best comic characters in Malayalam, Lasar Elayappan came to life through Jagathy Sreekumar. Jayaram played the flirt effortlessly, Mukesh played the sorted, level headed guy who'd die for his friends and Sreenivasan, the funny guy who keeps getting into trouble. Add them to Jagathy's band of painters, and we get some hilarious sequences inside a palace under renovation. Even though Friends is nowhere near Siddique's best works, it was still an enjoyable watch because of the dynamics between the three leads. 

13. Thenkasippattanam (2000)
Cast - Suresh Gopi, Lal, Dileep, Samyuktha Varma, Geethu Mohandas, Kavya Madhavan, Spadikam George, Salimkumar
Writers/Directors - Rafi & Mecartin

A blockbuster, Thenkashippattanam showed us for the first time, the comic side of Suresh Gopi and Lal in a full length film. (Even though Suresh Gopi had done the super-awesome Minnal Prathapan way back in Manu Uncle). But it was Dileep who was the star of the show. Thenkashippattanam made him a darling of the family audiences. His fantastic comic timing and lovable act floored each and every one who saw this movie. Salimkumar joined in and provided much more fun. Lal's friend-turned-villain act was great as well. And Suresh Gopi was rock solid. The ladies Samyuktha, Geethu and Kavya also played their parts very well. This movie sky-rocketed Rafi-Mecartin into the big league of directors. 

12. Harikrishnans (1998)
Cast - Mohanlal, Mammootty, Juhi Chawla, Kunchacko Boban, Innocent, Rajiv Menon, Nedumudi Venu, Cochin Haneefa, Venu Nagavalli
Writers - Fazil, Madhu Muttom
Director - Fazil

Dont go by the photo, Shah Rukh Khan was not in the movie. This was just a photoshoot done before an actual shoot of another climax for the movie where SRK comes for Juhi Chawla, but the shoot for that never happened. Harikrishnans saw Mohanlal and Mammootty, Malayalam Cinema's two pillars reuniting as main leads of a film after 8 long years, under the direction of long time friend Fazil. Mohanlal produced the movie which went on to become a rom-com where the 2 heroes were busy chasing the gorgeous Juhi Chawla instead of solving the case they were appearing for. The movie pitted the two superstars against each other in many comic scenes and the audience had some good laughs over them fighting with each other for the funny girl. A one film old Kunchacko Boban also had an important role to play in the movie. The movie starts with the murder of Guptan, played by ace cinematographer-director Rajiv Menon. The movie went on to become a big hit even though people werent fully satisfied seeing Mammootty and Mohanlal running behind a girl for an entire movie. And the movie ran into a whole lot of controversies for having two different climaxes as well. 

11. Chotta Mumbai (2007)
Cast - Mohanlal, Indrajith, Siddique, Manikkuttan, Bijukkuttan, Kalabhavan Mani, Bhavana, Saikumar, Rajan P Dev, Jagathy Sreekumar, Bheeman Raghu
Writer - Benny P Nayarambalam
Director - Anwar Rasheed

Set in Fort Kochi, this was one helluva roller coaster ride. Probably the most zany comedy to have come out in recent times, this film had superstar Mohanlal having loads of fun by giving space to each other member of the cast as much as himself. He played Thala so adorably. Then there was Bijukkuttan in his only good role as the sidekick Suseelan. Even Manikkuttan was quite okay in this film. Indrajith looked awesome and had a great role too. Saikumar effortlessly transformed into Mohanlal's father Michael Aashaan despite being much younger than him. Benny P Nayarambalam always reserves his best roles to Rajan P Dev and Paambu Chackochan was nothing short of epic. But it was Siddique as Mullan Chandrappan who stole the thunder from everyone else. Playing a comic role after so many years, Siddique just had some great fun playing this hilarious character and its hard not to love him in that role. Bhavana was cast perfectly as Parakkum Latha and Kalabhavan Mani's villain act would send a chill down your spine, one of his best acts ever. And to add to the fun, there was Jagathy Sreekumar playing Padakkam Basheer as well. Anwar Rasheed's kickass directorial skills made this into one of the most watched movies in recent times. 

10. Summer In Betlehem
Cast - Suresh Gopi, Jayaram, Manju Warrier, Kalabhavan Mani, Mayoori, Sangeetha, Janardhanan, Sukumari & Mohanlal
Writer - Ranjith
Director - Sibi Malayil

A beautiful rom-com, this one had Suresh Gopi, Jayaram and Manju Warrier playing lead roles with Mohanlal pitching in probably Malayalam Cinema's greatest guest appearance. A vacation at a farmhouse turns out to be much more than that with lots of comedy, romance and suspense unfolding through the plot. Jayaram and Kalabhavan Mani handled the humour department giving us some unforgettable comic sequences. Suresh Gopi played the silent lover with elan. Manju Warrier as the prankster with a sad secret was mindblowing. And then Mohanlal comes in those last ten minutes and just steals the show. He was just too good, for loss of better words!! Ranjith attempted a different genre and it worked fabulously along with Sibi Malayil's able direction. 

9. In Harihar Nagar (1990)
Cast - Mukesh, Jagadish, Siddique, Ashokan, Riza Bava, Geetha Vijayan, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Philomina, Paravoor Bharathan, Saikumar & Suresh Gopi
Writers/Directors - Siddique & Lal

A gem. A classic. One of those Malayalis would never get tired watching. It has insance humour weaved into a supremely thrilling plot. Siddique and Lal used to be such good writers back then and this was indeed one of their best works. The first half doesnt even give time for the audience to breather making them laugh every single split second with the antics of these 4 idiots - Mahadevan, Govindan Kutty, Thomas Kutty and Appukkuttan, played effortlessly by Mukesh, Siddique, Ashokan and Jagadish respectively. Jagadish's Appukkuttan was the epitome of dumbness and hilarity. The others were no less either. There was another story going parallel with theirs, which introduced a great villain John Honai through Riza Bava. Suresh Gopi had a great extended cameo along with Saikumar. Geetha Vijayan was very impressive in her debut. Philomina & Paravoor Bharathan were hilarious and Kaviyoor Ponnamma was very good too. Lal made two sequels to this movie. While the first one managed to capture some spirit of the original, the second sequel was pure torture, ruining these characters terribly and making Appukkuttan a Tintumon like figure. 

8. Keralavarma Pazhassiraja (2009)
Cast - Mammootty, Sarathkumar, Manoj K Jayan, Suresh Krishna, Suman, Kanihaa, Padmapriya, Jagathy Sreekumar, Thilakan
Writer - MT Vasudevan Nair
Director - Hariharan

An epic in all proportions, Keralavarma Pazhassiraja had a huge cast as well. Mammootty played the rebel king who started a revolt against the British, Sarathkumar played his ferocious lieutenant making his debut in Malayalam, Manoj K Jayan, a fearless tribal warrior, Suresh Krishna, a trusted accomplice to the king and even Padmapriya who played a fiery tribal warrior lady. Kanihaa played the beautiful queen and Suman was the treacherous landlord plotting against Pazhassi and his men along with the British. While Mammootty's character was more subtle and underplayed till the climax, it was Sarathkumar who shined throughout the movie ending in a brilliant fight sequence and a brave death scene. Manoj K Jayan was equally good as well. Padmapriya's act in this movie won her a special mention from the National Award jury. Sarathkumar's role was initially offered to Suresh Gopi, and it was only when Suresh Gopi declined the role, Sarath came into the picture. The rest as they say, is history, quite literally. Its not often that you get to see a movie of such epic proportions in Malayalam, with such a huge cast, MT Vasudevan Nair writing the script and Hariharan directing the film. 

7. Kalapani (1996)
Cast - Mohanlal, Prabhu, Amrish Puri, Tabu, Annu Kapoor, Delhi Ganesh, Sreenivasan, Vineeth, Alex Draper, Cochin Haneefa, Tinnu Anand, Nedumudi Venu, Shankaradi
Writers - Priyadarshan, T Damodaran
Director - Priyadarshan

Perhaps the best period movie to be made in Malayalam, Priyadarshan's Kalapani had a huge cast as well. Mohanlal led the cast with his effortless portrayal of Dr. Govardhan who's falsely accused of terrorist activity and sent to the Kalapani jails. He changed his look drastically and portrayed his part with such passion, making it unforgettable. Prabhu played the fiery rebel Mukund Iyengar spectacularly making it one of his most memorable roles ever. Tabu was lovely as Govardhan's lover waiting endlessly for him back home. She was sublimely beautiful in her first outing in Malayalam. Amrish Puri played the terror Mirza Khan so well that you hate him completely. Alex Draper was also brilliant as the British jailer. Annu Kapoor had a great role as Veer Savarkar. Others in the cast like Sreenivasan, Cochin Haneefa, Delhi Ganesh, Vineeth, Tinnu Anand and Nedumudi Venu were brilliant as well. Mohanlal produced this epic movie in association with Shogun films. 

6. Classmates (2006)
Cast - Prithviraj, Indrajith, Jayasurya, Naren, Vijeesh, Balachandra Menon, Kavya Madhavan, Radhika, Shoba Mohan, Anoop Chandran, Jagathy Sreekumar
Writer - James Albert
Director - Lal Jose

Lal Jose's contemporary classic must be one of the best movies to have used an ensemble cast in the most effective way. Told in flashbacks, this movie took us back to college campuses of the early 90s. Prithviraj, in his career best role, played the youth socialist leader Sukumaran with the exact intensity it required. Indrajith turned over a new leaf playing a wonderfully charming comic character Pious, who was also the hero's best friend. Jayasurya in a comic-turned-scheming villain role was excellent too. Naren as the talented soft-spoken singer who remains as a sorrow in his friends' hearts was adorable. Vijeesh played Jayasurya's sidekick to perfection. Kavya Madhavan in one of her best roles, was remarkable. Radhika rose to fame with her portrayal of Penguin Razia, the mysterious character in the movie. Balachandra Menon's professor was the pillar around which most of the story revolved. Jagathy Sreekumar as the hostel warden was hilarious. Lal Jose turned James Albert's brilliant script into one of the best movies to have come out in Malayalam. 

5. Manichitrathaazhu (1993)
Cast - Shobana, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Vinaya Prasad, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, KPAC Lalitha, Sudheesh, Ganesh, Kuthiravattam Pappu & Thilakan
Writer - Madhu Muttom
Director - Fazil, 
with the help of Priyadarshan, Siddique-Lal & Sibi Malayil

The best Malayalam movie ever!! Period. This was a super-effective multistarrer as well. Mohanlal and Shobana were at their prime and Suresh Gopi was already on his way to becoming a superstar. The movie clearly belonged to Shobana, but Mohanlal also managed to make it as much into his movie as it was Shobana's, with his unforgettably portrayal of the slightly eccentric but brilliant psychiatrist Dr.Sunny. Shobana's Ganga/Nagavalli is perhaps the most iconic female character in modern day Malayalam Cinema. Suresh Gopi pitched in one of his career-best performances as Shobana's loving and affectionate husband. The rest of the cast were no less either - be it the patriarch Nedumudi Venu, the hilarious Innocent and KPAC Lalitha, the senior priest Thilakan, 'kindi' Sudheesh and the prime suspect Vinaya Prasad. It was magic unfolding on screen. :) :) 

4. Traffic (2011)
Cast - Sreenivasan, Anoop Menon, Kunchacko Boban, Asif Ali, Saikumar, Rahman, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Krishna, Lena, Sandhya, Roma, Remya Nambeeshan, Reena Basheer, Prem Prakash & Jose Prakash
Writers - Bobby & Sanjay
Director - Rajesh R Pillai

The movie Malayalis cant stop raving about this year, also had one of the best ensemble casts ever. With no actual stars in the picture, the movie had a bunch of talented actors transforming completely into characters they were playing. Saikumar emerged as the best playing father to Vineeth Sreenivasan who loses his life in an accident. Kunchacko Boban proved that he has matured into a fantastic actor in his role with shades of grey. Anoop Menon was wonderful as the Commissioner who plans and executes the entire operation. Sreenivasan showed us yet again why we all love him so much. Asif Ali showed us that if used well, he could very well be the future of Malayalam Cinema. Rahman got his career best role as a Superstar who has no time for his family. Among the ladies, Lena surprised everyone with a mindblowing performance as the mother of a dying child. The rest of the ladies did a good job too. Jose Prakash pitched in a cameo and it is his words that inspires the entire plot of the movie. 

3. Dhruvam (1993)
Cast - Mammootty, Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Vikram, Prabhakar, Gauthami, Janardhanan, Vijayaraghavan, Shammi Thilakan, TG Ravi, Rudra
Writers - SN Swamy, Sajan Babu
Director - Joshiy

A kickass movie in all respects. This was perhaps the biggest multistarrer of it times and if we look at the star value of its actors now, it looks much bigger now. Mammootty played Narasimha Mannadiyaar. He looked so bloody good in this movie and he was awesomeness personified in that role. Jayaram played his brother who gets murdered by Haider Maraykkar, played by Prabhakar. Suresh Gopi played Joseph Nariman, a pasteur turned cop and a young Vikram played Bhadran, Mammootty's trusted left hand. Jayaram was wonderful in his short role. Suresh Gopi was brilliant as the devoted cop. Vikram steps into Jayaram's shoes after his death and gives a brotherly support to Mammootty. Perhaps his best role in his entire Malayalam career during his struggling days. Tamil actor Prabhakar played the menacing Haider Maraykkar brilliantly. The beautiful Gauthami played Mammootty's lovely wife. Only Joshiy could have made this bloody brilliant movie. 

2. Twenty 20 (2008)
Cast - Mohanlal, Mammootty, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Jayaram, Mukesh, Indrajith, Kalabhavan Mani, Siddique, Manoj K Jayan, Shammi Thilakan, Bhavana, Kavya Madhavan, Gopika, Madhu, Innocent, Jagathy Sreekumar, Lalu Alex, Salimkumar and almost the entire industry. 
Writers - Udayakrishna & Sibi K Thomas
Director - Joshiy

The mother of all multistarrers, this was a joint production by actor Dileep and the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists. The biggest blockbuster in the history of Malayalam Cinema had each and every actor (well, almost) joining hands to create a solid commerical entertainer. The writers managed to pull off the tough task of giving each superstar the right space tapping the best in each one of them. Mohanlal pwned the movie with his super cool role as Deva Raja Prathapa Varma. Mammoottty looked dapper and played the advocate Ramesh Nambiar with elan. Suresh Gopi breathed fire into his supercop Antony Punnekkadan's role making it the most interesting character among the stars. Dileep played Mohanlal's younger brother Karthik in a short role but charmed the audiences with his humour and wit. Jayaram didnt get a very substantial role, but he did his comic scenes with Mohanlal and Dileep really well. The ladies had nothing to do except for Bhavana who got a duet in some foreign country with Dileep. Nayanthara came in an item number along  with the young bunch including Prithviraj, Kunchacko Boban and Jayasurya. Indrajith, Manoj K Jayan, Shammi Thilakan and Siddique perfected their villain acts. The best parts of the movie where the scenes where the superstars were pitted against each other. The court scene where Mohanlal makes a fool out of Mammootty, the fight sequence between Mammootty and Mohanlal, the bitter cold war between Suresh Gopi & Mammootty and the comic scenes involving Dileep, Jayaram & Mohanlal. Again, none other than Joshiy could have directed this mammoth movie. 

1. Number 20 Madras Mail (1990)
Cast - Mohanlal, Mammootty, MG Soman, Jagadish, Manian Pillai Raju, Ashokan, Sumithra, Janardhanan, Sreeraman, Jayabharati, Innocent, Jagathy Sreekumar
Writer - Dennis Joseph
Director - Joshiy

It may not have a number of stars like Dhruvam or Twenty 20 did, but when it comes to sheer awesomeness, that too, using our two superstars, No. 20 Madras Mail ranks first. Again, directed by none other than the master of multistarrers, Joshiy, this movie had Mohanlal playing the legendary Tony Kurishinkal, a demi-God for all the alcoholics in the state and Mammootty playing himself. Now, isnt that awesome or what!! Mohanlal's acting in this movie as a cheap, but lovable drunkard was so extraordinary that even Mammootty sat there admiring his colleague. Mammootty got a rare opportunity to play himself in a full length thriller film. Not many superstars have had such an opportunity. And of course, he made full use of it as well. Manian Pillai Raju, Jagadish and Ashokan had very important roles and they were brilliant as well. Nobody can forget Hitchcock Kanjikkuzhi!! MG Soman was the perfect villain for this perfect thriller which spanned across a speeding express train, film studios in Chennai, the Kottayam town, a church in Kollam and again, back to the same express train. The chemistry between Mammootty and Mohanlal was brilliant and we could actually feel a brotherly bond between the two great actors in this film. A film one never gets tired watching, this is, according to me, the best multistarrer Malayalam Cinema ever produced. 

There might have been many others which I may have missed out on. But these movies came to my mind immediately when I thought of such a post. If you can remember more such movies after 1990, please suggest them so that I can expand the list. And in the meanwhile, lets wish all the best to the new multistarrer Christian Brothers, by the master of multistarrers Joshiy, releasing this weekend all over the country. 

Thursday, March 10

Top 10 Songs of 2010 - Malayalam

I just realized I had forgotten to make this list as part of my year end specials. So here are 10 of my most favourite songs from the year 2010 in Malayalam. Sorry for the delay. :)  The 10th position is shared between two songs and so is the 5th position. So in effect, there are 12 songs. 

10. Manikkinavin (Pokkiri Raja)
Music - Jassie Gift
Singers - KJ Yesudas & Sujatha
Lyrics - Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri
Featuring - Prithviraj, Shriya Saran, Mammootty
Director - Vyshakh

A beautiful duet by our gaanagandharvan KJ Yesudas and our very own Sujatha Chechi, this lovely song unfortunately was not a part of the feature film it was composed for, Pokkiri Raja. The rest of the songs in the movie were mundane, mass numbers which were quite difficult to like. But this lovely song became a major hit, especially because of the voice of Yesudas and Sujatha. Jassie Gift was the composer and Kaithapram wrote the lyrics. The song was used for promotional purposes using footage featuring Prithviraj and Shriya. 

10. Poonchillayil (Chekavar)
Music - Rahul Raj
Singers - Vijay Yesudas & KS Chitra
Lyrics - Anil Panachooran
Featuring - Indrajith, Samvritha Sunil, Sarayu
Director - Sajeevan

If the earlier song was in the legendary father's voice, this song has his talented son doing an amazing job behind the mic, along with the most loved singer of the state. Vijay Yesudas and KS Chitra sang this beautiful duet, composed by the very talented Rahul Raj to perfection. The video featured the family life of a police inspector played by Indrajith, along with Samvritha Sunil and Sarayu. Anil Panachooran's lyrics were also very soothing. All in all, a lovely song. 

9. Pinne Ennodonnum Parayaathe (Shikkar)
Music - M Jayachandran
Singers - KJ Yesudas
Lyrics - Gireesh Puttenchery
Featuring - Mohanlal, Ananya, Sneha
Director - M Padmakumar

Every year, M Jayachandran makes sure that he composes at least one great song which will have KJ Yesudas singing for him. Among his best works with the legend includes 'Innale Ente Nenjile' and 'Amma Mazhakkarinu', both for Mohanlal films. Even though this one isnt as great as the other two, it serves as a very good successor to those two songs. The late Gireesh Puttenchery's lyrics talk about a father's love for his daughter. The video had Mohanlal who had lost his wife Sneha, bringing up his little daughter who grows up to be Ananya. A nice video for a beautiful song. The song was not on lip-sync, just like the other two songs. The song which has a very good tune, works majorly because of Yesudas' voice and Mohanlal's acting on screen. 

8. Innoree Mazhayil (Malarvaadi Arts Club)
Music - Shaan Rahman
Singers - Rahul Nambiar & Vineeth Sreenivasan
Lyrics - Vineeth Sreenivasan
Featuring - Nivin Pauly, Aju Varghese, Bhagath Manuel, Harikrishnan, Shraavan, Nedumudi Venu
Director - Vineeth Sreenivasan

A soothing melody composed by the young and talented Shaan Rahman, this was the best song among the variety of songs Vineeth and Shaan created for Vineeth's directorial debut - Malarvaadi Arts Club. Vineeth himself penned the lyrics about friendship and also took to singing a major portion of the song along with popular singer Rahul Nambiar. Their vocals, along with the melodious flute interludes were refreshingly beautiful. The video had Shraavan remembering all the good times he had with his friends and how much they meant to him. A great song in all respects. :) 

7. Kizhakku Pookkum (Anwar)
Music - Gopi Sundar
Singers - Shreya Ghoshal, Shabari Brothers, Navin Iyer, Raqueeb Alam
Lyrics - Rafeeq Ahmed
Featuring - Mamta Mohandas, Nithya Menen, Prithviraj
Director - Amal Neerad

A qawwali number for the first time in Malayalam, this song became a huge hit, thanks to the great vocals of the lovely Shreya Ghoshal, the gorgeous Mamta Mohandas & Nithya Menen, the handsome Prithviraj and some neat making by its director Amal Neerad. Gopi Sundar's tune was no lesser either. It had its obvious AR Rahman inspirations (Kannalane, Sona Nahin), but he made use of them positively to create a unique qawwali number which will be remembered for a long time. Even Amal Neerad seems to have been heavily influenced by Mani Ratnam's visualization of Kannalane in Bombay as this song also has more or less the same visualization. Mamta and Nithya looked absolutely gorgeous and a super-handsome Prithviraj was the perfect foil. There were endless debates on the lyrics of the song, whether it was 'Khalbil Ethi' or 'Khalbile Thee'. Finally the lyricist had to come out with it that it was 'Khalbile Thee' indeed. (Or was it the other one?? I'm not completely sure). 

6. Thangameyyole
Music - Issac Thomas Kottukappilly
Singers - Rajalakshmi, Ramesh
Lyrics - Traditional (Chavittunaadakam)
Featuring  - Mammootty, Kamalinee Mukherjee, Suresh Krishna, Siddique
Director - Shaji N Karun

A completely different track from what we're used to hearing as part of film soundtracks, this song was an essential part of the 'chavittunaadakam' portions in Shaji N Karun's award winning Kutty Srank. It was just great to see Mammootty performing this song in the Chavittunaadakam format along with Bengali actress Kamalini Mukherjee. Singer Rajalakshmi missed  a National Award by a whisker for this beautiful song composed by Issac Thomas Kottukappilly. A completely different experience. 

5. Njaan Kanavil Kandoru Kanmaniyaal (Aagathan)
Music - Ouseppachan
Singers - Ranjith, Shwetha Mohan
Lyrics - Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri
Featuring - Dileep, Charmmee
Director - Kamal

Another beautiful melody, this time from composer Ouseppachan for his long time friend Kamal. The song appears in two versions - male and female, at different points in the film. Ranjith and Shwetha have given vocals to them respectively, and the young singers have done a brilliant job. Ouseppachan's tune is fresh, youthful and romantic. Kaithapram's lyrics are wonderful as well. Dileep has never looked so good in the recent past and Charmmee was a welcome break from all the usual Malayalam film heroines. She looked hot and gorgeous at the same time. And there were some great visuals by cinematographer Ajayan Vincent as well. 

5. Nila Nila (Tournament)
Music - Deepak Dev
Singers - Karthik, Megha
Lyrics - Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma
Featuring - Manu, Rupa Manjari
Song Director - Amal Neerad
Director - Lal

The 5th position is also shared by this fantastic song by Deepak Dev for Lal's Tournament. The movie was a flop, but this song is still a huge hit and the major factor for that is Karthik's powerhouse singing. One of the best singers we have in the country today, Karthik's vocals for this song takes it to another level completely. Megha also supports him in the song. This song was directed by Amal Neerad for the film which was being directed by Lal. Newcomers Manu and Rupa Manjari featured in this slickly shot song at Amal's favourite location - the beach at Rameshwaram and yea, there's ample slow motion in this song also. :P

4. Lolalolamayi (Nayakan)
Music - Prashant Pillai
Singer - Preethi Pillai
Lyrics - Sachidanandan Puzhankara
Featuring - Indrajith, Kalasala Babu, Jagathy Sreekumar
Director - Lijo Jose Pellissery 

A wonderful track written by Sachidanandan Puzhankara, composed by AR Rahman's protege Prashant Pillai for newcomer Lijo Jose Pellissery's visually stunning Nayakan. This song featured in the flashback segement of the movie showcasing the growing up years of its hero Indrajith along with his Kathakali master father Kalasala Babu. Prashant introduced a fantastic new female singer called Preethi Pillai through this gem of a song. The visuals, with vibrant colors from the Kathakali pallette were captured effectively by cinematographer Manoj Paramahamsa under the eye of director Lijo. Sadly, this song didnt get the recognition or popularity it deserved since the movie wasnt a major success. Yet for the people who've seen the movie or listened to the song, it will be hard to forget it. 

3. Neeyam Thanalinu (Cocktail)
Music - Ratheesh Vega
Singers - Vijay Yesudas, Thulasi Yatheendran
Lyrics - Anil Panachooran
Featuring - Anoop Menon, Samvritha Sunil
Director - Arun Kumar

Yet another great duet, this time with Vijay Yesudas and newcomer Thulasi Yatheendran doing the vocals for the new composer Ratheesh Vega's tune. An instant hit, this song became hugely popular because of its fresh appeal, wonderful vocals, lovely lyrics and slick visuals. Anoop Menon and Samvritha Sunil looked very good together in this romantic track. And director Arun Kumar came up with some really slick and stylish visuals. Vijay Yesudas goes on ahead to prove that he is indeed his father's son when it comes to singing as he's growing better with each song he sings. 

2. Arikathaayaaro Paadunnundo (Bodyguard)
Music - Ouseppachan
Singer - Ranjith
Lyrics - Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri
Featuring - Dileep, Nayanthara, Mithra Kurian
Choreographer - Prabhu Deva
Director - Siddique

Another wonderful song from Ouseppachan. This song was one of the first hits of the year 2010 and remained popular throughout the year. Ranjith's vocals oozed with romance and the track also had another version which had Shwetha and Madhu Balarkishnan as the vocalists. The song choreographed by Prabhu Deva (on special request by Nayanthara?) had Dileep in search of his unknown lover when she (Nayanthara) was there right next to him. The video had the right mix of romance and humour and worked very well. Nayanthara looked great and Dileep's humour worked much more than his turn as a romantic hero. 

1. Aaro Paadunnu Doore (Kadha Thudarunnu)
Music - Ilaiyaraaja
Singers - Hariharan, KS Chitra
Lyrics - Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma
Featuring - Asif Ali, Mamta Mohandas
Director - Sathyan Anthikkad

Undoubtedly the best song of the year belongs to Maestro Ilaiyaraaja. Veteran singers Hariharan and KS Chitra showed why they're still the best in this lovely romantic composition for Sathyan Anthikkad's Katha Thudarunnu. The video featured the young star Asif Ali and the beautiful Mamta Mohandas and the chemistry between the two was adorable. Shot in picturesque locations by cinematographer Venu, this was melody at its best. Even though Hariharan's slight accent problem is jerky initially, the beauty of the song manages to camouflage all that. And KS Chitra's voice is just out of this world. A favourite among the audience even now, this beautiful Raaja Sir composition is sure to live on for years to come. 

There were several other very good songs this year such as - Swapnam Oru Chakk (Best Actor - Bijibal), Pontharakame (Aathmakatha - Alphonse), Athira (Apoorvaragam - Bijibal), Malayali Penne (Karyasthan - Bernie Ignatious), Ithile Thozhi (Elsamma Enna Aankutty - Rajamani), Kinavile Janalakal (Pranchiyettan & The Saint - Ouseppachan), Maavin Chottile (Oru Naal Varum - MG Sreekumar) and some more. But unfortunately, they couldnt make it to the list, as the list was already jam packed with great songs. Its nice to see that finally, some good music is coming out of our industry which has faced severe crisis in the music department upon the demise of Raveendran Mash.