Movie - China Town (Malayalam)
Writers / Directors - Rafi - Mecartin
Producer - Antony Perumbavoor
Cast - Mohanlal, Jayaram, Dileep, Pradeep Rawat, Captain Raju, Kavya Madhavan, Poonam Bajwa, Dipasha, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Bharat Dabolkar
Cinematography - N Alagappan
Music - Jassie Gift
Editor - Don Max
Art - Boban
Release Date - 14th April 2011
Rafi Mecartin were known for making hilarious entertainers, and the initial part of their career consisted of writing and/or directing blockbusters for Jayaram like Aniyan Bava Chettan Bava, Puthukkottayile Puthumanavalan, etc. They later moved to Dileep giving him tremendous success through films like Punjabi House, Thenkashippattanam, Thilakkam, etc and finally made their one of their biggest hits with Mohanlal through Hallo in 2007. With China Town, they managed to cast these three favourite heroes of theirs in a single film, produced by Mohanlal's man friday Antony Perumbavoor. And when these people come together, one expects nothing short of a hilarious entertainer. But unfortunately, the end result is disappointing, very disappointing.
China Town is the name of a particular area in Goa, which is known as the Las Vegas of India. Xavier (Mohanlal) & his friends owned a Casino in this area, which the don Gawda (Pradeep Rawat) acquired by killing 3 of them. Their children got separated and grew up to be Maathukutty (Mohanlal), a goonda trying to reform; Zakkariah (Jayaram), a fraud who would do anything for money and Binoy (Dileep), a perpetually drunk flirt. The three are summoned by Gomez (Captain Raju), the only one among the 4 friends who survived the attack. He plans to give all his wealth and his casino to the three of them. What happens when the drug lord Gawda comes to know about this deal is what forms the rest of the story. And of course, there's a whole 'The Hangover' inspired sequence in the second half.
Rafi Mecartin's movies, were always funny, even if they were good or bad in totality, till their last movie Love in Singapore, which was absurdity at its peak. Though China Town is far superior to that one, it is still miles behind their last successful comedy Hallo or any of their other entertainers. The first half has some hilarious scenes mainly because of the interactions between the three lead actors, but the second half becomes irritating, predictable and boring. And even the acting strangely becomes horrible in the second half. The plot is nothing new and the everything about the film looks so artificial, mainly because most of the film is shot inside Ramoji Film City, where even a layman can make out that every single thing that you see on screen is a film set, and not something real. The inspiration from Hangover would've been all right, if they treated it well. But they treat it in such a haphazard manner, which fails to invoke any laughter.
Dileep is the star of the movie as he gets to shine the most. He gets the best comic scenes and lines in the first half of the movie, but later goes into overacting mode in the second half of the film. In spite of that, it is his likable character that holds the film together. Jayaram is quite consistent and does nothing extraordinary with his character. He could've been so much better, but he is still quite all right. The biggest disappointment was Mohanlal. One of the best actors in the world, and absolutely THE BEST, when it comes to acting drunk, it was heartbreaking to see him acting in a very crass manner in the drunk scenes in the second half of the movie. This is the same man who blew our minds in such scenes in No. 20 Madras Mail, Adhipan or more recently in Chotta Mumbai and Hallo. This looks like a mockery of all that he has done in the past. He has some funny interactions and scenes with Jayaram & Dileep in the first half, but it is his performance in the second half that is extremely disappointing. For a die hard fan of the actor like me, this was something intolerable. The scenes where he keeps asserting that he forgot everything that he did on the previous night, he was bordering on overacting, something which we've never seen Mohanlal doing, in his 30 year long career. He brings a smile or two in some scenes like the one where he poses as a don, and we do get to see flashes of his actual talent here and there, but on the whole the impact is extremely heartbreaking. And the kind of costumes and styling he is given in the movie, would make you want to kill the costume designer. His retro look as the father who comes just for a couple of minutes in a song was much better.
Captain Raju is consistently wooden without even a single expression coming on his face, which was actually quite surprising as he used to be a competent actor. Kavya Madhavan looks slightly trimmer than usual, and has nothing much to do. Pradeep 'Ghajini' Rawat was quite decent. Poonam Bajwa and Dipasha are just pretty faces cast to fill in as heroines for Jayaram & Dileep. Suraaj Venjarammoodu is atrocious as usual. He has officially become the Vadivelu of Malayalam Cinema, where he plays a Dada who gets beaten up by the end of each scene. And it is not funny anymore. In fact, it was never funny. The Sumo fighter sequences were partly funny.
The entire look and feel of the movie gives us a certain disconnect to it, as everything looks artificial and made up. Mohanlal's introduction shot is yet another badly done somersault trick a la Christian Brothers. The directors have concentrated more on the comic timings of each actor individually, and even Suraaj, when they could have created wonders utilizing the excellent chemistry that Mohanlal, Jayaram & Dileep have with each other effectively. The jokes work to a certain extent initially, but as they progress, they become stale and unfunny. The entire post-climactic sequence after the actual movie got over, was ridiculous. The Hangover plot could have made for a great adaptation even though it has been a widely seen movie, but the directors have used the influence in a terrible way which seems disastrous to people who've seen the original and know its true potential.
Music was quite ordinary. A nice melody 'Arike Ninnalum' is ruined by a bad video where Mohanlal wears some horrible costumes. The drinking track 'Aaraanu koottu' had Mohanlal doing some awesome dance movements (again in bad costumes which restrict his fluidity). Dileep & Jayaram try and match up to him in that song to a certain extent. But the song could have been something better. It was a delight to see Mohanlal dancing after a long time (since Hallo maybe). Same is the case with the engagement song. Alagappan's cinematography serves the purpose of the film and doesnt rise above that. Don Max's editing was okay, and not irritating as his usual combinations with Shaji Kailas are. The art direction is a complete failure as none of the locales or sets in the movie look real. I understand that should not be the primary concern in a movie like this, but still they could have made it look at least a bit real, rather than advertising Ramoji Rao Film City in most of the scenes. Idea Star Singers & Ranjini Haridas randomly appearing in the movie, was far from interesting.
China Town may succeed because of the low taste in comedy that Malayali audiences have acquired over the recent few years. But even that success has to be credited to Dileep and Suraaj Venjarammoodu. The kind of comedy Mohanlal does in this movie is not something people who love him would like to associate him with. Since the other release of the day is truly terrible and Urumi & Christian Brothers have already had their share of success, China Town may in fact, make money during the vacation period. But personally, I found the movie to be extremely mediocre and was particularly heartbroken at Mohanlal's acting in the film. I hope he redeems that with Casanova which would probably be his next release.
Bottomline - Watch, if you have nothing else to do, or if you are a hardcore fan of Dileep.