Monday, August 1

Salt n Pepper - Ente vayaru niranja kadha... :)

Movie - Salt n Pepper (Malayalam)
Director - Aashiq Abu
Producer - Lucsam Creations
Writers - Syam Pushkaran, Dileesh Nair
Cast - Lal, Shwetha Menon, Asif Ali, Mythili, Baburaj, Vijayaraghavan, Ahmed Sidhique, Kalpana
Music & Background Score - Bijibal
Cinematography - Shyju Khalid
Editing - V Saajan
Art Direction - Suresh Kollam
Costume Designer - Sameera Saneesh
Release Date - 8th July 2011

There's a scene in Salt n Pepper where an enthusiastic Baburaj eats a dosa from a lesser known thattukada for the first time and exclaims 'Ithivide ondayittu nammal ariyaandu poyallo!!'. I can bet that any filmmaker or writer who watched Salt n Pepper would've had the same thought about the movie after watching it. Such a beautiful story was there around and nobody noticed it. Until an awesome team of Aashiq Abu, Syam Pushkaran & Dileesh Nair decided to tell that story - of a middle aged man and woman, both lonely in their own ways, bonding over the best things of all - food, and falling in love eventually. And by telling this story, with utmost sincerity, genuineness and above all, with a lot of heart, they've won over each and every person who has seen the movie. And voila, we have the first true-blue romantic comedy in Malayalam. 

Kalidasan (Lal), an unmarried archaeologist finds his daily share of joy in a bottle of rum and the exquisite food prepared by his favourite cook Babu (Baburaj) whom he lives with. His nephew Manu (Asif Ali), a flirt also lands up in Thiruvananthapuram and stays at his place while searching for a job. Maya (Shwetha Menon), a not so young dubbing artiste and a major foodie herself, is also leading a lonely life without any companion and stays with Meenakshi (Mythili), her student roommate and her beautician landlord (Kalpana). A wrong number dialed by Maya out of pure craving for a dosa, gets her and Kalidasan talking over the phone. The relationship matures from fights to friendship and bonding, over their favourite topic - food. But when they decide to meet each other finally, insecurity crops up in both their minds, which leads to complications they didnt ask for. Salt n Pepper then moves on to tell us what happens to their relationship eventually. 

Aashiq Abu opens his film with a mouth-watering title song 'Chembavu' in the rustic vocals of singer Pushpavathy and prepares us for the delicious feast he has in store for us. The simple love story works brilliantly because of the wonderful storytelling, three dimensional & human characters, great but subtle humour, amazing performances and some fantastic technical work. Unlike every other Malayalam film, there's no particular hero, heroine, villain, comedian, and other supporting characters just for the sake of it. Each character in the movie has a soul and a story to tell. Vijayaraghavan's love story, how Baburaj met Lal and his attachment to his master, the silent and always smiling Mooppan, upadeshi KT Mirash, Kalpana and her beauty parlour, the Muslim lady who wants to look beautiful for her husband even though she is just another burqa clad woman for the rest of the world and so on. These characters with their individual stories and back stories make for such an all round experience of watching the movie. 

Another thing which makes the narrative rich are the simple day to day activities done by the characters in different scenes. Lal trying to get an antique table fan running over the course of a couple of scenes, preparation of food at both Lal's and Shwetha's places, the casual banter and interactions with colleagues at their respective offices and so on and so forth. All these touches make the narrative as close to reality as possible and we never get the feel that we are watching a film made by some people. It unfolds as if it is happening around us. When most other filmmakers now are trying to thrust their signature styles upon the audience in all possible ways, Aashiq Abu simply takes the audience to a comfortable space which they can all relate to and lets them enjoy their time there. 

The movie has two equally important lead characters played by Lal & Shwetha Menon. Nowhere do we see an effort to make the movie a hero's movie or a heroine's movie. Both of them get equal space and time and we see both their view points effectively. Lal is an absolute treat to watch. The mimicry artiste-turned-writer-turned-director-turned-producer-turned-actor is simply fantastic in this film. The rugged, indifferent and tough outer cover and the soft, romantic and insecure inner side of Kalidasan are safe in Lal's hands. And the writers have designed a special tribute to their lead actor in the climax of the movie and those lines get the loudest applause in the movie. Given the right roles, this man can give all our superstars a run for their money. ;) Shwetha Menon, after a whole bunch of heavy duty roles (both glam and de-glam) gets to play a simple character which she plays with utmost conviction. Be it her professional parts as a dubbing artiste, or her craving for food and bonding with Lal over the phone or her insecurities over her looks and life so far in the second half, she is outstanding in the movie. Her Maya is surely one of the most memorable female characters in Malayalam in a long time. Malayalam Cinema's favourite dubbing artiste Bhagyalakshmi who dubbed for the dubbing artiste played by Shwetha also has done an amazing job as usual. 

Asif Ali knows to pick the right films. The youngster has been part of some very important films in the 2 years he has been in the industry and has also gained experience working with some of the best directors we have. He plays the second lead, a complete contrast to whatever Lal is, and plays that with flourish. His voice, which is usually a negative in his performance has been put to good use here and fits naturally to the character. His comic timing has also improved tremendously. Mythili is not that great. Neither does she look good or there is anything special in her performance. Yes, she has done much better compared to the other films she has done so far. But one wishes for a better girl in her role at times while watching the movie. 

The rest of the supporting cast are brilliant. Baburaj who goes for a 360 degree turn in a wonderful comic role is the best among the lot. One could never guess that this guy who comes just to get beaten up by the hero in every damn movie, could perform so well. Kudos to Aashiq Abu for this exceptional casting choice. The scene where Lal meets Baburaj is a gem. Vijayaraghavan shows a romantic side to him, which was unknown to us until now and makes his scenes memorable. Newcomer Ahmed Sidhique plays the irritating upadeshi friend of Asif's, KT Mirash and brings the roof down with his antics. The character was damn interesting and one wishes for some more scenes featuring him. Watch out for this guy, people. :) The Mooppan is a wonderful presence. Kalpana is just about fine. And of course, the horny bearded director was a scream. (One must be an idiot not to realize whom the joke is on). Archana Kavi's 5 minute cameo is much better than all her earlier performances (other than Neelathamara) put together. 

For the second time this year, two writers have done Malayalam Cinema proud. While it was Bobby & Sanjay with Traffic earlier this year, its Syam Pushkaran & Dileesh Nair with Salt n Pepper now. Their simple, warm and tight screenplay is the backbone of the movie. Various types of food and even Lal's Premier Padmini car with a defunct radio plays an important role in the narrative and its interesting to see how they've used these devices in their storytelling. And combined with Aashiq Abu's able direction, its a perfect recipe for success. And yes, like Dil Chahta Hai changed the way dialogues were written in Hindi Cinema, Salt N Pepper's dialogues are sure to have a similar impact in Malayalam Cinema. They are fresh, witty, conversational and do not sound like written dialogues (unlike most other Malayalam movies). Three cheers to Syam & Dileesh. :) 

Shyju Khalid's cinematography is exquisite. The way his camera has romanced food in this film has to be seen to be believed. The Juan's rainbow sequence is sure to get each and every one's mouth watering and is one of the most awesomely filmed sequences in recent times. SnP is also one of the first movies to be completely shot on the Red One digital camera in Malayalam and the result is as good as film. V Saajan's editing keeps the film going seamlessly and you never realize how smoothly one sequence has given way to the next. Art Direction by Suresh Kollam is another great positive. The colours used in the houses and spaces of each character is distinct and tells a lot about the characters themselves. Antiques at Lal's house, the warm colours in Shwetha's & Mythili's space, etc are great touches. Sameera Saneesh's costumes are attractive, yet as real as they can get. 

Bijibal is perhaps one of the best composers we have today. And his job in SnP reinforces that fact. The movie begins with the rustic 'Chembavu' and sets the mood. And later the sublime 'Premikkumbol' plays out in the beautiful vocals of Jayachandran & Neha Nair when Kalidasan & Maya's subtle romance starts blooming. The song has been edited very well by Saajan and the kind of chemistry they share in this song, without meeting even once is lovely. Its the same chemistry that is the absent in the song featuring the young couple Asif & Mythili - 'Kanamullal'. The song is shot very well, but somehow doesnt give the required romantic feel due to the lack of chemistry between the two. And the 'Neela Vaanam' inspired reverse technique (which itself was inspired from elsewhere) doesnt work. And of course, the movie concludes with a kickass music video of Avial's Aanakkallan which leaves us in high spirits. The background score stays with you much after the movie is over. 

All in all, Salt n Pepper is a delicious feast served hot by Aashiq Abu and team, putting all their heart into it, and it has got everything in it to satisfy Malayalam Cinema which has been starving for change. A simple, lovely romantic comedy which breaks all the present conventional formulas in Malayalam, this one is surely a must watch. A big Thank You and hug to Aashiq Abu, Syam Pushkaran, Dileesh Nair and all the other 'Smart Boys' who worked together to make this lovely movie. 

Bottomline - Ente vayaru niranju, manassum!!

P.S. - As an aspiring writer & filmmaker, I had been writing my scripts for Tamil and was developing a romantic comedy idea for Tamil/Hindi despite being a Malayali and having so much love for our cinema, thinking that there's no hope left there and such a genre would never exist or be accepted in Kerala. But SnP has now given me confidence to try it out in my own mother tongue - Malayalam. :) :) 

P.P.S. (To the team of the movie) - Aa Avial T-Shirts evide kittum?? Thattil kutti doshayum.


  1. Super...
    But i have some objections..
    That romantic song between lal n swetha starts abruptly.
    (Atho ini njan kanda theaterukar vettiyatho??!!!..mmm??)
    And Juan's rainbow scenes were a bit slow i thought,it effected the flow.
    But altogether awesome one..One thing you are right,story may be simple in this movie..But screen play is the back bone of this movie.
    One of the best Malayalam movie,i saw.

    Keep writing VR.It may not be practical in your daily life but please try to update us with latest reviews.

    P.S.: I was glad there was no so called super,mega stars in the movie.So i watched the movie without the disturbance of 'fans'.Its so sad that our best actors became big stars and they are not realizing they became just the shadow of their real talent while enjoying their crown.
    If families are watching pirated copies of movies,fans are big reason for that.

  2. Thanks Sonu. I dunno if the theater guys did something to the song, but for me it started at the right point and was beautiful. Juan's Rainbow was the main scene which showcased their bonding, so its pace had to be flow for it to work well.

    I am living away from Kerala and can watch movies only when they release in Pune. So its almost impossible to write reviews for new releases. Once I'm back in Kerala, I'll try to be more regular.

    And families watching pirated copies at home is an effect of fans, yes, but also an effect of not having good enough theaters. Now almost all the families in Kochi prefer going out for movies in the 2 new multiplexes every weekend and enjoy the trip there because of the good facilities and service there.

  3. Nice - a very well written review. However, I do have some objections to the above...I thought the chemistry between Asif and Mythili was quite cute and so was the song 'Kannamullal' was shot very well too! Mythili looked good in the movie and performed to the extend of what was required of her in the movie! I agree with Sonu...the scenes about Juan's rainbow cake though interesting, was a little dragging!
    The 'Premmikumol' song was beautiful and added an exquisite flavor to the movie...the romance in the song and the scenes flowed beautifully!
    Overall...A delicious review for an equally delicious movie!! :)

  4. Thanks a lot Rashmi. :)
    I agree that Mythili did an okay job of what was required of her. But I constantly felt that it would've been much better if a better girl was cast in that role. :)

  5. 1:പരമ്പരാഗതരായ ഹാസ്യ താരങ്ങള്‍ ഇല്ലാതെ തന്നെ ആദ്യം മുതല്‍ അവസാനം വരെ ഹ്യൂമര്‍ ത്രെഡ് വിടാതെ കൊണ്ടുപോകുന്നതില്‍ സംവിധായകന്‍ വിജയിച്ചു.

    2:സിനിമ ഓടാന്‍ സൂപ്പര്‍ താരങ്ങള്‍ അവിഭാജ്യ ഘടകം അല്ല എന്ന് ഒരിക്കല്‍ കൂടി തെളിഞ്ഞു.

    3:വെറും കൂതറ പടങ്ങള്‍ മാത്രം ഇറങ്ങുന്ന ഇപ്പോളത്തെ മലയാള സിനിമയില്‍ ഇത് ഒരിറ്റു തെളിനീര്‍ തരുന്നു, അത്രമാത്രം

    4: പല താരങ്ങളേയും “ഔട്ട് ഓഫ് ദ ബോക്സി’ല്‍ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുക വഴി വേറിട്ട ഒരു ചിന്ത സംവിധായകനില്‍ ഉണ്ടെന്ന് മനസ്സിലാകുന്നു..ഉദാ: ബാബുരാജ്.

    5:സിനിമയിടെ പ്ലോട്ട് വെറും സാധാരണം മാത്രം..അസാധാരണമായി ഒന്നുമില്ലെന്ന് മാത്രമല്ല, സാധാരണമായതിനെ അസാധാരണമായി അവതരിപ്പിക്കാന്‍ പോലും സാധിക്കുന്നില്ല.

    6:വളരെയേറേ നാളുകള്‍ ഫോണില്‍ സംസാരിച്ചിട്ട് നേരില്‍ കാണുമ്പോള്‍ ഇത്തരം ഒരു പറ്റിക്കലിനു രണ്ടു പേരും വിധേയമായെങ്കില്‍ തന്നെ അത് ഒരാളെങ്കിലും മനസ്സിലാക്കാതെ പോകുന്നു എന്നത് വിചിത്രം...

    7:എല്ലാം കഴിഞ്ഞ് പിന്നേം കാണിച്ച അവസാനത്തെ അറുബോറന്‍ പാട്ട് എന്തിനു വേണ്ടിയായിരുന്നു എന്ന് ഇതുവരെ മനസ്സിലായില്ല,അതുകൊണ്ട് തന്നെ കാഴ്ചക്കാരനു ചിന്തിക്കാന്‍ ഒന്നും വിട്ടുതരാതെ എല്ലാം പറഞ്ഞ അവസാനിപ്പിക്കുന്ന സാധാരണയില്‍ സാധാരണമായ പ്ലോട്ട്

    8: ആദ്യമായി കാണുന്ന കമിതാക്കളുടെ രംഗം കണ്ടപ്പോള്‍ തന്നെ സിനിമയുടെ അവസാനം ഊഹിക്കാന്‍ പറ്റി..കാഴ്ചക്കാരനു മേലേ ചിന്തിക്കുന്ന സംവിധായകനെ എന്ന് കാണാനാവുമോ ആവോ?

    9:അഭിനയം എന്നാല്‍ കോക്രി കാണിക്കലാണോ എന്ന് സംശയിക്കാവുന്ന തരത്തില്‍ അവതരിപ്പിച്ചിരിക്കുന്ന “മൈഥിലി”യെ ഒക്കെ ഇനിയും സഹിക്കേണ്ടി വരുമോ ആവോ?
    ബാക്കിയുള്ളവരെല്ലാം നന്നായി അഭിനയിച്ചു.

    10::വിജയരാഘവന്‍.....മലയാളത്തിലെ കഴിവുറ്റ, എന്നാല്‍ അധികം ഉപയോഗപ്പെടുത്താത്ത ഒരു നടനാണ്..ഈ ചെറിയ റോളിലും അത് തെളിയിച്ചു.

    11::ആദിവാസി മൂപ്പന്‍ എന്നാല്‍ ഭയപ്പെടുത്താനും മൌനം ദീക്ഷിക്കാനും അടിമയെപ്പോലെ ആട്ടിത്തെളിക്കപ്പെടാവുന്നവനും മാത്രം.....തികച്ചും പ്രതിലോമകരം !.എന്തിനായിരുന്നു ആ റോള്‍ ഈ സിനിമയില്‍? വന്നു , പോയി അത്രതന്നെ !

    12::ശ്വേതയുടെ മദ്യപാനം നന്നായി...പല കുടിയന്മാരും അഭിനയിക്കുന്നതിനേക്കാള്‍ കൊള്ളാം.

    അവസാനം ::: സിനിമ എന്നാല്‍ എന്റെ ദൃഷ്ടിയില്‍ ഇതല്ല, പക്ഷേ ഇപ്പോള്‍ ഇതും ഒരു സിനിമയാണ്....:)))

  6. @Sunil Krishnan.
    Nice to read ur view. my reactions to certain points.

    5. Sadharana plot thanneyayirunnu ee cinemayude uddesham. Asaadharanamaya avatharanam onnumillenkilum, ithinu munpu aarum cinemaykku worthy aanennu karuthaatha oru lalithamaya plot bhangiyaayi avathirippichu.. Athil kuttam onnum njaan kaanunnilla.

    6. thangalude ee point manassilayilla.

    7. Avasanathe pattu aruboran aayi thonniyathu thangalkku mathramaanennu thonnunnu.. Porathathinu audience-ine chinthippikkan vendi olla cinema aano ithu? its just a feel good movie and the music video at the end leaves you on a celebratory note.

    8. Lokathe oru vidhappetta ellaa love stories-um predictable aanu. Athe pole ithum. Pakshe athu engane paranju pokunnu ennathil aanallo karyam. Athil ivar vijayichu.. According to me and most others who've loved the movie. Allaandu avasanam oru twist onnum ee padathil ninnum aarum pratheekshikkilla.

    And cinema ennaal innathokkeyaanu ennoru narrow minded viewpoint vaykkunnathu mosham alle.. Be open to different kinds of cinema. This is just a simple feel good movie, take it as it is.. Allaandu ee cheriya cinemaykku vere claims thanne onnumillallo..

  7. I saw the film yesterday. Frankly, found it very average.
    especially found Shwetha Menon's character, very flimsy. Neither did her passion for food or for love, was evident. Forget the last scene. But I think, the director has simplified the character's problems of loneliness and her responses to the society's expectations.
    Totally get the reviews idea that the love and romance as shown in the movie was not anything new at all.

    then about the passion for food. Has anyone seen Julie and Julia? that is one movie where food was shown as poetry. I could not help comparing the movies and how that movie, made me, a non-foodie fall in love with "food". the passion was ingrained so well wtih the characters, which i thought was totally missing here. They keep saying it, in S&P but visually, was not that evident!
    It was a fun movie, but quite forgettable. I was also equally surprised at the many positive reviews that came our way.

  8. എന്തൊക്കെ കുറവുകളുണ്ടെങ്കിലും മലയാള സിനിമയുടെ ഇന്നത്തെ അവസ്ഥയിൽ ഒരു സദ്യ തന്നെയാണു ഈ പടം. ചിരിക്കാൻ ഒത്തിരി നല്ല മുഹൂർത്തങ്ങൾ ചിത്രം നമുക്കു സമ്മാനിക്കുന്നു.
    കാളിദാസന്റെ പഴഞ്ചൻ വണ്ടി ഒരു സംഭവമായി എടുത്തു കാണിക്കുകയല്ല, മറിച്ച് ചിത്രീകരണത്തിനിടെ ഫ്രെയിമിൽ പെട്ടു പോകുന്നതു പോലെ ഒരു ഫീലിങ് ആണ് ഉണ്ടായത്. അതാണ് ആ രംഗങ്ങൾ മനോഹരമാക്കിയത്.
    വണ്ടി ഗട്ടറിൽ വീഴിച്ച് റേഡിയോ ഓണാക്കുന്ന രംഗം , സുരാജ് വെഞാറമൂടോ മറ്റോ വേറെതെങ്കിലും സിനിമയിൽ അഭിനയിച്ചാൽ എങ്ങനെയിരിക്കുമായിരുന്നെന്നു ചിന്തിച്ചാൽ മാത്രം മതി ഈ സിനിമയുടെ പുതുമ മനസ്സിലാവാൻ..

  9. പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട സുനില്‍ കൃഷ്ണന് - ഒരു വരി ഏറ്റവും മനോഹരമാവുന്നത് ഇത് എനിക്കും എഴുതാമായിരുന്നല്ലോ എന്ന് ഓരോ വായനക്കാരനും തോന്നുമ്പോഴാണ്. ഈ സിനിമയുടെ പ്ലോട്ട് അസാധാരണം ആയിരുന്നില്ല എന്നത് തന്നെയാണ് ഇതിനെ മനോഹരമാക്കുന്നത്. പ്രത്യേകിച്ചും 'അസാധാരണകള്‍' കൊണ്ട് പ്രേക്ഷകനെ നിരന്തരം ഞെട്ടിച് കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന മലയാള സിനിമയില്‍. പറയുന്ന കഥയിലല്ല, അത് എങ്ങനെ സിനിമാറ്റിക്കായി പറയുന്നു എന്നതിലാണ് ഒരു സിനിമയുടെ വിജയം. കഥപറച്ചില്‍ മാത്രമാകുന്ന മലയാള സിനിമയില്‍ ഇത് ഒരു മാറ്റത്തിന് തുടക്കമാവട്ടെ എന്ന് ആശിക്കുന്നു

  10. Vivek i was waiting for your review ,saw this movie first day first show @cinemax.have to say just loved this movie.baburaj is the real hero of this movie with a gem of a performance.Lal and Swetha Menon was usual at there best.but for me BabuRaj was stand out performer.the scene where Lal meets BabuRaj for the first time is killer scene.its clean family entertainer.and all the best for your script work hope that it will come out good...:)

  11. A very good ve investigated a lot on it..these are my views.pls comment me the suggestions i am just a beginer..hope u ll do ,:)

  12. juan's rainbow cake.......!Kalakki,,sherikkumm oru no: 1 movie. aduthaa kaalathuu ithraa aashodhichhuu oru filim njan kandittillaa...

  13. Enikum athe same questions....aa aviyal tee um thatil kootu dosa um evide kitum :D
    good work!!


  14. actually the reverse technique was used much before the 'neelavanam' song , priyadarsan in minnaram' songs,malayalees first came to see this 'technique' ...

  15. i just loved the movie.. raadhas baburaj kalakki.. i seriously want to know if this "michael's dosakkada" was just a set or real thattukada.. i searched all over.. couldnt find.. any help in this regard will be appreciated.. plss :)

  16. ആദിവാസി മൂപ്പന്‍ എന്നാല്‍ ഭയപ്പെടുത്താനും മൌനം ദീക്ഷിക്കാനും അടിമയെപ്പോലെ ആട്ടിത്തെളിക്കപ്പെടാവുന്നവനും മാത്രം.....തികച്ചും പ്രതിലോമകരം !.എന്തിനായിരുന്നു ആ റോള്‍ ഈ സിനിമയില്‍? വന്നു , പോയി അത്രതന്നെ !