Friday, October 14

Snehaveedu - That lovely feeling of familiarity.

Movie - Snehaveedu (Malayalam)
Writer/Director - Sathyan Anthikkad
Producer - Antony Perumbavoor
Cast - Mohanlal, Sheela, Rahul Pillai, Padmapriya, Biju Menon, Innocent, Mamukkoya, KPAC Lalitha, Lena, Chembil Ashokan, Sasi Kalinga, Arundhathi, Appukkutty
Music - Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography - Venu ISC
Editing - K Rajagopal
Art Director - Joseph Nellickal
Release Date - 29th September 2011

One feels a certain kind of familiarity while watching a Sathyan Anthikkad movie. A feeling that you know this village, you know these people, you know their relationships, you know their problems and you even know how they're going to resolve their problems. And that, for me is the best part about Sathyan Anthikkad movies, and something which he has kept intact even after he started writing his own scripts, which are no match to the ones which he had been directing until then, written by other writers. Even though there are constant complaints about him not experimenting and is sticking to his same old formula, same old characters and actors, he knows what he is doing and he does it well. Unlike other brilliant directors from his period who've tried to experiment with new themes & borrowed story ideas and failed miserably. He is the only one who still has a guarantee of success every year when he comes out with his own kind of cinema, which has become a brand of sorts. And when Mohanlal returns in a light-hearted role with Sathyan Anthikkad in such a film, there is nothing more you can ask for. 

The plot is nothing new, and is very simplistic. Ajayan (Mohanlal) has been living with his mother with his daily dose of nostalgia in his village after toiling for years in Madras, Bombay and the Gulf to make money. He doesnt want to get married because he wants to spend the rest of his life looking after his loving mother Ammukkutti Amma (Sheela). But Ajayan's life and repute in the village goes for a toss when Karthik (Rahul Pillai) lands up in his house claiming to be his son. Snehaveedu tracks Ajayan's journey to prove that Karthik is not his son, while Karthik forms a rather strong bond with Ammukkutti Amma. Now that reminds a lot of Priyadarshan's Minnaram, but his friend Sathyan Anthikkad doesnt go there at all, even though the plots are slightly similar. 

The plot unfolds at its own pace with a lot of montages accompanied by Raja Sir's familiar but soothing background score, and has an end which may look unconvincing to many, but is perhaps the only way this story could have ended. You've seen everything in this movie earlier in a Sathyan Anthikkad village - the gorgeous locations full of greenery, achappams, kuzhalappams and different kinds of food, the host of goody good villagers including Innocent, KPAC Lalitha, Mamukkoya and party, cottage industries, Raja Sir's familiar music, a sub plot revolving around a family belonging to a different religion other than the main family, a Tamil connection, the same names in the credits, and most importantly, something which we loved to see in his 80s & 90s movies - a wonderful Lalettan in an unbeatable form, making you love every second of his screen time. All these familiar things made me feel like I was going back home, to my family. Why shouldnt I love this film then? I didnt go in expecting new generation cinema or a high intensity drama. This was exactly what I expected from the movie and I got that completely. In fact, watching Mohanlal alone was the worth the price of my ticket. And of course, the new additions to the Sathyan Anthikkad village - the talented lot of Biju Menon, Lena, Padmapriya, Sasi Kalinga and of course, the young Rahul Pillai made a wonderful impression as well. The dialogues laced with humour are perhaps the best dialogues Sathyan Anthikkad has written since he began writing. And I particularly loved the way how he weaved in references to his own films (along with Mohanlal) into the dialogue. 

And the most important reason to love this film is this man called Mohanlal. In this movie, it is not the Mohanlal of today who had become slightly distant from his audience due to certain choice of movies, it is the Lalettan we all love and we all relate to, the Lalettan who goes 'Uyyo' whenever he's in trouble, the Lalettan with his innocent and embarrassed smiles and expressions. I can go on and on. He plays the chubby, lazy, gulf returnee who lives life with his daily dose of nostalgia and takes the audience on a nostalgic trip reminding us of the wonderful roles and moments he created along with Sathyan Anthikkad. There is this mind blowing scene where Mohanlal explains his escapades with women in Chennai to his group of friends. Me, sitting in an almost empty theatre in Mumbai couldnt resist myself from getting up from my seat and clapping loudly. (How I wish I saw that scene along with the audience in Kerala!). Thanks to Sathyan Anthikkad for bringing the innocence back to him, which is the most relishing thing for a fan after having to endure him doing a bad comic performance in a horrible movie like China Town. It is also the result of the amazing rapport he shares with his friend and director, that he can be at such ease while doing such a simple role and charm us completely. 

Sheela is radiant and lovely as Ammukkutti Amma. After a graceful and memorable performance in Manassinakkare, she is wonderful in this movie and her chemistry with both Mohanlal and the young Rahul Pillai is great. Newcomer Rahul Pillai looks and acts like a young Dhanush, as referred to in the film itself and is a very good find. Padmapriya who has toned down a lot, looked gorgeous and did well as usual in the short role that was given to her. Biju Menon, joining the Sathyan Anthikkad camp for the first time, was a complete natural and it looks like he will be a regular in Anthikkad films from now on. Lena is growing into a very dependable actress with her performances in Traffic and now Snehaveedu. And it goes without saying that Malayalam Cinema's golden couple, Innocent and KPAC Lalitha are brilliant. Chembil Ashokan, Sasi Kalinga and Tamil actor Appukkutty are good in their roles. The girl Arundhathi who played Innocent's daughter looks like a cute younger version of Nithya Menen. Even the dog is quite impressive. 

Venu's camera captures the beauty of Palakkad in every frame, which has now become a regular thing in Sathyan Anthikkad movies. Ilaiyaraaja's music, even while sounding familiar, is wonderful, especially the song 'Amrithamay, Abhayamay'. Contrary to his usual style, he has used a lot of silence in his background score this time around. One never gets to feel the presence of an editor in Sathyan Anthikkad movies as shots, scenes and sequences flow so smoothly and that is K Rajagopal's success.

Yes, the movie has a lot of flaws. But the wonderful humour, warm relationships and great acting cover up for almost 90% of the flaws. The ending might not be acceptable to many people in the audience, but Sathyan Anthikkad movies were never about how good his climax portions were. It is the journey till there which is always good. In this industry where watching 80% of the commercial movies makes you cringe, Sathyan Anthikkad makes sure that you have a good trip back to familiar people and places. He doesnt make any high claims about his movies and he sticks to whatever he knows to do best. Yes, we can still hope he joins hands with good writers to take his films to the next level, but this level aint bad either. I may not remember this movie for a long time, but whenever I watch it, I would have a great time.(As the dialogue goes, 'Then kudikkunnu, parakkunnu, paraaganam!') And three cheers to the director for making the general public go back to addressing Mohanlal as their Lalettan all over again. :) 

Bottomline - Watch it for Mohanlal in superb form, and that lovely feeling of the familiarity of it all. 

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