Thursday, December 22

Best Performances of 2011 - Malayalam

This is another one of those year end lists. And here I try to compile the best performances I've seen in Malayalam in 2011, in no particular order. So please dont treat this as a top 10 list. 

Thilakan - Indian Rupee
After a whole lot of controversies, tussles and drama, Malayalam Cinema's pride Thilakan returned to mainstream cinema with Ranjith's Indian Rupee, and we were more than happy to welcome him. He was the backbone of Ranjith's satire on the real estate mafia in Kerala. The shrewd old man who is the mastermind behind Prithviraj's deals in the movie is safe in Thilakan's hands. The dialogue which won the most applause in movie halls was when Prithviraj asks Thilakan, 'Ithrayum kaalam evideyaayirunnu?' and Thilakan's smile to that is the answer to all those people who've been ignoring him for so long until Ranjith showed the courage to cast him again. He proved yet again why he is one of the greatest actors we've seen, just by keeping his performance simple and powerful. 

Sai Kumar - Traffic
Another actor who doesnt need many scenes to prove his mettle. Sai Kumar is hardly there in 4 or 5 scenes in Traffic, but it is on his character's decision that the whole movie is built. And what an impact he makes in such a short role. Almost every single person's eyes became moist when he explains to the collector why he cant let his son be operated on. His voice modulation and emoting was perfect making it the best performance in the ensemble cast movie, which also turned out to be the best Malayalam movie of 2011. 

Jagathy Sreekumar - Urumi 
How can this man not be featured on the list of best performers. He has been stunning us for decades now and still keeps reinventing himself. As the effeminate minister Chenicheri Kuruppu, a sinister and scheming politician in the times of kings, Jagathy stole the show from the huge star cast of Urumi. It is always a delight to watch him in roles with negative shades and its a cherry on the cake when he adds his own trademark humour to them.

Vineeth Sreenivasan - Chaappa Kurishu
This was a complete surprise. Vineeth Sreenivasan was always considered a below average actor who didnt have a great range in acting. But he shocked everyone with his portrayal of the department store sweeper Ansari whose life goes for a 360 degree when he gets his hand on a mobile phone. He portrayed an array of emotions, bewilderment and frustration in this experimental flick and shut the mouths of his critics. It was a tough role to play and Vineeth did that with conviction. The final stunt sequence is raw action unlike what we usually see in our films and that is one of the highlights of the film. How an ordinary poor man turns into a wicked mind when he feels that  he has some sort of a power in his hands was what his character was about, and Vineeth portrayed that brilliantly. 

Parvathy - City of God
This filmfare winning actress disappeared from the Malayalam industry after a disaster called Flash and reappeared as a Tamil labourer in Lijo Jose's City of God. Her performance was very raw which made her vulnerable as well as aggressive at the same time. She shared excellent chemistry with Indrajith in the movie and her Tamil diction was perfect. We need to see more of this actress in Malayalam. 

Biju Menon - Seniors
This dude singlehandedly salvaged this movie from being yet another usual masala comedy, with his newly discovered effortless comic timing. Biju Menon as the rich, lazy, uncouth, alcoholic middle aged stud in Seniors was worth every penny spent. His style of comedy was a new experience for Malayalis and they loved it making the movie into one of the biggest hits of the year. He was ably supported by Manoj K Jayan who was also good, but it was Biju Menon's lazy man act that won laurels from everyone. He should do more such roles which explores his comic talent. 

Mukesh - Arabiyum Ottakavum P Madhavan Nairum
Another fantastic comic performance. Mukesh, when teamed up with Mohanlal and Priyadarshan, is unstoppable. As always, he steals the show in the film with his one-liners, expressions and chemistry with friend and co-star Mohanlal. The movie becomes exciting only when Mukesh steps in, after having a dull start and he makes even the poorest jokes work due to sheer timing. And Priyadarshan has a particular talent to use the chemistry of these two actors to the fullest, which is doing wonders for the movie. 

Baburaj - Salt n Pepper
This guy was simply fabulous. Undergoing a revolutionary transformation from playing the goonda who gets beaten up in every single movie to a fantastic comic character like the cook Babu, Baburaj won everyone's hearts through Salt n Pepper. A huge Kudos to Aashiq Abu for realizing his talent and casting him perfectly. His scenes with Lal were brilliant, out of which the most 'epic' one was the 'pennu kaanal' scene where Lal meets Baburaj for the first time. Following Salt n Pepper, Baburaj is now flooded with offers to play comic and character roles. 

Anoop Menon - Beautiful, Pranayam, Traffic
Anoop Menon got to be a part of three important films of the year which were widely appreciated. And his performances in these three movies were also brilliant. In his own script and VK Prakash's direction in Beautiful, Anoop brought out a hitherto unknown comic side and played it out perfectly, sharing excellent chemistry with his co-star and friend Jayasurya. In Pranayam, he played the loving son to Anupam Kher one one side and a son who couldnt accept his mother Jaya Prada on the other side. And his performance in the climax where he accepts his mother and begs forgiveness was truly brilliant. In a movie where giants like Mohanlal and Anupam Kher were acting, he made a standout performance. And of course, the commissioner in Traffic was another great role. Staying within the confines of one room, he represented the audience in Traffic and went through the excitement, tension and fear the audience went through while watching the movie. His tension during the interval scene and the joy of an accomplished mission in the climax, were the best parts of his performance in Traffic. 

Rima Kallingal - City of God
Again, a complete surprise. After an impressive debut in Rithu, Rima had been doing silly roles until this one came her way. Lijo Jose brought out the immense potential she had in her, and made her emote as a complete natural. She gave as matured performance as an actress who goes a terrible turmoil in her personal life. Rima made everyone sit up and notice her performance for the first time, through this role and now we're looking forward to seeing more such challenging performances from her. 

Fahadh Faasil - Chaappa Kurishu
People could not believe it is the same guy who made a debut in the disastrous Kaiyethum Doorathu. Fahadh has come a long way from that movie and is now the most promising young actor we have. His extraordinary performance in Chaappa Kurishu stands proof for that. Playing a spoilt rich brat whose life is screwed when his phone and an mms clip in it gets lost, Fahadh was simply outstanding. His good looks, excellent body language and fab dialogue delivery makes him a star to look forward to. Like Vineeth, he was also so bloody raw in the climactic fight in the film. The negative shades of the role was also very well played out. He also gave a brilliant performance in the festival circuit film Akam, which is yet to release. 

Lal - Salt n Pepper
Aah. This one was an absolute treat. Lal playing Kalidasan with  a rugged, indifferent and tough outer cover and soft, romantic and insecure inner side was one of the best things we saw on screen this year. His comic timing, laid back acting and tough looks worked wonders for the role and the movie. And the writers & the director designed a special tribute to him through a dialogue in the climax of the movie, which was received with the loudest applause. Lal proved once again that, given the right roles, he can give our superstars a run for their money. 

Shwetha Menon - Salt n Pepper
When we talk about Kalidasan, how can we not talk about his partner Maya. Shwetha Menon, after a lot of heavy duty roles (both glam and deglam) sprang a complete surprise when she came as the very simple Maya who has a lot of insecurities within her. Her phone-romance with Kalidasan and their bonding over food was the soul of the film. And she kept it simple and sweet. In the second half of film she shines where she displays Maya's insecurities and vulnerabilities and finally reunites with Kalidasan. Bhagyalakshmi's dubbing also played a significant part in the character's appeal. The scene where she craves for a dosa itself is enough to understand that this lady is a wonderful actress. She also gave a very good performance in City of God and had a bumper opening almost equaling superstar films when she played the seductress Rathi chechi in the Rathinirvedam remake. 

Kunchacko Boban - Traffic
After proving that he has much more potential than just being a chocolate boy through Elsamma Enna Aankutty last year, Kunchacko Boban took up the challenging part of Dr.Abel in Traffic early this year. His performance as a doctor guilty of his own conscience is brilliant and was one among the most noted performances in the ensemble movie. Through Traffic, he proved that he could handle serious roles very well. He did well in the comic turned negative role in Seniors also. 

Remya Nambeeshan - Traffic, Chaappa Kurishu
Remya Nambeeshan used to be this cute young girl who used to play sister to the hero or friend to the heroine some years back. But her complete makeover made her into this hot young lady who shocked everyone by acting in a lip-lock scene for the first time in Malayalam. She dared to do it and she did that very well, and gave a really good performance throughout the film. She was fab as the girlfriend who feels cheated by her two-timing boyfriend Fahadh. She did very well as Kunchacko Boban's wife who cheats on him with his best friend in Traffic as well. And it also helped that the girl looked gorgeous in both the movies. 

Prabhu Deva - Urumi
Prabhu Deva stole the thunder from Prithviraj in Urumi playing his sidekick and buddy Vavvali. His screen presence is amazing and he scores in every department, be it comedy, action, romance or dance; while the film's lead actor Prithviraj just walks around with his beefed up physique. In fact Prabhu Deva was so good that people lost interest in what would happen in the climax, once Prabhu Deva died in the film. His Tamil mixed Malayalam diction was very cute. 

Lena - Traffic
Lena also had a very small but brilliant part to play in Traffic. If it was Sai Kumar on the other side, it was Lena on this side as the mother of the dying child. Nobody had bothered to tap the potential that this actress had so far. Her break-down scene in the second half over the phone to Kunchacko Boban leaves you stunned and disturbed at the same time. That scene alone can make our top-line actresses put their head down in shame. 

Prithviraj - Indian Rupee, City of God
2011 was a landmark year for Prithviraj. He got abused the most and appreciated the most in the same year. If the actor found himself in a soup over a controversial interview, the internet rampage against him and the worst movie ever made called Tejabhai & Family; he also gave his career best performance in the same year in Indian Rupee. The character in Indian Rupee was perfect for the Mohanlal of the 80s and Prithviraj almost lives up to that demand and gave his all for that role. He is effortless in the movie thanks to Ranjith's able direction and for the first time in his career, comedy didnt seem bad coming from him. And he could behave as an ordinary man very naturally. His tough hitman act in City of God was also very good. And he can be proud that he produced one of the year's best movies Indian Rupee and also the ambitious Urumi

Mohanlal - Pranayam, Snehaveedu
It had become fashionable to talk about how Mohanlal was wasting his talent and when this talk was at its peak, the man gave us this performance which left everyone stunned. The film couldnt reach the level that he achieved through his acting, but to watch Mohanlal alone, the film is worth a watch. As a paralyzed old man stuck in a wheelchair for the entire movie, Mohanlal showed us why he is still the best actor this country has ever had. Even an actor like Anupam Kher could not do anything when he came opposite Mohanlal in the same frame. Thanks to Blessy for bringing back the performer in Mohanlal, even though the film wasnt as great as his performance. And for fans craving for the Lalettan of yesteryears, he gave a treat called Snehaveedu teaming up with buddy Sathyan Anthikkad. The scene in Snehaveedu where he explains his escapades with women to his friends is alone worth spending the money of your ticket on. He was also great in Priyadarshan's Arabiyum Ottakavum P Madhavan Nairum letting Mukesh take the spotlight for most of the time. 

Jayasurya - Beautiful, Janapriyan
From one paralyzed character to another. Jayasurya is an actor who hasnt got the respect he deserves. He is the one who dares to experiment, takes a whole lot of effort in every single performance of his. Playing a paraplegic with a positive attitude towards life, just because he is filthy rich, Jayasurya was brilliant in Beautiful. Strapped away of any body language and left with just his face to emote, Jayasurya does a killer job in Beautiful and his chemistry with Anoop Menon was excellent as well. And he was completely charming as the simpleton Priyadarshan in Janapriyan, a movie which became good majorly because of Jayasurya's wonderful performance. He was a delight to watch in that movie and I would recommed people who havent seen it yet to watch it immediately. 

Salimkumar  - Adaminte Makan Abu
This one was a shocker. Yes, we realized Salimkumar could perform very well when we saw Achanurangaathu Veedu, but Adaminte Makan Abu was something else. A comedian who has done everything from delivering some of the most iconic dialogues in Malayalam to jumping into cow dung pits just to evoke laughter, winning a National Award for a best actor was something unimaginable until Salimkumar did it. His glorious performance as the poor and righteous Abu whose wish is to go for Hajj along with his wife was the backbone of this small and poignant film. 100 marks for Salimkumar for taking up this role in between all the mindless bullshit he was doing and giving his all for it. This one surely deserves all the laurels it achieved. 

Phew!! That was quite a lot. 2011 has been a great year for Malayalam Cinema as it witnessed a whole lot of changes and new actors and actresses began to be accepted by the not-so-change-friendly audiences giving confidence to a lot more producers and directors to attempt films with younger actors. A strong performance from Mammootty was sorely missed as the actor chose to do only bad and below average movies this year. (I havent seen Bombay March 12)

Tuesday, December 20

Venicile Vyapari

Movie - Venicile Vyapari (Malayalam)
Director - Shafi
Producer - Madhavan Nair
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - James Albert
Cast - Mammootty, Suraaj Venjaarammoodu, Kavya Madhavan, Suresh Krishna, Poonam Bajwa, Vijayaraghavan, Biju Menon, Jagathy Sreekumar, Salimkumar, Sreeraman, Janardhanan & others
Music - Bijibal
Cinematography - Shamdat
Editor - Manoj
Release Date - 16th December 2011

Shafi joining hands with acclaimed writer James Albert for a Mammootty film set in the 80s, would naturally garner some expectations. After a series of duds this year, Mammootty's fans were pinning their hopes on this Christmas release to see their favourite actor in a good movie this year. But what they get is an average, half-baked attempt where Mammootty has nothing worthwile to do. 

The movie begins interestingly when Constable Pavithran (Mammootty) is sent to Alappuzha to investigate the murder of Ajayan (Biju Menon) as an undercover officer, in the guise of a merchant. He meets a host of interesting characters in the beautiful town and slowly turns into a rich businessman through his shrewd business moves where he makes every single move looking for a profit. And Ajayan's enemies (2 warring groups on either side of the lake, as seen in around 1456 malayalam films :P) are behind his back too. Things start going wrong after Pavithran gets married to Ajayan's sister Ammu (Kavya Madhavan) and his life becomes entangled in a lot of problems. How he tries to get out of it forms the rest of the story. 

The movie begins on a boring note and picks up steam once the action shifts to Aleppey where the business deals and Pavithran's skills in business are interesting to watch. And you think the movie would actually be good from then on. But then comes the interval, and the movie turns into yet another cliched mish-mash of all Shafi films with the twists borrowed from IV Shashi films of the 80s. The second the plot is established, you can guess the twist at the end. The biggest disappointment is that it comes from one of the best discoveries in the writing department in recent years - James Albert who gave us Classmates, Cycle and Ividam Swargamanu. When he sets up an interesting premise which eventually falls into the usual cliches of any other such film, its quite disheartening. Shafi does what he usually does with his formula movies and there is not much of an improvement or deterioration there. He cannot prevent his audience from second guessing every other scene in the second half of the movie. The much hyped retro feel of the movie is just in its ridiculous costumes and oversized wigs. Nothing else is authentically recreated to remind us of that era or give a retro feel. The only thing they try to do is to completely ruin an old Jayan-Seema song 'Kannum Kannum' with a ridiculous visualization, where Mammootty dressed in embarrassing costumes sings & dances with Poonam Bajwa who seems like an alien to Malayalam films. 

Mammootty has nothing to do in this movie. Unlike his earlier films with Shafi which majorly depended on his comic timing, like Thommanum Makkalum, Mayavi & Chattambinaadu, this one doesnt have anything worthwhile for an actor like Mammootty, other than one or two scenes in the first half. The only thing he gets to do is to perform umpteen number of stunts (standing in one place, as usual) which gets boring and repetitive within the first half itself. He looks good despite being dressed in loud costumes and an oversized wig. 

Kavya Madhavan is quite good, and its nice to hear her dubbing in her own voice. But yea, she is growing fatter and fatter with each film. Poonam Bajwa as a Malayali girl?? Really?? Suraaj Venjarammoodu is thankfully much less irritating these days (even in Arabiyum Ottakavum he was pretty okay). Is it because we have seen the worst of him already?? He is almost as important as Mammootty in the film. Salimkumar plays the gulf returnee yet again and manages to raise a few laughs. The film's major strong point is Jagathy Sreekumar and as always, the veteran steals the show in the scenes which he appears in. Vijayaraghavan, Suresh Krishna and the other villains do their regular job which they've been doing in every other movie. Biju Menon is hardly there. 

Bijibal gives one okay song. I was looking away from the screen during that 'Kannum Kannum' remix. It is so badly recreated that it makes you cringe. Shamdat captures Alappuzha beautifully and certain scenes are watchable only because of his fab cinematography. Costumes, as mentioned earlier are overdone and loud. Art director Joseph Nellikkal hasnt taken much effort to recreate the era. There are too many stunts and the climax comes like a whimper after so many cliched scenes in the second half. 

All in all, Venicile Vyapari manages to raise a few laughs in the interesting first half, thanks to Salimkumar and Jagathy and falls into the cliche trap once it goes into the second half. Mammootty fans would be disappointed as he has precious little to do in the movie. Lets hope he does another great role like Pranchiyettan or Best Actor soon enough to get over the bad films he has given in 2011. It would be great if Shafi tried to change his track or at least try to make his formula films work within that given formula. The most disappointing aspect was the writing, something clearly not expected from James Albert. 

Bottomline - Watch, if you have nothing else to do. 

Top 10 Songs of 2011 - Malayalam

Its that time of the year when movie bloggers make their year end lists with their favourite movies, songs and performances. I'm no different either. I'm starting my series of lists with this one on what according to me were the 10 best songs of 2011 in Malayalam.  

10. Nin Viral Thumbil / Moovanthiyaay - Beautiful
Singers - Gayathri (Nin Viral), Vijay Yesudas (Moovanthiyay)
Music - Ratheesh Vega
Lyrics - Anoop Menon
Featuring - Jayasurya, Anoop Menon, Meghna
Director - VK Prakash

2 Beautiful tracks from the film Beautiful which came at the end of the year. The amazing Gayathri, singing after long made Nin Viral Thumbil worth remembering for a long time. Sadly, the song doesnt have a video in the movie and features during the titles. Moovanthiyaay, the song which shows the friendship and bonding between Jayasurya and Anoop Menon is spirited and positive. Superbly sung by Vijay Yesudas, this song has fantastic visuals shot by Jomon T John. Ratheesh Vega is growing to be a music director to look forward to. And Anoop Menon makes a really impressive debut as a lyricist. 

9. Paattil Ee Paattil - Pranayam
Singers - Shreya Ghoshal, P Jayachandran
Music - M Jayachandran
Lyrics - ONV Kurup
Featuring - Mohanlal, Jayaprada
Director - Blessy

Shreya Ghoshal in her mesmerizing voice sings the soulful words by ONV Kurup, set to tune by M Jayachandran in one wonderful song. The song showed the romance that is still alive between a paralyzed Mohanlal and his loving wife Jaya Prada in Blessy's Pranayam with excellent frames shot by Satheesh Kurup. The song also has a male version which is equally good, sung by P Jayachandran. But it is the female version that made it to the film. One of the best moments in the film, this song is probably M Jayachandran's best work in a long time. And we're always ecstatic to hear ONV's poetry in film songs. 

8. Chimmi Chimmi - Urumi
Singer - Manjari
Music - Deepak Dev
Lyrics - Rafeeq Ahmed
Featuring - Nithya Menen, Prabhu Deva
Director - Santosh Sivan

This was the first genuine blockbuster song of the year. Deepak Dev's playful music, Manjari's sweet and flirtatious vocals and Rafeeq Ahmed's fab lyrics were one major reason. And the other was Nithya Menen's performance in the song as the sensuous Chirakkal Bala and Prabhu Deva's equally brilliant reactions to her advances. Shot by India's best cinematographer Santosh Sivan, this was one cracker of a song where everything came together perfectly. 

7. Anthimana Chembadiyil - Indian Rupee
Singers - MG Sreekumar, Sujatha
Music - Shahabas Aman
Lyrics - VR Santosh
Featuring - Prithviraj, Rima Kallingal
Director - Ranjith

Remember all those wonderful songs we used to hear in MG Sreekumar and Sujatha's voices in old Priyadarshan movies in the 80s and early 90s?? This song from Indian Rupee takes us back to those memories and gives such a nostalgic feel. (So did the movie) The song was shot by S Kumar (who used to shoot all such songs back then) and directed by Ranjith. If one listens to this song without knowing which movie it is from,  he/she would imagine the old Mohanlal & Shobhana performing the song. But Prithviraj & Rima Kallingal live up to their standards and look great together, dressed in simple costumes, effortlessly performing the song. Shahabas Aman kept the music simple and effective, perfectly complimenting the pleasant lyrics by VR Santosh. The song leaves you with a smile. :) 

6. Thelu Thele - Urumi
Singer - KR Renji
Music - Deepak Dev
Lyrics - Engadiyoor Chandrashekharan
Featuring - Prabhudeva
Director - Santosh Sivan

The best song from Urumi. An inspirational song which Prabhu Deva performs just before the final battle in the movie. The rustic vocals of KR Renji and inspiring lyrics by Engadiyoor Chandrashekharan were put to brilliant use by Deepak Dev in this great song. And as always, Santosh Sivan made sure that its visualized perfectly. 

5. Theeye Theeye / Oru Naalum Kaanaathe - Chaappa Kurishu
Singers - Saju Sreenivas, Sayanora Philip (Theeye), Reshmi Satheesh, Rex Vijayan (Title Song)
Music - Rex Vijayan
Lyrics - Engadiyoor Chandrashekharan
Featuring - Fahadh Faasil, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Remya Nambeeshan, Niveditha, Roma
Director - Sameer Thahir

Chappa Kurishu was a completely different experience, both as a movie and as a music album. Popular rock band Avial's guitarist Rex Vijayan made his debut as a composer through this movie and composed two killer songs which had separately shot music videos to promote the movie. Theeye Theeye had a haunting feel to it with Saju Sreenivas & Sayanora Philip behind the mic. And the title song gives a great adrenalin high with the music accompanied with a superbly layered chenda track. Reshmi Satheesh's unconventional voice backed ably by Rex was another major plus point. The videos were slickly shot by Jomon T John and directed by Sameer Thahir. Full marks for experimentation. The title song of the film even featured on MTV Roots, a show that recognizes non-Bollywood talent from around the country and more. 

4. Premikkumbol - Salt n Pepper
Singers - P Jayachandran, Neha Nair
Music - Bijibal
Lyrics - Rafeeq Ahmed
Featuring - Lal, Shwetha Menon
Director - Aashiq Abu

Another extremely popular track of the year. This beautiful melody had the soothing vocals of the legendary P Jayachandran and the super-talented upcoming singer Neha Nair. Bijibal's melodious composition with Rafeeq Ahmed's lovely lyrics was perfectly picturized by Aashiq Abu. The tune gives a complete nostalgic feel and takes us back to the era of the late composer Baburaj and his melodies. A middle aged couple who're slowly falling in love without having seen each other even once was superbly captured through this wonderful song. Lal and Shwetha Menon were excellent . One cannot help but fall in love with this song. 

3. Ee Puzhayum - Indian Rupee
Singer - Vijay Yesudas
Music - Shahabas Aman
Lyrics - Mullanezhi
Featuring - Prithviraj, Rima Kallingal
Director - Ranjith

This song was forced into the movie and had a terrible picturisation. But what the hell, it is such a soothing and melodious song, one of the best songs we've heard in years. Vijay Yesudas has finally started proving that he is the worthy successor to his father and this song adds much more brownie points towards that. The late Mullanezhi Maash's lyrics reinstate everything that was good about Malayalam Film Music and what we thought we had lost. Shahabas Aman has done an excellent job with the composition and has used the unplugged version in the movie concentrating on Vijay's voice and the soothing guitar chords. I have nothing to say about the terribly picturised video of this song other than it was a royal wastage of such an amazing song. Especially when the other song in the movie got quite a nice video. 

2. Mazhaneer Thullikal - Beautiful
Singer - Unnimenon
Music - Ratheesh Vega
Lyrics - Anoop Menon
Featuring - Anoop Menon, Jayasurya, Meghna
Director - VK Prakash

UNNIMENON!!! One of the best singers Kerala has produced returns to form with this gem of a song. Ratheesh Vega's brilliant composition and Anoop Menon's beautiful lyrics form a perfect backdrop for Unnimenon to blow our minds once again, that too after ages. VK Prakash has made a video which captures all the beauty of the song and builds the relationship of the 3 main leads in the film. The song is received with applause in movie halls and is a high point in the movie. Listening to this song on a rainy evening is pure bliss.

1. Chembavu Punnellin Choro - Salt n Pepper
Singer - Pushpavathy
Music - Bijibal
Lyrics - Rafeeq Ahmed
Featuring - Kerala's delicious food joints
Director - Aashiq Abu

The song of the year!! Kerala makes the best food in the country. And none of our movies or songs had ever captured that aspect about our state so far. So when Aashiq Abu and team started their delicious movie with this sumptuous song, it was purely mindblowing. Rafeeq Ahmed wrote his heart out about our food and dishes and Bijibal composed the perfect tune for it. Pushpavathy's rustic voice is the find of the year. And the video of this song features Malayali's favourite eating places across the state ranging from Kayee's Biriyani to Mullappanthal Shaappu to Paragon and Sagar and so on and so forth. The video would make you want to rush to grab something to eat the second you finish watching it. Such a mouth-watering song was a first in our cinema and it certainly deserves the top spot of the year. 

These were my favourite songs of the year. Apart from them, there were many other great songs which couldnt make it to the final list, including Kalamozhikalaya (Pranayam), Nee Akaleyano (City of God), Aanakkallan (Salt N Pepper), Amruthamay Abhayamay, Aavanithumbi (Snehaveedu), Aaarane Aarane (Urumi), Chembakappoo (Rathinirvedam) and Aaru Tharum (Make Up Man). Post your favourite songs as comments as well. :) :) 

Monday, December 19


Movie - Beautiful (Malayalam)
Director - VK Prakash
Producer - Anand Kumar
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues, Lyrics - Anoop Menon
Cast - Jayasurya, Anoop Menon, Meghna, Nandu, Jayan, Tini Tom, Unnimenon, Aparna Nair, Deepak Nair, KB Venu, Kochupreman, Mredul and others. 
Cinematography - Jomon T John
Music - Ratheesh Vega
Editor - Mahesh Narayanan
Art Direction - Ajayan Mangad
Release Date - 2nd December 2011

First of all, a huge apology for such a long delay in posting the review of this wonderful film. 

Few films make Malayalis wholeheartedly get up and give a standing ovation to a film these days. And fortunately in the year 2011, we were blessed with many such movies. 'Beautiful' - a movie that truly lives up to its title, is the latest to join them. Directed by VK Prakash and scripted by Anoop Menon, this movie is indeed a must watch. 

Stephen (Jayasurya) is a paraplegic millionaire who doesnt crib about his fate and loves to live life positively finding beauty in every small thing, while his relatives are after his life to get access to his enormous wealth. When he notices a singer John (Anoop Menon) whose voice reminds him of his late friend, he makes an offer to John to be a friend for him and sing for him everyday, in return for a fat paycheck every month. John who is in dire need for money accepts the offer reluctantly and the both of them strike an unusually beautiful friendship in the course of time. There enters a sensuous and seductive home nurse Anjali (Meghna) to take care of Stephen and there is tension in the air. 'Beautiful' tells the story of what happens later. 

Anoop Menon is a brilliant writer. People who watched Pakal Nakshatrangal would vouch for that. That one was a slightly intellectualized movie which did not work very well with the general audience. But with Beautiful, Anoop Menon has found the right balance and has shown exceptional skill in creating wonderful scenes and even better dialogue. Not a single character is there for the sake of it and each and every one has a perfect part to play. The friendship between the two leading men is developed beautifully and that is the backbone of the movie. Another master stroke by the writer is the constant referencing to movies which Stephen keeps watching on television. The interval scene with a tribute to Thoovanathumbikal and Johnson Maash should go down in history as one of the best tributes ever and is undoubtedly, the scene of the year. The references to films come at the right points (its not fun if I reveal them here, so go watch it for yourselves). The usage of vintage film songs at the right points was also another great touch. The humour is direct and in your face and not the regular double entendre types which we're used to hearing from Suraaj, Salimkumar and co. And since it is so direct and casual, we do not feel offended and actually find it extremely real. Dialogue has always been Anoop Menon's forte and he has done a kickass job with them here also. This movie is a reservoir for movie quote junkies like me with one epic line after another, all of which may sell hundreds of copies if printed on T shirts. Stephen's positivism and the evolution of his friendship with John are the best parts of the first half while the sexual tension in the atmosphere between John, Stephen and Anjali and the dilemma that John faces towards the end which races into a suspense thriller mode are the highlights of the second half. There is only one request to Mr. Anoop Menon - please write more often. We need great writers like you to be active in this industry which faces such extreme scarcity of good writers. 

VK Prakash is a director who has attempted various different genres ranging from parallel cinema (Punaradhivasam, Karmayogi) to romance (Mullavalliyum Thenmavum) to horror (Moonnamathoraal) to action (Police) to suspense (Positive) to slapstick comedy (Gulumaal, 3 Kings) with different results and perhaps for the first time since Punaradhivaasam, he gets a script which gives him space to showcase his true potential as a director, and he has done a fabulous job translating Anoop Menon's fantastic script to the screen. He should easily be up there with the big directors after this movie. His energy and the efficiency of his entire team made it possible for this small movie to be finished under 25 days of principal shooting. The actors have been handled extremely well and the visuals are fantastic as it is always in VKP films. There is not a single dull moment in the film and the narration is simple and fresh. Now VKP can proudly say that he has earned a place among Malayalam Cinema's top directors and rightly so. 

Jayasurya is an actor who hasnt got his due in Malayalam Cinema yet. He has been taking such enormous effort to portray distinctly different characters in each movie of his - be it a hero, villain, comedian or a supporting actor. But still majority of the people dont take him seriously. Now that would definitely change with his amazing performance as the paraplegic Stephen in Beautiful. After a charming Janapriyan earlier this year, Jayasurya stuns us again just by using his face and dialogue delivery and nothing else. If you ask me, he should walk away with all the best actor trophies this year for these two films (Mohanlal was brilliant in a similar role in Pranayam, but he's been there, done that. These younger guys need all the boosting when they dare to do roles like these). 

Anoop Menon was a pure natural as John in the movie. After the great roles in Cocktail, Traffic & Pranayam, he shines effortlessly in Beautiful and you can actually notice the tremendous growth in him as an actor. His body language is so free flowing and natural that not once do we feel that he is performing as a character. We have very few lead actors now who can effortlessly bring out humour through their body language and Anoop shows that humourous side of his also in this movie. He shares fantastic chemistry with his real life buddy Jayasurya and that friendship truly reflects in this movie. The subtle exchange of expressions and dialogue between the both of them further accentuates their great chemistry. The only jarring thing was that he appeared a little stiff while performing the rock song in the second half (more on that later) but that doesnt matter as he is brilliant in the rest of the movie. By being part of many important movies, Anoop is truly becoming a force to reckon with in the Malayalam industry.  

Meghna was the surprise package of the film. As the joke that is doing the rounds now, nobody really noticed her face so far in films and its the first time that people actually sat down and took notice of the girl's talent. And boy, the girl can act. She looks sensuous, seductive and plays her part perfectly. Great casting choice. Nandu, in an important role after Thirakkatha, is brilliant. Its a pity that this fine actor is not used to his capabilities by most filmmakers. Jayan, another underrated brilliant actor also pitches in a great performance. Tini Tom is really nice as Jayasurya's over friendly cousin. The rock band including KB Venu, Aparna Nair (let down by bad dubbing), Mredul and Deepak Nair (his Calicut accent was superb) are really good and a welcome change from the usual people seen in such roles. Unnimenon is quite stiff. Kochupreman is funny. The rest of the cast do their bits quite well. 

The film is shot exquisitely by Jomon T John. The awesome cinematographer who debuted with Chaappa Kurishu takes his two RED cameras out there and does an awesome job, be it the excellently lit interiors or rain soaked exteriors or the sensuous Meghna. This dude is bound to go places. So is Mahesh Narayanan who keeps the film crisp, sharp, fine and simple. His skill is really visible in the song sequences and the interrogation/revelation sequence in the climax. Art director Ajayan Mangad has done up the different spaces in the movie really well - be it Jayasurya's posh house or Anoop Menon's makeshift living space in a furniture showroom. 

Ratheesh Vega's music, especially the 'Mazhaneer Thullikal' track became a sensation even before the movie's release. The movie has 3 excellent songs including Mazhaneer Thullikal which is probably one of the best songs of the year. But the rock song was a complete disappointment. The haphazardly shot video didnt do any help either. It is the only jarring portion in an otherwise well shot film. He keeps the background score minimal and lets the audience soak in the goosebumps-inducing music of RD Burman and Johnson Mash instead. Like the entire new wave Tamil Cinema depended on vintage Ilaiyaraaja scores to create magic on screen, Anoop Menon gives a fitting tribute to Johnson Maash through the Thoovanathumbikal scene where that haunting Clara-Jayakrishnan's love theme plays out as the introduction for Meghna. Its just pure magic. 

Born out of Jayasurya's leg injury and an inspiration from a true incident in Anoop Menon's childhoood, this movie reinstates our belief in good cinema and keeps the new wave moment of this year alive. A lot of biggies have released alongside with it now and many more biggies from other languages are expected to release in the coming weeks. It is the responsibility of Malayalis as an audience who've been starved of good cinema to give all their support to this movie and not to let it sink in between such big budget flicks. Take a bow, VK Prakash, Anoop Menon, Jayasurya, Jomon, Mahesh and team!! You've created a film that cant have any better adjective than its title itself - BEAUTIFUL. 

PS - For all the guys who're desperately trying to find imdb links to prove that this one is also a copy, good luck!! Even though you wouldnt get any results, your efforts are appreciated. :P 

Bottomline - Go watch!! Right now!!!

Saturday, December 17

Arabiyum Ottakavum P Madhavan Nairum

Movie - Arabiyum Ottakavum P Madhavan Nairum (Malayalam)
Director - Priyadarshan
Producers - Naveen Sasidharan, V Ashok Kumar
Story, Screenplay - Abilash Nair
Dialogues - Priyadarsan
Music - MG Sreekumar
Cinematography - Alagappan
Editing - Suresh
Production Design - Sabu Cyril
Release Date - 16th December 2011

Priyadarshan. Mohanlal. Mukesh. Remember Boeing Boeing, Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu, Akkare Akkare Akkare, Vandanam & Kakkakkuyil?? Nobody would've made Malayalis laugh like the three of them did together. So when they get back together in Priyadarshan's comeback vehicle to Malayalam Cinema, titled interestingly as Arabiyum Ottakavum P Madhavan Nairum, expectations are bound to be huge. But the completely stupid,silly and badly cut trailer killed much of that expectations among curious fans like me. And I went in for the movie with zero expectations hoping to be happy even if it is half as funny as their last outing together, Kakkakkuyil. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the movie and restored my belief in the chemistry of these three supremely talented people. 

The plot of the movie is so hackneyed that it doesnt deserve a synopsis. But you dont watch a Priyadarshan slapstick comedy for its plot. Its the gags and the chemistry of the actors that matter. The screenplay of this movie is borrowed from films starting from Serendipity and then moving on to Priyadarshan's own Chandralekha, Kakkakkuyil, Vettam and even bits which remind us of Kilukkam. The director himself has been asking his audience to keep their brains at home and come for this movie just to have some good laughs. So I dont think there's much use in discussing its storyline. 

The movie begins with a narration by Sreenivasan, the other 'dude' from this gang and tells the story of Madhavan Nair. The initial fifteen minutes are dry and silly with only a few subtle funny expressions by Mohanlal which are worthwhile. It is only when Mukesh steps into the picture that things become interesting. From then on, its a joyride where these two actors play out some of the funniest scenes in recent times. Mukesh is truly in his element after a long time and has the best lines in the movie. Mohanlal lets him take spotlight most of the time and comes in form whenever required. The chemistry between these two fabulous actors is the main reason you should watch this movie. When they meet for the first time in the movie, we almost expect Mohanlal to call Mukesh 'Kalayikkaa' (Vandanam) and that, my friends, is called chemistry. And it has been intact for over 20 years now and these guys are still as funny together. Thankfully they play losers in their 40s and do not try to act younger. The second half shifts the action to a bunglow where a wedding is about to happen, then back to the desert in a thriller mode. Its only when it goes into the melodramatic mode with Mukesh's family that the film begins to drag and also the resolution of the love story in the end is pretty lame. But you dont care as long as the gags keep coming, as you're not watching it for the emotional journey of the characters or anything. 

Mohanlal is just fantastic. After a disappointing comedy earlier this year called China Town (for genuine fans who expect him to showcase his true potential in comedy), he made a great comeback with another one of our favourite directors, Sathyan Anthikkadu in Snehaveedu. And now he has a worthy follow up with his other friend and director Priyadarshan who knows how exactly to use him to make a movie work. And it was a delight to see him in a drunk scene after long, and his superb timing alone saves that cliched scene from falling flat and takes it to another level. Mukesh is mindblowing, to say the least. The actor who has been doing embarrassingly poor movies off late shrugs away all that and jumps happily into this insanely funny character. Casting Mohanlal and Mukesh together in such roles itself was a winning streak by Priyadarshan. Suraaj Venjarammoodu is tolerable after ages and thanks to Priyadarshan for controlling him even though he tries to lower the movie to his standards. Innocent is loud. Mamukkoya is good. Nedumudi Venu does his regular part. Maniyan Pillai Raju is ok. Shakti Kapoor is decent. Lakshmi Rai is decent, but I'm sick of her pairing with Mohanlal in every damn movie. Enough of it, please!! Bhavana is cast perfectly and she performs well too. 

Music is pathetically bad. That too in a Priyadarshan movie where music is always a highlight. MG Sreekumar and his blatantly lifted tunes are such a let down. The background score doesnt work very well also. Alagappan's cinematography is fabulous and thats not surprising considering Priyadarshan's penchant for excellent cinematography in all his films. He has a new editor Suresh on board and he could've done a much better job. If the movie was shorter by at least 20 minutes, it would've been a far more tighter and better product. 

In an industry where films like Karyasthan, Pokkiri Raja, China Town and 3 Kings turn into superhits, this pure, mindless and inoffensive laughathon definitely deserves a blockbuster status. There are no double entendres or jokes which make you cringe like in most other Malayalam comedies these days. When Priyadarshan makes a movie which is nowhere near his older movies, it is still loads better than 90% of the other mindless comedies made in the language. 

And yes, this post wouldnt be complete without a word on Priyadarshan. This man has made films like Thenmavin Kombathu (arguably his best film ever), Chitram, Kilukkam, Thaalavattam, Odaruthammava Aalariyaam, Adwaitham, Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu, Abhimanyu, Boeing Boeing, Midhunam, Kalapani, Virasat, Kanchivaram, Bhagam Bhag and so so many more and has done so many distinct and diverse genres which no other director in this country can dream of doing in his career. And yet most Malayalis have this 'puchcham' against him and always call him a copycat and turn their face against the great work he has done. So one cant blame him if he decides to make a comeback through a silly mindless comedy for such people. And he knows what he is doing and he does it well. And for people who want to see the great director in him back in form in Malayalam, wait for his next film with MT Vasudevan Nair's script and Mohanlal in the lead. It is Priyadarshan's expertise in comedy and ability to handle his two lead actors which makes this film score. There are a hundred plotholes in the movie and even more cliches and badly done emotional scenes, but since the comedy is strong, one doesnt mind it. For people who enjoy such movies, you're in for a treat. And for people who pose as superior beings who dont like such nonsensical comedies and secretly enjoy re-runs of Kakkakkuyil and Vettam on TV, you better shut up and catch it when it comes on TV. 

I had a terrible week at the movies with some poorly selected world cinema at the International Film Festival of Kerala and needed a break from that pseudo-intellectual space. I couldnt have asked for a better option than this movie. Kept my brain locked inside my home, went to the theatre with zero expectations and was pleasantly surprised by the hilarity of the movie and the ever-crackling chemistry between my favourites Mohanlal and Mukesh. The makers have made no claims and have unabashedly revealed what kind of a movie they've made. If the audiences are sensible enough to understand that and are not expecting anything path-breaking, then this movie is definitely paisa-wasool, at least for the chemistry of its awesome leading men, Mohanlal & Mukesh. It is copied, plotless, hackneyed, dated and a mish-mash of all the 80s - 90s, but still it works big time thanks to these three people - Mohanlal, Mukesh & Priyadarshan. 

Bottomline - Watch it for the awesome chemistry of Mohanlal, Mukesh & Priyadarshan and laugh your heads out!!!