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)