Tuesday, February 28

Ee Adutha Kaalathu

Movie - Ee Adutha Kaalathu (Malayalam)
Editor, Director - Arun Kumar Aravind
Producer - Raju Malliath
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Murali Gopi
Cast - Indrajith, Anoop Menon, Murali Gopi, Nishan, Mythili, Tanushree Ghosh, Lena, Baiju, Manikandan, Indrans, Krishnaprabha AND Jagathy Sreekumar.
Cinematography - Shehnad Jalal
Music & Background Score - Gopi Sunder
Art Director - Jyothish
Release Date - 24th February 2012

Cocktail was a much-talked about movie in 2010. Even though it received a lot of flak of being an adaptation of Butterfly on a Wheel, it was a well-made film and Arun Kumar Aravind was noticed as a director. Murali Gopi couldnt do wonders with his first script Rasikan with Lal Jose even though it had sparks of intelligence here and there. And the both of them have come together to give their next flick - Ee Adutha Kaalathu. From the photoshoot to the trailers and song promos, this movie generated a lot of intrigue among the youth. Going with the recent trend of hyperlinked narratives, this film tells the story of a bunch of characters as different as chalk and cheese, in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. 

Vishnu (Indrajith) is a poverty stricken young man with an ill mother, a wife who's a housemaid and 2 daughters. He picks up random stuff from the city's biggest waste dump and converts them into interesting toys and sells them on the beach, and also plays cricket matches with kids to make a little money. Ajay Kurien (Murali Gopi) is a frustrated man who's extremely insecure and sadistic towards his wife Madhuri (Tanushree), a former B-movie actress in Bombay. The reasons for his frustration are slowly revealed in the movie in an interesting manner. Tom Cherian (Anoop Menon), who'd received special training in Scotland Yard is under scrutiny for not being able to solve a series of murders happening in the city and is the butt of all jokes among his colleagues. Rupa (Lena) is a feminist journalist who's covering this murder and whom Tom has a soft-spot for. Then there's Rustam (Nishan) who's trying to lure Madhuri into a special relationship with him, with other plans at the back of his mind. And finally, the yellow journalist Thee Ramachandran (Jagathy Sreekumar) who also serves as the narrator of the film. Then there's a serial killer, a gangster, a broker, a home nurse, a bedridden mother, an oversmart kid, a foolish Brahmin landlord and loads of other characters making the narrative rich. 

Murali Gopi has weaved together important current events and so many day to day activities superbly in his very well crafted screenplay. The issues addressed include the huge and messy waste-dumps in the city, old couples living alone without any security, influx of North Indian workers whom nobody has any idea about, the quotation groups in the city, the super-successful 'mallu aunty porn' industry, etc. and they actually act as plot-points propelling the story forward at key points. It's definitely a tough task, and Murali has done that in style. Each and every character has his/her own individuality and are not like the regular characters we see in Malayalam movies. They all look alive on screen, something that's missing in many other screenplays these days. A beauty-conscious Police Commissioner who's actually sleepy when called on to a murder spot in the middle of the night; a home-nurse who's always on the phone;  a frustrated husband who's trying by all means to prove that he's having a fantastic sex life to his wife whom he feels insecure about; a simpleton who decides to do a crime and then ends up helping his victim and so many more interesting characters with their own unique quirks and traits. Another interesting fact is that there is no hero-heroine (like it is usually in such scripts) and every character has shades of good and bad. And when we've really gotten sick of all the Fort Kochi movies with every nook and corner of Kochi being captured on camera for some movie or the other, it is quite refreshing to see a true-blue 'Thironthoram' movie shot authentically in the city. The characters and their spaces give us the feeling of the city it is, rather than being just a mere backdrop. And the dialogue and slang used is not the cheap one which was made famous by a certain guy from Venjarammoodu, but the actual accent which Thironthoram people have which is authentically reproduced in the movie. We've had a bunch of Thironthoram movies back in the 80s made by Priyadarshan, Venu Nagavalli, et al. This one would probably be the first modern Thironthoram movie. :) 

Arun Kumar Aravind has matured into a fantastic director in his second film. That can be seen in his super-effective handling of Murali Gopi's fantastic script. Throwing in visual references of Bible Quotes, book names, movie posters, television show sound-cues to even an Angry Birds game, were intelligent touches from Arun. And since he is also the editor of the movie, he knows when to spice up the narrative and when to keep it slow and give enough stay. The first half builds up slowly and steadily into a shocker of an interval point and then builds up to an intriguing second half where everything comes together like a Rubik's Cube at the end of it all. Adding to the Thironthoram flavour of the script, he shoots it in areas specific to Trivandrum like the Brahmin agrahara-theruvu's, RSS camps, construction sites for IT companies, silent colonies, etc. There are some other very smart touches in the movie like when Indrans tells Prithviraj's brother Indrajith on how to make some 'Indian Rupee'; a couple of smart digs at Mammootty & Mohanlal which are not offensive; a total insult of a certain budget car; casting a certain actress as the wife of the editor of a yellow magazine which actually refers to the magazine which had carried a news item about her and so on. Coming from the Priyadarshan school, he has an amazing frame sense and gives us some captivating frames during the initial montages and later at various instances in the movie. 

Coming to the performances, the masterstroke from the directorial team, was getting the cast right. Each character is cast perfectly and almost all of them pitch in splendid performances. Indrajith in a career best performance, leads the pack. He is so effectively natural, subtle and effortless in his performance. His subtle Trivandrum accent, body language and ability to pull off minute expressions shows us the incredible talent he has inside. Its a surprise that this guy is not considered a star yet! Mythili, who is paired opposite him, is a revelation. I hadnt found her to be a good actress so far, but in this one she is damn good, playing the strong wife to a soft-spoken Indrajith. She looks convincing as a mother of two, and by dubbing herself in her hoarse voice, she has made her character more authentic. Murali Gopi as the eccentric, frustrated husband (a regular role for his late, legendary father in many films) is fantastic. And yes, we are reminded of his legacy many a times when we watch him perform, bringing out all the complexities of his character in awkwardly hilarious situations. 

Tanushree Ghosh, as his wife is not a bad actress, but her bad lip-sync does affect her performance, especially in emotional scenes. She makes up for it with her last shot during the tail end of the movie, where even she gets her share of applause from the audience. Anoop Menon is hilarious as the beauty-conscious, Scotlandyard trained officer and is again very natural. The Mohanlal hangover creeps in here and there, but then again, even an actual Police Commissioner can have a Mohanlal hangover, so it aint a bad thing at all. He has established himself as a brand for good Malayalam cinema by being an important part of many such films. Lena in her most meaty role (after Traffic) is excellent and shows us that she has the capacity to do a wide range of roles. And again, opting for dubbing in her own voice, she brings authenticity to her Mumbai-based journalist character.

Nishan also performs very well, maybe for the first time after his debut Rithu where he showed some promise and casting him as a North Indian speaking in broken Malayalam in his own voice, was again a smart move and helps Nishan to behave naturally in his very interesting role. Baiju as the gangster was fantastic and it was great to see him on screen after a long time. Manikandan as the nosey Brahmin landlord was decent, but his Tamil didnt sound right. Krishna Prabha as the home nurse was perfect! Indrans was effective in a small role and so was the smart alec kid who played Murali Gopi's son (except for his poor English). And yes, finally Jagathy Sreekumar. What can we say more about this amazing man, that we havent said in all these decades. Watch him in a scene with Murali Gopi behind a glass door without dialogues and you'll know why he's THE best, always!! 

Shahnad Jalal, the State Award winning cinematographer painstakingly captures Thiruvananthapuram in a very raw and rugged manner, in a never-seen-before style. No gimmicks, no show-offs, but straight-forward and effective camerawork. Arun Kumar as an editor knows how he wants his film to be like and he has kept the rythm of the narrative accordingly. The scene where Indrajith makes a box for his mother which is very well cut and there are some other very fine cuts in the movie too. Gopi Sunder has given a fantastic music score and its impossible to get the theme music of the film out of your head once you've seen the film, or even its trailer. The songs are also melodious and shot very well. Jyothish's art direction is authentic and very imaginative, especially how Indrajith's house is done up with innovative objects created out of trash. 

The film is a little too bold for Malayali audiences and might not be advisable for so-called family viewing (It is another fact that those so-called family movies have much worse stuff in them). Sexual insecurities, frustrations and incompetencies are discussed very well in the movie in one of the tracks bringing out many humorous situations as well. There are abusive words here and there but they're beeped out, but those beeps sound much more cooler than not having those words at all. Kudos to Murali Gopi for taking the boldness to the next step with his writing and to Arun Kumar for executing it so well. It shows the finger many-a-times to the Malayali double standards when it comes to morality. And thats something worth applauding. Let the naysayers keep on barking, but our cinema is getting bolder and better. :) 

And ultimately with a brilliant tail end tying up all the loose ends and the Rubik's cube getting solved, the movie comes to an end, not before we see another North Indian sales-rep talking in Hindi to Murali Gopi's character(Not a spoiler, but those who've seen the movie would get the significance) and also a great line from Jagathy Sreekumar about women and secrets. So yes, Ee Adutha Kaalathu is a must watch, if you havent realized that from this extremely long post already. Arun Kumar Aravind has turned into an ace director & Murali Gopi, into an ace writer-actor (Competition for Anoop Menon?) Go watch, the very next show!! 

Bottomline - Ee Adutha Kaalathu kanda ettavum nalla cinema!! പിന്നല്ല!!