Deconstructing the Legend of the 5G Surgeon.

In the pantheon of 5G use cases, the legend of the surgeon who performs complex medical procedures from thousands of miles away over 5G connectivity is second only to that of the self driving car in it’s potential to inspire awe. Perhaps I should skip the obvious question where one would be tempted to ask if the presence of skilled surgeons in the flesh is harder to accomplish than all the precision tech they would need, to do what they do remotely, the risks notwithstanding. But I get it, the 5G surgeon is a bit like the Tesla Roadster that’s orbiting the Sun. It can be done of course, but to what end? And how exactly is 5G helping the surgeon’s cause? The answer we’ve been told, lies in lower latency. And this is achieved how? Edge Computing and Network Functions Virtualization, is the buzz.

Consider the journey of a data packet that leaves your smart phone, intended for a destination somewhere out there in the Internet. The packet hops on to the radio waves from the phone’s antenna and rides all the way to the antenna on the tower of your service provider. At some point the packet jumps from the mobile radio network to the IP backhaul network. The basic network architecture topology models on your certification guides or the use cases on the sites of any leading telecom gear vendor out there would tell you that this happens at the Provider Edge router. This PE, in fact puts the “edge” in Edge Computing, literally. The packet then travels to the Packet Core with a couple or more router hops in between, depending on the size of the network. From the packet core, the packet then heads to the vast unknown, the Internet, over router hops again. Over a decade and half back all it took were a couple or two Cisco 7600 routers and a few Juniper MX routers to cater to all the fixed and mobile traffic of a state the size of Kerala and there was no direct internet peering in the whole state for the average provider too. That’s to say, the packet crossed state borders just to reach the promised Internet land back then. This was the case for most Indian states, except for the ones that housed the data centers with Internet peerings. Jump to present day and you have FTTH and 4G in every state and the number of routers I just spoke about sounds primeval, pre-historic and wouldn’t be able to handle the traffic from a single second tier town – in terms of subscriber count and usage trends. Consider this too, one of the fastest growing markets out there, India, is yet to auction the 5G spectrum. I guess we have to make do with 4G and maybe even 3G surgeons over there for a while now. To digress a bit for the sake of perspective, it’s into this very latency sensitive global market that Elon Musk has ushered in Starlink and has managed to stay relevant. But yeah, you could argue that the intent and purpose of Starlink is something else entirely, that is to serve those nooks and corners of the globe beyond the reach of ISPs, in principle at least.

Harking back to the 5G surgeons again, what difference would it make to them at the end of the day if the last mile is over 5G or Wi-Fi or plain old wired connectivity, when they are in fact sitting thousands of miles away? The only time edge computing would actually give the surgeons an edge in terms of latency is if they were, say, in the same block or in the same pin code area or maybe even the same town as their patient waiting under the robotic arm, both hooked to the terminals of the same provider, to be specific. The packets would then hop back and forth between the source and the destination at the edge of the network over 5G without ever having to venture out into the network core or the Internet, fulfilling the edge computing prophecy in its true sense. If the surgeon is out there in the Internet, outside the ISP network, the difference 5G or edge computing would make is zero to none and latency remains more or less the same. As long as these facts go for a toss in the marketing narratives of Telco OEMs, the ISPs or CSPs- as they are called these days- would end up converting their PE locations into full blown Data Centers as hardware in the shape of MEC, NFV and Caches, to name a few, pile up around the Edge Router, and to actually kill the latency, every PE has to have an internet peering too and that’s Valhalla right there for the user, if you ask me. This also calls for a PE device with greater port density. Add to this the mounting real estate, power and cooling requirements at the edge location these additional hardware would demand and that ultimately, inevitably and obviously would reflect on the capital and operating expenditures, not to speak of carbon footprints, energy efficiency and what not.

A decade back, the sheer number of operators in the Indian telecom sector turned it into a dog eat dog situation and mind you, this was mostly over voice services. Now with richer portfolios of content and consumables in the form of streaming services and apps, it’s a different game altogether. The entry of a single giant player armed with cutting edge tech and a product portfolio that tempted the most cynical amongst the customers saw consolidation to an extent and even mergers in the camp of competitors in the very same market. None of these Indian operators would seek the 5G surgeon out anytime soon and would be content with the friendly neighborhood medicine man for now, so to speak. I have been an ISP guy all my life and maybe that’s one reason why I talk the way I do. I might sing a different tune if I switch camps career-wise to any of the gear makers at some point, I admit, in the same breath, I believe that there’s always a middle ground where everybody wins. Don’t get me wrong here now, 5G, MEC and NFV have immense potential and possibilities. Private 5G networks in industrial environments are redefining factory floors and work sites as we speak and Industry 4.0 is the proverbial gold mine for everything 5G.

There’s of course no denying the fact that the greater bandwidths that 5G brings to the table can put a smile on the faces of end users and the ISPs too, but that can be done without emptying pockets on edge computing is all I’m saying here, in so many words. Spending on better coverage and greater network capacities could make those smiles broader too. The perfect user experience in a constantly evolving and rapidly advancing industry, ultimately is a derivative of a shared vision between the technical, business and the financial think tanks of the ISPs. The deployment strategy that might be perfect for a country like Singapore where 80 percent of the network traffic is from indoor mobile traffic (Source- Ericsson 5G SA Case Study for Singtel), would be far from a fit, for a country like India where the ISP would have indoor and outdoor traffic acting as contributors in equal measure – housing trends, geography, matter. These factors further complicate the perspective of network architects. To sum up, when it comes to ISPs and their core customer base, to put a spin on Nolan’s line from The Dark Knight, low latency 5G networks riding on MEC and NFV are what they deserve, but not exactly what they need right now.

RRR : Where Rajamouli Roars.

Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are two filmmakers who have consistently used technology as a tool to expand the horizons of their dreams and aspirations as storytellers. Spielberg practically invented blockbuster films when he found success with Jaws, ushering in a new era in visual effects in movies, while he was at it. Decades later he did it again with Jurassic Park. Cameron teased with the possibilities of CGI in Terminator 2 : Judgement Day, but it was Spielberg who again went full throttle with Jurassic Park. Visual effects were always an integral part of Cameron’s films from Aliens to Abyss to Avatar. His fascination with the technology used in deep sea exploration saw him diving to the depths himself, leading up to the creation of one of his biggest hits, Titanic. He explored new realms of filmmaking with Avatar and is still at it. It’s not a coincidence that it is with Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects studio run by another stalwart, George Lucas that both Spielberg and Cameron collaborated with throughout the length of their careers, on their most significant works. Technology was always an integral part of their vision as filmmakers and they have always had a compelling story to tell too, that connected with a global audience. Spielberg more often than Cameron, has always told his stories around families and created heroes out of ordinary human beings in his films. It is to this school of filmmaking that SS Rajamouli belongs to, in the Indian context, I’ve always felt. Bahubali may have gained him much deserved attention across the country but it’s Eega where he truly blazed trail as a maverick filmmaker, if you ask me.

Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi was one film that came to my mind few minutes into watching RRR, for some reason. It must be the image of all those turbaned Indians scampering across a dusty landscape. Gandhi incidentally holds the world record for most number of extras in a film and this was the pre-CGI era too. Rajamouli wastes no time here in prepping the viewer for what’s in store for the length of the film and sets the mood and tone with this scene. You may have seen lynching mobs on screens but it has to be a cinematic first where a mob gets lynched and Rajamouli manages to suspends your disbelief, despite the sheer absurdity, to the point that you let go and decide to indulge yourself as a viewer. It’s a bit like cheating on your diet. The cinematography, action choreography and Ram Charan’s performance are perfectly aligned with Rajamouli’s vision and when the pleasure centres of your brain are being constantly bombarded, you have little choice but to give in. The movie is held together by a string of such epic action set pieces, interlaced with some very generic plot-lines and wafer thin characters elevated only by the delicious quirks of Rajamouli’s writing and vision that saves the most cliched of sequences on more occasions than one, in the film. MM Kreem’s music plays a pivotal role in that aspect, throughout the length of the film too. Noteworthy was the shift in the score in the hunt sequence when the tiger succumbs to the drug. Rajamouli knows his music and Kreem knows what exactly Rajamouli wants, it seems.

Rajamouli is here to hit the ball out of the park on every delivery he faces, so to speak. He’s Sehwag, not Dravid. It’s interesting how he sets up and builds his action sequences into a crescendo. Take the bridge scene where the lead duo rescues the kid. Ram Charan’s character picks up the flag and when he swoops down the bridge hanging from the rope, he soaks the flag in the river. NTR Jr then wraps himself around with the very same flag when he swings through the raging fire. That’s the whole basic working principle of any Rajamouli film in a frame, if you ask me, the nuances and the thoughts that go into the creation of these sequences, that sets them apart from your regular commercial mass masala fare. The hunting sequence is another example. The viewers do not realise the significance of those scenes until Rajamouli springs a surprise on them and the Brits, much later. You saw this in Eega , where again you do not realise the actual reason why Samantha’s character is written as a miniature modeller, until the climatic showdown between the fly and the bad guy. The CGI was pretty impressive, by Indian standards though Rajamouli again proves that he doesn’t need CGI or blockbuster action sequences to kick up frenzy, when the movie breaks into the Nach Nach song. The boundless joy and sheer energy that Ram Charan and NTR brings to this song-dance sequence is the reason why movies are shown in theatres. Watching the film on Netflix at home, I truly regretted missing out on the full house theatre experience on this one.

It was refreshing to watch a few bonafide western actors playing foreigners, especially Ray Stevenson, though his character was written like one meant for Bob Christo from any of the 80s and 90s Bollywood movies. But I’m willing to indulge here considering the fact that even Spielberg chose to portray Indians in a rather bad light in his films, in the past. The monkey brain delicacy from Temple of doom found a joke reference in one of the Office episodes, over two decades later. That’s how pop culture works I guess, leaving lasting impressions. Alison Doody who played his wife is an ex Bond-girl and her reaction when the tiger tore up the guard was particularly impressive, perfectly accentuating the horror of the scene. Olivia Morris had a bit more to do than Alia Bhatt and Sriya Saran wouldn’t be complaining considering the screen time Ajay Devgan got, I think. But then again, in a Rajamouli film, when he is at his best, screen time is not exactly a measure of the impression that you leave on the viewers, as an actor. It’s Rajamouli’s intuitive writing again that elevates the scenes with Devgan and Sriya. It’s all about striving to churn something new out of every cliched situation in the script when it comes to mainstream commercial Indian films and you win some, you lose some in the process as a filmmaker. But when it’s Rajamouli, it’s more wins than losses, I think. But it’s also not to say that the film is without flaws, fundamentally. One being the depiction of the two real life historical figures in a setting sold as a historical fantasy, where Rajamouli decided to infuse a hierarchical structure into the dynamics of the relationship between those two characters. The politics in a more contemporary context, of the film, is evident when icons from Sardar Patel to Pazhassi finds a spot in the closing song finale but Gandhiji or Nehru doesn’t. Incidentally the flag that features in the final song and the bridge scene was the Flag of Indian Independence raised by Bhikaji Cama in 1907, at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. If the argument is that the Rajamouli intended to showcase the armed revolutionaries of the Freedom Struggle, a figure conspicuous by absence is Tipu Sultan. Sardar Patel wouldn’t make the list by that logic either. Revolution is not always about taking up arms and despite his means, Gandhiji was silenced in the most violent of ways. I don’t intend to digress here and it’s not a perfect world either and all things said, RRR is indeed mainstream cinema at it’s best and I have to add though, that I’m relieved that Rajamouli decided against bending palm trees this time around, in the climatic showdown.

Salute : Good Thrills, Bad Drama.

Salute is a bit like a sandwich where the bread’s gone stale but the filling’s great and you didn’t know it until you’d taken a bite and you’re mad at the people who made it and ruined what should have been a real tasty meal for you. And watching a Malayalam movie and speaking your mind on it these days is a bit like getting married, the arranged marriage way, in Kerala. Apparently it’s all about setting your expectations right, for starters. If you air your honest opinion you’re probably going to end up being schooled and gaslighted by everyone from your family and friends to the neighbor’s child’s mother in-law’s in-laws. People are peddling lessons on social media on how a movie should be watched and why and by whom. Or to put a spin on that line from The Dark Knight, you’re the viewer Malayalam cinema deserves, but not the one that it needs right now. Dulquer Salman films are not there yet maybe, but yeah soon. So I think it’s safe to talk about Salute just yet, or is it? Guess I’m finding out soon.

The title had me wondering early on, I mean why was it called Salute and then a few minutes into it, there’s everyone in the frame saluting DQ and later he gets his share of some pretty cool saluting to do too. In fact he gets to respond to some dialogues with a salute. That’s one box checked already and there’s one content movie buff and pretty creative writing too. The film did take me into a weird zone mentally. I kept getting vibes of a number of films, it was almost Deja Vu. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I can explain 🖐.

The elite cop family, the brothers who are working the same case in their own ways reminded me of the Jayaram – Indrajit starrer, Fingerprint. Here too the cop is someone who has the luxury of hopping at whim between college, jobs and could always go back to farming on his inherited land. This is one cop who hasn’t watched any of those Tamil films about the plight of farmers. But that’s what it takes to be an honest cop, immense wealth and apparently character and integrity are bound to it in the Bobby- Sanjay multi-verse, where politicians are the root of all evil, except for Kadakkal Chandran. It’s a recurring simplistic worldview and you almost want to pull the cheeks of the writers and make noises people make when they’re around babies.
Policemen are helpless souls here who are forced to manufacture evidence and frame the innocent because they just don’t know any better. Maybe they should do binge watch parties of CSI? Hell, they looked pretty skilled when it came to planting evidence, problem is only in finding it I guess. Then of course, the Kurup Deja Vu, replete with the looks. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Dulqeur had a hard time choosing between two screenplays about an elusive criminal and then decided to do both anyway, with different perspectives of course.

All things said and layers peeled off, it is still a decent watch. I’m no expert on editing and I’ve no idea how hard it’s to edit a 24fps frame so I’ll just limit my opinion to the writing department here when I say that I wish that they’d done away with the regular tropes and had focused on the core narrative. Roshan Andrews like his contemporary Blessy spent a long part of their careers assisting some past masters and when they went independent the language and geography of Malayalam Cinema changed beyond recognition. The movie strangely works best when it’s an old school police procedural. It’s also one of those films that leave a nagging feeling behind because there’s no real closure for the viewer but that’s part of the fun too. And what is a good Malayalam thriller worth without a coincidence, and here you have a bunch too, just in case you were bored with one. Personally I thought that the character the average viewer would relate to most is that of Diana Penty’s. She appears out of the blue and she’s there and then she’s not. She looks interested and involved one moment and she’s gone in the next. Salute is good thrills being sunk by bad drama but hey you’re going to watch it anyway too.

Bhonsle : Bleak Realities

Big cities can be intimidating, not just emotionally but physically too. It hits you the most when you’re a stranger to the land you set foot in. Mumbai is one such city. If the vastness of the Universe and the insignificance of our planet and the organisms that throng it’s surfaces and depths, in the grand scheme of things were concepts that you read somewhere but failed to quite fathom in their true sense, Mumbai can change that for you in the blink of an eye. Add to this a dash of alienation and a scoop of xenophobia and you have the perfect recipe for a miserable nightmare of an existence where the system doesn’t make any distinction between it’s less fortunate natives and even more unfortunate immigrants. It’s this nightmare that Devashish Makhija invites the viewer to be a part of in his feature Bhonsle.

There are filmmakers who use the latest advancements in audiovisual engineering and technology to bring about an immersive experience for their viewers and then there’s Makhija. He doesn’t need IMAX or 3D to do this. With basic visuals and sound and extraordinary diligence he recreates the life in the ramshackle chawls of Mumbai to such an extent that by the time he’s done, the viewer is a character too, a resident of the very same chawl, mentally. And he does take his sweet time to do this, in a cinematic process that’s organic to the core in execution and writing. There’s almost a rhythm to the frame progression and sequence, albeit melancholic. Makhija reminds you of that teacher from school who repeated that formula again and again, and again till as they say in our part of the world, “thorough”. At the core of the narrative is plight of the average human being, the insignificant lots of this world who are in significant numbers. There are actually no antagonists or protagonists in this film which is ironically eponymously titled after it’s protagonist, only victims. Churchill Chawl is that backyard of every affluent city in every corner of the world where neither dreams nor ambitions thrive and only survival matters. Human beings will always find reasons to divide themselves and when politics is a business where conflict is currency, situations like the one depicted in Bhonsle arise.

Manoj Bajpai in his National Award winning turn transforms himself physically into the frail yet stoic Bhonsle. While there isn’t much scope for emoting here in this role and even fewer spoken lines, Bajpai uses his body, posture and gait to express the thoughts of the character. Santosh Juvekar plays the bad guy you end up feeling sorry for almost, Vilas. It’s his have-nots that drive him and politics is his ticket out of his miserable, marginalised existence. Ipsita Chakraborty is Sita who for no fault of her own, like millions of helpless individuals out there in the real world, finds herself at the receiving end of hatred fuelled by xenophobia spawned by men in high castles and finds a father figure in Bhonsle. Her younger brother Lalu is played by Virat Vaibhav and Makhija uses him to drive the narrative on more occasions than one. Makhija’s surreal quirky sense of humor comes to the fore in the scene where Lalu finds a passed out Bhonsle when the residents of the chawl are engrossed in the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations. Abhishek Banerjee gets to channel his creepy vibes yet again as Rajendra. These characters may have been placed in a chawl in Mumbai by Makhija but their plight and conflicts resonate beyond the barriers of language and geography. Bhonsle is not cinema, it is the grim reality that’s around us.

Bhonsle #SonyLiv

Sardar Udham : Sircar’s Uncompromising Vision

When the end credits rolled, the only UK credits were for casting and the rest of the location credits were for the Indian and the Russian crew. Sircar explains his decision to shoot in Russia and also talks about the conscious effort on his part to make sure that his English speaking actors didn’t sound and “act” like the regular “Bollywoodish Britishers” we are used to as viewers. This is where the casting becomes significant for the film which also has the production design team to thank.

Sircar’s eye for detail was evident in Madras Cafe and here when he says that Attenborough’s Gandhi was a major inspiration, it’s obvious that he’s talking about the most significant part of the film, the massacre. It’s almost a replica of Attenborough’s shots, including ones of the hearings of Dyer and Dwyer but it’s with the immediate aftermath that Sircar hits hard. Sircar also speaks about a Kurosawa feature, The Hunter which served as an inspiration and is almost a perfect analogy for the story being told here.

A textbook character study more than anything else, ultimately it’s the writing that keeps the film afloat where Ritesh Shah and Shubendu Bhattacharya compliment each other like a vintage Sachin – Dravid duo at the crease. Avik Mukhophadyay who helms the camera has worked with some of the leading filmmakers in the country and has three National Awards for Cinematography to his name reunites with Sircar after October here to deliver some signature frames again.

Courtesy: Film Companion

Basil Joseph Comes of Age.


നാട്ടുകാര് ആൾകൂട്ടമാണ് പൊതുവെ നാറികളാണ്. പക്ഷെ നിഷ്കളങ്കതയും നന്മയും മാത്രം തുളുമ്പുന്ന നാട്ടുകാരെയാണ് ഇത് വരെയുള്ള ബേസിൽ ജോസെഫ് സിനിമകളിൽ കണ്ടിട്ടുള്ളത്. പെരുവണ്ണാപുരത്തെ വിശേഷങ്ങളിലും പൊന്മുട്ടയിടുന്ന താറാവിലുമൊക്കെ കണ്ട നാട്ടുകാരും നാടുകളുമാണ് ബേസിൽ ജോസെഫ് എന്ന സംവിധായകന്റെ “റോസ്‌ബഡ്”. അത് നമ്മൾ കുഞ്ഞിരാമായണത്തിലും ഗോദയിലും കണ്ടു. മറുനാടുകളിൽ പോയി ജീവിതം കെട്ടിപടുത്തുന്നവർക്ക് നാട്ടിലെ ചായക്കടയോടും ബാർബർഷോപ്പിനോടും നാട്ടിൽ ജീവിക്കുമ്പോൾ പ്രത്യേകിച്ച് മമത ഒന്നും തോന്നിയില്ലെങ്കിലും സിനിമയിലും ഫേസ്‌ബുക്കിലും ഇൻസ്റ്റാഗ്രാമിലും ഇതൊക്കെ കാണുമ്പോൾ തോന്നുന്ന വികാരങ്ങൾക്കു പിന്നിലും ഇതേ “റോസ്ബഡ്” പ്രതിഭാസമാണ്. അതും മനസ്സിൽ കണ്ടു ഇവിടെയൊക്കെ കേറി ചെല്ലുമ്പോൾ ഉണ്ടാവുന്ന അനുഭവം ചിലപ്പോൾ പക്ഷേ ചുരുളിയിലെ ചാരായക്കടയിലേതു പോലെയായിരിക്കാം. മിന്നൽ മുരളിയിൽ എത്തുമ്പോൾ ബേസിൽ ജോസെഫ് എന്ന സംവിധായകൻ തന്റെ തന്നെ സങ്കല്പങ്ങളെ തകർക്കുന്നതായാണ് കണ്ടത്. ഉഷക്ക് മധുരം കൂട്ടി ചായ പറയുന്ന ചായക്കടക്കാരനിലും ഭാര്യയെ തല്ലുന്ന പോത്തൻ പോലീസുകാരനിലും ഷിബുവിന്റെ അമ്മയെ ഭ്രാന്തിയെന്നു വിളിക്കുന്ന ദാസനിലുമൊക്കെ യാഥാർഥ്യത്തോട് അടുത്ത് നിൽക്കുന്ന നാട്ടുകാർ എന്ന ആൾക്കൂട്ടത്തെ കാണാം. ഇവിടെ ആരും നിഷ്കളങ്കരല്ല. അതിനോടൊപ്പം തന്നെ മിക്ക കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളും യഥാർത്ഥ മനുഷ്യരെ പോലെ നിസ്സഹായരാണ് പലപ്പോഴും. മിസ്സ്‌കിന്റെയൊക്കെ സിനിമകളിൽ കണ്ടിട്ടുള്ള തീവ്രമായ മനുഷ്യവികാരങ്ങളും അന്തരീക്ഷവുമാണ് മിന്നൽ മുരളിയിൽ പലയിടത്തും കാണാൻ സാധിക്കുന്നത്. മലയാളത്തിലെ ആദ്യ സൂപ്പർഹീറോ സിനിമ എന്നതിനോടൊപ്പം ബേസിൽ ജോസെഫ് ലോഹിതദാസ് ഭരതൻ സിബി മലയിൽ എന്നീ സംവിധായകരുടെയും ശ്രേണിയിലേക്ക് നടന്നു കയറിയ സിനിമ എന്ന് കൂടിയായിരിക്കാം മിന്നൽ മുരളി അറിയപ്പെടുക. ഒരുപക്ഷെ അരുൺ അരവിന്ദിന്റേയും ജസ്റ്റിൻ മാത്യുവിന്റെയും എഴുത്തായിരിക്കാം കാരണം. ബേസിലിന്റെ തന്നെ കഥാപാത്രത്തിന്റെ വാക്കുകൾ കടമെടുക്കുകയാണെങ്കിൽ കുഞ്ഞിരാമായണത്തിലെയും ഗോദയിലെയും നിഷ്കളങ്കതയിലേക്കു ഇനിയൊരു തിരിച്ചുപോക്കുണ്ടാവുമോ ശശിയെ ?

minnalmurali #basiljoseph

കളിഗെമിനാറിലെ കുറ്റവാളികളും ലിജോ ജോസ് പെല്ലിശ്ശേരിയുടെ പ്രേക്ഷകരും.

Spoilers !!!

നിങ്ങളിൽ തെറി പറയാത്തവർ കല്ലെറിയട്ടെ. ഇനി ആരെ എറിയണം എന്നാണെങ്കിൽ അത് വിനോയ് തോമസിനെ തന്നെ. കളിഗെമിനാറിലെ കുറ്റവാളികളിലെ തെറികൾ എല്ലാം ഏതാണ്ട് അത് പോലെ തന്നെ സിനിമയിലേക്ക് പകർത്തിയിട്ടുണ്ട് ലിജോയും ഹരീഷും. കഥയിലില്ലാത്തതും സിനിമയിൽ ലിജോയും ഹരീഷും കൂട്ടിച്ചേർത്തതും ഫാന്റസി – സൈ -ഫൈ എലെമെന്റ്സ് മാത്രമാണ്. കഥയിലെ പോലീസുകാർ തങ്ങൾ തേടി വന്ന കുറ്റവാളി ചെയ്ത കുറ്റകൃത്യങ്ങളെല്ലാം അവരുടെ കളിഗെമിനാറിലെ താമസത്തിനിടയ്ക്ക് ചെയ്യുന്നു. ഒടുവിൽ കൃത്യനിർവഹണത്തിന്റെ സമയം അടുക്കുമ്പോൾ അവർ വീണ്ടും പോലീസുകാർ ആവുകയും ചെയുന്നു. കഥയിൽ പെങ്ങടെ വീട്ടിൽ നടക്കുന്ന സംഭവങ്ങൾ സിനിമയിലെ പോലെ ഷാജീവൻ നിഷേധിക്കുന്നില്ല.കഥയിൽ പാലം കടക്കുമ്പോൾ നാട്ടുകാരുടെ സ്വഭാവം മാറുന്നുണ്ടെങ്കിലും ഇടയ്ക്കു കുർബാനക്ക് അച്ഛൻ വരുമ്പോൾ അവർ വീണ്ടും മാന്യന്മാരാവുന്നുണ്ട്. നിയമ വ്യവസ്ഥകളും മത വിശ്വാസങ്ങളും മനുഷ്യരുടെ അടിസ്ഥാന ചേതനകളെ എങ്ങനെ കൂച്ചു വിലങ്ങിട്ടു നിർത്തുന്നു എന്നും അവയുടെ അസ്സാന്നിധ്യത്തിൽ മനുഷ്യർ എങ്ങനെ പെരുമാറുന്നു എന്നൊക്കെയുള്ള പ്രേമേയങ്ങളും ആശയങ്ങളും സിനിമയിലും സാഹിത്യത്തിലും പുതിയതല്ല. സിനിമയിൽ ഫാന്റസി കടന്നു വരുമ്പോൾ കഥാപരിസരം വീണ്ടും സങ്കീർണമാവുന്നു. വിനോയ് തോമസ് ചിന്തിച്ചു നിർത്തിയടത്തു നിന്നാണ് ലിജോയും ഹരീഷും ചിന്തിച്ചു തുടങ്ങിയത്. അവര് ചിന്തിച്ചു നിർത്തിയടത്തു നിന്ന് ചിന്തിച്ചു തുടങ്ങാൻ പ്രേക്ഷകൻ നിര്ബന്ധിതൻ ആവുന്നു. ഇതാണ് യഥാർഥ ചുരുളി. “ലിറ്ററലീ”.

ബജറ്റ് പരിധികൾക്കുള്ളിലും ഭാവന കൊണ്ട് മാത്രം മികച്ച ഫാന്റസി രംഗങ്ങൾ സൃഷ്ടിക്കാം എന്ന് പദ്മരാജൻ പണ്ടേ തെളിയിച്ചതാണ്. ലിജോയും അതേ പാതയാണ് പിന്തുടരുന്നത്. അന്യഗ്രഹ ജീവികളും പറക്കും തളികകളും മോശമല്ലാത്ത രീതിയിൽ തന്നെ ലിജോ അവതരിപ്പിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്. ഹോളിവുഡിൽ പോലും മിക്കപ്പോഴും വലിയ കണ്ണും തലയും ഉള്ള രൂപത്തിന്റെ ടെംപ്ളേറ്റ് ഉപയോഗിക്കുമ്പോൾ അല്പം വത്യസ്തമായ ഒരു അവതരണം ഇവിടെ കാണാൻ സാധിച്ചു. പശ്ചാത്തല സംഗീതവും ഇവിടെ നിർണായകമായ പങ്ക് വഹിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. ക്ളൈമാക്സിൽ ചന്ദ്രൻ വന്നതും വണ്ടി പറന്നതും കണ്ടപ്പോൾ പക്ഷെ E.T ആണ് ഓർമ വന്നത്. ഒരു പക്ഷെ ഇന്നും എല്ലാവർക്കും വിഷ്വൽ റഫറൻസ് E.T യും Close Encountersഉം തന്നെ ആയിരിക്കാം ഈ പ്രമേയത്തെ സമീപിക്കുമ്പോൾ. ഈ മാ യൗയിൽ ഫാന്റസി അല്ലെങ്കിൽ കാല്പനികത സൗമ്യമായി കടന്നു വരുമ്പോൾ ജെല്ലിക്കെട്ടിലും ചുരുളിയിലും
ക്രിയേറ്റിവിറ്റിയുടെ ഒരു ഉന്മാദാവസ്ഥയിൽ നിന്ന് ചുരുളിയുടെ തന്നെ ഭാഷയിൽ പറഞ്ഞാൽ നീയൊക്കെ വേണേ കണ്ടു മനസിലാക്ക് @*#%%>> ളെ എന്ന് പ്രേക്ഷകരോട് ആക്രോശിക്കുന്ന ലിജോയെ ആണ് എനിക്ക് കാണാൻ സാധിക്കുന്നത്.
കമേഴ്ഷ്യൽ സിനിമയുടെ ടാഗ് ഉള്ള ഒരു സംവിധായകൻ ഇങ്ങനെ ഒരു high concept സിനിമ പൊതുപ്രേക്ഷകസമൂഹത്തിന് മുന്നിൽ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുമ്പോൾ സ്വാഭാവികമായും ഒരു പറ്റം പ്രേക്ഷകർ എലിയനെറ്റ്‌ഡ് ആയേക്കാം. ഒരു സാധാരണ സിനിമ പോലെ മുന്നോട്ട് പോകുന്ന ജെല്ലിക്കെട്ടിന്റെ സ്വഭാവം വളരെ പെട്ടന്നാണ് ക്ളൈമാക്സില് മാറുന്നത്. ചുരുളിയിൽ തുടക്കം മുതൽ ഒരു നിഗൂഢതയും ഫാന്റസിയും നിറഞ്ഞു നിൽക്കുന്നുണ്ടെങ്കിലും ക്ളൈമാക്സിൽ വീണ്ടും വിഷ്വൽസിന്റെ സ്വഭാവം മാറുന്നു. റിപ്പിൾ എഫക്റ്റും പിന്നെ ലൈറ്റ് സോഴ്‌സും ഇരുട്ടിൽ നടന്നു നീങ്ങുന്ന രൂപങ്ങളും ഒക്കെ സൃഷ്ടിക്കുന്ന subtle ആയ അന്തരീക്ഷത്തിന് വിപരീതമായി ജീപ്പ് ചന്ദ്രനിലേക്ക് പറക്കുമ്പോൾ പക്ഷെ മറ്റൊരു സിനിമ പോലെ തോന്നിപ്പിക്കുന്നു. ചുരുളിയുടെ നടുവിലേക്ക് കറങ്ങിയെത്തുന്ന പ്രകാശ ബിന്ദുക്കളും (ജീപ്പ്?) നടുവിലെ പ്രകാശ വിസ്ഫോടനവും കൊണ്ട് നിർത്തിയിരുന്നേൽ മുൻപ് പറഞ്ഞ നിഗൂഢത നിലനിന്നേനെ. ലിജോ നോ പ്ലാൻസ് ടു ചേഞ്ച് എന്ന് പറയുന്നത് മനസിലാക്കാം പക്ഷെ സിനിമാ പോലൊരു മാധ്യമത്തിൽ പ്രവൃത്തിച്ചുകൊണ്ടു വിമർശനം ഉയരുമ്പോൾ നോ പ്ലാൻസ് ട്ടു ഇമ്പ്രെസ്സ് എന്ന് പറയുന്നതിന്റെ ലോജിക് ഏകദേശം ചുരുളിയുടെ ക്ളൈമാക്സ് പോലെയാണ്. വ്യക്തിപരമായി ലിജോയുടെ ഇഷ്ടപെട്ട സിനിമകൾ അങ്കമാലിയും ഈ മാ യൗവും സിറ്റി ഓഫ് ഗോഡും പിന്നെ ഇപ്പോൾ ചുരുളിയുമാണ്.

PS : For a second I thought Joju was breaking the fourth wall here almost,he wasn’t really looking at the camera really but definitely he lost focus there for a split second.

Kate is fun!

Despite what the internet might tell you Kate is an engaging Netflix Original with some pretty slick action sequences and a car chase that reminded me of the motorcycle chase from Gemini Man though I’m not quite sure if the Kate sequence was 120fps too, no I don’t think so, considering the fact that it’s a Netflix film ultimately, costs and all.

What’s with French directors and the assassin genre? Or is Cedric Nicolas-Troyan paying a tribute to his favorite Luc Besson films from La Femme Nikita to Leon to Lucy ? Kate might even be Mathilda all grown up. That being said, Kate doesn’t exactly have a new story to tell you here but some really good writing by Umair Aleem has aided the director who almost won an Oscar as a visual effects supervisor, in pulling off a decent action flick. Interestingly, I felt that underneath, Kate is also a political film. A film set in Tokyo where western assassins aid warring Yakuza clans finish off each other. The writer talks through the ageing Yakuza boss when he says that the westerners take all from cultures they do not understand until there’s nothing left and that they then empty their bowels on the whole world. And you expect the western media to shower petals on this film, Mary Elizabeth Winstead or not?

Speaking of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she carries the film entirely on her shoulders. She’s not exactly Keanu Reeves but she’s got some mean “gun- fu” skills if you know what I’m talking about. I felt that she was a tad slow in the action sequences when it came to movements but she more than just makes up with her swag. And the camera moved like it had a black belt of it’s own so that helped too. Woody Harrelson plays Leon to Mary Elizabeth’s Mathilda – Kate and is his smouldering self. Miku Martineau just might be the next teen star and she did hold her own with the talented Winstead. With the action genre trying to re-invent and realign itself with the shift in gender politics of late, that pairing helps the film’s cause in more ways than one. And it would be a crime not to mention Jun Kunimura and I can’t but help say this – കിളവൻ ആള് കൈരളി ആണെന്ന് തോന്നുന്നു!
Watch Kate and find out why.

kate #Netflix

Godfather Of Harlem : Forest Whitaker brings you a show you can’t refuse binging.

From the creator of Narcos Chris Brancato comes this heavily fictionalised account of the life of the African American mobster Bumpy Johnson. The show starts off with Bumpy’s return to Harlem after a decade in prison and chronicles his attempts to reclaim his neighbourhood from the Italian mob. Bumpy portrayed here by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker finds his arch nemesis in Vincent “ Chin” Gigante played by Vincent D’Onforio. Set in New York City of the early 60s, Bumpy is seen to be closely associated with prominent figures of African American community of the era, namely Malcom X and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the first African American Congressman from New York. JFK and Martin Luther King are other historical figures who do not appear on the show but are constantly referred to and are major influencers of the socio political situation that Bumpy Johnson and his crew thrives in. There’s even a scene where Muhammad Ali when he was still Cassius Clay reaches out to Bumpy Johnson at a crucial juncture in his career. The show indulges in a bit of magical realism when Bumpy Johnson, Malcom X, Adam Clayton Powell and the Italian Mob are seen cheering for their favorite contender in the 1963 bout between Cassius Clay and Doug Jones. Though there’s no actual record of Malcolm X or Bumpy being present at Madison Square Garden to watch the match, it’s almost as if we are reliving history, that’s how well made this show is.

Godfather of Harlem is an incredibly well written show and it strikes the right balance between drama and history. Bumpy Johnson is no saint though he is portrayed as a mobster with a philosophical bent of mind, who plays chess and has a liking for literature. But he is ruthless and doesn’t blink an eye when he has to take a life. He also destroys the very community that he stands for when he indulges in the drug trade and ultimately sows the seeds for the opoid crisis. The show also dwells on how this in fact affects his personal life through the character of his estranged daughter. Johnson’s wife Mayme Johnson whose biography supposedly provided much insight for the writing is an influential figure in his life and the community and is portrayed by Ilfenesh Hadera. Another influential New York socialite Amy Venderbilt who had a soft spot for Bumpy and whom he turns to for help on more occasions than one is played by Joanne Kelley.

Chris Brancato believes that Goodfellas rather than The Godfather is closer to reality when it comes to the mafia and he says that ultimately they’re all driven by money and the idea that dealing in drugs was against a code of honor was actually a myth. According to him it was the harsher prison sentences that made the Italians wary initially. Bumpy Johnson wanted to study law but he couldn’t simply because the college wouldn’t accept him on account of his ethnicity. For a person like him in those times, a life of crime was one way to climb the social ladder. The Italian mafia being the mafia never holds back when it comes to expressing their hatred for other ethnic groups and their approach to the African American community is no different , there’s no veil here. It’s against this system that Bumpy goes up which makes him the hero figure in his community and the story. Thrown in the midst is a love story between the mob boss’s daughter and an aspiring African American singer, the repercussions of which Bumpy uses to his advantage. Most of the story is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. Malcom X who believes that Islam is the path of emancipation for his community is at loggerheads with Martin Luther King as well as Rev. Powell who is a Christian minister. In fact the final episode of S01 is named “Chickens come home to roost” , which was Malcom X’s response to the JFK assassination. Nigel Tatch plays Malcom X here and interestingly he played the same role in Selma. Giancarlo Esposito is a revelation as the flamboyant and controversial Rev. Powell. All of these characters have their own agendas and a symbiotic relationship too and the show is as much about them as it is about Bumpy. Ultimately they’re all fighting oppression in their own ways and at the end of the day that’s what the show is ultimately about and there couldn’t be a more apt title. Godfather of Harlem indeed. It would be a crime not to mention the brilliant soundtrack of this show, which is one of best albums to hit the screens after Black Panther. Look out for Forest Whitaker’s “gangsta walk” to the tune of Cross the Path in opening scene of S01 E02. The show also won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Title Design.

Malik : Once Upon A Time In Trivandrum.

To be compared to all the gangster saga epics that came before it, Malik was always destined to be. From the mother of all, The Godfather to Once Upon a time in America to the most recent Scorcese homage to himself, The Irishman. Then we have the Indian tributes to The Godfather from Nayagan to Sarkar. Mahesh Narayan has went on record that he had confided in none other than Kamal Hassan that he was mulling over his own version of The Godfather.Interestingly Kamal Hassan has to be the only actor to appear in two adaptations of the Coppola classic, Nayagan and Thevar Magan. Mahesh hasn’t shied away from talking about the influence of Nayagan either. It’s evident that more than anyone Mahesh Narayan himself would have been aware of the burdens his film was ultimately destined to carry. It doesn’t help a filmmaker’s cause these days that most people respond to the responses to a film rather than the film itself. As if these crocodiles in the proverbial moat weren’t good enough to lose his sleep over, the writer-director chose to set the story against the backdrop of an incident in the history of the state that even the government doesn’t want to remember. This could only be one of these two things, sheer courage or plain stupidity. The jury is still out it seems, if Mahesh Narayanan ended up making a Quixote or a Lancelot of himself.

Like Take Off, Malik too is a sound film technically. Mahesh Narayanan belongs to the Joshy-I.V Sasi school of filmmaking where scale and ensemble cast are the norm, within the constraints of Malayalam Cinema of course. The film is closer in structure to Godfather Part II where there are two parallel narratives though it pays more tributes than one to Godfather I and also borrows heavily from Nayagan when it comes to some aspects of the plot. For instance, I was wondering why the assassination of Chandran was so elaborately staged when I was watching it, it was only later that I realised that it was a direct reference to the scene from Part II where Vito Corleone chases and Don Fanucci over rooftops. The feast in the opening scene and the retaliation during the funeral are allusions to scenes from Godfather I. Presuming that the title of the film is a reference to the stature of the main protagonist in his immediate soical surroundings, the writer fails to capture the growth of that very character from a small time smuggler to the revered figure I felt. Maybe instead of focusing on the mechanisations of Suleiman’s trade the film should have spent time on his growing influence in the community and present the audience with a more credible reason for his falling out with the State too. From his initial exchanges with his wife we get to know that the ultimate sacrifice he made, that of his son’s life played a role crucial in cementing his position as a leader of the people. In Godfather I while on exile in a town in Sicily, when Michael Corleone asks about the men of the town, he’s told that all of them died in vendettas. The Godfather saga is basically about that culture of vengeance within an ethnic group who are almost tribalistic when it comes to their rituals. It’s not a story for the modern ages and despite it’s cinematic aesthetics, remains a regressive tale. Coppola may have been aware of this and this could be the reason why he chose to close Godfather I with the shot of Micheal Corleone shutting the doors of his office to his wife. Mahesh Narayanan on the other hand has brought in the perspectives of a mother, a wife and that of a daughter in an attempt to sensitise the film for a contemporary audience. Personally, I felt that the film should have explored Roselyn’s perspective as a mother a bit more. But then, to pack all of these themes into a film under three hours is quite an asking task too. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the film was being woven around a real life incident which involved tensions of the communal kind. Mahesh Narayanan indeed turned Lancelot when he presented Suleiman Ali as an unapologetic believer of a leader, a rarity in these times.

Fahad’s portrayal of the older Suleiman Ali was a bit too verbose for my liking but that’s again on the writer I guess. They should have probably gone with a rather quieter, contemplative Suleiman Ali like Amitabh’s Subhash Nagre in Sarkar. Fahad has had four major OTT releases since the pandemic wreaked havoc and he has played four distinct characters in each of these films. So the attention he grabs on a platform with a global reach at a time when even critics are running out of films is rather expected and well deserved too, I’d say. Nimisha pitches in with an earnest performance and I wished that her character had more to do with the narrative that it meets the eye, once I was done watching the film. Vinay Fort as the friend turned foe was functional but there was no real chemistry between him and Fahad but here again the writer is to be blamed. Jalaja returned to the screen after almost two decades and was totally at ease and what I took note of was her voice. She has to be one of the very few actors from that era who didn’t speak on screen in Anandavally’s voice. Interestingly, the younger version of her character was played by her daugher and Mahesh Narayan also got Salim Kumar’s son to play the younger Moosakka. Joju has been spending a lot of time inside police stations and government offices these days and here again his character was under written I felt.. If Indrans had walked off the sets into any police station in Kerala, he would have fit in right away and no one would have raised a brow. Chandunath who played the younger police officer is an actor to look forward to. So is Sanal who played Freddy. Dileesh Pothan again delivers precisely what the role demands of him. Parvathy Krishna was impressive and the scene where she makes a hurried entrance at her workplace reminded me that acting is not just about emoting but also about blending into the surroundings effortlessly. She was a natural there. Malik is not a perfect film or even a great film but it has it’s moments. It’s not an easy film to write or make. There are some real neat instances of filmmaking unlike anything that we have seen before in Malayalam Cinema. The execution of the assassin before the prison and the other long take where Suleiman goes in search of his son were remarkable . Malik may have turned into an indulgence in the excercise of filmmaking at some point, to the makers. Despite Mahesh Narayan’s justifications there are views from serious students of Cinema that the opening long shot was a bit too forced. Malik is indeed an engaging watch at the end of the day and a sea apart from the usual fare in Malayalam Cinema. Of course you could debate the politics of the film till kingdom come. History I think, would be kinder to Malik.

malik #AmazonPrimeVideo