Unda : The Trajectory Of A Well Aimed Misfire.

What’s Unda? No, its not a Malayalam movie that’s upholding an age old tradition by misspelling the Hindi word for “egg’. Unda ,apart from other things is also the malayalam for bullet, yes the one that goes into a gun’s chamber not the one that’s ridden. So much for disambiguation. Unda was in the news early on not just because it was a Mammooty vehicle. The man at the helm was Khalid Rehman, who impressed with his debut, Anuraga Karikkin Vellam. Moviegoers were obviously curious to see the result of the collaboration. Now that the shots have been fired, it’s time to check the target sheets to see if it’s a hit or a miss by Mammooty and Khalid Rehman this time around.

Khalid Rehman has based this film on a real life incident that he reportedly came across in a news column in a Malayalam daily, about a battalion of men from the Kerala Police who were sent to Chattisgarh to provide security for a leg of the 2014 Parliamentary Elections to be held in a constituency in a region plagued by Maoist insurgency. The men faced severe hardships in unfamiliar situations they’d never imagined they’d come across in their comparatively laid back duty days back in Kerala. The film, we were told, was supposedly a realistic retelling of the experiences of these men. Much of that is indeed true. Incidentally, the director’s debut film also had a cop character who was far removed from the regular movie cop, played by Biju Menon. That Khalid Rehman has a penchat for impeccable detailing in setting up complex scenes, as much in terms of the surroundings and enviornments that his characters dwell in, as the characters themselves, was more than evident in his debut film. Those skills come to the fore here again, when he takes the viewers on a journey with the characters into the jungles of Chattisgarh. He is extremely frugal with his actors and they deliver exactly what he demanded from them, in terms of screen space and dialgoues, nothing more nothing less. His greatest success as a director in Unda is the fact that this frugality is imposed on everyone from the realtively greehorn-ish Lukman to the Big M himself. There’s no contesting the fact that the script is king here and for me at least, ironically it’s the script that fizzles out in a whimper towards the end and let’s the film down ultimately. To draw from a fitting analogy, the movie follows a tracjectory in its narration that’s akin to that of a bullet, the eponymous Unda with it’s peak, crest and the inevitable drag towards the end. A slew of promising actors, namely  Shine Tom, Rony David, Arjun Ashokan, Lukman, Gokulan and Noushad make up the band of cops who are led through their ordeal by Mammooty and Director Ranjith, who features in an extended cameo. Asif Ali and Vinay Fort appear in scenes which almost had me thinking that the wong movie was being streamed. The USP of Anuraga Karikkin Vellam was that it came across as a consistent exercise in breaking cliches and stereotypes, right from casting to characters to the plot itself. Unda does that a lot, for most parts but it fails to sustain that motivation towards the end.

Unda is not a bad movie by any stretch of imagination, it is in fact a very good film, considering the fact that the lead actor’s last three releases in Malayalam were  the de-facto hit Madhuraraja, the-blink-and-you-miss-at-the-box-office Oru Kuttanadan Blog and that lingering assault on human intelligence that Abrahaminte Santhathikal was. This brings us to the definition, rather the redefinition of the idea of a “good film” these days. In terms of lead actors, these are films where the actors don the roles of regular human beings and doesn’t pack a punch or a kick that defies every known law of physics. Mammooty’s Mani in Unda is one such character but hardly throws him any challenge the entire length of the role. The man could play a character like this in his sleep. Then we have the politics of films. These days, every other movie is political in it’s narrative to the point that it’s almost obligatory. There has to be a mandatory addressing of some sort of discrimination for a film to be taken seriously and Unda does it bit too when it takes on caste here. Though this welcome change could very well be attributed to an increasing awareness amongst makers and viewers about the social realities and circumstances that we opt to turn a blind eye to for the sake of amity, in the absence of an adept screenwriter, this could take a toll on what makes Cinema or any fiction worth our attention, drama. This is even more truer for films based on real life incidents and this is where a film like Virus scores over Unda when it infuses gripping drama into its narration. For a realistic film dealing with real incidents, though I’m not privy to the details of the original incidents, I  felt that the film defeats itself when it opts for denial of ground realities ultimately and works to pan out it’s politics in a different direction entirely. This and the last couple of scenes did not work for me exactly which is why I feel that the movie is a well aimed misfire.

NGK : Tamil Stars Care About Farmers, Do You?

Long before the Kisan Long March, we saw Ilaya Thalapathi Vijay lamenting the cause of the farmers on the big screen in A.R.Murugadoss’s Kaththi . Now, Murugadoss was smart enough to realise that when you tackle as grave and complicated an issue as the plight of  farmers in a film, you simply cannot pull it off with a single Vijay, so we ended up getting two for the price of one, saviours I mean. In stark contrast, we are presented writer-director Selvaraghavan’s latest, NGK where Suriya is seen fighting the farmer’s fight, on his own. Incidentally Suriya had played twin roles  in another Murugadoss film about saviours, 7am Arivu. Murugadoss’s heroes are always simple men with simple answers to complex issues and gets the job done with a Kaththi (knife) or a Thuppakki (gun), in comparision to Selvaraghavan’s leading men who are troubled individuals who almost always can’t even rescue themselves, leave alone the people who look up to them. But then, Murugadoss and Selvaraghavan are two directors at the far ends of the narrow spectrum that commercial filmmaking is and if direction was a jungle, Selvaraghavan could rightly be called a different animal. From psychological thrillers to gangster drama to  fantasy to sci-fi, Selvaraghavan has lent his touch to diverse genres with varying success in the past and now he has attempted to give the political thriller a twist of his own.

Suriya plays Nanda Gopalan Kumaran in this eponymous film about a regular citizen who is distressed by everything that’s wrong with the political establishment, not a first in Tamil films, Shankar almost made a career out of it, but given Selvaraghavan’s repertoire, it was something to look forward to, right from the day the news broke that the director was teaming up with Suriya who was in much need of a box office resurgence too. The last time Suriya played a politician was in Mani Ratnam’s Ayutha Ezhutha and he played it with elan. Michael Vasanth looked and talked every bit like the leader he was. In last year’s Sarkar we saw Murugadoss getting Vijay to spreadeagle down on Tamil polity and transforming governments overnight, literally. Selvaraghavan however, would have none of that for Suriya. Unlike Sarkar’s protagonist who transforms the system in a jiffy, in NGK, it’s the character who undergoes a transformation. NGK is essentially as much an exercise in character study as of the social circumstances that the director asks the cinematographer to pan his lens across. It basically shows us how individuals with the noblest of intentions make compromises and resort to dishonorable acts once the tentacles of the system closes in on them. In the same breath, NGK is also Selvarghavan’s most commercialised hero to date. Nanda Gopan Kumaran holds a PhD and left a cushy job with an MNC to take up organic farming. He’s at arms length for people in need, literally. Trained in mortal combat too he is, apart from being a cook with a Midas touch , we learn later. Naturally, NGK’s opponents are the ones reigning in the traditional political power centres who control everything with the aid of a PR army, which is a true reflection of the times we live in. This also brings us to one of the prominent female characters in NGK’s story, played by Rakul Preet, the other being his wife, Sai Pallavi in a rather one dimensional role.

Politics has been the natural retreat for actors in the South of the country and in the recent past we saw two of the most prominent stars putting an end to decades of speculation by launching their own parties. NGK is provocative when it reflects subtly on such attempts to revamp the prevalent political narrative and tentatively present the political realities which these new crop of parties would inevitably face sooner or later. The choices they make would decide if they will previal or perish. Even in a state as starry eyed as Tamil Nadu, it’s no hidden fact that the days of MGR and Jayalalitha are long gone. Even with all his on screen charisma, no political commentator would expect Rajnikanth’s or Kamal Hassan’s party to be anything more than an ally to one of the major league players, at the end of the day. To cut him some slack, Selvaraghavan is not selling a pipe dream like Murugadoss but true to his roots as a filmmaker has tried to hold a bleak and morose mirror to the political curry pot in the underbellies of the state. Selvaraghavan the writer has been let down by Selvaraghavan the director in the past, especially when the canvases were large, I feel.  He reminds me of a kid who goes to school prepared for his exams but has an anxiety attack at the last moment and makes a mess of the answer sheet. In NGK, too Selvaraghan passes, only barely. NGK is no call for political upheaval, rather it’s a warning sign which says, Okay you want change but enter at your own risk.

 

 

ISHQ: Yes, It’s Not A Love Story, It’s A Great Story.

Films named synonyms of the word love and with the tagline  “not a love story”, have almost evolved into a genre in the Indian film industry. As the title and the tag suggest, these are often films which start out as a run of the mill love story and then tries shock and awe techniques on an unsuspecting audience. To call them formulaic wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Ram Gopal Varma wreaked havoc with the idea in his heydays and his not-so-hey-days too, which is one reason why the tag has lost its novelty, more or less, I’d say. Bollywood loved the theme so hard and long that they now actually  have a franchise called Hate Story. Having said that, it was something that we haven’t seen much of in the Malayalam film industry though 22. Female Kottayam used the the same formula. But with Ishq, the first true not-love-story has made it’s debut in the Malayalam film industry,  it’s safe to say, and how.

Ishq at it’s core tackles a theme that has been explored by many films in the recent past, moral policing. We have seen versions of it in films ranging from Uncle to Varathan. Personally I felt that Ishq had shades of Kali too, but extremely light shades, I must add. Ishq is an artist’s reaction to the actions of some of the meanest and most depraved elements of our society, it is nothing lesser than a slap on the face of the moral brigade and the real news footages that run during the end credits is the most subtle yet fitting response to the perpetrators behind those acts of moral policing. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Michael Jackson’s scream in the iconic “They dont really care about us”, so to speak. But Ishq’s greatest success lies in the fact that it explores this malady in layered, complex ways. It builds an illusion that it’s just another film with simple answers but then it pulls a fast one on you and you end up loving the film for it. The film actually walks a tight rope and could have ended up being criticised for it’s male centric narrative but it redeems itself in spectacular fashion. Ratheesh Ravi tells us loud and clear that there’s more to him than Pullikaran Stara, in fact this time around, he has done a star turn as a writerFor a debut director, Anuraj Manohar has shown impeccable control over his craft and has paced the film perfectly. The writer and the director opens the film with some sweet moments and then builds tension on the screen into a crescendo towards the end.

There are no heroes in this film if you ask me, not in the conventional sense. Shane Nigam is supposed to be the actor in the leading role and he delivers in his inimitable style. It’s almost a role tailor made for him, that of the next door boy with a hint of derangement. Then you have a Shine Tom who is the antagonist and manages to garner the hatred of the audience almost effortlessly. Giving him company is a measured Jaffer Idukki. Ann Sheetal is the female lead and holds her own in this film which I felt is about vantage points,  where the victims are ultimately always women. That brings us to Leona Lishoy, who shines in her brief but lingering portrayal of an unsuspecting wife who ends up a victim too. Apart from these actors, the most notable presence is Jakes Bejoy in the form of his stellar background music. In Ishq, like in our lives, for the men it’s about hurt egos and retaliation and women are left to pick up the pieces. The film, I felt is also about the construct of the alpha male. It suggests that there are no alphas really, only circumstances. The male ego, the film shows, can take a beating from another male with an upper hand in a confrontation and even reconciles with it, but tends to snap when it’s questioned by a female. But that’s just my take. Ishq or Uncle or any other film on the issue is not going to change the society that we are part of. Renaissance had an impact on art, not the other way round,  having said that, in that sense, Ishq could be a sign too, of awareness, if not change. On a closing note, Ishq is instant gratification, and more.

 

 

 

 

Game Of Thrones, The Indian General Elections and Some Late Theories.

Consider the predicament of an average Indian who is also a GoT fan. The election results would be out on May 23 and HBO would be airing the final episode on May 19. That’s one mass post partum syndrome, if I may, I’m curiously looking forward to witness and yeah, experience too. If you can still remain sane after dealing with the kind of speculation that’s going round in both cases wherever you turn to, that in itself is an achievement, I’d say. Come to think of it, the Indian Elections and GoT are not too different from each other, given the ruthlessness and deceit rampant in either, for starters. Loyalties switch before you blink in both realms too, so to speak.

The most stark -pun of course unintended- of similarities is the fact the common man or the masses do not matter at the end of the day in Indian politics and GoT. The Indian politicians know what buttons to push to make the populace dance to their tunes and when it comes to GoT the masses serve little other purpose than to be blown up or burned down in hordes. Ultimately both are about the ruling classes and their struggles to stay in power. The one and only difference that I can think of is the fact that GoT has at least one honorable character, that being Jon Snow.

Theories about the fate of the characters in GoT have been dime a dozen since the first season aired and though I held out from succumbing to the speculation frenzy for long, looks like I’ve finally given in. Now that the Bran- Night King angle has died a cold death, it’s back to game of thrones, literally. It’s men and women against each other. There are ones with rightful claims to the throne and there are ones with ambitions and aspirations, this is an early instance of one such display of pure naive desire. Let’s see how that plays out for Jon, et al.

Avengers – Endgame : Well, All’s well That Ends well OR Where I Rant Incessantly Around The Bush.

All good things must come to an end we’ve been told, unless of course you’re an Indian politican, just to put things in perspective from a desi vantage point. Turns out, the Avengers are no different, despite all their collective powers. The past decade and this one could be hailed as the age of the superhero in Hollywood thanks especially to Marvel’s inexhaustible repertoire of characters with superhuman skills, out to save the world and fight their inner demons too. Marvel broke ground with Iron Man and hasn’t looked back since. MCU, they called it, and we nodded in agreement. Marvel delivered some of the most memorable characters in pop culture today thanks to some great collaborators behind and in front of the camera. The boundless avenues that technology opened up in terms of CGI too played a huge role in bringing these more or less uncaped heroes – except for Thor and Dr.Strange – and their worlds to the screen exactly in ways they were envisioned in the comic books originally. But at the core, Avengers work for us an audience for the very reason why Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven or Guns of Navarone worked. That and Robert Downey Jr. , I think. There’s that part of our soul that craves to be be saved, literally and figuratively. It’s the very same part, religions have built their instituitions upon since time immemorial. There’s something fascinating about a hero, and all the classic ballads and myths have told tales of awe-inspiring heroes in all cultures and civilizations across the globe. Stan Lee was one amongst the many new age Homers, and one who stands tall too.

I’ve never attempted to review an Avenger movie ever but I’ve indeed shared my thoughts on the random Marvel film and this is not a review either. When it came to the Avengers, I was always at a loss of words, but not exactly because I in awe though. Now that Marvel has ominously bucked the tradition by doing away with the post credit scene, I thought I’d follow suit too. The first Avenger movie piqued interest globally for obvious reasons. I mean, who would’nt want to watch their favorite superheroes come together to save the world? Copyrights and licensing deals did keep Spiderman from joining the party for a while but Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America did a good job at the box office in his absence so much so that he wasn’t missed much. The fact that we had enough Spiderman reboots to last a lifetime is something I’ve briefly pondered over here and was a factor too, from an audience’s perspective. Personally, I had something akin to a withdrawal syndrome, starting with Age of Ultron. All I could recall about Avengers at one point were crumbling skyscrapers and huge spaceships that were crashing down on big cities. The jokes helped much, I do admit.

Marvel kept throwing the one-two punch at the viewers, the hard right hook with the Avengers and the soft left jab with the solo hero outings. But I can’t but help feel that even Robert Downey Jr. could’nt have saved Iron Man 4, if there would’ve been one. Captain America I know only from the Marvel films and his first solo outing was more interesting and engaging than I expected and Chris Evans does deserve some credit for evolving the character into someone who could hold his own on screen beside the effervescent Robert Downey Jr.’s, Iron Man. Mark Ruffalo was an interesting Hulk before Marvel decided to use him exclusively for comic relief in his blown-up CGI avatar though the Edward Norton Hulk remains a personal favorite right behind the Eric Bana one. The next A-list Avenger Thor was more than safe with Chris Hemworth but I’m not quite sure what to make of his “deconstructed” version in Endgame though, I’m expected to laugh I guess. The Black Panther was raved about but when it came to the final showdown, he was merely a set piece, again something which I have pondered on elaborately in the past. Johanssen’s Black Widow and Renner’s Hawkeye are the non-superhero presences alongside Don Cheadle in the Avenger’s inner circle.  Then out of the blue literally came Captain Marvel with a dubious gender history, who is most probably the least interesting but most powerful Avenger who could’ve saved the other Avengers the trouble and Marvel the twenty odd films only if she was’nt busy dealing saving lives “intergalactically”. Yes, of course I have’nt forgotten the Guardians, again of Galaxies. And then there’s Nick Fury aka Samuel.L.Jackson who’s basically handling HR for the Avengers. Okay, now if I’ve missed anyone that’s indeed deliberate because the last time I tried this hard to recall names was at my Chemistry exams and I’m exhausted. The Marvel lineup today could give the Periodic Table a run for it’s money.

If you have watched all Marvel films before Endgame you know that this super villain Thanos has wiped out half of the Earth’s living beings with the snap of his fingers including a few Avengers. Iron Man is floating somewhere out there in deep space and tries this emotional farewell speech bit on you early on but you know that he’s not going go die just yet, but nice try Russos. Like I said, at least for me, there hasn’t been any real emotional investment in the fate of the Avengers post the first film where the gang got together. When Thanos appeared I couldn’t accept him, as a viewer. Maybe it was the corny CGI and how they managed to pull it off despite all the financial and creative resources at their disposal is beyond me. As for characterization, for a franchise that relied heavily on realistic origin stories and real world scenarios for its heroes, here was a made to order super villain who looked like a huge un-chewed Boomer gum strip, ridges intact. He accelerated the disconnect which had already manifested in me. Yeah I know, this is how he was in the comics too but don’t feed me that just yet please. It’s the Marvel Studios not Comics is it not and they have taken more than a few liberties to make sure that it’s not just hard core comic aficionados who walked in to the movie halls religiously when every other Marvel movie was released. To be fair to the Russo Brothers, they have earnestly tried to nullify the effects of every inevitable cliche that was bound to appear on screen for the Avengers to succeed in their mission to save the planet and bring back the lost heroes. The greatest feat is the fact that the director duo have managed to give every hero who’s been a part of every Marvel movie till now at least a second of screen time in this final outing. Marvel tries to make up for the lost cause of feminism in their films in a brief mid battle sequence where all the female superheroes join together to try and bring down Thanos. Obviously, they still haven’t gotten over Wonder Woman, the movie which helped DC stay in the reckoning for a bit more longer in the superhero movie game. In this age where you could trigger wars and genocides with a random share on social media, the success of the final film in the current phase of a franchise as huge as MCU is hardly surprising. Well, in a world where a Marvel film ends without a post credit scene, you have little options but to wake up to the realities around you. Now that Thanos is gone and the Night King is dead, looks like I’ll have to make do with the Indian Parliamentary Election results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True Detective | S03 |

After a stellar Season One and a rather lacklustre Season Two, True Detective returns to form in Season Three. The characters played by Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConnaghuey may not have had closure personally or professionally, nor did the show and neither did they offer us the audience any but we still loved them anyway in the first season, which ultimately ended up  making life difficult for every other proponent of the genre out there. The makers changed the rules of the crime thriller genre at least for television with the slow burner show. Season Two had Colin Farrell playing lead and the fate of the show was not much different from the state of his once promising career, to say the least. Season Three features Mahershala Ali and, he is the new Denzel Washington I’d say. Reason enough to binge and that’s exactly what I did.

Deaths, abductions and grief are what drives the tale forward in the third installment too. It’s not exactly a battle of wits in True Detective, it never was. There’s no Moriarty out there to outwit and the detectives are no Sherlocks either. These are troubled indviduals with emotions and failings not too different from the lives, rather deaths,  they investigate and get immeresed into utlimately. Much like the first season, the third deals with an investigation that has gone cold. That’s not the only similarity, though there are differences too, one being the fact that the tale switches between three different timelines in the lives of the investigators played by Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff, compared to the two timelines in Season 1. Maybe I should stop talking about Season 1. Yeah. The series starts off with the disappearance of two siblings in smalltown Arkansas. Pizzolatto weaves an intricate tale around the incident, that spreads over three decades.

One would be tempted to say that the series sits squarely on the shoulders of Mahershala Ali but that would be immensely unfair to Stephen Dorf who is literally a powerhouse of talent if you ask me. He more than just holds his own in what’s mostly a show that’s almost built for Mahershala to show off his acting chops. The show is as intense and brooding in tone as they come though it opts to go easy on the viewers towards the end this time around and offers some closure. But true to the spirit of the anthology, it does make the audience work for it and demands just more than passive engagement from it’s viewers. Nic Pizzolatto I think it’s safe to say, has salvaged whatever he lost in Season 2 here with the eight episodes of Season 3. The one thing that stands out is the making, especially the make up department. It’s amongst the best you would ever come across irrespective of screen sizes. Mike Marino is the man responsible and he has probably showed Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff exactly how they would look in another 30-40 years, without resorting to CGI. You have to see it to believe it and trust me you would notice it. When Mahershala Ali delivers an astounding performance as a man in his post retirement years with all that prosthetics, I’m not quite sure what’s to be lauded here, his skills as an actor or the skills of Marino.

Food For Thought.

കുറച്ചു വർഷം മുൻപ് വരെ ഞാൻ ഭക്ഷണം കഴിക്കാൻ ചെന്നിരിക്കുമ്പോ അതിപ്പോ രാവിലത്തെ കാപ്പി തൊട്ട് രാത്രി വരെ എന്തായാലും മുന്നിലിരിക്കുന്ന സാധനങ്ങൾ എങ്ങനെ മേശമേൽ എത്തി എന്നതിനെ കുറിച്ച് ഒരിക്കലും വ്യാകുലൻ ആയിട്ടില്ല.അഹങ്കാരം കൊണ്ടല്ല. വിവരക്കേട് കൊണ്ടാണെന്നു പറഞ്ഞാൽ ഒരു പക്ഷെ ശെരി ആയിരിക്കാം. വീട്ടില് ഊണിന് മീൻകറിയും മീൻ വറുത്തതും തോരനും മോരും മോരുകറിയും മെഴുക്കുവരട്ടിയും സാമ്പാറും ഒക്കെ വന്നാലും ബീറ്റ്റൂട്ട് വേണ്ടാരുന്നു പയറു മതിയെന്ന് അടുക്കളയിലേക്ക് ഒരു സങ്കോചവും വിളിച്ചു പറഞ്ഞിട്ടുണ്ട്‌. ഹോസ്റ്റലിൽ എത്തിയപ്പോ മെസ്സിൽ ചെന്ന് അവിടെ ഉള്ളത് എടുത്ത് കഴിക്കുമ്പോഴും അതിന്റെ ഉത്പത്തിയെ കുറിച് വീട്ടിലെ പോലെ ഞാൻ തന്നെ ഞാൻ ഉത്കണ്ഠാകുലൻ ആയിരുന്നില്ല. പാലായിൽ ചേടുത്തിയും സോബിച്ചനും ആയിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ തിരുവനന്തപുരത്തു ചേട്ടനും വിമലും ആയിരുന്നു അന്നം തന്നിരുന്നത് . അവരുടെ പരിമിതികൾ എന്താണെന്നു പക്ഷെ ബോധം ഉണ്ടാരുന്ന കൊണ്ട്‌ പരാതി പറഞ്ഞിട്ടില്ല. കിട്ടിയത് തിന്ന് സൈഡിൽ ഇരുന്നു. പക്ഷെ അവിടെയും ഇതൊക്കെ ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്നതിന്റെ പാടിനെ കുറിച്ച് ഒരു ധാരണ ഇല്ലായിരുന്നു. ഇവിടേം അഹങ്കാരം അല്ലാരുന്നു. ബോധമില്ലായ്മ ആണെന്ന് നിങ്ങൾ പറഞ്ഞാൽ പക്ഷെ ഞാൻ നിഷേധിക്കില്ല.

കോളേജിന് ശേഷം ഹോട്ടലുകളിൽ ആയിരുന്നു അഭയം തേടിയത്. താമസിച്ച അപ്പാർട്മെന്റിൽ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന ഇൻഡക്ഷൻ സ്റ്റോവ് പ്രവർത്തിപ്പിച്ചിരുന്നത് മിക്കവാറും സെക്യൂരിറ്റി പണി ചെയ്‌തിരുന്ന അബുക്ക ആയിരുന്നു, കട്ടൻ ഉണ്ടാക്കാൻ. കടല് കടക്കുന്ന വരെ ചായ ഉണ്ടാക്കാൻ അല്ലാതെ ഞാൻ അടുക്കളേൽ കേറീട്ടില്ലാരുന്നു. അല്ല അല്ലറ ചില്ലറ പരീക്ഷണങ്ങൾ നടത്താൻ കയറിയത് കരിമ്പിൻ കാട്ടിൽ കയറി എന്ന് പറയപ്പെടുന്ന പഴയ ആ ആനയെ പോലെ ആയിരുന്നു. അങ്ങനെ സാഹചര്യങ്ങളുടെ വൈകിയ സമ്മർദം മൂലം ഞാൻ ഒടുവിൽ അടുക്കളേൽ കേറി ചോറ്‌ വെക്കാൻ തുടങ്ങി. കൂടെ ഒരു കറി വെച്ച് വരുമ്പോഴേക്കും ക്ഷെമ നശിച്ചു തുടങ്ങി. ആ കറി മിക്കവാറും ചെറുപയറ് ആയിരുന്നു. അത് സ്ഥിരം ആയെങ്കിലും വിശപ്പിനു മുന്നിൽ മടുപ്പിന് സ്ഥാനം ഇല്ലാത്ത കൊണ്ട് അത് തുടർന്നു. മീൻ കറി വെക്കാം എന്ന് വിചാരിച്ചാൽ ക്ളീനിങ് ഓർക്കുമ്പോൾ വേണ്ടാന്ന് വെക്കും. അതിപ്പോ മീൻ വറുക്കാൻ ആണേലും ഇത് തന്നെ അവസ്ഥ. ഇടയ്ക്കു ഞാൻ ഓണക്കമീനിൽ അഭയം തേടി. ഒരു ഭ്രാന്തനെ പോലെ .തോരൻ ഒരു സ്വപ്നം ആയി നിലകൊണ്ടു. ചോറ് തൈര് ചെറുപയറ് ചെറുപയറ് തൈര് ചോറ്. ഇതായിരുന്നു കുറെ നാള്. ചപ്പാത്തി ആക്കാം എന്ന് കരുതി ഇടയ്ക്ക്. മാവ് കുഴച്ചു തുടങ്ങിയപ്പോൾ അല്ലെ ഈ പണി സ്ഥിരം ആയി ചെയ്‌താൽ ഡംബൽ എടുക്കണ്ട എന്ന് മനസിലായത്. ഈ വിഷയം പറഞ്ഞു തുടങ്ങിയാൽ തീരില്ല എന്ന് അറിയാം.

കോടിക്കണക്കിനു ജനങ്ങൾ പട്ടിണിയിൽ ജീവിക്കുന്ന ഈ ലോകത്തു ഈ പറഞ്ഞത് അഹങ്കാരം തന്നെ ആയിരിക്കാം പക്ഷെ നാള് ഇത് വരെ എനിക്ക് വെച്ച് വിളമ്പി തന്ന എല്ലാവരോടും ഒരു വലിയ നന്ദി പറഞ്ഞില്ലേൽ അതിലും വലിയ അഹങ്കാരം ആയിരിക്കും എന്ന് എനിക്ക് തോന്നുന്നു. ഇത് ഞാൻ എഴുതി പിടിപ്പിക്കുമ്പോൾ തന്നെ ഇന്നത്തെ അടുക്കളയിലെ പയറ്റിന്റെ ബാക്കി പാത്രങ്ങൾ കഴുകി കഴിഞ്ഞു കാണില്ല പല അമ്മമാരും കുഞ്ഞമ്മമാരും അമ്മൂമ്മമാരും ചേച്ചിമാരും ജോലിക്കാരും.അതൊക്കെ കഴുകി കഴിഞ്ഞാണോ അവരൊക്കെ നാളത്തേക്ക് അപ്പത്തിന്റേം ദോശേടേം മാവ് പുളിക്കാൻ വെക്കുന്നതെന്നോ കടല കുതിർക്കാൻ വെള്ളത്തിലിടുന്നെന്നോ ഇപ്പോഴും എനിക്ക് നിശ്ചയമില്ല. അത് കഴിഞ്ഞു അടുത്ത ദിവസം വീണ്ടും ഇതേ പയറ്റ്. മാർക്ക് സക്കർബെർഗ് ഫേസ്‌ബുക്കും സ്റ്റീവ് ജോബ്സ് ഐഫോണും ഉണ്ടാക്കി കാണും. പക്ഷെ കേരളത്തിലെ അല്ലെങ്കിൽ മലയാളികൾ എവിടെ ആയാലും ഉള്ള വീടുകളിലെ അടുക്കളകിൽ ദിവസും നിർത്താതെ ആവർത്തിച്ച് കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന ഈ ഭക്ഷണം പാകം എന്ന പ്രക്രിയക്ക് മുന്നിൽ അവരൊക്ക നിഷ്പ്രഭരാവും എന്ന് ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞാൽ അതിൽ അതിയശയോക്തി ഉണ്ടെന്നു നിങ്ങൾ പറയുമോ? Relax, it’s a rhetorical question.

Madhuraraja : The Black Hole Of Critique

That Madhuraraja debuted around the same time the world went abuzz with the news of the first ever photograph of a Black Hole is indeed one interesting instance of coincidence I can’t but help bring into perspective. Now, I do enjoy a good “mass” movie and I think I can tell when I see one too. These are movies, you are lectured every other weekend, where you go in just to have unhinged fun and not to dissect and deconstruct. Logic is not to be applied to anything you watch or listen to. Madhuraja goes one step ahead. In this age of automation and AI Madhuraja does all the work for you.  Like the black hole that’s at the centre of our galaxy it just pulls any and all reasoning into itself. It’s the event horizon for all criticisms. Madhuraja, to channel my inner Nolan, is the mass movie Vyshakh and Udayakrishna thinks you deserve, not the mass movie you need. Yes, I’am just venting, desperate to find justifications for having watched the film spending my hard earned money and time that cannot be reclaimed. But hey, then again I watched Vamanapuram Bus Route in theatres.

Madhuraraja opened to some impressively shot sequences, world class in fact I would say, gory too. Then the film went the Marvel way where it relied on self depreceating humor to take the tale forward and that’s when the movie worked the most. You had this impression that the film didn’t take itself too seriously and it was fun in parts too, though obviously Udayakrishna can’t do without crude jokes. Progressive thoughts, are they on sale on Flipkart? Nedumudi Venu and Vijayaraghavan reprise their roles in what are mere extended cameos, so does Siddique. Salimkumar is a pale shadow of himself and he tries real hard, it shows some it works some. But I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that it’s almost the lifeline of the film in the fist half. Then the film gets serious and you just can’t wait for it to end because you already know what’s going to happen on the screen from a mile away, despite Salimkumar screaming twist in every other scene. Aju Varghese looked like his character from another film. Anusree is good at screaming relentlessly. Jai of course is no Prithviraj but he did look good in the action sequences. So did Mammooty. The only trivial challenge the role threw at Mammooty was when he used his legendary voice modulation skills in an emotional scene where he speaks Pokkiriraja’s broken English which otherwise mostly serves for humor.

Now, I could go on about the inherent regressiveness in the writing but what’s the point ultimately. Udayakrishna picks up from where he left off in Masterpiece and takes potshots at recent attempts at female empowerment in the state and globally too. Vyshakh has the skillset and one wishes he would put it better use in the future. To be honest, I still haven’t figured out Pokkiriraja, and it’s success let alone this sequel to it. Mammooty playing a character that looked like Sarathkumar from one of his Nattamai outings of the late 90s , yeah that’s exactly what the audience and the actor needs today obviously, so be it I guess. This, imgaine, is what the makers are doing to the man who delivered Kottayam Kunjachan, Sangham, Rajamanikyam and yeah, Big B. 

 

 

 

 

Lucifer : When Personal Propaganda Takes A Ride On Unparalled Popularity.

Lucifer was destined and designed to be disruptive right from the day it was announced for reasons more than one. To put the origins of the title into context, everything about the film was biblical and on the opening day as well as the days leading upto it, the mass hysteria that it kicked up could be described aptly with no other word. A popular mainstream actor who in the past was the brunt of jokes for his views and opinions that were more or less alien to Malayalam Cinema was making his directorial debut with the biggest box office star in Kerala in a film penned by a script writer known for his ability to cook up complex tales and to irk, mock and insinuate too, backed by a producer whose name was eponymous with the star’s and the film was titled Lucifer. If this is not biblical in the tiny world of Malayalam Cinema, I do not know what is. Personally, as a fan who has been unapologetically yearning for the next big thing from Mohanlal on the lines of the alpha male trilogy of Devasuram, Aram Thamburan and Narasimham  or something that matched up to the quintessential anti- hero that Aadu Thoma was, Lucifer was indeed a beam of hope and I shamelessly indulged the fan in me right up to the moment I entered the hall for the evening show on the first day of the release.

When the Malayali filmgoer sits down to watch Lucifer, Murali Gopy offers a blue pill and a red pill, not much different from the ones offered to Neo by Morpheus in The Matrix. You either watch the film as a starry eyed fanboy or you watch as an unbiased observer with feet firm on the ground, who is not oblivious to the political undertones of the narrative. When you are in for the movie on the day of it’s release and can’t hold your horses, there’s no prize for guessing what pill you’d choose. I obviously chose the blue pill intended for the unflinching fan but the effects did start to fade towards the end. That the film was about politics was evident from the day the first look was released which had Mohanlal donning the khadar ,which also hinted that Murali Gopy had the UDF in his crosshairs this time around. But of course the big news was Prithviraj’s debut as a director with none other than Mohanlal. Though he was tight lipped early on, in the weeks that led up to the release, he promised a treat for the fans. Mohanlal the way he wanted to see him on the screen as a fan was Lucifer, said Prithviraj the director. And he has done exactly that. Lucifer is nothing but a walk in the museum of all things that makes Mohanlal the box office powerhouse that he is. The actor towers over the rest of the impressive cast in the role tailor made for him by Murali Gopy and envisioned almost flawlessly by Prithviraj. The man is on fire here and it’s an understatement when I say that he defies age in the action sequences. That’s not to take anything away from actors ranging from Tovino to Indrajith to Shajon to Baiju to Manju to Vivek Oberoi who holds their own in the characters that fit them like a glove. Saikumar represents the UDF and Shivaji Guruvayoor is the personification of Murali Gopy’s favorite punching bag, the Left. Prithiviraj downplays his presence to that of a glorified stuntman in his own film, which is more or less an ode by the fanboy in him to the lead actor. Prithviraj impresses with his frames, scale and style, as a director though he did falter and fumble towards the end. The “item song” stood out like a sore thumb.

The storyline is borderline over the top conspiracy theory and in a state as politically literate like Kerala, it’s a hard sell if you ask me, which is where the lead actor’s stardom that knows no bounds helps the film’s cause. Mohanlal had his first tryst with the devil in the iconic Spadikam but it was the vernacular chekuthan who found his way into the narrative there. Prithviraj’s love for the occult is more than evident and even by his standards, for a film that seemed to deal with political climate in Kerala, the choice of the title sounded a bit outlandish. It didn’t fit for some reason at least to me and though it made sense once I watched the film in whole, I have to say it was the impossible merging of two different worlds that the director and the writer tried to pull off here. Cinema is after all fiction and fiction is ultimately suspension of disbelief. Murali Gopi is no Ranjith and neither is he Renji Paniker, which is to say rousing dialogues are not exactly his forte, which is why I am willing to forgive the terrible nod to Pulp Fiction. He is but indeed a master of plots and weaver of complex tales. Even in a film that was more or less apolitical like Ee Adutha Kaalathu he unwittingly made a choice that prompted the audience to speculate up on his political allegiances. Left Right Left which followed, only helped cement the suspicions about the political agenda of his films and writing. Kammara Sambavam, which came before Lucifer was again a testimony to the fact that he had no love lost for the political leadership in Kerala, especially the Left. Past behavior, they say, is the best indicator of future behavior and that could not be more truer here, with Lucifer. At a time when the State and the Country are engulfed in election frenzy, Murali Gopy trains his guns on the two major political factions who have taken turns, albeit democratically to rule Kerala for the past 70 years or so. To me at least, most ironic was the ending note where the writer almost sneers at the Malayali for having surrendered to the two political ideologies, the left and what used to be the right. Then the audience erupted into applause. And that’s where his propaganda succeeds if you ask me, though his alternative, is conspicuous by its absence in the narrative.

കുമ്പളങ്ങിയിലെ യഥാർഥ മനോരോഗി ഷമ്മിയല്ല.#kumbalanginightsblues

 

 

നൗ ദാറ്റ് ഐ ലുക്ക് ബാക്ക് ഓൺ ഇറ്റ്, ഷമ്മി അല്ല ഷമ്മിടെ ചേട്ടൻ ആണ് പ്രശ്നം. ഹീറോയാണെന്നു സ്വയം വിളിച്ചു പറയുന്ന ഷമ്മി കാഴ്ചക്കാർക്ക് വില്ലൻ ആണെങ്കിലും ഒരു പക്ഷെ ശ്യാം പുഷ്കരന് വിക്ടിം ആയിരിക്കാം. ടോക്സിക്ക് മസ്കുലൈനിറ്റിയുടെ പ്രതീകമായ അവതരിക്കുന്ന ഷമ്മി ചിലപ്പോ അതിന്റെ ഇര ആണെങ്കിലോ? എഴുത്തുകാരൻ ഉന്നം വെയ്ക്കുന്ന സാമൂഹ്യ മനസ്ഥിതികളുടെ ഉടമ ശെരിക്കും ഷമ്മിയല്ല ഷമ്മിയുടെ ചേട്ടനാണ് എന്ന് ഇപ്പോ എനിക്ക് തോന്നുന്നു. ഷമ്മി ഒരു പ്രേക്ഷകൻ എന്ന നിലയിൽ എന്റെയും നിങ്ങളുടെയും വെറുപ്പ് പിടിച്ചു പറ്റിയിരുന്നു. മൂലയ്ക്ക് പോയി നിൽക്കുന്നത് വരെ. അവിടം തൊട്ടു വലയിൽ ആകുന്നത് വരെ ഷമ്മിയോട്‌ എനിക്ക് സഹതാപം ആണ് തോന്നിയത്. അവനു വട്ടാ എന്ന് സിമിയുടെ അമ്മയെ കൊണ്ട് ശ്യാം പുഷ്ക്കരൻ പറയിപ്പിച്ചപ്പോൾ ഞെട്ടൽ ആണ് ഉണ്ടായത്. അത് കൊണ്ടാണ് ക്ളൈമാക്സിലെ ഇൻസെന്സിറ്റിവിറ്റി ടു മെന്റൽ ഡിസോർഡേഴ്സ് എന്നെ ഡിസ്റ്റർബ് ചെയ്തു എന്ന് ഞാൻ എഴുതിയത്. അത് വരെ കണ്ട പുരോഗമന ചിന്തകളുടെ ആഖ്യാനങ്ങളെ ഒടുക്കം കാറ്റിൽ പറത്തി എന്നാണു എനിക്ക് തോന്നിയത്. എന്ത് കൊണ്ട് അത് ശ്യാം പുഷ്കരന്റെ തൂലികയിൽ നിന്ന് സംഭവിച്ചു എന്ന ചിന്തയാണ് ഒരാഴ്ചയ്ക്ക് ശേഷം എന്നെ ഷമ്മിയുടെ ചേട്ടനിൽ എത്തിച്ചത്. ശ്യാം പുഷ്ക്കരൻ സൂചനകൾ നൽകിയിരുന്നു എന്ന് എനിക്ക് ഇപ്പോൾ തോന്നുന്നു. ഷമ്മിയെ സ്വന്തം വീട്ടുകാർ ഒഴിവാക്കുകയാരുന്നു എന്ന് ഇപ്പോൾ ആണ് മനസിലായത്. ഷമ്മി ഭക്ഷണം കഴിക്കുന്ന പാത്രങ്ങൾ ഉൾപ്പടെ സിമിയുടെ വീട്ടിൽ എത്തിക്കുന്ന ചേട്ടൻ. അതെ ഒരു പക്ഷെ അത് ഷമ്മിയുടെ OCDയുടെ സൂചന ആയിരിക്കാം എന്നേ ഞാൻ അപ്പോൾ കരുതിയുള്ളൂ. ഭക്ഷണം കഴിക്കാൻ ക്ഷണിക്കുമ്പോൾ ചേട്ടൻ കാണിക്കുന്ന സ്നേഹശൂന്യമായ പ്രതികരണം പുള്ളിയുടെ വ്യക്തിത്വത്തിന്റെ സൂചന ആയിരുന്നിരിക്കാം. സ്വയം കമ്പ്ലീറ്റ് മാൻ ആയി കാണുന്ന ഷമ്മി പക്ഷെ താമസിക്കുന്നത് ഭാര്യവീട്ടിലാണ്. ഏകദേശം സ്വന്തം വീട്ടിൽ നിന്ന് അല്ലെങ്കിൽ ചേട്ടന്റെ വീട്ടിൽ നിന്ന് പടി അടച്ചു ഇറക്കി ഉപേക്ഷിക്കപ്പെട്ട അവസ്ഥ. ഷമ്മി അത് ന്യായീകരിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. ഗൃഹനാഥന്റെ സ്ഥാനത്തേക്ക് തീന്മേശയിൽ കസേര വലിച്ചിടുന്ന ഷമ്മി ഒരു പക്ഷെ തനിക്കു ലഭിച്ച പുതിയ സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യത്തിന്റെയും അധികാരത്തിന്റെയും സൂചന ആയിരിക്കാം നൽകിയത്.ചേട്ടന്റെ കീഴിൽ തനിക്കു കിട്ടാതിരുന്നത് എല്ലാം സിമിയുടെ വീട്ടിൽ ഷമ്മി നേടുന്നു.കല്യാണം കഴിപ്പിച്ചു സ്വഭാവ വൈകല്യങ്ങൾ ചികിൽസിക്കുന്നത് ഒരു നാട്ടു നടപ്പാണല്ലോ. ചേട്ടനിൽ നിന്ന് ഷമ്മിക്ക് ലഭിച്ചിരുന്ന പരിഗണന എന്തായിരിക്കാം എന്ന് സിമിയുടെ ഫോൺ കോളിന് ഉള്ള പ്രതികരണത്തിൽ നിന്ന് മനസിലാക്കാം. മനോരോഗിയായ സഹോദരന് അർഹിക്കുന്ന പരിചരണം കൊടുക്കാതെ വിവാഹം കഴിപ്പിച്ചു ഒഴിവാക്കിയ ചേട്ടൻ വില്ലനും ഷമ്മിയെ വലയിട്ടു പിടിച്ച സഹോദരങ്ങൾ പൊതുസമൂഹവും ആയാൽ ഒരുപക്ഷെ കഥയിൽ നായകൻ അഥവാ ഹീറോ ഷമ്മി തന്നെ ആയിരിക്കാം.