Selection Day | S01 | Netflix

Yet another Indian Original has debuted on Netflix and is based on Aravind Adiga’s eponymous novel. A Booker prize winner, cricket and Netflix, sounds like a match made in Indian binge-heaven. I haven’t read Adiga’s work and knew little of the book when I slouched on the couch and decided to netflix (v) the other day. For a nation obsessed with anything related to cricket, it’s a bit surprising that we do not have as many movies or shows based on this favorite sport of ours as we would have liked to have had. I mean, considering the number of movies that the Americans have made on Baseball and Football and Basketball and Boxing, we pale in comparsion given the fact that we are equally obsessed with the showbiz too. If I must name one, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal is the only film that did justice to the true spirit of the game I feel.

Selection Day chronicles the lives of two young boys from a village in Madhya Pradhesh, who are groomed by their father to be the best batsmen cricket has ever seen. Rajesh Tailang plays the father and you see him telling another  character early on that he married the mother of his children because she was a star hockey player who could mother champion sons for him. Grooming is a subtle word, considering his obsession with the cause and that being the Under- 16 selections for Mumbai. The show starts with him moving the kids to Mumbai as the day edges closer. Yash Doyle and Mohammad Samad play the champions to be. Samad was seen in the rage of the season, Tumbaad recently and is one actor to watch out for. Karanvir Malhotra is another new face. Mahesh Manjrekar reinvents himself as the reluctant coach Tommy Sir. Giving him company is television and stage veteran Ratna Pathak Shah. Shiv Pandit appears and disappears, literally. Akshay Oberoi plays an industrialist chasing dreams of a different kind. Making an impression in a couple of scenes as “Gulshan” is Dibyendu Battacharya and something tells me we are going to see more of him in the industry. The strength of the show is perfect casting and earnest performances from these actors with some great writing to help them do that too. I have to read the book before Season 2 comes out to tell you if it’s Adiga or the writers who have done the work here.

Much like the T20 version of cricket that’s being marketed  by cricket boards these days, Selection Day too keeps the episodes short, this helps when you binge on a regular weekend. In fact the whole running time is lesser than that of a Bollywood film. But that doesn’t take away any of the fun or the charm of the series. I think it’s safe to call it the Malgudi Days of our times. You’d infact find yourself wanting Selection Day to return faster than you want Sacred Games to. Adiga’s writing has been branded Dickensian by critics I’m told and Selection Day is no different from what I have witnessed. Udayan Prasad, the director has done a fine job of translating Adiga’s vision on to the screen. I’m divided now though, like a batsman eyeing the fielder and looking for that second run. I could wait for Season 2 to find out the fate of the characters or I could go get the book off the closest shelf and something tells me I’m not the only one in that predicament.

 

 

Njan Prakashan : Sreenivasan And Sathyan Anthikad Go On A Walk Down The Memory Lane, Take Fahadh Faasil Along.

The writer-director duo of Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan need no introduction in Malayalam Cinema. They have been keen observers of, and commentators on the  conundrum that Kerala  society is, for over three decades and their movies have made the average Malayali laugh their hearts out and think, to an extent. Not that anyone sane would expect Cinema of all things to bring about change in a Malayali. The best of both artists have come to the fore when they have collaborated, with Sandesham being hailed as their magnum opus. They teamed up for the first time in T.P Balagopalan M.A and have delivered some of the most memorable films of our times. One of the most talked about rather lamented “Mohanlals” of yesteryear is the one from the films by this duo, the “quintessential face of the common man” as you would have it in Malayalam Cinema, before the “other” Mohanlal, the one from another school of filmmaking entirely, that of Ranjith took over. Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan went on to make movies cast in the same dye with another actor who fit their bill, Jayaram. That grew old on the audience quickly thanks to the recurring themes in those movies. Sathyan Anthikad  found gold again recently, on his own though, with Fahadh Faasil. Oru Indian Pranayakadha  presented Fahadh in a previously unseen light and Sathyan Anthikad must have been as delighted as the audience with the results. Here was an actor who could finally carry the burden of their creative expectations with ease. It was only a matter of time before Sathyan dialed his pal and told him the news. Looks like he did that and hence, Njan Prakashan.

Njan Prakashan is basically an ensemble of all plot situations that we have come across in Sreenivasan- Sathyan Anthikad films to date. I think it is even safe to call it a self tribute of sorts that the duo have paid themselves here. It starts off with the Poland reference yes, though the joke has been over done in every other Malayalam film from the new crop I guess they still hold the right to use it. Then of course there’s the nod to the change of name from Mazha Peyunnu Madhalam Kottunnu. And the political party in town is still called RDP, saw that in at least two other recent films that I can count of. I could also count at least one  plot reference from their first collaboration  T.P Balagopalan M.A, that being Prakashan’s bonding with Salomi’s family and the subsequent rejection which reminded one of Mohanlal’s interaction with Balan.K.Nair who played dad to Shobhana’s character in T.P. The next significant re-enactment featured Sreenivasan himself where he managed to successfully infuse the scenes from Gandhinagar Second Street in which his character gets embrassed before the public and has a tryst with the law and gets branded a thief when goes out of his way to help his friend, into Njan Prakashan. This evoked some genuine lingering laughter in the audience in my part of the world and yes, me too. That brings us to the female characters in the film who serve as teachers in life lessons to Prakashan. They again bear shades of all Sathyan Anthikad leading ladies we have seen in the recent past, hard working young women who shoulder the burden of the family in the absence of a patriarch. The only surprise is the character played by Nikhila Vimal which is a first in Sathyan Anthikad films if I’m not wrong. I could still go on about the recurring themes but don’t get me wrong here, Njan Prakashan is indeed one of the better cinema experiences of the season still and the film has none other than Fahadh Faasil to thank for it. The man is easily the finest actor in the country today and in the hands of the right filmmaker he simply revels. He was a revelation in comedy scenes in Oru Indian Pranayakadha and he has picked up from where he left off in that film here in Njan Prakashan. When it comes to nuanced transformations and expressions, I would go so far as to say that even Mohanlal of the yore would pale in comparison when Fahadh is on a roll.

Sreenivasan has always been looked upon as a sympathiser of the Communist cause in the State though it’s with cynicism that he has portayed his leanings in his films. Here too he doesn’t hesitate to poke with a single line and that’s almost the only original tribute to vintage Sreenivasan, who in my book is the Woody Allen of Malayalam Cinema. Now this could be speculation entirely on my part but I can’t but help assuming that maybe Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan have had help from the younger generation to stay relevant with the jokes and the interests of the youth of the present, especially the women. This thought came to me because I noticed the name of Sreebala.K.Menon who made her debut after a stint in the Anthikad stable in the titles. Sreenivasan has also found space for his pet themes which have put him in the seat of controversy in the recent past. We get to see the Sreenivasan take on social issues from the migrant labor phenomenon to the waning interest in agriculture amongst the populace of the State but he makes sure that he doesn’t indulge in these personal themes which helps the film too. And the one statement that I would like to make the most here is that when a film that tickles your funny bones for most parts shifts shapes and transforms itself into a tearjerker with a couple of brilliant performers  like K.P.A.C Lalitha and Fahadh Faasil hell bent on working your tear ducts, just before the lights are about to come on, it’s simply not fair. I mean it’s not a pretty sight is it, seeing a fully grown man sporting a beard sitting there with tears rolling down his cheeks. Please, Mr.Sreenivasan and Mr.Anthikad, do everything but that.Nah, I’m just messing with you.

 

 

 

KGF Chapter 1 : A Visual Spectacle That Guns For Your Adrenal Glands.

KGF had people raving about it early on, making it one of the most anticipated films of the year so much so that it had even SRK looking over his shoulders. SRK’s only release of the year was up against a film that featured a star from regional cinema down south and the fact that it had him sweating was a sign that KGF was indeed worth the wait. So it was hardly surprising that KGF had it’s release delayed by a week here in the UAE. Despite it’s ambitions KGF was in fact the underdog here and there’s always that human impulse to root for the underdog. Here, it was also a case of art imitating life given the fact that the movie chronicled the life of a boy who grew up in the streets of Mumbai and went on to rise as the most dreaded gangster of the 80’s, the period which the movie unfolds in. I was unaware of the existence of Yash until the trailers of KGF popped up all over the social media speaking almost all major languages that we watch our films in. This is only the first chapter of the two part film franchise and KGF has only set the stage now, a pretty decent job at that too, I must say.

KGF is short for Kolar Gold Fields, the age old gold mines next to Bangalore and is set in the 80s though it starts off in the 1950s which shows the birth of the mines coinciding with the birth of its leading man. The film would safely fall into the historical fantasy genre though there’s more of fantasy than history here. You do get to see references to prominent historical figures and events that shaped the nation, namely Indira Gandhi though they have used a different name, and the global conflicts of the era. KGF is compared to the mythical El Dorado early on by the narrator, a journalist played by veteran stalwart Anant Nag. KGF belongs to the stable of the graphic novels that were made into films in the west like 300 and Sin City, only here there was no novel for the director to go by. The narration by Anant Nag is how the story unfolds and is one factor which brings 300 to mind apart from the visual style. KGF is sheer imagination and vision of a director, at work. The frames are rich in terms of texture and imagery. The early exchanges between characters are literally comic book stuff. The graphic novel style is maintained throughout and is deliberate. Some initial sequences felt like a Telugu movie directed by Zack Snyder. Some frames with Yash in it reminded me of Samurai Jack, the cult animated series. The scenes in Mumbai with the younger Rocky, the main protagonist felt like a tribute to the umpteen Amitabh Bachchan starres from the 70’s where he played a gangster. In fact, now that I think about it, the mother- son character dynamics of KGF draws comparisions with that of Deewar indeed. The pace at which the film moves fits the scale of the tale being told though you can’t help wonder at the sheer amount of scenes that must have been chopped at the editing table. The writing does take a back seat when the focus is on the visuals but you hardly notice because the whole movie is an experiement in fludity of motion and coherence of sequences, cinematically. Once the movie switches gears in the second half, there’s no stopping it and you can watch only in awe.

Every myth and tales of salvation from all cultures across the globe has a recurring theme, that of the promised saviour, the messiah who is destined to fight for the oppressed. We find  this narrative in our written history, our religious texts, our comics and our movies. Baahubali  and The Matrix Trilogy used this motif and KGF is no different. Writer – Director Prashant Neel has used his brilliant vision that puts him right up there the best in the business, globally to overcome the cliches that are associated with the theme. Aiding Yash in this process is a plethora of supporting actors and if you do not stay focused you would literally end up losing the plot. The writing gets better too towards the end and the makers have tried to innovate even with the most cliched of situations. There are constant references to cinematic heroes and their time old antics by a bunch of kids who  basically acts as prompts for the viewers, a cIever ploy again, by the director. There’s a self- awareness in it’s most outrageous moments.It’s these tiny tweaks the makes KGF worth your money and time. Remember this is not Marvel or DC, this is the Indian superhero and that would be any star you cheer for in your part of the country, in your language. Yash is the star who has dared to make you do that across the barriers of language and KGF is the film helping him do that. Now, I am indeed wondering if the tale of the gold fields and the oppression depitcted are allegories to the social and economic histories of the region but that remians to be seen in Chapter 2.

Dogs Of Berlin | S01 | Netflix

The  90s opened the Hollywood floodgates to India thanks to Mr.Manmohan Singh and his policies. Major American movies were hitting local cinemas without much delay. The advent of Cable TV that followed soon ensured that you were hooked early on with the trailers that popped up on the Star Network. No, teasers weren’t a thing back then. Con Air was released in 1997 and was a personal favorite for a long time. Nicolas Cage it seemed, was done with serious Cinema and was trying to turn himself into an action hero. Wouldn’t blame him, something as intense as Leaving Las Vegas could do that to any actor. There was a slew of action films that starred Cage in his macho avatar from The Rock to Face-Off to Gone in Sixty Seconds and they remain favorites from a time when everything awed me. Cable TV back then was the internet, to put things in perspective. Con Air even had me taking upside down push ups, yeah. The movie had a lot of bad guys who said a lot of cool lines, at least it sounded cool to me back then. But I was in for a shock when I watched the film recently, two decades later. The movie reeked of racism and prejudice. I guess this is what happens when your world view changes. You don’t actually need to look for “subtexts” in Con Air to see all that’s wrong with the film, it’s been laid out blatantly, unapologetically. If Con Air was criticised for its racist content at the time of it’s release, it didn’t reach my part of the world. These days everything is scrutinised, some deservingly, some not. Irrespective of intentions, the scanner is working round the clock. If you are a serious student of Cinema and the society, you tend to look for it, at times it hits you right away. And I don’t take upside down push ups anymore either.

Now, the reason why I deliberated extensively on Con Air is because I chanced upon Dogs Of Berlin, a German Original on Nefltix the other day and was mid way into the first episode when I found myself asking if this too was biased and it bothered me because I liked what I had seen already. I didn’t want the urge to read into the subtexts to ruin this for me. More than being just a source of entertainment the most important aspect of cinema that fascinates me is the fact that it is the universal language that connects us human beings despite the geographic, genetic and cultural differences that we use to differentiate and identify eachother with, on a daily basis. I have said this aloud more than once. This is even more true in this age of unlimited exposure thanks to the internet. Netflix, Prime and other streaming portals have magnfiied this exposure by facilitating access to innumerable shows from other countries too. Dogs Of Berlin, which debuted on Netflix this month is the second German series to catch my eye, the other being Dark. Run Lola Run, The Lives Of Others and Der Baader Meinhoff Komplex are the only German films that I have watched and they were fine examples of German Cinema. Dogs Of Berlin showed promise early on and hence my apprehensions too.

Dogs Of Berlin looked different and relevant even with the minimal understanding I had of the present day German society. Cars and football are what comes to mind first when one thinks of Germany and of course it’s Nazi past. In stark contrast to that chequered past, Germany under Angela Merkel has had a different approach towards migrants and asylum seekers, especially in the wake of the Syrian crisis. Merkel’s policies were even blamed for having triggered the migrant crisis in Europe. Though it doesn’t exactly unfold against the backdrop of this migration, Dogs Of Berlin does deal with the German society that’s now a melting pot of cultures and the conflicts that are inevitable in such a scenario. The series is about an investigation into the death of a German footballer of Turkish origin on the eve of a football match between Turkey and Germany. There are multiple narratives woven into the story and they function in perfect cohesion as the series progresses, with the precision of a BMW engine. The death is discovered by a German police officer who has a gambling problem and is essentially the bad cop of the tale here. It does’nt help that he used to be a neo-nazi and that his brother who sports a moustache and a Hitler haircut and estranged mother are still very much a part of the organisation in Berlin. The good cop is another German, but of Turkish origin and is a representative of the Turkish diaspora in German, which I later found out, was substantial. The investigation is essentially a tour of the German underworld. We are introduced to the Lebanese Mafia in Berlin early on and they are the drug pushers, the Yugoslavs are not far behind with their grip on the football bookkeeping, there’s a Turkish biker gang who lament that they had to settle for  the protection racket and of course there’s the Neo-Nazis who hate everything that’s not German by heritage.

The German Turk and the German German are forced to team up due to political reasons but they have no love lost for each other. The investigators have their own agendas and  their share of personal problems which ultimately catch up with their professional lives as the tale progresses. The German cop’s wife has her set of  demons that she is forced to deal with on her own, which doesn’t end well for him or her. The cop on the other hand is having an affair with his childhood friend. The Turk is gay and has daddy issues. His father refuses to accept him for what he is and he is an emotional wreck. His ex on the other hand is dating the Lebanese Mafia kingpin who in turn is  dealing with a  younger brother who wants to be top dog in the organisation. This brother also wants a piece of the betting business run by the Slavs and is tyring to turn a promising player of African origin who just debuted on the national team. Thrown in the midst of these are a couple of  other characters  who have a story of their own but they fit perfectly into the jigsaw that this series is. The series is highly provocative and even hints at corruption and coercion that goes up to the highest echelons of the German football administraion. Initially you cant but  help notice that the makers have portrayed the outsiders as the ones on the wrong side of the law  mostly or as the ones who are tempted to stray. The Neo-Nazis get a rather sympathetic portrayal I coudn’t but help notice and the series justifies their existence by the pitching them as a reaction to the menace the immigrant gangs have become. Though the series takes the Dan Brown way out of this web of deceit and deception at the end, what’s  commendable is fact that despite the staggering number of parallel narratives, the series stays on course for most part. Apart from getting to know a bunch of talented German actors, thanks to the series, I did end up learning the German word for migrant workers, Gastarbeiter. One man’s Bengali is another man’s Gastarbeiter, to put things in perspective.

 

 

Zero : A Love Story Of Astronomical Proportions.

Bollywood, having tested all earthly possible scenarios, has resorted to the final frontier, space, to try and keep SRK from getting the girl in Zero. This time around it’s not Pardes, its outer space. Hollywood has thrown space missions our way for all kinds of reasons, well closer to home recently the Tamil film industry too ventured into the zero gravity realm to save the world but who else but Shah Rukh Khan to take on deep space for the sake of simple unadulterated love aka pyar aka mohabbat. Yes, I am talking about an entire space mission. NASA would have retorted if their name was associated with a idea like that, so the makers have used a made up acronym NSAR in the film. If you are wondering what space has to do with the story of an abusive vertically challenged man from North India , I still havn’t figured that out yet though it’s been a couple of hours since I have watched the film. But I’m not complaining. Nobody owns space, yet. For a country that managed the cheapest Mars orbiters, we have every right to send SRK to space for any which reason we want and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

Personally, I’ll admit that I am always a bit wary when SRK experiments in his films. The scenes from the trailer reminded me of Fan, maybe it was that color tone and of course the change in physical appearance. Speaking of physical appearances the makers have pulled it off with precision and the visual effects are world class. But I had the impression that this time around it was the VFX that had a hard time catching up with the actor. SRK has unleashed himself like never before as Baua Singh. The man has travelled far from the Rajs and Rahuls of his prime and Baua is from another universe entirely but the sheer energy he has infused into the character is a testimony to the fact that if there’s anything that Shah Rukh Khan knows, it’s indeed to entertain, and how!. Anushka Sharma plays Afia, another disabled character and I must say it’s the most difficult role in the film from an actor’s perspective and she has put on a brave performance. It’s a thin line she’s walking here with her efforts at risk being written off as miming. She saves herself here, I think. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub plays sidekick to Bauua and is again a disabled character. Tigmanshu Dhulia plays dad to Bauua and is one character that should have had more screen time with SRK’s, I feel.

The whole premise gives political correctness a toss and the filmmaker’s justification as expressed by a main character is that a disabled person yearns to be treated as a normal person which essentially defines the equation between Bauua and Afia. Then we have Katrina Kaif who plays a troubled movie star. Again, how Bauua connects with her character or even Anushka’s for that matter is the stuff of legendary Bollywood scripting  but hey, this is how we like it over here and expect no apologies either. Madhavan and Abhay Deol make brief appearances but when SRK is on fire for almost three hours , you hardly notice. Speaking of appearances, SRK displays his clout in the industry with some scenes where almost all his leading ladies from yesteryear and recent past doing cameos. Shridevi gets most screentime I think and the scene is surreal and disturbing, considering the tragedy. Coming back to the film again, I would like to think that this is Bollywood’s rather SRK’s answer to Forrest Gump. Hell, Forrest Gump took home the Oscars for Film, Actor, Director, VFX, Editing and Adapted Screeplay that year.If we, as an audience or critics even had absolutely no problems with  how disability was portayed by Tom Hanks, I don’t see why we should have any with Zero either. Yes, Bollywood is a different animal entirely which is to say we are a diverse audience which ultimately reflects in the movies that our industries churn out. SRK is not looking for Oscars here and like Bauua he doesn’t want your sympathy either and he makes sure there’s none. You end up hating it or loving it. It’s that simple. The bottom line is that when Shah Rukh Khan sets out to get a girl, size does not matter, nor does space.

 

 

Andhadhun : In Retrospect.

Spoiler Alert ! Andhadhun, I think was one of the best movies to hit the screens this year and Sriram Raghavan’s return to fine form. Even wrote a piece on it but I honestly never gave the ending much thought until Sandeep brought it up the other day. Yeah, I guess this is what happens when you start writing your own reviews and stop looking up movie info online, you miss out on perspectives and trivia. Personally I do that to stay original, an impressionable mind I have, alas. Back when I watched the film in the theatre nextdoor, the part where Ayushman Khurrana’s character hits the can with his cane was just an indication that he was not blind anymore.The only fact that registered in my mind rather I was receptive of, was the simple explanation that he had moved on having escaped from the shady doctor and the femme fatale thanks to the random rabbit. Now that Hafeez had also asked me about the ending I had little choice but to watch the ending again, thanks to the Netflix progress bar.

Now to get down to the brass tacks, this is what I found, the narrative of the film ends from the audience’s perpsective when the doctor and the blind Akash are driving in a car with Tabu in the boot. The doctor tells him he would give him a cut once Tabu’s liver is sold and that he can get his cornea replaced too, if its a match.Akash doesn’t say much, rather he’s contemplating. Then the doctor dishes out his piece of instant philosophy, Whats’s life, it all depends on the “liver”. A tractor passes, carrying a bunch of people singing prayers aloud, chimes and all (1). With that we see the car driving down the road , off into the distance with a lonley tree standing guard by the side (2). That’s essentially where us viewers get off from the car too and the tree is our landmark for a reason, I can’t but help feel.Next, we see Radhika Apte’s Sohpie meeting Akash somewhere in Europe, as the movie prompts and we are at a point where she asks, and then?, echoing our thoughts.

The movie cuts back to scene in the car and we are at the point where the doctor just finishes his liver line. No chants, no chimes, no tractor this time around though, conspicuous by absence as they say (3). Akash, in his own version is now righteous, trying to convince the doctor otherwise when there’s thumping in the boot and the doctor stops to put Tabu out of her misery. He gets out and walks over to the boot. You see that the car has stopped by the tree (4) . To me atleast, this is proof enough of what happened, with the tree and the spot where the car stops being the tell-tale signs, literally. It’s safe to assume now that Akash is indeed lying to Sophie and most probably he decided to join the doctor in his little scheme. But then, is it that simple again, why the one eyed rabbit? why the cane  with a rabbit carved on the knob in his arms?. Red herrings, maybe. Nolan is not the only one who can spin a top, I guess.

 

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Odiyan : V.A Shrikumar Passes, Not With Flying Colors Though.

Wouldn’t blame V.A Shrikumar if he is tempted to think that his personal D-Day at the Box Office was as bad as the one the Allied had on the beaches of Normandy. On the eve of the release a hartal was declared and fans unleashed their wrath on the social media pages of the political party in question. The makers went on to announce that the shows wouldn’t be cancelled and social media was rife with jokes in no time. Today as i write this, the jury has been out since the wee hours and I woke up to a spate of distasteful comments on the social media pages of the movie and the director though even the most vile of detractors would think twice before doing that on the lead actor’s page considering the kind of clout and sway he holds over the Malayalam film industry and the viewers at large. But the fact remains that the box office is a different beast entirely, impervious to any kind of influence. Most of the comments blamed the director of sky rocketing expectations with the pre release hype. By the time I was in for the film, people were talking about how the movie should be  inducted as a case study in business schools. Well, did you expect an ad-man -turned – director to not market his debut film with the biggest star in Malayalam using all the tricks in his bag?  Dude’s got brains and you have to hand it to him and I for one do not feel that he has taken me on a ride, having watched the 10 am show in the UAE today.

The movie starts off in Varanasi and wastes no time in presenting an aged but heroic Odiyan Manikyan before the audience. Mammooty then takes over during the titles narrating a brief history of the Odiyan clan which ends with the return of the dreaded Odiyan to his home, the rustic Palakkadan village Thenkurissi. Most of the story is told in flashbacks which takes us to a time when electricity had still not reached the lands. The odiyan relies on darkness and the psychology of fear to practice his “art” as he prefers to call it. To put things in perspective for the uninitiated, the odiyan is not too different from the Batman Nolan presented before us  in Batman Begins but unlike Batman, odiyan’s services are on sale for those in need and that’s how he makes his living when he is not helping in the household of Prabha, played by  Manju Warrier. Batman again was trained by Ras Al Ghul in Ninjutsu while Manikyan is trained by his grandfater, an odiyan himself. The much hyped younger avatar of Mohanlal dominates most of the screentime in comparision to the aged odiyan. The makers have tried to portray the craft of the odiyan realistically here. Though V.A Shrikumar claimed early on that the CGI would be world class, you can’t but help notice that not much of it has gone into the depiction of the actual odi act, which is not a bad thing if you ask me and more importantly the director and the writer have taken care not to insult the intelligence of the viewer. You would find yourself thinking that maybe this is indeed how the legendary odiyans went about their profession, in the dark. You see a deliberate choice on the part of the makers to stick to reality and to not cross over into the realm of fantasy for most parts, though there are indeed some conflicting sequences. In addition to electric bulbs, playing the antagonist to Manikyan is Prakash Raj as  Karuman Nair who is obsessed with Prabha. The references to the color of the skin are borderline racist and I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t go down well in this age of political correctness. Shammi Thilakan interestingly dubs again for a Tamil actor playing villain to Mohanlal and is obviously a deliberate tribute of sorts by Shrikumar to the iconic Devasuram. There is some unforced humor in the film mostly delivered by a restrained Siddique.Sana Altaf and Kailash have done justice to their roles too.There are more than a couple of songs and the one that stands out most is Kondoram. Though a bit untimely, its the most beautiful in terms of music and visuals too,  thanks to a stunning Manju Warrier. It is indeed refreshing to see a leading lady on the other side of forty giving the younger crop a run for their money, and how.

The story proceeds at an even pace and there are quite a few number of scenes where Mohanlal and Manju Warrier get to flex their acting muscles. The younger odiyan is all smiles mostly but the aged odiyan is someone who regrets his actions and is weighed down by guilt. He believes that he bears the curse for the actions of his ancestors. Mohanlal has translated this shift in odiyan’s perspective in his inimitable style, in the most subtle of ways, so much so that you wouldn’t realise this until long after you have left the theatres. The action sequences might not blow you away but are decently executed. Mohanlal briefly engages in a stick fight reminiscent of the Kilukkam dhobi ghat fight. While most of the movie worked for me, the climax came of as a bit disappointing and gave the impression that the director lost his vision and rushed through the proceedings towards the end. Despite Peter Hein the final showdown doesn’t quite work. The movie deserved a better ending and this could be attributed to Shrikumar’s lack of experience in feature cinema but then again it’s uneducated speculation on my part. The movie is indeed a tad too long, at three hours but hey, I’m not complaining. Having said that, V.A Shrikumar has made more than a decent debut if you ask me. Yes, the movie is not Narasimham but that was almost two decades back and even I have moved on , as a fan. Believe me when I tell you that the film certainly did not deserve the kind of onslaught that was meted out early on, literally. By the time the first half of the film was over, I was angry and relieved, for the right reasons. But given the events in the recent past that rocked the Malayalam film industry which involved the major names associated with the film, there’s always room for malice. The movie gets cocky too when it takes a dig at Communists. That might not go down well especially when the leading man’s political ambitions are a topic of hot speculation  in the state. But none of these factors should stop you from finding out for yourself, after all I am a self confessed fan. Not a fan boy though.There’s a difference but I’ll save that for another day.