Trance : Complex Questions, Simple Answers And Everything In Between.

Trance. Brings blinding lights and electronic music to my mind, and the viva voce sessions from my final semester at the University. Anwar Rasheed’s much anticipated film definitely has the former  elements but if you ask me if there’s more to it , I might as well go into a Trance. This is the second Fahadh Faasil film that I have had a hard time figuring out, in fact I haven’t .This is also without doubt Anwar Rasheed’s most complex film to date and the most ambitious in terms of content. Anwar Rasheed turned legend from a promising mainstream director with just one film, Ustad Hotel. My personal favorite remains his debut though. Then he turned producer for another millenial sensation, Bangalore Days. Trance had big names associated with all departments of filmmaking from the production to the cast to the technicians. The only novice was the writer. The most exciting factor was that Fahadh Fasil was teaming up with Anwar Rasheed. You don’t need more reasons to be entranced as a viewer, considering they didn’t take you for granted. Did they ?

It’s a  bold film, someone told me, when I asked for an initial response. Indeed it is. It attacks the many evangelical churches who have turned belief into business without mincing rather beeping words. But if the film hoped to turn controversy into business and do another Padmavat, the people on whom the cameras are trained here have turned out to be a bit smarter than their counterparts up North. It has to be the shrewd Malayali mind at work here when the film is being greeted with a rather cold response in terms of the blowback it expected to trigger. But then, these organisations have always operated incognito.Personally, to me, the movie was a visual and auditory experience that left much to be desired in terms of writing and content. In fact it looked like a derived version of Bradley Cooper’s Limitless. No, it’s not just the pill-popping that makes me feel this way. The protagonists may be totally different in their professions but the themes and the arc of the storylines and the fates of the main protagonists are indeed very similar. Then there was that scene right out of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which had a Malayalam version already with Dileep and Jagathy doing the honors.The film primes the audience with some complex questions and situations for most of its running time and then settles for some real simple cliched answers. Now I may have missed something too, but Anwar Rasheed is not that kind of a filmmaker, who is into ambiguous endings and storylines, which brings me to the writer again, of whom I know nothing about. There are questions that remain unanswered for the average audience when the movie endd and it shows on the rather empty halls, considering it’s a Fahadh Fasil vehicle.

Fahadh Fasil holds the film together with his performance and one would be tempted to say that he carries the film almost entirely on his shoulders if it wasn’t for Amal Neeras’s work as DoP and Resul Pookkutty’s immersive work in the sound department. I was curious early on as to what Pookkutty’s association with the film was all about. He more than just does his bit here, even when the writing falters. Aiding the writer also is the background score by Sushin Shyam, though it invoked the James Bond theme and another film which i took a note of can’t recall as I write this. Will save that for another update down the road. Gautam Menon as the baddie makes quite the impression though he fizzles out as if the writer just hit a block with the character. Dileesh Pothan is a changed man here and his character is the only one the audience could relate with, I felt, that of the quintessential middleman. Soubhin as a news show host looked odd early on but  he returned to his bumbling on screen self quickly.  Nazria remains an enigma, much like the film’s second half. You could always blame the audience for not getting a movie if you are from the Lijo Jose Pellissery school of filmmaking and just say that you have no plans to change and impress, which is an oxymoron if you ask me though. But then yeah Anwar Rasheed produced this film and spent his own money, but so did I when I purchased the ticket. Where’s my closure as a viewer ?

 

 

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.

Kumbalangi Nights : An Ensemble Of Great Visuals, Great Characters, Great Performances And Great Moments.

The names Fahadh Faasil, Soubin Shahir, Shyam Pushkaran, Shyju Khalid, Shane Nigam, Sreenath Bhasi and Dileesh Pothan in the credits for a single film, now that’s something you don’t get to see as often as you’d like to, if you happen to speak this language called Malayalam and have a thing for movies too. Ever since Aashiq Abu broke new ground in Malayalam Cinema a decade back we have seen subsets of these names coming together in every other film with someone from this unofficial collective of like minded artists, at the helm. These artists have played a role is establishing Kochi as the hub of Malayalam Cinema in the new century too, I think. People from this school of filmmaking were part of the teams that delivered gems like Maheshinte Prathikaram, Thondimuthalum Drikaskshiyum, Parava and Sudani From Nigeria, to name a few.  Shyam Pushkaran’s writing was something that you looked forward to, as much as to watching Fahadh working his magic, in recent times. Kumbalangi Nights looked promising early on for these very reasons exactly.

Set in the island village of Kumbalangi, which to me is familiar only as a nameboard on “ordinaries” and “fast passengers”- the flavours of the State bus service on offer to the commoner- the film tells the tale of a band of brothers from another mother, and father, to put it bluntly. It would be nothing less than a disrespect to the film itself if I start with any other aspect but the cinematography. If Shyju Khalid were to shoot your weeded backyard with his camera and then show it to you, you’d believe him if he told you that it was from a cottage set in the Swiss Alps. His frames make even the most ugliest structures look magnificent. The night shots are exquisite. It’s almost as if he has some kind of spell over light. Saiju Sreedharan works his magic too. The last time I saw a landscape so beautifully captured was in the Turkish film Once Upon A Time In Anatolia. Shyam Pushkaran’s writing has never taken us anywhere as viewers because his tales are set in places you have walked around yourself, youre at home, literally. It’s always far removed from the homes and social circles that we have come to accept as the norm in Malayalam Cinema over the years. There are deliberate attempts to break stereotypes and to infuse progressive narratives throughout here too, which is why the film disappointed me towards the end for it’s insensitive portrayal of mental illness. But that’s just me. Maybe it’s because the rest of the film is almost perfect why the climax hit me the way it did. Life in Shyam Pushkaran’s Kumbalangi is idyllic. The lives of the main protagonists are much like the tiny islands and groves where the story unfolds. They are isolated and aloof for most parts but they’re still an ecosystem that sustains eachother and do not have an existence on their own. This is ultimately the essence of the tale, I felt.

Soubhin Shahir, Shane Nigam, Sreenath Bhasi and Matthew Thomas play the brothers. Soubhin surprises us yet again with a moving portrayal. So does Shane Nigam. Sreenath Bhasi is subtle and effective. Matthew is the new kid on the block. But it’s Fahadh who is an enigma here. From playing lead in films as varied as Varathan and Njan Prakashan to playing second fiddle to a bunch of his peers here, that too as a character with absolutely no visible positive traits. He is indeed the antagonist here but you hardly notice that because you’re simply overawed by his performance. Debutante Anna Ben makes an impression in her girl next door avatar. Grace Antony plays sister to Anna’s and wife to Fahadh’s characters in a role that’s unlike that of the sisters and wives we have seen on the screen up till now, but are absoutely familiar with, in our daily lives. Madhu C.Narayan  makes his debut as a director and honestly, with names like Shyam Pushkaran, Dileesh Pothan, Shyju Khalid and Saiju Sreedharan aiding him in crucial departments, it’s too early to judge his skills as the man at the helm. There’s a Maddona and Child frame in the film at one point and if it’s indeed the director who actually conceived it, there’s promise I’d say.  Kumbalangi Nights is great cinema, almost.

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.

 

 

 

Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum : The Review.

Having been born and brought up in a place which lies midway or so on the span of the erstwhile NH 47 that stretches between Cherthala and Alappuzha, a question that I’ve had almost all my life and have never quite figured out yet is if I hailed from a village or a town or a hamlet, though technically its classified a village in the records of the State’s local self governance system.Hey, don’t blame me,the place never looked like the village from the social studies textbooks at school, it never had a winding mud road nor did it have a well around which people flocked to fetch water and i most certainly did not come across a bullock cart, ever.It did not look anything like the villages i got to see in the DD shows or in any of the movies I’d watched either, until “Thondimuthalum Drihsakshiyum” came along that is.

The locales in the film were familiar and mostly were places that i have visited or passed by countless times but apart from that what caught my eye is the authenticity with which the households and neighborhoods have been depicted.”Pullipulikalum Attinkuttiyum” and “Venicile Vyapari” did a decent job in that department but they were again set against the tried and tested filmy Alappuzha backdrop of backwaters and houseboats.”Thondimuthal” has to be the first malayalam movie to feature a “thara”, the traditional coir loom which is a regular fixture next to most homes in the coir belt of the district, especially Cherthala where the story is set.I guess this is what residents of Idukki experienced when they watched Dileesh Pothan’s debut movie too.Its safe to assume that this is where Shyam Pushkaran contributed the most in his creative director avatar,which obviously is an indicator of the inevitable next step for the writer, I think.

It’s not just the rustic appeal of the region that the makers have successfully translated on to the screen here, you realize when the story unfolds in layers before you for the next two hours.This has to be the first movie to address and acknowledge the stigma that caste is even to this day in a society that’s otherwise been a harbinger of social progress and change in many fields compared to other parts of the country.The movie makes subtle but pertinent statements about the comfort zones in which people of different castes tolerate each other and what happens when its breached.

The story soon shifts to the barren midlands of Kasargode and the stark change in the landscape which reflects in the countenance of the protagonists is a metaphor to their predicament too, I felt.Its against this backdrop that Fahadh Faasil gets his most dramatic introduction scene ever where he proves that when you’re as talented an actor as he is you don’t need acrobatics and ballistics to make an impact,all he uses here are his eyes.Credit here goes to the “brilliant” director who I assume conceived the sequence and to that master cinematographer for the execution beyond comparison.

This film can be read at so many levels but one thing that struck me most is the maturity it demands from the audience.If you’re looking for explanations and cues from every other character for the events on the screen, this film is not for you.In fact if anything turns out to be this film’s undoing it could be this subtlety, when it tries to convey the most significant of moments and themes in the quietest of ways on screen.People just might not get it.

Of late we have seen a surge in films where ensemble nondescript cast have made an impact but Thondimuthal turns out to be the mother of all those films with the entire police station cast stealing the show.The film would belong to them entirely if it weren’t for the stellar performances from Suraaj, Nimisha and of course the man himself. Fahadh has relegated himself in this film both in terms of the character he portrayed and screen time he had,but has delivered one of his most memorable performances and that’s something few of his contemporaries would be comfortable with or capable of, I think.To take a cue from a line in Maheshinte Prathikaram, after Mammooty of the yore he seems to be the only lead actor who’d take roles purely upon its merits rather than appearances and stature.