P for Paithrukam and Pingami

Paithrukam – I am not sure of an exact one-word English substitute for the word; I guess ‘paternal affection/duty’ would come close to the title’s meaning. With a brilliant screenplay by Kaloor Dennis, from a story by George Vettam and excellent direction by Jayaraj. The story is set in a family of Kerala Brahmin priests headed by Devadathan Chemmathiripadu played by Narendra Prasad. He is a renowned Vedic scholar and after conducting the Somayagam he is conferred the title of Somayyaji. He has two sons – Somadathan played by Suresh Gopi who is in Delhi to become a journalist and Chithrabhanu played by Jayaram who assists his father in various rituals.

The basic premise of the story is the purported conflict between religion/rituals and scientific thinking. The movie examines the importance of rituals in life and how there is a higher power, which cannot be questioned.

Somadathan return to the village as an atheist and political activist he goes about speaking against the rituals and traditions and the existence of God and marries Gayathri his lover. They take up residence in an old dilapidated house and destroy the idols of the ‘Sarpa Devangal’ (Snake Gods) while cleaning the house.

Chithrabhanu is in love with a girl from a neighbouring village and expresses his wishes to his mother who speaks to Somayyaji. Then comes the shocker when his father says that a tragic flaw in his horoscope indicates that Chithrabhanu may die by the time he is 27 years old. Broken-hearted he commits suicide. Somadathan who loves his brother a lot is enraged and accuses his father of driving his younger brother to death.

In the interim Gayathri suffers miscarriages and loses the child in the womb itself. She is also haunted by dreams of snakes and speaks to her mother-in-law. This result sin a sarpadosha puja being done to which Somadathan reacts angrily. Gayathri moves to the main house and in the loving care of her mother-in-law safely gives birth to a boy. Somadathan again states that his son will grow up like him and should not be brought up as per Vedic traditions.

As the village suffers from drought the elders decide to conduct an Athirathram to please Lord Indra and ensure bountiful rains and a good harvest. Somadathan again ridicules his father who is in charge of the ceremony and asks him if the ceremony fails will he leave the pursuit of the Vedas. His father accepts this and says if the ceremony is successful would Somadathan accept the presence of God and the Vedas!

In a fascinating climax as the ceremony goes along across twelve days; there is no sign of rain and the atheists continue to protest. Lo and behold on the final day the rains pour. Somadathan is dumbfounded and he accepts defeat. Somayaji lost in the intesnsity of his prayers, meditates and sacrifices his life. The movie ends showing Somadathan as the new priest and continuing the Vedic traditions for which his father gave up his life.

The movie had fantastic songs composed by SP Venkitesh and written by Kaithaparam.

Pingami – ‘Follower’

A revenge saga with a difference; wherein the hero attempts to rescue an injured stranger and discovers a diary that reveals his own secret history. A fascinating premise right! Directed by Sathyan Anthikad with a story by Reghunath Paleri and with a powerful starcast – Thilakan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Innocent, Janardhanan, Sukumaran, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Kanaka, Puneet Issarr and others. The movie is an investigative thriller with quite a few twists and generous comic sequences.

Mohanlal plays Captain Vijay Menon on military-leave; on reaching his ancestral village he stumbles upon an accident victim Kuamran played by Thilakan and takes him to the hospital – where he dies. He discovers Kumaran’s diary and as he read it he discovers the truth about his own identity and realises that his parents were killed by the same group of people who killed Kumaran.

The movie brilliantly depicts how Vijay tracks down each of the perpetrators of the crime and extracts revenge. There are some brilliant scenes where he emerges out of a swimming pool and strikes fear into the hearts of the villains. In another sequence Innocent playing a corrupt lawyer is kidnapped and made to wear exploding briefs and made to confess!

The final showdown in an isolated guesthouse in the hills is well-done with some good fight sequences. The movie ends with a bomb-blast and revenge is extracted!

A romantic angle between Sridevi played by Kanaka – Kumaran’s daughter is another highlight!

Jagathy as Kutti Hassan – Vijay’s friend is a laugh-riot. His combination scenes with Innocent and the exploding briefs evoke laughter!

Perhaps not a great movie – but still figures in this list because of the interesting premise of the tale. I would love to see this movie remade with a new bunch of stars and Lalettan playing Thilakan’s role!

Wishlist – 1 – ‘Panchagni’ – Am ashamed to call myself a Lalettan fan as I have not seen this gem yet :(!

Wishlist – 2 – ‘Pavithram’ very close to my heart and I feel I will break into tears if I write a detailed post about the movie. So I leave you with a song that I treasure and cherish!

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O for ‘Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varai’

It is Vishu today – Happy Vishu to all my readers 🙂 – the festival ushers in the new year!

It is the letter ‘O’ today and though many of you dear readers would have thought this would be a post dedicated to the historical classic – ‘Oru Vadakan Veeragatha’ – I have picked something else.

1986 was a fascinating year for Mohanlal as he essayed a whole variety of roles and practically won the hearts of all Malayalees with his movies. The movie that we examine today is a fascinating tale of love lost, found and lost again! A gem of a movie called ‘Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varai’– when translated it means ‘From One to Zero’.

The movie is about Aleena (Asha Jayaram) a young widow living in a lovely little cottage with her sweet little four-year old daughter Deepamol (Geetu Mohandas). Aleena pines for love and yearns for the love of her husband played by Prathap Pothan who is dead and was a musician. We have a lovely song which shows him conducting a music piece.

Aleena works as a painter and things go along as mother and daughter find comfort in each other. There is a telephone with which Deepamol dials random numbers and speaks to people. One such day she dials a number and speaks to her Telephone Uncle with whom she instantly connects and discovers a paternal bond. For a major part of the movie we do not see Mohanlal at all and just hear his voice as he speaks to Deepamol and Aleena.

The powerful bond between all three characters grows just through the telephone, which becomes an integral part of the movie. Finally after much persuasion, Telephone Uncle promises to visit Deepamol on her birthday and both mother and daughter wait eagerly for the ‘stranger’ to visit them.

I will not reveal the climax – it will be gross injustice to reveal what happens when Telephone Uncle finally meets Aleena and Deepamol. Please watch this movie; available on YouTube; stream and watch it!

The movie won the debutante director Raghunath Paleri an award, Geethu Mohandas won the best child artiste (female) award and Shaji Karun won an award for cinematography. Shaji would go on to become a successful ‘art-film’ director in his own right. The movie had lovely songs tuned by Mohan Sithara and written by ONV Kurup.

End the post with a beautiful song from the movie:

L for Lohithadas and Lal Salaam

AK Lohithadas was Malayalam cinema’s most gifted screenwriter. For more than two decades he gave us marvellous stories and scripts. Some of Malayalam cinema’s biggest blockbusters have the screenwriting credentials of Lohithadas to support them. Kireedam, His Highness Abdullah, Amaram to name a few. He also directed some movies and discovered a gem called Meera Jasmine and gave her a career-defining role in Kasthuriman.

Here I shall write briefly about one of his screenwriting successes – ‘Thooval Kottaram’ – ‘Palace of Feathers’. There is a special connection as the movie features my ancestral village Thiruvilvamala prominently in the movie. The movie starts Jayaram, Sukanya, Manju Warrier, Dileep, Oduvil Unni Krishnan and others.

Jayaram plays the role of Mohanachandran a struggling lawyer who is an accomplished chenda player and participates in various temple festivals. He dons various roles to make ends meet and support his extended family. He is engaged to be married to Sujatha played with grace by Sukanya the daughter of Oduvil Unnikrishnan in the movie.

How the lives of all these people change when Devaprabha played by Manju Warrier and her grandfather descendants of royal lineage arrive in the village is beautifully narrated. Sujatha feels jealous of Devaprabha. Devaprabha is recovering from the death of her brother which has affected her mental stability. She improves and gradually becomes happier in the company of Mohanachandran.

The movie has beautiful songs and examines the importance of companionship, friendship, love and brotherly affection from various aspects. Directed by Sathyan Anthikad the movie was a blockbuster.

LAL SALAAM
This was again a casting coup of sorts pitting some of the best actors and actresses of Malayalam cinema together. Mohanlal, Murali, Geetha, Urvashi, Jagadhi, Madhu, Nedumudi Venu and others. A semi-fictionalised account of the growth of the Communist Marxist Party in Kerala. The movie is a tale of three comrades – Stephen (Mohanlal), Antony (Murali) and Sethulakshmi (Geetha). Antony and Sethulakshmi love each other and Stephen is in love with the daughter of the local zamindar – Annamma.

The movie covers two distinct stages in the lives of its principal characters – one – when the CPM is a banned outfit and they are hunted across the state and are forced into hiding. They are eventually captured and arrested and sentenced to a prison term. Two – Their return as party-loyalists who eventually get a role in the new government that is elected.How the shift in power affects their lives – the harsh realities of power, politics and the true sentiments of people is wonderfully brought out.

Directed by Venu Nagavalli with a story by Cherian Kalpakavadi – the movie was a massive hit! A great watch for its political truths and excellent portrayal by the principal cast of the movie.

G for Godfather

OK hold on to your socks not the Mario Puzo gem brought to life by Marlon Brando – that’s another cup of green tea for another pleasant day!

Today we look at on of the best Malayalam comedies that was remade to great success in multiple Indian languages. The movie is ‘Godfather’ written and directed by the magic-duo of Siddique-Lal. Look at the sheer acting power of the cast below:

N. N. Pillai – Anjooran
Mukesh – Ramabhadran
Kanaka – Malu
Jagadish – Mayin Kutty
Innocent – Swaminathan
Thilakan – Balaraman
Philomina – Achamma
Siddique – Veerabhadran
K. P. A. C. Lalitha – Kochammini
Bheeman Raghu – Premachandran

The movie is basically the tale of two rich families, one led by an old man Anjooran with his four sons! The other family is led by the iron-lady Achamma. How the youngest scions of each family fall in love and unite the families is told in a hilarious manner with some stand-out performances. The movie also features a hit melody – Pookalam vannu Pookalam!

Ramabhadran his friend Mayin Kutty and Malu are all part of the same college campus; Ramabhadran insults Malu at every given opportunity and his family is also responsible for thwarting a marriage proposal that had come her way. Achamma hatches a plot where she instructs Malu to make Ramabhadran fall in love with her and then destroy the unity of Ramabhadran and his brothers.

Inevitably as it happens the charade turns real and Malu and Ramabhadran are deeply madly in love!

Ramabhadran has to convince his brothers and father to accept his love for Malu. Then a truth is discovered that Swaminathan played by Innocent is actually married to Kochammini dance-teacher and has children all living far away in another village. He leads a dual-identity. As Ramabhadran threatens to tell the truth some real mad-cap comedy plays on-screen. The sequences are seen to believed! Anjooran confronts Swaminathan – Swaminathan says that he is not Swaminathan – Anjooran says slap me to prove that! In utter confusion Swaminathan slaps another brother and says – I am not Swami but you are old enough to be my father – so how can I slap you!

He rushes home before his father and brothers can reach! In utter disbelief they look at Swami getting ready for an oil-bath at home! The expressions on the faces of everyone make the audience laugh and root for Swami! Then Kochammini comes with her children and threatens to commit suicide unless she is not recognised and accepted by the family! Finally the problem is resolved!

On a parallel track Achamma arranges for Malu to be married to someone else. How the marriage plans are thwarted by the motley group led by Ramabhadran, Mayin Kutty and the other brothers is hilariously portrayed! Finally after epic confusion involving the groom being replaced and the catch-n-catch game with the mangalsutra/thali (ceremonial wedding necklace) – chaos is resolved and Ramabhadran and Malu are pronounced man and wife!

Things end on a happy note as Anjooran relaxes his ‘no-woman in my home policy’ and everything ends on a positive and fun-filled note!

Jagadish’s brilliant comic-timing and idiotic antics deserve special praise as well! There’s a sequence where the dogs at Malu’s home bark and indicate his hiding place. He calmly says he is Malu’s friend and asks for study-notes! The dead-pan expression is simply superb! His race to get a taxi for everyone to leave Swaminathan’s house is another hit scene!

The movie was remade as Hulchul in Hindi with Paresh Rawal in Innocent’s role and Akshay Khanna and Kareena Kapoor in the lead! The movie was a hit! The movie was a success in Kannada and Telugu as well. Surprisingly the movie has not been remade in Tamil yet!

Do not miss this comic gem! I can watch this one and In Harihar Nagar another gem from Siddique-Lal a million times and still not get bored!

F for Francis – Saint Francis – Francis Punyalan!

OK this is a small trick but then I did not want to take a sub-par movie and frame a review for it just for the sake of the Blogging Challenge. Plus I don’t know how frequent my writing will be post Feb-17 – so any bit of spare time with access to the internet will result in something being written and published for the Blogging Challenge.

The movie in question is actually a sweet little gem titled ‘Pranchiyettan and the Saint’ starring Mammooty.

The movie is the tale of a simple rice trader played by Mammootty who is quite rich; but lacks sophisitcation or a great education. A chance encounter of his with that of Punyalan St. Francis of Assisi and how his life changes is what is depicted in the story. 

Co-starring Jagadhi Sreekumar, Priya Mani, Tini Tom, Khushboo and others; this is a feel-good movie that reiterates the simple logic that ‘sincerity of purpose and a noble heart’ willhelp things get done. It is not one’s wealth, education or titles and awards that matter; but the desire and willingness to help others that counts.

Jagadhi is hired as a tutor to help coach a boy in clearing his Board Exams. The sequences involving Jagadhi and the boy are hilarious!

Innocent who plays Vasu Menon has some of the best lines in the movie and his interactions with Mammootty and the quest for praise and awards is really well done. There is a humourous take on an Oscar-winner shamelessly satirising Resul Pookutty’s achievements.

The movie was scripted, produced and directed by Ranjit and released in 2010. The movie was a phenomenal success and was a clean and hilarious look at modern society and the idiosyncrasies of its people!

D for Devasuram

Mangalaserry Neelakandan, ah the name evokes so many memories. This was the movie that established Mohanlal’s mass appeal for another generation of movie-lovers. With a story by Ranjith based on a real life character called Mullasserry Rajagopalan. The story examines the concept of ‘karma’ the fruits of our actions in an entertaining manner.

The movie was directed by acclaimed movie-maker IV Sasi someone who has given hits with both the Mohanlal and Mammootty. The tale is set in a Kerala village and traces the rivalry of two well-off heirs of strong independent and rich clans. Mangalaserry Neelakandan played by Mohanlal and Mundakkal Shekaran played by Napoleon. Neelakandan whiles away his time and money in idle pursuits of alcohol, some music, some dance and general fun; while his estate is managed by Warrier played by Innocent in a really well done role.

In a skirmish Neelakandan’s friend kills Shekaran’s uncle accidentally and Shekaran plots his revenge aiming to destroy Neelakandan.

In the interim, the romantic interlude arrives in the form of Bhanumathi played by Revathi – a classical dancer. In a burst of male ego, Neelakandan uses his influence to force Bhanumathi to dance in his house instead of letting her perform at the temple festival. This is deemed an insult as a dance dedicated to the gods ends up as a performance for a demon-like man. Bhanumathi curses Neelakandan at the end of the performance and walks away in tears. This mellows Neelakandan and he attempts to change and helps Bhanu’s family and tries to convince her to resume dancing again. But Bhanu steadfastly refuses to do so.

There is a moment of epiphany, when Neelakandan’s widowed mother confesses that in reality he is not the progeny of the hailed Managalserry tharavad but he is a bastard son, born of another man. As Neelakandan’s world crumbles around him he realises that all his bravado, pumped up super-arrogant male ego and wealth is the result of a lie. The viewer slowly sees a gentler and more humane side of Neelakandan and Bhanu also realises that an iota of goodness and humanity exists in the demon. One night Shekaran and his gang attack Neelakandan and injure him seriously causing grievous injury to Neelakandan’s legs.

Bhanu realises that her curse has proved true and is ridden by guilt. With care, love and Ayurvedic treatment she nurses Neelakandan back to good health and invariably falls in love with him. Neelakandan tries to distance himself from Bhanu considering her future and even attempts to arrange a dance performance for her in Delhi. But as things pan out – she professes her love for him and with the blessings of Warrier their wedding is arranged.

All this while Shekaran continues to simmer in anger and plans to once again wreak havoc in the life of Neelakandan by insulting him in front of the whole village. He arranges for Bhanu to be abducted and kept in captivity and then at the temple festival begins beating Neelakandan he keeps taunting him telling if he retaliates his men would kill Bhanu. Blow after blow rains on Neelakandan and he bears the pain fearing for the love of his life.

Friends to the rescue:
Neelakandan’s friends rescue Bhanu and as this message reaches Neelakandan, the demon within him is unleashed and a brutal man-to-man hand-to-hand combat begins between the two. Eventually in a powerful climax Neelakandan picks up a ceremonial sword and cuts off Shekaran’s right hand; proclaiming – ‘Enough is enough Shekaran, I want to live in peace and for that I am taking this hand of yours.’

Music:
With lyrics by Girish Puttencherry, music by MG Radhakrishnan and a rousing background score by SP Venkitesh the soundtrack was exceptional. Angopangan sung by KS Chitra, Sooryakireedam by MG Sreekumar and Sree Paadam by MG Sreekumar and KS Chitra evoke a lot of emotions.

The movie was a blockbuster and set the benchmark for Mohanlal’s larger than life image. Some years later a sequel titled ‘Ravanaprabhu’ was released with MOhanlal in a double-role as father and son and retained the core cast of Devasuram. Ravana Prabhu also did good business with a melodious number – Ariyaadhe, Ariyaadhe’ picturised on Mohanlal and Vasundhara Das.

I present the climax of the movie available on YouTube – power-packed finish! Watch the full movie, you will not be disappointed!

C for Chanakyan

Not many people realise that Kamal Hassan has also acted in a fair number of Malayalam movies as well.

We have seen many one-film wonders who disappoint us with their subsequent efforts. Or they raise the bar so high with their first effort that everything else that follows pales in comparison. TK Rajeev Kumar knows this first-hand, his first film Chanakyan starring Kamal, Thilakan, Jayaram and the heart-breakingly beautiful Urmilla Matondkar who would go on to sway the hearts of many a teen and man in Rangeela’s songs!

Chanakyan is a revisionist revenge saga if I may use the phrase wherein Johnson a music teacher played by Kamal falls in love with Renu played by Urmilla. Renu is a politician’s daughter – Madhava Menon – played with finesse by Thilakan. The over-protective father attempts to dissuade the young musician’s love for his daughter; but things go awry as Menon ensures that Johnson’s family – aged mother and sisters are arrested in a flesh-trade/prostitution case. In humiliation the family commits suicide and Johnson is beaten and left to die on the railway tracks.

Johnson then returns after a number of years. In the interim Menon has become a highly successful and respected leader and is assured of a victory in the upcoming elections.

Johnson befriends Jayaram a mimicry artiste and uses the latter’s mimicry skills to destroy Menon’s career and credibility. how he does this is something that has to be seen to believed. This is one of the few movies which I feel definitely needs a reboot for the times. If Kamal plays Menon’s role in the reboot it would be icing on the cake!

Eventually a standoff ensues wherein Menon shoots Johnson in public view and destroys all his chances of political victory!

Noted for Jayaram’s mimicry, Thilakan’s calm brutality, Kamal in a uniquely restrained role, innovative plot-structure and a glimpse of Urmilla – the young starlet who would go on to blossom into a successful actress. Sadly she has been relegated to a reality television judge roles now!

A bit slow by today’s standards of action-paced thrillers; but a good watch on an idle evening!