Varathan – The Revenge of the Outsider

Movie Title – Varathan

Language – Malayalam

Year of Release – 2018

Principal Star Cast – Fahadh Faasil, Aishwarya Lekshmy, Dileesh Pothan, Sharaf U Dheen.

Genre – Thriller

Director – Amal Neerad

Script – Sarfu and Suhas

Music – Sushin Shyam

Cinematography – Littil Swayamp

Revenge tales have been a staple of Malayalam cinema. From gems like Thazhvaram and Season, somewhere Malayalam cinema began to ape Tamizh and Telugu cinema and at a point the differences were negligible. Stars and fans associations made merry as directors and script-writers added bombastic dialogues, with ample moustache twirling, loud music scores, and unbelievable stunts to draw loud applause from the masses.

Fahadh has been the poster boy of a new wave of Malayalam cinema that commenced with ‘Chappa Kurishu’ that was pretty much a copy of a Korean hit. Movie after movie he has carefully chosen scripts that play to his strengths. With each movie Fahadh has proven himself as a true chameleon who can play any role with ease. Aishwarya Lekshmi is just a few movies old, but boy oh boy, she seems to fill the screen with her magnetic presence and I really hope she gets roles of value.

Amal Neerad has crafted movies that are heavy on style, cinematography, synchronized stunts, and engrossing musical scores. In ‘Varathan’ translates to ‘The Outsider’ – he sets up an engrossing closed house thriller akin to Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Straw Dogs’, which was violent, brutal, and left audiences disturbed when it came out in the 70s.

Aby and Priya are a young couple in Dubai and the recession leads to Aby and Priya returning to India after Priya’s pregnancy is terminated as the gynaec says there’s no heartbeat in the foetus. Aby decides to focus on setting up a design startup in India while Priya utilizes the work from home option.

They move to an idylic cottage at the 18th mile stop – a hilly terrain in Kerala. It’s essentially an old-village that’s pre-dominantly Christian with its church and a close-knit community of rich plantation owners and commoners.

The ‘peeping tom’ nature of the frustrated, sexed-up Indian male is brought out in the characters that torment Priya, essentially a group of folks who were her classmates at school. There’s a creepy chap who runs away with Priya’s inner-wear and there’s a truly disturbing moment wherein he caresses the brassiere and pantyhose that for some pathetic reason generated whistles in the jam-packed theatre where I saw the movie. Goes to show where we are headed as a larger collective 😦

There’s another sequence where another man and woman are heckled and booed away by the villagers as they were not husband and wife. It sets up the tone for the movie along with a cockroach that Priya stomps away to death earlier in the movie.

A sub-plot of a budding friendship between a young boy from a poor family and the local contractor’s daughter has a significant impact in the third act of the movie. Before that the trio of Johnny, Jithin, and Josey continue to torture Priya. They peep at her in the bathroom, they look at her in her bedroom when she is asleep, they set up a mobile phone to shoot videos of her in the bathroom.

A flash point arises when Aby heads to Kottayam for a day and Priay decides to work from the library at the convent. The evil trio run her over by striking her Kinetic Honda. She tumbles over and is hurt and dazed. The three take her in the jeep and leave her in the hospital. We later learn the three have molested her in the moving jeep when she speaks in anguish with Aby later. She says she no longer feels safe and this infuriates Aby, who is possessed by castrated rage as he keeps saying – “we will report this to the police”.

The young boy and his mother seek shelter at Aby and Priya’s abode as they are chased by the contractor’s family. Then starts the final fireworks as a group of about seven to eight men seek to flush out the occupants of the house. How Aby fights the villains is to be seen to be believed and is truly intelligent film-making, though one wonders why he does not take out the barreled rifle and uses it.

The only blemish that one may cite is Priya’s pain and torture at the hands of the villains seems to have lost its focus and Aby seems to be too convincingly transition into a commando cum special-ops warrior in one extended sequence of explosions, knife stabs, blows to all parts of the body delivered with saucepans and shootouts.

A key advantage for the movie is its brief running time and intelligent structuring of the incidents that culminate in the violent showdown akin to a shootout in the Westerns of an era gone by. Two songs that play in the movie are good to hear and view – but honestly once you are out of the hall they do not actually stick in the mind.

The true revelation for the audience is undoubtedly Sharaf. This is the chap who plays the wealthy flirt in ‘Premam’. His turn as the villain is sue to fetch him some ‘Negative Actor/Villain Awards’.

A full paisa-vasool entertainer that’s been made intelligently. Go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

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Trapped

Trapped is a brilliant exposition of how a movie can be made at a single location of sorts with just one principal human character. A review or an analysis will not do justice to the magic, the fears, the pain, hope and redemption and torture that unfolds on screen as Rajkumar Rao nails the role of the man trapped in a high-rise building in Mumbai.

At a deeper level we are all souls trapped in this sea of humanity, seeking individual identities in the vast scheme of things.

Vikramaditya Motwane continues to delight and each of his three films has been a delight to watch.

Go for the movie – 

At a time when stars and studios stuff drivel down our throats, this is a refreshing movie. Tip – Don’t eat stuff when you are watching or have an hour’s gap between your meal and watching the movie!

The Accountant – Ben Affleck Nails It!!!

It is not quite often that we in India get a chance to watch a movie on the big screen before it releases in the UK. Rarely do star-vehicles get a release here before the USA or the European release.

As “Inferno” continues the Robert Langdon saga, through various circumstances, I saw a movie on the big-screen on Day-1 of release that too first show in the participating theatre after ages. I had a couple of hours to kill before I could visit my doctor friend for advice on my mother’s health reports and I took a chance and strolled into the theatre. As usual, the show was going to take some more time to start and the ticket-handler at the counter said – “Relax sir”. Apparently the earlier movie was yet to end; height of advertisements being played to the audience, methinks 🙂

“The Accountant” is an action thriller film, directed by Gavin O’Connor, written by Bill Dubuque and starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow. Ben Affleck plays the eponymous accountant. It is tough to write a review for movies like these because even adding a bit of the plot will reveal away too many surprises.

Sample this — a start that sees a camera following a person entering a shoot-out spot with dead bodies piled up. Then the frames shift to a school for special children, then we see an accountant talking to a couple his clients on saving tax. Then we see the scene shifting to Washington where the director of the Treasury Services speaks to an analyst. A lot of things happen. Then there are flashback sequences of an autistic kid, his younger brother, their parents a teacher and an army officer.

A lot is happening. We have Ben getting instructions from a British voice via – mobile – instructing him on his next assignment at at prosthetics manufacturing mega-company. Mystery deepens, Ben befriends a junior accountant there who had discovered the original anomaly in the accounts. The anomaly is found, then deaths occur, we have a group of hired killers operating as well. In tandem, the investigators from the FBI and the Treasury are on the tracks of Ben as well.

Who are the mysterious killers, what secrets does Ben hide, why is Ben being investigated? The movie ties down all the loose ends admirably. Do watch it.

Ben is moving from strength to strength, have always admired him for his directorial skills. Here he gives a fair demo of his acting skills.

Oppam — Movie Review

Oppam is a return to form of sorts for Priyadarshan and Mohanlal a director-actor combo that has given Malayalam cinema lots of memories to treasure.

A long, long time back a movie called “Yodha” came out. It had Lalettan playing Ashokan who travels to Nepal and becomes the protector of a Rinpoche – Holy incarnation of the Buddha. There is a section of the movie wherein he is rendered blind by the villains and Mohanlal becomes a blind warrior relying on his hearing and martial arts skills to destroy the villains.

In Oppam, we get a sense of deja vu , all over again, but in a good way. After a fair amount of debacles in recent years and Priyadarshan choosing to remake movies in Hindi with varying degrees of recycled success; this is a decent attempt.

In Oppam, Lalettan plays a visually challenged lift-operator/care-taker who witnesses the murder of a retired judge played by Nedumudi Venu. He is accused of the murder and the movie goes on in how he proves to the police that he is not the murderer.

Samuthirakanni is in a purple patch of sorts and getting some real good roles. Here he plays Vasu a mentally deranged serial killer of sorts. There is not too much of suspense as the audience learns that he is the killer and the confrontation scenes between Lal and SK are well done.

There is a little girl as well who becomes the target of SK and how Lal saves the day is what the movie is all about. Unwanted drama towards the end with SK trying to ape Jack Nicholson from “The Shining” with an axe in tow. A fair bit of loopholes here and there in the plot and Vimala Raman in no way looks like a maid! Hopeless casting there!!!

Songs nothing remains in memory!! Mammukoya and Chemban Vinod have a good bit of comedy with a play on the blind man not witnessing/witnessing the murder!

One-time watch — Good fun!

 

 

“Charlie” – Malayalam Movie Review

“Charlie” – Malayalam Movie Review

Dear readers, wishing all of you a prosperous and joyous 2016 full of good health and cheer!

Name of movie – Charlie
Language – Malayalam
Release year – 2015
Director – Martin Prakaat
Principal Star Cast – Dulquer Salman as Charlie, Parvathy as Tessa, Aparna Gopinath as Kani, Nedumudi Venu as Kunjappan.
Music – Gopi Sundar
Cinematography – Jomon T. John

Dulquer Salman is slowly and steadily carving a place for himself with his sensible choice of movies and inspired acting. Though he is still a long way away from matching the talents of his father – Mammootty, he is on his way to stardom for sure!

“Charlie” is a difficult movie to categorise, part road-movie, part-adventure, part slice of life, quest for purpose in life, romance, love lost and found, the movie mixes lots of elements to serve a delightful gem.

The movie starts with Tessa arriving to attend a family function where her brother is set to be engaged. We learn that she is a rebel of sorts and refuses to acknowledge the proposal of a family-friend from the USA who is incidentally her soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s brother. She runs away to her friend’s place in Kochi and secures accommodation in a flat in the Old Kochi or Fort Kochi area. The flat is full of stuff belonging to the previous occupant. There is sense of mystery as she starts arranging the things in the flat, that’s when Tessa stumbles upon a graphic novel and is drawn into the story. It is about a thief who lands in the flat and meets the occupant of the flat and their adventures over the course of one night! The tale is incomplete and thus starts the fascination of Tessa for Charlie.

Tessa seeks to find out more about Charlie through the various faces sketched as a part of the graphic novel and a fascinating tale of the do-gooder and the lives he touches emerges. I am not going to reveal further spoilers. All I will say is that this is a tale of Tessa seeking Charlie! Does she find Charlie? Who is Charlie? Why is he the way he is? What’s the mystery behind him? What’s his past? Watch the movie!!

Special mention for the cinematographer, the art-direction and the costume designers involved in the project. The kurtas that DS wears and the dresses worn by Parvathy are really great. “Sundari Pennae” is the song that keeps playing in the head!

Worth a watch for the sheer energy of the performances of the star-cast. Nedumudi Venu has a lovely cameo in the movie with a tale of old-school love woven into it. Please go watch the movie!!!

12th Chennai International Film Festival – A Quick Glimpse

This year the event has the blessings of the ‘Chief’ of the people of Tamil Nadu – Amma – former Chief Minister Jayalalitha. So the facilities are apparently better and we have Rajkumar Theatres India Pvt. Ltd. as the main sponsor as well. What I noticed was the bathroom fittings have been thankfully changed at Woodlands theatre. The AC is still not working in Symphony Theatre. The souvenir with information about the movies to be screened is not yet ready. I just do not get the logic – when will the souvenir be issued? After half the movies are screened???? Last year too the same problems plagued the fest, if memory serves me right the souvenir was issued on the fourth day of the Fest. Chaos continues to reign supreme. On the second day at 5 PM the movie ‘Roseville’ was to play. The movie was announced by the student volunteers and for 15 minutes ‘Like the Wind’ was broadcast/played before the correct movie was played. If we take care of the smaller aspects the bigger things will get rectified. ID card was processed within an hour and that was really good. The daily news digest in broadsheet format is full of errors – the timings are all wrong. The complete schedule pamphlet has errors as well. In spite of all this we movie-lovers will throng to the Fest and make it a grand success! Mini movie reviews will follow soon.

S for Sargam and Spadikam

I am rushing to finish this as I am starved for time; will keep the movie-descriptions as precise and concise as possible.

‘Sargam’ ‘Tune/Rhythm’ was directed by Hariharan and had a relatively new starcast – Rambha (unrecognisable from the glamour-queen that she would turn into), Vineeth, Manoj K. Jayan, Nedumidi Venu and others.

Kuttan Thampuran played by Manoj is the son of Subhadra and Kochaniyan Thampuran he is an epileptic, who often has violent fits, plus he has a roguish streak to him and is dreaded by his school-mates. Haridas played by Vineeth is his only friend who tags along with the Thampuran. As the years turn, both the boys have grown into unsuccessful youth, the Kuttan Thampuran behaves eccentrically and chews tobacco, smokes and drinks on the sly. Hari is marked a failure by his father – Bhagavathar a noted classical singer.

Hari and Thankamani a student of the Bhagavathar are in love, but Kuttan’s wedding is fixed with Thankamani as a means to cure Thampuran of his illnesses and bestow a sense of responsibility in him. Thampuran is unaware of Hari and Thankamani’s love for each other. In the interim during a temple festival, Hari breaks into a song and gains prominence as a singer. Subhadra Thampurati speaks to Hari and requests him to leave the village for the sake of her own son his dear friend Kuttan. With a heavy heart, but under the burden of friendship and for all the help that the Thampuran’s family had provided over all these years – Hari leaves the village.

The wedding takes place and Kuttan is devastated when he realises he has been married to the girl who was loved by his own friend whom he thought as his own younger brother. In absolute disgust and depression Kuttan commits suicide.

The clock turns yet again – many years later we see a bearded hari returning to the illam on Subhadra Amma’s request; she is on her death-bed – she wants to meet Hari and apologise for her mistakes. Hari sees Thankamani and is in shock as she has become paralysed after suffering the tragedies of a failed marriage and her husband’s suicide.

Hari sings – ‘Raga Sudha Rasa…’ – the movie ends on a positive note as we see signs of Thankamani attempting to sing along with Hari – the audience is made to believe that good things lie in store for Hari and Thankamani.

A musical gem – great performances and a lovely tale of friendship, sacrifice, love lost and found, redemption and salvation. A must-watch!

‘Spadikam’- Prism

Written and directed by Bhadran with a stellar starcast including Thilakan, Mohanlal, Urvashi, Silk Smitha, Nedumudi Venu and others; this was one of the early movies that created the larger than life roguish do-gooder image that Mohanlal would perfect years later in Narasimham, Ravana-Prabhu, Naran and other movies.

The movie is the tale of a strict disciplinarian father Chacko a headmaster in the village-school who punishes students who can’t comprehend Mathematics. His own son is a failure at Maths but has a creative mind and devises inventions like a radio-receiver. In a tragic twist based on his request the language-master played by Venu gives poor grades to the young boy – Thomas. Thomas feels he has been betrayed by the one person whom he loved his language teacher Ravunni master – he runs away in anguish!

He returns a changed man 14 years later as Aadu Thoma a stone-quarry owner/contractor, a lorry-driver and a rowdy; the other goons fear him, the law pursues him; but he craves for this family’s love. A romantic twist in the form of urvashi – ravunni master’s daughter is also there. Though the movie won more fans for the song picturised on Mohanlal and Silk Smitha!

Like a Roman tragedy – Chacko realises the follies of his past and seeks pardon from his son and dies!

How this happens? Why does the law pursue Aadu Thoma? Why does he bash up some goons and corrupt police-officers?

Watch the movie for answers.

A riveting emotional saga with love, affection, family-sentiments, good fights and ear-catching songs – Spadikam was a mass-hit!!!!!