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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Theeran Adhigaram Ondru – Theeran Chapter One – A Riveting Cop-Tale

A gritty cop-tale without the trappings of commercial excesses is a rarity and the movies that come to my mind include:

Ardh Satya

Droh Kaal remade in Tamizh as Kurudhi Punal with Kamal and Arjun

Crime File in Malayalam based on the real case of the murder of a nun in a monastery

Kaakha Kaakha and Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu by Gautham Menon did a fair job but still had the song and dance routine in them. I am not going to speak about the Singham series as Hari and Suriya tested hearing capabilities with all the loud shouting though they were full paisa vasool hits.

Wednesday and Special 26 are other movies that come to my mind.

Last year, a debutante won the hearts and minds of viewers with Dhruvangal-16 that brought the good, old-school police-procedural to Tamil cinema.

As always, I deviate from the core topic, Karthi’s ‘Theeran Adhigaram Ondru’ made me sit up with its excellent trailer that spoke about a true-crime inspiration.

The actual case detail is listed here:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/operation-bawariaon-silver-screen-now/article20493784.ece

The movie has to cater to the needs of bringing in all categories of audiences and thus includes a cutesy romantic track between Karthi and Rakul. Then the movie hits the right gears. The story is about daring dacoities and murders perpetuated in farmhouses away from main cities across Tamil Nadu, especially in Thiruvallur District. As Karthi tries to uncover the case, some startling facts emerge that takes the investigative team across India.

Kudos to the director for doing his research and presenting a quick animated sequence about the Bawaria community.

Ten minutes before the interval starts the movie in its true sense and it is one thrilling ride till the end credits roll as Karthi, Bose Venkat and the remaining officers in the investigative team track down Oma and his gang of dacoits.

There is a sequence where the cops chase a dacoit on a bus. The dacoit jumps from one bus to another and is caught as he holds onto a rope and the cops hold him as the buses run on high speeds across the desert. There is a final shootout as well in a remote village that has been really well done.

Ghibran’s background score seems to be a bit too loud as in quite a few sequences the dialogue was not audible. It could be the theatre’s poor sound effects, so perhaps I could be wrong.

Do watch this movie, action-sequences itself are worth the price of admission and Abhimanyu Singh as the leader of the dacoits – Oma is menacing. Special congrats to the stunt coordinators as well.

Go watch it 🙂

D for Dhund

I am back after a break, the week that flashed by has enough fodder for two movies, but let’s leave it for another day!

D is for ‘Dhund’ (Fog). This movie starred Navin Nischal, Zeenat Aman, Danny Denzongpa, Sanjay Khan and Ashok Kumar in key roles. Produced and directed by B.R. Chopra, the movie released in 1973 and was a success.

Imagine, one evening, you are driving your car, you meet with an accident, you are quite far from the main town or city and a thick fog envelops the increasingly eerie darkness. You spot a mansion and seek to make a phone call from there asking for help from a garage in the town. You go inside the mansion and find a dead body and a beautiful, bewitchingly beautiful woman in tears stating she killed the man, what would you do??

This twisted tale starts on this premise and is quite a nail-biter with twist after twist. I am not going to reveal too much about the characters or who plays who and what happens. Suffice to say, everything is not as simple and easy as it appears to be and everyone has a secret!

Note – The story is based on the play – “The Unexpected Guest” by Agatha Christie.

Watch the movie —

Would be worth your time 🙂

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!