A Blog on Cinema

October 31, 2018
by vc

AMMA Mahatmyam

 photo AMMA Group pic.jpg

Long time back, there was a movie called Panchavadi Palam. It was an amazing satire on the state of politics of that time. Now a days, we don’t see movies like that. Instead what we have is the organization called AMMA.

For a small state like Kerala, with a tiny movie industry (compared to Tamil, Telugu or Hindi), we have too many organizations. AMMA is the most prominent because it has all the superstars, minor star, comets, business men/actors and politicians/actors. In terms of complexity of people, it is like a swamp.

For a limited set of people, the bureaucratic complexity of AMMA is hard to fathom. There is an executive committee, general body, Governing body and perhaps many other bodies. It looks so ridiculous. If Mammootty and Mohanlal meet in Kochi, it is the general body meeting. If they meet in Trivandrum, it is executive body. If they meet in Delhi, it would be the Politburo.

Recently Dileep was accused of being behind the assault on a young actress. The story behind that would put any serial to shame. But AMMA could not expel Dileep because, in their bylaw, they had no way to expel an actor unless his name is Thilakan. How convenient! Even Adam had a better fig leaf to cover his shame. The bye law is not god given. It was written by the same set of people. Even the Indian constitution has been amended. So why not add a clause which says, if you are accused of assault and if the Indian judicial system thinks that you need to be put in jail, then you are expelled from AMMA.

The original goal of AMMA was to help the poor and helpless actors and give them a monthly pension. Very noble cause indeed. Guess what, you can do all that without an organization and various committees. Just informally make a notification that Mohanlal will take care of the following actors. Every month, Mohanlal deposits the money right into the account of those people. Simple as that. No overhead. No need to drag all the bodies to the meetings.

The younger generation is conspicuous with their absence. Just disband the organization as it looks a relic of the past which is not serving any useful purpose, but has caused disunity than unity. This organization is nothing but a tool to control people, a mafia, an extra-constitutional authority. This organization is a disgrace to Malayalis and should be disbanded. The modern day Neros are playing the mridangam, while Rome is burning.

PS: We ask again, what has AMMA contributed towards recovery from Kerala’s biggest natural disaster?

September 19, 2018
by NikhiMenon

The Worst Malayalam Films of 2018 (so far)

Okay, this post is a bit too early. 2018 is not over yet and we are a few months away from 2019. The state had witnessed its worst floods in recent history and film industry was in limbo for almost two months. The success of ‘Theevandi‘ has brought some cheers to the industry and we hope that blockbusters like ‘Kaayamkulam Kochunni‘ and Odiyan will succeed and give the industry it’s much needed impetus. Meanwhile we will look at super awful films of the year, so far!

10.Kuttanadan Blog (Sethu,Sep 2018)

This Mammootty starrer was Sethu’s foray into direction. With a couple of lacklustre films to his credit ever since he turned a solo screen writer, no one expected miracles from this ‘Cousins‘ ,’Achayans‘ writer. Even a half decent flick would have done the trick for him. But unfortunately with a nauseating moth-eaten script meddled with illegitimate pregnancies and the 90 s style do-good principal character, Kuttanadan Blog ended up as one of the most boring films of recent times!

9.My Story (Roshni Dinaker,July 2018)
The director would have liked to believe that the controversies surrounding Parvathy was the sole reason behind the film’s failure at the box-office. But truth to be told, My story was a pretty dated story told in the most. Agreed, the production values were top notch, the music by Shaan Rahman was soothing and melodious but it couldn’t overcome the potholes in the script and it’s shoddy execution.The final twist in the tale was straight out of those run-of-the mill candy floss Bollywood films of the 90 s and the movie on the whole reminded me of those boring Suneel/Dharmesh Darshan films of the last decade!

8.Rosapoo (Vinu Joseph,Feb)

What was the talented Biju Menon thinking when he signed up for this boring misadventure? Ofcourse, the core idea was interesting and the initial fifteen minutes or so was genuinely entertaining but after that the movie was a snooze fest!The ‘motta’ song also failed to create the intended buzz around the movie!

7.Parole (Sharrath Sannidh, April)
Another one of those turkeys of the year, Parole was neither entertaining nor classy. May be the director wanted to make a social drama which could go down well with the family crowd, but there were hardly any takers for this old fashioned melo-drama!

6.Panchavarna Thatha (Ramesh Pisarody, April)

Perhaps the only commercially successful movie in this list, Panchavarna thatha too had a basic thread which was interesting. Infact the ‘No one is insignificant’ life lesson has been conveyed effectively. But apart from that this thatha had nothing else for the discerning viewer.This Ramesh Pisharody movie failed to provide the ample laughs which it promised! Kunchakko Boban gave an earnest performance overshadowing Jayaram’s hammy act, but the flick fortunately gave him the much needed hit!

5.Mohanlal (Sajid Yahiya, April)

Mohanlal is a classic case of celebrity worshipping being stretched to intolerant levels. This migraine inducing mess of a movie was successful enough in earning more haters for Manju warrier, her over the top ‘Meeenooty‘ being the single most irritating thing about this movie. It’s sad that an excellent performer like Indrajith has to get contended with utterly pointless roles/movies like this!

The second part of this post will be published in the last week of December

September 6, 2018
by vc
1 Comment

Love in the time of Pralayam

During Mahabali’s time all people were alike and helpful to each other. We saw that happen recently during the floods. It was a time when every Malayalee came together irrespective of ideological, religious, political differences and helped other human beings in need. There were stories of incredible gestures of kindness from all over the place. While the threat of getting submerged in water has gone many are left with no help and their lives and livelihood in ruin. We at Varnachitram always like to bring the movie angle into any proceedings.

Some of our beloved movie stars helped out during the flood and some of them came out when water receded. Now we are seeing lot of help flowing in from other states as well. That said, our main gripe is against the alphabet soup of Malayalee movie related groups – what have they done?

The unity and swiftness which AMMA displayed to legitimize the criminal activities of a lead actor were not seen in this instance. What is FEFKA doing? What is Film Chamber’s stand on this? This is the time to support the very people who supported and tolerated this industry. We stood with you during your dark times and patiently waited for the next hit movie. How would the movie organizations want to respond? Do they want to still gather the muck that is around and still throw at each other and entertain us?

We demand that all the artists, technicians and producers come together and have fundraising STAR shows in all major cities in Kerala and give all the proceeding towards rebuilding Kerala. This would be a small gesture of kindness, which might make us forgive many of your lapses.

March 8, 2018
by vc
1 Comment

Kerala State Awards – 2018

This year, we propose that we give an award to jury for making least number of people upset. Sensible folks, this jury:

T. V. Chandran (chairman)
Dr. Biju
Manoj Kana
Vivek Sachidanand
Santosh Thundiyil
Jerry Amaldev
Cheriyan Kalpakavadi
M. Rajeev Kumar
Mahesh Panju (member and secretary)

Here’s the list of winners:

CategoryAwarded toMovie
Best FilmDirector: Rahul Riji Nair
Producer: Rahul R. Nair
Ottamuri Velicham
Second Best FilmDirector: Sanju Surendran
Producer: Murali Mattummal
Best DirectorLijo Jose PellisseryEe.Ma.Yau
Best ActorIndransAalorukkam
Best ActressParvathyTake Off
Best Character ActorAlencier Ley LopezThondimuthalum Driksakshiyum
Best Character ActressPouly ValsanEe.Ma.Yau
Ottamuri Velicham
Best Child ArtistAbhinand  (male category)
Nakshatra  (female category)
Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu
Best StoryM. A. NishadKinar
Best CinematographyManesh MadhavanAedan
Best ScreenplaySajeev PazhoorThondimuthalum Driksakshiyum
Best Screenplay (Adaptation)S. Hareesh
Sanju Surendran
Best LyricsPrabha Varma (song: "Oolathil Melathal")Clint
Best Music Director (song)M. K. ArjunanBhayanakam
Best Music Director (score)Gopi SundarTake Off
Best Male SingerShahabaz Aman (song: "Mizhiyil Ninnum")Mayaanadhi
Best Female SingerSithara Krishnakumar (song: "Vaanamakalunnuvo")Vimaanam
Best Film EditorAppu BhattathiriOttamuri Velicham
Best Art DirectorSanthosh RamanTake Off
Best Sync SoundSmijith Kumar P. B.Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu
Best Sound MixingPramod ThomasAedan
Best Sound DesignRenganaath RaveeEe.Ma.Yau
Best Processing Lab/ColouristChitranjali StudioBhayanakam
Best Makeup ArtistRanjith AmbadyTake Off
Best Costume DesignerSakhi ElsaHey Jude
Best Dubbing ArtistAchu Arun Kumar  (character: Ali)
Sneha M.  (character: Aishwarya)
Best ChoreographyPrasanna SujitHey Jude
Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic ValueProducer: 100th Monkey Movies
Director: Ranjan Pramod
Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu
Best Debut DirectorMahesh NarayanTake Off
Best Children's FilmProducer: Ramya Raghavan
Director: Deepesh T.
Special Jury AwardVinitha Koshy (awarded for acting)Ottamuri Velicham

February 20, 2018
by vc

Cliche: The return of the friend

One of the cliche scenes in the Black Panther movie is as follows.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Killmonger reached Wakanda and challenges T’Challa to ritual combat. He throws T’Challa off the waterfall and becomes king. Following this Nakia, Shuri, Ramonda and Ross run away to the tribe which did not accept T’Challa as the king. There they find T’Challa, rescued by the Jabari tribe. After he recovers, T’Challa asks the head of Jabari tribe to support him in the battle against Killmonger. M’Baku, who is the head of the Jabari tribe declines.

T’Challa goes alone to fight the enemy. There is a point in the battle when T’Challa is about to loose. At that moment M’Baku and his fighters appear and help T’Challa defeat the enemy and claim the throne.

This is a familiar pattern seen in Star Wars as well. Towards the end of A New Hope, the rebels identify a weakness with the Death Star. Luke Skywalker joins the rebel squadron while Han Solo collects his payment and decides to leave. Everyone asks him to stay back, but he declines. Then again while the fighting gets bad, guess who shows up. Hans Solo.

We don’t see this specific cliche much in India movies. We have our own like the twins who are split at birth, the blind mother, the comedic villain or various Sathyan Anthikkad movies. We will continue this series with specific examples. If you have your own favorites, please chime in.

February 18, 2018
by vc

Freedom of Expression

The intolerance police is in action again. This time it is against a Malayalam song Manikya Malaraya Poovi from the film Oru Adaar Love. Here are some news snippets:

1.‘Fatwa’ seeks song removal in Oru Adaar Love. “The film-maker should immediately remove the geet (song) from the film. The government should prevent the screening of the film till the song is removed,” the reply states. The document was signed by chief mufti of Jamia Nizamia Mufti Mohammed Azeemuddin.

2.Oru Adaar Love: Hyderabad seminary issues fatwa against Malayalam song over Prophet reference. “Our objection is not for the film, but a song that references the Prophet and his wife. The director should have used some other characters to depict the couple’s relationship. Why did he take the name of the Prophet? That is why we issued this fatwa seeking that the song be dropped from the film,” said Jamia Nizamia secretary Ahmed Ali.

The objection is against the song which speaks of the romance between Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija.
Here is a translation of the lyrics:

A woman like the pearl flower
Her highness- Khadeja Beebi
In the holy city of Macca
She lived like a Queen

A woman like the pearl flower
Her highness Khadeja Beebi
In the holy city of Macca
She lived like a Queen

Asked Khathimun Nabi
Sent as in charge of trade
At the first sight of him
She desired him

After completing the expedition
Blessed Rasulullah came back
To marry the Prophet
was the Bibi desire

A woman like the pearl flower
Her highness Khadeja Beebi
In the holy city of Macca
She lived like a Queen

We don’t understand what’s the problem with these words. It is beautiful and romantic. It does not insult anyone. It is not like M F Hussain drawing nude pictures of Hindu goddesses in the name of art.
But then India is a land of competitive intolerance. Every day there is someone who is offended about something. Look at the jokers who went violent over Padmavati. In some occasion the dumbness of the intolerant people show through. For example, here is one news snippet. On most occasions dumbos like Karni Sena are tools of other political players.

A local organisation has lodged a police complaint against Malayalam actress Priya Prakash Varrier and film director Omar Lulu for allegedly hurting sentiments of the Muslim community through a song in their forthcoming movie “Oru Adaar Love”. However, police have not registered an FIR in the matter yet. The complaint against the two was filed at Jinsi police station by a group of people under the aegis of Janjagran Samithi. “This is a deliberate effort to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims. We demand that a case under IPC section 295 of the IPC should be registered against actress Priya Varrier, director Omar Lulu and producers of the film,” Samithi president Mohsin Ahmed told PTI.

Why is there a complaint against actress Priya Varrier? Why not against the kid who made Priya wink? There are some thousand kids appearing in that song. Why not against all of them? Why not against the singer or the music director? It’s all about publicity.

Now here is the funny thing which these Einsteins did not know. This is not a song which was written for the movie. It was written in 1978 and is popular among Muslims in Kerala, who sing it during the occasion of marriage. No one in Kerala thinks it’s offensive. So the fundamentalists who are opposing this song seem to be clueless as well.

The film makers have rightfully said that they will not delete the song. That is the right decision. If they are forced to delete the song, then we hope, the people who return awards back to the government to get ready.

February 15, 2018
by vc

We are back!

4 years looks like an eternity in Malayalam Cinema. While the landscape is almost unrecognizable since then, not all changes are bad. While we are thrilled at the infusion of young actors and cool ideas, we still yearn for the giant talents of the past. They are still slots that will remain vacant for foreseeable future.

We are not mindlessly fawning over Tamil or Telugu movies. Our movies are getting recognition and acceptance across India. We are regularly making 140+ movies a year and with the proliferation of multiplexes success rates are also high.

Our super stars are still around, surviving on marketing gimmicks.Neither of them has acted in a meaningful movie after 2014. While their recent hits won’t stand the test of time, they make sure that their legacies are intact, following the nepotistic trends seen elsewhere in India. Not to take away the talents of their progenies, some of them are talented. It’s heartening to see some of the new actors taking the position on top solely based on their talent and cinematic acumen.

While speaking of superstars, it is also important to mention supporting actors. They are what gave an edge to the superstars. When you share the screen with Thilakan or Nedumudi Venu, your acting goes up a notch. Now there is no one to give that edge.

One of the things we are missing is the raw talents that made malayalam movie music stand out – we are very short on that department. Raveendran and Johnson remain memories.

Talking about decline, we cannot avoid talking about moral decline. Last year, we had one of the darkest chapters in Malayalam movie history. An actress was molested and we have the fans of the perpetrator(of course not guilty until proven)who see things in black and white. They say that the success of a movie vindicates the pronouncements of the perpetrator. Are things that simple? This does not vindicate the 100% literacy we are so proud. We salute the courageous actress(es) who have taken a stand and stood up against misogyny.

We will posting regularly with our usual style. There will be movie reviews and analysis, all done with a critical eye. So for those who missed us, — We are baaaack.

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