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Review Roundup: Neelathamara

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As the legend goes,  blue lotus blooms as a sign of god’s  answer to one’s prayers.  Movie lovers in Kerala been praying for good cinema for a while and we were hoping that Lal Jose’s Neelathamara would be the answer.  Reading the reviews we are not 100% sure about it as the opinion is divided. The story of a maid servant falling in love with the rich boy might have been new in the 70s, but it is no longer so. We had many variations of theme, among which Nandanam is our favorite.

So even though there is nothing new in the story for the viewer in 2009, what is unique is Lal Jose’s treatment, the new actors which the movie introduces, Vijay Ulakanathan’s camera work, and Vidyasagar’s melodious music[Read Neelathamara’s music review by Vivek Ranjit here].

Nowrunning.com says:

Kailash is my pick of the lot, when it comes to the performers in the film. He is as much a hot blooded, charismatic and flirtatious youngster of the 70’s as one can be. Confident and remarkably talented, this young actor is one who would be around for a long time to come. Archana is every bit the demure, coy village girl and the innocent sweetheart. Samvrutha puts up a starkly moving performance that should count among the best that she has come up with till now in her career.

Lal Jose is the man when it comes to creating verse on screen. Beautifully shot, Neelathamara has been conceptualized with an effervescent artistry. Vijay Ulakanathan’s camera work is nothing short of brilliant. The three songs that have been set to tune by Vidyasagar are mind blowingly melodious to say the least.

Neelathamara does make an effort to wedge itself into today’s world. And I would grant it to Lal Jose and his team for having done the best with a theme that felt right three decades back.

Hindu offers some interesting tidbits:

Where the first ‘Neelathamara’ ends, the present one opens. The remake is actually the flashback. MT has woven a topical twist to his old script which jells well. Sreedevi Unni who dons the mother’s role stands out for her natural acting.

Archana Kavi has that vulnerable look and understated emotions that go well with rural girls. The male protagonist is played by Kailash. The smaller characters like the caretaker, the man under the banyan tree and the old servant leave an impression with the viewer.

Rainmaker’s review:

Lal Jose has done justice to the script written perhaps a bit too much as well. His handling of the sequences is true with the pace of the story. He has been able to extract creditable performances from the cast especially new comers. Cinematography is superb and one of the best reasons to watch the movie. Lighting is superbly done in night sequences. It looks poetic. Music is lilting with ‘Anuraga’ being one of the best melodies of the year. The Ghazal during the sad sequences is aesthetically shot. There is no injection of unwanted comedy, drama to increase the length. Its sharp as much as the script demands. 1 hour and 45 odd minutes.

Rediff.com comments:

The performance of newcomers Archana and Kailash comes very close to be called enchanting. Archana shows the class of a veteran displaying requisite vulnerability spontaneously. Her expressions and body language convey more than her dialogues. We just hope that this is just the beginning of a long innings. Kailash displays the haughtiness of the male of yesteryears who believes that he is a superior being. He may initially miss being a chocolate boy hero. But, he will surely come on his own as time goes by. Rima’s role as Ammini — Kunjimalu’s sounding board — is insignificant and not well chiselled as one would expect. Or was it truncated on the editor’s table?

All in all, Neelathamara, is lush film without a solid core.

IndiaGlitz gushes about it:

M T seems to be in his familiar terrain, with precise, crisp but powerful dialogues. Interlaced with themes of sensuality, infidelity and sincere romance, the director has created a visual marvel with the aid of cinematographer Vijay Ulaganath and art director Gokuldas. The flashback really gives the feel of ‘being there’, with its realistic settings and greenish tones. Recreation of the early eighties with minute detailing, from that cigarette packs to note books, tape recorders and newspapers is a definitely applaudable directorial stuff. Lal Jose and his regular crew once again displays why they are called as masters of mainstream Mollywood.

With a duration of just 110 minutes, ‘Neelathamara’ races steadily asking the viewers to want for more. Sticking to that impeccable styles of M T, with a little more directorial and technical finesse than some veterans who usually handle M T scripts and with loads of understated but impactful substories and strains, this is definitely a must watch for a serious movie lover. The coming weeks of the movie at the box office will prove, how far the current generation has equipped themselves to get on to the range that an M T script and visuals offer. Hat’s off to Lal Jose and his team to prove that young makers are still here to bring back the splendour of that eighties.

Image courtesy: rediff.com

13 Comments

  1. Saw the movie. Pretty decent flick, but nothing much to gloat about either.

    The good things about the movie:

    The story doesn’t have to lean on a twist or a suspense source to keep the viewers interested. Every viewer knows after abt 5 min. into the movie how the story is going to unfold, yet he remains reasonably engrossed. Often a mark of a good story.

    Very good acting by a new cast. Particularly, Archana Kavi and the lady playing the grandmother. Kailash didn’t have much to do, but seems to have resisted well the urge to overdo. Supporting cast very good. Hats off.

    Very good set designing. Took all the pains needed for proper set designing for a period film.

    The screenplay, for the areas excluding the affair (and the end piece involving the new generation kiddies) was excellent. You hear the dialogues and you know you are getting MT branded quality product.

    The brevity is notable (especially in deaing with Haridas’ role, Ammini, Malu’s grief), but then it is not one of those films that are difficult to keep to the clock.

    Cinematography above average for a regional mainstream film, but occasionally a little obtrusive.

    A few sore thumbs too:

    The background music is the biggest letdown. Apparently the MD doesn’t know what subtlety is. No bgm altogether would have been better. The songs aren’t that good either, and obviously not very well sung too (both male and female). They look out of place and redundant; looks like they were included just for the sake of …well, putting in some songs. (As if we still believe a songless movie is a disgrace.) The tape recorder song should have been a period number too, considering so much effort has been put in to make everything else look so 70s-like.

    Some apparent story flaws: The girl seems well grounded, very down to earth, yet almost gets infatuated with the scion of the house even before he makes an appearance. Hard to believe that happening esply. in that period. She is well aware of her own position, in fact seems to be very cautious and watchful in everything else, but hardly makes any resistance to his attempts. Landlord – housemaid affairs admittedly were common, but you would have expected a bit more holding back from this apparently sensible, virtuous girl, even if she has to ultimately fall in love.

    What was the need for Ammini’s suicide? To convince the viewer how deeply Ratnam cares for our girl? That looked a cheap, manipulative attempt out of sync with the restraint shown in the rest of the story.

    That twenty something (the grandchild) and her boyfriend looked so so so so stereotyped and out of place in this movie that you are sure it was not MT’s idea at all to include them. Those characters and the bgm are the biggest contributors to disfiguring the movie. Also, why show such elaborate credit rolls at the beginning? They, at the beginning, somehow seem to take some of the real emphasis away from the movie proper. The neelathamara-blossom towards the end of the story…needed?

    A few oversights here and there too. For a girl who is the sole maidservant of such a huge household, the girl’s mundu looks too spotless most of the time. Archana Kavi didn’t want to look too shabby in her maiden film?….Annokke velakkaarikal eppozhum kannezhuthiyaa nadakkunne? ….There were a few shots where the shadows pointed towards the lights as well….The photos Haridas takes are too good and too well focused to be taken at that time with so little operation prior to the snap….There may be many more.

    All in all, a reasonable watch, but not anything near top draw even by regional standards.

    Sorry if I sound too picky, but the previews seemed to promise more.

  2. @Abhilash

    There are quite obvious reasons behind Ammini’s suicide. And this is one of the rare occasions where that otherwise limping script leaves an impact. I would suggest you to once again listen to that conversation between Ammini and Kunjimaalu when the latter clarifies a few doubts regarding English words.

    That should provide an answer to your question.

  3. Vinu,

    Yes, that has been noted, but I believe the suicide was used as a circumstance for revealing Ratnam’s stance. Ammini has her own tales, but are they relevant in the movie?

  4. Well said Vinu.@Abhilash perhaps you are the only viewer who thought Ammini committed suicide caring for the heroine.

  5. I apologize for my comment.I misread Ammini for Ratnam.Sorry Abhilash.

  6. @Vinu

    Yeah, we will get the clue of ammini’s suicide from the talks (regarding english words teaching) between kunjimalu and ammini done earlier, i could not able to find any other clue regarding her suicide, any other?

  7. Sajith,
    She obviously got pregnant; remember her telling Kunjimaalu that she hasnt been feeling well?

  8. Vinu,

    I think I didn’t care to make myself clear when referring to Ammini’s suicide in the first post. Ammini might have had her own reasons for committing suicide, but these reasons were created by the writer-director team retrospectively after planning the suicide. What I asked was what was the need for MT-LJ to craft her suicide in the first place. I think there is only one answer – to create a circumstance to illustrate Ratnam’s concern for Kunjimalu.

    The timing of the suicide betrays it all. A maidservant committing suicide in the pond must not have been a frequent event in that village, for sure. Now, if it was Ammini’s suicide (emphasis on Ammini ) that MT-LJ wanted to include in the story, they could have shown it happening at any moment – before Ratnam’s wedding, before she found out about the affair, after Kunjimalu left the village, or after the couple went back to the city. There is only a very little window of time between Ratnam finding out about the affair and Kunjimalu leaving. This suicide, a very rare event in itself, is very precisely squeezed into this time gap, which is a great feat of ……manipulation.

    Also, the manner of suicide is another give-away. Ammini could have hanged herself or consumed poison. These could have been easier methods of suicide for her because it is technically more difficult for somebody who knows swimming to drown herself in a pond. But MT –LJ preferred to show her drown. Why? Because with the other two methods, the body would be found at the household where Ammiini worked, and Ratnam wouldn’t have an opportunity to get confused about who was dead.

    Additionally, the particular scene begins with the news of the girl’s body delivered to Ratnam, her panic and the rush to the pond. Kunjimalu is not shown initially, deliberately. If it was the fate of Ammini that MT –LJ had bothered to depict, they would have shown the body, or Kunjimalu getting the news or something like that first, but not Ratnam reacting to the news. I think it is obvious what MT –LJ wanted was just a young girl’s body in the pond. They decided to make it Ammini probably because she was the only other girl shown in the movie.

    It looks like manipulation because it uses an extreme, unnecessary and unnatural event in the life of another character who has not been portrayed sufficiently for the sole purpose of delineating an inner concern Ratnam felt for Kunjimalu. It is also bizarre that the only two female maidservants shown in the story get sexually cheated almost simultaneously. The village must be full of lecherous males looking to dip their beaks into innocent housemaids! Ratnam’s concern should have been shown through a less dramatic and unnatural method (not even an event). MT is very well capable of that and more. I have a hunch he himself is not very happy with this portion of the script.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding created by the first post.

  9. Hi all,
    canany one tell me the real name of Kailash?

  10. @ Reema

    Siby Varghese, that’s his real name.

  11. It is quite clear from the conversations why Ammini committed suicide. Haridas was a womanizer and he had at least three women going at the same time. One he married. Ammini and Kunhimalu never disclosed the affairs between each other. But we know from the reference to English words. It is a good decision by the director to keep the focus on Kunhimalu’s story and not Ammini’s or other side stories. (Unlike our other Masaala movies) Kunhimalu had hopes (of another marriage) but not Ammini… (From the references about Chovva Dosham, etc. etc)

  12. All the characters make sense and is well woven. This was a literary work which needs a much open presentation for ordinary audience, but its the untold part that makes this movie all the more interesting. So I guess this is the best way to present it.

    The loss of voice of the bhagavathar, which coincides with Haridas’s marriage, and reinstation of the voice in the mind of kunjimalu the same night the hero start his married life.. what does that depict??
    Does it depict the continued immortal love/ longing of Kunjimalu for haridas?
    Also nothing happened to the guy in the althara, showing that Kunjimalu too will be fine inspite of losing her companion, just like the guy in the althara??
    Why is it that ammini cautioned her kunjimallu? knowing she is falling for Haridas? And why is it that Haridas emotion or mind is never shown even at the death of Ammini? Anyways men are not as cunning and strong as depicted in this character Haridas..

    I’m going to have an in depth discussion about this movie with my sweetheart soon and hopefully I will know few more subplots/ subtly told plots in this movie which I missed. Will keep updated.

    I loved this movie a lot and is a great work by MT sir, though I have never been a great literary fan or a poet. But this one is just great… May be its my love for my aps….

  13. Another way to look at ammini suicide is that “ettan”, which she used to call in the movie is not direct brother but may be cousin. When she tells that her ammamman (not father) looks for boys but drops off because of chovadosham etc it indicate that the “ettan” is actually cousin. Her happiness at getting a gold plated bangle looks like cousin was courting her. May be edithiamma does not like ammini (which ammini mentions in one conversation) may be due to the former knowing her husband’s crush with latter. So both ladies (ammini and kunjimalu) went through similar scenario but former suicided while latter takes it in her stride and moves on. The bhagavadar singing even after that latter is supposed to pass away indicate the hope in the mind of kunjimalu even after the worst, while the ammini indicating complete dejection just before the day of suicide shows ammini did not take the incident with “ettan” lightly.

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