varnachitram

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Thoughts on Urumi (The Curling Blade)

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(This post is written by Raj Menon, who is a journalist with Indian Express. )

THE first thing that struck me about Santosh Sivan’s  Urumi is its simplicity.  Okay, so it reportedly cost around Rs 20 crore to make.  Sure,the frames are rich, the sets lavish and the canvas grand.  But Urumi is ,at its core, a simple tale of valor.   It speaks of wronged men and womenwho were desirous of revenge and justice and refused to go quietly though pitted against a powerful adversary (Vasco Da Gama, shown as a ruthless, mercenary invader as opposed to the celebrated explorer).  The dialogue is sharp and unabashedly patriotic: Aa kuttikalude kannukalil Vasco kandu…mola pottunna oru shathruvine…abhimaanam adiyaravu vekkatha orujanata ye (In the eyes of those children, Vasco saw a budding enemy, apeople unwilling to grovel).  There is no inessential glorification of the protagonist, Kelu Nayanar (Prithviraj). He is portrayed as a bold warrior out to avenge his father’s death, reacting to his circumstances and mobilising his people.

The characters are introduced quickly, without ceremony.  And before you know it, you’re drawn into the narrative.  I meant to watch the first 15 minutes or so before I stepped out for a coke. It was a full 50minutes before I reluctantly left my seat.  That said, the makers have over done the whole disclaimer bit at the very onset:  That this is ‘only a movie’ is repeated once too often.  Now, wouldn’t you rather be led to believe you’re *not *watching a film but seeing a slice of life unfold onscreen?  Oh well.  Can’t really blame them for wanting to avoid lawsuits.

Deepak Dev’s compositions are above average. Watch out for Prabhu Deva’s dance scene with the soulful Thelu thele playing in the background. It has a serene, trance-like quality.  Full marks to the creators for not allowing the viewer to think, “Oh, just because he’s a dancing sensation anda reputed choreographer!”

Then there are the beautiful women. Nithya Menon looks bewitching in Chimmi Chimmi.  Genelia D’Souza is aptly cast as the fiesty Arrackal Ayesha, who can wield the urumi as effectively as the warrior hero. Tabu makes aspecial appearance (song) while Vidya Balan has a blink-and-miss part.

Prithviraj proves yet again that he can carry off roles that his contemporaries in Malayalam cinema would be laughed at in.  Amol Gupte is arevelation as the gullible,  good-at-heart but ill-advised king.  Not even ina single scene do you feel he’s out of place in a Malayalam mileau. Such talent!  A superb Jagathy Sreekumar (as the canny, conniving, polyglot minister, Cheni Cheri Kurup) gives a whole new definition to the epiphet veteran actor and there is a refreshing turn by Prabhu Deva (as the immensely likeable Vavvaali: Caring, witty, naive, ever mindful of  being righteous).

Never mind the historical inaccuracies,  they’re bound to be there! Those who whine cannot conclusively prove or disprove their theories. What are they going to do, go back in time?  And as Robert the Bruce narrates in Braveheart: “Historians will tell you I’m a liar. But history is written by those who have hanged heroes.”  The beautiful visuals, well-executed fight scenes and the vibrant performances make  Urumi a compelling watch. Two thumbs-up.

PS:  I don’t care much for the English title, though. The Coiled Sword has a nice ring to it, no?

9 Comments

  1. Hai Guy
    Please dont try to present Urumi as a classic, its just a dragging movie. Its just a rework of Santhosh Sivan’s Ashoka, Genelia is simply a rework of Kareena Kapoor in Ashoka.

    Chimmi chimmi song is just a rework of Ananthabhadram song featuring Kavya Madhavan in Ravi Varma paintings

    Prabhu Deva is only saving soul

    Just compare the scene where Kelu Nayanar tries to woo support for his fight against Vasco and that of Pazhassi Raja against British, you have to admit that Prthwiraj never come even 50% of Mammuttys star power and action.

    Where is this 20 crore, its just blown out of proportion, the pillars etc etc are just paper cardboards Maximum 10 crores

    What was role of Vidya Balan and Tabu in this movie? Why waste money on them?

    The story is full of lengthy sloppy dialogues which will make one yawn

    Yes Amol Gupte is superb, he is actually director of Tare Zamin Par and now another movie is coming with children as main characters by him. He was good in Phus gayte re Obama and Rajneeti too.

  2. Never mind the historical inaccuracies, they’re bound to be there! Those who whine cannot conclusively prove or disprove their theories. What are they going to do, go back in time? And as Robert the Bruce narrates in Braveheart: “Historians will tell you I’m a liar. But history is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

    Really sad paragraph. It is not historical inaccuracy we are talking about like a simple cosmetic change or an age difference. It is an absolute reversal of events. That does matter, if you are into history. But does not matter if you accept that this movie is not historical as mentioned at the begining.

    Those who whine can prove their theories because there is sufficient documentation of that period, both from Portuguese sources and Kerala sources.

    Again the Robert Bruce quote – very inapproriate. History tells us Vasco was a great guy. Now we know, he was a butcher. So who hanged whose hero?

    Looks like a cut and paste article without any logical flow.

  3. Nicely written. Aptly titled ‘thoughts’ instead of review, as the latter would have criticised some aspects of the movie. Urumi is obviously inspired by so many past movies. But though it is a not a classic, it is definitely a good effort. Comparisons to Pazhassi Raja are pointless but inevitable, given the typical Malayali moviegoer’s apathy towards Prithviraj. 😉

  4. mamookka is a brilliant actor but his portrayal of pazhassi raja was far from satisfying…and prithvi did a decent job in urumi(though his haters might have a difference of opinion..!)

  5. Interesting piece and comments. I quite enjoyed the movie, nothing wrong with a dash of jingoism here and there. @Sony: “Who hanged whose hero?” As you yourself point out, history says Vasco was great… but we know now he was a ‘butcher’. So who documented the history that tells us Vasco was holier than thou? Those who plundered, raped and murdered. Get it? How do you say ‘Jeeeeeez’ in Portuguese?
    For eg. Pazhassi Raja death was ‘well-documented’. We have been ‘told’he was shot down. But who can claim to know exactly what happened?

  6. @ Sony
    “It is not historical inaccuracy we are talking about like a simple cosmetic change or an age difference. It is an absolute reversal of events. That does matter, if you are into history.”

    This is where people go wrong. Historical inaccuracy is a misnomer in this context. There was a deliberate attempt on the part of the makers of the movie to “twist” the facts as some complain. It is only another genre of fiction called Alternate History.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_history

  7. The Curling Blade sounds much better than the Coiled Sword.

  8. Why do malayalis spell hi as hai???Also why do most of us have this constant need to put others down?? i think half of us malayalis are stuck in the good ol’days…those days were good..but they are gone…move on people..Nice write up…i quite agree with what is written..its very well known that the Portugese were extremely cruel and violent…basic ncert textbooks have these facts…now please dont start baying for the blood of the ncert chairman

  9. Its fun to read comments here. People bash things just because they can. Urumi was a movie that I really liked. I dont care if it inaccurately potrayed historical characters. Someone said about alternate history and this can definitely come under that. And why do people think that just because the actor is young and inexperienced he can not be compared to existing well established actors. Compared to what films they have been doing Urumi was a relief. A film is like a product, the whole world is never the target audience.

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