During the Mathrubhoomi Kalyan Silks Awards recently, Ashique Abu gave a shoutout to the producer of Salt N Pepper. In a rare gesture which conveyed humility as well as magnanimity, he gifted his cash award to the producer so that the producer can recover his investment. A decade back this statement would not have attracted much attention, but in 2012 it is very important. It showed the attitude of new generation of film makers as well as it pointed out that even a successful movie like Salt N Pepper is struggling to recoup its investment. Over the past few years we have seen a rot in Malayalam cinema and people spent their money watching Tamil movies and wondering why can’t we make movies like that. Now in the past two years we have seen some amazing movies come from new film makers. So what all contributed to this revival?
Before we go there let’s blame a few people. Like the European economy, there was a serial collapse in Malayalam. So let’s blame pretty much everyone including script writers, directors and actors for presenting us with nonsense movies. What was the last best movie written by Srinivasan? Or what was the best movie of Sathyan Anthikkad or Sibi Malayil or Priyadarshan or K Madhu or Fazil in the past few years? Things became so bad that Sibi-Udayan movies looked like classics and Illayaraja’s terrible music became the standard. In a year, out of the 50 odd movies that were released, only half a dozen made money and only one or two were worth remembering.
Malayalam movies were going through a tough transition period. Untimely demise of some of our stalwart writers and directors gave opportunity to a bunch of writers and directors, who made us think that mediocrity is the new standard. Aping out of state movies which had high production standards sans content, infighting among Malayalam movie fraternity, rising super star fees,mindless antics by fans associations took Malayalam movies from the exalted heights to the place where James Cameron went in his new submarine.
At such a period, it would have been easy for any producer to go into other business like starting a resort or betting on real estate. So first we have to thank those producers who invested money in movies like Salt N Pepper, Traffic, Beautiful, Urumi, City of God, Passenger, Chappa Kurishu, Ordinary etc. Those are the people who stand first in our list and we agree with Ashique Abu. They are the brave ones.
Second we have to appreciate the new generation of script writers. Look at Salt N Pepper for example. If it was a Sathyan Anthikkad movie, it would have KPAC Lalitha playing an old woman abandoned by her children and Innocent doing his standard senti act. If it was a Shaji Kailas movie, you could predict next dialogue to be mouthed by the superstar or the next scene to come. All other movies had the hero living in exile in Pollachi. But keeping the melodrama minimal, the script writers [Shyam Pushkaran and Dileesh Nair] kept Salt N Pepper going without having much conflict. It was utterly refreshing.
Third, lets meet the new directors. We mentioned Ashique Abu, but there are folks like Sugeet, Rajesh Pillai, Samir Thahir, Lijo Jose etc. They know the new grammar of movie making. Among these Abu and Sugeet are disciples of Kamal and while their guru is making classics like Pachakuthira, the disciples are entertaining us.
Before mentioning the actors, we applaud Malayali audience for supporting movies which did not have superstars in them. It reminds us of a time when people used to watch movies based on who wrote it (Padmarajan, T Damodaran, MT) or who directed it (Bharathan, I V Sasi, Padmarajan, Hariharan). We have almost reached that state now. Having said that, we find a fearless generation of new actors shaping up. Some of them are new ( Fahad Fazil, Asif Ali,Vineeth Srinivasan), some of them re-invented themselves (Baburaj, Kunchako Boban).
Also look at the new generations of actresses like Remya Nambisan, Swetha Menon, Mythili and Rima Kallingal who are bold enough to portray realistic roles representing evolving womanhood. The goody-goody Kavya Madhavan-Navya Nair-Bhavana type roles no longer appeal to people.
Even though he’s delivering flop after flop of late, Mammotty played an important role in bringing up many new talents into Malayalam cinema. This man has a knack in unearthing talented directors.Lal Jose, Blessy, Ashique Abu, Amal Neerad … It’s a huge list. Even though he did not act in some of these new director’s movies, he supported them and helped launch their careers. It shows that he is one intelligent man who knows that his stardom is doomed if there are no good writers or directors.
If you look at Malayalam cinema, the target audience is limited. We don’t have the reach of Tamil or Telugu or Hindi movies. We made it up by writing innovative scripts and creating a mass appeal. The movies were always low budget. In the recent past only superstar movies were making money and the cost of moving making went over the roof. Then we reached a stage where only super stars where making money and most of their movies ended up as super hit in a channel. Now we are back to the basics again with small movies with good script.
Another good thing is the advent of multiplexes. The multiplexes era has opened up niche markets. This would be a boon for small movies as well as there is no need to please entire cine-going crowd. This should draw family audiences who are scared to visit big theatres. We had covered this in detail at Varnachitram few months back.
There are reactions to this. Mohanlal who had kept a distance from Ranjith now met him and patched up things. Mammootty after a string of flops must be going back to the drawing board. It will be better if Suresh Gopi actually joined Kerala Police. One of the consequences of this revival of small movies is that there will be less producers investing in Super Star movies. This is a good thing because we want to see M&M in fewer but better movies. To make their quota of 6 movies a year, they end up acting in Cassanova and Venicile Vyapari. Instead of that we want a Pranayam or a Pranchiyettan. Another positive thing about this revival is the sidelining of the “talents” of mimicry brigade like Suraj Venjarammoodu and Salim Kumar.
What can go wrong with this revival? There is always the customary infighting with the banning of actors and actresses. Sibi and Udayan, S N Swamy, as well as directors like Shaji Kailas are still in business. These new age directors and writers whom we praised earlier could get sucked up into big budget movies and lose focus on the craft. Or the new directors/writers not able to live up to the hype created by thier initial movies: For example look at the difference between Passenger and Arjunan Sakshi or James Albert’s creations after Classmates. Another huge problem is piracy, which is affecting every movie. As soon as a movie is released, torrents follow and soon it is uploaded on YouTube. For good movies to happen, movie makers have to make money.
Even though all these movies are interesting, it is important to add one historical perspective. We had fallen to such a rut that pretty much any non-template movie looks interesting and refreshing. With that perspective, we have to ask one question. How many of the movies we listed will stand the test of time and be looked on as a classic. Our answer is not a single movie qualifies in that matter.
Few years back when we were busy covering AMMA-MACTAfights at Varnachitram , we never thought this kind of turnaround would happen. We are really charged by this.
Trivia: Question: What is common in Chappa Kurish, Traffic, Salt n Pepper, 22FK, Ee adutha Kalathu,Second Show, Cocktail Answer: They don’t have Dappan Koothu Question: How many Salt N Peppers can be produced with the money wasted on Casanovva Answer: 16
Question: How many Chappa Kurish can be produced with the money wasted on Casanovva Answer: 32
1. If Aliens can meet Predators and Godzilla can meet King Kong, then why not the King and Commissioner?
2.If Amoorthananda (Ekalavyan1993) saw this movie, he would have giggled like a girl seeing the efforts put by Sai Kumar in this movie. Wigs and loud screams are so 1980s.
3.Tongue is mightier than sword.
4.Ranji Panicker’s fetish for firangi women and girls in saffron sarees has only grown since his Rowdram, Ekalavyan, Bharatchandran IPS days.
5.Malayalam is now part of Pakistani Army training since their Army chief speaks it fluently. He also knows that if he wants to be spared by King Kong and Godzilla, he has to simply utter “Bharat Mata ki Jai”
6.In a particular scene in the movie Renji Panicker teaches one of the villains and us the difference between Patriotism and Jingoism. However the director(Shaji Kailas)goes one step further and gives us a visual description for the latter in the film’s climax.
7.If you have seen Cassanovvva, this movie is funnier.
8.Just the multi-language multi-page dialogue emitted by the senior citizen superstars make you feel as if you are on top of Mount Everest without oxygen tank.
9.Apparently, Shaji Kailas and Renji Panicker made great entertaining films once. But looks like they are stuck in time. Doesn’t MACTA have a pension plan?
10.Renji Panicker’s verbal diarrhoea requires immediate treatment. The guy is already severely dehydrated.I fear he’ll go into a state of shock soon.
10.5 At the end of the movie, when the credits come up, you realize that it takes a whole lot of people to produce such garbage.
Composer Ravi Shankar Sharma is no more. For Malayalees he was Bombay Ravi. Integral part of MT-Hariharan movies, his music made those movies memorable. Instead of writing long amounts of text about him, let his music speak. Actually we should list all his songs since they are all classics. But here is our selection.
When actor Nishan, who plays an important character in the movie Ee Adutha Kaalathu said, ”This movie will surprise you” in a tv interview a couple of days ago, I had dismissed it as yet another desperate PR attempt by an actor to promote his upcoming little known movie. But after having watched Ee Adutha Kaalathu in a cinema yesterday I should admit that I was proved wrong, terribly wrong. The movie did surprise me not once or twice but atleast half a dozen times when I was watching it. Brilliantly scripted, flawlessly executed and intelligently performed ,Ee Adutha Kaalathu is a gem of a film that grows on you and lingers in your mind even long after you have left the cinemas. The narrative is totally unpredictable and a new surprise is thrown at you when you least expect it. For instance,watch out for that terrific interval sequence involving Vishnu(Indrajith),Madhuri(Tanushree) and the lover boy(Nishaan) .
A mysterious serial killer is terrorising the city. Half a dozen characters finds themselves embroiled in it. As the movie progresses, the viewer gets to know more about these characters, their life, ambitions and on how they are related to the serial killer . There is Anup menon as the Scotland Yard trained IPS officer who often becomes the laughing stock in the Police department as he is not able to solve the serial killer inspite of the ‘training’ he has got. Murali Gopi is Ajay,the frustrated husband who humiliates his wife to cover up his disability. Tanusree Ghosh plays Madhuri,the failed Bollywood actress and Ajay’s wife who had once acted in a couple of soft porn masala hindi movies. Nishan is the lover boy who develops a crush on Madhuri . Last but not the least we have Indrajith as Vishnu, the intelligent and smart rag picker who loves his wife(Mythili), children and his mother more than anything else in this world. There is also a sub plot involving gangster Watson(Baiju) and his friend turned foe X(oops!forgot his name). All these characters are inter connected and how they are unfolds while the movie progresses. I wont be revealing anything more about the plot here as this is one movie which you will be able to enjoy more if you get into the theatre knowing little about it’s plot or it’s characters.
Taboo topics like Sex, sexual incompetency, Impotency are discussed freely without getting obscene and distasteful. The movie also takes a satirical take on the average ‘Malayalee’ attitudes and ‘his double standards’ in life. The film also has topical references to the recent’Vilappilshala issue(Thoppilshala in the film) , Tata’s Nano car,the influx of migrant labourers from Bengal and North India and even the Malayalam super stars playing their age. As I said before, the movie packs in a lot of surprises. The first half of the movie moves at a very slow pace which is justifiable for the number of characters that the film has got. Though Arun Kumar and his script writer Murali Gopi have taken their sweet little time for character build up in the initial half they have made good for it by spicing it up with a few witty gags, Bible references and a killer BG score ensuring that the viewer never gets bored not even once during the 2.40 min run time of the film.
The scenes which I loved the most are:
1.The one between Vishnu(Indran) and his mother.Watch out for how he compensates his mother for that lost gift his father had given her.
2.The Church scenes(the confession scene) between the priest and Madhuri.
3.The Interval sequence between Madhuri,Vishnu and the lover boy (Nishan)
4.The scene in which Jagathy Sreekumar who plays ‘Theepantham’ Magazine editor barges into Ajay’s(Murali Gopi) cabin and threatens him
5.The post interval sequence in which Vishnu(Indran) and Madhuri(Tanusree) tries to hide their ‘secret’.”Ethu theatre anennu chodikkumbol parayanam,Sreekumar ennu”. Brilliant!
6.The post climactic portions(the wedding scene,the scene where Ajay finds the message written in Hindi inside the coffee shop).
7.The intelligent use of Bible quotes, signature tunes of certain popular T.V. shows in certain sequences in the movie
What could have been better:
1.The back story of Madhuri(Tanusree) seems a bit incomplete. The story of her father ends abruptly. How her mother has reached the present state also remains un explained(may be they might have cut them down during the final edit)
2.The climactic portions leading to the arrest of the serial killer could have been done in a better way.
Ee Adutha Kaalathu is one rare movie in which every other actor has given their best. Indrajith as Vettu Vishnu is terrific and you can hardly imagine any other actor in his place. Indrajith is one actor who inspite of his histrionic capabilities hasn’t really got his due in Malayalam Cinema. Hope this movie gets him the much deserved standing ovation that he has been vying for. The Trivandrum/Parassala slang that has become a bit cliched ,thanks to Suraj Venjaramoodu and his antics is also used intelligently by him in this movie. Anoop Menon as the IPS officer continues his good work here too and so does Lena(Traffic,Randam Bhavam) who plays the young journo. Thanusree Ghosh as the frustrated wife is apt though at places the lip sync is not up to the mark. The usually wooden faced Nishan proves that he can emote too if guided by a sensible director and is backed with an intelligently written role. Baiju who plays Watson, Jagathy Sreekumar as the magazine editor, Murali Gopi as Ajay are nothing but brilliant. Mythili who plays Indran’s wife too doesn’t disappoint though she has a brief role in the movie.
Technical department and Songs:
Arun Kumar Aravind who adapted Butterfly on a wheel as Cocktail last year is back with a genuine and original movie this time. Ee Adutha Kaalathu is a movie which he can definitely be proud of and most importantly Malayalam Cinema has got a sensible and intelligent director after a really long time.
More than anyone else I believe it’s the scenarist Murali Gopi who deserves the maximum accolades for creating a movie as sweet and entertaining as this. It’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who had scripted the disastrous Dileep starrer ‘Rasikan’ a couple of years back. Hats off to you, Murali Gopi. Though the inspirations from Anurag Basu’s ‘Life in a Metro’ and the second story in Dibakar Baneerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhoka (Nishan-Tanusree track) are obvious Murali Gopi never ends up copying from any of these two movies. The situations happen so realistically that you often forget that you are actually watching a feature film. Writing a multi narrative script is no easy job and in inept hands it might even end up confusing the viewer. But that’s where Murali Gopi scores. The links between the principal characters have been worked out really well and by the time the end credits start rolling all the loose ends have been tied and you get an answer for every other event that has happened in the story.
Shahnad Jalal’s frames are captivating and he could successfully give a slick and urban look for the whole film. Expect to see more works from this talented guy in the near future. The editing is crisp and competent. This review will be incomplete if I don’t mention about the brilliant BGM that this movie has got. The re recording is excellent and it adds to the beauty of the film. The movie has got two songs, Farzana and Oru Vazhiyayi. Both of them are hummable and have also been picturised well.
No movie is perfect. Neither is Ee Adutha Kaalathu. Some of the sequences especially those towards the climax seem illogical and could definitely have been done in a better way. But still all those minor blemishes can easily be overlooked as this is one movie which is genuine, entertaining and totally worth the price of your movie ticket
So what are you waiting for? Catch this brilliant movie at a cinema near you for this is one which deserves to be seen in a really good Multiplex and not in a bootleg DVD. Five on five for this excellent film. Miss this at your own risk!
He is currently trying to be the next superstar and there is concerted effort to make that happen. The best way to be a superstar is to do the role of an underworld don and that is what he did in Asuravithu. Maybe it was due to A K Sajan’s talented direction, the underworld movie went underwater. Soon it will also have the company of Unnam in the ocean bed.
But then is Asif Ali really superstar material? We don’t think so.
For example, look at Salt N Pepper. There is a scene where he sits in the train and introduces himself to the girl sitting opposite, pretending to be an acquaintance. When he gets caught, his reaction is really terrible. Similary, his scenes with the heroines are really bad. Stacked against seasoned actors like Lal and Shweta Menon, he was found lacking. In fact we will go on to say that he is the weakest link that wonderful movie. He was terrible in Unnam as well.
The performances, except perhaps for Lal, are mostly disappointing. After his dismal show in ‘Asuravithu’, Asif Ali proves once again that he is not yet ready to be an action hero[Unnam Review].
But then we liked him in Traffic. That is a pure adrenalin movie with little time for dialogue with hardly any “reaction shots” and he did a wonderful job in it. But is doing action movies alone sufficient? It won’t take him far since there are others with better physique.
Why are we lowering the bar for these new superstar wannabes? Mohanlal and Mammootty proved their ability in every genre of movies before they were anointed as superstars.
So it maybe a bit early to call him a superstar. He has to prove himself in a range of roles and that is when he will find public acceptance. Till then we say, let’s wait for him to do some excellent scripts as he looks very promising compared to many.