A Blog on Cinema

February 27, 2013
by NikhiMenon

Review: Harischandrachi Factory

Director:   Paresh Mokashi
Banner:UTV,Paprika Media,Mayasabha
Based on the life of Dada Saheb Phalke, the father of Indian Cinema, Harischandrachi Factory is a sweet little
film which will charm you with it’s inherent honesty.  The movie which traces the life of Dhundiraj Phalke and his struggles to make the first indigenous feature film was India’s official entry to the Academy Awards for the year 2010. Unlike the usual dark, pretentious and depressing art house fares that we get to see way too often, HF is a cute,entertaining tale replete with successful attempts at dark humor. The mental hospital scene,  Dhundiraj’s search for Rajaharischandra’s heroine in the red streets,the scenes following the sale of Phalke’s worldly possessions are all genuinely hilarious and often satirical which makes this movie a fun watch for even the non-Marathi viewer. The movie also offers an interesting time travel to the India –of the 1900 s.

What I liked the most about the movie:
1.The brilliant performances by Nandhu Madhav(Dada Saheb Phalke) and Vibhavari Deshpande(Saraswathi Phalke). Even the child who played Phalke’s son was very good.

2.The static frames, modest set design and the re recording could successfully create the period feel which was required for the film.

3.The overall mood of the film. Though it had scope to become preachy and over sentimental,Paresh Mokashi resorted to maintain a feel-good  feel through out the film. The length of the film(the movie is just about 119mins in duration) was also optimum.

4.The underlying Phalke-Saraswathi romantic track was charming.

What I didn’t like:
1. In the movie everything comes too easily for Phalke. The London scenes for instance, are far from convincing.
2. HF doesn’t throw light on the failed attempts and the bouts of depression and desperation which Phalke and Saraswathi might have gone through while making Raja Harischandra. The director’s attempt to portray Phalke as a man of all virtues(at some point in the film Dhundiraj’s brother even calls him Harischandra!) was a bit unwarranted.

Verdict-On the whole ‘Harischandrachi Factory’ is a fitting tribute to the pioneer of Indian Cinema, Dada Saheb Phalke and it’s undoubtedly onevmovie which should be watched by every Indian.


May 30, 2012
by vc

VC Quiz – 3 (With Answers)

(A while back, we used to run these quizzes and they stopped. Trying to revive it)

  1. Name the director who has directed the most number of Malayalam films: Sasikumar
    1. Bonus question Who is second?: I V Sasi
  2. The song “Pichaka poongavukalkumappuram” from No 20 Madras Mail was sung by M G Sreekumar and composed by Ousepachan. The programmer for this song is now a famous music director himself. Who is he? A R Rahman. Vidyasagar also assisted with this song.
  3. Few decades back, this famous actor was producing a movie. At that time S Janaki was the most popular singer. This actor then noticed that the Music Director, M G Radhakrishnan was making a young girl called Chitra sing the songs of the movie since S Janaki was not available. At that moment, the actor recollected in a recent interview, “I could have told Radhakrishnan to wait for a few days and get Janaki, but I just let it go”. That film gave a break to Chitra. The actor in the interview vehemently refused to take credit for giving a break to Chitra and insisted that the credit should go to M G Radhakrishnan alone. Who is this actor-producer? Madhu
  4. Before Jayaram became a film actor he was a mimicry artiste. One day Yesdas saw his act and was impressed and took him along with him for his stage shows. When Jayaram recollected this at a recent stage show, another veteran actor came up on stage and said that once upon a time he too was a mimicry artiste along with his friend. Yesudas saw their act and took both of them along with him. This actor is one of the best Malayalam has ever seen. His friend turned out to be a director who created numerous hits including one of the best movies ever created in Malayalam cinema. Who are these duo? – Nedumudi Venu and Fazil
  5. An interesting topic on VC these days is 1986. This 1986 movie gave a break to Geetu Mohandas as an actress, G Venugopal as a singer and Mohan Sithara as a Music Director. Which movie was it? Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare

Answers will be posted in a week

PS: We are not approving any comments with answers for this Quiz for next week or so.

May 26, 2012
by vc

Precision Casting

(Reader Sebastian left the following comment. We think this is an important point that deserves furthur discussion – Ed)

Casting is not an easy task. It requires great precision and craft. An apt casting is as important as the script since a loose script can be compensated a bit by a perfect casting (only a little bit) while a taut script can b spoiled by senseless casting. For instance ‘Indian rupee’ is a movie of excellnt screenplay.. Renjith showed his talent & boldness by casting Thilakan & Tiny Tom to the roles of Achutha Menon & C.H respectively. Can you imagine Suraj in the role of C.H?. How horrible it would be!.. Probably he would have been the 1st option, if the movie was done by another director especially someone like Saji Surendran.

We have seen some magical feats with casting which made us think that the actor was born only to perform that partcular character….
Which is the most effective, apt & brilliant casting in the history of malayalam cinema? Can you guess?…That’s nothing other than featuring N.N.Pillai in the role of Ajooran in Godfather..

There are several examples for casting precision..

  1. Achan kunju in Lorry
  2. Shobhana in Manichitratazhu
  3. Salim Ghoush in Thazhvaram
  4. Babu Antony in Poovinu Putiya poonthennal
  5. Nassar in Gazal
  6. Prathap Pothan in Thakara.
  7. Saleema in Aranyakam
  8. Rasheed in Oridathoru Fayalavan
  9. Manoj K jayan in Sargam

None of these (except Shobhana) had been established in malayalam cinema when they were choosen to these films. And they were engaged to do these characters by some master craftmen who knew the art of casting..

(I never forget the great roles played by M&M, Thilakan, Jagathi, Bharat Gopi, Nedumudi etc. But the above characters deserve special mention..).

May 19, 2012
by James

1986 – Mohanlal’s Amazing year

Reader James dropped this as a comment a few days back. We thought that this was an amazing observation and is worthy of a post – ed.

Some interesting history trivia regarding Mohanlal’s career:

I think the turning point year in his career was 1986. That’s when he was shifted upwards to super stardom. It is unbelievable when one looks at the releases of his films during that one year.

  1. Ninnishtam Ennishtam (Director: Priyadarshan)
  2. Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu (Director: Priyadarshan)
  3. Hello My Dear Wrong Number (Director: Priyadarshan)
  4. Thalavattam (Director: Priyadarshan)
  5. Sanmanassullavarku Samadhanam (Director: Sathyan Anthikad)
  6. T. P. Balagopalan M.A. (Director: Sathyan Anthikad)
  7. Gandhinagar 2nd Street (Director: Sathyan Anthikad)
  8. Kariyilakkattupole (Director: Padmarajan)
  9. Desatanakkili Karayarilla (Director: Padmarajan)
  10. Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal (Director: Padmarajan)
  11. Rajavinte Makan (Director: Thampi Kannanthanam)
  12. Sughamo Devi (Director: Venu Nagavally)
  13. Yuvajanolsavam (Director: Sreekumaran Thambi)
  14. Mizhineerpookkal (Director: Kamal)
  15. Panchagni (Director: Hariharan)
  16. Abhayam Thedi (dir. IV Sasi)

He was lucky to be there at the right time. He got the best screenplays and directors.

I don’t think any actors from the next generation would have such a luck. Though Fahad Fazil seems to be on fire.


May 6, 2012
by vc

Are We recovering?

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-MACTA fights at Varnachitram , we never thought this kind of turnaround would happen. We are really charged by this.

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

Thanks to Kishor Kumar for inputs.

April 10, 2012
by NikhiMenon

Lessons learnt from King and Commissioner

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.

March 7, 2012
by vc

RIP: Bombay Ravi

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.

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