Oct 24, 2011

Movie Review: Indian Rupee

(Edited on 25 Oct to add spoiler alert at the end! :-))

"Eee puzhayum, sandhyakalum, neela mizhiyithalukalum....", I haven't stopped humming since I got out of the movie theater yesterday. Mulllanezhi's last offering is just one of the gems that you bring back from a wonderful movie experience that is Indian Rupee. I must say this: one of the blessings in being a Malayali is having our own Ganagandharvan - thinking of a life without his voice is like a little death in itself. But the gods are kind, because they have given us Vijay Yesudas.

I admit that I didn't like Indian Rupee as much as I liked "Pranchiyettan and the Saint" which was pure, rollicking fun. But it lives up to the Ranjith gold standard all right! To get to the story, Prithviraj is JP, a "ninth-pass" budding real-estate broker who has high hopes of making it big in his field. Meanwhile, his dream of marrying his doctor-girlfriend (Reema Kallingal) is shelved indefinitely and he has to dodge his sister's suitors. Things take a dramatic turn when an elderly Achutha Menon ( played to perfection by Thilakan) approach JP and his partner CH (Tini Tom in a brilliantly underplayed role) to get his property sold. The movie gathers momentum from the point of his entry. Thereafter JP, CH and Achutha Menon find themselves embroiled in their worst nightmare till JP sorts out his priorities and manages to save the situation. Jagathy's "Golden Paappi" is a gem of character from Ranjith's pen. Like Satyan Anthikadu, Ranjith also seems to prefer a group of artistes for the minor roles - I saw some familiar faces from Pranchiyettan here and there. And somebody please tell me the name of the lady who plays Prithvi's sister - she of the long hair, big eyes and extremely natural acting. I think she played Rahul's single mother in "Sneha Veedu"??? She is a real find. Mammu Koya may not look like a typical villain, but he certainly excels as the jealous shark of a real-estate broker. 

Prithviraj deserves special mention as he brings out JP's angst in full by his portrayal. The only area he fails is in comedy - he opens his eyes a fraction too much and his body language becomes a shade too over-the-top - an instance is the scene in which he dodges his mother and sister when her suitor is scheduled to come calling - the prolonged scream at the end would have been funnier if it was a tiny, smothered "ayyo" - after all, he WAS trying to get away undetected! I would say another young actor has the same problem - Asif Ali in Salt n' Pepper too gives one the feeling of trying a bit too hard to make people laugh. Both actors would do well to study in Jagathy Sreekumar's school for a little while. Really, that man makes comedy look so easy, he can make us laugh with just a twitch of an eyebrow!

The director is back with what my DH fondly calls "Ranjithinte geervanam" - long-winded monologues - very well-written of course - but they sound awkward coming from the characters themselves- especially "ninth-pass" guys! But he manages to convey the messages he brings to the board very clearly - the disillusioned Achutha Menon who is tired of all the -isms that he tried on for size without ever realizing what precious things he had in him, the certainty that what goes around comes around, the need for a new generation to create a new code of values for themselves where their elders fail them...we hear it loud and clear Ranjith, we really do!

Warning: Spoiler alert!! Please read further only if you have seen the movie / don't mind reading about the end!!!!

So now JP is a PWD contractor - are you sure it's safe? Or are we likely to see another version of "Vellanakalude Naadu"???? :-)

Oct 11, 2011

Movie Review - Pranayam

Blessy's movies always evoke a feeling of apprehension in me - I keep a convulsive grip on whatever is near me because tragedy can strike at any moment, at any turning. And after watching Palunku, any reference in his movies to children left alone at home or elsewhere sets the doom bells tolling in my mind. Then why do I go on watching this director's movies? Because he delivers, each time, every time.

Pranayam - I'm still in the hangover of watching this movie - a better name for it would be a visual poem. Right from the moment Achutha Menon (Anupam Kher) rattles off the Bible passage that is his test for presbyopia, to the last appearance of the butterfly which alights on its true love is one magical journey of love - and how many kinds and variations of it... To sum up the story in cinema cliche, boy and girl fall in love and elope; they divorce after having a child who stays with the father; girl marries another man and has new family; all meet after 40 years. Sounds cliched, yes? But in the hands of the master craftsman that Blessy is, the movie sounds such depths of emotions that can only be guessed at. I fear that I may give away the climax of the movie by elaborating. You have to see this! Mohanlal gets a role for which any actor would literally give away a leg and an arm - it's one of the rare movies in which you forget that he is Mohanlal - instead you just see Mathews. Anupam Kher and Jayaprada .. I don't have words that will do justice to their prowess. Anup Menon gets another juicy one as the estranged son. Dhanya Mary scintillates as the daughter who simply refuses to understand. 

I think this is one movie to be added to one's personal movie collection: and viewed about once a year with family. Just to remind us why we are here on earth. We become so inured to each other in the daily grind of life that we take all the good for granted and just grumble at the imperfect. One's husband might make the perfect sarcastic comment for each proudly paraded new outfit that would want you to burn the new dress. One's wife may wear a tattered nighty to bed and put up her hair a la the Panchayat President's wife in Boban and Molly. One's kids may not be the perfect paragons of virtue in public and might embarrass you with innocent comments and observations. Shouting, criticism and defensive behavior might have become the norm rather than hugs, praise and encouragement. Watch Pranayam and fall in love all over again, with each other, with the whole world...

Oct 7, 2011

Golden lusciousness and the flu

My morning is so dreary with a hacking cough that's hurting my chest. So I thought I'd cheer you up with some golden lusciousness from my kitchen

Yup, that's pure homemade butter I made from the cream I skim off everyday and keep refrigerated. It's one of the blessings of living in a village - I once tried making some from the cream gleaned off packaged Amul milk while we were staying in Pune - all I got was a bitter slush that wouldn't even gather like butter. Talking about packaged milk - are you sure that you are getting milk at all? When we were buying milma milk three years ago, my DH would once in a while buy a dozen packets saying that would keep us going for a week. Invariably, the third day, I would have curdled milk on my hands and we would have to buy again. In Pune, we once left a packet of milk in the fridge for a week when we went to Delhi. I just tried boiling it when I got back and it was still okay! Recently, my sister-in-law bought a couple of packets - not milma - and left it in our chill tray. I saw it only two weeks after she left! In spite of my best curdling efforts, that too did not curdle, only a small portion of it seemed to be in two minds about staying fresh!

In case you are screaming at me saying that I don't NEED all that butter, I've already melted it down to golden ghee and put it away safely! Now let me go and suffer from my flu in silence...

Oct 4, 2011

Movie Review: Sneha Veedu

Going to a Satyan Anthikad movie is like having comfort food. You don't have excesses of flavor, just a lot of sweetness interspersed with just enough of other flavors to keep things from being boring...

So we have Mohanlal playing a rich Gulf-returnee who ploughs his money into reviving farming and farm-related industries as well as the cultural activities that he used to enjoy as a youngster. He is a man who likes to keep things simple and his avowed aim in life is to keep his mother happy. He eschews even marriage to that end. Well, he tempts fate with this focused attitude and fate retaliates by sending him a teenager who claims to be his illegitimate son! Life becomes a struggle in the process to remove this blotch on his immaculate escutcheon, but even his mother conspires against him by accepting the intruder with all her heart. All his attempts end in comic tragedy, so he sets out to Chennai to investigate. That is where the story becomes weak and improbable, but we all know what the outcome will be - Satyan's heroes are too full of the milk of human kindness to respond in any other way.
But hey, do we watch Anthikad movies for the plot? No. We watch it for the sweet relationship vignettes, the little sub-plots full of humor and pathos and the wonderful atmosphere of love that permeates through it all. We know there will be moments when we forget ourselves and laugh loudly at innocent comments and when we'll struggle not to cry in some tender moments. I think these are the hallmarks of a good Anthikad movie and Sneha Veedu has all these. Even the familiar cast and music director work its own magic. Edgy, violent and grey movies may tickle one's palate for a while, but Anthikad movies are like wholesome food that you go back to every time.

The cast as usual has given stellar performances, except for the newcomer Rahul Pillai who plays Karthik, the unwelcome visitor into the hero's life. Easily forgivable considering all the pain he has to portray. I have developed a special liking for Sheela in her elderly avatar. She was a treat in Manasinakkare and does very well in this too. Biju Menon, Lena, Padmapriya, Innocent, KPAC, all handle their simple roles with ease. Innocent as "Karinkkannan Mathayi" reminded me of my mom. She too had just to comment on the size of a papaya to have the whole plant come down the next day! Fortunately, she has left off commenting for a long time now!

All in all, Sneha Veedu is a good getaway from the daily grind. Enjoy!

Spring/Summer Projects

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