Feb 27, 2013

Movie Review: Celluloid

This weekend we finally ended our drought of watching movies in the theater. Not that we were not watching new, good movies - there are still good movies from 2012 that we have caught and are waiting to catch on DVD. I'll give you a list of recommendations at the end of this review.

Now to head to Celluloid - it has been making news as THE movie to watch for some months now. As you may know, it is the story of the first ever Malayalam movie and what went behind it. We've all heard  of the "JC Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award" given by the State of Kerala, but did you know that it is given in the name of a man who achieved nothing but financial ruin and neglect in his lifetime? He was given his rightful place in Malayalam movie history due to the efforts of ardent cinematic history lovers only about 70 years after his first and only movie was made.

Celluloid is not just the story of a man who wanted to bring this new artistic form into his state. It is also a window into a socially dark era that was bound by caste and creed differences. It is at the same time so terrifying and so heartening to view those incidents on celluloid (or digital form!) and know that although they still do exist, those demons are much more tamed now - dangerous yet, yes, but not showing all their fangs and riding roughshod over the whole society. One cannot but wonder at the enthusiasm and persistence of a man who will go to literally any end to learn a new art form and create one of his own literally from scratch. It is perhaps well that his story was not known widely, one wonders how many budding filmmakers would have lost heart if they had come to know how this first Malayalam filmmaker (and first leading actor too!) fared in his life. But then I think, true artists cannot but help following their Muse where it leads them!

Director Kamal has walked the narrow path between documentary and feature film pretty well, achieving the fine balance in telling the story that might have degenerated into maudlin drama easily. There are humorous moments, tense moments and exciting moments galore. The cast consisting of Prithviraj, Mamta, Sreenivasan etc., have done an exemplary job. Prithvi as JC Daniel richly deserves the award for Best Actor for the homework he has put in - it must have been refreshing for him to essay this role after playing a taciturn hunk in Aiyaa. Chandni - a fresh face - does justice to her role as the first heroine of Malayalam cinema.

Much more than just the entertainment value that this movie provides, it makes me grateful for the personal freedoms that we enjoy in this time and age. My sentiments were amply echoed in the applause and sighs of the rest of the audience. We had had an inkling of the standard of the audience that had come to watch the movie when my DH observed that the four-time repetition of the Polio vaccine ad did not invoke the customary catcalls.

Do go and watch Celluloid!!

My recommendations for recent Malayalam movies to watch on DVDs:

Ozhimuri: Directed by Madhupal. If Celluloid was not around, this movie would have won the award for best film. I had wanted to watch this movie, but it was shown only in one theater and stayed for only a week. Thank God for DVDs. I cannot watch it enough for its setting, its language, its history and its brilliant psychological analysis and a brilliant cast. Must watch.

Chapters: A "newgen" movie that has an interesting format, and intriguing storyline. Good for one watch.

Jawan of Vellimala: A Mammootty starrer that was thoroughly massacred by critics - but which we found to be okay for one watch at least. We certainly didn't feel like that it was a total disappointment. 

Trivandrum Lodge: We avoided this movie in theatres because our kids did not appreciate being left behind when we went to see 22, Female, Kottayam. But we thoroughly enjoyed the movie on DVD. 

Black Friday: The story of the adventures four different groups of people go through in the space of one day in verdant Alleppey. Good for one watch.

Arike: Has the feel of a novel set in the 80s. Syamaprasad's latest is more food for the mind than the heart, but still manages to touch somewhere. Although the movie moves forward to a foregone conclusion, the path it takes remains obscure and delights in its unique twists and turns.

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