Sunday, June 15, 2014

No: 20 Madras Mail (1990)

Director: Joshi
Writers:  Dennis Joseph, Hari Kumar (Story)
Cast:       Mohanlal, Mammooty, M.G. Soman, Ashokan

Enroute via train, one of three friends becomes a suspect in a homicide.

Many people would list Mohanlal's performance as Tony Kurishingal in this film as one of his best in a career that includes many great performances in many great films. No: 20 Madras Mail is by no means a great film. It is a film of two halves with the first one being a really good comedy part of the film and the second half a very average whodunnit action thriller. The entire first half is set on location in a real train and real travel which must have been a logistics nightmare while shooting. That effort really need to be appreciated because even now filmmakers are struggling to give a realistic life look to footage that are supposed to be shot in Indian trains. Mohanlal's performance as the booze filled spoiled son from a wealthy family is so good that one would wonder whether he had gone method during the shoot. Special mention to Siddique's cameo giving an introduction to the three characters in a bar. Mohanlal and Mammooty can really considered as the best two leading men Indian cinema has ever seen and they have acted in many films together especially in the earlier part of their respective careers. In this film Mammotty plays the real life self of him and in 'Manu Uncle' Mohanlal do the opposite playing himself. Interestingly both films involved Dennis Joseph.

Joshi has directed many completely challenging films but some of them have not aged very well. Films like 'Nair Saab', 'New Delhi' and 'Sainyam' are examples for this, being set in very unconventional, expensive and novel circumstances. 'Dhruvam' and 'Naaduvazhikal' are my favorite films of his with both having a slightly larger than life leading characters. Dhruvam is a very atmospheric film with a complex narrative structure.

Rating: 3.5/5