Friday, October 3, 2014

സെല്ലുലോയ്ഡ് (Celluloid) (2013)

Director: Kamal
Writers:  Vinu Abraham, Kamal
Cast:       Prithviraj, Sreenivasan, Mamta Mohandas, Chandini
Language:Malayalam

The story of J C Daniel, who made the first Malayalam film 'Vigathakumaran' in 1928, resulting in his exile from hometown due to bankruptcy and eventual downfall.

Film is a must watch for Malayalam cinema enthusiasts. I say that because it is a story that one should be aware of and not necessarily because it is a great film. The film has its flaws, especially in the former half of the film which depicts the making of 'Vigathakumaran'. The caste aspects and its equations are overplayed and J C Daniel is portrayed as a whiter than white character. There was really no need to overly show him and his family being above all that. The action of casting someone from the 'lower caste' to play a 'nair girl' in the film would have been enough to convey where  he stands on these matters and they could have left the rest of it in a subtle manner without banging it on our heads. It would have left some element of surprise regarding the fate of 'Vigathakumaran' when it was eventually released. It would also have given some credibility to the 'J C Daniel turning his back on his family' angle which comes later in the film after his attempt to produce a second film.

The film gets much more interesting when it jump cuts to 1966 from 1928. Portrayal of an old J C Daniel by Prithviraj is surprisingly good. Film is based on 'Life of J C Daniel' by Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan and 'Nashta Naayika' by Vinu Abraham. Sreenivasan plays the role of Gopalakrishnan , a film journalist. He finds out J C Daniel's whereabouts in Tamil Nadu and make efforts to get him the recognition that he deserves from Kerala government. The cultural secretary played by Siddique is apparently the famous author Malayattoor Ramakrishnan and the chief minister during that time was K Karunakaran. This generated some controversy due to the casteist interpretation of their actions in the film even though their identities are not explicitly given. The final jump cut to 2000 coincides with the release of Mohanlal starring 'Narasimham'. The irony is not lost because that clusterfuck of a film ushered in plethora of Malayalam films having larger than life heroes from which we haven't still recovered.

Overall the film is a very good watch. The flaws in it are the ones to be expected from an above average director from the old school era. The two songs in it are excellent giving the feel of the times but the necessity of them in the film can be questioned. I am getting quite fed up with the reliance on local slangs as a comic vehicle in these kind of films. It is one thing when it is done by actors who can definitely carry it and other when limited actors try to do them in a farcical manner

Rating: 3.5/5