Sunday, October 25, 2015

ആമേൻ (Amen) (2013)

Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Writers:  P.S. Rafeeque, Lijo Jose Pellissery
Cast:       Indrajith, Fahadh Faasil, Swathi Reddy
Language: Malayalam

The film revolves around the events that happen in a picturesque Kuttanadan village (think Kerala backwaters) following the arrival of a young priest Vincent Vattolli (Indrajith), who is sort of a rebel. At the center of it you have the romance between Solomon (Fahadh) and Shoshannah (Swati Reddy), poor boy-rich girl kind) and everything is supposed to be resolved by a competition between two bands at the climax. 

The basic story won't look out of place if narrated by Ambujakshan (From Azakhiya Raavanan) in his 'Chirakodinja Kinavukal' style. I have nothing against cliched drivel being used in a film as long as it is done in an inventive manner without giving much importance to it. But sadly in this film, even though the director declares it to be a divine comedy, the focus is too much on the sob story where we are supposed to care for it even though you know where it is going from the get go itself. Only thing that can save the film from there is a riveting climax but that is quite hard to achieve when the competition is between two people on fucking clarinets. These kind of music set-pieces are quite achievable and you have examples from Malayalam cinema like 'Yodha' and 'His Highness Abdullah'. Amen doesn't even come close to them and the director chooses to end with a lame-ass twist which might make people who enjoyed the film go 'Wow' but  I went 'Meh'. 

Amen is the sort of film which hoodwinks the audience who loved it to think that they actually enjoyed a sophisticated film and they will pat themselves on the back for helping it become commercially successful. They will also gloat about the intelligence of Malayalee audience which makes these kind of films viable. When the director actually takes them for granted and make an actual good fucking film without any cliches, they will then castigate it for no good reason and the films end up as disasters at box office. This is exactly what happened to Lijo with his recent film 'Double Barrel', where he forgo cliches and concentrated on the eccentricities (which are in small supply in Amen and a reference to Rocky Punyalan is one of them) that makes him good.  

Only good thing about Amen and its success is that it helped in getting 'Double Barrel' made. Parallels could be made with Amen-Om Shanti Oshana and Double Barrel-Aadu Oru Bheekara Jeeviyanu. The success of the former set, despite being shit, helped Lijo and Midhun Manuel Thomas to get funding for the latter set, both of which are vastly superior films. Only thing I can say about the contrasting fortunes at box office for these set of films is: 'ഇത് എനിക്കു വട്ടായതാണോ അതോ നാട്ടുകാർക്ക് മൊത്തം വട്ടായതാണോ? ' (Is it me who is mad or is it the whole fucking society that is mad).   

Performances in it from all concerned are quite good and that of Swathi Reddy's was pleasantly surprising. Cinematography and positioning of camera in many shots is done with some difference but I didn't particularly enjoy many of their choices. There are too many songs in it, most of them garbage. to actually fill time and they are strategically inserted so that audience won't notice the threadbare and cliched plot. One song in a toddy shop involving the two bands is shot as a single tracking shot which was quite interesting. Lijo's unnecessary use of songs is something that he carried into Double Barrel with disastrous consequences in terms of pacing of the film. I hope he cuts the unnecessary ones for DVD release. I look forward to his next film but I do hope the lack of success of Double Barrel won't make him go back to Amen style.

PS: I was reminded of 'Silver Linings Playbook' which also had things getting resolved by a cringy dance competition at the climas. Film was thoroughly average but met with commercial and critical success.

Rating: 1.5/5