Friday, December 23, 2016

2016- Best Malayalam Films (2016)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Arrival (2016)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang
DOP: Bradford Young
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

A linguist is recruited by the military to translate alien communications after 12 alien vessels lands in different locations around the world including one in Montana. While different countries initially coordinate together to share the information they learn about aliens, this arrangement breaks down eventually when they try to pinpoint the purpose of their visit.

The monolithic space craft in the film is the very obvious but what seems a mandatory reference for every space related film to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film's treatment is quite similar to how it was in 'Signs' with the emphasis on what impact it does have on the characters rather than on the aliens or a confrontation. The tagline of the film is 'Why are they here?' and it kind of leads to a somewhat anti-climactic reasoning. Interstellar had a very cringe worthy explanation of 'Love' communicating over space and time and when compared to that, Arrival's message of countries from all around the earth having to unite together and coordinate is executed and conveyed much better. The obvious allusion is to the threat of climate change and global warming. When you come to think of it, the prevailing idea in this genre that aliens would want to invade earth is quite preposterous since them being here itself is proof of their superior intellect. I guess the easy comparison to our own history of colonialism is the reason for this narrative.

Arrival is an adaptation of short story 'Story of your life' by Ted Chiang. A major theme explored in the film is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It posits that the structure of a language affects its speakers' cognition or thought process. The film proposes that when you learn a new language, you begin to think in terms of that language. The alien language in the film has a unique feature which gives the linguist character, played by Amy Adams, a unique ability. The twist in the end would make you see many prior scenes from the film in a new light. Film had begun with Amy Adams kissing her new born baby which looks misleadingly like a still-born. That scene makes total sense in the end.

It is visually a gorgeous film in a foreboding sense when combined with Jóhan Jóhannsson's stunning background score. It sounded quite Indian at times as well. I watched the film with great expectations after the almost perfect reviews that it got and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. Jeremy Renner's character is terribly undercooked and it leads to an unconvincing ending. Denis Villeneuve is one of the best directors going around now and it ends up as one of his lesser efforts along with 'Prisoners'. Still, it is a very good watch people have every reason to be excited by his Bladerunner project.

Rating: 3.5/5 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Munroe Island (മണഡ്രോ തുരുത്ത്) (2016)

Director: Manu
Writer: Manu
DOP: Prathap P. Nair
Cast: Indrans, Jason Chacko, Abhija, Alancier Lay
Language: Malayalam 

Keshu, a wayward and mentally quite unstable teenager, and his father comes to their native village Munroe Thuruthu, an island village, where his grandfather lives in their ancestral home with Kathu, the maid. Father wants to take his son for proper psychological treatment while grandfather insists that he is quite normal and some time spent in the village will do him a world of good. Things don't go exactly according to grandfather's plan.

When the grandfather takes father and son to their home on first day, they reach a point from which two roads begin. Grandfather then tells the quite famous riddle of one road going to hell and other to complete freedom and a pathological liar being the only one who could help you find which road is the correct one to take but you can ask him only one question. So the trick is to frame the question in such a way that you could figure out the road from the fact that liar will always tell a lie. The basis of the film, we come to know by end, is this riddle as the grandson claims to have done or planning to do very bad deeds and we and the grandfather are not sure how much of it is true.

Going by the initial premise of the film one would think that it is another redemptive story where the goodness of village is the catalyst for redemption. We are used to films in Malayalam where the protagonist will have some redeeming in the end no matter how bad their characteristics are. The film plays on both of these by going in the opposite manner by keeping us always guessing and without having any sort of resolution at the end. The central plot point of the film revolves around the relation of the three men with Kathu. You cannot really pinpoint the exact nature of these relationships as the only basis for us is based on what the grandson thinks and he is not a reliable figure for us to conclude anything.

This film can be considered as polar opposite to both Rajeev Ravi's 'Njan Steve Lopez' and Padmarajan's 'Moonnam Pakkam'. At a macro level the premise of the film is quite similar to Moonnam Pakkam but the treatment and reverence of its characters are truly opposite. Steve Lopez was a naïve teenager who revolted against the corruption of adults. But in this film it is the older generation who are portrayed as naïve or acting naïve while the new generation calls out on them by exhibiting some extremely bad behaviour. Again, we are not sure whether the grandfather is acting naïve.

It is overall a great watch and works very well as a psychological thriller. It is the second film to be presented by Aashiq Abu after the excellent 'Ozhivudivasathe Kali' but this one got a very limited release with it playing in just two screens. That is a shame because this one could have done very well at the box office since Malayalees are quite fond of psychological thrillers/horror.  Performances from all concerned are good and at 92 minutes, the film is quite rightly edited.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, November 13, 2016

HyperNormalisation (2016)

Director: Adam Curtis
Writer: Adam Curtis

HyperNormalisation is the latest documentary from counter-historian Adam Curtis and it was released last month on BBC iPlayer. In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex 'real world' and built a simple 'fake world' that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians.

Out of all Curtis documentaries, this one I think would be the hardest to explain in rather simple terms. In the aftermath of Trump's presidential election win, we had articles pointing out that Facebook helped him in winning the election because those who rely on Facebook for news tend to be in an echo-chamber where their ideas are not challenged and they kept on being fed what they want to hear because of its algorithm. The basic point about the documentary is that we are living in a times where everyone is searching for a simple narrative and the politicians also follow that. He cites the example of West's relationship with Gaddafi where both of them cynically played the role that the other wanted them to play for the larger audience. The tendency to put blame on supervillains in search of simple narratives. The whole brooha about Saddam Hussein and WMDs after 2001 was just a repeat of how Gaddafi was portrayed in the 80s when the US really knew that it was senior Assad's Syria who were doing it in the 80s. They didn't want to take on Assad then because Reagan's forces were already driven out from Lebanon by Assad's unleashment of Shiite suicide bombers. Of course, everything came back to bite both US and West back because the concept of suicide bombers have mutated now to become more of a Sunni thing. Senior Assad wanted to unite Arab world and now the suicide bombers are tearing it apart.

The catharsis of the documentary comes up with Trump's presidential campaign and how he draws up parallel with Putin's shape shifting reality. It also focuses on Putin's chief enforcer Vladislav Surkov who sees Russia as one big reality show and the same thing is happening in Trump's USA. Last thirty or so years has greatly eroded people's trust in politicians and what it has resulted is that truth of reality is not much important anymore.

The other main strand in the documentary is about how the major movements that started with the help of social media, occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring mainly, have spectacularly failed. You can get people assembled with social media's simple narrative but they don't have an answer to the present system. Liberal left is failing and far right is filling the vacuum all over the World.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fargo (1996)

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
DOP: Roger Deakins
Cast: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi 

Jerry Lundegaard's (William H. Macy) inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's constant bungling and persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand).

I consider myself to be part of what I call 'outsourced subprime crisis generation'. Meaning that we got a lot of free time due to the fact that we graduated in 2008. This helped us in getting a chance to take a thorough look into the wide world of foreign language cinema. This and the perfect timing of BSNL Broadband (jeez that 2-8AM unlimited download plan!) taking off in a big way around that period. The rite of passage quite often involved starting off with IMDB's top 250 list. You'll learn with experience that IMDB is a crock of shit (stupidity of masses) but that top 250 list was always a good place to start. That is how I remember stumbling on to Fargo and the filmography of Coen Brothers' who are either second or third in my list of favourite directors, depending on my mood, along with Michael Haneke.

Their filmography have been quite amazing from the get go but it was Fargo's success that brought them their limelight. It won them best director award at Cannes and an academy award for best original screenplay. Film is famous for its cold Minnesota setting and very distinctive accent (Yah, you betcha!). Stunning cinematography from Roger Deakins is a given and the excellent BGM was something that I caught on to on rewatch. Events that happen in the film are quite horrific but is depicted in a comedic folksy manner. It is based on a true event but the characterisation is fictional. So you have quite contradicting disclaimers when you go from opening credits to closing credits. Performances from the cast is excellent and the film has spawned a TV series and the Japanese film  Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter.

If I were to rank Coen Bros films that I've watched, it would go something like this:

1. The Big Lebowski
2. Blood Simple
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Fargo
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. O brother, where art thou?
6. Raising Arizona
7. Miller's Crossing
8. Hudsucker Proxy
9. True Grit
10. Burn After Reading
11. Barton Fink
12. Intolerable Cruelty

Rating: 5/5

Monday, October 31, 2016

Traffic (2000)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers: Stephen Gaghan, Simon Moore
DOP: Peter Andrews (Steven Soderbergh)
Cast: Michael Douglas, Benicio del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Erika Christensen

An intertwined drama about the United States' War on Drugs, seen through the eyes of a once conservative judge, now newly appointed drug Czar, his crack-addicted daughter, two DEA agents, a jailed- drug kingpin's wife, and a Mexican cop who begins to question his boss' motives.

There are three main storylines in three different geographical locations and the threy are differentiated for the audience by three different colour tones adopted by Steven Soderbergh, who himself handled the camera for the film. I had seen this film many years ago and was hugely impressed by it. I went in for rewatch with some premonition as every War on Drugs films/TV series suffer from post 'The Wire' syndrome as you tend to compare everything with this gold standard. Wire had 60 hours to develope its world and story while Soderbergh gets only less than three hours. Considering that, Traffic matches its ambition and still stands the test of time. Then again, you cannot really compare the two as Traffic is from a white perspective while Wire from a black.

The huge ensemble cast does a terrific job and Benicio del Toro got his Oscar for best supporting actor for this Spanish speaking role. Soderbergh also won the academy award for best director. Film is an adaptation of Channel Four Brirish drama 'Traffik'. Soderbergh cited 'All the President's Men' as an inspiration for the film and I also got reminded of Michael Mann's 'The Insider'. Multiple storyline were quite in vogue during those times and Soderbergh's effort is among the best if you consider it as a genre onto itself.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Director: Martin Brest
Writer: Bo Goldman
DOP: Donald E.Thorin
Cast: Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, Philip Seymour Hoffman 

A prep school student needing money agree to 'babysit' a blind colonel, over the Thanksgiving weekend,  but the job is not at all what he anticipated.

Scent of a Woman was the film where academy made amends for their past mistakes and gave Al Pacino his first and only Oscar. He is my favourite English language actor of all time and should've already won it for either Godfather or Dog Day Afternoon. His career can be classed into two phases- the initial one characterised by quite subtle performances in films like Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon & Godfather and the latter 'Hoohah' years characterised by films like Scarface, Scent of a Woman, Devil's Advocate etc. This division is also quite chronological with the dividing line being his serious illness in the late 70s. He did quite roll back the years for 'The Insider' and 'Donnie Brasco' and gave a mix of the two eras in 'Heat'.

The only other film that I've seen of Martin Brest is the excellent 'Midnight Run' which is a comedy road film featuring Robert De Niro. Both these films are ultimately feel good ones where everything is tied off too well at the end. Midnight Run is the better one in my opinion and how much you like SOAW would depend on how well you take to Pacino's performance. It is not among my favourite performances of his but I still like the film on the whole. Hoo-ha... Philip Seymour Hoffman once again steals everyone's thunder.

My favourite Pacino performances goes something like this:

1. Dog Day Afternoon
2. Godfather
3. Insider
4. Donnie Brasco
5. Heat

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Director: Anthony Minghella
Writers: Patricia Highsmith, Anthony Minghella
DOP: John Seale
Cast: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman

In the late 1950s New-York, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), a young underachiever is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.

Talented Mr. Ripley was the follow-up film from Minghella to 'The English Patient', which won numerous academy awards. That one was a typical Oscar bait film that you like watching it for the first time but have no intention to revisit it ever again. While this one is the exact opposite, with a truly dark story which won't make it a favourite during the awards season and tremendous performances from all concerned. Matt Damon is a favourite of mine more because of the films that he is involved with than because of superlative acting turns. He is someone who has played too many Matt Damonish roles and you've trouble seeing him as the character that he is playing. Ripley is an exception to that and it is in my opinion his best performance.

The errand that he is assigned for by the millionaire father is as part of a misunderstanding and there is the obvious class difference between Ripley and those he acquaints with on his trip.
Ripley is good at impersonating others, forging signatures and lying comfortably. He begins to long for the lifestyles of his rich new friends. There is also some homosexual undertones to the whole deal.

The greatest thing about the film is that he gets away with (physically not mentally) which is in stark contrast to the usual 'Crime doesn't pay motif' from Hollywood. We also want him to get away with it. Overall, it is a great watch and works as a psychological thriller. The film is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel with the same name and it was also earlier adapted as the film 'Purple Noon'. I do like to check out Alàin Delon's performance as Ripley.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, October 9, 2016

കവി ഉദ്ദേശിച്ചത് (Kavi Udeshichathu) (2016)

Director: Thomas, Liju Thomas
Writers:  Thomas, Martin Duro
Cinematographer: Shahnad Nalla
Cast: Asif Ali, Narein, Biju Menon, Anju Kurien 
Language: Malayalam

Film is set in a village in Iritty (Wayanad-Kannur border area) which is crazy about volleyball. Asif Ali's and Narein's characters are enemies from their schooldays and both of them have a crush on each other's sisters. Film revolves around a bet that they make on the result of a volleyball tournament for which each of them field a team.

It is from the makers of short film 'Ramaniyechiyude Naamathil' which went viral on social media and garnered several awards. It stood out due to its production quality and paved their way for getting this film made which is also an in-house production from Asif Ali. The big question was whether they will be able to make the transition from short films to feature length. The short that they did had a decent idea executed very well. The big question mark over here was the quality of the script.
The beginning of the film was quite average and it started pulling off its humour only after the introduction of their respective love interests. Many of the comedies in the middle portion worked well before the film reached its highly predictable and longer than necessary climax portion. Biju Menon's character was introduced only in the second half and I found his role and the writing around it very underwhelming. It is the other side characters that shine well in the film as a whole.

Overall, it is a watchable film with a disappointing beginning and end. It is kind of caught between its clichés surrounding its setting and somewhat fresh kind of comedies. They could have done away with some of the unnecessary songs and shortened the hugely predictable climax. They have also reused the idea from the short film which should be interesting for those who haven't already watched it.

PS: The title of the film is a colloquial expression which roughly translates as 'Dafaq did you mean'. You can ask the same to the makers regarding the choice of this title as well.

Rating: 2/5

Sunday, September 11, 2016

ഒപ്പം (Oppam) (2016)

Director: Priyadarshan
Writers: Govind Vijayan, Priyadarshan
Cinematographer: N.K. Ekambaram
Cast: Mohanlal, Samudirakani, Nedumudi Venu, Anushree 
Language: Malayalam

Jayaraman (Mohanlal) is a blind man but possess a heightened sense of smell, touch and sound. He works as an elevator operator in a posh apartment in Kochi. One day he happens to encounter the murder of a person  with whom he was was very close with and subsequently he is charged with the crime. Jayaraman is the only one who can identify the killer and he also knows an information that the murderer badly wants. So the killer starts to follow him constantly to get that information. The film's title 'Oppam' comes from this and it translates as 'Together' in English.

Prior to the release of the film, Priyadarshan sounded very desperate for the film to be successful after his last couple of efforts bombed very badly at box office. There was an acknowledgment from him that he hadn't made a film in Malayalam with serious effort for a long time and this one is different as he is embracing the new generation of Malayalam cinema with him casting several actors among them. But the biggest validation came when the kickass trailer came out which was cut by Alphonse Putharen, who is certainly among the most promising directors from the industry.

The film begins with a very good short sequence where the killer's shadow is introduced set to a stunning poem and imagery. Then the character of Jayaraman is introduced in an utterly cringe worthy fashion, where his knowledge of classical music and martial arts (Kairali) is thrown in and you also get to see him singing during a boat trip with a couple of foreigners also appreciatively watching on. As you start worrying about the film, it does pick up from there and sustains quite well till about half way through the second half, even though there is a totally WTF sequence involving Mohanlal and Vimala Raman just before the central murder of the story. The last act of the film is extremely drawn out and will test your patience.

It is supposed to be a thriller and there is no big twist to it as we know the identity of killer from the beginning itself. The cat and mouse game between Jayaraman and the killer is the highlight of the film. But you do get perturbed by some of the lazy choices that Priyadarshan makes. It seems that almost all the characters in the film know each other and it is a small world. Anusree's Police character is seen to have connected the dots between several deaths but she doesn't seem to have a clue about the latest one even though she personally knows Jayaraman. Then there is an altogether improbable sequence of Aju Varghese's character setting up a meeting between the killer and Jayaraman. These kind of inconsistencies stick out like a sore thumb but you do have to credit Priyadarshan for not spoon-feeding much for the audience as there is no particular scene which looks too much like an exposition.

Cinematography and frames are excellent like you would expect from a Priyadarshan film and there is one shot of the killer on the rooftop in dark lit up by fireworks which was quite amazing. Chemban Vinodh and Mammukkoya are excellent in their roles as comic reliefs. Anusree is wasted in her role which is also quite poorly written and the sequences involving the little girl speaking grown up words are quite excruciating to watch in the second half.

Overall it is a watchable film with several highs and several lows. Most of the lows come in the characterisation of Jayaraman which I suspect is done to please his fans. Mohanlal's filmography can be divided into two eras with 'Narasimham', which came in 2000, being the dividing line. It was a film that set back Malayalam film industry for a decade and it was only with the advent of the new generation that it started recovering. Mohanlal had a phase of playing larger than life roles post Narasimham and that stopped only after several of those films started doing very badly at box office. But most of his roles since then have been of the whiter than white variety with him dishing out several moralising wise words like a family elder. Only roles that actually used Mohanlal's talents to a good degree since 2000 in my opinion have been Company, Bhramaram, Udayananu Tharam, Koothara and to a smaller extent, Drishyam. What made Drishyam's Georgekutty work is that he was not made out to be a perfect role model. He watches porn and is not politically very correct. Oppam's Jayaraman is not one to be added to that list as, even though Mohanlal does very well in portraying the blind character, the jack/master of all trades wise-ass characterisation that Priyadarshan goes for is not great.

PS: There is a totally unnecessary sequence involving Antony Perumbavoor which will make your groan and think of the Malayalam saying:"ആനപിണ്ഡത്തെയും പേടിക്കണോ"...

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, September 10, 2016

കൊച്ചാവ പൗലോ അയ്യപ്പാ കോയ്ലോ (Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho) (2016)

Director: Siddhartha Shiva
Writer: Siddhartha Shiva
Cinematographer: Neil D'Cunha
Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Master Rudraksh Sudeesh
Language: Malayalam

The film's very annoying title is inspired from Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho whose, too famous in my opinion, quote from Alchemist is used as a constant reference in the story. Its central character is a boy whose ambition in life is to fly in an airplane and the film follows various things that he does to fulfill it. Kunchacko Boban plays the role of do-good village man who helps the boy in achieving his goal.

The film marks the return of Udaya Pictures, the first film production company in Malayalam, after a gap of thirty years and Kunchacko Boban is now its third generation producer. I decided to go for the film after failing to get tickets for Priyadarshan-Mohanlal combo's 'Oppam'. Initial reviews that I heard of it were overwhelmingly positive and was quite surprised by how clichéd and boring it turned out to be. The film is set in contemporary times but the village characters in it looks so outdated and from the 90s. This is also true of the two kids in it who seems to be from the 80s. You get the clichéd village goodness and innocence that Malayalam film industry is so fond of  in terms of setting and characterisations. You can't help but think of the fact that it is quite affordable for most Malayalees to take a flight from Ernakulam to Trivandrum if someone is hell-bent on taking a flight trip. Film does address it but in a very unconvincing fashion. I was really considering to leave during the interval, would have been a first for me, but I decided against it coz of locked gates.

The second half doesn't get any better and proceeds like a really poor version of the latter half of the film 1983 without any of its nuances or attention to detail. The kid conveniently narrates the story too many times over the course of the film, a sign of laziness from the director's part. Films set in Kerala villages (are there any left?) is an excuse for stunning visuals and the film provides that, but it just serves to accentuate it's overall drabness. Maybe it is aimed strictly for school going kids who are having their vacation and they might get affected by it but my experience of it was quite excruciating.

Rating: 1/5

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Die Hard (1988)

Director: John McTiernan
Writers: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza
Cinematographer: Jan de Don't
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov

The film follows off-duty police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he takes on a group of highly organised criminals led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), who perform a heist in a Los Angeles skyscraper under the guise of a terrorist attack using hostages, including McLane's wife Holly, to keep the police at bay.

Die Hard is of course the film that launched Bruce Willis, who was till then a TV actor who does comedy, as an action star. The studio had approached Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role as a sequel to 'Commando' but he turned it down. We can thank him for that because we just cannot imagine anyone else playing McClane now. Out of the left-field choice of Bruce Willis and the then fresh idea of a non-muscled up lone wolf hero fighting against all odds were what made Die Hard such a path-breaking film. Since then the whole premise has been regurgitated numerous times and we got Die Hard on a plane, Die Hard on a President's plane, Die Hard on a Ship etc, as the honest trailers guys put it. I was never a fan of Arnie action films (couldn't finish Predator) and films like Die Hard , Bourne series etc are my kind of action films. Only downside to it is that it forced Bruce Willis to do many action films which led to the underutilization of his considerable acting capabilities.

What makes it great when compared with other action films, including the sequels in the same franchise, is that it got a great villain. To be honest, I won't call him a villain even because Alan Rickman is just cool as the silver-tongued operator with classical education. You will almost feel sad when he meets his end in the film. It is hard to fathom that it was a debut role in films for the excellent Alan Rickman, whom many idiots will remember just for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise.

Die Hard works as a great action film, a great Christmas film and a great comedy film. Most of the characters in it, especially outside of the building, are cartoonish but it works well for the comedy. I just loved those FBI guys, both of whom are named Johnson (no relation). It is a must-watch.

PS: Yippie Ki-Yay, Motherfucker!!

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 5, 2016

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers:  Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
Cinematographer: Jean-Yves Escoffier
Cast: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgård, Ben Affleck

Film follows 20-year-old south Boston laborer Will Hunting, an unrecognised genius who, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement after assaulting a Police officer, becomes the client of a therapist and studies advanced mathematics with a renowned professor. Through his therapy sessions, Will revaluates his relationships with his best friend, his girlfriend and himself, facing the significant task of confronting his past and facing the future.

In general I'm not a fan of feel good films. That is more of a reflection on the films that come out of this genre. But when done well, they can be amazing, uplifting and shit like that. Good Will Hunting is one such example. I've seen it 4-5 times and it has been as fresh as when I saw it for the first time. The basic premise of it is something that can be really torn apart by the honest trailers guys. One could also say that many of the Matt Damon characters are essentially the same, reluctant geniuses, be it Rounders or the Bourne series. Guess he can pull it off easily maybe because he reportedly has a genius level IQ.

The film is basically a collection of several set-piece monologues delivered by Williams and Damon and one especially good one from Ben Affleck. It won all three of them their first Oscars. The set piece nature of these conversations are masked because of the goodness of what happens between those scenes. Robin Williams is playing his best role which couldn't have been more against his type. It is great uplifting watch and will be a case of a film living up to expectations. It was also a big commercial success, surprisingly enough, collecting more than 200 million on a $10 million budget.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, August 29, 2016

Beau Travail (1999)

Director: Claire Denis
Writer:    Claire Denis
Cinematographer: Agnes Godard
Cast: Denis Lavant, Michael Subor
Language: French

The film focuses on an ex-foreign legion (Denis Lavant) officer as he recalls his once glorious life, leading troops in Africa.

You can't do much wrong if you start your film with a club scene set to 'Kiss Kiss' song from Tarkan. The film has a meditative quality to it as we are shown various routines that the legion goes through in their non-combat days. First half of the film will work very well as an advertisement for recruitment. The character played by Denis Lavant is like the second in command with a father fixation for his own reporting officer. It could be sexual as well but it is not explicitly mentioned. In the beginning of the film, he mentions that 'Freedom begins with remorse'. The remorse that he is noting here is concerning his actions when he had a young man whom he thought of as a competition for him in terms of his superior officer's attention/affection.

It is an adaptation of Herman Melville's 1888 novella Billy Budd. It also reminded me of William Friedkin's 'Cruising' which also had a very confused protagonist. It is a great watch and has got a super great soundtrack. Claire Denis is a very interesting director and the films that I've watched of her's has a unique quality to them while each of them being very different in terms of settings.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, August 28, 2016

ഇടി (IDI) (2016)

Director: Sajid Yahiya
Writers:  Sajid Yahiya, Arouz Organ
Cinematographer: Sujith Sarangi
Cast: Jayasurya, Sunil Sukhada, Joju George
Language: Malayalam

IDI stands as an acronym for Inspector Dawood Ibrahim who dreamt of being a Police inspector after watching the various macho police roles played on screen by the likes of Mammooty and Suresh Gopi.

The teaser poster and trailer of the film suggested that it caters to the taste of a certain section of Malayalee audience who likes watching dumb Telugu and Tamil mass films. Idi is anything but as it is a very intelligent spoof film. But its misleading promotion might have backfired as it attracted the wrong kind of audience and is not doing terribly well at the box office. Even I decided to give it a go only after confirming that it is infact a spoof film as I was not very impressed by the trailer and initial reports. I'm glad I did it as I didn't want to add another one to the list comprising of  Aadu and Lukka Chuppi, two Jayasurya films that I missed out in theatres due to a combination of misleading promotion and poor word of mouth. He is known as the torrent star of Malayalam film industry and Idi will be another one to be added to his list of torrent hits.

One cannot really fault them for the misleading promotion because that in itself was a spoof on the audience. Sad fact is that Malayalee audience are not very good at judging things correctly when a film defies their expectations. Spoof films and screwball nonsensical comedies haven't done well at box office recently going by the box office fate of films like Aadu, Chirakodinja Kinavukal and Double Barrel.

Idi starts with them showing the birth of its protagonist, a spoof on a very annoying trend in Malayalam cinema. We realise that the film itself is a spoof by only about 20 minutes into the film. The first half of it is a laugh riot. It doesn't disappoint in the second half also even though the laugh quotient is taken a peg down leading up to its climax action sequence. I was not convinced by Jayasurya in the trailer but he is super good along with the entire cast. It is technically also very good even though the fight sequences in the trailer looked a tad amateurish. I think it is a case of the film being a whole lot better as a complete package even though the elements in it individually doesn't really stand out. The BGM was also a letdown in the trailer but the same works very well during the film. Please do watch it at the cinemas as it really deserves a much better box office returns.

Rating: 4/5

Ива́ново де́тство (Ivan's Childhood) (1962)

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Writers:  Vladimir Bogomolov, Mikhail Papav 
Cinematographer: Vadim Yusov
Cast: Kolya Burlyayev,  V. Zubkov, Ye. Zharikov, S. Krylov 
Language: Russian

The film tells the story of a young orphan boy and his experiences in world war two. It is based on Vladimir Bogomolov's short story 'Ivan'.

Even though the title and poster of the film might make you think of it as something in the mould of 'Come and See', it is not similar. Yes it does show the terrible things that come with wars, mainly through surreal dream like sequences about Ivan's childhood, but the film doesn't focus too much on that. Ivan is treated like a mythic character who comes in and out of the film. He is someone who is employed by the red army on a scouting/spying mission in enemy territory. His motivation is revenge against the 'Fritzs' for making him an orphan. He had been with the partisans previously.

The other characters in the film are the officers in the army who handles and take care of Ivan when he is back. Much of the story focuses on two of these officers, one is a captain and the other a lieutenant. It also involves a love triangle and a setpiece flirtation scene from which the above iconic image is taken. That whole scene is filmed in a mesmeric way.

Andrei Tarkovsky made his directorial debut with Ivan's Childhood. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and established Tarkovsky immediately as one of the main directors of the era. It is not a typical Tarkovsky film as it is quite straightforward. Tarkovsky later expressed his misgivings about some of the decisions he made for the film but it is a great watch nevertheless. It is cited by the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Kieslowski etc as a very influential film.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, August 21, 2016

പ്രേതം (Pretham) (2016)

Director: Renjith Shankar
Writer:.   Renjith Shankar
Cinematographer: Jithu Damodar 
Cast: Jayasurya, Aju Varghese, Sharaffudeen, Govind Padmasurya 
Language: Malayalam 

Three friends are running a beach resort in Cherai where they start experiencing some paranormal activities. They approach a priest for help and through him they meet a mentalist (Hypnosis, mind-reading, NLP, psychosis തുടങ്ങിയവയുടെ ഒരു ഭയാനക version, it's incurable), who tries to help them.

The film is marketed as a horror comedy and plenty of its humour comes from spoofing malayalam horrors films from the past. They also references dialogs from films from the past including Dasaratham, Manichithrathazhu etc. It is a lazy form of generating humour and in plenty of other films they generally sound tacked on but in this film it is quite seamless, helped by its spoofish nature. The rest of its humour is largely of the double meaning nature but you can forgive that because of the characterisation of its three main characters.

It doesn't try to rationally explain the events shown in the film and embraces its supernaturalness (is that a word?). That is quite commendable as it does away with the need for having to explain everything at the end. Another film that did this very well was Sibi Malayil's 'Devadoothan' which can be also classed as the best comedy horror film from Malayalam. It was unfortunate that it tanked heavily at the box office during its theatrical run. The basic structure of Pretham is also most similar to 'Devadoothan'. While Devadoothan amped up its creepiness during its second half, Pretham proceeds like a crime story. It also suffers from Deadpool syndrome, which means that it tries to sound clever and all by mocking several other films only for it to adhere to the same stereotypes to conclude its own story.

Film is technically very sound as an audiovisual experience. Heard Jayasurya mentioning in an interview that they had a very highly rated sound designer for this film and that is reflected in it with many of its horror elements coming off well with the aid of sound effects. In terms of performances, Aju Varghese was largely irritating, GP was surprisingly decent and both Sharaffudeen and Dharmajan excelling. Jayasurya as the self important mentalist came off as largely irritating and it might be due to my natural scepticism towards the reliance on the supernatural. Overall the film is a decent one-time watch.

PS: If you want to watch a really cool show involving mind-reading, NLP etc, check out shows by Derren Brown and I would recommend the one titled 'Something wicked this way comes'. There is nothing supernatural about it by the by.

Rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, August 14, 2016

ഗപ്പി (Guppy) (2016)

Director: Johnpaul George
Writer:.   Johnpaul George
Cinematographer: Girish Gangadharan
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Master Chetan, Sreenivasan
Language: Malayalam

Guppy (Master Chetan) lives in a fishing village with his mother who is paralysed and relies on a wheelchair. Their means of living is the guppy fishes that he is cultivating in a public drainage that he had blocked by the side of a road. An engineer (Tovino Thomas) arrives in the village to build a railway over-bridge. A series of events puts these two protagonists at odds with each other.

The trailer of the film has Tovino being questioned whether he is the hero or the villain of this story. That part of the story is the highpoint of the film as there is a whole lot of unpredictability to it. This middle portion of the film is sandwiched by the beginning portion and the end where the director plays it very safe by projecting too much goodness in its characters and some manipulative tragic elements.

It is around 150 minutes long but it is not the duration that I got miffed with but the safety option that the director took. That is especially disappointing when you consider the fact that the middle part of the film was really great providing heavy symbolic opportunity to have it as a representation of the Indian system. You've the poor guy living at the margins earning a living by breaking the law. He is both aided and squeezed by the representatives of state machinery. Then comes the idealistic fellow in the form of engineer who ends up doing more harm than good to all concerned, at least initially.

Overall it is a good watch but could have been better. Performances from all concerned are great and especially that of the two protagonists. It is extremely strong on a technical level with sumptuous visuals. The BGM is also fantastic and there are some obvious nods to Anurag Kashyap's Dev D in an audiovisual sense which is evident even from the trailer. Tovino has the making of a star and he does a much better version of Charlie in this film. It is sad that the film is not doing tremendously well in the box office with it being removed from my town after one week. I had to travel 30 kms to catch it but it was worth it as I could also check out the newly opened Aashirvad cineplex in Thodupuzha.

PS: I heard that it was filmed near Thirunnalveli in Tamil Nadu and the village doesn't really look like a place from Kerala. The number plates of vehicles carry KL 81 which I don't think is a valid one in Kerala. That was pretty clever from the director who has made a very promising debut.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, August 7, 2016

ആൻ മരിയ കലിപ്പിലാണ് (Ann Maria Kalippilanu) (2016)

Director: Midhun Manuel Thomas
Writers:. Midhun Manuel Thomas, John Manthrichal
Cinematographer: Vishnu Sharma
Cast: Sunny Wayne, Baby Sara, Aju Varghese, Leona 
Language: Malayalam 

Ann Mariya (Baby Sara) is a ten-year-old daughter of a doctor couple where the father of the house is away in Syria as part of a red-cross mission. This creates tension in the house with the wife not happy with him being away. Ann Mariya wants to emulate her father by winning a long-jump medal but her PT teacher, with whom she is at odds with, deliberately calls foul on her jump. Ann Maria is furious, which is a literal translation of the title, and puts out a quotation on him by trading her iPhone with whom she presumes to be Goondas (Sunny Wayn and Aju Varghese) but are actually unemployed small-time fraudsters.

This is Midhun Manuel Thomas' second film as director and third film as writer. His directorial debut, Aadu Oru Bheegara Jeeviyanu, didn't do very well at box office partly due to its positioning as a children's film when it was patently not so. But it went on to become Malayalam's first internet cult classic film with the help of torrent medium. Ann Maria is not marketed as a children's film but as one with a child as protagonist. They get that right as it is a film that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Based on the reactions that I've seen so far about this film, it is those who particularly didn't like Aadu who seems to be really taken by this film. Others like me are just finding it to be a very decent watch without even coming close to the standard of the tale of Shaji Pappan and his gang. It is similar to the level of Om Shanti Oshana, MMT's debut film.

AMK is fast paced with right dose of 'story' elements thrown in to keep things lively. It is shot very well and great BGMs are a given in Midhun films. It is a role out of his comfort zone for Sunny Wayn as he plays a full on comedy role. He pulls it off quite well even though there are a few scenes where his limitations are exposed. Siddique puts in a very hammy performance which is not uniformly great. Rest of the cast do a very decent job. Aadu 2 was announced halfway through the shoot of this film and I wonder whether it affected this film as the ending portions of it looks a bit half-baked capped off with a very amateur looking fight scene.

To sum up, it is a very decent one time watch for adults and probably a very good one for kids. It will get a wider acceptance than Aadu from the audience without being nearly as good. Am waiting for Aadu 2 which is surely gonna get a great opening.

PS: Migrant workers in Kerala, whom all are called Bengalis irrespective of their actual native places, are also becoming a presence in the reel world just like the real world.

Rating: 2.5/5 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jason Bourne (2016)

Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers:. Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd
Cast:.       Matt Damon, Tommy Lee-Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles

As is the case with other Bourne films, Bourne is on the run from CIA hit squads as he tries to uncover things from his past. One would think there isn't much to discover after the end of Ultimatum, the third film in the trilogy which tied the trilogy together nicely like Dude's rug, but they just add one more mystery for him to solve regarding how he ended up as a CIA agent.

The film begins with Julia Stiles in an 'Anonymous' kind of hacking setup hacking the CIA files to obtain the files relating to their black-ops programmes including treadstone. Bourne was living kind of an exiled life but is lured back in when his interest gets piqued by what Stiles hands over to him. On the opposite side there is Tommy Lee-Joness, playing the typical CIA villain from all other Bourne films, and Alicia Vikander who heads the cyber division. Vincent Cassel plays the asset who is hunting Bourne on orders from the villain. If you haven't still figured it out, you can watch the recent honest trailer on Bourne trilogy which points out that all these films have basically the same plot and setup as a backbone to show off its action setpieces.

The latest film which comes almost a decade after Ultimatum, touches upon things that have changed since then like increased privacy concerns related to social media, hacking threats, wikileaks etc. It also plays on the refrain that the likes of Facebook were funded by CIA as a surveillance tool.

Performances are great and the action setpieces are top notch. It is certainly the weakest among the Matt Damon as Bourne films but still a very good watch. Some have complained about Alicia Vikander's role being very light weight but I thought it was an interesting take on an ambiguous ambiguous character when contrasted with the usual way such female characters are portrayed. Bourne says less than 100 words during the whole film. I do feel that there will be another Bourne film on its way which might resolve the unresolved threads from this film. That might also change the mixed opinion that the film has generated.

PS: The social media honcho is named Arun Kaloor and I wonder whether he is supposed to be a Malayalee.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, July 29, 2016

കിസ്മത് (Kismath) (2016)

Director: Shanavas K. Bavakkutty
Writer:    Shanavas K. Bavakkutty
Cast:       Shane Nigam, Shruthy Menon, Vinay Forrt
Language: Malayalam

The film narrates the real-life story of a Ponnani couple, a 27 year old scheduled caste woman and a 23 year old Muslim man. There is considerable opposition from the boy's family to their relationship. The film begins with them approaching a Police station in order to get protection for them to get married. The back-story of how they met and fell in love is told only in the second half through a couple of sequences. 

Shanavas is making his directorial debut with this film and he gets a good support with Rajeev Ravi's production house backing the film and Lal Jose doing the distribution. It also got a very good pre-release hype, considering the low-key cast it has got, through its trailer and songs that they released. Ponnani is one town in Kerala that I haven't visited yet and has been on my to-visit list for some time. It not being in the main highway that is usually taken for a visit to northern part of Kerala is the reason why it has not been covered yet. We also got a brief glimpse of this town in Rajeev Ravi's 'Annayum Rasoolum' as well.

The basic thread of the film is kind of bare and it more or less works as a day in the Police Station from the perspective of the couple. 'Action Hero Biju' is another recent film that was set in a 'Jana Maithri' (people-friendly) Police Station. While that film opted for its Police Characters to be almost 'too good to be true' regarding their general nature, Kismath is a much more cynical take on the corruption that exists in these places. One could say that a Police Station would take the character of those who run the place and this one is run by not so good characters. Kismath, I suppose is a much more realistic portrayal of a Police Station without being too pretentious about how realistic it is, unlike Abrid Shine's 'Action Hero Biju'. But some might consider it tilting to the other extreme with its considerable cynicism.

When a story like this is told with the declaration that it is based on real life events, you can pretty much guess how it is gonna end. Some people might take exception to its thread-bare plot but I enjoyed watching it. It is overall a good watch with good performances from all concerned. The whole film is pretty much riding on the lead couple's shoulders as it could very well derail if they turn out to be grating. That is not the case with a very raw performance from Shane Nigam. But you wish Shruthy Menon could also have been a little rawer but I guess they wanted her to be a little more dignified considering the age difference between the two characters. This is also done subtly in a song as well with the female voice being a bit more adult. It will be very encouraging if films like these do well at the box office.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, July 11, 2016

باد ما را خواهد برد The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

Director: Abbas Kiarostami 
Writer:   Abbas Kiarostami
Cinematographer: Mahmoud Kayari
Cast:        Behzad Boranu
Language: Persian

A man and his team arrives in a Kurdish village from Tehran posing as telecom engineers. The purpose of their visit is not made clear to us but we know that it is related to the impending death of a woman who is more than 100 years old. As the wait turns out to be a long one, the protagonist who is called Engineer by the villagers, begins to be fascinated by the village life.

By the end of the film we piece together that they are journalists who are there to document a village ritual related to mourning. Engineer becomes friends with a local kid who is in the middle of his exams. There is not much of a plot to speak of and it is seemingly a very simple film with binaries of urban and rural, old and young, and modern and ancient. It takes a while to get into the film but when it does, it becomes a great watch. 

The title of the film comes from a poem by Forugh Farrokhzad.

"In my small night, ah
the wind has a date with the leaves of the trees
in my small night there is agony of destruction
do you hear the darkness blowing?
I look upon this bliss as a stranger
I am addicted to my despair.

listen do you hear the darkness blowing?
something is passing in the night
the moon is restless and red
and over this rooftop
where crumbling is a constant fear
clouds, like a procession of mourners
seem to be waiting for the moment of rain.
a moment
and then nothing
night shudders beyond this window
and the earth winds to a halt
beyond this window
something unknown is watching you and me.

O green from head to foot
place your hands like a burning memory
in my loving hands
give your lips to the caresses
of my loving lips
like the warm perception of being
the wind will take us
the wind will take us."

It was the follow-up film from Abbas Kiarostami after he won Palme d'Or at Cannes for 'Taste of Cherry'. What makes Kiarostami different from other Iranian filmmakers of his time is that he is much more European in his approach with existentialism being the common theme. This film is also not much different. I've only seen his later films beginning with 'Taste of Cherry' and I guess I've to catch up with his earlier works to see whether this is consistent throughout his career. Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan is the contemporary one who very much carries the mantle from Kiarostami.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, July 9, 2016

അനുരാഗ കരിക്കിൻവെള്ളം (Anuraga Karikkinvellam) (2016)

Director: Khalid Brahman
Writer:    Naveen Bhaskar
Cinematographer: Jimshi Khalid
Cast: Biju Menon, Asif Ali, Rejisha Vijayan, Asha Sharathum
Language: Malayalam

Ravi's (Biju Menon) is a family of four whose members all kind of live in their own worlds. It is a typical middle class urban family with a loveless marriage and a directionless son (Asif Ali). The son, Abhilash, is trying to get rid of his girlfriend from college who has become a nuisance for him. Meanwhile his father, a rough and tough cop by profession, is reinvigorated when he sees his old love from a distance without a means to contact her. The film proceeds from there.

It is really hard to write a synopsis for the film. Most of whatever we see in terms of plot related things has been done in other films but the overall treatment makes it different. It goes for realism in terms of the way the characters interact and the dynamic camera and the sync sound manages to capture the environment very well during the outdoor scenes. It is technically excellent and I didn't feel like I was watching it on an inferior screen, which it really was. Its excellent posters reminded me of the freshness that we associated with the posters of Salt n Pepper, which also starred Asif Ali in a not too dissimilar role. Come to think of it, both films have a very similar plot.

The relationship between Abhilash and his girlfriend Elizabeth, played excellently by the newcomer Rejisha, is quite fresh in terms of their dynamic and whenever something similar has been done before, they usually do it by dumbing down the girl character. Thankfully, that is not the case here. The supporting characters are established in a matter of fact way without feeling the need to do it over a  song or skit like comedy sequences. The first half of the film is excellent.

The second half becomes bit of a drag before picking up pace for its climax, which is wonderfully anti-climatic. It gets there through the clichéd reformation route mind. Soubin Shahir is bit of a hit and miss and it is the other supporting characters that are surprisingly good. Biju Menon- Sudheer Karamana work colleagues combo also didn't work very well. Overall, it is a good watch and a clean entertainer and an assured debut for Khalid Rahman.

Rating:  3/5

Sunday, July 3, 2016

കള്ളൻ പവിത്രൻ (Kallan Pavithran) (1981)

Director: Padmarajan
Writer:    Padmarajan
Cinematographer: Vipin Das
Cast:         Nedumudi Venu, Bharat Gopi, Adoor Bhasi, Beena
Language: Malayalam

Pavithran (Nedumudi Venu) is a small time thief with two families, one with his official wife and another with his mistress. A rich mill owner (Bharat Gopi) accuses him of stealing some utensils from his home. As he starts to snoops around Pavithran's mistress' home, he begins a relationship with her. Meanwhile, Pavithran meets a mysterious merchant from town while trying to sell the utensils who shows him his huge utensils warehouse which he doesn't care to lock because of the notoriety of snakes in there. Affected by this meeting, Pavithran moves back in with his official wife but slowly his fortunes starts turning with him becoming rich and driving his nemesis' business down to the ground.

The film is an adaptation of Padmarajan's short story with the same name and it is the first commercial hit of his career as a director. Film is basically about the base instincts of male and female genders, which is largely driven by evolutionary factors. Sex doesn't cost males much and it is the opposite for women. So males tend to think with their dick while females place a lot of importance to financial security. People can complain and wallow about this or this stereotyping but that is how we're predisposed to behave. All the main characters in this film behave in this manner and Adoor Bhasi's character can be seen as The God in the proverbial biblical sense. He gives Pavithran the complete freewill by showing him the warehouse lacking solid security and hanging it like the Apple from Eden. Or maybe he is the devil but it doesn't matter. Anyway it is unabashedly a morality tale with a surreal twist. Padmarajan even puts the moral message in text format at the end in a light fashion.

It is a great watch with very raw characters. Performances are excellent and Bharat Gopi is cast against his type. You would normally expect Gopi and Venu to switch places in such a story. It seems the early Padmarajan films and the ones he wrote for other directors primarily dealt with base human desires.

Rating: 4.5/5 

അപരൻ (Aparan) (1988)

Director: Padmarajan
Writer:    Padmarajan 
Cinematographer: Venu
Cast:.         Jayaram, Shobana, Madhu, Mukesh
Language: Malayalam

A young unemployed man (Jayaram), hunting for jobs, is roughed up by some people who mistakes him for a fraudster, who supposedly looks just like him. He earns a reprieve when the police officer turns out to be his old college mate but his doppelgänger's legacy continues to haunt him as he moves into the city when he gets a job.

The film is an adaptation of a short story from Padmarajan and the title translates as 'Doppelgänger'. Film also marked the debut of Jayaram who then became a sort of fixture in Padmarajan's latter year films. The basic plot might make you go 'I've seen this before' but treatment is quite different. If you've got a premise like this from a film from the 80s you expect it to end in a tragic way with a 'Crime doesn't pay' moral lesson. But this is Padmarajan and he can always make things interesting based on characterisation.

Here you can see Jayaram's character almost discovering his darker side because of the other dude who is spoken off like a myth. Many of his actions doesn't seem to come from a rational basis and some of the film's contrivances can be explained off like that. They don't have the physical confrontation the way you expect them to have and we only hear the bad dude's voice,  and that too towards the end. All in all, one could say that this story can be seen as a very superior backstory for a film like 'Don' and I wonder whether that film influenced Padmarajan in any way.

Overall, it is a nice little genre film. There aren't many interesting characters in it and the film is a bit too plot driven. Jayaram does his part will considering the fact that it is a debut film for him. His is not a very likeable character and it is intentionally so. One could also say that it is a metaphorical reading of caste sentiments in Kerala where some of the very upper caste people could very much feel like they are getting hunted for something that they presume they are not responsible for. Padmarajan does go out of the way to mention the caste of the character in one scene anyway.

Rating: 3/5  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

അനന്തരം (Anantaram) (1987)

Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Writer:    Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cinematography: Mankada Ravi Varma
Cast:        Asokan, Mammooty, Shobana
Language: Malayalam

Ajayan was an orphan boy who was left at an hospital, the place of his birth. He is adopted by a widower doctor who also has a much more elder son (Mammooty). The film is told largely through monologues by the Ajayan character as he tries to narrate how he became what he is now.

The younger version of Ajayan is played by Sudeesh and the older version by Asokan. The last shot of the film has Ajayan as a boy counting the steps to a pond by using only odd numbers and just after that him doing the same but this time with even numbers. That essentially explains the film or what Adoor is trying to do. The first half of the film goes in a feel good fashion as it is mostly good things that Ajayan narrates. But second half is like a psychological horror with Ajayan choosing to tell all things that he left out initially. So the film is basically about storytelling and how our perceptions about things are shaped by what is revealed to us.

The sad thing about the film is that while the concept is really good, the execution is not that great. Film suffers with some poor performances in first half with extended silences that doesn't look natural and you feel as if actors are not sure about how awardishly they should behave. It would have aided the film a lot more if the behaviour was quite normal in first half as it would have made for an even more impactful second half when the nature of the film flips. It is hard for me to take Shobana seriously in her earlier roles because we got so used to the voice that dubbed for her in the latter part of her career. Mamootty is quite good throughout but Asokan is not consistently good. Overall it is still a good watch but could have been a much greater film with better execution. It just doesn't get past its conceptual greatness. It did win Adoor a national award and he is said to have modeled the protagonist based on himself- a dual personality who is both an introvert and an extrovert.

Rating: 3/5