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