Premam (2015) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Alphonse Puthren

Written By: Alphonse Puthren

Cast:

Nivin Pauly – George David

Krishna Shankar – Koya

Shabareesh Varma – Shambu

Sai Pallavi – Malar

Madonna Sebastian – Celine

Anupama Parameshwaran – Mary George

Wilson Joseph – Jojo

Vinay Forrt – Vimal sir

Alphonse Putharen – Roney Varghese

Language: Malayalam                                                                Genre: Romance

 

Alphonse Puthren’s Premam follows the story of George (Nivin Pauly). It explores his friendship with Koya (Krishna Shankar), Shambu (Shabareesh Varma) and Jojo (Wilson Joseph) from roughly 16 years of age. It does seem, however, that they have known each other for possibly longer.

Premam traces the stories of love associated with George – the three women he falls deeply and irrevocably in love with and how that impacts his life. It shows an innocent first love, the vulnerable love of the self-assured youth and finally the adult who has seen too much; is aloof and may awake to the idea of new love.

While the film is not a flashback narrative, the manner in which the director presents it, means that he is seeing everything from a later point in time which is why the sad scenes are not sad enough. So instead of pulling at our heartstrings as it should, we are grinning and are aware that yes, this is a temporary sentiment.

Even the popular song Scene Contra seems to break the fourth wall. It is either the characters are aware they are characters or that they address the audience directly revealing that someone has been stage-managing their existence.

All the songs in the film are a narrative, to give us another shade to the characters or their experience. It moulds our understanding of who they are and it gives us the philosophy of the film. Ithu Puthen Kaalam (this new age) for instance tells us not to take things too seriously. That surprises will come when we least expect it. The changes that we undergo as people may not have been what we envisioned for ourselves such as George probably never saw himself as the alpha male who is violent/destructive but he probably became like that after what transpired with his first love.

The film uses the constant metaphor of the butterfly – right in the opening credits flitting from one flower to another, then around Mary (Anupama Parameshwaran) when she is being pursued by many suitors, later with Malar (Sai Pallavi) when she is with George and it is oddly missing from the last part.

The thing is, unlike the usual cliché that men are like butterflies flitting from one woman to another frivolously – the butterfly actually moves very purposefully towards a flower and may get rejected by the flower. Either because it lacks the necessary nectar or has an unpleasant odour. So George is then a dedicated butterfly that seeks his flower through the three stories.

However what is problematic is the contrived nature of the storytelling which takes away the poignancy of the second part and this makes it hard for a viewer to sympathise. Also the length of the narratives – too much time was spent on the first and second story without actually telling much and the final story was too rushed, leaving the viewer rather let down.

What I personally liked was how it showed that falling in love does not require much fanfare and it could happen suddenly and after barely any time. We are conditioned to associate true love with a long drawn out process of being together, courtship and then the realisation that this might be love. This somehow makes love seem a cautious exercise when it isn’t supposed to be so.

Premam uses everyday cadences of speech and is as much a coming of age story of a boy as it is a story about friendships. The constant factor in the film is the presence of Koya, Shambu and Jojo even when George’s romantic interests change. This is why the song Scene Contra expresses Shambu’s frustrations at George’s inability to learn from past experiences. This is especially when his past comes calling.

The film’s popularity owes itself probably to Nivin Pauly’s portrayal of George. Either the authenticity with which he presented him or the fact that the character comes across as this wounded hero and women (whatever be their personal ideologies) are particularly susceptible to the idea of the damaged man. Plus, when people have been hurt in love, they will have realistic expectations of romance as opposed to the fantastical views we hold about love before we actually experience it.

It is a well-edited film that makes a viewer question reality and imagination. After all, they merge in our minds and what we have imagined may not have been part of the experience, but becomes so once you believe in it. So it is about the little desires we hold and how influenced we are by the fantastical narratives of Indian cinema – where the real and the imagined exist fruitfully together.

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Mumbai Police (2013) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Rosshan Andrrews

Written By: Bobby-Sanjay

Cast:

Prithviraj Sukumaran– ACP Antony Moses

Jayasurya – ACP Aaryan Jacob

Rahman – CP Farhan Ashraf

Hima Davis –Rebecca

Aparna Nair – Rakhee Menon

Deepa Rahul Ishwar – Annie Farhan

Nihal Pillai – Pilot

Language: Malayalam                                                 Genre: Crime-Thriller

Rosshan Andrrews’ 2013 crime-thriller Mumbai Police is a psychological study into the drives and motivations of a person. It is about the various masks we wear; how we project ourselves and how guilt and regret when entwined can bring out traumatic responses.

The story revolves around ACP Antony Moses aka Rascal Moses (Prithviraj) a rather aggressive police officer who is known for his ruthless methodology and ability to get work done, the means no bar.

He is investigating the murder of his friend and colleague ACP Aaryan Jacob (Jayasurya) and finds a vital clue to the identity of the murderer and in fact actually knows who killed him but before he can confide everything to his senior officer CP Farhan Ashraf (Rahman) – he is involved in an almost fatal accident. He survives it physically but his memory doesn’t.

Now an amnesiac Antony Moses has to solve this high profile case and figure out who the killer is before time runs out. It becomes a cat and mouse game but what is unclear is who the cat is and who is the mouse.

Antony Moses B, the amnesiac, needs to find out what Antony Moses A knew and bring it to light. Yet he cannot recognise friend or foe and Antony Moses A had a lot of foes. He is randomly attacked by people, yet his kinaesthetic memory of fighting saves him. It also becomes clear that Antony Moses A was trying to protect someone, because the entire investigation is full of subterfuge. So suddenly, everyone is suspicious.

But more than a murder, it is about identity. It is about machismo in all male organisations and what defines masculinity. How aggression can be used as a mask. Also when certain aspects of identity are hidden to us because of a loss of memory then certain behaviour patterns are lost. There are also many references to the duties of a police officer, the oath they take – how everything is a rigidly defined system that has everything clearly stated as rules. And deviations are not allowed.

A telling scene in the film, when Antony Moses B is contemplating who he is and has only questions but no answers. He realises he will understand better only if he dons the uniform. So the shot has Antony Moses looking at his wardrobe and then turning towards his uniform that is propped on a hanger. He walks towards it and his shadow looms over it to form a shadowy head above the collar. Almost like, he is in the dark about the identity of this person and what lies behind the uniform.

What stands out is the very moving portrayal by Prithviraj as ACP Antony Moses; especially when certain damaging revelations are made. Certain sequences seem rather stereotypical but that might have to do with a limited understanding of certain behaviour patterns. Nevertheless, it is a film that gives a rather realistic portrayal of things that are generally left unspoken.

Drishyam (2013) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Jeethu Joseph

Written By: JeethuJoseph

Cast:

Mohanlal – Georgekutty

Meena – Rani George

Ansiba Hassan – Anju George

Esther – Anu George

Kalabhavan Shajon – Constable Sahadevan

Siddique – Prabhakar

Asha Sharath – IG Geetha Prabhakar

Language: Malayalam                                                     Genre: Drama; Thriller

 

The film opens with a bus journey and it is when the story progresses that the significance of the event is understood. It then becomes clear that Jeethu Joseph has not wasted even one shot in the film. Everything fits together to form this ‘picture’. In fact, even the word ‘drishyam’ means a picture/visual. The film is then a meta film – a film within a film. Narrative and directorial control is displayed in the film.

Georgekutty (Mohanlal) is someone who spends his life watching movies while waiting for work assignments (he works as a cable TV operator in a small village). But these film-viewing exercises are not only entertainment; he learns a lot from them as demonstrated in a scene early in a movie where he expounds knowledgeably about habeas corpus.

Every scene follows logically and you wonder what jigsaw is it all fitting into. It begins to seem as though the point of no return isn’t happening soon enough or that the setting is taking a while but surprisingly you’re not bored and once the moment comes, the story hurtles forward. The film seems to have created a genre of its own – a how-done-it not a whodunit.

Georgekutty is the second director in this meta film where he directs the action in a masterly fashion and sometimes, like some directors is taken by surprise at the initiative of his ‘performers’. The start of this second film is nicely shown through the closing of his eyelids in the opening sequence, much like a camera and the opening of his eyelids towards the end, stands for the end of his ‘drishyam’.

In essence, it is the story of a family. A family that is slightly dysfunctional with a lackadaisical approach to the duties of family life. It is about how tragedy brings about the realization that they need to reaffirm their bonds as a family and stand together.

Watch it for the well-crafted package it is and the sensitive portrayal of grief, family life – of various kinds of families and what a difference a close-knit family can make in times of adversity. Also, for the well-crafted dialogues that express, yet mask; fail to implicate but do not fail to impress the viewer with its nuances.

Celluloid (2013) #SherylPuthur

CELLULOID Malayalam Movie REVIEW

Directed By: Kamal

Written By: Kamal

Cast:

Prithviraj – J.C. Daniels

Sreenivasan – Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan

Mamta Mohandas – Janet

Chandni – Rosie

Language: Malayalam                                                            Genre: Biopic

Malayalam cinema is known for its mature handling of the medium and its introduction of themes ahead of their times. It then seems fitting that the Father of Malayalam cinema – J.C. Daniels would be a pioneer in this regard.

However, as forward as the themes of Malayalam cinema were and are it is balanced out by a rigidity of thought and caste prejudices. At present it may be slight in comparison to earlier times but it still exists and so the film functions simultaneously as a critique of Kerala society.

Celluloid follows the ill-fated career of J.C. Daniels (Prithiviraj) who has a dream to make the first Malayalam film. It follows his journey to erstwhile Bombay to meet with Dadasaheb Phalke (Nandu Madhav), who explains various aspects of film making. After a few delays, he manages to get hold of the equipment and a British cameraman, and begins his filming. Since he sold his land to finance the film, to keep costs low, he directed, acted, edited and also wrote the screenplay.

Unlike his contemporaries, his film Vigathakumaran was not based on mythology but was a social drama. Ironically, his own life resembled a social drama because when Bombay-based actor Lana proved difficult to work with he got Rosie (Chandni) a Dalit Christian (the term is ironic since the latter ought to cancel out the former but…) to act instead. She played a Nair lady but when the film was screened the orthodox upper-caste men took offence at the idea of a lower-caste woman playing a Nair woman and boycotted the film.

The film parallels J.C. Daniels life with the investigation of the journalist Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan (Sreenivasan) into the film career of this obscure dentist who was once known as J.C. Daniels, the director of Vigathakumaran.

The relationships portrayed in the film have been beautifully sketched out such as the love based in friendship shared by J.C. Daniels and his wife Janet (Mamta Mohandas). A strong woman who stands by her husband and remains the factor that keeps them knitted together. Her sisterly treatment of Rosie, ignoring the caste barriers makes for some of the most moving scenes within the film. A scene that stood out for me, for its poignancy, was decking Rosie in the attire of a Nair lady and her amazement at their ‘presumption’ that it was normal to treat her as equal.

A technically sound film, it uses film conventions to create symbolism within the film such as the shadow play on the whitewashed walls that eases with breathing. The narrative of the life continued in a closed carriage.

The film is about idealism, regret, apathy at the sight of continued failure and the slight flicker of hope that stays sometimes like a disease and sometimes like a blessing. It is also about the burning need to tell a story – to find expression.

Over and above, though it is a tribute to the first filmmaker in Malayalam. A technically sound film, its obvious use of technique is in itself a tribute to J.C. Daniels – whose first film in some sense set the base for the future of Malayalam cinema.