Manichitrathazhu & the newgen Malayalee

snippets from an ongoing discussion that never ever seems to end. On Manichitrathazhru, a well made film in Malayalam, adapted into other languages.

Vaayadi Pennu

As recent as last week, I hear somebody say that Manichitrathazhu is a crappy film. Pin drop silence followed. It takes time to digest statements like these among a certain breed of Malayalees who love, adore this film. It is a topic which the new age Malayalee brought up in the 90s and after can talk endlessly on if they are movie buffs. Even if they are not, references from the film in the nature of songs, dialogue and trolls pop up every other day.

Manichitrathazhru is a 1993 Malayalam film directed by Faasil starring Mohanlal, Shobana, (she won her first national award for her role as Ganga), Suresh Gopi (one of the two roles in which I love Suresh Gopi the other being the character he played in Innale), Vinaya Prasad in the lead (her debut in Malayalam, made her way later into Malayalee daily life with her…

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Gouthami & Jayaram in Rajasenan’s Ayalathe Adheham (1992)

I’ve enjoyed watching Ayalathe Adehham (1992) many times over for its situational humour. The film is about two families, neighbouring households, let’s say one red and one yellow for convenience… However, there is also third family, an older family in comparison to our younger red and yellow.. let’s call it blood red. They bring about the climax..

The problems begin when the wife from the red family starts to notice from her window the mush the yellow husband pours out to his wife daily for the littlest of things .. Even though, the yellow neighbour is her friend the red wife begins to envy her. All this yellow mush and her red disappointment increases every time she sees her red husband who is publicly inexpressive to the extent of being boorish.

Rajasenan, the director, goes on to discuss love between spouses, ways of expressing it and its expectations. Fed up with taunts of his wife…the red husband who dearly loves his wife decides on a yellow makeover becoming love expressive. Unfortunately, he is assumed to be mentally deranged…which shows a clean disconnect between their choice of the shade of yellow😀 Nobody seems to understand the trouble that brews within the red husband burdened with these yellow expectations until the climax when he rips off the mask (helmet) of the yellow husband! Even he is stunned at the unexpected turn of events. All the red rage, frustration and disappointment is shown in the way this man chases and catches a thief who happens to be the yellow husband. A mask falls off.. The yellow family is shattered! So is the blood red family.

The film is a warning to all red husbands and those spouses who fail to express an affection to their spouses. What to do, people have different natures.. The red husband is an easy target to pin all the boorishness on because our society has stamped men unemotional, insensitive, forgetful masculine beings in domesticity…. (Poor them) …The climax clearly brings out a possible future life situation in this red family. It is bleak if things remain red!!! If the red wife still looks up to yellow mush and the red husband resists a change… If only the film had ended on a shade of orange.

Departing from the exaggeration depicted in the film into reality.. it need not be always a kiss or a hug, every relationship has a unique way of showing affection. I felt really sad for my aunt this one time, we were out for lunch. 5 of us. DJ, MJ & me, and my uncle and his wife. My mother was eating only fish that week, so when the menu card came, DJ who was sitting on the outer edge of the table ordered fish for MJ right away.. He ordered chicken for me with a loose gravy since I prefer it to fish.. That care and a knowhow of a food choice is also an expression of love.. But this is everyday for us.. If either MJ or I were sitting with the menu we would have also done the same without a second thought. The uncle ordered a thali* for himself..but in the midst of all this my aunt was ignored. She never said anything either when all of us ordered additions to the already ordered menu. Not that there wasn’t sufficient food on the table for all but .. The dishes were anyway going to be shared as they were not served in portion size .. Realizing this a little later, I nudged my uncle sitting next to me… In that moment, she would have wanted uncle to order for her more than anyone of us..(they are also a loving couple) this made her a teeny bit sad and it was evident… It was one of those times..(she may have kicked my uncle under the table..) I did scold DJ later for missing out the aunt.. He did not realize, either!

To give you another example, one of my friends is allergic to corn. Wherever we go out, whoever has the menu card involuntarily tells the waiter, this dish but without corn.. We are careful to order something in addition to popcorn even at the theater.. It is not a spousal relationship we share.. Still that is also love..

There is a hidden sense of a comparison in the name of the film itself because ‘Ayalathe’/അയലത്തെ means neighbour/neighbourhood.. Adheham/അദ്ദേഹം is a (respectful) way of referring to people, in this case husbands… it exudes this Hindi word ‘aap’ kind of respect..

*thali

Shyamaprasad’s Ivide (2015)

These are the days when I do not miss to watch the films of two actors, Prithviraj and Nivin Pauly. Shyamaprasad’s Ivide had both of them in leading roles so it proved to my advantage. To me, watching Ivide felt like watching an episode of say, Criminal Minds, CSI or Castle, because the attitude and tone of the film was very American. American in approach except for the fact that the main cast are three leading actors of the Malayalam film industry. Shyamaprasad has succeeded in creating that illusion of an american urban space and its ethos.

Ivide sets out to tell the story of three Malayalees settled in the city of Atlanta in the backdrop of an American IT workforce steadily losing jobs as a result of the new policies on outsourcing work to countries namely, India.

The film begins when Bhavana is recruited by the Nivin Pauly led firm as part of their project team. Bhavana is also Nivin’s classmate from school. Prithiraj plays the role of a cop in the city police force, also Bhavana’s ex husband and the father of her daughter. The plot of the film runs as a diary in his head and the film is narrated from his point of view

The plot thickens when details of their personal lives spill out. Prithviraj’s life is such and such because he is a Malayalee  adopted by American parents when he was 7 years old from an orphanage in Kerala. As a result of which, the man has internal conflicts leading towards a kind of rootlessness.. he knows no Malayalam although he was born to Malayalee parents, he is an American citizen by adoption but feels less American for many reasons. Nivin Pauly is the brain behind bringing and turning around a company which sold oil into a successful IT firm.

The plot gets a further dimension with the murder investigation assigned to  Prithviraj and his partner. The first man to be murdered is an Indian in the timeline of the film. The murder story is up to you to watch and solve. If I dwell more on the causes and reasons of the murder, I may just solve the mystery here in the blog post, so watch the film for where it takes Prithviraj and how it intermingles with the lives of the characters played by Nivin Pauly and Bhavana.

Unlike Premam, the film caters to a niche audience because of the prolific  use of the English language. It is not a Malayalm film set in the US, but seems like an American film with a few Malayalee characters.

In addition, I feel it falls more into the category of drama rather than that of a crime thriller because the crime and the investigation are not the driving forces that take the film forward. The relations between people are a key to understanding the film, between employers and employees, what the axim blood is thicker than water does when it comes to taking core decisions, the sweat and determination of people to become successful, unhappy married lives, internal traumatic personalities and finally reasons for killing another human being ..

English is the main language of the film because of the location, there is also Malayalam, and Tulu/Konkani, a little Tamil… the presence of more than one language among an umbrella group called the Malayalees presents the diversity.

The surprise package was the dubbing – Prithviraj and even Bhavana speak flawlessly in an American accent coupled with their mannerisms, from their walk and talk, they seem to be born and brought up and settled in the States for a long long time! A well made film… recommended

©pins n ashes 2016

Ne (Neena) Na(Nalini)… 2015

Neena is an acronym of the names of two women characters in the film. ‘ne’ from neena (Deepti Sati) and the ‘na’ from nalini (Ann Augustine). it is the story of a man, Vinay Pannickar (Vijay Babu) who is pulled into a confusion of emotions and relations with two women. Although the film is named Neena, Ann Augustine has very little role to play although she plays a pertinent role in the film.

The film brings to the forefront what I’ve always felt confused about. It is a statement from a married man or woman/or somebody with a partner, especially when at a crossroad in their relationship. They would reply, “I am married, therefore I can only be a friend.” To me, the line reaks of hypocrisy. There in that line lies the lie.. it is as many would say not an outright no nor a yes but more of a compulsion to stay within a marital relation/partnership when his/her emotions lies elsewhere or is effected by somebody else. Why can’t they just muster some courage and leave rather than manufacture lies to be in the best of both worlds!

The film partially revolves around this answer, its reasons and consequences. It tells the story of a man, a very gentlemanly man who is torn between his affection for two women. A woman enters into the life of this seemingly happily married man and he is unable to let go, but pulled into it. He has a wife who understands the intention of the other woman and the tinglings in her man. It is actually no fault of hers, and thankfully, the unfaithful man as in a usual extra marital relationship does not blame the faithful wife!

The question that then pops out is was he really happy or acting happy all this while! the emotional trauma that ensues is showed beautifully.

The character of Nalini is required for the film, Ann has played her part well, especially her part when she indulges in anxiety eating, that scene with a tub of strawberry ice cream is too well done. And the woman looked stunning in her saris and earrings but why was she draped in the traditional Kerala two piece sari at home! In addition, what the character of Nalini, the wife, cannot express out loud is given an utterance in the words of their house help who seeks to be going through a similar situation – there is a subtle element of class!

The ending director Lal Jose brings about I feel falls short of taking a gamble with the given topic at hand. There could have been two more viable endings, and those would have been a cherries on this neena cake. But then the audience may not have had the love for the character of Neena then by the end of the film which the current ending now ensures!

Deepti Sati, the newcomer does justice to her role, although the dubbing was painfully slow and stretched! Vijay Babu is brillaint as the man in an emotional confusion, Lena as the doctor is gracefully poised, Vinu Mohan’s cameo hits the bulls eye. We get to see Ann Augustine after a long time .. And excellent cameta work of, the ever so popular cinematographer, Jomon T John.

Go into the theatre with an awareness that it is a serious film and not a breezy romance or rom com!

Plus, look out for the new music director and his songs – Nikhil Menon. Well he was the reason I was interested in this film in the first place 🙂

©pins n ashes 2016

Yama, the Villain in Mollywood (2016)

Malayalam cinema is in a crisis this year. On the one hand, January releases, Paavada, Action Hero Biju and Maheshite Prathikaaram are entertaining the audience with newer emotional experiences. On the other hand, a handful of artists are existing this reel and real world, one after the other.

They may have been growing old, or may have been ridden with major ailments and falling off the face of the earth. Still, to the audience who knew them mostly through their screen presence, it comes as a shock. They may be recuperating from a chemo session or diagnosed with liver cirrhorisis but they continued working. Early one morning when a flash news of Kalpana’s death came, I remember sitting up glued to the television screen in a state of trance. She may have not been my guardian or a friend, but I have grown up watching her on screen for as long as I can remember. And one day when I hear she is no more without the slightest warning, it becomes worse. I can only imagine how her daughter and siblings felt. I was furious when Prof Snape was taken away a few days earlier than her. Rajesh Pillai’s left without knowing the success of his latest project Vettah. The best tribute Malayalees could give to ONV Kurup was to send him off amidst a chorus of the many songs he penned.. Yesterday even Kalabhavan Mani joins the club! God would be in a mood to produce and direct a film, what else can be the answer to such a string of deaths ..

I never realized that a death of somebody I had no personal relation to would effect me in these unexpected ways. But that would be wrong to say such. There is a personal bond. It is forged between them and me, as characters in a film and an audience, as roles they have enjoyed working which has amused me, roles and scenarios which I often remember and quote. Brings into question what makes a personal connection! Great loss. As an audience and lover of cinema I hope Yama puts a stop!

Linking this post to 18I I for Incomplete. ABC Wednesday.

©pins n ashes 2016

Salt Mango Tree (2015) | Rajesh Nair| Biju Menon, Suhasini, Lakshmi Priya

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Salt mango tree is an inside joke among Malayalees.. It was made popular in a 1980s Mohanlal film. Therefore, when a new film is released with such a title, a Malayalee will obviosuly guess the context. 🙂 🙂

There is indeed a 2015 film starring Biju Menon, Chandrapriya and Suhasini by that name. The film  makes fun of talks about a middle class Malayalee family’s craze and disappointment in teaching their child English and enrolling him into an English medium as they think that it is the language of opportunity.

Salt Mango Tree is a literal translation of the breakfast dish Upma or upumavu in colloquial Malayalam..uppu – salt/ mavu – mango tree in Malayalam. Throughout the film the son is made to remember the English word for animals, things and phenomena as practice for his interview for junior kindergarten. For eg, he says mazhavillu and automatically spells out its English equivalent, rainbow. The film is different because it brings out a solution to train and prepare parents and their children for these (tough) school interviews. Certain truths can only be driven home through exaggeration. Suhasini’s character in the film is one such. I felt it is a little over the top just like her act in love 24×7 (2015)

Like salt mango tree, the new phrase that may be remembered  from this film is elephant rock school, a literal translation of Aanapara. Aanapara is a name of a place in Kerala. (Aana – elephant, para -rock) School

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Now this dish in the picture is the very popular and yummilicious chemeenum manga from Kerala. When translated into English it becomes prawn mango curry. Chemeen (prawn)/manga (mango). It could be solely my quirky problem that I face when I stare at a menu which says prawn mango curry. I am never able to visualize that prawn mango as this light yellow semi liquid gravy made from ground coconut/coconut milk with the heat coming from long green chillies slit length wise. I can conjure up many many dishes with prawn and mango as the core ingredients, but when somebody says chemeenum manga this is what comes to mind 😛
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ChandraPriya is the same actor who played the role of Indrajith’s wife in Angels (2014).

©pins n ashes 2016

Maheshinte Prathikaram (2016) | Dileesh Pothen’s directorial debut

Mahesh Bhavana (Fahad Faasil) is a small time still photographer who continues to run his father Vincent Bhavana’s Photo Studio in the town circle for a living… He lives with his widowed father, looking after him and their household, happily leading a social life with a few close friends and their families, with dreams of getting married to his long time girlfriend from school, Soumya, until something unexpected happens…  this social scape is captured in the title song within those first few minutes. This is a different way of narration without a closeup or a preface from other characters like they repeat Reuters Venu in Run Baby Run before Mohanlal steps in 🙂

Now the simplicity of the film lies in that song, in Mahesh’s decision… Mahesh decides then that he will walk bare foot until he is able to fulfill his pledge and take revenge. There is a moment later where even Mahesh wonders (I think) whether he will ever be able to walk in a footwear i spite of people egging him with commondra maheshe 😀

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As is always, life goes on in the town.. Mahesh walks bare foot wherever he goes, walking, climbing, riding  .. He becomes a butt of a few smirks here and there..

Just like Action Hero Biju is a differently narrated police story, Mahesh too is not shown as planning and plotting his revenge like a revenge movie such as Vettah. His is a very personal revenge, even the man whom he wants to fight with has no inkling that Mahesh is gearing up to fight him. Since the revenge involves a physical fight, Mahesh enrolls himself into a kung fu class without much ado. The film is differently narrated because it does not show and tell, but wants the audience to join the lines of the plot. Mahesh joining the Kung fu class is one such.

Another instance is Soumya’s father’s reference to his daughter’s love story with Mahesh. He refers to it as their very personal act of making and eating a certain local sweet which is no big secret in that small town. Thus the significance of Mahesh bringing this sweet to Soumya on the night she arrives home, initially in the film, is sealed in that one statement.

The film is also about Mahesh’s transformation from taking passport size photographs in a studio setting to being able to capture those live and fleeting moments… His father’s advice that a good photographer is always ready at stand by to click the right moment seems also to be about readying Mahesh for everything life has to offer and take away from him

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A simple story set in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and their matters is brought to life by Mahesh, Babychettan, Crispy, Soumya & Jinsy

©pins n ashes 2016