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


Junior Mandrake (1997) 18J

Junior Mandrake is a fun ride. some lovely moments… and for laughs.

The plot revolves around two families and a bust of a bald man in bronze I think… When one of the families is undergoing serious problems in business, the astrologer points to this bust as the bad omen. The bust had to be received by somebody with joy as a gift, only then bad eye would go away from a person.

The rest of the story is about how this bust changes hands between these two rival business families, the convoluted and hillarious ways in which it is gifted, accepted, repacked, gifted again, the horror of seeing it back in the same house.. the story goes on until, the real owner of the bust comes in search of it… and there is a resolution.

Junior Mandrake … may be after the popular comic magician Mandrake.. there is always a magic in the tale…

Junior Mandrake is a 1997 film directed by Ali Akbar with Jagadeesh, Jagathy, Rajan P Dev and Janardhanan in the lead roles

©pins n ashes 2016

Premam (2015) snubbed at the kerala state film awards

After two back to back serious films, Neena from Lal Jose and Ivide from Shyamaprasad, Premam comes as breadth of fresh air, light in its approach with a lot of fun rolled into its making. In its idea, it is a new film, a fresh take on the same old, boy meets girl love story from the point of view of just men. Now this little detail has to be kept in mind throughout the film otherwise it can lead to problems as to the absence of a feminine voice in the script… One area where the director Alphonse Puthren excels in is his editing skills, and that editing ensures the film stays with its pace.

For starters, if you haven’t seen the three films, then I suggest you watch it in this order..  first watch Neena… follow it up by Premam and then watch Ivide.. to get out of the hangover of Ivide you could watch old Malayalam film like, Akare Akare Akare or Boeying Boeying.. 🙂 I watched Neena and Ivide on consequetive days and was unprepared for the heaviness in the subject matter that was portrayed, epsecially in Neena. Neena looked so deceptively naive from its posters.


    Vinay Forrt and Soubin Shaheer in Premam-PT Mash-Vimal Sir  


The story of the film is built on a concept of the bildungsroman of its central character, George David played by Nivin Pauly. The time span of the film stretches from his final year of pre-degree to when he is 30 and gets married. It is the story of how he falls in and out of love with two girls and finally ends up marrying the third. However, the second love story, if it can be called a love story, is the crux of the film, the most refreshing, and the most talked about, the most imitated, and what Premam as a film has come to be now, known and remembered for. The combination of the black shirt-white mundu, the kalippu song sung by Murali Gopi and Shabarish, the character of Sai Pallavi as Malar, the tamil-malalayalam conversations, the stage show, the  humour worked out between Vinay Fort and Soubin Sahir, Vinay Fort teaching java, vinay fort owning 900 acres of pear (sabarjalli) orchards….easily, it is one of the most remembered part of the film.

Premam as a boy’s journey from his school days to his 30s with his ongoing relationship with this idea of love and his friends is a treat because  visually, the transformation of the boys plays a major turning point in the film, each stage of the transformation brings with it its own mannerisms and an attitude towards life. The two women if not three, have made a mark… Malar is a heartthrob by now, Anupama lost out in the race, though she is still remembered for her bushy hair combed to one side. Madonnna needs to make her presence felt, because among the three she was the invisible one. Anupama appeared in the promos and for a long time before the release was considered to be the only lead opposite Nivin. After its release, it was Malar all through..

Now, if you ask me whether Nivin Pauly looks like a pre-degree student I have no one answer for it, I will have to draw a parallel from Raju Hirani’s 3 idiots in 2009 and tell you we all did assume that Rancho played by Aamir Khan was 17  or according to the film’s time period, even younger. Nivin’s Pauly’s character can be thought of and compared to Surya’s and Dhanush characters in growing up stories in the Tamil industry.

I don’t know to what degree this film will appease the current school and college goers, it seems to have created an influence and Nivin Pauly has been transformed into the status of a superstar after its release.. but, that said, it will definitely bring in a kind of nostalgia for Malayalees who passed out of school about 10 to 15 years ago. This batch born in the early to mid 1980s has grown up with say, Hrithi Roshan becoming an overnight sensation with his Kaho na pyaar hai, and now the upcoming patisserie business, so the context of the film is relate-able. Plus the college Puthren has chosen as the locale is UC, which is different from the other college campuses in other campus films like Niram (1998), Nammal (2003), Classmates (2005/06) and Chocolate.

I just fell in love with Nivin’s acting all over again in the film.  I feel I am going on to like another actor just I like Mohanlal! …And Malar, the character played by Sai Pallavi.. from her voice to her dance.. I think by now, almost everyone who watched the film is in love with her.. the element of fun hidden in the lines spoken by the PT Coach … 17 new comers.. including the director of Om Shanti Oshana, Jude.. Alphonse himself in a cameo role… The film is a box office hit because of a variety of reasons, the lyrics of the songs are taken from every day conversation.. so easily picked up, sung and hummed. The dialogues are minimal and when they are spoken are realist. It could easily be something we would say … There is a naturalness in the acting and the way the story is told.

I would say, watch it…. a fun ride, a note to women and girls, keep aside that it is a story from a male perspective, keep aside the age difference in an ending similar to the other recent film, Vellimoonga, to the rest of the film critics, keep aside those Tamil films which presented the growth of a protagonist (bildungsroman as we technically phrase it among literary students) from boyhood to a man.. watch the film for its own sake..

The tricks of the film lies in its intertexuality.  Oh man! there are certain scenes when Nivin Pauly’s gestures look very similar to Mohanlal, those I feel are the subtle lines of inter textual references being played out in the film, even though I suspect Puthren and Pauly are big time Mammotty fans. It looks like Puthren wants his audience to remember Mohanlal, the way he looks, the way he walks out after a fight, rolling his mustache, folding his mundu.. Revel in these if you are film fan..and regular movie goer.. now when Jojo’s says vellam, every Malayalee will remember Manichitratazhru, Mohanlal and Pappu. The background score to Ranji Pannikar’s one scene can be enjoyed wholly only if the audience knows that he was the one who wrote all those mincing English lines for Suresh Gopi in most of his cops films of the 1990s.

I enjoyed the film to a packed audience in the theater. But that being said, I don’t feel like watching this film from start to finish again, and I don’t know the reason why.. ! I would definitely like to see it in parts..

alphonse and friends are a film loving groups and it shows.

ps: the featured pic is a poster from google images.

©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

Roysten Abel’s The Manganiyar Classroom

I happened to watch this one hour play, The Manganiyar Classroom by Roysten Abel.  What led me to watch this play is a description of an earlier play by him known as The Kitchen. In the kitchen, the two protagonists, a man and a woman are making two pots of payasam (swee dish) live on stage. Now imagine the sensory tickling of the act on stage. It is a visual treat accompanied by those of smell and taste. The actors on stage after making the payasam distributes it to the audience at the end of the play. I was intrigued. I wanted to watch this play and I did to a packed audience.

This play is interesting because the protagonists are children 8-12 years of age, and singers. It is set in a classroom of a government school where a teacher initially dressed in a trouser and shirt tries to teach these boys who are born into the Manganiyar family of singers to study. However, the boys protest against the teacher and his teaching and drives him away. The teacher later returns as a Manganiyar, customizes the school lessons in the form of songs they are used to, the music that runs in their blood..

Here are a few pictures, I took while watching the play. it was a treat. It is a critique on the education systems, pattern of schooling and teaching in general presented through the taal of the traditional instruments, and the songs of these children. I had a feeling of listening to, tapping to the rhythm of Rajastani folk like Dhol Baje..  if the play was performed out in the open grounds I am sure the audience would have been on their feet dancing to the beats of the dhol.. This was an indoor setting.. an ac auditorium, red velvet material for the chairs lined like those of the outdoor amphitheater. Here is a video from youtube for a taste of the musical ride I enjoyed..

Day 2 of the Blogathon’16. I think I should expand from films only to theatre as well.

©pins n ashes 2016

Charlie (2015) Kerala State Award 2015 Best Actors male & female

Charlie is a 2015 Malayalam film directed by Martin Prakkat with Dulquer Salman and Parvathy in the lead, supported by Aparna Gopinath, Nedumudi Venu, KPAC Lalita and Kalpana, Neeraj Madhav et al. The film is narrated through the journey of Tessa (Parvathy) who goes in search of the tenant, Charlie (DQ) who stayed in a room she rented before her. Among his things he left behind, she finds an unfinished graphic novel. With it begins a search for the rest of the story, the tenant who drew it and a direction for the plot.

The story of Charlie begins thus. It would have been an ordinary story if not for that room, its exquisite interiors with its crafty stairs, paper lanterns, tinted bottles, wind chimes created by the art director, Jayashree Lakshmi Narayan. We enter with Tessa into Charlie’s world through this house, through the caricatures he has drawn of the people he has met and observed.. And stories some of those people have to say about him… Like he says, “what if we are not real and somebody’s imagination”. Sameera Saneesh dresses Dulquer in some very uber cool colourful attire to bring a very touristy feel and a feeling of lying lazily on the beach .. It brings alive the carefree life Charlie leads .. Through Jomon T John’s lens spanning parts of cochin and munnar (i think) a little more of the ever so loving, sanguine and enigmatic nature of Martin Prakkat’s and Unni R’s Charlie is revealed.. Tessa falls in love with the stories she hears of Charlie and the image she has sketched of him.. And goes in search of him..

Between Charlie and Tessa, Charlie is brought up by his father who has given him the freedom to explore his potential. But Tessa turns out to be the rebellious daughter who runs away from home to pursue her music and animation career against her families plans for her. So, her every step is seen as an effrontery in the eyes of her family where as Charlie has such qualms, he is born, brought and lives like the free bird.. the film gives us two characters who almost at the face of it lead the same kind of life.. But, there is a big but.. Through the banner of Finding Cinema, a very apt banner, the producers have tried to explore cinema taking the art director and costume designer also into their confidence to see what happens if Charlie and Tessa are let loose. The film with its choice of props, locations, shots, aesthetics, narration and depiction make an ordinary love story magical and exciting..

All that said and done, Charlie would have been a better film if it had a stronger storyline. The film comes alive in its moments… These moments or episodes are scattered accounts of Charlie by different people. The supporting cast – Nedumudi Venu is a joy to watch, his interactions with Charlie are just spot on.. Kalpana, she is no more as of this morning has a poignant but small role which moves the plot forward.. Dulquer, he has carried off the role of this character well, an extension of his Aju in Bangalore Days except that here, he is backed by his father in his every endeavour. Parvathy as Tesa has given an excellent performance different from what her role and period demanded of her as Kanchana in Ennu Ninte Moideen. The transition in her is worth a watch ..

I felt the first half a tad bit slow, but the film picks up pace in the second half… For the rebellious.. this is their film, .. It revels in such quirkiness and rebellion, from the dress to scenery .. It upsets the stereotypes of the society and its expectations, but shows that benevolent souls exist.

One highlight of the film for me was nobody dies, ails or is diagnosed with those bigger illnesses like cancer or some such… Usually films that build up momentum towards a certain character brings about the climax with such a revelation. Even if Charlie’s character is built up to be this Good Samaritan, the rescue man and benevolent soul like other reviews have said… he is still active and living life, dreaming everything in double by the end of the film.. (like Bunny says in the climax of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani.) A feel good film.. A happy film..

Watch it for Dulquer, for Parvathy for the art director, costume designer and the cinematographer… A creative film where a lot of thought has gone into the prepping the look. Distributed by Mammooty’s PlayHouse, directed by Martin Prakkat and written by Unni R, all from Mammotty’s film camp.

©pins n ashes 2016

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


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


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 😛

ChandraPriya is the same actor who played the role of Indrajith’s wife in Angels (2014).

©pins n ashes 2016