Watch On Netflix: National Award-Winning Documentary About Ahmedabad’s Kite-Fliers

Zaid, a 11-year-old Ahmedabad boy, is the cloud that they sing about in The Sound Of Music. The lad cannot be caught or be pinned down, especially in the month of January when the whole city sinks into the fervour of Uttarayana, the festival of kite-flying. That is when little Zaid and his friends, who look like regular school-goers, metamorphose into professional kite-pilots. 

Filmmaker Hardik Mehta and his crew followed Zaid for six days over a period of two years to make a 30-minute documentary film, Amdavad Ma Famous (Famous In Ahmedabad), a witty and technically brilliant work that captures the spirit of an Indian small-town, among other delightful things.

The film has great visuals – the kind you rarely find in Indian documentary films that are often sombre works by filmmakers reluctant to experiment with the form or be funny. The film is slickly edited, further enriched by Manoj Goswami’s sound design and an aptly cheerful background score composed by Alokananda Dasgupta. 

The film crew stalks Zaid, who is an informal leader of his gang, sometimes secretly, but mostly with his nod. And, it sure is not an easy task, for the kids are perennially on the move – darting down the streets behind falling kites, and clambering up the minars of a nearby mosque to use its sprawling terrace as a kite-flying pad. The kids seem immersed in their kite business, absolutely unconcerned by the presence of the camera and boom-box wielding adults. They argue among each other on the techniques of flying, spy on the strict security guard of the mosque who doesn’t entertain the kite-flying squad, and roam the streets of Ahmedabad bargaining with spool sellers. Mehta, somehow, makes his subjects feel relaxed, and the result is marvellous. 

The film won the National Award for the best non-feature film in 2015, and was screened at numerous international film festivals across the world. Mehta’s film isn’t just about the kids’ obsession with kite-flying. It humorously explores the inherent cherubic innocence in human beings. In space-crammed Ahmedabad, where there is hardly a playground for these children of lower middle-class households, they make use of the rooftops and alleys to meet, play and live an energetic childhood. The final portion of the film has visuals of a million lanterns rising from Ahmedabad’s rooftops. There is a spiritual touch to this visual – like a whole community of humans sending prayers to the sky, in unison. 

Hardik Mehta, who worked as an assistant director in Bollywood films such as Road Movie, Mausam, Lootera and Queen, is also the co-writer of Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped. Last week, his short film, The Affair, presented by Drishyam Films, was released on YouTube to splendid reviews.

Watch the trailer of Amdavad Ma Famous here:

***

Alankrita Shrivastava Interview: The Director Whose Movie Was Labelled ‘Fantasy’ When It Wasn’t

The second trailer of Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha is underlined with a mischievous sense of humour. Quoting newspaper headlines that refer to the six-month long battle the film had to wage against the country’s Censor Board, the film advertises itself as “The Most Controversial Film Of The Year”. The trailer uses the now-famous phrase that the Censor Board used to mark its objections against the film – “A Woman’s Fantasy Above Life”.

It is as though the Censor Board gave Alankrita lemons, and she used them to make a luscious lemon cheese cake. Lipstick Under My Burkha, Alankrita’s second feature film, releases in theatres on July 21. She spoke to Silverscreen in between promotional events.

“My first film {Turning 30!!, 2011} was given an A certificate. But, at least, it got a certificate without my having to run around for it. This time, they refused to give one altogether,” says Alankrita. She applied for a censor certificate in December 2016, and it was finally issued on June 3, after the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) overruled the CBFC ruling. The whole episode was exhausting, she says.

“It shouldn’t take six months for any filmmaker to get a censor certificate for his/her film. Here, it was not just a scene or a word, but an entire film waiting to get cleared,” she explains.  “And, it was a difficult film to make. Ever since I started it, I have had, like, no life.”

Lipstick Under My Burkha is about the secret life of four women from lower middle class households. “I wanted to explore the turmoil within the women, as well as the external restrictions imposed upon them by society. If Turning 30!! was set in a world I was familiar with, this is different.”

Alankrita admits that she is more a literary person than a cinephile. “My two favourite Indian films are Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Monsoon Wedding,” she says, and starts listing her favourite authors. “Elena Ferrante, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath…” The filmmaker grew up in a progressive household and studied at some of the best educational institutes in the country – Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi and Jamia Millia Islamia, where she did Mass Communication.

“There were no external restrictions in the world where I grew up, but, many a time, I did feel many internal restrictions.” The film, though, is set in a world where the women are bound by strong external and internal restrictions.

The four lead characters in the film are played by Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Plabita Borthakur and Aahana Kumra. 

“The characters are partly fictional. I didn’t go and meet any particular person, but I adapted a little from the journeys of women I have met in real life. Sometimes, I’d meet a person and think, ‘Oh my God, she is so similar to the character I am developing’,” says Alankrita. 

She narrates an interaction with her former landlady. “She was always quiet and meek. I never had to talk to her about anything because it was her husband who handled the rent and other things. One day, she called me up and said she wanted to have a chat. She came up to my place, and we had so much to talk about. I was really taken aback, because I had never thought of her that way. It is the way society conditions us. We slot people in boxes, ” she says.

Lipstick Under My Burqa features women fighting the ways of society, and trying to live out their ambitions. The film does not cater to the male gaze that popular culture is used to. The trailer hints that the film has sex scenes, which according to Ratna Pathak Shah, will make the audience uneasy. “It is a disturbing film for women as well to accept the fact that, yes, we do use sex, sometimes. Here are our various relationships with sex…,” Shah had said in a recent interview.

While the film was grappling with the censor controversy in India, it was having a dream run at film festivals abroad. It was screened at 31 film festivals; in April, at the International Film Festival of Los Angeles, the film was chosen as one of the official Hollywood Foreign Press Association Screening entries, making it eligible for the next Golden Globe Awards.

“Luckily, we applied for a censor certificate after the film had started travelling to international film festivals. That kind of offset the dark period. Even as the film was struggling to get censored here, it was receiving appreciation and love from so many countries,” says Alankrita. “If that had not happened, the whole episode would have really upset me. I found that, at a deeper level, there was something universal about the film. The audience from different countries and cultures could relate to it, and embrace the tale of the women,” she adds. “And, I think men could really understand what we were talking about. So, it is transcending a cultural context. That gave me a lot of strength and validation.”

The director knew from the beginning that she wanted Konkona Sen Sharma and Ratna Pathak Shah in her film. She credits her casting directors Shruti Mahajan and Parag Mehta, who conducted rigorous auditions, with finding the rest of the cast. Cinematographer Akshay Singh is her long-time collaborator – they worked together on her first short film, documentary, and feature film. 

The team, comprising veteran actors and freshers, did a lot of rehearsals and workshops before the final shoot. “A lot of stuff got ironed out during those sessions. It helped us bond. We were clear what we were going to shoot. We knew the back stories of the characters. That eventually helped set the tone for their performances,” says Alankrita.

Shah plays a grey-haired widow in the film,  a role quite unlike the stereotypes of familial characters or the ‘seductress next-door’ roles that popular culture has assigned to women of her age. “Whatever women in our films and in real life are made to do is what men like to see them do. We have been watching cinema through the eyes of men for a long time, and even women are used to it. The feminist point of view is scarcely represented in our culture. Are women really happy being confined to the roles men have assigned them? Of course not. Women are normal human beings with all the ambitions and passions others have. You cannot deny it.”

She feels that the poor representation of female filmmakers in Bollywood is one of the reasons for the male-centric stories the industry churns out. “We should be at least 50%, while the real number is meagre,” she says. “This is an uncertain, emotionally taxing job. This is a very dynastic film industry. It is not easy. A lot of women filmmakers come from a film family or camp.”

Alankrita feels there is a dearth of female narratives in Bollywood. “The big-budget films are hero-centric. There are some scripts by indie writers and filmmakers that are not being made into films, because there is no one to fund them. We have an economic system that does not encourage the independent film industry,” she says.

“Independent filmmakers here make films fighting against all odds. They have to do so much to just exist. The system isn’t giving any support. There is no public funding or a supportive distribution system. It is very difficult to get a big studio to fund your small movie. Then, there is the casting process. You can’t afford any stars, which makes distributing the film even more difficult. You can’t compete with a big movie for an exhibition space or splurge money on marketing. How will a Masaan compete with a Bajrangi Bhaijaan?” she asks. “You get an  audience when you promote your films, and here you don’t even have money to get distributors. Everywhere, you are at a disadvantage, and you have censorship on top of that. The fact that these films exist is a miracle. This tribe of independent films should win bravery medals. It is a very daring job.”

Studios splurge money on a tent-pole film when they can take out some of it and make a small film, she says. The audience culture is not encouraging too, she adds. “The situation could really change if the audience embraces small-budget independent films.” 

It is not wise to think of film festivals as saviours of indie films, Alankrita opines. “In my case, film festivals gave a lot of support. But, not all independent films work in the festival circuit. They could be unique, not-very-commercial films with a style that might not work at an international film festival abroad. For such films, you can’t expect that your film will travel to all festivals, because it might not necessarily cater to their idea of what an Indian film has to be.”

The way out is to develop an economic system that enables independent films to be financially sustainable, she affirms. “There is no running away from the fact that the audience in India needs to engage with independent cinema if a parallel narrative has to exist. That will boost the confidence of studios too.”

Pic: miamifilmfestival.com

*****

The Alankrita Shrivastava interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.

Jagga Jasoos Review: Anurag Basu Returns to the Bright-Coloured Toy-Town World

Anurag Basu clearly hasn’t gotten over Amelie.

Jagga, the film’s eponymous hero, has traces of the kind and inquisitive Parisian girl. As a lonely child in a residential school, Jagga notices a regular ‘Boy Loves Girl’ message on an old wooden desk, perhaps carved by two lovers from an old batch. Little Jagga does some detective work on his own, and traces the couple. Upon discovering that the woman is now dead, leaving behind the despondent man, Jagga works his magic. He anonymously gifts the old man the desk, and watches his tears of joy from a distance. Jagga knows how precious and rare true love can be. That incident also kindles in him his inner sleuth. 

***

Anurag Basu knows how to set the tone of his film. He ushers us into the whimsical, eccentric world of Jagga, the boy with a heart of gold and a Tintin mane, like a rabbit that led Alice into the wonderland. The production design is quaint and Ravi Varman’s camera has eyes for all things pretty. Basu experiments with visuals and music, and uses myriads forms of story-telling – all with a crazy energy. 

Jagga Jasoos belongs to the buttery genre of feel-good films that Basu and Rajkumar Hirani are known for. The films centres around quirky, smart, and good-hearted protagonists, with evident social issues. Rancho of 3 Idiots, the deaf and mute Barfi of Barfi, and Jagga of Jagga Jasoos could be cousins in another world.

***

The film revolves around Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor), a young school boy, who travels to Africa in search of his missing step-father. By his side is Shruti Sengupta (Katrina Kaif), an investigative journalist whom Jagga had once rescued from a set of insurgents.

In a Kabir Khan film, this journey would have launched a steamy flamboyant affair between the two young people, and the adventures they face would have been far more fatal, life-threatening, and conventional. Basu’s film has a singular charm and a sense of innocence that he carefully retains till the closing scene. 

There is an instance where Shruti wreaks havoc in Jagga’s tiny abode, setting his only belongings in fire. In the scene that follows, you see Jagga singing about his books, cutlery, an old timepiece, and underwear, all of which is now a pile of charcoal. It is in the same movie a plot line about underworld dons and high-profile arms dealers run. Basu deftly and smoothly mixes these oddities to make a delectable dessert.

***

The film has a shade of Charlie Chaplin too. An orphan, Jagga is adopted by a stranger who goes by the name Tutti Futti. Jagga doesn’t ask him any questions, so the movie too, doesn’t. Tutti Futti loves Jagga like his own. Much like Chaplin’s Tramp and the kid. Only that here, it is the kid who finds the tramp, not vice-versa. Also, the evil men who break into the duo’s modest haven, come looking for the tramp, not the kid. The kid, Jagga, is truly an unwanted. 

The film opens to a story-telling session for children, led by a pretty Kaif who narrates to the kids the tales of Jagga’s incredible adventures. She assures the kids (and the audience) that Jagga is indeed a real person. But you know Basu doesn’t mean it. You can almost see him behind the curtain, trying hard not to laugh out. He presents Jagga like a slice of a bed-time fairy-tale. The film slips effortlessly from stage-skit to real places, from songs to prose, from a moment of tragedy to an exciting ride on ostrich.

Jagga Jasoos Review

Basu’s film isn’t bothered about believability. You haveRanbir Kapoor dancing in a school uniform as Jagga, a 16-year-old, and Katrina Kaif playing Shruti, an internationally renowned investigative journalist. You see Jagga and Shruti easily sneaking around a tightly-secured area as if they are invisible, and Jagga making perfect decisions at the right time, purely out of instinct and a little superstition. But you would not waste a moment disagreeing with the film’s points, but jump aboard, for there is so much going on. The film proceeds at a compelling pace. 

 

But this pace of the film might come across as  problematic, especially on a second watch. It tends to deceive the audience, hiding from them the details that expose the film’s blots. In Barfi, Basu had a straightforward story to narrate. There was a mute and deaf guy who falls in love with two women, in two different time periods. The women love him back too, almost simultaneously. The film was built on brilliant, formidable portrayal of the relationships between the three characters. Although using a plagiarised plot, the film tells you more on a minor character like Shruti’s mother. The film cared about its characters genuinely. 

In Jagga Jasoos, the characters interact in an ambiguous realm. There is a desperation to add some quirkiness to every object on the screen. The film is at times, a Tinkle digest page-turner. The shallowness is strikingly visible.

***

It is lyricist Abhishek Bhattacharya who tries to cover up this lack of depth with his intelligent lines. The song, ‘Humko Usse Kya’ (How does it matter to us), states that the film hasn’t forgotten to be politically relevant. It asks the kids to see why Jagga’s story is an important one. ‘Daaru Peeke Khaane Khaake Chale Gayi’ (Drank, Ate and Left The Scene) is a buoyant song with a clever philosophical undertone. Ravi Varman’s camera moves beautifully, like a leaf in the wind in this sequence.

Ranbir Kapoor stutters and stammers like his character Prem in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani, and puts his enviable physical fluidity to use, like how he did in Barfi! He is fantastic as Jagga, even if his performance might evoke a lot of deja vu. Katrina Kaif doesn’t looks like a journalist on a mission. She looks more like Ajab Prem‘s Jenny who is a clumsy barbie doll. That she cannot act doesn’t come across as a problem in Jagga Jasoos. She is a lovely addition to the toy-town universe of the film. 

***

It will take a few more movies from Basu to decide whether his style is rubbing the local audience the right way. His films are sure charming and quirky, but they, for the most part, look heavily photo-shopped, clean of any rough edges and a homemade flavour. Jagga Jasoos has brilliantly choreographed comic and action scenes, but its most crucial plot-points are not very intelligent. Worse, they look clumsily contrived for the sake of being offbeat. There are times in the film when you wish the two characters engage in a real conversation about what they want from each other. That never happens.

Nevertheless, the passion and precision with which these artistes and filmmakers have attempted to make a film that do not tread the same path as its industry contemporaries or predecessors, is highly admirable. 

*****

The Jagga Jasoos review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Dileep’s Arrest in Actress’ Abduction Case: Police Report Gives Clear Evidence of Conspiracy

The police team that arrested actor Dileep on Monday evening has submitted a remand report that says that the actor had offered Rs 2 crore to the prime accused, Sunil Kumar a.k.a Pulsar Suni, to attack the actress and shoot a video of her.

The actress was abducted and sexually assaulted on 17 February 2017, in a moving car in Kochi. Dileep was arrested by the state police on July 10, Monday evening, and was presented before the magistrate on July 11, Tuesday early morning. 

Dileep, who is currently the 11th accused in the case, had initially told the police that he had never met Pulsar Suni. However, police investigation revealed that Suni and Dileep knew each other from 2013 or before. They had met in March and April 2013 at various locations – at Hotel Abad Plaza in Kochi, Thoppumpady Junction, Thrissur tennis Club and Thodupuzha Santhigiri College, where he was shooting for various films. According to the police, the conspiracy to attack the actress began in 2013. On November 13, 2016, Suni had met Dileep at the location of his film, Georgettan’s Pooram at Thrissur Press Club, behind a parked caravan.

The police has evidence to prove that Suni and his aides had made several phone calls to Dileep, his friend Nadirshah, and his manager Appunni after the attack, demanding money. The police has also found out that the prime accused had attempted to send a letter to Dileep via his jail mates who are marked as accused 9 and 10 in the case. 

According to the police report, the video footage has a clear image of the ring that the actress wore on her right hand finger. The actor, allegedly, had asked Suni for proof that the video is original, and not morphed. The prime accused has ensured that the video has clear visuals of the actress’ face. The police is still probing whether Suni had dropped in at actress Kavya Madhavan’s (Dileep’s wife) clothing store, Laksyah in Kochi on February 22, 2017.

The remand report also says that the actor held a grudge against the actress for breaking his marriage with ex-wife Manju Warrier. Allegedly, in 2013, at the rehearsal session of Mazhavillazhakil Amma, a stage programme organised by AMMA, Dileep had raged at the actress, and other actors had to intervene to cool him down. 

Meanwhile, actor-politician Innocent, who is also the president of AMMA (Association Of Malayalam Movie Actors), said that he was shocked to learn about actor Dileep’s alleged involvement in the case. Innocent posted a statement on Facebook from the hospital where he is undergoing chemotherapy. He was not able to attend the AMMA executive meeting which was held at Mammootty’s Kadavanthra residence on Tuesday 

Malayalam Actress Abduction Case: Actor Dileep Sent To Aluva Sub-Jail

Malayalam actor Dileep, who was arrested by the state police on Monday night in connection with the abduction and sexual harassment of an actress in February 2017, has been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. He was presented before the Angamaly Magistrate on Tuesday morning, and subsequently taken to Aluva sub-jail. The actor, charged under IPC 120 (B) for criminal conspiracy, has submitted a bail plea which will be considered tomorrow morning.

According to a Mathrubhumi report, the police produced 19 evidences against the 48-year-old actor in front of the court. The report said that the actress was abducted by the prime accused, Sunil Kumar aka Pulsar Suni, as per a ‘quotation’ of Rs 1.5 crore given by Dileep. It is known that the actor had a personal grudge against the actress. 

Dileep was taken into police custody on Monday morning, and the arrest was confirmed by the chief minister’s office at 6.30 in the evening. Reportedly, actor-director Nadirshah, a close friend of Dileep, has also been taken into custody. DGP Lokanath Behera told the media that no one else has been arrested yet. “The investigation isn’t over. We are still probing the case,” he said. 

Through a Facebook post on Monday night, the actress’ brother said that the family was grateful to the Kerala State Police for carrying out an unbiased probe.

“Thank God. Happy knowing that finally the truth triumphs over all odds in the investigation which we all believe has a divine presence from start. Our belief in State Police of Kerala and the trust that justice will prevail is the only reason why we chose not to appeal for CBI even after a lot of our good friends asked us to consider. We thank, from the bottom of our heart, to those who are with us directly and indirectly, to the media friends who fight for us, to the State Police of Kerala for taking action without being influenced, and to all those good people who love us unconditionally from all corners of the world. Hoping for the continuous support and the spirit till the culprits are put behind bars. [sic]

Ayaal Sasi Review: A Lacklustre Tale Of An Artist

Sajin Babu’s Ayaal Sasi is a portrait of a dying man.

Sasi, a middle-aged artist living in Thiruvananthapuram, discovers one day that he has just six months left to live. He has no family, but a cheerful gang of friends who stand by him through thick and thin. He leads a carefree life, sans any principles or moral codes. What drives him the most is a desire to be in the limelight – to be the centre of attraction in any crowd. He is a familiar face in the city’s cultural gatherings where he sings, dances and drinks uninhibitedly. He buys artwork from students at the city’s fine arts college, and sells them at art exhibitions passing them as his own.

When this man realises that he is to die soon, he takes it in his stride, and decides that his departure from the world should be quite an event. Here, the film doesn’t slip into mawkishness – in fact, Sajin’s Ayaal Sasi finds its pace and humour only after its protagonist receives the news of his imminent death. Sasi leaves the city for a lovely village where he owns a house on the banks of a river. 

Sajin’s film stays detached from Sasi and his petty life, which is further ruined by the hollow decisions that he makes. It doesn’t sympathise with Sasi when his plans to die in peace go haywire one by one. At times, the film becomes a cringe-comedy, laughing at the bizarre situations in Sasi’s life. But there are loose ends aplenty, which stop the audience from being amused by the attempts at humour. For one, there is a scene in which a friend of Sasi explains to a crowd of wide-eyed guests, the operation of a multi-specialty coffin that Sasi has ordered from Europe. The friend points to a social media button on the side of the coffin, and the guests applaud in awe. It is a scene as strange and cold as it is funny. It looks forced. 

Sajin doesn’t try to experiment with style or form in this film. You see motifs and clues everywhere – like the paintings of Ambedkar on the wall of Sasi’s house, and the casual narration of the story behind Sasi’s surname. You know where the man is coming from, and a little later, you realise why he is the way he is. But at the end, nothing moves you. There is a lack of intrigue in the narration. 

The saving grace is Srinivasan’s impressive portrayal of the protagonist. His tired body-language, and quick wit makes Sasi a convincing character. In the opening sequence, you see him dancing on the street with abandon. There is no grace in his steps, but Srinivasan’s charming originality makes it worth your while. 

*****

The Ayaal Sasi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Mom Review: Sridevi’s Fine Performance Shoulders This Shallow Yet Well-Made Thriller

*May contain spoilers*

Everything is so neat and polished in Ravi Udyawar’s debut feature film, Mom. Sridevi, who plays the titular role, looks perfectly made-up in every scene, even when she is mourning the brutal rape of her daughter, or fighting villains. Her kitchen sink is more photogenic than an average man’s living room. She executes her revenge systematically, never leaving a loose end anywhere. Her victims walk into the trap that she sets without an ounce of doubt. There is an element of implausibility in the film that the makers never try to address. 

Mom is on the lines of recent films, Pink and Maatr, woven around crimes against women. The film has a one-note narrative, narrowing down its focus to crime and vengeance, and forgetting the criminals and the societal conditions which manufacture them.

In spite of these shortcomings, Mom is a gripping thriller, thanks to its well-paced narration, some excellent characterisations and sequences. 

At the centre of the film, is a brutal gang-rape of Arya, an 18-year-old school student from an affluent Delhi household. Hours before the incident happens, you see her preparing to leave for a late night Valentine’s Day party with her classmates. She is wearing a bright red short dress. “You look stunning, Arya,” says Devki (Sridevi), her mother, and she blushes. Devki asks Arya’s friends to take care of her, and return home before it’s late. But Arya doesn’t return home that night. The mother, terrified, begins searching for her. The girl is found the next morning in a gutter, brutally raped and beaten up.

Mom is the story of these two women. The first crucial moment in the film comes when Arya reminds Devki that she is ‘just her step-mother’. “Why didn’t you tell your friends that you aren’t my mother, ma’am?” Arya asks Devki, her voice brimming with hatred. She prefers to call her ma’am, the way she addresses her at school, where Devki is a teacher of biology.

But the film doesn’t let the youngster be misunderstood as yet another spoilt rich girl. Arya and her friends are not showcased like a set of spring-breakers, but as a group of kids who want to have some harmless fun, away from the restrictions of home and school. Arya despises Devki because she is yet to come to terms with the death of her mother and the remarriage of her father. In a preceding scene, you see the girl apologising to her father for being rude at the dinner table. When she tells him that she will never be able to forget her dead mother or love her step-mother, you feel for her. 

At the party, a bunch of men push her into an SUV, beat her up brutally, and take turns to rape her, while driving the vehicle through the deserted roads of the city around midnight. The sequence is chilling, effective enough to hold the rest of the film together. 

For Devki, who works as a teacher at Arya’s school, love and affection come effortlessly. She understands that teenagers need to be handled with care and sensitivity. She is an amiable teacher who starts her class talking about a new Hollywood sci-fi movie. In the first scene, you see her dealing with a male student who sends a lewd video to girls. It is only natural that she decides to avenge the rape of Arya. She would have fought the criminals even if Arya was a girl she barely knew. She is the kind of person little girls and women confide their secrets and sorrows in. 

Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s DK is a lowly detective with an extraordinary IQ. A facilitator, DK helps the movie balance its ‘class problem’. From Devki’s plush, speck-less world, it is DK who takes the movie to the noisy and raw middle-class space. He brings a very convincing human element to the film. There is a scene in which he looks at her daughter, and lets out a sigh in the morning when he meets Devki.  You realise why he is going all out to help Devki break the law. Siddiqui’s brilliant acting moves you deeply. 

Equally good is the performance of Sajal Ali, who makes Arya a haunting figure. 

AR Rahman, the renowned Oscar-winning composer, does a mediocre job in Mom. His background score deafens you at times, shutting down other sounds. His songs for the film aren’t memorable. However, one has to give it to the composer for deftly using silence in the right portions. For one, in the sequence of the crime, all he uses is the sound of a heart beat, which can terrify you to the core. 

Udyawar’s film plays to the crowd in its most pivotal portions. It doesn’t make you ponder about the origin of the crime, but just revel in the act of vengeance through vigilantism. The brightest of its positives is its lead actress, Sridevi, who delivers a mesmerising performance. Especially during the instance in which she walks away from the room when Arya begins to scream hysterically at the sight of her. Sridevi’s face is stiff, unable to cry or come to terms with the pain of rejection. She empathises with Devki’s sufferings, and that makes this role one of the best in her career.

*****

The Mom review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

‘Tiyaan’ Review: A Contrived Tale Of Monolithic Hinduism With Surprisingly Stilted Performances From Indrajit & Prithviraj

When Indrajit walks in Tiyaan, you can almost hear the director giving him cues: “Now take three steps, and glance sideways. Now, stop, lift up your face to a 20-degree angle, and say your lines.” His most casual movements are carefully measured. There’s a weariness about him. When he tries to look intense, the effort he’s making is even more noticeable.

Indrajith is usually a delight to watch on screen. Here, he doesn’t look at ease at all. 

His brother Prithviraj, on the other hand, has a sightly different problem. Happily oblivious to the absurdity of the situation he is caught in, he roams around a parched, dusty, and rocky north Indian village, with a woolen blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

At times, in the middle of the day, under the blazing sun, he sits by the side of a campfire on top of a rocky hillock. He chews his lines, instead of saying them, and hams it up enthusiastically, trying to match the hyperbolic drama that Murali Gopi’s screenplay has cooked up. 

And this underwhelming, unintentionally funny acting performance by both actors, is just the tip of the iceberg. 

***

Directed by Jiyen Kishnakumar and written by Murali Gopi (who also plays the film’s antagonist, an evil godman), everything in Tiyaan is in your face.

Even if we ignore the film’s cinematic shortcomings, there’s still the baffling politics it puts forth. 

Tiyaan attempts to take on the culture of godmen – a theme that Bollywood films like PK and Oh My God! dealt with. Where PK suggested that rationality was the best defence against India’s rising religious intolerance, Oh My God was trickier. It had Akshay Kumar as Lord Krishna brainwashing an atheist, and empowering him to take on a set of evil godmen. The film mocked organised religion without questioning the existence of a figure like Lord Krishna.

High on entertainment, both films easily won the box-office over.

In Tiyaan, Murali Gopi chooses a darker and blatantly saffron road. He suggests that in order to counter saffron terror, one should return to Sanatana Hinduism and the Vedas. He centres his story around a brahmin, Pattabhiraman (Indrajith) – a revered vedic scholar who lives in an ancient house in this drought-hit north Indian village, guarding an idol and relics that Shankaracharya left here centuries ago.

The sole water spring in the whole region lies in his compound. 

In one scene, goons asks a little boy from their community to hurl stones at Pattabhiraman. “His community has been treating us like slaves all these years. Have your revenge now, boy,” they say. The child, to their surprise, throws away the stone and bows in front of the brahmin man. 

Ramakanth Mahashay (Murali Gopi) is a powerful godman who has tricked his devotees into believing that he is the reincarnation of Lord Shiva. He works hand-in-glove with real estate mafia and political parties. This conman is also a brutal murderer. Enter a fakir named Aslan Mohammad (Prithiviraj) who, the film says, is the reincarnation of a Hindu warrior and will rein him in.

In sum, it is a clash of two superstitious reincarnation narratives. 

***

Aslan Mohammad, before he became a wise man, was a fearsome criminal. He had regular visions, and could hear whispers in his sleep. A group of Naga Sadhus help Aslan attain enlightenment. “You are not who you were till yesterday,” they tell him after he emerges out of a cave as a wise man. (Yes, just like Jesus Christ).

In fairness, this portion is well-shot, with just the right flavour of mysticism. The man is taken on a tour of sacred spots in the Himalayas, the way a newly inducted employee in a corporation is taken on site visits. 

There are also crowd-pleasing lines aplenty. “Islam is a great religion,” a Naga Sadhu tells Aslan, clearing the air on whether he would have to convert to Hinduism.

However, it is not difficult to see through the veil that Murali Gopi puts on, narrowing down the history of mankind on the Indian subcontinent to a monolithic history of Hindu religion.

*** 

The dialogues are lengthy and overly expository. Some scenes are blatantly silly, while others are high on clichés and contrived drama, accompanied by Gopi Sunder’s painfully loud background score. For instance, after a policeman brutally thrashes his son on the suspicion that he ate cow meat, we watch some businessmen gorging on beef burgers in an air-conditioned room.

How do we know it is a beef burger that they are eating? They tell us. “Such tasty beef. Where did you get it from?” asks the actor, trying to act casual and pretend that this is everyday conversation, and not something the writer of the film stuffed into his mouth, to thrust contemporary relevance onto the film.

***

Tiyaan is a movie that aspires big. However, an insipid screenplay, predictable storyline, and bad acting make it difficult to watch. Satheesh Kurup’s camera is, perhaps, the sole solace in this mess. He creates stunning visuals of the region where the story unfolds, trying hard to make the proceedings onscreen slightly convincing.

But there is only so much that a cinematographer can do in a movie as shallow as this.

*****

The Tiyaan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

 

AMMA President Innocent Says Women Are Responsible For Casting Couch; Actresses React

When actor-politician Innocent, who is the president of AMMA (Association Of Malayalam Movie Actors), held a press meet on July 5, he might have expected it to be an amiable affair that would restore public faith in the organisation which is currently going through a moral and ethical crisis. A leading actress in the industry was abducted and molested inside a moving car in Kochi in February this year, and the way AMMA handled the issue was severely criticised by the media and the public.

At the press meet, Innocent apologised on behalf of actor-politicians Ganesh and Mukesh who shouted down reporters at a press conference held on June 28 when asked about AMMA’s stance on the actress’s case. “Some of the actors shouted, while the others hooted. I apologise for their acts,” he said. He also apologised for not intervening and taking control of the situation. “I shouldn’t have remained silent. I should have asked them to keep quiet. I couldn’t, because I didn’t see it coming,” he said. He reiterated that AMMA would stand by the actress and ensure that she gets justice.  

However, the sexist nature of the 72-year-old actor came to light when a reporter asked him if casting couch is still a problem in the industry. “Casting couch is a thing of the past, sister,” he said. “These days, if anyone approaches an actress with such an offer, she would immediately call the media and expose him. However, if the actress is a promiscuous woman with a questionable moral side, she might sleep with him.”

Innocent’s statement, which only held the woman accountable for casting couch, surprised many. Actress and founding member of Women In Cinema Collective, Rima Kallingal, was one of the first to respond. “When you are so inherently a part of the system that holds women accountable for having to sleep around for a job opportunity, rather than the men who ask for that “favour; When you are so blinded by your privilege and entitlement that you think every woman out there can hold a press conference when her rights and her being are violated; When you know that you are part of this system and don’t know where to start from. But then, you know deep inside that this has to change, and change it will,” she wrote on Facebook. 

Earlier, actresses like Lakshmi Rai and Parvathy had spoken up about being approached by men in the film industry for sexual favours.

Women In Cinema Collective then issued a press release late on Wednesday, asking their male counterparts to be careful while talking about sensitive issues that concern women. “We strongly disagree with the statement passed by Innocent that gives an impression that film industry is free of sexual harassment. The skewed power dynamics that exist in the society reflect in the film industry too. Women who are new to this field are subjected to various kinds of exploitation…We hope the state government appointed Justice Hema Commission will conduct an efficient inquiry into this aspect,” the press release said.

This is the first time that Women In Cinema Collective has openly countered the AMMA president. At the June 28 press meet, the male actors who spoke to the media, dismissed rumours about WCC members being upset with AMMA. 

Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum Review: Exceptional Film, Brilliant Fahadh Fazil

Dileesh Pothan’s Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum is an astute tale of a theft. A newly-wed woman is robbed of her wedding chain while she is travelling in a state transport bus through a new, unfamiliar region. She sees a pale young man stealing, and then swallowing the chain. Her husband, a meek villager, awkwardly requests the thief to return the chain, while fellow passengers enthusiastically surround the suspect, manhandle him, and take him to the local police station. 

Unlike Pothan’s debut, Maheshinte Prathikaram, this isn’t a very buoyant film. Every character is deeply imperfect and emotionally vulnerable. Survival is their primal instinct. For that purpose, they lie, betray, implore and resort to violence. 

Dileesh and his highly reliable cameraman, Rajeev Ravi, deftly capture the curious disorder of daily life, occasionally laughing at the pettiness of people and the situations they are caught in. For one, the police sub-inspector, who is a rough macho figure in front of his subordinates, criminals and civilians, quivers like a mouse when his boss makes an angry phone call. In another scene, the thief (Fahadh Fazil) coolly steals the name of the husband of the woman whose only jewellery he stole a while ago. The film makes you laugh, without pointing fingers at who you are laughing at. There are villagers who land at the police station with myriad complaints. They wait on the corridors, some times for days together, negotiate with each other, and keep life going. Pothan constructs the scenes inside the police station with forensic detailing. The subtlety with which he presents the wavering dynamics between the characters is great.

It is with the same subtlety that he paints a picture of the society where the story unfolds – divided by caste, class and numerous standards. Sreeja (Nimisha) and Prasad (Suraj), who are from two different castes, have to leave their native place, a green village on the lap of backwaters, and take shelter in an arid, colourless small-town many hundred miles away, to lead a normal life. The thief, although he says nothing of his past, has a similar story of social alienation to narrate. Many a time, he hints that he had a lonely, hungry and rough childhood. 

There are no villains in this story, although you witness the whole episode of theft and the skewed police investigation that follows. There are no heroes too, just as there aren’t any spotlessly white heroic figures in real life. Dileesh knows the milieu of his characters too well. When Prasad spots Sreeja at a medical store, buying a pregnancy kit, he immediately assumes that it is his responsibility to inform her parents of what he saw. Interestingly, this tendency to be the moral guardian of a woman he hardly knows, doesn’t make him any inferior in the eyes of the film. He is a loyal social animal, whose life is intertwined with his surroundings. It is with similar fervour that a theology student and a purdah-clad young woman beat up the thief on the bus. The film’s sense of humour is multi-layered as you see in this scene. 

Fahadh Fazil is terrific in the film, which has a brilliant cast. His careful and subtle performance is one of the best by an Indian actor in recent times. His unassuming body language hides his strikingly good facial features, and transforms him into this nameless, deceitful thief. You never realise what is going on inside his head. In the theft scene, we see his eyes first. He furtively scans the surroundings while skilfully moving his right hand towards the back of the neck of the lady passenger seated right in front of him. The scene is beautiful, with an exceptional artistic quality. Rajeev Ravi’s camera, like an invisible third man in the bus, quietly watches the thief and the hapless passenger. When the crowd surrounds the thief, he acts innocent. The camera keeps gazing at him, perhaps with a knowing smile.

Suraj delivers an excellent performance too. He is an actor with an inherent ability to disappear in a nondescript crowd. His portrayal of Prasad, a timid man with modest aspirations, is flawless – especially in the scene where he and Fahadh engage in a murky tussle: “I want my chain back,” he keeps chanting as if he is in a trance. It’s so finely enacted.

Debutante Nimisha Vijayan, who plays Sreeja, a fiery young woman who dares tell her own father that he is a selfish schmuck, is equally good.

There is also a bunch of over 25 real-life policemen in the film, who act like there is no camera watching them. 

Bijibal’s music works magic in this film. Much like Rajeev Ravi’s camera, the musical element too, is an extension of the muddled thoughts flitting inside the characters’ mind. Bijibal is a quality addition to any film, for he knows the nuances that make great cinema. 

Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum is by far, the best film in the ‘new generation wave’ of Malayalam cinema. It is intelligent, funny, and profoundly mysterious. With this film, Pothan easily joins the league of the finest contemporary filmmakers in the country. It is unfair to compare Pothan to the likes of KG George and Padmarajan, for his style of film-making is way different from that of the auteurs’. He is thoroughly grounded. There is also a touch of humanity in his films. Clearly, it is not literature or philosophy that moves him, but this humanity. For Fahadh Fazil, this is his finest performance yet, something that will be much-talked-about in the years to come as a great example of nuanced acting. 

*****

The Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

AMMA Meet Report: Male Actors Unanimously Support Dileep, Shout Down Media; Superstars Stay Silent

On June 28, the patriarchal nature of the (Association of Malayalam Movie Actors) AMMA was in full display at the 23rd General Body meeting, as male actors like Mukesh, Innocent, Devan, Idavela Babu, and Sadiq occupied the stage and put up a united front, even as superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal remained silent. The former unanimously spoke in defence of actor Dileep (also on the dais), whose involvement in the case of abduction and assault of an actress in February this year is still being investigated by the police

The meeting is usually a flamboyant affair with members of the Association clicking selfies, posing for press photos, and a final group photo that tends to resemble an upper class joint family portrait – with the male superstars and senior-most actors in the middle, and the younger actors perched on the floor with their arms wrapped around each other in brotherly fashion.

This meeting was no exception. 

Mukesh also happens to be an incumbent MLA, while Innocent is a Member of Parliament. When press reporters raised questions on the Association’s stand on the issue, which falls under the category of gender violence, actors Mukesh, Ganesh and Devan shouted them down. Together, they dismissed rumours about a rift in the Association, which surfaced after the formation of a Women’s Cinema Collective. Instead, they said that the AMMA’s “familial bond” was unbreakable.

The two superstars remained quiet the entire time.

It was the first general body meet of the Association after an actress was assaulted earlier in February this year. One of the biggest stars in the industry, actor Dileep, was earlier grilled by the police at Aluva Police Club in connection with the case, along with his friend and filmmaker Nadirshah.

Over the last few days, a number of male stars, including Aju Varghese and Salim Kumar, have extended support to Dileep on social media. Aju Varghese, in his Facebook post, revealed the name of the assault victim, and Salim Kumar, used sharp words to demand that the actress be put through a Narco Analysis to “bring out the truth”.

In an interview with Reporter TV, Dileep claimed that the actress and the main accused were close friends.

There had been speculation that these incidents of victim-shaming and victim-blaming would be discussed at the AMMA meeting. Also, the newly formed Women In Cinema collective members, Rima Kallingal and Ramya Nambeesan, were expected to raise the issues surrounding the actress’s assault. 

“Since this is the first general body meeting post the formation of a women’s guild, ‘Women in Cinema Collective’, we have decided to raise the issue strongly for discussion and this is of high importance in today’s meeting,” Ramya had told the media in the morning, before she left for the meeting.

At the press meet however, Innocent, who is the president of AMMA, said that the Association had decided to not comment on the issue, now a high-profile police case. When asked about the statement made on the TV channel, that the actress and Suni were friends, Dileep blamed the media for “twisting his words”. “I have already apologised for what I said,” he said, and before the media could ask further questions, other actors intervened and invited the press to attend the inaugural event of Dileep’s theatre association in the evening.

There were no comments on the statements made by the other actors about the actress. 

The actors became agitated when the press quoted Rima, who had said that the actress’s case was not discussed at the meeting, even though she had raised it. “No one raised the issue at the meeting. If someone told you otherwise, ask them,” said Innocent and Mukesh. The latter shouted at a reporter who asked if there was a conspiracy to corner and shun Dileep.

When asked if the Women In Cinema Collective had been formed as an alternative to the male-centred AMMA, he said that the Women’s Collective were a part of AMMA, and declared that the members of the women’s group were happy with AMMA’s stand. 

Later that evening, a press note issued by the WCC read, “The present case involving our member and colleague was not taken for discussion (at the general body meeting of AMMA). WCC decided against raising it as the case is still sub judice and also it is not a case that has to be discussed only when raised by WCC.”

Further, “WCC is working in its own capacity to ensure all support to our colleague and helping her get legal counselling. WCC has also taken strong measures to counter victimisation of the victim. A complaint on behalf of WCC is being sent to the women’s commission regarding the same, requesting them to take immediate action.”

Further, “Whatever work need to be done by AMMA should be their prerogative. As the person who has suffered terrible indignity is a member of AMMA, we hope they will stand by her and ensure a fair trial.”

*****

Dileesh Pothan’s Penchant For Long Titles Continues With ‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’

One of the posters of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, an upcoming Malayalam film, has the image of a small, shabbily-dressed man squatting on the floor. His head is slightly titled upwards, and a gamut of expressions flit across his face: anxiety, resignation and something veiled. After a closer look, you realise that the man in the photograph is Fahadh Fazil, the actor whose last performance on screen was that of a sophisticated diplomat in Mahesh Narayanan’s Take Off.

Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, directed by Dileesh Pothan, has a long, chaste Malayalam title that the audience outside of Kerala might not take an instant liking to. But the sublime minimalism of the film’s posters could easily even out the weight of the title. Designed by Sreejith N of Kochi-based design firm Old Monk, the posters and title cards of the film are very cinematic, brimming with a sense of life that is rare to find in movie posters in this part of the world. The characters are not facing the camera, but engrossed in affairs in the film’s world that we have no access to so far. 

“I do not see the title of a film as a part of its marketing strategy. I can’t think of a better title for this film. Even my first film had a long name – Maheshinte Prathikaaram,” says Dileesh. “We used real stills from the film for the posters. Sreejith and I discussed a little about the film’s concept, and he did the rest. We wanted the posters and the teaser to reflect the over-all mood of the film, rather than lure the audience to theatres. This is a realistic film. So we wanted the posters to have that naturalness.”

Another poster of the film has an image of a set of policemen leading a hand-cuffed Fahadh through dry grasslands. It may instantly remind a cineaste of  an iconic image in Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time In Anatolia, where a group consisting of policemen, detectives and a lawyer, take a hand-cuffed crime suspect through the endless grasslands of Anatolia to recover the corpse of a man the latter had killed and buried the previous night. 

*****

Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum is the second directorial of Dileesh, whose first film was the brilliant warm drama, Maheshinte Prathikaram, that won the National Award for the best screenplay in 2016. Set in a high-land village in Idukki, Maheshinte Prathikaram narrated a coming-of-age story of a nondescript photographer, played by Fahadh Fazil. In Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Dileesh teams up with Fahadh once again. The actor plays the role of a thief, one of the two lead characters in the film, the majority of which unfolds inside a police station. The other lead is played by National Award-winning actor Suraj Venjarammood.

Around 25 real-life policemen have acted in this film. “We did a casting call, inviting policemen who wanted to try their hand at acting. The training they have got in their profession helps when they act as a policeman in the film. An actor might not be able to imitate that body language and mannerisms to that perfection.”

The initial cast of the movie was slightly different, says Dileesh. “Fahadh was supposed to play the role that Suraj ended up doing, and the other lead role was supposed to be played by Soubin (Shahir). However, we changed the plan after Soubin got busy with his directorial debut, Parava. I am pretty sure the movie that we finally made, is very different from the movie it would have been, if we had gone with the initial cast.”

The first teaser of the film was released on June 2. Featuring a fragment of a scene from the film, it has Fahadh and Suraj having a sombre conversation in a dimly-lit room. The intriguing teaser hides more details than it reveals. “I wanted to focus on the curious dynamics between these two characters. That particular scene gives a clue about it,” says Dileesh.

“Also, there is another reason as to why I chose that scene for the teaser. I want the audience to know that this isn’t a light-hearted film like Maheshinte Prathikaram. This isn’t a feel-good film. It is darker, and I believe, a better work than my first film.”

The film is shot by Rajeev Ravi, ace cinematographer, who is also an acclaimed filmmaker. “We shot it in the order of the screenplay, starting from the first scene, improvising immensely on the go,” says Dileesh. The team planned and rehearsed every single scene before they went for the take. “The final film, in fact, is Rajeev Ravi’s perspective of the story. You will watch the film through his eyes – how he perceived the characters and the plot.”

The film is shot in Kasargod, and partially in Vaikkom. “If Maheshinte Prathikaram was also a portrait of the space where it was shot, this film has a universal theme. It could happen anywhere – in a city, small town or a village. I chose to shoot it in Kasargod because I thought on such a landscape, this story could seamlessly fit in, and look totally credible.”

36-year-old Dileesh is aware of the hype around the film, for it follows a highly popular and critically-acclaimed debut film, Maheshinte Prathikaram. Nevertheless, he claims to be unaffected by the pressure. “I do not make a film because I want to build up a steady career. I made this film because I was hooked to the story when I listened to it first. I will make a film only if I feel passionate about it. I am not very ambitious. I am a lazy man.”

*****

‘Rolemodels’ Review: A Raffi Comedy With Solid Performances From Fahadh Fazil & Vinaayakan, And Little Else

Director Raffi’s Rolemodels revolves around a group of four men and two women, formerly batchmates at an engineering college in Kerala. Eight years after college, three of them meet again and hatch a plan to help the fourth, currently undergoing a serious mental trauma, return to normal life. They travel from Kochi to the country’s party state, Goa, to hook him up with his old college flame, now living there.

The setting is perfect for a fun-filled holiday movie. There are songs, action sequences, and comic instances aplenty. There are impressive performances by actors Fahadh Fazil and Vinaayakan, especially in the initial sequences. 

And yet, Rolemodels isn’t a delightful film. 

***

For one, lazy writing tries to puff up situations with nonsensical and often tasteless humour. Example: to check whether their friend is gay, Rexi (Sharaffuddin) and Jyothi (Vinayakan) try to seduce him by flaunting their bare chests, and moaning in his face. No one expects humour in commercial films to be subtle. But it’s odd to watch full-grown adults behave this way for laughs. 

Poor and contrived humour is a lesser problem though than the miscasting of men like Fahadh Fazil, Vinaayakan and Vinay Fort (all well into their ’30s) as college students. The indulge in regular teenage antics in college – singing, dancing, and making merry. Finally, when an unsympathetic professor schemes to throw them out of the college, they cry and beg with the principal to not “ruin their future”.

It’s awkward and comes across as funny for reasons the director probably did not intend. 

Similarly miscast is Namitha Pramod, who plays an adventure sports junkie. Her body language speaks volumes about her discomfort in this new bohemian make-over. She doesn’t look like someone who roams around with bikers and hippies. Worse, her chemistry with potential suitor Fahadh Fazil is dull.

***

Fahadh’s stiff and nerdy Gautham vaguely resembles his role in Anil Radhakrishna Menon’s North 24 Kaatham. But Fahadh is talented and plays it cleverly, not letting the two characters look alike. Even in scenes that portray Gautham as anti-social, he brings forth the character’s underlying helplessness and despair.

And his antics are funny. In one scene, he lectures his visibly-bored friends on the possibilities of life on Mars and the importance of drinking eight litres of water a day. In another sequence in Goa, he has to dance to Gopi Sunder’s underwhelming composition and Harinarayanan’s shoddy lyrics. It’s somewhat cringe-worthy, but Fahadh manages to rescue the scene with genuine charm. 

***

For some reason, Malayalam cinema has a baffling spate of fictional women who betray their lovers. It isn’t clear what spurred this trend, but going by the response in movie halls and social media platforms, it’s a trope that resonates with the young male audience in the state.

Both the young women in Rolemodels are accused of being deceitful gold-diggers at least once in the film. There is even a song dedicated to these kinds of women.

With all the scrutiny around potential insults in movie dialogues (see this and this, for instance) – one would think it would be out of line to use a subtle and seemingly harmless song to unleash insult and hatred towards women, accusing them of being constantly unfaithful in relationships.

In fairness though, sexist dialogues and situations are far fewer in Rolemodels, compared to regular Mollywood potboilers like Georgetttan’s Pooram or Happy Wedding

***

Rolemodels is a breezy one-time watch that doesn’t aspire to be anything more. Turn off your thinking brain, and laugh at the sight of a bunch of drunken monkeys dance. And if this film has any longevity, it will be for Vinaayakan, the darling of offbeat dark cinema who handles his comic role in this one like a wizard.

*****

The Rolemodels review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

‘Oru Cinemakkaaran’ Review: Rejisha Vijayan Shines In This Film That Tries Hard To Be Meta

The protagonist of debut director Leo Thaddeos’s Oru Cinemakkaaran, Alby (Vineeth Sreenivasan) is an assistant director striving to make his dream directorial debut. His father, played by Renji Panikker, is a Jacobite priest, always seen with a posse of junior priests. The significance of these non-mainstream career choices of the characters, though, is ambiguous at best. 

The film doesn’t belong to the genre of meta-cinema, although it pretends to be one in the last sequence – and fails. If the young man was a pizza delivery boy and his father, a bank clerk, the film would still be the same. Even better, it would have spared the audience the much-hackneyed trope – struggles of an aspiring filmmaker – that occupies the most of the film.

Alby is cash-strapped, and has been waiting forever for a particular producer to listen to his script. It is not clear why he doesn’t approach another producer when the former snubs him many times. He is in love with a sprightly girl, Saira (Rejisha Vijayan) from a rich household. When friends, relatives and neighbours nag Alby with questions like, “will you ever make a film?”, Saira defends him with all her might, trusting in his ability completely. 

Thaddeos’s film starts off as a nondescript comic entertainer woven around this couple, but soon, the film shifts into crime-drama mode, with a murder and cover-up at its heart. Alby’s neighbour, Sudhi (Vijay Babu) is dead, apparently after a violent scuffle he’d had with Alby inside his apartment. When his corpse – which Alby had dumped in an abandoned plot – is discovered, all hell breaks loose. The crime investigation is led by a senior police officer who has a peculiar habit of whistling and flirting with his wife on phone while he is inspecting the murder spot. The hip and energetic background score tries to say that we are witnessing something very intelligent and cool, but it turns out that the score is wrong.

Oru Cinemakkaran is an unintelligent crime drama with loop holes aplenty. Consider this: A corpse is found in an unused compound in the middle of the city. For years, commercial cinema has been teaching us that in such cases, before you do anything, you look for tyre marks in and around the site. In Thaddeos’s film, this idea dawns on the investigative officer only in the post-interval half. This lax in story-telling shouldn’t come as a surprise because this is a film which lacks imagination, and is ridden with cliches. The jokes aren’t funny enough, and situations do not offer anything new or interesting.

Perhaps, the sole impressive part of the story is how Alby, a gentleman with an impeccable moral profile, coolly resorts to stealing and murdering when a financial crisis hits. Vineeth Srinivasan played a similar character in his acting debt, Cycle. Unfortunately, his acting skill doesn’t seem to have undergone any improvement from those days. He has a stiff and clumsy body language, and he still uses his famous side-way glance to express fear and mental trauma. Meanwhile, his co-star Rejisha is a fine natural talent. She acts like she has always known the character she is portraying. With her on the screen, it is easier to pretend that Vineeth doesn’t exist. 

Oru Cinemakkaran is the latest entrant to the list of unexceptional youth-oriented films that Mollywood has been churning out. They come wrapped in a progressive, optimistic and funny air, but in no time, the hollowness of the film comes to light. They are made with a lot of ambition, but with little grip over the medium. The narration lacks clarity, and the plot is inane and forgettable. Once in a while, these films feature an actor or a technician worth raving about, and in the case of Oru Cinemakkaran, it is Rejisha Vijayan. 

*****

The Oru Cinemakkaran review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

‘8 ½ Intercuts, Life and Films of K G George’: A Documentary That Explores The Master’s Genius & Demons

8 ½ Intercuts: Life and Films of K G George, a documentary film directed by Malayalam filmmaker Lijin Jose, and produced by Shibu G Susheelan and Lijin himself, premiered at the 10th International Documentary And Short Film Festival Of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, on June 18. 

In the opening sequence of the documentary, KG George, now a frail old man, watches a black and white film on his laptop, grinning like a child. It is 8 ½, Federico Fellini’s classic Italian film about a director’s existential crisis. Later, we would hear him shake his head adamantly and say, “I can never make a movie again”, as his wife, Selma, a yesteryear playback singer, reiterates that he can, if he ‘puts his heart into it’. 

8 ½ Intercuts: Life and Films of K G George is a long-over-due film that lends a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the greatest auteurs in the country.  “Fellini is George sir’s favourite filmmaker. If you look closer, you will find something Felliniesque about his life and personality too,” says Lijin Jose who directed the documentary, which attempts to look at George’s contrasting lives as an unparalleled genius filmmaker and a lax, unreliable family man. For George, cinema was the accommodating haven he escaped to, from the uncomfortable present. 

No one minces words in this 120-minute long film. The master is praised, criticised and even lambasted by his peers, collaborators, kin and admirers, and he approves of them all with a smile. He talks about his early inspirations that led him to make some of the best psychological dramas in the country, and hesitantly hints at the fissures and conflicts that forced him to hang up his boots. 

George, a gold medal-winning FTII (Film & Telvision Institute Of India) graduate, has bagged nine State Awards, one National Award, and the coveted JC Daniel award in his career. His oeuvre has films like Irakal , Yavanika and Adaminte Variyellu which are regarded as classics. His films stood out among the commercial cinema of the 70s and 80s, for their distinct form and themes, probably an influence of FTII. He, along with filmmakers like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G Aravindan and John Abraham, are known for pioneering the new wave cinema in Malayalam. Yet, George’s works as a filmmaker is largely overlooked, especially outside of Kerala, as compared to Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Aravindan. 

Lijin, who has directed two feature films (Friday and Law Point) considers 8 ½ Intercuts: Life and Films of K G George as the most important work in his career so far. An ardent fan of the master filmmaker’s works, he spent nearly four years researching the subject, and making the film.

*****

In the documentary, Lijin chooses to keep the narrative objective and linear, compiling interviews that he conducts with George, Selma, his collaborators like actor Innocent, cinematographer Ramachandra Babu, and actress Jalaja, and his contemporaries like filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan and film critic CS Venkiteswaran. Members of the younger generation of Malayalam cinema – actor Fahadh Fazil, directors Anjali Menon and B Unnikrishnan, and actor-director Geethu Mohandas – too make an appearance. The interviews are inter-cut with visuals from his remarkable films such as Irakal, Yavanika, Mattoraal and Mela.

Interestingly, the voices conflict at times, especially on topics such as George’s treatment of human suffering and feminism on screen. George, who portrayed women with brilliant sensitivity and progressiveness in his films, was an insensitive philanderer in real life, says Selma, fuming, as she sits by his side on a patio chair and talks to the camera. Her relationship with George is complex, much like that of the characters you would find in his films. Lijin, with a touch of mischief, cuts from Selma and George to a footage from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where a couple argues about love. “What have I done to be treated this way!…You don’t love anyone. You only care about women!” says the woman in the film. A part of the audience breaks into a feeble chuckle. 

George talks to the camera with palpable innocence, and sometimes, with zen-like humour and calmness. “I made many movies that shouldn’t have been made,” he says. His words do not reflect any regret, but an honest admission presented like a matter of fact. 

The documentary also reminds one of the golden period of Malayalam cinema that the 70s and 80s were. There are delightful mentions of the ‘Pune House’ in Chennai (named after FTII which is the common alma mater of many of its tenants), which was an informal hub of south Indian filmmakers, technicians and actors. 

Films of George and his peers broke the existing conventions of filmmaking. Their films rebelled against popular notions of morality without any fear. George’s Mattoraal had a heroine who leaves her husband and a quiet and dull middle-class existence, for a lower-class bike mechanic. The film doesn’t frown at her, rather, sympathises with her. “In Mattoraal, there is no attempt to save the middle-class dignity by quietly sending the wife back to her husband and reconciling. The film is brutally honest and bold, unlike what later films like Chinthavishtayaaya Shyamala did,” argues B Unnikrishnan. Another movie of his, Adaminte Vaariyellu has a unique climax sequence where a bunch of women break free from a rescue home where they had been kept, and run to freedom. George then decides to pull down the fourth wall in this scene. The running women are seen pushing aside George and his camera crew, as they stand watching aghast.

The docu-film also touches upon the dark side of the era when many talented artistes vanished from the centre stage after losing the plot of their life. “People might blame me for encouraging Balu Mahendra’s affair with (actress) Shobha. (Balu Mahendra was the DoP for George’s Ulkkadal, which had a young and talented Shobha playing the female lead). But at that point of time, I looked at their affair as something extremely beautiful and gentle,” says George in a voice that mirrors gloom and regret.

There is gleaming poignancy in the part where he recalls the time Balu Mahendra generously helped him with shooting equipment for Lekhayude Maranam, Or Flashback, a film which is allegedly based on the disastrous love story of Balu Mahendra and late actress Shobha. “He knew I was making a film inspired by the death of Shobha,” says George, his voice faltering.

In another instance, he recalls his final meeting with his first flame, in a garden in Pune.  “The golden light of the setting sun had spread everywhere, and I watched her walk away into a silhouette. I adore that image. I want to remember that on my death bed,” he says. One can’t help but spot the fantasy quality of this image, polished by time. The man who spent much of his life burrowing into the dark layers of human consciousness, is perhaps taking solace in this sublime memory.

Most of all, Lijin’s documentary doesn’t bear a tone of self-righteousness. The scars and flaws of the filmmaker are untouched. In fact, you see that he wears them on his sleeve, rather proudly. Would the brilliant artiste who cut open the mind of his characters and bared the demons that lived inside, be scared of darkness?

*****

Sruthi Hariharan Interview: More Than Just An Entertainer

Sruthi Hariharan won a Critics Award at the Jio Filmfare Awards for her role in Kannada film Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu last weekend, but her performance in Malayalam film Cinema Company is still considered one of the most energetic debuts in Mollywood

Five years after her debut, Sruthi, who is now a bankable star in Sandalwood, with an oeuvre which is getting stronger and more versatile each year, and who also owns a production house, the delightfully-named Kalathmika – is part of an ongoing case. In what appears to be an epidemic that especially targets well known, successful women, morphed pictures of her were uploaded on several fake social media accounts earlier in May. “It was traumatic at first,” Sruthi reveals when I call her, “but I decided to do it [file a case] anyway as actresses in the industry are being taken for granted; exploited, and treated like property.”

Sruthi lodged a complaint with the cyber police, and a case was soon registered under the Information Technology Act of 2000. “Call me later, and I’ll talk more about it,” she says.

*

I want to play the lead in a science-fiction film some day,” Sruthi tells me during our conversation. 

It is her favorite genre of cinema. Science, she says, is something she has liked since school.

Lucia, the film that shot her to fame, was a sci-fi drama centered around a lucid drug. She played a starlet in it someone who dreams of being a big star, but chooses not to be in the end. “I don’t want to be a star. I cannot be, even if I try to. Imagine a star coming home from work, only to be asked by her mother to do her laundry by herself,” she laughs, referring to her orthodox, middle-class upbringing. 

At present, Sruthi walks a fine line between commercial and low-budget projects, having done commercial flicks like Rhaatee, alongside Urvi and Godhi Banna Sadharana Maikattu, which were unconventional experimental projects.

“I have always tried to strike a balance between money and art,” she says. “Where I find creative satisfaction is not always where I find monetary satisfaction. I approach commercial films with a business angle, and I don’t think anyone has a right to judge me on that. Once in a while, it’s also fun to work in a commercial film where I don’t have much work to do in the acting department, and I can focus on other things like my production house. Of course, I wish indie films paid me very well so that I didn’t have to go and act in films where I don’t get much to do.”

*****

Cinema Company, in which she made her debut in 2012, was an unremarkable drama but for her performance. It was forgotten quickly. The starlet from Bangalore though, had a different destiny.

A year later, she was seen in Lucia, the path-breaking movie by Pawan Kumar that changed the way the world perceived Kannada film industry. In 2016, she starred in Jai Maruthi 800, a commercially successful comedy, and the critically-acclaimed Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu, co-starring Anant Nag and Rakshit Shetty. In Urvi, a women-centric thriller-drama that was released in March this year, she played one of the three leads, alongside Sraddha Srinath and Shweta Pandit. At Bangalore’s Anupama Theatre, a giant cutout of the three women was installed on the day of Urvi‘s release, something that doesn’t happen everyday in a thoroughly male-centric film industry.

*****

Being a part of the informal group of young filmmakers, technicians and artistes who launched the Kannada new wave 

“All of us, who are a part of this new wave Kannada cinema, started out in the last four-five years. The cinema in Kannada is transforming, and even more interestingly, the audience is also changing. At one point, we had lost out on our audience. The last five-six years, especially after Lucia, saw Kannada films being well received in and beyond Karnataka. They are being remade in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu, and the country has started looking towards Kannada industry. 

An advantage of being a part of this new wave is that you get to learn about every other department of filmmaking as you go. When I started out, I learnt not just about acting, but also about production, costume designing. Also, everyone is open to suggestions and creative arguments. Creation begins there. That way, Nila, the short film that I did last year, was the most satisfying film I have ever worked in.”

Working on low-budget independent films 

“They keep me grounded. Low-budget experimental films don’t make me a star, but a strong collaborator, and an artiste. Being a star is a tricky thing. People around you would want to treat you special. I don’t think that fits the person I am.”

Sexism in the industry

“Film locations are dominated by men. The world has not yet become a feminist space, but it is, slowly, becoming a better place. Women are constantly breaking norms, and fighting stereotypes. Having said that, actresses should demand equal pay only when they become a name popular enough to pull a sizeable crowd to the movie halls. That’s equality, I guess. Meryl Streep has every right to speak about it. She is a huge star. There is no point is sitting down and complaining.”

The struggles of a woman artiste 

“Artistes and people who work in films are constantly being subjected to judgment. It has been happening since forever. Due to these problems, the struggle to be an independent woman is, perhaps, more difficult in film industries than in other fields. When a person meets me for the first time, everything that he has read about me would come into his head, even before I speak a word.

Even my own family members carry prejudices about actresses and women working in cinema. It’s something I fight everyday. I come from a family where academic success is more important than anything else. When I chose to be an artiste, and an actress who does commercial cinema, many of my relatives were shocked and displeased. But I am not here to impress everyone. Now I can confidently meet their eye, and say I am doing the right thing that makes me happy. ”

‘I am working towards becoming an artiste people love to watch’

“Over the last five years, I have matured a lot as an actress, and as a person. I think acting gets better when you gain more life experiences. I have had the privilege to work with excellent directors like Pawan Kumar, Balaji Sakthivel, Hemanth, and now, Bejoy Nambiar. Balaji sir absolutely broke me as an actress. Working with him was a great experience. He would sit right next to you and direct you, instead of watching you through the monitor. 

In Bejoy Nambiar’s Solo, I play a woman named Rukku. She is someone I have never met in life. So eccentric and unique. To be her, and to portray the dynamics of her relationship with Dulquer’s character, was challenging, yet very interesting. I am really curious to see the whole film on screen.” 

‘The idea behind Kalaatmika is to make art that drives change. Not just for entertainment’

“My interest in cinema has become holistic. I have many stories to tell, and at some point, I might step into direction. As of now, my focus is on the production house I have started. Our first project, a short film titled The Last Kannadiga, is complete. It is about the extinction of Kannada in Bangalore, a cosmopolitan city where everyone speaks different languages. The language and culture of Kannada is fading away.”

*****

The Last Kannadiga, directed by Madan Venkatesh, also features musician Raghu Dixit. “We, as Kannadigas, are losing our identity, and we can’t blame outsiders as we have let ourselves reach this situation. It is kind of a wake-up call. Since it is a suspense thriller, the music is more of a background score,” Raghu had earlier said in an interview with The Times Of India.

The second project of Kalaatmika, Rita, a short film about marital rape, is getting ready for a film festival release. “I am also working on getting a few investors to produce my first feature film,” Sruthi says.

She will next be seen in Humble Politician Nograj, a very interesting political satire, and Taarak, a commercial project with actor Darshan. “It’s a fun picture. I am playing one of the two female leads – a friend of the character that Darshan is playing. It’s quite unlike what female actors are asked to do in extremely commercial roles with a big actor. I am also working on Happy New Year, an anthology of five stories, and Nibunan, a bilingual with director Arun Vaidyanathan. There’s also Arya Maurya with National Award-winning actor Sanchari Vijay, and Villain with Sudeep and Shivraj Kumar.”

Sruthi was involved in theatre in the beginning of her career. She hopes she will eventually return to the stage as an actor and producer soon.

*****

The Sruthi Hariharan interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.

Palestinian Filmmaker Mai Masri Documents Women On War Ground

Palestinian Mai Masri’s debut feature film, 3000 nights, is about Layal, a pregnant Palestinian woman held inside an Israeli jail. Tired, tortured and traumatised, she is given two choices by the jail officer – to deliver the child and bring it up in worst conditions inside the jail, or to abort it with the help of the jailers. To do the latter, she will have to spy on fellow political prisoners from Palestine. 

“I always feel women are full of empathy and kindness. They have a knack for bringing up a life, even in the time of turmoil,” says Mai, in conversation with editor Bina Paul, post the screening of her movie at the 10th edition of the International Documentary And Short Film Festival Of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram. Five of Mai’s films, including 3000 Nights, an international co-production, are being screened at the festival under the ‘Filmmaker In Focus’ category. 

In the film, Layal delivers the baby with the support of the women around her in the jail. They welcome the baby with hoots and laughter, and christen him Nour. The human touch that Mai gives to this film – portraying the suffering inflicted upon innocent people by war – is sublime. “It’s not enough to document things. Bringing a human dimension to it, and telling stories of pain and suffering is important,” declares Mai, “Finding hope within suffering is what is needed. How people resist injustice and destruction. It’s usually women and young people who carry that hope.”

*****

Mai’s oeuvre has more documentaries than fiction. She has travelled far and wide in the Middle East, documenting stories of those affected by conflict. “Documentaries are not just the mere reflection of reality,” she says. “Through a documentary, you can touch human beings by adding a human element to it. Find the right character. Have an eye for her/him.”

“For me, documentary is constructed like fiction. I follow my characters. I care about them,” she says.

For Wild Flowers, Mai stayed in a Lebanese village with the village women. She doesn’t believe in sticking to a written script. “It’s important to know what you are doing, and develop the story as you are doing it, and finally, edit it on your own,” she adds. “You are not supposed to tell people what to say. Trust is important. Be open to spontaneous moments. Be ready all the time.”

3000 nights, she says, is inspired from the life of people she met on various journeys. “I know a woman who gave birth to a baby boy in Israeli prison.” The bond that the women forged inside the jail is what drew her to the subject.

She shot the film in an abandoned military prison in Jordan. “For me, the transition from documentary films to a feature film was natural. All the characters I have shown in the film are real. Some of the actors were actually  prisoners. Others had a connection with prison through their parents, siblings or relatives,” she says.

Mai also thinks it’s the responsibility of ‘people like her’ to document history. 

“Through culture and art, we have a huge responsibility to create public opinion, safe guard history and culture. There is always a pressure to change the history books. Always, winners get to write history.”

A person among the audience then asks her the question of the hour – how did she manage to get her feature film censored in Israel? “I got it censored not in Israel, but in France since it was a French co-production. That made the process easier. Sometimes you know your films might not get censored, produced or released, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not make them.”

*****

Kerala CM At Opening Ceremony Of 10th IDSFFK: “Ban Is Not The End Of The Road For Artistes”

At the opening ceremony of the 10th edition of International Documentary And Short Film Festival Of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala, declared his solidarity with the filmmakers whose documentaries were banned by the Ministry Of Information Of Information And Broadcasting. “We will continue to provide platforms to those who raise voices of dissent in a democratic way,” said Vijayan. “We are committed to protect the secular and democratic ethos of India… A ban is not end of the road for artistes,” he added.

The central government had refused to give a censor exemption to three documentary films to be screened at the film festival – The Unbearable Being of Lightness, by PN Ramachandra on the death of Rohith Vemula and ensued protests; In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, by NC Fazil and Shawn Sebastian on the violent conflicts in Kashmir; and March, March, March by Kathu Lukose on the JNU protests. The filmmakers had approached the Kerala High Court to get the ban revoked, but the court dismissed their plea saying that the filmmakers had no locus standi to file the case. It said that only the Kerala Chalachitra Academy, who is the organiser of the festival, could file a plea on the issue. 

While Vijayan urged the filmmakers to make use of online platforms like Youtube which is free from censorship hassles, AK Balan, Kerala state minister of culture, said that the state government would plead in the case moved by the directors of banned films in Kerala High Court. “The government has decided to join the case and convey its opinion”, he said. 

The IDSFFK will feature 210 films, out of which 77 are in the competition category. Sakhisona, a short film produced by FTII and directed by Prantik Basu, was the opening film at the festival. A fantasy tale, Sakhisona had won the prestigious Tiger award at International Film Festival Of Rotterdam in February 2017. 

This year’s Filmmaker In Focus is Mai Masri, the Palestinian filmmaker who is known for her poignant documentaries set against the backdrop of Israel-Palestine conflicts. Five of her films – Children of Shatila (1998), Frontiers of Dreams and Fears(2001), Beirut Diaries (2006), 33 Days (2007), and 3000 Nights – will be screened at the festival.

Another filmmaker in focus is Vipin Vijay, the Malayali filmmaker, who is known for his highly stylized and experimental films like Chithrasoothram  (Image Threads) and The Egotic World. 

 

Featured Image Courtesy: Firstpost

 

 

New-Age Fathers In Mollywood Are Essentially The Same Old Patriarchs, Here’s Why

For a long time, Malayalam cinema’s favourite trope was the over-protective male relative.

Rough, tough and idealistic, these men would spend a lot of their energy preventing their daughters, sisters, or younger brothers from falling in love, or even pursuing a career of their choice. Case in point: Mammootty’s Hitler or Chronic Bachelor, both directed by Siddique.

Also flourishing on screen were the dads who set sky-high goals for their sons, and harassed them for underachieving. Like the roles that Thilakan played in Narasimham and Sphadikam. Beneath their brutally assertive and unbearably protective nature lies a heart that refuses to accept that their child is all grown up. This particular type of dad though, went out of demand when actor Lalu Alex launched his series of overtly sugary, and liberal father roles that he played in films like Niram and Chocolate. He played wing-man for his ready-to-mingle sons, and wholeheartedly supported his daughters who wanted to marry a man of her choice.

Of late, younger actors like Prithviraj and Jayasurya, and senior superstars, Mammootty and Mohanlal, have been playing the chic, liberal father, seemingly different from their predecessors of the ’90s. 

Until we looked closer, that is. These new-age fathers might be more suave, but they are no less sexist. They shower affection on their daughters and sons at the expense of humiliating and ignoring their wives. They still assume the role of a ‘guardian’ to their wives and kids, instead of becoming a more equal partner in the family. 

The men who consider themselves equal partners do exist, though. The fathers who do a lot more than just part with some genetic material; they change diapers, cook, clean, and parent. But, our cinema continues to ignore the changing reality, and is content reinforcing age-old conventions and gender roles that are fast losing relevance.

It just dresses them up well.

Vikramadityan 

In director Lal Jose’s 2014 Malayalam film, Vikramadityan, Dulquer Salmaan plays Aadityan, a young man brought up by his widowed mother, a police constable. He competes with his childhood friend, Vikraman, to clear the selection test for the post of a Sub-Inspector. The latter believes that it is his responsibility to fill the shoes of his father, a senior police officer, while Aadityan wants to be a cop and tread a path that his father, a petty thief, couldn’t. 

Vikramadityan, one of the highest grossing Malayalam films in 2014, is founded on the curious friendship of Aadityan and Vikraman, and also, on the way the men looked up to their dads. Both are full of burning ambition that stems from the intense love for their fathers. Vikraman often makes fun of his friend for being the son of a thief. While Aadityan could have easily defended himself by mentioning his mother’s respectable career, he chooses to stay quiet, swallowing insult. Vikraman’s mother, played by yesteryear heroine Charmila, appears in several scenes, but like a shadow behind her son and husband. She doesn’t have a single dialogue in the entire film. 

The Great Father

In the recent Mollywood hit, The Great Father, Mammoottty plays the titular role of a father going all out to avenge the brutal rape of his daughter. The teenage daughter hero worships him, and one of her several dreams in life is to marry a man who has the good-looks, guts and chicness of her daddy. Actress Sneha plays the mother, always sidelined by this daddy-daughter duo. When the daughter is found brutally raped, she suggests taking her to the hospital. However, the film immediately sweeps past her, and lets the father take over the turf. Mammootty’s David Ninan roams around in MUVs, flaunting expensive leather jackets, but he is never seen indulging in any  real parenting. The emotional bond between the father and the daughter is inadequately established. 

Philips And The Monkey pen

“Dad, mom is so stupid. Why did you marry her!” wonders the hero of this film, Ryan, a boy of 11 years. Jayasurya, who plays his dad, smiles and tells him that he married his wife because she is a great cook.

Philips And The Monkey Pen is a light-hearted, coming-of-age drama in which Ryan’s parents play a pivotal role. The couple fall in love at high school, get married as teens. They are of the same age, and spend a considerable amount of their youth together. Yet, the film lets the father and son dominate the mother. She performs practical parental duties like cooking and cleaning for the child, while the husband gets to take the son for a walk on the beach, and impart life lessons.

Drishyam

This Jeethu Joseph film is a brilliant crime drama woven around a family of four – a father, mother and two teenage daughters. When the daughter comes to face with an assaulter, she is left with no option but to kill him. She, with the help of her mother, buries the body, but the film soon looks to the father to save the duo from the law. He single-handedly rescues the women from their trouble, while they are treated as flies on the wall. They cower and wail when the police interrogate them violently, while the father puts up a tough face and endures it all. The mother and the daughter, meanwhile, having acted brilliantly in defense, rely on the father’s discretion, his wits, and quick thinking. The script makes much of it, and soon, much like other movies, it ceases to be more about the victim, and the women themselves, and instead, becomes a one-man show. Befitting a much-celebrated star. 

***** 

Review Of ‘In The Shade Of Fallen Chinar’: A Moving Portrayal Of Young Kashmiris Who Use Art To Silence Guns

“Art for the heck of art is one thing. Art for personal healing is another,” says Ali Saffudin, a student at University Of Kashmir, and a gifted musician. He and his friends are sitting on a fallen Chinar trunk on which are scribbled words like freedom and peace, and names like Da Vinci, Raphael and Jinpachi Mishima. At a university campus in a different city, these words might not sound important enough. But in this valley, infested with conflict and overtly powerful armed forces, where life is constantly threatened by military crack down, this attempt to air emotions through creative work seems uniquely compelling. 

Saffudin, and a bunch of his college-mates are featured in In The Shade Of Fallen Chinar, a documentary by two Malayali filmmakers, Fazil NC and Shawn Sebastian. It is one of the three documentaries banned by the government of India from being screened at the upcoming International Documentary And Short Film Festival of Kerala. No reason has been cited for this decision by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. 

The 16-minute film, set in the campus of University Of Kashmir in Srinagar, doesn’t come across as a provocative ban-worthy work, in any capacity. It showcases some marvellous musicians, bright writers, artists and a photographer whose works are marked by the emotional trauma and deep personal losses they have experienced in Kashmir. Unlike their parents’ generation, they choose art over guns to mark their resistance to the ever-turbulent  political atmosphere in the valley. Their works take inspiration from the explosive reality they live in. 

The film is well-made, hardly bearing any sign of being amateur, although the makers say this was a ‘personal project’ instinctively shot while Fazil was visiting his friends at the University campus in June 2016. Every evening, a group of students gather in a space dotted by Chinar trees inside the campus; there, they sing, write, paint, and exchange ideas.  

The film has an energy akin to Bahman Ghobadi’s film, No One Knows Persian Cats, which narrates the struggles of an underground indie band in Iran where a high-handed regime enforces a cultural emergency, barring artists from doing what they are good at. The angst-filled voice of rap musician Mu’Azzam Bhat sets the background for many visuals of youngsters engrossed in their work. At one point, spirited beats of rap music echo as the students continue talking about how art is helping them channel their political views and repressed emotions. It is an interesting instance where prose gives way to poetic lyrics. Art is an emotional release for me, says one of the musicians. There is a female student of fine-arts who travels to the University everyday, from a distant village, to be with this artist community. The ambiance is thoroughly optimistic. 

In the Shade Of Fallen Chinar also attempts to place the aspirations of artists beyond the theme of political resistance. My music isn’t just about conflict, says Saffudin. “I am a rock and roll fanatic. I love that kind of music. It would be amazing if there was a vibrant music scene here (in Kashmir).” 

*****

The end note of the film says that a month after the film was shot, the University was shut down following violent protests that were triggered by the killing of a young militant, Burhan Wani.

The Chinar trees too, were cut and removed from the campus.

*****

Saffudin continues to write and compose songs. He has also performed in a few venues outside the country.

Shahariar, the photographer, has published a book.

The artistic shelter that the youngsters had created to shield themselves from the conflict might be lost, but Fazil, who is in touch with them, informs me that they continue to meet at cafes and various political events in Srinagar. “They are very actively involved in everything,” he says, ” I am also coordinating with several Kerala-based organisations to bring those guys to Kerala.”

*****

Watch the film here:

 

 

 

 

‘Behen Hogi Teri’ Review: Rajkummar Rao Brilliantly Shoulders A Lacklustre Story

For perhaps the first time ever, a shining luxury car pulls into Gattu’s Lucknowi mohella. It is his girlfriend’s fiancé, come to take her on a coffee date. Gattu (Rajkummar Rao) has no job, no money, and is always taken for granted. He can’t stop her from going with this rich, Paris-settled guy, that perfect “marriage material” man.

As the car begins to move, Gattu gestures at her to wear the seat-belt. 

This scene in director Ajay K Pannalal’s Behen Hogi Teri is as hilarious as it is moving. It’s the best Gattu can do at that moment, to let her know that he cares for her.

It’s all the more believable with a brilliant actor like Rajkummar Rao portraying an average guy who grew up in a middle-class residential colony, in small-town North India. Rao’s subtle and careful acting brings us closer to Gattu’s fears and concerns. He is not a charmer people routinely fall in love with. In fact, one wonders why Binny (Shruti Haasan), a desirable firebrand, fell in love with this clueless loafer. 

***

On the surface, Behen Hogi Teri is a romantic-comedy woven around an unlikely love story between two youngsters who live across each other in a gali. Underneath, it is an impressive portrait of middle-class life in India’s Hindi belt. While the love-story is tedious and sometimes inane, the setting keeps the film interesting.

Having completed his graduation years ago, Gattu is a UPSC aspirant like millions of youngsters in the country. On the day of her grandmother’s funeral, Binny carefully prepares a note in English and posts it on Facebook, “With great sorrow, I am writing to inform you all that…”. The note concludes with, “Come one, come all.” Her brother runs a business in the “religious-entertainment” sector. Every evening, his men dress up as Lord Shiva, goddesses, and other divine figures. They stage skits and satsang for the devotees.

In the latter half of the film, the residents of Gattu’s colony hold a prayer meeting, seeking divine intervention to beat goons who have threatened to kidnap Binny on the day of her wedding. A tackily-dressed musician raps Hindi bhajans at the prayer meeting. And the residents shake a leg to that music as if it’s a disco party.

***

This unintentionally funny side of India’s middle-class makes it a favourite of young Bollywood directors, who do not want to tread the path of directors like Yash Chopra, Karan Johar, and Rohit Shetty, and make extravagant, opulent films. Instead, films like Queen, Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha, or Shuddh Desi Romance tell rich stories set in lively small-towns, where conflicts between traditional values and modern ways go on.

Gattu’s parents are tired of waiting for him to clear the civil service examination. They decide that the next-best employment option for him is to join the religious-entertainment business. Gattu concedes, since he has no ambition in life other than to marry Binny, the girl he has been dreaming of since childhood.

“I am somewhat intelligent, Binny. And when I marry you, I will get a share of your guts and positive spirit,” he tells her when she wonders at how dull married life with him would be. He isn’t blindly religious or aggressively sexist. He is scared of the modern English-speaking world. His generation is caught between under-achieving parents who pin ambitions on their children, and their own dreams of marrying the partner of their liking and leading a life of their choice. 

***

However, the film is betrayed by its lacklustre story-line. Characters and events meander and grope in the dark, unable to reach a smart finale. There are songs at regular intervals, arriving and leaving without making an impression.

After a certain point, one tires of Gattu. Firstly, because he isn’t an adorable character, and secondly, because the film shows a lot more of him than we would have liked to see.

Still, Rao’s smart performance that makes Gattu a little less annoying. However, the film needed a better actor than Shruti Haasan to portray the vibrant and practical Binny. Her performance is at times loud, and too monotonous. 

***

Behen Hogi Teri would have been a fine film with a better story. It has a good sense of humour. It has interesting characters who can, together, make any situation brighter. But most of all, it is carried by its dependable and talented lead actor, Rajkummar Rao.

*****

The Behen Hogi Teri review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Central Government Bars Screening Of Documentary Films On Kashmir, Rohit Vemula And JNU at Kerala Documentary Festival

In a move that challenges artistic freedom in the country, the Ministry Of Information And Broadcasting barred the Kerala Chalachithra Academy from screening three documentary films at the 10th edition of International Documentary And Short Film Festival Of Kerala, 2016. The films are The Unbearable Being Of Lightness, March March March and In the Shade Of Fallen Chinar. 

The Unbearable Being Of Lightness, directed by Ramachandra PN, documents the student protests and related events at the University Of Hyderabad, shortly after Rohit Vemula, the PhD scholar, committed suicide in the University in January 2016. March March March, directed Kathu Lukose is about the student protests at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. In The Shade Of Fallen Chinar, directed by Fazil Nc and Shawn Sebastian, is about the political and military turmoil in Kashmir.

In a press meet held in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, June 10, Academy chairperson Kamal said that the academy will file an appeal against the Ministry’s decision. However, Kamal added that the appeal might not be fruitful as there aren’t many days left before the festival which begins on June 16 in Thiruvananthapuram. “This is a scathing attack on the artistic freedom of filmmakers in the country,” lamented Kamal.

“I received an email from the Chalachitra Academy yesterday, informing that these three films will not be screened at the festival,” said Kathu Lukose. “Usually, the festival committee sends uncensored festival films to the Ministry to obtain an censor exemption. If you look at the themes of the only three films denied an exemption, there is a clear pattern,” said Kathu. She filmed the documentary during the student protests that were held at JNU in early 2016. IDSFFK was supposed to be the first screening venue of the film. 

It was in 2006 that the central government formulated the policy of censor exemption that does not require movies to be cleared by the Censor Board prior to being screened film at festivals. However, in several instances, the ministry has denied censor exemption to films, often without citing any reason. In December 2016,  the 21st International Film Festival of Kerala could not screen Iranian director Majid Majidi’s Mohammed, as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting denied it censor exemption. 

 

 

 

Raabta Review: This Sushant Singh Rajput & Kriti Sanon Reincarnation Tale Is Dead On Arrival

In Dinesh Vijan’s directorial debut Raabta (Connection), a comet has an important role. After 800 years, this comet – named ‘Love Joy’ – is now returning to Earth’s atmosphere. Its arrival signals pre-destined changes in the life of the three leads in the film (played by Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon and Jim Sarbh).

The comet’s sickeningly sweet name also signals the mostly intolerable film to come.

In their previous life, the three were in a love triangle. A few days before the comet strikes, they meet in Budapest in separate incidents. Again, a complicated love triangle begins, they make the same old mistakes, and put themselves in danger. 

***

Raabta treats the romance and fantasy genre like brightly coloured balloons. Minutes into the film, the balloons burst.

The lead actors look elated at being in a big-budget film set in a foreign city. But their performances are so bad that you often find yourself looking off-screen to spare them the embarrassment. Then again, given that the content is as inane as an amateur high-school skit, can we blame the actors for underperforming?

Sushant Singh Rajput plays Shiv Kakkar, a Punjabi munda who flies to Budapest from Amritsar to work as a banker. Before the flight takes off from Amritsar airport, he promises his mother that he will bring home a gori (white woman). He promises himself that he will sleep with as many white women as possible.

Accompanying him is his friend Radha, who is there primarily to make ‘I can eat so much’ fat jokes, provide emotional support to his perennially horny friend, and finally, sacrifice himself at the altar of his friend’s weird love story.

In Budapest, the men are rarely at their office. Taking a leaf from Ranveer Singh in Befikre, Shiv starts sleeping around. One day, he runs into Saira Singh (Kriti Sanon), the owner of a bakery. Saira is an orphan with aquaphobia. Troubled by frequent nightmares, she tends to talk to her own reflection in the mirror. At times, she even chats with her parents, who died when she was two years old. Despite living in Europe for a long time, she speaks Hindi with a desi accent, and has a nose for desi men. 

For instance, at a crowded fair in Budapest where she’s looking to hook up with someone, her eyes fall on a random man, whose isn’t even facing her. Just like that, she goes up to him and starts talking in chaste Hindi. The man responds in Hindi. Two scenes later, they are walking in the rain, singing “Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si”. 

***

It is not impossible to believe that Saira and Shiv would fall in love at first sight. The two are equally silly and narcissistic. Before leaving for work every day, Saira looks at herself in the mirror and says​, “Aren’t you a bomb!” Shiv is similarly in love with his own chiselled body.

Destiny brings them together, sparing other men and women from the horror of having to date (or worse, marry) either of them.

***

The villain in this story of love is a high-profile liquor baron who falls in love with Saira. He believes that she was his lover from 800 years ago. Given all the free booze he must down every day, this doesn’t come across as nonsensical.

In a flashback, we see Shiv as a warrior, and Saira as the Sahiba, the princess of a rival clan. Zach (Jim Sarbh) is a prince named Kabir. Kabir and Sahiba grew up together, practicing sword fighting. And naturally, becoming lovers.

In one scene, Sahiba is shown attacking a tiger with nothing but her powerful gaze. Kabir shoots the tiger with an arrow and she snaps at him to say, “Why did you steal my catch?” The silliness of the scene is exacerbated by the fact that Sanon looks (or acts) nothing like a princess who can fight a dog, let alone a tiger. Her performance here only adds to a string of disappointing performances in films like 1: Nenokkadine, Dilwale and Heropanti.

Sushant, on the other hand, does better in the flashback scenes, where all he has to do is perform a few high-octane stunts, gaze intensely into Sanon’s eyes, and drown in the sea and die. Flash forward, and he’s a crossover between DDLJ’s Shah Rukh Khan, and Befikre‘s Ranveer Singh. The performance is loud and hard to like. 

***

The only bearable elements in the film are Martin Preiss’ camerawork, which seamlessly brings to life the colours of urban life, and the production design, which convincingly builds up a village of barbarians in the flashback portions. 

Raabta is an ugly display of Bollywood’s soulless opulence.

*****

The Raabta review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Tubelight (Tamil) Review: Let Down By A Cliché-Ridden Storyline

One of the incidental advantages of shooting a film on a shoe-string budget is that you can shoot a romantic duet on a local beach, and it still looks fresh. The melodious romantic song in Tubelight, composed by director and lead actor Indra, and sung by Unni Menon, is perhaps the best part of the film.

Tubelight makes up for the absence of star-power and a glitzy setting with an interesting protagonist – a happy-go-lucky youngster with a hearing impairment. It takes a few seconds for his brain to process every sound that reaches his ears – the result of a near-fatal accident. 

The film starts off well as a confusion comedy. Indra, who plays the protagonist Ram, has an amusing body language that makes his scenes naturally funny and believable. Amply supporting him is Pandiraj, playing a disgraced, but good-hearted physician who is hell-bent on curing Ram’s disability. Ram falls in love with Hema (a very natural Aditi), an art therapist from whom he desperately attempts to hide his impairment. 

What is more unfortunate than the protagonist’s tragic disability though, are the old-fashioned aspirations of the low-budget film he is stuck in. It is puzzling that even a genuinely humorous film such as this decides to stick to the hackneyed commercial cinema formula of the hero fighting the villain and saving the girl at the end.

It’s hard to decide what comes across as more contrived – the harmless and frail Ram’s instant transformation into a physically strong fighter, or the portrayal of the female lead as an endlessly kind and beautiful woman, aka Tamil cinema’s favourite cliché. 

***

That said, it would be unfair to write off Tubelight altogether. Remember the time director KV Anand roped in superstar Suriya to play a double role in Maattraan, a movie that he wrote and directed? The film had no shortage of funds, had a promising central theme woven around hospitals, doctors and medicines with names no ordinary human being could pronounce. Yet Maattraan ended up as a thoroughly unimaginative drag. 

In comparison, Tubelight is a film which is more than watchable for the sincere performances of its lead actors, and some genuinely comic moments. 

*****

The Tubelight review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Cancelled Shows To Packed Theatres, How Social Media Rescued ‘Adventures Of Omanakkuttan’

It’s not every day that we see social media and the film industry coming together to rescue a low-budget experimental debut film from sinking at the box-office. Adventures Of Omanakkuttan (AOK), a Malayalam film starring Asif Ali and Bhavana, and directed by Rohith VS, released on May 19 alongside two bigger films, Godha and Achayans.

It opened in 69 centres across the state, but faced the threat of being held back on its maiden weekend itself in some theatres.

So grave was the situation that a dejected Rohith scribbled beneath an appreciative Facebook post,”If anyone would like to watch the film, please do that as soon as possible. It will be out of theatres any moment.”

But social media rallied. Fans impressed with the film’s novel concept and direction, joined hands with film professionals like actor Sunny Wayne and director Jeethu Joseph to vouch for the film. Joseph posted on his Facebook page:

Kudos to the team for this brilliant effort…. Happened to watch the movie and impressed with the different way of making and the narration… Good work Rohith Vs, and congrats Asif Ali for the brilliant performance…..!!!!

Soon, audiences began flocking theatres to watch Omanakkuttan and his adventures.

It changed the film’s fate. 

On June 2, AOK released in theatres in Bangalore and Chennai – something Rohith and his team wouldn’t have dared to dream of at the time of its release. The film is currently running houseful at a number of theatres in the state. Many have increased the number of shows. 

At Latha theatre in Muvattupuzha, a small-town in central Kerala, two shows were cancelled during the opening weekend due to poor audience showing. However, on May 27, the show ran in the same theatre to an almost packed house.

“It’s not unusual for a smaller Malayalam film to face the risk of hold-over,” said the manager of Latha theatre. “Baahubali 2 is still running house-full here, even after weeks of its release. As you can see, the theatre complex is full of their posters and giant billboards. Films like Adventures Of Omanakkuttan, even if it is a well-made film with sensible content, might not find many takers among the general public in this age of giant budget films and aggressive marketing.” 

*****

Adventures Of Omanakkuttan is the quirky tale of an introverted youngster. It doesn’t conform to the usual commercial formula. The storytelling relies more on visuals than dialogue. The narrative is slow-paced, convincingly set in the laid-back old city of Mysore.  

Given how often experimental films with no big stars taste bitter failure at the Mollywood box-office, AOK‘s warm reception is remarkable. 

Rohith agrees that, to some extent, poor distribution was to blame for the potential fiasco. The film was distributed by 4M Entertainments, the same company that produced the film.

“They had the rights, and were adamant that they would do the distribution. More than anything, the frequent delays in the making of the film affected our image,” he says. The film, which went on  floors in 2014, was wrapped up only in December 2016. “In the last two years, a lot of people asked me if the film had been stalled. It wasn’t an easy time. At least 6-7 times during the production period, we had to take long breaks due to various reasons – financial crises, multiplex strikes, and so on. Naturally, when we restarted the shoot every time, obtaining the lead artistes’ dates was a herculean task.” 

Rohith VS, a former IT professional with a Hyderabad company, quit his job and left for Kochi in 2013, to take the plunge into cinema. “Film-making had always been in the back of my mind,” he declares.

At Karunya University, Coimbatore, where he completed his engineering course, he met a bunch of like-minded cinephiles who would later collaborate with him on AOK. Editor Livingston Mathew and cinematographer Akhil George studied Electronics and Media technology at Karunya University. Another friend, Arun Muraleedharan, composed a song for the film. 

“We had hardly any experience in filmmaking. I had the script ready, and my friend, Sameer Abdul had written the screenplay. We met on an old online community of film lovers,” he says. “We approached a few producers in the industry. Everyone said they liked the storyline, but were not ready to put money into it. Not surprising since we were just a bunch of youngsters without any experience in filmmaking.” 

In February 2014, with the help of actor Saiju Kurup, an acquaintance, Rohith and Sameer got actor Asif Ali on board as Omanakkuttan, the protagonist.

“Asif Ali’s association made it easier for us to convince potential producers. This is something they insist upon. It’s not enough if you have a proper script and screenplay ready. You need to have the dates of a lead actor too if you want someone to put money into your film.”

It wasn’t easy to stay positive through all the adversities of the last three years, Rohith adds. “My family supported me immensely. I had taken a small job in between to sustain myself. What I really needed from them was emotional support. And they stood by me through everything.”

Rohith is ready with his next script, a fantasy drama. In Adventures Of Omanakkuttan, he experimented with various genres – mixing elements of fantasy, comedy, and thriller unevenly.

“I had to make a number of compromises in the script since we didn’t have the right budget. For one, I would have shot some of those fantasy portions way differently. In the next film, I don’t want to make such compromises.”

*****