Aswathy Gopalakrishnan, a graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, worked at the Times Of India and Mint as a sub-editor and political correspondent respectively, before she decided to start focusing on writing about cinema. She has covered film festivals around the world for Silverscreen, and in 2017, was one of only 4 journalists chosen by the International Film Festival Of Rotterdam for its prestigious Young Critics Program.
The production of Abrid Shine’s Poomaram had been happening for a long time. So long that the actors who had just joined college at the beginning of the film’s shoot would now be preparing for their third-year graduation examinations. The film wanders about at the venue of a University Youth Festival in Kerala, and watches the young artistes experience stress, euphoria and competitive spirit at the event. The characters soak in the poetry, music and dance, cheer for each other, fall in love, make mistakes, and find the courage to repent. It isn’t the story-line that drives the film, but the incredible energy of this young gathering.
On a certain level, Poomaram is rebellious work. For the average Indian audience, a movie is only defined by its story; a steady plot that you can narrate to your friends afterwards. A regular diet of commercial entertainers have wired our brains in such a way that anything unorthodox – slow-paced, contemplative, or figurative – is immediately deemed ‘boring’ and unwatchable. Poomaram is in no haste to make a point. It has no great story to narrate. It is full of wonderful music that could flow in from anywhere. The actors enter a tea shop, and as we wait for a dramatic turn of events, they just break into a folk song, rhythmically tapping on the wooden tables. This movie is happily idle.
Poomaram is a genre mishmash – it is a slice-of-life film with some elements of docufiction, blended unevenly. There are, hands down, fantastic moments. The subtle flash of admiration in the eyes of a young singer when her college union chairman, Gauthaman (Kalidas Jayaram) shakes her hand and congratulates her on winning the music contest, is lovely. The night before the Youth Festival, the girls of St Theresa’s college huddle in an auditorium to watch their friends rehearse a jugalbandi. The actors’ body-language is beautifully casual, and their camaraderie has a natural quality to it. These are the details that one looks for in a movie rooted in nostalgia. Poomaram marvelously documents the singular things that a particular phase in life bestows one with.
And the film breaks a few stereotypes in the process. There is a young girl whose guitar performance makes an entire crowd spellbound. There are female percussionists, a rarity on Indian screen. The actresses don’t look as though they are from Mars. They are ordinary girls sporting no make-up and ordinary clothes, yet they fall in love, dance, and get admired.
But Abrid Shine’s film is also a lazy piece of work. While he dares to experiment with the narration format, the film ends up being superficial in that it doesn’t try to see the students’ relationship with art beyond the five-day festival. Irene (Neeta Pillai), the union chairman of St Theresa’s college, has a staunch competitive spirit about her, leading her team to win the overall championship title. Who is she beneath this layer of cool-headedness and a fiery desire to win? Replace her with a robot, and the movie wouldn’t have been much different.
The film has a clinical sense of discipline that forbids it from being timely. You get a glimpse of the class differences within the student crowd, but that isn’t explored further. The students are courageous adolescents on the cusp of adulthood, but are treated like infants whose issues a lullaby could cure. At a critical time when students across the country are fighting a tough battle against a system that is trying to curtail their freedom and creativity, and institutionalise them, Shine uses the immense resources at his disposal to make a film that sermonizes the youth to rein in their hormones rather than see the big picture.
Dialogues come as a surprise. In a film that brims with sublime poetry and music, who would expect to listen to badly written dialogues? The film begins with Gauthaman and his artist father discussing Lord Byron and Kalidasan, dropping more names in the conversation. The problem is, the scene is lifeless. In an effort to portray the intellectually privileged background Gauthaman comes from, the film forgets the basic fact that the characters are father and son, people who live under the same roof. They come across as strangers who are separated by a wall of formality.
The redeeming factor is Kalidasan who has an affecting screen presence. He has a next-door familiarity, a smile that is effortlessly likable, and the body language of a person who is mature beyond his age and cherubic face. And it isn’t just him who delivers an excellent performance. Neeta Pillai is utmost natural and convincing as Irene, so are the numerous supporting actors who appear on screen. Interestingly, a good number of them are first time actors, but it is hard to believe that they lack experience. They are incredibly casual in front of the camera.
Editor KR Midhun’s masterful work holds the film together, weaving together the seemingly plain Youth Festival shots into an emotional experience. But largely, Poomaram is a feat of music. A horde of talented composers, lyricists, poets and singers are part of the film’s rich sound track. It features Balachandran Chullikkad’s poetry alongside Kerala’s harvest songs and KS Chitra’s evergreen light music, ‘Oru Mridu Mandahaasam‘. Also, there is the famous ‘Poomaram’ song that Kalidas perfectly lip-syncs to without the nervousness of a newcomer. The sound department deserves a pat on the back for its prudent work, making great use of silence as much as the chaos of the festival venue.
In spite of all its flaws, Poomaram will be remembered for its disarming candidness for portraying a period, a place where life seems inseparable from poetry, and where art isn’t regarded as a lowly pastime, but something that enriches life. The film pays a mighty tribute to the time when people were adorably naive, earnest, and had firm belief in the infinite possibilities of art.
The Poomaram 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.
If Don Palathara’s directorial debut, Shavam, had a camera that intimately engaged with its subject, it is a distant observer in Vith, his second film that’s still touring film festivals. But, Palathara has a firm belief; it’s quite impossible for a film to communicate with everyone, he says
Life in the countryside is idyllic in Dileesh Pothan’s Maheshinte Prathikaram that unfolds in a photogenic hamlet in Kerala. The protagonist, a photographer by profession, has friends to hang out with, and a lover to flirt with on phone at night. Even the onset of amnesia that has begun to eat into his father’s memory doesn’t look too gloomy in this buoyant film that invests earnest hope in the goodness of people.
Young filmmaker Don Palathara’s Vith (Seed) is a monochromatic antithesis to Maheshinte Prathikaram. The village is a hell-hole where life goes in circles, refusing to move forward. The church in the community isn’t healthy enough to help the youngsters find a sense of freedom and peace. While the older generation manages to bring some order to this ugly monotony, the youngsters slide into a state of frustration, reeling under the weight of their ambitions (or the lack of it) and the rustiness that their rural upbringing imposes on them.
Vith isn’t an easy watch for an audience that is accustomed to fast-paced narratives. Rather than make the audience engage with the film, Don asks them to look beyond the frames. He describes the blandness of life in the village through prolonged shots of a man going about his daily chores like cutting grass, feeding cattle, and cooking meals. The camera watches the protagonist, a middle-aged farmer, patiently as he reads out an entire chapter from the Bible in the opening sequence. He is facing a wall that has a king-size photograph of his late father; flanking the picture is a small image of Jesus Christ. Into his placid world which is watched over by dead ancestors and the divine forces, his young son, a drifter, storms in. The father is unsettled by the young man’s lack of spirits and direction, while the latter spends his days wandering the village lanes. He has lost his job in the city, and is clueless about future. While he deeply despises the place, he is also intimidated by the world outside.
The most striking quality of Don’s debut directorial Shavam was the way it starkly mirrored reality. The camera, lithely moving through the crowd at a funeral, sometimes hovered over people having the most candid conversations, and caught them in their vulnerable moments. In Vith, shot by Subal KR, the camera is static for the most part, watching people from a distance. The actors are natural performers, perfectly in sync with the setting. But the seemingly meaningless long takes ensure that the audience experience the listlessness that the characters suffer from. Time is nearly a dead element in the film, and nature, a passive onlooker rather than an active character, quite unlike the films of Hungarian master Bela Tarr and Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whom Don cites as his inspiration.
“Since the film was about the contrast between two characters, I wanted to shoot it in various shades of grey,” says Don about his decision to shoot the film in monochrome. He completed the film on a shoe-string budget of approximately Rs 7 Lakh that he pooled on a crowd-funding platform, with the support of Filmocracy, a non-governmental platform that supports indie filmmakers. Don followed a guerrilla style of filmmaking, using locations that were readily available to him rather than finding new ones. Theater artiste Jain Syriac Babu played the role of the son, while Pradeep Kumar, who was part of the cast of Shavam and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s acclaimed Ozhivu Divasathe Kali, played the father.
“I believe that films are not supposed to communicate with everyone,” says Don, about the unconventional film-making style he has chosen. “I was aware of the pace-related criticism the film would receive even while I was writing it. In this film, I wanted to explore the aspect of time as a medium of communication.”
Don ventured into indie cinema after completing a course from International Film School in Sydney. His first project was a documentary on Cinema Vandi, the travel cinema of Kazhcha Film Society. He made Shavam in 2015, on a shoe-string budget of Rs 7 Lakh. It was later acquired by Netflix.
Vith, which is still doing its film festival circuit, was screened at Kazhcha Indie Film Festival, Independent & Experimental Film Festival Of Kerala, Malabar International Film Festival, and International Film Festival Of Thrissur. Don hopes to get the film released on an online streaming platform.
Not many filmmakers have paid attention to girlhood as much as they have to the stories of men in their various phases of life. The subtle emotional, social and physical experiences of girls have rarely been featured in our cinema, and when they did get featured, almost every time the piercing male gaze spoiled the plot, and turned the films into an everyday sexist affair (Eg. Hollywood chick-flicks like Legally Blonde).
This Women’s Day, we list out a bunch of films that have marvelously refashioned the coming-of-age genre by narrating tales of spirited girls navigating childhood and adolescence, freely making mistakes and redeeming themselves.
Only Yesterday (1991, Japanese)
In a conventional middle-class Tokyo household of three daughters and working parents, the youngest one starts nurturing an old-fashioned dream; to move to the country-side and be a farmer. Taeko’s siblings follow the latest fashion trends, plaster the walls of their rooms with posters of The Beatles, and worship pop-culture stars. But 10-year-old Taeko is fascinated by the smell of fruits and the life in villages. Isao Takahata’s charming 1991 movie is a feminist tale structured like a generic feel-good drama.
It is produced by Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli which has to its credit a number of brilliant animation films centered around little girls, like Princess Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service. In Only Yesterday, there are marvelously written scenes that depict girlhood – puberty, unorthodox ambitions, social relationships and the first romance – in all their glory and complexities. As a 27-year-old woman, Taeko, despite constant prodding from her mother and sisters, refuses to get married. She takes life slow and steady, letting herself be surprised by the turns rather than get boxed into a conventional mould. Takahata portrays her rebellion delicately, making the idea look natural.
Ennu Swantham Janaki Kutty (1998, Malayalam)
Based on writer MT Vasudevan’s short story, this film follows the life of a quiet bookish teenager, Janaki (Jomol), the youngest scion of an aristocratic joint family. While everyone in the large ancestral house are consumed by worldly pleasures of life, Janaki aka Jani escapes loneliness by befriending a Yakshi (a celestial being) who lives on a giant tree in the backyard. Others refer to the Yakshi as a blood-sucking monster, but Jani trusts and loves the sylph who comes to be the only person in the world who understands her.
MT Vasudevan Nair’s story oscillates between fantasy and reality, much like Jani Kutty’s average day. She is infatuated with a handsome young neighbor, yet never lets go off her strong personality to get the man. Ennu Swantham Janaki Kutti asks young girls to never forgo their ability to imagine a new world. Jani gets her first taste of misogyny in the world from a story that the Yakshi narrates. It is also a heartwarming tale of female bonding that goes against the norms of patriarchy.
Ladybird (2017, English)
In the opening sequence of Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird, Christine aka Ladybird (Saoirse Ronan) is travelling with her mother in a car, engaged in confrontational conversation about her higher education plan. Mother tells her she is unlikely to get into a college in New York as her grades aren’t as good as she assumes. In response, Ladybird opens the door of the running car and lets herself fall fatally on the road. She would rather die than talk to her mother. Gerwig’s film is made of such brilliantly written scenes that girls across the world would relate to.
At one point, Ladybird distances herself from her best friend and makes friends with a rich and popular girl at school. She despises her family for their lack of coolness, and she earnestly wishes they lived in a better, more flamboyant neighborhood. The underlining fact about Ladybird is that it is unapologetically feminist and doesn’t conform to the male-gaze or perspective in storytelling. Gerwig exposes the life of young women with a rare honesty, never holding back in portraying their fallacies, stubbornness and ambitions, even if they don’t look pretty on screen. And moreover, Ladybird is funny in its own right.
Village Rockstars (2017, Assamese)
Little Dhunnu lives in a flood-prone village in north Assam with her mother. They live frugally, and there isn’t much hope in what she is surrounded with. Yet, Dhunnu nurtures big ambitions – to launch her own band, and be a rock-star guitarist. The elder women in the village constantly pass condescending judgmental remarks on her, and tell her mother to not let this little girl run loose with the boys in the village with whom she climbs trees and goes on boat rides. Mother snaps at them, “If I brought her up single-handedly so far, I know how to bring her up further.” Her father had drowned in a flood that submerged the village a long time ago. So the mother teaches the child swimming, and imparts subtle lessons on independent living. She never lets Dhunnu’s spirited nature down, and even saves up money to buy an electric guitar for her. Director Rima Das’ sophomore film is a fiery ode to mothers and daughters who believe in each other unconditionally.
Wadjda (2012, Saudi Arabia)
In a country where the law supports the regressive notion that women are second-class citizen, debut director Haiffa al Mansourbrings to screen the tale of 11-year-old girl, Wadjda, who dreams of owning a bicycle. Wadjda and her mother are going through a turbulent period in their life. Her father has abandoned them for another marriage, and her conservative school doesn’t approve of her rebellious ways and lack of piousness. But the little girl and her best friend, a sweet boy named Abdullah, dream boundlessly, unrestrained by gender differences or the conservative ways of the society. “Introducing the film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, the director said, “I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia where there are many girls like Wadjda who have big dreams, strong characters and so much potential. These girls can, and will, reshape and redefine our nation.”
If he were an actor in India, 88-year-old Christopher Plummer would have already won a dozen lifetime achievement awards – covert signals for him to retire from acting and be a permanent cheerleader at cine awards. Sixty-year-old Frances McDormand would have been slotted as an annoying mother of the hero who, perhaps, is just a decade younger than her. But this year, at the 90th Academy awards, both of them were nominees for the best actor and actress awards, respectively.
McDormand went on to win the award. Ratna Pathak Shah, a brilliant actor largely relegated to playing mother, must be celebrating today. In her acceptance speech, McDormand honoured the other women who were nominated in various categories. “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said. “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties… invite us into your office in a couple of days or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them,” she announced in a voice quivering with excitement. She concluded her speech with: “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.” An “inclusion rider” is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in the contract; it requires the cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity.
Among the nominees in the major categories were cinematographer Rachel Morrison, making history to be the first woman to ever be there, and actor-writer-director Greta Gerwig. Morrison lost her award to Roger A Deakins, the iconic cinematographer whose legacy is impossible to be contained in an Oscar recognition, and Greta lost to Shape Of Water director Guillermo Del Toro, whose film also won the award for the best picture, toppling the trend of not awarding the best director and best picture to the same team. However, like a metaphor, Chile’s Fantastic Women, a riveting drama about a trans woman, won the award for Best Foreign Language film, paying an eponymous tribute to the badass women in the cine industry.
The Academy Awards ceremony has, over the years, become one of the most politically-charged cultural events, and inclusiveness is its prime founding principle. It’s at the Oscars that the most pivotal movements in Hollywood play out as vital political statements, and these then go on to quietly influence films and nominations in the coming year. They find ripples even in other film industries, India for one. The event is also special for how the host and the guests rap powerful political leaders of the world for not doing their job well; something very unlikely to ever happen in India where the National Awards ceremony is organised like a programme presided over by a stern headmaster, and other popular awards are mostly pointless flamboyant affairs where glitz gets recognised over real talent.
In his opening speech, host Jimmy Kimmel made a witty remark directed at US vice-president Mike Pence, known for his anti-LGBT record: “We don’t make movies like Call Me By Your Name to make money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.”
The Oscars, this year, is crucial, for it takes place in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimeUp movements through which women in movie industries across the world decided to call out sexual predators and gender discrimination like never before. Plenty of digs were taken at the man at the centre of the controversy, producer Harvey Weinstein, and other sexual aggressors. “The golden Oscar statue is an ideal Hollywood man,” said Kimmel in his opening speech. “He keeps his hands where you can see them. Never says a rude word. And, most importantly, no penis at all. He is literally a statue of limitations.” Three women who came out in public against Weinstein – Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra – appeared on stage together to raise a toast to the women’s solidarity movement, and also, to more diversity on screen. “This year, many spoke their truth and the journey ahead is long, but slowly a new path has emerged,” said Sciorra.
One of the wittiest lines of the evenings were delivered by actors Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani, who voiced their support for the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration) programme that protects undocumented migrants who arrived in the US as children. “We are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing,” they said. Nyong’o is from Kenya, while Kumail is of Pakistani origin. “Like everyone in this room and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers,” Nyong’o said. “We grew up dreaming of one day working in the movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood, and dreams are the foundation of America.”
The immigrants issue got several mentions at the award ceremony. After Coco won the award for the best animated film, director Lee Unkrich delivered a fiery speech dedicated to the people of Mexico. “Representation matters.” he said, “With Coco, we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong.” Among the immigrants who won big awards at the ceremony this year is Guillermo Del Toro, who became the third Mexican director in five years to win the award. “I am an immigrant … The best thing our industry does is to help erase the lines in the sand when the world tries to make them deeper.”
Actor Jayasurya is slowing down, taking one step at a time, finishing one film before darting to the next. That’s a radical decision, he admits, “there was a time when I was doing eight films a year.”
In 2013, Jayasurya starred in twelve films, a record number in his career. In 2017, he worked in four projects, out of which Captain hit the screens last month. Next, he will star in Njan Marykutty (I, Marykutty), a film which will be directed by Ranjith Sankar, his close friend and regular collaborator, and co-produced by both of them. “That’s the only film I am focusing on right now,” the actor says, “I have finally come out of the state of confusion and insecurity that stardom brings with it.”
Right now, his career is sure going through a sunny period. Last year, he had the biggest box-office hit of his life through Aadu 2, a comedy directed by Midhun Manuel Joseph. In 2016, he earned a Jury Mention at the National Film Awards for his performance in Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam, a feel-good drama centered around a man suffering from low self-esteem, and Lukka Chuppi. The elated actor told The Hindu in an interview soon after the win, “I have always been the runner-up, never the winner…I’m astounded that I actually won and that too a National Award. It’s my Oscar!”
It was his first major achievement in a career that spans over two decades, although he had been taking the audience by surprise with a number of nuanced performances from the beginning of 2010. He debuted as a junior artiste in Dosth (2001), a romantic-comedy which had Dileep, Kavya Madhavan and Kunchakko Boban playing the lead. He appeared in a blink and miss role in the film. The real break came in 2002, through director Vinayan’s Oomappenninu Uriyaada Payyan, a romantic-drama centered around a couple who are speech and hearing impaired. The actor spent the decade working in comedy and romantic dramas. It was the grey-shaded Venky in Arun Kumar Aravind’s Cocktail (2010) that changed the track of his career. Slowly, he turned himself into a deft character artiste through films like Beautiful, Trivandrum Lodge,Iyyobinte Pusthakam and Apothecary.
In a conversation with Silverscreen.in, Jayasurya spoke about his acting career and the kind of films he would like to produce, about Shaji Pappan, his character in the Aadu franchise that has become a youth icon, and Captain, his latest film that is garnering acclaim.
Jayasurya claims to have never watched a football match in his life before he was signed on to play veteran footballer and former Indian football team captain VP Sathyan in Captain.
“To play Sathyan, I had to make myself look like a professional footballer. In the film I’d worked on before this one, I had a different physique. I would start practicing football under a coach from early morning, followed by a long gym session. I followed a rigorous diet. But this is just one part of the preparation, a tool to convince people that I am a footballer,” he says, adding, “Sathyan wasn’t just a footballer, but the captain of a team. I had to bring that confidence and aggressiveness in my body language. He didn’t smile a lot. I had to pay attention to little details of his personality. For instance, look at the body language of a regular footballer walking towards the field. It’s peculiar.”
Sathyan, who suffered depression for a long time, committed suicide in Chennai in 2006. For Jayasurya, portraying depression was a walk on a tight rope. “Sathyan wasn’t grieving. He was suffering from something more complex. I didn’t, in fact, do much research on depression. I understand that it is a mental state where the person hangs on to a particular thought, unable to move on from it. If I had made a slip, it would have been interpreted as ‘over acting’. I just tried to empathize with him completely, without trying to be logical or asking questions. Before the shoot began, I went to his house, and asked to be left alone in his room for sometime. I just sat there meditatively,” the actor says.
One of the most treasured appreciations he received was from Anitha, wife of Sathyan. “She said I was flawless in the film. ‘I could only see Sathyettan on screen,’ she told me.” Sathyan’s friends, like footballer IM Vijayan, who have known him from close quarters, left him overwhelming messages of appreciation after watching the film.
When I ask him if working on Captain turned him into a football fan, he laughs. “Not at all. I always abandon a role once the shoot is over. I have never been a football buff, and I am still not. I watched some matches as part of preparation, but now that the shoot is over, I no longer watch football.”
It was after finishing Captain that he worked on Punyalan Private Limited and Aadu. “I have never faced this problem of being unable to move on from a character,” he says. “One role that stayed with me for a little longer than usual is Raghunandan from Lukka Chuppi. I often think about him. I can’t think of another character that earned me so much appreciation, from the public as well as from the industry fraternity. Mammookka (Mammootty) said he loved the film, and Prithviraj, when we met on the sets of Amar Akbar Anthony, hugged me and said the character moved him so much. That day, we watched the movie again at his house.”
Lukka Chuppi, directed by Bash Mohammad, was a box-office failure when it released. The film unfolds over one night, when a group of friends from college get together at a resort after 15 years. It later became an overnight hit on YouTube and online streaming websites where it landed illegally.
“I don’t know why some good films fail. I really don’t,” says the actor. “Mammootty said it must be the title ‘Lukka Chuppi’ that put people off. Another title that was in consideration was ‘1987 Batch Maharajas’. It could have worked well in favour of the film.” Titles are very important, says Jayasurya. “See the kind of impact a name such as Bharatchandran IPS makes. It is powerful in itself. As a producer, I do take note of things that make a movie work at box-office,” he says.
Jayasurya ventured into movie production through Punyalan Agarbathies (2013), in which he played the lead role. He was the co-producer of Pretham (2016) and Punyalan Private Limited (2017). “I think I am good at selling a movie. I like learning about new marketing techniques, and changing audience’s tastes.”
He is active on social media, and makes use of its opportunities to stay closer to his audience. Every once in a while, he interacts with his fans through Facebook Live, answers their queries. Sometimes, he also voices his opinion on social issues. “The television era is making way for the Internet. People are addicted to social media. It can be very effectively used to promote films,” he says. “I don’t want to promote my movies by hurting some community or a person. But I like to try different new things.”
That said, the actor adds that he doesn’t want to be an outright movie producer. “It is not exciting to invest money in a film with the sheer aim of making profits. I want to produce great films; ones that offer me a performance-oriented role.”
All three films he co-produced were directed by Ranjith Sankar under his home banner Dreams N Beyond. The duo’s films have always been commercial hits. “It’s a partnership built on hard work. He is someone who is constantly thinking of new ideas, new stories.. Sometimes he doesn’t sleep the whole night, working on screenplays. I am like that, too. I like being on work mode.”
Jayasurya and Ranjith Sankar have collaborated on six films so far. The actor was also considered to play the lead role in Ranjith’s Ramante Eden Thottam (2017), but he opted out of it, and eventually the role went to Kunchakko Boban whose performance in the film garnered acclaim. Their next, Njan, Marykutty, is a project that both of them describe as their most challenging work till date.
We talk about Punyalan Private Limited, the sequel to Punyalan Agarbathies, a popular comedy-drama in which he played an entrepreneur from Thrissur fighting the bureaucratic and political rot. The second part, however, lacked the quintessential feel-goodness that made the first part a winner. Nyla Usha, who played the effervescent Anu, Joy’s wife, wasn’t a part of the cast.
Didn’t the feel-good drama get reduced to an aggressive social lecture in the second part, I ask him.
“We had a story in mind, about a man who loses it all, thanks to the insensitive system, and decides to register his protest. It occurred to us that it would be interesting to bring Joy Thakkolkaran back through this film. We didn’t plan it as a sequel to Punyalan Agarbathies,” he says, “We could have included the character played by Nyla Usha, but we didn’t want to offer her a small insignificant part. She is a friend. We didn’t want to call her for no reason. And in this film, Joy is a man who goes all out to achieve his goal. He gets arrested on purpose, does things that usually makes a wife insecure. Naturally, she would have asked him to stay out of it.”
Aadu 2 was a sequel too, of Aadu Oru Bheegara Jeeviyaanu (2015), with the same cast and crew. The first part had bit the dust at the box-office, but eventually became a trend-setter among the youth in the state. “At the time of its release, the director and the team were so excited. Everyone had their expectations sky-high. But I asked them to calm down because I knew box-office is a gamble and we could lose it very easily,” Jayasurya tells me. Did the failure hurt? Not really, he laughs, “I am well used to making flops.”
“What really stunned me was the astounding reception the film got later, when the DVD was out. I wondered what could have caused this overnight sensation. I assume people loved the film because it isn’t cheesy. The goofiness of Shaji Pappan and his gang is very convincing. The humor is very contemporary, hence youngsters could relate to it. The character, Shaji Pappan, is a fool with a great mass aura, something new in Malayalam cinema,” he says.
When actor-producer Vijay Babu, director Midhun Manuel and Jayasurya decided to make a sequel to the flopped film, they were rather well-planned. “We wanted this film to establish trends, fly high. So mass moments were planned in detail, elements like the double colored dhoti were added on, promotions were carefully chartered. Last time, Shaji Pappan couldn’t do the fight scenes because he had a sore back (laughs). This time, we wanted him to do action scenes. Aadu 2 was a movie entirely designed for the audience who loved part one,” he says.
Jayasurya has several fan associations in his name; they love him for the way he conducts himself off screen, without the airs of a star. He tells me about a recent incident that happened at a shooting location. “There were many people waiting to meet me. In the crowd, I noticed a young man, struggling to make himself noticeable, waving at me. It was evident from his face that he was an earnest admirer. I went up to him, spoke to him, clicked a picture with him. Isn’t it nice if your attention can just make a person’s day better?”
He has no qualms about social media users flooding the Internet with opinions masquerading as film reviews right from the opening day of the film. “It’s their freedom of expression. They watch a film, they have the right to speak out their opinion on it,” he says.
What bothers him though, is a certain other category of film-goers.
“It is not okay when some people just go about spreading false news on social media, and film clippings shot inside theater. That’s very wrong. If you like an actor, you should restrain yourself from circulating key moments from films on social media.”
Is it a problem when you are surrounded by people who constantly flatter you, and never give you a slice of criticism, I ask him. He laughs. “I know that. I consciously never let these praises get to my head. I am essentially a loner. I have an existence cut off from this limelight. I am constantly doing an introspection, criticizing my work than anyone else.”
His son, Adithya, is a staunch movie-buff who watches his films and gives honest opinions. “Once he pointed out a particular gesture that I had been repeating a lot on screen. That’s something I hadn’t noticed. He helped me change it.”
I remark that over the years his acting style has become more restrained. “The discipline must have come with age,” he reflects. “My philosophy is to declutter life and mind every once in a while. I respect the Islamic tradition of going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. To go on that pilgrimage, one has to pay back their debts, clear all dues in life. That’s a very rejuvenating process. It’s like starting life afresh.”
Jayasurya is determined to age gracefully onscreen and off-screen. “I will not do a chocolate-lover role anymore,” he declares. “I will only choose those roles that suit my age. I can’t do the kind of characters I played in Swapnakkoodu or Chocolate. I have told my wife to be prepared for bad days because I am going to do only those films I really want to do. Even if that’s one movie a year. I am free of those insecurities I had in the beginning of my career. At the end of the day, isn’t it enough to earn just as much to live a proper life?”
Of late, the actor has discovered the pleasures of traveling, and now, he swears by it. “Sometime ago, I visited parts of the Himalayas; the Kailash mountain and nearby areas. I want to go there again,” he says. “There are many places I want to travel to, but I have realised that rather than the places we see, our attitude is more important. When I set out to see the Himalayas, I thought that it would move me deeply. But unless we are in the right frame of mind, nothing would matter much. We could travel the whole world, and yet be unhappy.”
The Jayasurya interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.
Director MA Nishad’s Kinar [Well] has a heart of gold. It makes a passionate case for people who are denied of their basic human right to have access to potable water and air. It empathises with the innocent people the government wronged and imprisoned as Maoists and Islamic terrorists. It is a film staunchly political, led by women protagonists who selflessly take on a corrupt and insensitive system.
But Kinar isn’t a work well done. The narrative is cluttered and old-fashioned, and any objectivity in the plot is lost in the flux of melodrama that the film is founded on.
Three journalists from different media houses go in pursuit of three stories, and their routes end with one person: Indira (Jayaprada), a Malayalee woman, is the widow of a geologist who was wrongly indicted as Maoist and thrown in jail. Through Indira’s life story, the scribes unearth the details of a village’s struggles to survive a long drought. Nishad’s attempt to balance the social commentary with the fourth estate, the media, isn’t very effective, especially because there are three of them doing the work that a single person could have done. Kailash, Varsha and Bhagath play the journalists, and thanks to a badly structured non-linear narrative, the trio hideously juts out of the whole film. Their presence in the film is largely unwarranted, and their scenes are blandly written and staged.
The core plot of the film revolves around three women, Indira, Raseena (Parvathy Nambiar), and Sugandhi (Archana) who, though from different social orders, build a camaraderie. It is a little unsettling that most of the women-oriented films produced in this part of the world are sombre. While men get to tell stories of any kind, be funny or flawed, women are constantly cast in films about distress and misery, where they have to wail and scream. In Kinar, Jaya Prada is the motherly force, Parvathy is the damsel in distress, and Archana, the wailer. While Parvathy manages to render a convincing performance, the two other actresses fumble away. The former has an awkward body language which can hardly pass for a middle-class Malayalee woman who has never been anywhere farther than the end of her street, but later runs pillar to post to disentangle the red tape a Tamil village’s fate is caught in. And, Archana goes over the top in every scene, recreating 80s cinema where loud social dramas can happily belong.
Indira moves to Puliyanmala, a remote village on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border after the untimely demise of her husband, a geologist (Joy Mathew). His idealism and honesty had earned him several enemies in politics and bureaucracy, who worked hand in glove to tag him as an insurgent and sent him to jail. Accompanying Indira to Puliyanmala is Raseena, a young girl whose husband, accused of being a terrorist, is in prison. They migrate to the village for a peaceful life, but what they witness there is a severe drought that neither the government nor NGOs pay any attention to. The only water spring in the village lies in the ancestral land of Indira on the Kerala side of the border. A greedy Panchayat president (Sunil Sughada) and his colleagues, with the backing of land sharks, have barred the villagers from using the well. Now, Indira and Rasina have to embark on a murky legal fight against the powerful forces and bring back life to the dying village.
The film has many characters appear and disappear, without making a mark. For one, Revathi plays a compassionate district collector, a role the veteran actress can sleepwalk through. However, it helps that some of those roles are played by actors who have a weight to their names. They make up – a little – for the lack of depth and nuance in characterizations. The main characters are in black and white, comfortably categorized to ease the story-telling. The villagers are the salt of the earth, and the rich and the powerful are ruthless exploiters lurking around the well all day and night to bar anyone trying to draw some water. The media houses – journalists and editors – are compassionate and fiery defenders of the poor.
The rot in Kinar lies within. In a vehement attempt to be socially relevant, it leaves loose ends hanging everywhere in the plot. The scenes have no sign of life, dialogues are badly written and delivered, and instead of letting the viewer feel a moment, the film loudly announces the emotion. Indira’s fight against inactive bureaucracy is sugar-coated and simplified. She opens the well for the village, and the village becomes free of drought. She visits a few offices, the village is swiftly electrified. She exists, and the village magically becomes a paradise. Never does the film go a little deeper into the character to make its point firmer.
The film has an enjoyable soundtrack – including a cheery dance number sung by KJ Yesudas and SP Balasubramaniam that sings praises of the goodness of Tamilians and Malayalees – but none of them are really memorable.
It is unfortunate that such a compelling plot ends up being a clumsy attempt at cinema, which makes little use of the scope of the medium. Kinar, rather than being subtle and composed in approach, chooses to shout social messages from the rooftop.
The Kinar 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.
Over two hours into Rajesh Nair’s Kalyanam, something unusual happens. The female protagonist, played by an actress in her early 20s, speaks two lines straight for the first time in the film. She, albeit uncomfortably, faces the hero and speaks up, without her hair flying in the breeze or the camera zooming into her cherubic face, or that deafening background score that always plays out when she makes an appearance, vehemently reducing her to a object of desire.
Kalyanam is touted to be a romantic drama, but what is a romantic drama where the woman can easily be replaced by a pretty doll and yet, the story remains intact?
Shareth (Shravan Mukesh) fell in love with Shari (Varsha Bollamma) the moment his eyes fell on her while they were in kindergarten. Ever since, he never stopped stalking her, watching her secretly from his terrace (she is his neighbour), and making awkward attempts to flirt with her. He goes into hysterical mode whenever he comes across her, but the girl seems oblivious to the fact that he is smitten by her. On top of that, she gives consent to the marriage proposal her parents arrange for her. Now, Shareth has to open up to her, win her heart and stop the wedding, which seems nearly impossible.
Kalyanam firmly believes in the old-fashioned notion that the hero, no matter how goofy or good-for-nothing he might seem, deserves the girl at the end. The plot is uni-dimensional, much like Vineeth Sreenivasan’s famous Thattathin Marayathu, but the difference is that here, the writing doesn’t offer anything memorable. In spite of being centered around a terribly skewed romantic relationship, Thattathin Marayathu was a well-packed and marketed commercial film that played to the gallery of young men and women. Kalyanam is as insipid as the expressions of Shravan who interprets his character as a man-baby. Shareth’s characterisation is insipid. During most of the running time of the film, we never hear him speak about anything other than Shari. Does he have a life outside this state of infatuation? How rational is it to get a young woman, whom everyone refers to as studious and smart, married to a loafer whose only qualification is a hopelessly romantic heart? There is a horde of supporting actors such as Sreenivasan, Mukesh, Gregory and Hareesh to back Shravan Mukesh in his first movie outing, but there is only so much that even talented young artistes such as Hareesh can do in a movie where blandness rules.
For Rajesh Nair, whose previous Salt Mango Tree was an adorable little film that, albeit old-fashioned, had some stellar writing, Kalyanam is a giant stumble into mediocrity. It is sheer wonder that this film manages to run for two-and-a-half hours on a fatally weak thread, unaided by good performances, great music or striking visuals.
The Kalyanam 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.
KM Sarjun, the 31-year-old director whose short films stirred debate and evoked strong emotions among the audience, says he doesn’t want to be labelled as a filmmaker who deals with social issues. He is now consciously trying to move away from ‘women-oriented films’; his first full-length feature, Echcharikkai Idhu Manidhargal Nadamadum Idam, is a horror drama.
Sarjun KM’s debut feature film is yet to reach the theatres, but the young filmmaker is already a star in his own right. He shot to fame last year with a short film, Lakshmi, that earned bouquets well as brickbats for its undeniably sublime portrayal of an extra-marital relationship. Three months later, he made yet another hard-hitting short film, Maa, set in a lower middle-class household where the only daughter, a 15-year-old girl, gets accidentally pregnant. Both the films are centered around female protagonists who quietly rebel against societal norms. The films have clocked several millions of views on YouTube, and the comments’ section is a mixed bag of views on morality and gender politics.
Life hasn’t been the same for Sarjun ever since. Last week, it was announced that his first feature film, Echarikai Idhu Manithargal Nadamadum Idam (Beware Of Humans), which was lying in the cans for over six months now, is all set for a theatrical release. The film stars Sathyaraj and Varalakshmi Sarathkumar in the lead roles. Also, his second feature project is already in the pipeline. The film, a horror-drama produced by Kotapadi J Rajesh of KJR Studios, has actor Nayanthara playing the lead.
In a conversation with Silverscreen.in, the young director opens up about his short films, his new-found fame, and the kind of cinema he wants to make.
While Amazon and Netflix are brewing a revolution in the world of small-screen content in India, a large number of young, amateur short filmmakers from south India continue to be fixated with themes such as teenage infatuation, romance, and heartbreaks. It is to this mushy world that Sarjun KM forayed with themes such as an extramarital affair and teenage pregnancy.
“Honestly, I have done those things too,” he laughs. “I have done a music video, I have done romantic short films.. But I was in a different place then.”
“When I set out to do Lakshmi, I decided that if I were to make a short film, it should be something substantial that would prompt people to watch it. What is the point otherwise,” Sarjun says. “When you start making mainstream feature films, you could get stuck with romance and heartbreak forever. It’s a cliche mainstream hardly gets tired of. Short film is where you can do the stuff you really want to do. There is no censor, there is no restriction. You can experiment, make mistakes, release it wherever you want… Why should I waste such an opportunity?”
Sarjun then adds that he will never stop making short films. “I want to continue to make short films once in a while, in between feature films. That is where you can truly be honest to yourself.”
Although he’d always wanted to be a filmmaker, Sarjun chose to study cinematography at Mindscreen Film Institute in Chennai. “I wanted to learn the technical side of cinema at a proper school,” he says. After film school, he went on to assist filmmaker Mani Ratnam in a period project called Ponniyin Selvan which got shelved. Further, he worked as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam in Kadal. The project went on for two long years after which Sarjun teamed up with AR Murugadoss for Kaththi. Later, he returned to Mani Ratnam’s production company to assist him in the post-production part of OK Kanmani.
To sum it up, Sarjun managed to get a comprehensive understanding of filmmaking. “Nothing was planned. I just grabbed the opportunities as they came,” he says. He made Lakshmi a year ago, when he had some time in hand. He wrote a script, made it into a film, and sent it to film festivals. “I wasn’t planning to release it on YouTube, let alone expect it to go viral and become controversial,” he says. After the film had finished its festival tour, he heard that Ondraga Entertainment, the home banner of Gautham Vasudev Menon, was looking for YouTube content. “I approached them, and they loved Lakshmi. That’s how it landed on YouTube,” he says.
The controversy surrounding Lakshmi was a little too much to take for Sarjun. “I stopped checking comments after a point of time,” he says.
“Lakshmi wasn’t a film on love or romance, it was more about the human need to look for attention. She was being taken for granted, treated insensitively by the person she was living with,” he says. “I didn’t play safe at all. I hadn’t even thought of releasing Lakshmi on Youtube. Before Lakshmi, I had done two short films, out of which one touched around 10,000 views on Youtube; I don’t think anyone watched the second film,” he says. “If you ask about Maa, I will say I played it safe,” he adds. “I had pitched two concepts to Gautham sir. He liked the second story that I narrated, which became Maa. I was skeptical about the plot. Honestly, I didn’t want to get into a controversy. I actually asked him if we should really do it. He asked me not to worry. ‘We will not get into Lakshmi zone,’ he said.”
Several comments on YouTube about Maa fume that the film is ‘pro-abortion’, but Sarjun doesn’t agree with the opinion.
“I don’t see Maa as a pro-abortion movie. It’s just a one-off case, about a particular character, narrated from the perspective of her mother. If the incident – an out-of-wedlock pregnancy – happens to a 24-year-old girl who lives in better circumstances, they could probably work out another way. I believe one shouldn’t bring a new life into this world when you are in a state of fear or insecurity,” he says.
Sarjun’s films have a tone radically different from that of the films of Mani Ratnam, his mentor, and Gautam Menon, with whom he collaborated for Maa. Where do you belong, I ask him. “It’s true that my films are more rooted in local spaces than what Mani sir or Gautham sir does. I grew up in Triplicane, one of the oldest parts of Chennai. It is very crowded, has a bustling heterogeneous population, like Hyderabad old city. A lot of my experiences come from that place.”
City plays an important character in both the short films; they unfold in crammed spaces. “Lakshmi and Maa are set in middle-class houses that resemble mine, on streets similar to where I live. There, you would always run into your friends, relatives or neighbors from whom keeping a secret very difficult. You can’t even talk loud; people would come running wanting to know if everything is okay,” he says.
Through the two films, he also attempts to discuss gender politics within our middle-class households. “No matter how much mankind has progressed, we still face the problem of gender imbalance. This is particularly more relevant within a family,” he says. “Men don’t understand women, and women don’t understand men. However, I would say the former problem outweighs the latter.”
“One of my inspirations for portraying powerful women is Mani sir who always ensures that his women characters are as strong as the male protagonist. Even otherwise, I grew up watching strong women. My mother, a teacher, is one. Also, to be very frank, both good and bad experiences in my life were caused by women,” he says. But Sarjun doesn’t want to be labelled as an off-beat filmmaker who makes only issue-based films. “I will probably take a break from women-oriented films now,” he says.
Echirikkai is a crime drama. It revolves around a kidnap, and a 60-year-old cop who gets involved in the case. “It’s an emotional film, not exactly a suspense thriller,” says Sarjun. “I chose Sathyaraj because I wanted someone very charismatic; old yet powerful. When I approached him, he loved the script. He became more curious and excited when I showed him some references. I told him in advance that even though he is a cop in the film, he won’t be wearing a police uniform in any scene. It’s not a typical mass police role.”
But that doesn’t mean Sarjun is averse to mainstream ‘mass’ films.”In fact, I love mainstream entertainers. I would like to make a good mainstream film, probably with a superstar,” he tells me. Working with Murugadoss in Kaththi – a mega-budget film done on a huge canvas – was a remarkable experience for him. It was fascinating to see him [AR Murugadoss] managing such a big set smoothly, without losing grip on filmmaking, says Sarjun.
“I accept that not everything is smooth. There is a superstar culture and fan frenzy which is growing out of hands, but there are also really sensible producers who want to make extraordinary films. There is a balance. I am okay with the way the industry is functioning. I think I can make things work, no matter how chaotic it might seem,” he says.
Sarjun is confident that he won’t fall into the traps that young directors with a background in short filmmaking generally succumb to.
“When you venture out to make a feature film straight from the success of your short film, it is possible for you to mess things up. Thanks to digital medium, it has become easier to make a short film. Most of the short filmmakers spend money from their own pocket. It is a simple process compared to what mainstream feature filmmaking is. There are a lot of restrictions and responsibilities when you are spending someone else’ money,” he says. “I have seen how mainstream films gets made right from pre-production stage till the release. One of the most important lessons I learned from Mani Ratnam is that shooting in a stipulated period is very important. He does films with stars, he does big films, but he always keeps them within a budget, finishes shoot within the scheduled time. He keeps a bound script ready much ahead of the shoot, and does pre-production meticulously. ‘You need to be a business man to be a good filmmaker,’ he would say.”
Kotapadi J Rajesh of KJR Studios, the producer of Aramm, is bankrolling Sarjun’s second feature film which is a horror-drama. “After Maa was released, I got a call from Rajesh sir who asked me if I had a one-liner for Nayanthara. He added that they preferred a horror drama. He heard the story I had in mind, and then made me sit with Nayanthara who liked it too. In fact, she had liked ‘Maa’ a lot.”
Horror drama seems to be Kollywood’s favourite genre, I say. “True,” declares Sarjun, “Several horror dramas release a year, but except a few like Pisaasu and Aval, there aren’t many memorable films. If a particular theme or idea succeeds, people tend to repeat that a lot in the film industry, and things start getting very bland and monotonous. But, someone is sure to break that spell.”
The KM Sarjun interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.
In a slight departure from his usual populist patriotic movies, filmmaker Neeraj Pandey takes on corruption and the issues within the Indian military in his latest film, Aiyaary. Here, it isn’t Pakistan or foreign militants who are really putting the country in danger, but corrupt politicians and army officers who are hand in glove with the arms mafia, which is incidentally led by a former Indian army officer. This is a film similar to Pandey’s famous A Wednesday! in which a citizen, frustrated with bad governance, takes law into his hands. The difference is that here, it is a bright young army man who decides to fight against the systemic rot.
When Major Jai Bakshi (Siddharth Malhotra), a member of a covert espionage team Design and System Diagnostics, vanishes one day with vital confidential information, his boss, Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpai), swings into action. Everyone knows Jai as a righteous man who once took two bullets to save Singh’s life while they were on duty in Kashmir. While Singh, an exceptionally skilled spy who trained with Mossad and CIA, can’t fathom what prompted Jai to go rogue, he does everything to stop him from sharing the secret data with the media or anyone else. Jai and his girlfriend, a sharp software security specialist named Sonia (Rakul Preet Singh), move to London, and Singh follows.
Aiyaary‘s laudable intention to pay attention to the rot within the system gets watered down by poor filmmaking. The film proceeds at a breakneck pace. The narration is non-linear, with flashbacks within flashbacks, but it is no brilliant brain teaser. Aiyaary is like a faulty jigsaw puzzle that you can’t ever put together neatly, no matter how hard you try. The writing isn’t great; there are loose ends everywhere, and the characters are poorly fleshed out, further worsened by Siddharth Malhotra whose deadpan expressions are unintentionally funny in some places. Aiyaary, unlike Pandey’s previous ventures, ends up as an ambitious, but terribly incoherent film that evokes more confusion than thrill. The film has no technical finesse, either. Cinematography by Sudhir Palsane, Pandey’s regular collaborator, is surprisingly mediocre here, and background music is bland and loud.
There is an instance when Sonia, who had been kept in the dark about Jai’s real identity as a spy, finds it out when she comes across his military identity card casually left on the table at the restaurant where they are on a date. Is it not bizarre that a military officer on special duty would handle an identity card so carelessly in a public place? But that just seems natural in Aiyaary, which is a string of incoherent ideas and characters put together on Bollywood’s opulent canvas. In the scene where Abhay is introduced, he asks his subordinate to hand him some bullets to shoot down a target whom they managed to zero in on with a lot of difficulty, and he’s given a packet of goli, medicinal tablets, because why not!
The ploys used by the film to validate claims of Abhay’s mighty intellect end up as a damp squib. The men’s strategical moves are presented dramatically, with a lot of hype and added swag, but they always end poorly. There is a terrible lack of punch even in the most pivotal scenes.
What forms the core premise of the film is a high-profile housing scam similar to Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing Scam, in which newly built apartments meant for widows and dependents of slain soldiers and retired army men are grabbed by politicians and senior officers. The film meanders a bit before it reaches here, and Naseeruddin Shah, in a terrific cameo, ensures that this part turns out to be the saving grace of the film. Shah is funny and earnest in his role as a security guard, and he makes most of the patchily written part.
Manoj Bajpai is the clown as well as the hero of Aiyaary, and he does it in style, successfully distracting the audience’s attention from Malhotra’s one-note acting. But there is only so much even an actor of his calibre can do in a movie that can barely make sense of itself. This is a film that aims big, but achieves little, for it takes a convoluted route to narrate the story.
The Aiyaary 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.
In its opening scene, Prajesh Sen’s Captain goes against the tide. It doesn’t show the beauty of football or the glory of victory, but invests in a hard moment of defeat. During the finals of an international tournament, the protagonist, a legendary player, dramatically shoots a penalty kick that ricochets off the goal post. He stands aghast as the gallery lets out a loud sigh. In the next scene, a flash-forward, we learn that the man killed himself by jumping in front of a moving train.
Captain isn’t just another buoyant tale of a man from humble origins who works hard to rise to the pinnacle of his game. A biopic of legendary Indian footballer VP Sathyan, it attempts to show the dark parts of his life, and explore the demons in his mind. Sathyan was totally consumed by his love for football, and he let that eccentric passion swallow him.
For Sathyan – who served as the Indian team captain for five years (1991-95) and led his team to victory in several international tournaments – football was a sacred art that defined him. He wasn’t the world’s best player, or an invincible man on the field. Even after he joined the Kerala Police (in sports quota) and started leading the police football team, he continued to play the local tournaments. Sathyan didn’t play to win, but to taste the spirit of the game. Football was his opium. A grave injury that he sustained on his leg as a child crippled his ability to play the way he wanted to, yet the man worked hard to be a champion; but when he couldn’t go ahead any further, he lost the plot.
In the film, there is a rare sheen to Sathyan’s story that reminds one of the game’s simple origins, and its influence among the working class. And, the one person who has to bear the brunt of Sathyan’s downfall is his affectionate wife, Anitha (Anu Sithara) who selflessly takes care of him even though she never gets anything she’s wanted in life. But even as the script takes the beaten track of melodrama to narrate the story, Captain is remarkable for its empathetic portrayal of depression. The film doesn’t make you ask why a person behaves a certain way, or why he doesn’t do things differently. It just shows us how complicated the human mind can be, more so when fate has added its evil twist to it.
The film’s narrative structure waves back and forth, effectively maintaining the intrigue. The makers don’t take up the impossible task of covering everything about his life. When we see Sathyan first, he is already an accomplished footballer; tidbits about his childhood are spilled one at a time. And, rather than focusing on the euphoric moments of triumph, the film watches him writhe in mental pressure and physical pain during the training sessions. In a particularly poignant instance, Sathyan, during his stint with Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, tells his wife of his fears about not being able to play. “This pain and loneliness are killing me,” he tells her like a helpless child, shedding the veneer of machismo that one usually associates with a sportsman.
The supporting characters are largely superficial. For one, coach Jafar (Ranji Panikker) is a tiring cliche. His coaching method exclusively involves delivering punch dialogues to the team members, and we never see anything really connected to football. Ask him about a game strategy, and he would say something about football being an entire country’s breath.
Even more superficial is the epilogue which lends a patriotic tone to the entire film. It is baffling because Sathyan wasn’t a person who played for a particular team or a country. His love was only for the game. The showy recital of the national anthem and a line about India’s pride render the film several times less sincere than it would have been otherwise.
The lead actors, Jayasurya and Anu Sithara, are marvelous in their well-etched out roles, although the former never lets go of that stiff look. Even in the most casual scenes, Jayasurya looks uneasy, as if he is constantly prepping himself for a penalty shot. However, the empathy with which he essays the role is moving. His portrayal of the man in his bouts of depression are lifelike and powerful. One quality that this actor possesses is the earnestness with which he engages in every film, every character. In Captain, Anu Sithara aptly complements his performance, and at times, mightily outperforms him.
What pulls the film down is the weak technical department. Production design is clumsy, never really getting the time period right, and the cinematography is glossy, not the kind that this film deserves. The visuals are bland. The lack of depth is stark in vital parts of the film. Instead of creating brilliant montages, the film compromises with weak sequences comprising slow motion shots. And worse, composer Gopi Sunder relentlessly plays the background score, never letting the drama unfold by itself. The leitmotif – theme song – an uncanny mishmash of AR Rahman’s famous Sadda Haq, and Jee Karda from Badlapur, works well in some instances. But Gopi Sunder’s refusal to stay subtle backfires. However, one must also acknowledge the fact that sometimes, the composer will have to step in and make up for the lack of dynamics in a scene which is entirely composed of poor shots.
Captain has its heart in the right place. It – albeit on a tragic tone – pays mighty tribute to a forgotten sports hero. It also asks us to pay more attention to each other, and raises pertinent questions. Why did the world that cheered Sathyan in his moments of success turn a cold shoulder to his sufferings? What happens to those heroes – and people – who are not defined by popular constructs?
The Captain 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.
Films on romance that stay off the beaten path, and explore and embrace love with all its complexities; some charming, some tragic, some plain fated
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (2017), Alma, a young waitress, goes on a date with a charming old man to whom she served food that morning. They dine at a nice place, and drive to his residence. Then, they sit across each other in his room, quietly, just looking. She interrupts the silence, “If we want to have a staring contest, you will lose.”
The lovers in Phantom Thread are constantly engaged in one-upmanship; trying to hold on to their individuality and power even as they fall deeper in love with each other. Among the many things this film is about, is the peril of love and the trap it can become. In Reynolds’ (Daniel Day Lewis) residence, which teems with his many employees, clients and an overbearing sister, Alma has to fight the feeling of being unwanted. Reynolds finds his orderly world disrupted with Alma’s arrival. “She doesn’t belong here,” he shouts during one instance, but another time, a sick and bed-ridden Reynolds asks Alma to never leave his side.
Aashiq Abu’s Mayaanadhi (2017), while not resembling Phantom Thread in form or plot, is centered around two young people who are constantly hurting each other. But, they are also inexplicably drawn to each other even though they barely have a reason to stay together. Appu and Mathan, two former lovers who parted ways on a bitter note, meet after many years in another city, under different circumstances. The man is now a murderer on the run, and the girl is chasing her dreams, desperately trying to put her life together. He wants to get back together with her, but she doesn’t, for the wounds he’d inflicted are still fresh. He lingers even as she pushes him away. She toys the man around, and he gladly obliges for he has nowhere else to go.
This turbulent love story isn’t about two people fighting social or political demons, but their own complicated feelings. Not many times before has Malayalam cinema set itself around two such characters, unabashedly modern and politically incorrect. He lets her down for want of money; she lets him down because she has a career to build, a life to make.
Mayaanadhi is one of the many recent Malayalam films in which the romance between the couple throbs with life, not superficially used in the plot for added flavor. Departing from bogus settings and situations, filmmakers like Aashiq Abu and Dileesh Pothan, and writers like Syam Pushkaran bring lovers to everyday places, subject them to ordinary situations, and portray relationships in fine detail, doing away with stock song-dance sequences. Parental opposition is no longer the villain in the love story, but more complicated and life-like factors. The woman is no longer introduced through a bubbly song, and the man isn’t a self-righteous hero.
This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, though. Before Malayalam cinema wandered into the obnoxious realm of mediocre star-vehicles, half-baked teen love stories and family dramas soaked in conservatism in the 1990s, directors such as Padmarajan and Sathyan Anthikkad, in vastly different formats, rendered a poetic quality to romance on screen.
Mayaanadhi, like Padmarajan’s films,unfolds in intimate spaces, away from the usual social joints. At night, on the road underneath the newly opened metro rail bridge of Kochi; in apartments where roommates pour their hearts out to each other; in bed after a passionate lovemaking session when Appu rattles Mathan by telling him that sex isn’t a promise or even a reconciliation, breaking the heart of a man who was never looking for casual sex, but a companion for life.
Mayaanadhi ends on a tragic note, and as La La Land told the world, it’s alright if every love story doesn’t culminate on a ‘happily ever after’. In his interview to Silverscreen.in, National Award winning screenwriter Syam Pushkaran said, “Anyone can walk away from a relationship anytime. Happiness is what matters the most.” In Maheshinte Prathikaram (2016), which was written by Syam and directed by Dileesh Pothan, a woman breaks up with her longtime lover, the film’s protagonist, over a phone call. “This will do good to both of us,” she tells him in a broken voice. He is slides into a brief bout of depression, but at the end of it, goes to the church where her wedding is underway, watches her from a distance, and when her eyes fall on him, he smiles. The film doesn’t leave it there, but follows Mahesh back to his house, where you see him breaking down in tears.
Khalid Rahman’s Anuragakarikkin Vellam (2016)is arare coming-of-age story of a young girl who gets dumped by her lover rather insensitively. The girl is shattered at first, but gradually picks herself up and moves on in life. In one of the most telling scenes in the film, she meets her former lover before her wedding to give him and herself closure. Although Anuragakarikkin Vellam proceeds from the POV of the man, it is this character, portrayed sensitively and with subtlety, that affects the audience.
Eeda, which released a week after Mayaanadhi, is a modern-day retelling of ‘Romeo And Juliet’, set against the violent party politics in Kannur. There is a strong sense of foreboding right from the opening scene where you see how inseparably tied violent party politics and individual lives are in Kannur. The lead couple are educated young people, working in a far away city, cut off from the damned life in their home town. They become friends, and immediately realise they have so much in common. They inch towards romance, and one evening, she grabs his hand and confesses it in a breath. Director B Ajithkumar keeps his characters grounded and real; placing them in everyday situations from where the hostile world that surrounds them becomes more starkly visible. They are in their early twenties, but their relationship comes across as deep and mature, more like a companionship than a cliched hormone-induced ride.
Like Eeda, Mayaanadhi too is the kind of romantic drama in which love smells so much like imminent death. But instead of evoking a sense of foreboding, Aashiq Abu places a delicate romantic sequence right before the tragic climax portion. It’s only a matter of time before the police nab Mathan, but there is still a night left. In a story so millennial, would the characters resist the fleeting urges of the body for the sake of an uncertain future? Hence, we get the most beautifully conceived and shot lovemaking scene in Malayalam cinema in the backdrop of a song that flows in like a lullaby.
Breaking the usual pattern of romantic dramas where the plot ends when the lovers marry, cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Samir Thahir made Kali, a road thriller centered around a young married couple played by Dulquer Salmaan and Sai Pallavi. It explores the life of two youngsters in their early twenties who rebel against their families to get married to each other. They start leading an independent life in a city where they don’t have a support system. Slowly, differences emerge between them; the flaws and disagreements that seemed cute or inconsequential before the wedding, begin to look stark, and they aren’t sure how to over come them.
In Salt And Pepper (2011), two middle-aged people stumble into each other through a wrongly dialed call. He is an archaeologist, living a reclusive life like one of those antique pieces in his office. He drives an old Ambassador car, is averse to mobile phones, and doesn’t have a social life. She is a cine dubbing artiste with poor self-esteem, leading a lonely life. He buys a mobile phone to speak to her, and opens up to the world, one step at a time, like our parents learning the nuances of social media to find friends and feel less lonely. And she falls in love too; first with herself and then with him.
In Ranjith Shankar’s Ramante Eden Thottam, Malini (Anu Sithara), a married woman with a child, falls in love with a widower, Raman (Kunchakko Boban), and the film, with the help of Madhu Neelakantan’s romantic camerawork and Bijibal’s music, celebrates this ‘scandalous’ affair. In the director’s Punyalan Agarbathies, the plot revolves around the protagonist, Joy Thakkolkaran (Jayasurya), who is waging an exhausting battle against the investor-hostile political and bureaucratic mechanism in the state, hell-bent on ruining his dream industrial project. But what makes the most charming sub-track in the plot is Joy’s relationship with his wife, Anu (Nyla Usha), a public relations professional. She doesn’t have a lot of screen-time, but Ranjith sums up the warmth in their bond in a few well-staged scenes, such as the one where the couple ride a two-wheeler through Thrissur city around the midnight.
In Dominic Arun’s Tharangam (2017), a live-in-relationship is portrayed sans the usual brouhaha. It is shown as something very routine, without using it to make a statement. The couple, Malini (Shanty Balachandran) and Pappan (Tovino Thomas), share the house rent and even prepare to have a lovechild. In 2015, Mani Ratnam made an entire film (OK Kanmani, Tamil) on the commitment phobia of a couple who are in a live-in-relationship. Tara (Nithya Menen) and Adi (Dulquer Salmaan) have a dream career, amazing family and friends to support them, yet they almost break up because they fear marriage would tie them down.
If Dulquer and Nithya had a rather ordinary responsibility of serenading the audience with their youthful love, another couple in the film portrayed something more ideal and honest. Prakash Raj and Leela Samson played a couple in the sunset of their life. She is sliding into the blackhole of Alzheimer’s. He has come to terms with the fact that she is moving towards a no-return point. An Amour-like love that is a rebellion in itself.
In Aami, director Kamal takes up the non-viable task of compressing the magnificent and intense life of one of the most celebrated writers in the country, Kamala Surayya/Madhavikutty into a two-and-half hour film. The result is, unsurprisingly, more tedious than inspiring.
Aami suffers from the most common biopic ailments: Everything on screen – the people, spaces and things – is fully conscious of the massive fame and genius of the subject in hand. There is no real drama in the proceedings because of the very same reason. The nearest example to cite is the early scene where little Kamala is introduced to the audience. She is at Punnayoorkkulam, her maternal ancestral home which is inside a giant compound where an old Caper tree – neermathalam – stands. A close-up shot of her looking up to see the tree’s flowers, smiling wide, with the morning light of the sun falling on her face. It’s ceremonious; shot like an iconic image. The background score hints that we mark this shot for future reference because the girl and the tree share an important relationship. And this isn’t a one-off case.
Aami has the authenticity of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana.
The interiors where the story unfold, the clothes and get-up of the characters and the dialogues – everything has a fresh coat of paint on them. The characters are presented like relics, not real people. Their accent sounds heavily put on, and conversations, contrived. If Kamala, in her usual appearances in front of the media, was a naturally gorgeous woman who seemed to have an air of carefree abandon around her, Aami‘s protagonist, played by Manju Warrier who is usually a fantastic actor, comes covered in layers of grease paint. Warrier overdoes the valluvanadan accent. She makes ardent effort to be the beautifully complicated woman that Kamala was, but a lowly imitation is all we get.
It isn’t just the fault of the actor, but the clumsy filmmaking has contributed to the debacle. The fragmented narrative of the film is interesting, but the staging of the scenes and choice of the shots aren’t any helpful in interpreting the character or bringing her closer to the audience. For one, there is a scene where Kamala, while having breakfast on the veranda of Nalappat house with her siblings, startles everyone by addressing herself as ‘adiyan’, a word only used by the lower-caste. Her grandmother quickly gives her a crash course on castes. “We don’t use that word. Only they use it,” she points at one of their maid servants, a Dalit woman engrossed in menial work outside the house. Suddenly Kamala’s writer mother, Balamaniyamma, interferes. “Don’t stuff caste into the kids’ heads,” she says. There is a funny irony in asking one to not see caste in a place like Nalapatt where caste is spread all over like the air. Kamal shoots this scene plainly, without a directorial perspective, not daring to engage a little deeper with the political undertones of the scene. This repeats several times.
Most of all, Aami is an insipid film. There is a general lack of deeper engagement with plot and characters. This is especially true about most of the supporting characters. The portrayal of her husband Madhava Das’ (Murali Gopi) gay partner is loud and exaggerated, made to fit the popular notions about homosexuals. Same could be said about the prostitute whom Madhava Das hires to teach Kamala a lesson or two about sex. She smacks her lips, and throws sinister glares at Kamala. These characters are archetypes carelessly tossed into the narrative.
Not that Aami is an irredeemable disaster. It is director Kamal’s most sincere attempt at being sensitively poetic. Kamala’s life in the seaside house, when she was going through a terrible phase of depression, has glints of excellence. Those scenes are also remarkable for Manju’s performance. She portrays the languidness of Kamala, her hallucinations and the subsequent recovery impressively. Also, in the latter half of the film, Kamala suddenly appears more human. Her relationship with Akbar Ali, an ardent fan who is decades younger than her, has fire and some fascinating rough edges. It’s with a childlike curiosity and enthusiasm she walks into this disastrous romance, and for the first time in the film, Kamala is explored as a woman in passionate love. In real life, Kamala was proud of her hopelessly romantic heart. The film, however, is more broody than romantic.
This happens because Aami hardly takes into account the subtext of Kamala’s writings on which the film is founded. Where did she draw her intellectual glow from? How did a nondescript girl who got married off at an age of 15 to a man who raped her on the night of the wedding, transform into a well-read and groomed genius woman who stunned the world with her sublime and supremely rebellious literature and choices in life? In one of its gravest mistakes, Aami narrows down the mysteries and complexities of Kamala to her love-lorn heart, and the maverick writer ends up only as one of those hysterical lovesick women our cinema is much familiar with. Her profound love for Krishna is portrayed akin to Balamani’s affair with the mysterious avatar of the God in Ranjith’s Nandanam. Their conversations are bland and aloof. For readers of Kamala, Krishna is a beautiful metaphor; a brilliant imagery that could represent many things at once. Aami ruins it for all.
Aami never really unlocks Kamala, although it does succeed in evoking the memories of her. Kamal condemned himself to never going beyond the surface level when he decided to chronicle her life from cradle to death; to cram everything about that enormous life and that labyrinthine mindscape into a typical commercial film that uses old-fashioned form of storytelling. If Kamala found pleasure in stunning and scandalizing the hypocritical society while never fitting into the bottles of societal norms, Aami is a film so sanitized and carefully self-censored. It tries to be poetic but what is poetry sans that courage to break the norms? Aami only ends up as a half-baked, bogus portrait of an incredibly unique woman.
The Aami 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.
R Balki’s PadMan has a scene where the newly married protagonist gifts his menstruating wife a sanitary napkin that he made just for her. He just doesn’t give it to her, also adds a punch line – “For your safety.” Quintessentially, PadMan is about sales and marketing. It has the spiel, and it squeezes in melodrama and tears in a story based on the life of A Muruganantham, a Coimbatore man who spent many years working on a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine. Muruganantham’s magnificent life-story gets the treatment of a television brand commercial.
Muruganantham’s life has been the subject of an acclaimed documentary, Menstruation Man. But for Bollywood, it isn’t powerful enough. The film credits the story concept to Twinkle Khanna, the co-producer of the film, and Muruganantham gets a blink-and-you-miss-it tribute at the end of the film, just before the credits start rolling. All non-glitzy elements have been removed from the story, and that includes Muruganantham himself. His identity as a school dropout from an impoverished family of handloom weavers in rural south India gets modified on screen as an upper-caste man named Laxmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) in a town in Madhya Pradesh. It isn’t a minor alteration which can be easily passed in a terribly skewed world where a large section of people are underrepresented or misrepresented in our popular culture.
In PadMan, the protagonist’s struggles come across as utmost simple. Laxmi’s life was a placid lake until one day, he finds out that his wife uses pieces of rugs while she is menstruating. Branded sanitary napkins are unaffordable, so Laxmi sets out to make low-cost napkins that the women in his village can use. The only villain he has to fight throughout the film is the shame and taboo around menstruation. Laxmi needs money to buy machines. So he goes to a moneylender, falls on his feet, and starts massaging him. The man falls for it, and some funny massaging sequences later, the Shylock lends him the money. Laxmi’s family abandons him, but as soon as they see a picture of him with Amitabh Bachchan on the front page of a newspaper, they weep with joy.
From being a ‘muse’, Laxmi’s wife, Gayatri (Radhika Apte) slowly becomes the villain of the story – the one person hurting Laxmi the most. Her character is grossly one-note, the kind of leading lady our superstar films settle for because of complacency. She is the archetype of what the film assumes to be a village belle. Laxmi is fixated with sanitary napkin, and Gayatri shivers and shrieks like a maniac every time he mentions the word pad or menstruation. At one point, she abandons him because he has been walking around wearing a napkin to test its efficiency. In his TED Talk, Muruganantham, in his singular humorous style, mentions the divorce notice that he received from his wife. On screen, the couple’s relationship is melodramatically sanitised. The film bases Laxmi’s relentless pursuit of the technique to make low-cost sanitary napkin entirely on his deep-rooted love for his wife. But it never wonders what makes Gayatri such a freak, or never explores any other side of her persona. All we get is a song sequence where she dances in pretty clothes with a group of women in a place that looks like a sanctum sanctorum, celebrating the first period of a girl from the neighbourhood.
Most of all, PadMan is loud; like how Toilet Ek Prem Katha was, but with a better technical department. It preaches, and is unapologetic about being a movie whose prime intention is to preach and patronise. Almost in every sequence, you get a quotable quote and a politically correct character representation. “What is a man who can’t make his woman feel protected?,” Laxmi tells a friend who asks him why was he wasting his time making sanitary napkins.
Pari’s (Sonam Kapoor) father, a high-profile professor, is a widower who says proudly that he once attended a culinary class to cook chicken for his daughter. “I was the only man attending the class,” he tells Laxmi, adding, “To feel more manly, sometimes we will have to discover the woman in us.” However sweet the dialogue might sound, it juts out of the film. You know he is in the screenplay so that Laxmi can share his emotions and smile, winking at the audience. Characters are sans any complexities, or at least we hardly feel there is anything more to their persona than what meets the eye.
Akshay Kumar is earnest as PadMan, but not a great actor who brings out the minute details of the character. There are no midpoints in his emotional arc. He either laughs like a Santa Claus or be downcast gracefully. In a different movie which has a screenplay that goes beyond the stereotypical moments, Kumar would be a terrible miscast. Sonam Kapoor is just right for the role of a young MBA graduate who rejects high-paying jobs to try her hand at grass-root level social service, falls for the first person she works with, and ends up flying abroad for a high-paying corporate job.
PadManis a film meant to educate the audience. The ticket price is the tuition fee, and in all possibilities, the film will collect huge from the box-office. It has reduced a wonderful life-story into a tea-time snack, but what is the point of calling out a school civics textbook for being superficial and boring?
The PadManreview 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.
In the opening scene of Akshay Kumar’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017), a group of women walks through the village lanes at the crack of dawn, lanterns and lotas (vessels holding water) in hand, towards an open field to empty their bowels. They chitchat and giggle, conversing about their in-laws, husbands and modest lifestyle. A scene that, on paper, has the potential to be a candid slice-of-life moment from rural India. However, it doesn’t happen. If the poor staging of the scene doesn’t make you cringe, the loudness of the dialogues and the performances will. In the next scene, a tractor driver passes a lewd comment at two young girls on the road, and out of nowhere, you see Jaya (Bhumi Padnekar), accompanied by the standard old-fashioned Bollywood BGM to mark tension, hurling a coconut at him.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which has the subtlety of a television soap opera and the technical quality of old-fashioned public service advertising videos, released on August 11, 2017, three days before Independence Day, and became one of the top grossing films in the country last year. The film deserves to be lauded for the subject it handled. All criticism of its poor scripting and cinematic quality were lost in the high praise for the central message it tried to get across – to build toilets and support the Central Government’s flagship Swachch Bharat Mission. The film proudly advertises the tools of nation building as propagated by the Centre: Demonetisation, online shopping (eBay), Vedic texts, Sanskar (Indian culture) and Sanskriti (heritage). Exactly a year before that, Akshay Kumar’s Rustom hit the screens; he played a Navy officer who kills his wife’s lover, but walks free because the dead man was an anti-national. Rustom ends up being the public’s blue-eyed boy. The actor buttoned up his shirt, maintained a stoic expression complete with a smug smile on his face, walked around like he was taking part in an imaginary military parade, and delivered patriotism-coated dialogues like in a school play. The act won him his first National Award.
In the effort to make Indian cinema’s affair with nationalism great again, directors such as Major Ravi and actors such as Kumar are losing sight of a very important aspect – cinema is essentially art. They confidently ham up, don’t make the attempt towards achieving that ‘suspension of disbelief’, compromise on production design, and pass off badly-written dialogues, assuming the cloak of ‘in public interest’ will make them immune to criticism.
At the dawn of the millennium, Akshay Kumar was in the universe of Hera Pheri where the goofiness was irresistibly charming. The film, which narrated the misadventures of three unlikely friends played by Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Paresh Rawal, was the remake of the blockbuster Malayalam comedy Ramji Rao Speaking. Kumar fit perfectly in Hera Pheri, which is still regarded by many as one of the few better comedies Bollywood has produced. The actor spent the next decade working in no-brainers, action films and romantic dramas, several of which ended up as duds. Then came content-backed films such as Oh My God and Special 26, which cut a new road for Kumar’s 20-year-old career.
At 50, the actor is now India’s most bankable film star, and is actively involved in building a new popular genre in Indian cinema aimed at inculcating a sense patriotism in the audience. These films are slightly different from the likes of Border and LOC Kargil, which had war as background. Kumar’s films are social dramas with enormous mass appeal. They come with a pinch of comedy, romance and action, riding on the tide of nationalism that is sweeping the country of late. In a globalised world, Kumar’s films ask the audience to hold on to the idea of the nation, and emphasis on our collective identity and responsibility as the countrymen.
Kumar is aware of his new public image, and he self-consciously endorses it. Before the release of Airlift, in an interview anchored by Faridoon Shahryar, Kumar spoke of how countries such as the United States Of America splurged money on films that portrayed their country as the best. “We should have something like that. We should be supported by the Government.. narrate stories that show people what our country does, what our soldiers do,” he said.
In Gabbar Is Back, Kumar was an angry vigilante hunting down corrupt bureaucrats who hamper the nation’s development. In Holiday, he re-explored his love and admiration for the country’s defence personnel. In Airlift, the actor played an Indian businessman who selflessly takes the initiative and pulls all stops to evacuate the Indians stranded in Kuwait at the onset of Gulf war. It was followed by Rustom and Toilet Ek Prem Katha. Through Padman, he is all set to teach the country another lesson on sanitation.
Kumar’s attempts don’t go unnoticed or unrewarded. Of course, he won the National Award and joined the likes of actors such as Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Mohanlal. There are several articles floating around on the Internet that list down “Patriotic Dialogues By Akshay Kumar”. During the promotional phase of Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Kumar went around Uttar Pradesh spreading awareness on sanitation. The state’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath not only joined the promotional events of the film, but also rendered it tax free in UP. Rumours say that Kumar’s forthcoming PadMan might be made CGST (Central Good and Services Tax) and SGST (State Goods and Services Tax)-free. In the brand commercial of Kajaria Tiles, Kumar, dressed up as an army officer, says in a sombre tone that nothing beats the tile made of the soil of one’s own country. “Desh Ki Mitti Se Bani Tiles”, he says with pride writ large on his face – Akshay Kumar holds a Canadian citizenship.
The starkest problem about these films isn’t its content or the ambiguous citizenship of the lead actor, but the lethargic making. Toilet Ek Prem Katha, directed by editor Shree Narayan Singh, is stuffed with social awareness messages, lessons and loud commentary on how India could stride ahead with the incumbent government, but meagre attention is paid on the production design, cinematography and editing. Instead of details and sensitive characterisations, we get representations and caricatures. In her review of the film, film critic Namrata Joshi notes, “If Manoj Kumar brought alive Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan — Jai Jawan Jai Kisan — on screen in Upkar (1967), Kumar does his bit to lend a helping hand to PM’s mission clean India 2019. But, while the former didn’t lose out entirely on creativity and imagination, here, self-conscious obsequiousness gets the better of filmmaking.”
There is also a caste-regional coup that Kumar’s films have successfully pulled off. In the real incidents that Airlift was based on, the man who worked towards the evacuation of Indians stuck in Kuwait was a Malayali businessman named Mathunni Mathews. But in Airlift, Kumar is Katyal, an upper caste man from North India. In PadMan, he is a Chauhan, again an upper caste, from Madhya Pradesh, while A Muruganantham, the person the film is based on, is from rural Tamil Nadu, born into a family of handloom weavers.
Kumar’s forthcoming films will also remind Indians about some chapters of Indian history that they either don’t know about or respect enough. Gold, produced by Excel Entertainment, is based on the true incident of India winning the Olympic gold medal in hockey as a free nation in 1948, while Kesari, produced by Karan Johar, is based on the battle of Saragarhi, which the makers describe as one of the bravest battles fought in India.
Jude Dominic is like a fish in an aquarium. The world terrifies him, like the deep blue ocean. He doesn’t have a social filter; he takes words, things and people for exactly what they are. He doesn’t understand the fluidity of human emotions. Are people really happy when they are smiling? When they are shedding tears, does it mean that they are sad? So he takes refuge in numbers, their precision doesn’t confuse him. He lives on a rigid timetable; sets alarm for meals, has a fixed menu, and gets cranky when the arrangements change a little.
It’s around this oddball Shyamaprasad’s Hey Jude! is set. The film, written by Nirmal Sahadev and George Kanatt, falls somewhere between a fluffy feel-good drama and a sensitive coming of age tale; never really fitting into a box. The plot is character-driven, proceeding from the point-of-view of Jude (Nivin Pauly) who is surrounded by people who aren’t like him. We get scenes from his daily life that might seem mundane, like a bus ride to office. Jude is crammed in a corner seat, and when the bus gets crowded, he moves nervously towards the door. In another instance, he is having a plain lunch of a toasted bread sandwich, alone at a table in his office pantry. A group of colleagues come in, and hang out by the coffee machine. Jude is visibly intimidated by their presence. He shyly sits there, facing the wall and quietly finishing his lunch. For Jude, everyday is a painful struggle, and no one sees his wounds. And it just feels very real.
However, Shyamaprasad doesn’t reduce Jude’s tale to a sob-story. The way Jude deals with life, people and himself make for some excellent humorous moments. The starkest contrast to Jude is his father, Dominic (Siddique), an utterly practical man with a gift of gab. He runs an antique shop in Fort Kochi where the customers are mostly the white tourists, eager to discover the exotic east. When we see him first, he is coaxing a bunch of tourists to buy a carved metal conch. “This is the only piece available in India. There might be another one in London museum,” he tells them, and the camera moves to the bottom rack of a shelf beside him, and we see a dozen of the same piece. In a normal world, Dominic is just an ordinary man, dishing out harmless lies to make a living as a trader. But for Jude, who lacks a sense of hypocrisy, the man is a liar. The scenes involving the father and the son boast of some fantastic writing and acting, eliciting laugh at the right place. The actors, sure, were having a ball shooting those scenes, for you could see the supporting cast present in the frame candidly cracking up.
Jude, for the most part of the film, is portrayed as a geek. He is that kid who is likely to get bullied in a school because he isn’t really like other students. We later find out that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, but that doesn’t make a difference to this image. He wears well-pressed shirts, sports a pair of spectacles, and is obsessed with marine life. He is intelligent, and has photographic memory. Jude is subjected to unprovoked insult and unreasonable hatred. “I don’t understand big words, but I clearly see what his problem is. He is plain lazy!,” says his father who believes every person has the responsibility to be social and practical. Jude’s colleagues at a software company play pranks on him, possibly because they think he can cope with it like a normal person; forget and forgive them when they say ‘chill! we were just kidding’. If Jude is unable to understand social norms in spite of making earnest efforts, the people around him plainly refuse to make any effort to understand him.
The film, despite having its heart at the right place, does join the bullies in laughing at Jude at few instances. Like the scene where Jude’s family, while driving to Goa in an old Ambassador car, comes across a hitchhiker, George Kurien (Aju Varghese). The latter ends up opening a conversation with Jude about Pearl-Spot fish. A little while into the talk, Kurien turns exasperated, asks Dominic to stop the car, and jumps out, before screaming at Jude. It’s supposedly a funny scene, and Jude’s inability to loosen up becomes the butt of joke here.
The film has an excellent ensemble cast. Vijay Menon gets, probably, the best role in his career as Doctor Sebastian, a out-of-practice psychiatrist. The man is an affectionate single parent to Crystal/Cris (Trisha Krishnan), a singer who runs a beach-side cafe called Beatles. It is as though Jude was destined to walk into that space. The father-daughter duo live in the outhouse of a Goan bungalow that Dominic inherited from his deceased aunt. There is a beautiful little scene where Jude peeps through his bed-room window at night, to see the father and daughter drinking and singing, strumming a guitar, on the yard of the outhouse. It is through this window the duo comes closer to Jude. He is first curious, and later charmed by their life that seems so different from his. The arc of his relationship with Sebastian and Crystal is neatly paced and done. When he starts spending more and more time with them, it doesn’t look odd, but organic, for you know they have a lot in similar than what it might seem on the first glance.
If living with a mental illness seemed like a walk in the park in Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi where the protagonist’s recovery from depression was portrayed through shots of her running around and hugging trees, in Hey Jude!, the pain is life-like. Crystal’s bouts of outburst – especially the one scene set inside the cafeteria where she breaks a guitar and screams at her band-mates – are marvelously shot and edited. There is a scene where an angry Jude storms into her house to confront her on stealing his personal notes. They start yelling at each other, seldom pausing to listen to the other person, prompting an exhausted Sebastian to scream, “Oh my god, I have surrounded myself with nut cases!” It is not a misplaced insult or a joke. It takes a matured writer and director to stage a scene so delicate as this one, without losing the grip.
Nivin Pauly handles Jude carefully, making him into a person so dignified and honest. He barely goes over-board, almost never exaggerates his expressions, and manages to maintain a consistency in the performance. Thanks to Pauly, Jude isn’t a laughing stock, but a character whom the audience would want to root for. Trisha Krishnan is a formidable co-star with a mighty screen-presence. She looks real, like a person from the space where the film is set in. Singer Sayanora Philip has lent her voice for the actress, and it’s a fiery blend. In some instances, Sayanora’s voice even outperforms Trisha’s acting skills, stealing the thunder from everyone present in the frame. Gireesh Gangadharan’s cinematography isn’t flashy, although the film’s production design calls for pretty bohemian lights and frames. The visuals are beautiful and lucid.
Hey Jude is old-fashioned, but undeniably charming. It is a film Shyamaprasad can take immense pride in. He infuses his well-known sympathy for protagonists who are social misfits, and a sense of humour he never had a chance to flaunt before, in this film, and it has all come out in delightful colours. The film’s dialogues lack the pretension that has come to be a tiring feature of Shyamaprasad’s films, but are disarmingly casual and natural. It uses music as a metaphor for life. Unlike the usual life-affirming dramas, it doesn’t discount the harshness of reality. The best moments of the film unfold in intimate spaces – on the veranda of Sebastian’s house at night where he wraps Crystal in a blanket and holds her close, or in Jude’s messy bedroom where he pours his heart out to a camera for he doesn’t have real friends to listen to him. The movie, like the compassionate Sebastian, listens, witnesses and understands.
The Hey Jude 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.
City Of Ghostsis an incredible tale of bravery that rises from the rubble of the ongoing civil war in the Middle East. The documentary film traces the journey of a bunch of men who have been working day and night from secret camps in Syria, Turkey and various parts of Europe, to bring out stories of war, oppression and destitution in the ISIS-occupied Syrian city of Raqqa, through their website, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. It is a life-threatening job. The men could get killed. Some of their colleagues have already been killed for the crime of indulging in hard-hitting journalism.
City Of Ghosts is scripted, directed and partly filmed by Matthew Heineman, who stunned the world with Cartel Land (2016), a marvelous documentary on civilian struggle against drug cartels in Mexico. Heineman calls this film his ‘hardest one’ till date. In an interview with Deadlline, he said, “Just the nature of following a group of people who are fleeing for their lives, moving from safe house to safe house [and] by nature don’t want to be seen…Making sure we were diligent in how we were communicating and making sure we weren’t exposing anybody more so than we necessarily had to—these were all extremely difficult things to navigate.”
Heineman’s documentaries unfold like thriller-dramas, sleekly shot and cut, and narrated in a way that the audience hardly feel like they are watching a documentary, a medium generally thought to be bland. Reality attains a filmy quality in his works, with extensive narrative arcs. In Cartel Land, he pulls all stops to get the perfect footage; one can only watch in awe and wonder how he made it to the dangerous locations equipped with a camera, and got back unharmed. And so, with Heineman, the process of making the documentary becomes as edgy as the life of the film’s subjects.
For City Of Ghosts, he travels with four citizen journalists as they flee from one city to another, from one safe-house to another, in order to escape the men of Islamic State who are constantly on the lookout for them. Heineman has in his hands some precious footage about how ISIS took over Raqqa – one of the hotbeds of Arab Spring. The international politics that played out behind the curtains are overlooked, but the impact that the film creates by weaving together personal stories is immense.
The film follows the citizen journalists carefully, cautious enough to not give out clues about their locations, or sometimes, even their face or voice. The danger is real and serious. One of the journalists interviewed for the film, Naji Jerf, whom the RBSS team regarded as their mentor, was killed in 2015 while the film was in the making. A number of their family members, friends and colleagues of RBSS have been slaughtered or are living under the fear of being found and killed, but the journalists refuse to back out.
The film opens and ends with visuals from the same event – the award ceremony of International Press Freedom, 2015, organised by the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York – where the RBBS team get a standing ovation for their work. Heineman structures the film in such a way that we grow closer to them as the film proceeds. At the after-party of the award ceremony, the Raqqa journalists are seen sharing a lighter moment with other guests, and Heineman goes for a close-up shot of one of them, and with the cacophony in the background fading into an eerie silence, cuts to a visual from an ISIS execution video. You can’t help notice how technically superior those execution videos are, as if the Islamist terrorists made them for the world to watch people getting slaughtered like in a commercial thriller, with no remorse but with a pinch of sadism.
City Of Ghosts also discusses the refugee crisis Europe is struggling with. From the POV of Abdalaziz Alhamza, the spokesperson of the RBSS fold, and his friends, we see anti-refugee protesters in Berlin screaming, “These pigs will learn how to run, they will get a one-way ticket to Turkey”. It’s chaotic, and you are provided with close-up shots of Alhamza walking through the protest venue with his shoulders stooped, his face to the ground, carrying an air of gloom. We hear his voice-over, “The more time I spend away from Raqqa, the more I wonder if I will ever have a home to return to.” The narrative that Heineman weaves is astonishing and immensely powerful.
The men predominantly tell their stories on their own, without the director chipping in. The camera is an invisible attendee at their private home parties in Europe, where they quietly celebrate the birth of a child or an international award conferred on RBSS. In one of the most defining moments in the film, Alhamza, in his room in Germany, shivers and weeps silently, holding photographs of friends and family who were killed in Syria. In another instance, two brothers re-watch an ISIS video of their father being ceremoniously gunned down. “I don’t know how many times I have watched this,” he says in an unwavering voice. They promise to never yield, and keep the fight going. It’s from personal loss and grief that these journalists find strength.
City Of Ghosts is available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.
The City Of Ghosts 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.
Fifty years ago, when Malayalam cinema was on the cusp of a change, cinematographer-filmmaker A Vincent made Thulabharam, a hard-hitting social drama centred around the struggles of the working class. The film, adapted from an acclaimed play written by Thoppil Bhasi and performed by the famed KPAC drama troupe, narrated the tale of a woman accused of killing her three children.
The film bagged the National Award for the Second Best Feature Film that year, and actress Sharada won an Urvashi award for best actress at the national level; bringing the award for the first time to Malayalam cinema. She would win the award again four years later, for her performance in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Swayamvaram, regarded as the movie that launched a new wave in Malayalam cinema.
Thulabharam is staunchly anti-capitalist, a feature of the works of Thoppil Bhasi, who was closely associated with the communist movement in Kerala. The influence of theatre is evident is the dialogues as well as in the film’s rich soundtrack that consists of seven classic songs composed by Devarajan master and written by Vayalar Rama Varma. But, Thulabharam was also far ahead of its time in terms of technical excellence. It was shot by P Bhaskar Rao at Vikram Studios and AVM Studios in then Madras.
The entire movie is narrated in flashback, and begins in a court room scene. A woman is being tried for killing her children. The public prosecutor, a sprightly woman named Valsala (Sheela) argues that the accused deserves the death sentence. We only see the shadow of the accused on the wall, and then get a Bresson-ian shot of her trembling hand clutching the wooden rails during an emotional outburst. The film then moves to a flashback sequence, and you finally ‘see’ her; a spirited young woman happily dancing to “Bhoomi devi pushpiniyaayi“, a melodious number.
The woman is revealed to be Vijaya (Sharada), the young daughter of RK Menon, a noble factory owner who loses everything he owns to a dummy legal case. From the heights of fortune, the father and daughter fall into destitution, and the only person who extends them a hand is factory worker Ramu (Prem Nazir). After the sudden demise of her father, Vijaya’s wealthy friends turn a cold shoulder to her plight, and her college sweetheart Babu (Madhu) abandons her. At a moment when she realises the fragility of human relationships in the rich upper-class, she asks Ramu to marry her.
In Thulabharam, Nazir plays one of the best roles in his career, that of an earnest trade union leader who fights the factory management for minimum wages and the basic rights of workers. At home, he is a happy family man, head over heels in love with his wife whose belief in communism is as firm as his. The greedy factory owners reject the workers’ demand for adequate wages, and when Ramu protests, he is murdered. Ramu is deemed a martyr, but it is Vijaya and the kids who have to bear the brunt of the idealistic stand Ramu took for the collective good of society.
The film’s portrayal of starvation and poverty is similar to Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. In one of the most important scenes reminiscent of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérable, a cafeteria owner mercilessly burns the kids’ face with a hot ladle. Vijaya breaks down in fury and grief. She feeds the children poison to end their suffering, and attempts suicide. Sharada’s portrayal of Vijaya is heart-wrenching, and at par with Nargis’ in Mother India, a revolutionary film that redefined the representation of women in Indian cinema.
In hindsight, Thulabharam was way ahead of its time; daringly progressive in a plethora of aspects. In one of the initial scenes, Thikkurrissi Sukumaran Nair, who plays Vijaya’s father, shuts down Valsala’s driver who obsessively talks about women’s lingerie, referring to them as ‘those items that cannot be named’. He tells the girls, “He is just a pathetic perverted old man.” Interestingly, Malayalam cinema continues to use lingerie, sanitary napkins and menstruation to create cringe-worthy humour. In Chunkzz (2017), one of the comedy scenes involves a young man going to a pharmacy and asking for a packet of sanitary napkins.
Menon is the kind of father who coolly says that his daughter should take care of herself, and not depend on him for matters such as her wedding. “It’s not my responsibility to find her a consort. Let her marry the person of her choice,” he says. In another instance, Valsala, who is friends with Vijaya before they grow apart, takes on her father, a greedy advocate, for swindling Menon’s money, and refusing to help Vijaya after his death. He asks her to shut up, and she snaps, “Oh, isn’t the girl who dares to speak out the truth always deemed as arrogant?” Fifty years later, the woman who raises questions continues to be frowned upon and cornered on screen and off screen.
In the five decades that have passed, Malayalam cinema moved from monochrome to color and film to digital, produced two generations of male superstars, won numerous national and international awards, and made a movie that entered the coveted Rs. 100-crore club. Yet, it lacks the courage, as an art, to raise pertinent questions – something that came naturally for filmmakers and writers such as Thoppil Bhasi and Vincent.
Cinematographer Shamdat Sainudeen’s directorial debut Street Lights has Mammootty playing a police officer named James, who is on an undercover mission. His aunt’s Rs 5-crore worth diamond necklace is stolen, and the search for the thieves escalates into a bigger hunt for a notorious criminal he had been trying to nab for many years. The thieves – two goofy Malayali men and a ruthless gangster from a Tamil village – lose the necklace while trying to escape the cops. Meanwhile, a boy who lives in an impoverished residential colony in the city, accidentally becomes part of the scheme of things.
Shamdat experiments with the narrative, stitching together multiple tracks using the necklace. But there is a lack of intrigue in the film; there is nothing that makes you hold your breath. The film, albeit revolving around many incidents of crime, isn’t edgy. There are a horde of characters in the film, but none of them are memorably impressive. The flashback portion that details the rivalry of the gangster and the police officer, lacks a punch.
Street Lights is no Kasaba or Masterpiece. It doesn’t use Mammootty as a machismo showpiece. His character, James, functions in plain situations of routine life. There is an instance where one of his subordinates suffers an injury during a police operation. In the next scene, you see James tending to his wounds, while recounting an incident from many years ago. Shamdat successfully gives James a human touch.
The megastar looks suave and at ease in the film, but Street Lights, ultimately, belongs to two lowly thieves, played by Hareesh Perumanna and Dharmajan Bolgatty, who find themselves trapped in a conundrum after they team up with a gangster in a burglary. They are genuinely funny, and they turn out to be the only factor that brings the audience close to the film.
Shamdat opens his film to a quote from Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights – “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” But his film fails to match up to the layered subtext of the quote. In long-shot, Street Lights is somewhere between a plain drama that can lull you to sleep, and an ambitious experiment that shouldn’t be ignored.
The Street Lights 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.
In Jeethu Joseph’s Aadhi, the element of music suffers from an existential crisis. The protagonist in Aadhi is a young musician in his early twenties. When we see him first, Aaditya Mohan aka Aadhi (Pranav Mohanlal) is on stage, playing guitar and singing a vintage beauty, Mizhiyoram, from Manjil Virinja Pookkal, the film that launched Pranav’s superstar father to the centre-stage of Malayalam cinema. Aadhi spends around the next 40 minutes of the film talking about his ambition to make it big in the field of film music, walking around with a guitar tied to his back, and brooding about a bleak future. There is a scene where he wakes up his mom at midnight, and excitedly makes her listen to a new composition. This striking presence of music in the narrative suddenly takes a hit when the film shifts gear to be a thriller.
The wayward son of a powerful business tycoon is dead, and Aadhi is the prime suspect. The tycoon’s henchmen start hounding him, and Aadhi has to go into hiding. Now, does it make sense to think that a young man, so much in love with music, would detach himself from it completely when a crisis strikes his life?
For a movie centered around a musician, Aadhi suffers from an awful dearth of good music. Jeethu Joseph uses music merely as an excuse to send Aadhi to the posh club in Bengaluru where the murder takes place. Any trace of the boy’s love for music is wiped away post the crime.
On paper, Aadhi is an edgy thriller that takes after Drishyam, which reinforced Jeethu’s image as a resident Arthur Conan Doyle. The focus isn’t on the whodunnit or whydunnit part of the crime, but on how the protagonist, accused of the crime, comes out clean. Arguably, the high-point of Drishyam was the moment of the big reveal – when we realise Georgekutty (Mohanlal) had a brilliant backup plan in case one of his family members breaks during the interrogation and spills the beans to the cops. Aadhi‘s script employs a similar ploy to create intrigue in the final moments. He devices plans and executes them like a professional with the help of his family and a bunch of new friends from a contrasting social backdrop. In Aadhi, the role of the protagonist’s parents is particularly interesting because our thrillers and action-dramas are traditionally ageist.
The brightest element of Aadhi is its lead actor, Pranav Mohanlal, who might fill the most unused pair of shoes in Malayalam cinema ever – of an actor who can perform stunt sequences beautifully, with the finesse of a gymnast. Pranav has the body language of an athlete. Look at him effortlessly somersaulting across the room, leaping from one terrace to another, perching precariously on the balconies of buildings, and doing stunts that can leave you breathless. He is swift, sleek and agile.
However, the film fails him. Jeethu Joseph’s old-school style of film-making isn’t familiar with an actor like Pranav whose immense potential as a stuntman with great acrobatic skills go underutilised. Melodrama often takes over the narrative, shrinking the film’s chances to be a smooth and stylised modern-day action-thriller. Cinematography and editing don’t really aid the stunt sequences that end up looking incoherent, wasting all those precious details in the men’s movement.
The story isn’t a tightly constructed one. The characterisation and the plot are steeped in mediocrity. For one, Aadhi is a terribly uni-dimensional character. He is a boy who has always lived among the highly privileged class. The early scene where he gloomily tells his friends that he can’t do a music video because he doesn’t have a couple of lakh of rupees, only comes off as a joke. The film tries to make humour out of the situation when this youngster has to move into an impoverished household. But the laugh is at the expense of the lower class; their lack of sophistication. Jeethu Joseph treats this part plainly, with the sensibility of a television soap writer, setting up the interiors lazily, and creating overtly dramatic scenes that reeks of phoniness.
The song sequence Gypsy Woman, which is a crucial part of the film, is shot like a lowly imitation of Bollywood’s club songs. The props, junior artistes and everything in the frame looks badly set up. The over-the-top enthusiasm of Anjana (Aditi Ravi), a former school-mate of Aadhi whom he just bumped into, doesn’t help either. The film has a new generation star who, in real life leads a hipster life (according to the humongous PR and media coverage on him); it’s a shame that the film’s understanding of the pop culture is laughably farce.
In spite of all these flaws, Aadhi will be remembered for Pranav and his parkour skills which can leave the audience awestruck. Jeethu Joseph manages to give him a context to perform like an expert in the action sequences, but falls short as a filmmaker. Aadhi isn’t a great improvement over his previous directorial Oozham where he first explored his love for hologram images and stunts inside highly-secured buildings. He continues to work like a pulp crime novelist – obsessed with plot ploys, but barely interested in the cinematic part of cinema.
The Aadhi 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.
Director G Ashok’s Bhaagamathie is centered around Chanchala (Anushka Shetty), an IAS officer who is serving a prison sentence for murdering her lover, a social activist. A little while into the film, she is introduced to the audience in a Kabali-sque scene in her prison cell from where she is whisked away at night by a team of CBI officers and cops, to a ruined palace in the middle of a jungle for interrogation in a high-profile robbery case. The place is known to be haunted by the spirit of Bhaagamathie, a princess who committed suicide inside the palace, rendering the majestic structure damned forever.
At first glance, Bhaagamathie is made up of every stereotypes in Telugu-Tamil cinema’s horror-drama genre. The story unfolds in a giant haunted structure. There are stories about kings, queens and an evil army general. The protagonist is a young woman who was betrayed by the people whom she wants to take revenge against. There are jumps that scare aplenty, and supporting characters who animatedly tremble in fear every now and then to evoke laughter. The story isn’t pitch-perfect; there are loopholes all over it.
But Bhaagamathie isn’t a snooze fest. Director G Ashok, manages to take diversions from the hackneyed tropes with the help of some impressive writing. It is no Aranmanai, Chandramukhi or Kanchana. It doesn’t have women whose sole contribution is some skin show and dialogues laced with sexual innuendos. The production design isn’t tacky, and the film’s cinematography by Madhi doesn’t follow comic book sensibilities. The interiors are lit up beautifully to aid the story-telling, without reducing the frames into a random splash of colours. And the film doesn’t aspire to be a conventional horror drama founded on theology. What solves the problems isn’t a pinch of vermilion, a ray of light from an idol’s eyes, or spells from a holy text. The film blends genres, borrows plot ideas from films such as Drishyam and Usual Suspects, and ends up as an imperfect, yet thoroughly entertaining drama.
Moreover, the film has a formidable lead actor who can actually act, not pretend to be one by unleashing a flux of inane comedy and over-the-top acting. There is hardly an actor – male or female – in Telugu cinema who has a better screen presence than Anushka Shetty whose performance here is gracefully restrained; even in the vital scene where she reveals her most ferocious form as an undead queen. The character’s backstory plays out reasonably well, helping you emotionally connect to the lead character, and root for her in her dramatic quest for vengeance that follows.
The head of the CBI team, Vaishnavi (Asha Shareth), wants Chanchala to spill some beans about her former boss, a Union minister with a foolproof track-record. However, Chanchala wouldn’t break, no matter how hard the cops or even the supernatural forces in the palace, try. At night, she wanders through the corridors of the palace, looking for clues, and is sometimes chased by an unknown force. The narrative is interestingly structured, with flashbacks playing out bit by bit. The main characters aren’t in shades of black and white. The film presents them in a grey light that hints that there is always something more to than what meets the eye.
Jayaram gets his best role in many years in Bhaagamathie, as Eeswar Prasad, a powerful politician whom you can’t really see through. His signature tendency to over-play expressions, work in favour of him here. The actor naturally belongs to melodrama. However, Chanchala’s relationship with Shakti (Unni Mukundan) is plain, and lazily written. It is essentially a gender role reversal of a tried and tested trope. She is a powerful bureaucrat, and he, a righteous social activist. They are like the lead pair of Ghajini – she comes across him indulging in noble acts, and falls for his kind and brave heart.
The secret to covering up the cliches and flaws in a conventional big-budget potboiler is to pace it intelligently; without letting its lead star to hog more light than it deserves. Interestingly, in an industry reigned by larger than life male superstars, it is an Anushka Shetty-starrer that manages to create one of the most entertaining films in this genre. In hindsight, Bhaagamathie isn’t a path-breaking film that breaks conventional style of film-making or narrates a rebellious story. But it uses the resources wisely, without under-estimating the importance of political correctness or the intellect of the audience.
The Bhaagamathie 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.
Jeethu Joseph claims to be unperturbed by the massive hype surrounding his latest film, Aadhi. Days before its release, he talks to us about his career, the aftermath of the stupendous success of Drishyam, and box-office numbers
Jeethu Joseph’s film career turned a decade old in 2017. The 45-year-old director has seen it all – hits, blockbusters, flops and average-grossers- in the last 10 years. He is a filmmaker to reckon with, someone who likes to make films out of his comfort zone, take risks and not play to the gallery. His oeuvre features films across genres – My Boss was an out-and-out comedy and Life Of Josutty was a slow-paced coming-of-age movie. But his heart seems to be in thrillers – Detective, Memories and Drishyam – set around incidents of crime.
Joseph’s next, Aadhi, launches Pranav Mohanlal, son of the superstar actor, in the lead. The project garnered enormous public attention as soon as it was announced in September 2016. The filming was utmost confidential, and the team never let out any stills or plot points. Reservations began a week ahead of the release date, January 26, and the star-progeny already has a number of fan associations in his name.
“I can’t really say what Aadhi is all about. It’s a mix of genres. It is about a young man who dreams about making a career in music. He gets into a huge crisis at one point. The film doesn’t have a conventional romantic track. I don’t want anyone to go in expecting a string of plot ‘twists’ or action sequences,” says the director.
“I had a story thread that I had been trying to develop into a screenplay for a long time. It is about a hardcore athlete who has specialised in a training discipline called Parkour. It demands great stamina. I had plans to do it in Hindi or Tamil because I knew it would be an expensive project. But when Appu (Pranav) came into the picture, I realised this character suited him very well. He is naturally athletic,” Joseph explains.
Joseph says he is unaffected by the massive hype that surrounds the project because of Pranav’s presence. “It is like working with any new artiste. One advantage is that every one is curious about the film, so you don’t have to do much to promote the film. My only worry was if I would meet the expectations of Mohanlal and his team. But, I’m relieved because he watched it and was rather happy about the movie.”
He continues: “Some sections of the audience will love it, others might not. It’s normal. There are people who prefer Memories to Drishyam, and vice versa. That’s not in my hands.”
Has Aadhi has been narrowed down to just a star-kid vehicle? Joseph vehemently disagrees. “It is not just a star and his fans that determine a film’s fate. I don’t claim the entire credit for any of my films. It belongs to the whole team. Mohanlal, Prithviraj, cinematographer Sujith Vasudev and everyone involved helped take the film to another level.”
He mentions Drishyam several times in our conversation. Unsurprising, for it is the film that changed his career arc and, to an extent, brought Malayalam cinema back to the national spotlight. The film was remade in four Indian languages, and it won acclaim everywhere for the novelty in its narrative, and intelligent plot points.
Thanks to Drishyam, Joseph is now a familiar name in Bollywood circles. “Ever since the success of Drishyam, I have been getting numerous offers from Bollywood. At one point, I met actress Deepika Padukone and came close to striking a deal with her. That project didn’t work out due to many reasons. In fact, my next project might be a small, humorous Hindi film, an official remake of a foreign film,” he says.
Joseph calls Drishyam a blessing as well as a burden that he is unable to get rid of. “It set a very high standard, and all my subsequent films were mercilessly compared to it. And, it did affect my projects. I wanted to break that mould, and made Life Of Josutty, a mellow film that had elements of fantasy. In one of the pre-release interviews, I said I was prepared to face a giant flop, and that’s what happened. People came in expecting a suspense thriller like Drishyam, and were disappointed. But till date, I get messages from another section of the audience, especially from those settled abroad, that they loved the movie, and were able to relate to it.”
Jeethu Joseph likes to keep himself updated about new technologies that aid filmmaking. “I keep trying to learn new developments in the field of graphics, cinematography and other technical departments. The advent of VFX has changed the face of cinema. But, a seamless graphics sequence takes a lot of money and effort. I have to strike a balance between budget restrictions and my aspirations. Aadhi has some VFX shots that the script necessitated,” he says.
Life Of Josutty had several VFX portions that were worked on for over a year. “Call it my bad luck. During the making, a short circuit corrupted whatever we had worked on, and we had to go ahead with inferior quality work, done in a haste,” he says.
Joseph claims to be an average writer. “That said, it is the writing part of films that I enjoy the most,” he adds. “But these days, I hardly get the time to sit down peacefully and write a script. There are a lot of distractions. I travel a lot on work; meetings and discussions on various projects take up my time,” he says. “If you have a great script, you can make it big in the industry smoothly. Screenwriters are always in demand. Everyone – actors, directors, and producers – are constantly looking for good scripts that have become rare to find,” he says.
Joseph doesn’t like to stick to one genre. He wants to experiment, without falling into an image trap. But, conditions apply. “This industry is a source of livelihood for many. One of my priorities is to make sure that the producer doesn’t incur a loss. When a film breaks even at the box-office, I am relieved. I don’t worry about remaining millions and crores it might go on to make. That’s not a big deal,” he says.
“I know a majority in the film industry consider box-office success as the most important thing. But, there are films that didn’t win big commercially, yet earned a lot of love. Guppy, for instance, wasn’t a commercial success. But what a beautiful film it is! Similarly, not all the films that end up making good money at the box-office are necessarily good films.”
Every time a superstar film is released, the fans go into a frenzy, comparing box-office figures that are, sometimes, made up for the sake of winning a social media argument. Jeethu Joseph says he is not social media savvy, and isn’t bothered about fan fights. “What good does this mud-slinging do to anyone?” he asks. “Sometimes, the fans even manage to destroy a good film.”
At this stage of his career, Joseph hardly faces any difficulty in finding producers, or even actors. However, there is something that bothers him about the attitude of the actors. “I have issues with the way some of our actors respond when I approach them with a script. I want them to be frank, and tell me to my face if they aren’t interested. Instead, they evade calls and, sometimes, don’t even read the screenplay that I send. That’s not how artistes should behave.”
The Jeethu Joseph interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.
Director Sugeeth belongs to a category of filmmakers who believe that the only aim of cinema is to keep the audience – who would have otherwise spent their time sleeping or staring at the wall – engaged for two-and-a-half hours. That way, his debut directorial, Ordinary, had stayed loyal to its title. It was plain and old-school, and used every known cliché in Indian cinema to narrate the story. Shikkari Shambu, Sugeeth’s fifth film, is not any different in style or quality. Worse, most of the plot points are uncannily similar.
Starring Kunchakko Boban, Vishnu Unnikrishnan and Hareesh Kanaran in the lead roles, the film is a comedy-drama set in a forest hamlet where a man-eating tiger is on the prowl. The panchayat is looking for a skilled hunter to end the tiger menace, and what they get are three thieves in the guise of famed hunters. One of them, Achu (Vishnu Unnikrishnan), falls in love with the daughter of a panchayat member, and taking a leaf out of Malayalam cinema’s stalker’s guide, he starts following her wherever she goes. In a particularly creepy moment, he takes a bite of a sweetmeat in front of her, and throwing a flirtatious glance at her, comments, “Delicious! I love it.” The girl, nevertheless, reciprocates his feelings after a couple of scenes. His friend, Peeli (Kunchakko Boban), is smitten by a girl, Anita (Shivada). She is beautiful, and we know she is bold because she works at a local butcher’s shop, makes and sells country arrack, and carries a dagger all the time. One day, she confronts the three con men for they duped her mother of some money. She pulls out the dagger, and demands that they pay the money back. Peeli, who is head over heels in love with her, tackles her, throws away the dagger, ridicules her, and makes her feel powerless before handing over the money. The filmmaker has a rather creepy, yet not completely unusual, way of portraying romance.
The third thief, played Hareesh Kanaran, has the sole job of cracking comic one-liners and accompanying the other two men in their various exploits. However, he turns out to be the best element of Shikkari Shambu. Hareesh is effortlessly funny. Kunchakko Boban, who is usually a neat performer, is forced to play a traditional hero with exaggerated machismo; clearly not the actor’s forte.
The visuals might remind one of vernacular comic books, unreasonably colourful and bright, tailor-made for primary school children. But there is no reason to believe that the comic influence in the title as well as the camerawork are well thought-out decisions because the film uses double innuendos aplenty. For a comedy entertainer, Shikkari Shambu isn’t impressively funny either. The film limits humour to funny one-liners; situations and story points are bland and dry.
Sugeeth’s film plays to the gallery, careful enough to not think out of the box. It is purely market-driven, vehemently follows the rules of an old, regressive text book, and desperately tries not to be a part of the revolution. Shikkari Shambu is a forgettable film that doesn’t work even as a weekend pastime.
The Shikkari Shambu 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.
In cinematographer-filmmaker Venu’s Carbon, a young man from the city takes refuge in a dense rainforest to escape a bunch of loan sharks. His stint as a caretaker in a dilapidated palace in the wilderness is far from pleasant. The woods loom large over him like a giant. The remoteness of the place terrifies him. Sounds of the jungle keep him awake during nights. But what intrigues him the most is the mythical tale of an ancient treasure trove hidden somewhere inside the forest, guarded by an army of the ‘undead’. The ancient myth warns that those who go in search of the treasure will never return alive, but the man is determined to give it a try.
Carbon is an immersive cinematic experience. One of the hardest feelings to contain, when you walk out of the cinema hall after watching the film, is the urge to leave society behind and embrace the wild. The imagery of nature, shot by veteran cinematographer KU Mohanan, is breathtaking and poetic. The film’s music, designed by Vishal Bhardwaj and Bijibal, creates the perfect mystic ambiance for an allegorical tale to unfold.
In Venu’s previous directorial Munnariyippu, the lead character was a man, CK Raghavan (Mammootty), shrouded in enigma. It was the audience’s task to decipher him – to interpret his acts and thoughts. In Carbon, the protagonist is a confused man, desperately trying to make sense of his own psyche.
One of the biggest assets of Carbon is its sharp and restrained sense of humour. The film doesn’t let itself drown in a flux of solemn self-importance – a dreary trap that many films with similar themes inescapably fall into. It has a hearty laugh at the greed and vanity of modern man, and the absurdities of current politics. The protagonist’s efforts to bypass the struggles of adulthood by making some quick-money, becomes fodder for some good cringe-comedy in the first half.
Unfortunately, the film turns bleak in the final portions where the narrative starts groping in the dark without a sense of direction. The sheen of humour is lost, and the spiritual quest of the protagonist culminates in a patchy dud.
The characterisation of the protagonist, Sibi Sebastian (Fahadh Faasil), is finely written. When we see him first, he is trying to sell an emerald to an opulent business man. When they are close to striking a deal, he reveals that the stone is not in his possession. Later, he gets obsessed with a tantalising treasure that no one has ever really seen. Does he have anything in hand at all, other than his never-say-die attitude? Sibi doesn’t mind lying through his teeth, and emotionally manipulating people for his needs. He isn’t extraordinarily intelligent or courageous. Venu has managed to retain a consistency in Sibi’s nature throughout the film, never succumbing to the urge to bring in a radical transformation to his character.
It takes an exceptionally talented actor to play this role believably, and also garner the audience’s affection and sympathies. Fahadh Faasil brings out the subtle slyness in Sibi beautifully, without ever going over the top. He internalizes the mental and physical trauma that Sibi undergoes, and even in the final lacklustre sequences, he manages to hold the film together to a large extent. There is a moment in which he imagines robbing a bank like a professional, while passing by it. Inside his head, he is a movie hero, dexterously pointing a pistol at employees and customers at the bank, tackling anyone who tries to stop him. Amused by this day dream, he laughs an animated laugh. It’s a brief moment which could have easily gone unnoticed, if not for Fahadh. The actor fleshes out the role with such marvelous detailing.
Carbon isn’t a survival thriller like 127 Hours or Into The Wild. Its aspirations lie elsewhere. When the protagonist comes face to face with the fierce forest, the film turns its focus on his reflections on life which come as memory flashes and hallucinations. The journey he embarks on and the characters he encounters don’t amount to a redemptive, life-altering arc. It isn’t about surviving the fatal trek, but about a spiritual quest that goes beyond life and death.
The film attempts to walk a tight rope between fantasy and reality. Myths passed on from one generation to another, about headless soldiers roaming the forest, are impressively recounted. There is a spine-chilling dream sequence that foreshadows the dangerous quest Sibi will soon undertake. In moments of hallucination, he watches his woman companion turn into a form of nature that would herald his journey.
One of the most striking sequences in the film is the one where Sibi goes to an old feudal residence to deal the family’s pet elephant. The matriarch of the house (Praveena) greets him and informs him that the owner of the beast, her father, is inside, bed-ridden. She sits on a chair across him, and explains to him the features of the animal and the legalities of the deal. Her towering presence slightly unsettles him, and when he leaves the house, the mahout of the elephant reveals to him a secret that will haunt him forever. Somewhere in the middle of the sequence, there is a line that separates reality from dreams, but you never really see it. The mahout will later reappear before Sibi in the latter’s bout of hallucination, looking for an invisible elephant in the forest.
Mamta Mohandas’s Sameera is an impressive character. A little while into the film, she enters, driving her Gypsy into the porch of the building where Sibi lives. We don’t get a glimpse of her face at first. She walks straight into the house, and the camera hastily follows her as she goes from one room to another. She always takes the lead, and the film never lets you have a complete understanding of her, other than what is apparent. She is smart, confident and self-reliant; a perfect foil to Sibi. There is a subtle gender role reversal in the film. It is presented astutely, without making a statement. His head is full of muddled thoughts, while she seems to have greater clarity on life. Most importantly, the film doesn’t treat her as an object of desire. The only object of desire in the film is the evasive treasure trove.
Having said that, Mamta’s obvious sophisticated urbane looks takes away the credibility of the character which is supposedly that of a survivalist. There is no blotch or smudge on her skin that can speak for her ‘jungle junkie’ lifestyle. Mamta has an athletic physique, but she doesn’t really resemble Sameera.
Carbon‘s tagline says, “Ashes And Diamonds”, and the film ends on a point somewhere between these two. It is neither an extraordinary feat nor a forgettable, inconsequential work. In his third outing as director, Venu has greater grip over his distinct style of narration. But you can’t get rid of the feeling that the film is sketchy; as though there are loose ends to be tied together to get that perfect film. What saves the day is Fahadh Faasil who proves yet again that he is one of the few finest artistes in Indian cinema with a rare capacity to make up for the flaws in the writing part. It is unfair to compare him to vintage Mohanlal, for the two actors have thoroughly different acting styles. Fahadh is quintessentially new generation; the part of an era that doesn’t require superstars, but talented actors who can be anything on screen – flawed, perfect or plain trivial.
The Carbon 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.
In AltBalaji’s latest web-series, The Test Case, directed by Vinay Waikul and Nagesh Kukunoor, the protagonist is Shikha Sharma (Nimrat Kaur), the first woman commando enrolled in the Special Forces Training Centre. She has to fight two tough battles simultaneously. One for the country, to fight the enemy at the border. The other battle is the most important and the hardest one; against the patriarchal mindsets within the Army fold.
The trailer shows her being mocked as ‘Military Barbie’, and being pushed to the edges physically and mentally. From the first looks of it, this series might make up for the countless sexist television soaps Balaji Productions churned out all these years.
The only other woman in the trailer, apart from Kaur, is Juhi Chawla, who plays Shraddha Pandit, the minister of defence who calmly states that if a man is willing to undergo any torture for his nation, a woman can do that too. According to the minister, Shikha is the government’s ‘test case’; the sample that represents the many millions of women in the country, and the generations to come. The trailer hints that there might be more to the story than a lone woman’s struggles inside a misogynist space. Questions are raised on if Shikha is being played, or if it is she who is playing the men. The trailer ends with her voice-over, “There is just one hero in my story. That’s me.”
Kaur’s acting seems flawless, and she looks the part – athletic and natural. Other cast members include Akshay Oberoi, Atul Kulkarni, Rahul Dev and Sumit Suri. The series will be available on the streaming platform AltBalaji from January 26. The pilot episode is already on the website, released in May 2017.
Twenty-one-year-old Nimisha Sajayan, the face of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum and Eeda – two critically-acclaimed and successful films – isn’t sure if she wants to make cinema her career. I’m aware of an actresses’s limitations in the industry, she says
In one of the most telling scenes in Dileesh Pothan’s Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (2017), a young girl, nervously waiting at a police station to retrieve her stolen gold chain, confronts a defiant suspect in a sudden fit of rage. “Stop lying,” she snaps, looking straight into his eyes. The next moment, a senior police constable shouts her down, and she shudders. The girl and her husband are in a place where they know no one. Their only prized possession, the chain, is gone, and now, the hope she had invested in the police has taken a hit. Quietly, she walks back to the chair.
Those watching this scene are bound to be affected by the extraordinary acting of the artistes on screen. Fahadh Faasil and Alencier, who play the conman and cop respectively, are seasoned actors, but the one whose performance towers over them is that of 21-year-old debut actor, Nimisha Sajayan’s (playing the girl). She delivers an equally stunning performance in Eeda, which hit the screens a couple of weeks back.
Both films that Nimisha has been a part of are commercial films with a difference; they are sternly political and don’t follow the irrational masala recipe of Indian mainstream cinema. Sreeja, Nimisha’s character in Thondimuthal, isn’t a feeble shadow of the male protagonist, but is a well-etched out role with a fair screen-space. In Eeda, she plays Aishwarya, a young girl fighting for love in strife-torn Kannur. She is there in most of the scenes in the film. Her restrained and mature acting is a delight to watch.
Basking in the fresh success of Eeda, Nimisha, who was born and raised in Mumbai, is currently in Kochi – her new home. Her Malayalam isn’t perfect, a little broken here and there. “I have promised myself that I will dub for my character from the next film. Only then, I will be able to take complete credit for my performance,” she declares. In fact, she had nearly lost Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum due to this language limitation. “During the first audition, Dileeshettan told me they were looking for an actress who can speak Malayalam fluently. Luckily, I landed the project after three rounds of audition. They were happy with my performance and looks,” she says.
Eeda was co-produced by Rajeev Ravi who cranked the camera for Thondimuthal. Nimisha regards Dileesh and Rajeev as her mentors. It was Rajeev Ravi who recommended Nimisha to B Ajithkumar; Eeda was in the pre-production stages then. “They are the people I reach out to when I hit a dead-end. I feel blessed to have been introduced to the film industry by them,” she says.
There are no apparent similarities between Nimisha and the characters she has done so far. Both Sreeja and Aishwarya are small-towners caught in complex social situations that Nimisha cannot really relate to. “I can put up a fight for what I believe is right, but I might never do what Aishwarya does for love. She is so strong in love,” says Nimisha. “Although I have never met women like them in my life, I try to empathise with them, and derive inspiration from that.”
“My approach to acting is that I try to understand the characters and act like them. I don’t want my characters to look like me. I try to talk and behave like Aishwarya. I try to be a different person altogether. My friends say my characters do not resemble me at all. I try to bring that difference to the body language too – in the way I walk or swing my arms,” she says.
Nimisha says she has the ability to detach herself from her character the moment the camera stops rolling. She cites the opening sequence of Eeda when Aishwarya and Anand (Shane Nigam) have a bitter exchange of words. A stranger, he offers to take her home on a hartal day, but she is barely grateful. Laughing out, Nimisha says, “I really wondered why she did that to the poor guy who was only trying to help her.” This talent comes handy when working in films such as Eeda where the mood is intense and dark most of the time.
“It was at the preview show that I first watched the whole film. Only then I realised how impressive this character is,” she says. One of her favorite scenes in Eeda is the one in which Shane’s Anand climbs on to the balcony of Aishwarya’s house at midnight, to meet her. That is when you really know how close these two young people are, she says. “I particularly like the dialogue I say in this scene – ‘ne ente koode illenkilum jeevichirikkille.. athu mathi’ [We may not get to live together, but, if you are alive and safe, I will be happy]”
The scene that is garnering a lot of appreciation from the audience is the one that features Aishwarya on her wedding night; she locks herself inside a washroom in the groom’s house and phones her cousin to say she can’t live without Anand. “I cried watching that scene in the theatre,” she says.
Ajithkumar had given her a rough idea of Kannur’s political situation. “I still don’t know anything other than what he said. I grew up in Mumbai, and I don’t know much about Kerala’s politics,” she says. The director let his actors freely improvise during the shot. “Shane and I would discuss and come up with ideas on how to perform a scene. Sometimes, we would give each other suggestions on individual scenes. If Ajithettan found anything particularly wrong, he would tell us,” she says
As a child, Nimisha auditioned for commercials in Andheri. “My mom used to accompany me to the auditions. I used to be a tomboy then, with close-cropped hair and all that,” she laughs. “I still have a video from when I was in fourth standard; I would face the camera and introduce myself. As a teenager, I was blessed enough to be in a school where I was immensely encouraged to take part in cultural activities. My principal was very fond of me, and used to tell my mother that I was good at dancing and acting. She asked my mother to never stop supporting my artistic talents. By the end of school, I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t ever end up doing a 9 to 5 desk job,” she says.
Nimisha adds that she doesn’t worry about the future these days. “I like to go with the flow. When I spotted the casting call for Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, I sent my photographs, not expecting to get selected. Earlier, I had unsuccessfully auditioned for Poomaram.” She has already signed two other films – actor-director Madhupal’s Oru Kuprasidha Kallan in which she is paired opposite Tovino Thomas, and Soumya Sadanandan’s debut feature film in which Kunchakko Boban is her co-star. “We play a married couple in Sou’s film,” she says.
Sometime recently, Nimisha collaborated with photographer Cyril Syriac, for his project, Draupadi, a series of 30 photographs that portray the angst of a mother who loses her daughter to a rapist. She had to perform the concept and not just pose for still photographs. Cyril captured the moments from the performance, and made it into a marvelous photo story.
She describes that work as a contribution on her part to the women community across the world. “I am aware that women in cinema across the world are going through a crucial phase. I have great hopes for the Women In Cinema Collective (WCC). I have never been through a bad experience in the industry, but I am happy that such a group for women exists here,” she says.
She was one of the few women on the sets of Thondimuthal. “Making Thondimuthal was one of the sweetest periods in my life,” she says. “Everyone made extra efforts to ensure that I was feeling comfortable. I didn’t face an unsettling word or gesture from anyone,” she says.
Nimisha is an undergraduate student of mass-communication. “I have enrolled in a college in Kochi. I had to leave my course in Mumbai after I started working in films.”
She is yet to consider cinema as a long-term career. “For me, acting is a hobby. I am having a lot of fun doing it. I am aware of an actress’s limitations in this industry, so I don’t really know if it is possible to make it a long-term career. Certainly, I wish to get more films like Thondimuthalum and Eeda, and characters that stand the test of time,” she says.
The Nimisha Sajayan interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.