Saturday, December 19, 2009

Paleri Manikyam

This movie by Renjith gets a grade of 7 out of 10. “What is the relevance of this now?” This question crops up in the second half and the reply starts with “It is a reminder…”
That nearly explains the purpose of the movie.

The movie is based on a book by T. P. Rajeevan (which I have not read) and is concerned with the brutal rape and murder (given away by the diffident subtitle Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha or Midnight Murder Story) of Manikyam, a young beautiful low-caste woman. This crime happens in a village called Paleri in 1957. And now, 52 years later, a detective obsessed with this unsolved mystery reopens the case.

Though the movie is supposed to be a detective story, the pieces of the puzzle fall too easily into place, and it might be more appropriate and fulfilling to view the movie without any expectation of suspense. In fact, the investigation is narrated just like a documentary.

This movie unfortunately has only one main actor: Mammootty in a triple role. As the detective, he does not have to do much. As the rich landowner and main suspect Ahmed Haji, he is wonderful. In fact, the director seems to have done very well in capturing the period of the crime rather than the present era. The same might be said of the screenplay which is mostly good. Surely, the crime analyst if not the extra-marital affair is superfluous. Sreenivasan and Siddique put in a cameo performance. The rest including Shweta Menon and Mythili try well and some if not most are convincing. The photography and sound are fine – maybe, the loud heart-thumping orchestra could have been replaced by something more subtle, edgy and diabolic.

To my favourite question: will I watch the movie again? Yes. There are lots to savour: a low caste woman watching her helpless husband being killed like you would stamp and kill a centipede; the killing of the young woman with the command “go and silence her”. It is ironical to hear the detective express a view about extra-marital affairs and infidelity “to possess that of another” and a villain exclaiming “why does she have to cross my path and raise all kinds of bad thoughts”.

As mentioned earlier, this movie is an apt reminder. Does it matter whether it is the 50’s or this millennium? The influence of power over the helpless and the weak, sex crimes, willful suppression of facts related to a crime and the list goes on. Déjà vu, right? It is tough not to echo the words in the movie “I do not have ideology nor faith.”

(N.B. The quotes might not be entirely correct – I had to recollect from memory and worse, I had to translate.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fare Thee Well (Or, After Reading Larkin Before Breakfast)

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
(from Aubade)

I wish I had a hangover when I read these lines – not at four, but at a healthy six after four hours of sleep. I do not have time to think of death. Each day, I procrastinate and postpone my rebirth. A confirmed anti-social in social networking sites – I love it. A click works faster than cyanide - I can vaporize from the Net into jumbled senseless bytes.

The narcissistic Net! It is freedom for the middle-class – biggest revolution after the all-purpose nightdress; cure for mid-life crisis, release of angst, to forget snail mail to agony aunts and/or editors, to cook up news (damn it, the quizmaster says that it is not North East West South but Naughty Entertainment Woolly Stories) and, of course, to contact old best-forgotten pals and compare visiting cards.

Aubade means “A song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak.” Or, “A poem or song of or about lovers separating at dawn.”

Enough of that, I flipped the page.

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(from Annus Mirabilis)

Each generation prays for paradigm shifts! But, it is usually as Yogi Berra said “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Science and technology might have paradigm shifts. But, in human thought? We will not allow Hussain and his naked goddess; fortunately, we did not have to create Ardhanarisvara. It would have offended some manoos and a gutless government would have been ready to ban. After all, for longevity and success, it is better to be “nice people with commonsense”. If you take MBA (hurry, you can still appear for the CAT tomorrow), they will teach you to be that minus ethics. As for me, I vaguely remember Isabel Allende saying in a TED talk “Nice people with commonsense do not make interesting characters – they only make good former spouses.

For those who really long for longevity and success, there are two things to do in life: create a new word and compose a memorable epitaph. Nothing else will remain. Learn from quantum, boojum, defriend, tweet, blog, skype. If the word is really good, you can bring out an IPO. If not, you can always blame your parents with:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
(from This Be The Verse)

I have procrastinated enough for a day. I have a version of the old Hindi song which starts something like “angrezi mein kehta hai ke fare thee well”.

Friday, December 4, 2009


This movie by Padmarajan gets 7.5 out of 10. With the dearth of decent movies (released from any Wood – Holly/Molly/Kolly/Bolly/Tolly), a movie buff can either sit and cry or rummage through old storage boxes for a CD/DVD of a classic – like this one from 1988.

The story revolves around a case of mistaken identity involving a decent youth from a lower middle-class close-knit family and a look-alike who is an orphan and a hardened criminal. Jayaram makes his debut in this movie – excellent performance and I would not be too surprised if the great director had a big role to play in that also.Along with Jayaram, we have a host of well-thought-out characters (with Madhu, Sukumari, Parvathy, Soman, Mukesh, Sobhana and other excellent actors).

With this genre of suspense, one usually has the lurking problem/doubt: have I seen this story elsewhere? It does not matter. In this two-hour long movie, there is hardly any flab and there are many scenes you will remember for a long time: from the play with shadows and reflections to the smile on Jayaram’s face in the last scene.

This movie comes from an era in Malayalam cinema when the heroes were men and not supermen, and the Malayalam movie/actors/directors did not resemble their counterparts from the neighbouring states. This movie could compete with some of the best in the crime/suspense genre in Malayalam cinema, and to name just three of my favourites: Yavanika (with the superb Gopi), Kariyila Kattu Pole, Ee Thanutha Veluppan Kalathu (the last two also from Padmarajan as writer or director).

Keep these in mind when you want to watch a decent movie with your family rather than waste grey cells and lots of money on trash.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The movie deserves a grade of 7 out of 10. There are two main themes: (a) writing, writer’s block and a Muse and (b) clarion call to end differences based on religion, begging for human kindness and against cruelty such as terrorism. Here, I will not let out any spoilers regarding the story or plot (available from other sources with a simple Google search I am sure). Most probably, I have given an extra point because I am biased towards writing. Also, I enjoyed the movie and I will watch it again on another night when I want to relax and think alone.

The first theme is the dream of a lot of dreamers – from school kids to geniuses in the creative world – of a Muse who crosses one’s path and inspires. At times, the Muse might bring love and reciprocate one’s own affection; sometimes, without personal attachment but with just their presence and the right words at the right time, creativity breaks free from any yoke or block; and, for some the Muse remains just an ill-defined spirit.

The second theme is about terrorism. It is now not just a headline about something that happens to others in faraway places. It happens to us and those close to us. It has two main goals: to terrorize, cause suffering and attract attention; and, to create large-scale friction in society via misunderstanding and labels such as religion and to fragment the society. This movie tries to raise a voice against these cowardly acts of terrorism and its goals.

This movie by Renjith is uncomplicated, pleasant and refreshing; and tries to deliver the message without guile and through simplicity. The simplicity of the movie might be its failing, too. I might be ready to excuse simple plots and average visuals, but I need at least one full-blooded character. Maybe, I am just being cynical. Mammootty and Khushboo have done very well on their own (are they too restrained one wonders); with Mukesh, Mammu Koya and others giving excellent support. I liked the background music and the discussions about writing.

This is not a new movie and thankfully, Moser Baer has brought out a CD/DVD of this movie.