Category Archives: cinema

The Oldest Son

Beautiful Korean movie “The Oldest Son” (1984) starring Shin Sheong-Il, Tae-Hyun-Sil, Kim Il-hae and directed by Lee Doo-young.

Its a moving family movie around the love between parents and their children, and the responsibilities of the oldest son towards his parents and his family members.

The eldest son is the ideal one, studied well, and working in a top position in a company, with a family to boot including a perennially nagging wife who is always complaining about this and that. There is another son who is a do nothing sort of person and a third son who is quite young and dating a waitress.

The parents are forced to live in Seoul because their ancestral home has been washed away in the floods, so they are like forced to stay in one of the children houses. There is always the family tension, expenses, wife beating, children crying etc. to deal with.

The story is somewhat similar to the Tokyo Story made in 1954, which was an iconic film. The ending is quite beautiful and poignant. Makes one feel for the love between parents and children, its quite beautifully shown.

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Grizzly Man

Award winning documentary by director Werner Herzog about the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell.

Timothy spent about 13 years in Katmai National Park & Reserve, Alaska and he believed it was his life mission to protect bears. He went close enough to the bears to almost touch them and he started behaving like bears.

The documentary uses Timothy’s own footage with the bears almost upto the last few hours before his death. He and his girl friend Annie Huguenard were mauled to death by a bear with whom Timothy was ostensibly friendly.

There were few voices in the documentary which questioned his madness and lot many speaking admiringly of him. The documentary is a combination of narration with interviews and of course the live footage from Timothy’s camera. Timothy was living in the wilderness with two foxes as his pets and so there were people saying don’t disrupt mother nature’s ways. Interesting documentary, but a bit too long, i thought.

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The Trouble with Harry

Delightfully nice comedy film “The Trouble with Harry” directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring John Forsythe, Shirley Maclaine among others.

A corpse is found in a small village and the story revolves around it. At first it is an unknown corpse but later it is revealed to be the husband of Jenifer Rogers (Shirley Maclaine) who did’nt have a good relationship with her husband. Another story is narrated by Miss Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick) who says she accidentally killed him when the man Harry tried to drag her into the bushes. Meanwhile Capt. Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) thinks he has accidentally killed him with his shotgun whilst shooting for rabbits.

In comes Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) who sort of neatly ties everything in, though he is not a cop. In the process of finding about Harry, couple of relationships gets formed.

Its a nice delectable little comedy movie made by Alfred Hitchcock. There is always a suspense when Hitchcock is around and that is served aplenty. Shirley Maclaine has done a good role, this being her debut film. IMDB 6/10

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Brilliant award winning Malayalam movie “Bharatham” (1991) starring Mohanlal, Nedumadi Venu, Urvashi among others. Directed by Sibi Malayil its a major tour de force in Malayalam cinema. Its a musical drama film with lot of pathos infused into the story.

Gopi (Mohanlal) is a carnatic musician taken tutelage from his elder brother Raman (Nedumadi Venu). Elder brother gets involved into drinks and spoils a few performances where his younger brother shines. Younger brother takes over the musical lineage resulting in jealousy and family recriminations.

The script by Lohithdas is quite strong. Elder brother does not get invited to the famous Coimbatore music festival where Mohanlal shines again and elder bro comes on stage and hands over the family heirloom to him and disappears.

Meanwhile they have a speech impaired sister whose marriage is fixed and that needs to take place vis a vis the tragedy with the elder brother to be discovered. Mohanlal has given a magnificent performance befitting the national award for best actor bestowed on him. He is mesmerizingly brilliant, a kind of understated elegance in his acting. I think he is probably the most all around actor in Indian cinema today, having played so many kind of roles with élan and class.

Lakshmi as the wife of the elder brother has also essayed a brilliant role, Nice to see her in action after her brief stint in Hindi cinema. Other actors are all okay to good. Beauty of the movie is the music by Raveendran and Johnson and the singing by KJ Yesudas. It is quite simply breathtaking to say the least. He has shattered the roof and more with his rendition of classical music. Quite simply brilliant. IMDB 9/10

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Award winning Malayalam movie “Kireedam” (1989) starring Mohanlal, Thilakan, Sankarady among others.

Sethu (Mohanlal) is an unemployed son of his father (Thilakan) who is a police constable an upright one for that matter. Father catches a no gooder son of a MLA who has parked in the wrong lane and has to pay the price for honesty by being transferred to a notorious criminal district.

Son writes the police exam and passes all levels with flying colours. There in the new district, Father catches a notorious criminal out to harass common people and trashes him in full public view. Upon seeing this, the criminal’s friend joins in action and starts beating the father. This Mohanlal could not bear to see and he in turn trashes both the criminals black and blue.

And that starts a chain of events which takes us to the rest of the movie. Plenty of drama and action in the movie. Thankfully, the Director has kept the script tight.

Mohanlal has acted quite brilliantly in an under stated elegant sort of way without any histrionics. But the real star of the movie is Thilakan, the father who is absolutely magnificent with all his emotions as a father and as an inspector beautifully displayed. IMDB 8/10

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Award winning Malayalam movie “Amaram” (1991) starring Mammootty, Mathu, Ashokan among others.

The movie is set in the fishing community of Kerala and for that Mammootty adopts that lingo spoken by the fisher community of an area. He is a poor fisherman with a small daughter to look after after the wife dies of medical neglect in his small village. So he vows to make his daughter a doctor.

Daughter Mathu does well in the school scoring top of the charts until she falls in love with her neighbour Ashokan who is a 6th standard drop out and fisherman to boot with no imagination on the higher studies level. Conflict arises between father and daughter on that issue and how it is dealt with forms major part of the movie.

Luckily there are no sub plot to divert attention like it happens in Malayalam movies. The Director Bharathan has kept the narrative neat and simple. It is the cinematography by Madhu Ambat which is breath taking to say the least, Every single frame is a visual beauty. Much kudos to him. Its a brilliant effort.

Power packed performances by Mammootty and Murali as his one time close friend turned rival. KJ Yesudas blows everybody away with his powerful singing which is magnificent to say the least. Music score by Johnson is also good. IMDB 7/10

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Brilliant Malayalam award winning “Thanmathra” starring Mohanlal, Meera Vasudevan, among others.

Rameshan (Mohanlal in a brilliant role) is a government employee happy with his small family of wife and two kids. He starts getting memory lapses that progresses into more severe problems and embarrassment for him and family. Finally it is diagnosed as Alzheimer with no cure (as usual in movies – diseases have no cure at all).

How the family copes up with his situation and how he degenerates slowly and slowly makes up for the rest of the movie. Mohanlal has done a super role as the affected person though i thought with a better director, he could have been made to go down still lower and bring out his best.

Of the supporting cast, Nedumadi Venu as the father of Mohanlal has essayed a brilliant role as the distraught father and Meera Vasudevan as the grieving wife. IMDB 6/10

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Njan Prakashan

Brilliant rip roaring Malayalam comedy movie “Njan Prakashan” starring Fahadh Faasil, Sreenivasan among others.

Prakashan (Fahadh Faasil) has studied as a male nurse but is reluctant to work as one in Kerala where his status will be felt. He cooks up excuse to somehow go abroad. He meets his old flame Salomi (Nikhila Vimal) who is apparently working as a nurse in Germany and that sets him up with a crooked plan.

He is fleecing Salomi not knowing that she is also working on him diligently to somehow get abroad. The crooked game gets exposed when she goes abroad and marries a German citizen there. Dispirited Prakashan has cheated on many including Sreenivasan to get that money and has to repay.

Here the movie takes a turn from comedy to tragi comedy with Prakashan entrusted with the nursing of a 10 year old girl who is suffering from rare form of disease for which there is no cure, apparently. I guess this happens only in movies. Anyway, the transition to tragi comedy is quite smooth. Anyway Prakashan gets cosy with another girl in that neighbourhood, but the tragedy comes in between.

Absolutely masterful acting by Fahadh Faasil, he lights up the movie entirely on his own shoulders. The female characters, Nikhila Vimal and Anju Kurian are cute and reasonably well acted. Good to see KPAC Lalitha in a senior role and of course Sreenivasan in his usual trade mark style of acting. Brilliant movie to watch, IMDB 8/10

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Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal

Brilliant award winning Malayalam movie “Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal” starring Mohanlal, Shari, Thilakan among others.

Its a story set in Mysore where Solomon (Mohanlal) comes to visit his mother from his farm in Kerala. On one such visit he finds a couple of girls in the neighbourhood. His interest piqued, he finds out about Sofia (Shari in a brilliant role) and falls for her.

The more he knows about her, being an illegal child of an unwed mother with a rogue for a step father Paul Palliokaran (Thilakan in an absolutely menacing and brilliant acting). Things happen between them, heats up, the rogue rapes his own step daughter. Rogue does not want his step daughter to marry this guy, as he has already agreed to a proposal from somebody else and taken their advantage.

Things come to an end with Mohanlal managing to squirt her away despite the rogue’s obstinacy, her other family members are happy and so are the Mohanlal family members.

Director Padmarajan has kept a tight script (his own script) and it got some award for cinematography as well. Shari of course deservedly won a couple of best acting awards as well. She was too good in the movie. Mohanlal as usual is quite believable in his role. IMDB 6/10

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Ponthan Mada

Award winning Malayalam movie “Ponthan Mada” starring Mammootty, Naseeruddin Shah among others.

It is based on the caste conflict in the 1940s between a low caste do gooder Ponthan Mada (Mammootty) and a high caste gentry Naseeruddin Shah who is basically a British subject but outlawed by them for being part of the IRA at that time. He is lonely and forlorn here in India and develops an unlikely friendship with Ponthan Mada.

The conversation between the two of them takes place strangely, Naseer from his house windows and Mada from atop a swaying palm tree. Mada marries a woman but another guy takes a liking to him and whisks her away and Mada has no courage to do anything about it.

Mada as a character is shown as subdued, frightened, voiceless sort of and the story is told in flashback when another family descends on the same house in which Naseer had stayed and they have one bad luck after another. The girl of the house is forced to marry another guy when all she wants to do is study further. The typical conflict arises between them – her aspirations vs the orthodoxy of the family and the poverty facing them. Mada is again unable to help her.

Overall Mammootty is absolutely brilliant in his role as Ponthan Mada, he is almost unrecognisable but Naseer character is totally ludicrous and out of place.

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Pierre Boulez

Documentary on the life and times of Pierre Boulez, French composer, conductor, writer and founder of several music institutions.

Since Pierre was a contemporary musician (well almost), there were lot of video footages of him giving sound bytes at various times of his life and career. Interesting to know his views on various subject, including his contempt for musical institutions like the philharmonics.

There is no discussion about his personal life, marriage, kids at all and even wikipedia does not dwell too much on that aspect. So he played musical instruments, wrote several of them and conducted also at several occasions. A sort of a complete music master.

The documentary is available at this link for whomsoever wants to view it.

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The Romantic Life and Tragedy: Robert Schumann

A documentary on the romantic life and times of the German composer Robert Schumann.

Its a two part documentary, on the early life of Robert Schumann when he learnt piano at the age of 5 and started composing at the age of 7. A scholarly kind he also wrote novels and published a music magazine. Robert started studying music with Frederik Weick a piano teacher and fell in love with his young daughter, Clara.

After an injury to his right hand, he concentrated on writing music. The documentary subsequently prevails upon his love affair with Clara and the fighter with her father to secure her hand. His musical career flourished after his marriage and he became an acclaimed composer.

The last part of the documentary deals with his mental illness, his incarceration at a private asylum and his death from that illness. The documentary was a talking one, with few images thrown in and some dialogues muttered in between.

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The Hunt

A Danish psycho thriller “the Hunt” (2012) directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Mads Mikkelson, Alexandra Rapaport among others.

A brilliant movie dealing with the problems of a false child sex accusations against a person in the community. Lucas (Mads Mikkelson) goes to the nursery to teach children and he is accused of displaying himself by one of the female students. It turns his world upside down and nobody wants to believe him even as he is pleading his innocence. For everybody including the girl’s parents, the girl can’t be wrong, she is never wrong.

Even when the girl says that she just said something for fun, still nobody wants to take that and relieve the man of his guilt. He is shunned by the community, not allowed to buy things from the supermarket, is arrested, cleared but still the doubts remain. Its the way of the community. His favorite dog is killed, stone is thrown into his house and even his son is beaten by the neighbours.

Mads has done a brilliant role as the main person accused of the crime. The film got nominated into a clutch of awards and won a few of them. IMDB 6/10

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Mother India

What a magnificent magnum opus by Mehboob Khan, one of the finest movies ever made in Indian cinema and unarguably one of the greatest performances ever by Nargis.

Story of a rural family struggling against all odds in the fight to just eke out a honorable living. Radha (Nargis) and Shamu (Raaj Kumar) in dire debt to the local money lender who has taken advantage of their illiteracy to add a few rupees to their never ending debts on usurious terms, like mortgage of jewellery, hiving off the majority harvest and the likes. The movie of that era when poverty and depression ruled the roost in the years after independence of India.

Radha and Shomu have a small 5 acre barren plot, which they try to cultivate but it is full of stones, one of which falls on Shomu’s hands and decapitates him for life. He leaves the family one night never to be seen again. Raaj Kumar has done a brilliant role as the angst ridden farmer with a desperate family to look out for.

Radha grows up with her three sons, one of whom dies in a flash flood. But growing up does not lessen their woes as the money lender continues to harass them for years and years together. Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar as her two sons – one angry and other calm and the mother, its a brilliant relationship between them. Radha loves her sons dearly but she is a woman and will not tolerate insults to women. Its a very subtle women centric theme. Its a moving story of utter poverty, helplessness, depression, in a rural India much like reading Mulk Raj Anand’s Coolie or Kamala Markandeya’s Nectar in a Sieve.

Mehboob has done a brilliant job creating this mega movie with not a moment of boredom in it. The cinematography by Faredoon Irani is breathtaking to say the least. All the characters have done brilliant acting, but this movie is all Nargis. Right from the first frame she dominates the movie like nobody else. Its her masterpiece, her acting is magnificent just like that of Karuna Banerjee in Pather Panchali, Smita Patil in Bhumika and Rekha in Umrao Jaan, it is unarguably one of the greatest acting performances by anybody in Indian cinema. Jenifer Kendall in 36 Chowringhee Lane is also another gifted performance.

No wonder Nargis won a clutch of awards for her performance. She fully deserved it. IMDB 10/10 – its for Nargis.

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What a brilliant movie, made way back in 1956 by Hemchandra Chunder starring Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar, David Abraham, Motilal, Shashikala among others. It won a national award for the best feature film in that year.

Its such a socially relevant movie woven into a beautiful story. A movie which talks about untouchability and religion, is way ahead of its time.

Meena Kumari (Vani) is an ardent devotee of God. They are from upper class brahmin family. Now circumstances have contrived their family wealth in such a manner that she has to get married to a pure brahmin boy before the age of 18 otherwise all the family wealth will dissipate. Her father is an atheist but grandpa was a devotee and he has dovetailed all this into his will.

Pradeep Kumar (Amarnath) is a socially aware young person with the right ideals but not necessarily that belonging to the upper class brahmins. He mingles with the dalits and takes flowers from them, touches them, goes to their house etc. So the family grab him for a possible suitor but with condition that after marrying he will leave away for good, somewhat like a contract marriage.

Meanwhile Motilal who is like a cousin to Meena Kumari comes in and advises her to adopt a bohemian style post marriage but realises his own folly when he starts loving his wife Shashikala. Its a nice simple movie with subtle messaging going on. Both Meena Kumari and Motilal have done simply brilliant performances with their acting talent, which is frankly mind boggling. Motilal especially appears effortless in his mannerisms and for Meena Kumari this must be one of her early movies, so she has clearly shown what a talent she was.

The print in youtube was very bad, some circus guy has splashed his banner right across the print and muted all the songs. IMDB 7/10

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