Tag Archives: Malayalam cinema

Vadakkunokkiyantram

Brilliant satirical dark comedy Malayalam movie “Vadakkunokkiyantram” (1989) starring Sreenivasan, Parvathy Jayaraman, Innocent among others.

Its a landmark movie that subtly explores the dark side of a man, who is suffering from severe inferiority complex because of his short height and dark skin. The man (Dineshan) – Sreenivasan in an extraordinarily brilliant role marries the fair looking beautiful Parvathy Jayaram (Shobha) who is a dutifully cast wife in a traditional mould.

Dineshan’s suspicious nature and his lack of confidence plays out in various experiences that slays his mind to no extent. He starts imagining things that are not there and starts facing imaginary enemies and fighting with them. It starts of as a dark comedy but beautifully weaves into a satire on the perplexing nature of Dineshan to a tragedy when he is admitted to a mental hospital for treatment.

The movie won a clutch of awards from the Kerala state government but missed out on a best actor award to Sreenivasan for his exemplary portrayal of a besieged human being. IMDB 7/10

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Bharatham

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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Kireedam

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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Amaram

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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Thanmathra

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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Kodiyettam

Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s masterpiece of the growing up of an adult human being, starring Bharath Gopi, KPAC Lalitha, Azeez, among others.

ShankaranKutty (Bharath Gopi) is a no gooder wiling his time eating and drinking at others’ expense, doing sundry jobs without any pay and playing with children. He is grown up but immature and irresponsible. He has no working skills to speak of. He has a sister Sarojini (Kuttyedathi Vilasini) who works as a maid in Trivandrum and sends him money.

Peeved at his lack of seriousness, she marries him off to Shantamma (KPAC Lalitha) but marriage and subsequent child birth does not make him aware of his responsibility. Shantamma moves off to her maternal home and he does not deem it necessary to follow her and inquire about her.

At his village he is infatuated with a widow Kamalam (Kaviyoor Poovamma) but she has an affair going on with somebody on the side. Kamalam commits suicide after the man refuses to take responsibility for her. Which is the point at which when Shankarankutty starts taking life seriously. He becomes a cleaner to a truck driver Azeez and sees him play with his own little children while at the same time having an affair with another lady enroute his travels.

Adoor has bounced Shankarankutty against three women – his sister, the widow and his wife and made him realise responsibility only against rejection by two women. He is portrayed like a child with an immature mind unable to grasp the harsh realities of life. He has seen both these women being mistreated and that sort of opens his eyes, which is why he takes up the job of cleaner the second time after quitting the first time, unable to cope up with the demands of trucking life.

Bharath Gopi has acted quite brilliantly for his part as the dumb reckless person to a happy smiling husband and father towards the end. The transformation is quite spectacular. Deservedly he bagged the best actor award at the Nationals. Others have done their part quite well. Adoor apparently has not used any background music during the movie, still the natural sounds whilst making the film are quite breathtaking. He has focused a lot of ultra close up shots of the characters, don’t know the meaning of that – there must be something to that. Typically any Malayalam movie must have one eating scene and one drinking scene. This movie had plenty of both – more of the eating though and some bizarre ultra close ups, unable to fathom the reason for that though. imdb 8/10

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Manimuzhakkam

Poignant award winning Malayalam movie “Manimuzhakkam” (1976) directed by P.A. Backer and starring Harikeshan Thampi.

Its a very interesting plot in the sense that the script very subtly delves into identity conflicts of a person based on others’ perception and religious beliefs. Jose (Harikeshan Thampi) is an orphan bought up in a christian convent upto his college days. Then he is discovered by his long lost Hindu family and he immediately faces an identity crisis. Earlier in the college a girl dates him until she discovers that he grew up in an orphanage.

Then he finishes college with first class and his family proposes his marriage to another Hindu girl until her family discovers that he was brought up in a christian upbringing. He goes to Madras for a job whereupon he is taken upon by a catholic family as a potential suitor for their girl. Until they learrn of his real story.

There is a lot of subtle messaging going on, which is quite well done. But the movie lacks the tempo to be a robust hit. The music is dreary and depressing. The plot slows at various places to depict the social awkwardness of Jose considering the fact of his early life in an orphanage. The last scene is very riveting like Charlie Chaplin’s The Modern Times.

Overall movie is good and it has won the national & state award also, but it fails to raise above the mediocre. imdb 2/10

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Swapnadanam

K.G. George’s haunting award winning psycho drama movie “Swapnadanam” (1976) starring Dr. Mohandas, Rani George, Suman, among others.

George has managed to maintain a suspense almost throughout the movie, which lies to his credit. The story is about an introverted socially awkward doctor Gopi (Dr. Mohandas) who has no social skills to talk about being forced into marriage to his cousin Sumithra (Rani George) in an arranged marriage kinda setting as a quid pro quo for funding his medical education.

Whilst in medical college, he falls in love with a student but that does not materialize much to his dismay and that plays at the back of his mind in his marriage. His wife Sumithra is a kind of rich snobbish girl bred with much life comforts. Their marriage is falling apart and he has no back up plan nor a support system to ensure it doesn’t.

George has beautifully played with lot of themes during the movie. There is hitchcockian suspense with jazz music playing in the background. He has pushed Gopi close to his mother and takes him close to the servant too. The consummation takes place much later, which is when the man breaks up because he has to attend to a dying patient at his clinic. Very bold scenes for a 1976 movie production.

George has bought about the tension in the household between Sumithra and Gopi and his mother very well. Gopi has to stay in a house with comforts provided by his father in law which rankled him to the extreme. Also the house belonged to Sumithra’s friend Rosi (Mallika Sukumaran) so that interplay between Gopi and Rosie is also played out very well. Her brother Mohan (Suman) who is a real estate agent also stays in the house and the script manages to weave a doubt around Mohan and Sumithra.

Ending up in Madras for a closure is a little manufactured i thought. The movie is shown in flashback when doctors at the hospital in Madras give him a narco analysis test to bring out the truth.

The intensity of Dr. Mohandas as Gopi and the mix of playfulness, neglect, & anger of Rani Chandra as Sumithra is done beautifully. Both of them have acted extremely well. Very sorry to learn that she died very young in a plane accident. She was one good talent gone too soon. imdb 6/10

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Uttarayanam

Award winning avant garde Malayalam film “Uttarayanam” (1974) directed by G. Aravindan and starring Sukumaran, Adoor Bhasi among others.

The underlying theme of the movie is exposing corruption in ideology. The film focuses on the main protagonist Ravi who is a masters in literature and reads literary masters but does not find any employment anywhere, typical of the scene in 70s Kerala.

His grandfather was a follower of the Gandhian principles of non violence whereas his father had taken up the revolutionary ideals of Bhagat Singh. The film moves into flashback mode to show us the conflicting ideologies at play.

He seeks company of Kumaran Master, the last known friend of his father, who gives him letter of recommendations to one Gopalan who had during the revolutionary movement turned sides against them, but is now a corrupt politician. His friend David who hated politics from his college days is now a trade union leader, mediating for business persons against difficult labour situations. His another friend from college days Premkumar (Sukumaran) who is now a medical rep but spends his leisure time on drinks, smoke and women.

So Ravi is a confused aatma frustrated at not getting his due worth. His family is worse off, not having even milk to drink coffee with. There are only empty promises and corrupt ideologies with hypocrisy ruling the roost.

Aravindan has crafted a masterpiece with his first ever movie. His opening long shot of a train amidst the green foliage of Kerala is breathtaking and so is the camera work and cinematography throughout the movie. There are long shots which are picturesque as well as stunning close range shots through cubby holes, windows, doors which are quite brilliant. The silhouette shot of the cover image is breathtaking. Its a kind of a neo realism cinema practiced by the masters like Satyajit Ray, Vittoria de Sica and others with closer to the ground natural settings. imdb 7/10

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Nirmalyam

Brilliant Malayalam award winning movie “Nirmalyam” (1973) written and directed by M.T. Vasudevan Nair and starring P.J. Antony, Sumithra, Ravi Menon among others.

The basic theme of the movie is the neglect of temples in small villages and consequent neglect of the arts and culture of Kerala except when a foreign tourists come visiting. But the undercurrent throughout is the abject poverty of the people, the lack of opportunities for young people, the sad & desolate future for women.

The film revolves around an oracle who is sort of a go between the worshippers and god. He faces bleak future because nobody is coming to the temple, no offerings are made and he has to beg from house to house for some little grain. He has a son who is educated but unemployed and loafing around with no gooders and a daughter who is not educated and staring at a bleak times. He has two more young daughters who don’t go to school because they have no books nor school uniform to wear.

A young priest joins the temple but he is looking to escape the priest hood by studying for competitive exams. He seduces the oracle’s daughter and has sex with her inside the temple. A small pox virus breaks out in the village which is when the oracle is summoned for his divine help.

P.J. Antony has done a magnificent role as the oracle with his long locks which he keeps playing with and erect persona going with the intense eyes, he is deadly in extreme. Its a once in a lifetime performance for which he won the National award for best actor. Others have done an equally good job, especially Sumithra as the seduced daughter – she is quite brilliant as the hopeless female with no future. The ending of the movie is quite spectacular. The music is very good and so is the camera work, cinematography which captures the essence of the movie quite beautifully. imdb 8/10

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Panitheeratha Veedu

Award winning Malayalam family drama film “Panitheeratha Veedu” (1973) directed by K.S. Sethumadhavan and starring Prem Nazir, Nanditha Bose, Bahadoor, Alummoodan among others.

Basically too many sub plots with the under current of grinding poverty, depression, misery, dejection, in each of sub plots. Prem Nazir is not able to give relief to anybody who look upto him, because he himself is under a cloud with his family suffering from a violent father, abject poverty and unhappy mother & sister.

Story of a young Leela who is being forced into prostitution by their foster parents, estranged father & son, violent family battles, sad life of an unwed mother – all heady mix of emotions, sadness, grief in this family movie.

There were long shots of Prem Nazir walking – don’t know what it means. Shobana has done a good role as the young Leela, was very authentic. Others are okay, Prem Nazir is more like a confused aatma in the movie. The title means “Unfinished House” its a metaphor for unfinished agenda, but whether he is able to fulfill it is not shown in the movie because the last shot is of him leaving in a train from Ooty station. There probably could have been a sequel to the movie.

Lovely songs by M.S. Vishwanathan and P. Jayachandran saves the day somewhat.

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Sarasayya

Award winning Malayalam noir film “Sarasayya” (1971) starring Sathyan, Madhu, Sheela, Jayabharati among others.

Heavy duty emotional film this one, right from first frame and that too with heavy dialogues and equally dense music. If not anything else, the music was killing the viewer.

Sathyan is a leprosy doctor and researcher but he gets emotionally involved with his patient Sheela. Young Madhu is also a doctor who gets smitten by Sheela. In the meanwhile Sheela’s sister Jayabharati has a troubled marriage with an oddball character. Their father is mentally challenged. Sheela is indebted to Sathyan because he recovers her fully from leprosy.

But Sathyan rapes Sheela one day in an emotional state and she denies such thing ever happened to her beau Madhu. The father meanwhile dies from accidental poisoning and police gets involved. Too much of emotional wrangling going on among the characters, with copious amount of tears flowing. The saving grace in the movie is undoubtedly Madhu who was the cool, assured, sorted out character. The director has tried to add some oddball comic characters to the plot, but it fails to entice the viewer. IMDB 2/10

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