Sapthamashree Thaskaraha: – Movie Review – Malayalam


With a name like Sapthamashree Thaskaraha:  [Wikipedia link] which according to informed sources literally means The Seven Thieves and an ensemble cast headed by Prithviraj Sukumaran including Asif Ali, Nedumudi Venu and some other underappreciated talents of Malayalam cinema, it was but natural that I was eagerly waiting for this movie to hit theater screens in Bangalore. And the fact that it was produced by Prithviraj and Santosh Sivan whose last productive collaboration, Urumi was something that I immensely enjoyed, made this movie all the more interesting. And as if these reasons weren’t enough, the director Anil Radhakrishnan Menon was making this movie immediately after his stellar debut outing with North 24 Kaatham which I immensely enjoyed meant that I would give a hand and a leg to watch this movie almost immediately after its release. And trust me when I say this, this movie lived up to all my expectations from it and more.

The movie narrates the tale of seven strangers who are holed up in one cell in Viyoor jail for various petty crimes they have committed and during the course of their jail stints realize that at least a couple of them have a bone to pick against Pious Mathew (played by Joy Mathew) and his cohorts who are responsible for the situation they find themselves in. And when Nobilettan (portrayed wonderfully well by Nedumudi Venu) suggests that he actually might have a plan which involves more than a fair sum of money, this immediately sets the heist (which is the crux of the movie) in motion.

The team itself is a rag-tag ensemble of characters with one pick pocket, one magician, one teacher, one electrical whiz kid, one madman, one rough character who won’t mind getting his hands dirty in a good fight and one ex-businessman who lost everything he had due to the cunning machinations of the villain. Now, with an extremely diverse set of skills and motivations, this group gets out of jail and starts planning the heist, the only problem being, at this point it is purely based on hearsay and there is no proper verified information regarding the ‘treasure’ they are aiming for.

Whether they plan things out properly, whether they manage to extract revenge for Nobilettan and Krishnanunni (Prithivraj) for what Pious and his cohorts did to them forms the rest of the movie. Suffice to say that there is not one dull moment in this movie and not one frame is wasted on unnecessary fluff in the entire running time. The director and editor have done an awesome job of ensuring that the audience is kept glued to its seats throughout the movie without one wasted frame or scene.

What really worked well for me was the fact that the director chose the pick pocket using a confessional with a priest at a church as the narrative medium in which the entire story is told to the audience. While this provided him with the option of looking at things from a third party perspective, this also allowed him to insert some wonderful humor in the narration itself which really added to the charm of the entire movie.

Also, the overall background music which used a lot of oft heard western themes from old spaghetti western movies from Hollywood gave this movie and its action a lovely feel. The feeling of always being in motion, things always being on the edge, in pursuit mode, these were easily brought out using the BGM score.

And then, the fact that this is the third recent movie which employed the Thrissur slang (after Pranchiyettan and the Saint, and Punyalan Agarbathis) for which I have a special affinity to (given that it is the slang with which my wife and in-laws speak Malayalam) meant that this movie and its dialogs will remain with me for more than quite a while.Having said that, even if the movie didn’t employ the Thrissur slang and used conventional spoken urban Malayalam, it would still remain the fun roller-coaster ride it already is.

Munnariyippu – Movie Review


When I first saw the trailer of Munnariyippu on social media, what immediately piqued my interest was the fact that the main protagonist played by Mammooty stating that he hadn’t killed anybody, despite the fact that he was serving a jail term for double homicide for murdering two women. Now, for somebody who had been found guilty of a crime and was serving time for that to make a statement like that meant that the movie had to be interesting. And my gut instinct served me well when I managed to watch this movie almost immediately after it hit theatres in Bangalore.

The movie starts off with Anjali Arakkal (portrayed well by Aparna Gopinath), a struggling freelance journalist who makes ends meet by ghost-writing articles and autobiographies being put in touch with Jail Superintendent Ramamoorthy who wants her to ghost write his autobiography. A chance encounter with CK Raghavan (Mammooty) at the superintendent’s office goes on to increase her interest in the prisoner and his story and pretty soon she finds herself doing an article for a leading national English magazine on Raghavan and his writings.

The article becomes a hit and soon Anjali is commissioned by a literary agent and a leading publisher to write a book with Raghavan’s story where he can unravel the truth behind his claims that he hadn’t killed anybody despite the fact that the court had found him guilty of double homicide and he had served more than twenty years of prison time for the crimes. Given that Raghavan had completed his prison sentence and could be released at any time of his choice, Anjali manages to get him released and tasks him with writing his story.

What Raghavan’s story is and whether Anjali manages to get him to pen down the same forms the rest of the movie. Suffice to say that this movie does not have the usual smattering of ‘masala’ and commercial elements, nor does it hanker to public perceptions of Mammooty’s image as the ‘mega star’ of Malayalam cinema.

This movie is made in the style of ‘classical Malayalam movies of the 1980s’ where scripts and plots ruled the roost with the actors actually playing roles that suited the story rather than pandered to their image as stars and superstars. And given this limitation, what Mammooty has done with this role is amazing. I honestly cannot think of anybody who could have done justice to this role than this giant of an actor.

This movie moves along at a slow, deliberate, meandering pace and at times tests the audience’s patience when it does not seem to be moving forward at all. But one needs to soak in the atmosphere, the setting the movie creates and slowly try to get into the mind of Raghavan to try and figure out where the movie is heading. And this, to me, contributes to how good the movie really is. The director takes his own sweet time in letting the tension build up gradually without forcing it on the audience. And Mammotty, playing the role of a lifetime, in my opinion, uses the script to the hilt and delivers well.

The last two minutes of the movie takes the cake and for sure, will leave all viewers stunned. I am more than sure that nobody can even guess the climax in any form or fashion and will surely be discussed by anybody who walks out of the theatre. And that, to me, is where the movie scores really high.

Don’t miss this movie if you are a connoisseur of good cinema and a fan of well-made movies.

Some quotes from reviews of this movie in national dailies

SR Praveen of The Hindu – “Munnariyippu, with its skeletal approach, delivers a thumping jolt to the viewer and reclaims the actor who was lost in the jungle of superstardom. One ends up wishing for a little more detail in places but at the same time it looks like holding everything back worked in the end.

Aswin J Kumar of The Times of India – “It feels good to watch Mammootty in Munnariyippu. It’s as though the waxy glow on his face has melted away revealing a face that looks so human and so earthy.

Jigarthanda – Movie Review


Every once in a while you come across a movie which is so refreshingly different and has the director’s trademark style written all over it without necessarily pandering to the ‘lowest common denominator’ (read ‘box office collection contributing viewer’) tastes.

Jigarthanda by Karthik Subbaraj is one such whiff of fresh air to grace Tamil movie screens in the recent past. Along with the upcoming release of Kaaviya Thalaivan co-starring a personal favorite Prithviraj Sukumaran, this was one movie which I have been eagerly anticipating for quite a few months now after having seen their teaser on Facebook. And man, was the wait worth it or what!!!

Touted as ‘a musical gangster story’ in its promotions, the premise of this movie deals with Karthik, a struggling film maker who sets out to make a ‘gangster movie’ and comes to Madurai to research the life of ‘Assault Sethu’ (played wonderfully well by Simhaa of Neram fame), a gangster of some note there. While his initial efforts to get closer to Sethu via his minions come to naught, circumstances end up in a situation where he ends up convincing Sethu himself to volunteer for more information regarding his life.

One would assume that things would ease out for Karthik from this point onwards, but the beauty of the plot is that things take a sudden twist and the movie is pretty much turned around on its head from this point onwards. And that to me, was the beauty with which this movie turned from a relatively brow-beaten plot to something that ended up being immensely enjoyable. Obviously, I am not giving up any more plot points here as that would end up spoiling the entire movie for any potential viewers.

The director Karthik Subbaraj was somebody whose work I immensely enjoyed in his first outing Pizza and true to his trademark style, Jigarthanda also carries his signature all over it. Right from his choice of Simhaa (who seems to be a favorite of his even in his short films) as Sethu, to the choice of the lovely background music score by Santhosh Narayanan, to the awesome cinematography by Gavemic U Ary, this movie is the director’s ‘dark comic’ tribute to all gangster movies of yore.

All said and done, this is one movie which all lovers of cinema must watch in a theatre without fail. And it comes as no surprise that it is the talk of Chennai and its crazy fanatic movie fans nowadays. It appeals to the serious cine aficionado with its technical brilliance and to the regular average Joe movie fan who likes his punch dialogs and punches more. There’s something in it for everybody and that to me is the hallmark of a movie maker who knows his craft and his economics quite well.

One small complaint I have with this movie though is that in my personal opinion (and this is just me, as more than a few others who have seen the movie disagree with me) the ending could have been structured a little differently. In fact, I would even do away with the last three to four minutes at the very end, and this movie would still have been equally, if not more enjoyable to me. But as I stated earlier, this is just my personal opinion.

Just in case, you are not convinced about watching Jigarthanda yet, the movie trailers below will just help you change your mind.


The Book Thief – Movie Review


Every once in a while you watch a movie that speaks to you at multiple levels. To me, The Book Thief happened to be one such movie. Whether it was the fact that I had recently started voraciously reading books and enjoying the written word, or whether it was something about the setting of the story bang in the middle of WW-II, or whether it was the wonderfully heartwarming and courageous tale of Liesel Meminger (portrayed beautifully by young Sophie Nelisse), I don’t know what it was, but this movie just ended up moving me in more than one way.

Based on an eponymous novel authored by Markus Zusak, the story is set in Germany and begins in 1938 when the Nazi party is slowly gaining in popularity and the juggernaut started by Adolf Hitler is gathering momentum. It is in this hubris that Liesel comes into the family of the Hubermanns (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) and becomes a part of their lives.

The movie follows her story and talks about how she becomes friends with Rudy, the neighbor boy, the arrival of Max, a Jew who is sheltered by the family, her friendship with Max bonded by their common love for the written word, all the while reminding the viewers of the escalating tensions outside when England declares war with Germany and the subsequent bombing raids on their homes.

At the heart of it, this is a movie of Liesel growing up from an innocent, ignorant child to someone who loses her foster parents, her friends and yet surviving through the entire ordeal with nothing but her words to keep her company. This transition in her character is brought out very subtly and very effectively by the director without getting too soppy or mushy about her losses. In an extremely understated way, the director manages to effectively convey this entire growing up process of this little girl caught up in extraordinary circumstances beyond her control.

While I have seen a lot of war movies which highlight the futility of war and hatred in different ways, this one takes an entirely different approach to delivering the same message. It uses the eyes of a little girl, her innocence, her love for words, as a medium to deliver the message, and it does an awesome job of the same.

American Hustle – Movie Review


In the swinging 70s, con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale in an extremely competent performance) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are running a reasonably successful loan scam with Sydney playing the role of British aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensley” to the hilt and ensuring that a lot of people succumb to the honey-trap routine. The duo are also involved romantically and things seem to be going on well with the exception of Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), Irving’s wife and the mother of his son Danny, who absolutely refuses to divorce him and get on with his life.

BaleAdamsCooperOn the ‘professional front’ the duo then happens to be trapped themselves by FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, adding to his list of better performances) who makes them an offer. He tells them to collaborate with the bureau to line up four arrests in return for being let off scot free. Despite Sydney’s initial misgivings about the deal, both she and Irving are not really left with a choice. But she takes one critical decision which ends up impacting their lives in more than a few ways.

JRemOne of the targets that Richie chooses to trap is New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Remner, finally playing a role where he actually needs to emote). Despite protestations from his boss and Irving for targeting politicians, Richie goes ahead and devises a plan to entrap Carmine for accepting bribes. One thing leads to another and suddenly the stakes keep getting higher and higher, especially for Irving who happens to develop a decent friendship with Carmine and his wife.

JLawAs if the situation was not complicated enough, Rosalyn also gets herself entangled in this entire mess with Irving, Carmine and Sydney. At one point in time, the movie and its proceedings get to be so convoluted with too many things happening and all the characters flitting in an out playing their parts in the game. What I loved about this part of the movie was the continuous escalation of the tension due to the increasingly higher stakes involved for Irving, Sydney and Richie.

All this time, a subplot involving Richie developing a romantic interest for “Lady Edith” is also built up and we realize that Sydney has a separate agenda of her own in this regard as well. Her intentions in this regard are not quite that transparent and viewers are left wondering what exactly is running inside that pretty blonde head of hers. This and the developing situation with Richie’s grandiose plans to trap some big fish culminate in an awesome ending to this movie. In fact, to me, it was the ending that really ‘took the cake’ so to speak. Will not say anymore as that would amount to a ‘spoiler’.

Suffice to say that this movie is quite an enjoyable watch. Although some of the characters such as Rosalyn seem unnecessary at first, they end up adding to the already simmering pot of confused ‘black humor’ that this movie really is. Although I personally haven’t read a review of this movie which puts it in this genre, I thoroughly enjoyed the irony of the situation that almost all the important characters of this movie found themselves in at different points in time.

Also, a special mention must be made of the make up and styling departments of this film. Viewers can be left with no doubt that this is a movie set in the 70s and I personally couldn’t quite find anything out of place in terms of the make up, art direction and styling in the entire movie. All in all, a nice enjoyable watch.