The Pelican Brief – Movie Review


The_Pelican_BriefThe Pelican Brief (based on a book by the same name authored by John Grisham) starts off with the assassinations of two US Supreme Court justices, and how law student Darby Shaw (played wonderfully well by Julia Roberts) manages to find a connection between the assassinations and a fairly large scale cover-up going up all the way to the President of the United States.

Pretty soon, Darby realizes that she has opened up the veritable Pandora’s Box when all the people related to the case itself and more so, people who she contacts with the legal brief start dying one by one. Her last and final hope is reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington at his dependable best) who has already been contacted by an anonymous source ‘Garcia’ claiming to have information about the assassinations.

What follows in the rest of the movie is whether Darby and Gray manage to bring the perpetrators of the assassinations to justice and whether the larger conspiracy is brought to light of day or not. Suffice to say that for a legal thriller, this movie has quite a bit of the ‘edge of the seat’ type elements to it.

I am ashamed to say this, but the truth is that I have not read even a single John Grisham book and I am assuming that this made me enjoy this movie just a bit more than I would have if I had actually read the book. And even though I haven’t read the book, I am fairly confident that the makers of this movie have done more than quite a competent job of translating the book onto the silver screen itself.

Given that this movie was made all of 23 yrs ago in 1992, it was thoroughly refreshing to see a movie where the characters actually rely upon landline telephones and regular books and encyclopedias to get work done rather than rely on Wikipedia and other random online sources for information. What’s better is to see that Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington have remained at the top of their game all these years, and if not anything, have gotten even better at subtly portraying fairly nuanced and layered characters on screen. Julia Roberts especially outdoes herself in a couple of scenes and I found it hard to believe that she was this good all that time ago as well.

In a nutshell, this movie is a must watch for all John Grisham fans and fans of the legal thriller genre in general.

Tamaar Padaar – Malayalam – Movie Review


tamaarpadaarposterThe first thing that piqued my attention about the movie Tamaar Padaar was its name itself, I mean, how many movies have such catchy names. And the trailer that was shared on Facebook around a month or so ago more than kindled my interest in it. With Baburaj, Chemban Vinod and Prithviraj (who was yet again playing a cop role, but this time with a Thiruvananthapuram accent) showcasing interesting snippets of their characters in the trailer, it was just the question of the movie hitting theater screens for me. There was absolutely no question as to whether I would enjoy it or not.

And the final verdict, yes, the movie is eminently watchable and quite enjoyable as well. Was it mind-blowing, amazing fun, no, but was it watchable and enjoyable, yes.

The first half of the movie chronicles the lives of Jumper Mani (Baburaj) and Tubelight Vasu (Chemban Vinod), two street performers, who although lead separate lives in separate cities, but lead similar lives in that both of them are struggling to make ends meet, love their professions and have more than a reasonable affiliation to their art and to alcohol as well. As fate would have it, they first see each other albeit in quite unnatural ‘avatars’ and immediately develop a liking to each other. Subsequent meetings over drinks result in a situation where they end up entwined into each other, quite literally.

The second half begins well with narrating the birth and early days of ACP Pouran (Prithviraj) in the police department and how he is all eager to make a mark in his first posting with the Intelligence Department. He spots a conspiracy when Mani and Vasu are in the middle of a circus trick bang opposite the Secretariat and this sets in motion the nucleus of the movie, the case of mistaken identity.

What the movie suffers from is the fact that the director chose the linear narrative and tells us the stories of the three protagonists one by one, and this means that while the first third of the movie is all about Baburaj, the second one is all Chemban Vinod and so on. This ends up in too much of a gap between how the first third ends and how the final portion begins. The director would have been better off with parallel narrations of all three stories and could have used some simple techniques to stitch them all together.

What worked well for me in the movie was how a simple case of mistaken identity was used by the director to highlight more than quite a few things that is wrong with how the police department functions, the politician-policeman nexus, and some other things as well. And the use of satire and over-the-top characters as a medium was a masterstroke of debut director Dileesh Nair.

And words cannot do justice to how well Prithviraj has portrayed the role of ACP Pouran. While he uses the Thiruvananthapuram slang, he ensures that nobody is reminded of Rajamanickam, the movie which made this slang and Suraj Venjaramoodu household names across Kerala. Despite the fact that this probably is the fifteenth or twentieth time that Prithviraj has played a cop on screen, there are absolutely no remnants or reminders of any of his earlier avatars as a cop from Kerala Police. He pretty much carries the entire second half of the movie on his shoulders and does a good job of it.

In a nutshell, this movie is surely worth a one time watch, if not for anything, at least to have a good laugh and enjoy Prithviraj in this relatively unusual portrayal of a cop by him.

Sapthamashree Thaskaraha: – Movie Review – Malayalam


Sapthamashree-Thaskaraha

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


Munnariyippu

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w11RZ6jWaYk

Jigarthanda – Movie Review


jigarthanda

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.