Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Maheshinte Prathikaram

You know, am more than jealous about off beat Tamil cinema of modern days. One of the reasons for this jealousy is because of their beautiful casting. It is not just that these new Tamil cinema creators come up with indigenous stories and cinemas, they also pick up the right people for all those characters, even if those actors are absolutely unknown. They don't care at all about the looks or the lack of any kind of glamour quotient in those actors. In fact, it is only Tamil cinema, who do not have any issues at all with black actors. Every where else in Indian cinema, black skin is looked down at. And it is a big credit to Tamil movie fans that many of these off beat cinema has also done reasonable business in box office. I have always wondered, why Malayalam cinema (we dominated Indian cinema in the 80's with our quality) look spineless when it comes to casting. It is as if directors and producers are scared to test new faces, even if the role is of secondary importance. 

Maheshinte Prathikaram has just reassured me, in a big way. Except for Fahad Fazil and Soubin, there are hardly any prominent actors in the whole cast. Still, there is not a single person who have done anything short of excellent. Each and every character, except Fahad, looks like locals, who were picked after a tedious audition process. 

MP looks like a simple short story, which has been painstakingly made into a beautiful cinema. Absolutely, this is an excellent entertainer, and am so glad there is one in Malayalam, even if it has come after long time. Frankly, the director seems to have taken some leafs out of Rajeev Ravi's book of cinema making. The result is pure, genuine and indigenous cinema.  

All the following make this movie a wonderful entertainer. 

- It has a simple thread, reminiscent of a short story, which is told in an even simpler way with beautiful visuals.
- It looks absolutely indigenous:- 
    with its location - its the first Malayalam cinema after Annayum Rasoolum which let you feel the ambiance of the locality.
    and its genuine characters - Sathyan Anthikkad movies always presented characters - as if they were picked from our village - with some exaggerations, where as in MP, they are just realistic. There is nothing unnatural about these people. I really liked that, same as in off beat Tamil cinema, none of the characters in this movie behave as if they have just walked out of a Holly/Bollywood script, or as if they are aspiring for a dreamy Indo-American life. (There is one character of course, but it goes so well with the story) Its normal Malayaalees, all around.
- Wonderful performances from every one, who have simply tried to just be there, no acting. 
- When is the last time, we saw, ordinary Malayaalee girls/women talking and behaving like normal people in our cinema? This is applicable to men too. There is hardly any make-up!
- Arguably, the best natural fight scene Malayalam has seen, after Thazhvaram
- A stupendous climax scene too
- There could be a smile in our faces, for nearly the whole length of the cinema!
I do not want to nit pick, but feel it could have done with fewer songs, using some instrumentals instead. 
I would also say, they could have found some body else for the role of Fahad Fazil, who would have looked like a typical villager, like all the other characters. Fahad has done a good job, though. But it looks like, the only glamourous guy in the whole of Idukki happens to be living in Prakash city. 

I cant wait for the next movie from this debut director, Dileep Pothan. He has given me lots of hope. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Best of Jan 16

Ex Machina by Alex Garner 2015 - English/British

There are only couple of science fiction movies I have ever liked. In fact, most of the time I don't even like to watch them. I can add Ex Machina to that small list now. Brilliant cinema.

This is about artificial intelligence, basically. But like in the Tamil, Yanthiran, when the man created robot is instilled with human emotions, man is challenged.

Please do not think at all about this movie as anything like Yanthiran. This is more a thrilling drama, beautifully acted. Really, a must watch. Definitely among the best movies of 2015.
And above all that, to know that this is the debut of a director, brilliant!

45 Years by Andrew Haigh 2015 - English/British
An older couple are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when they receive a letter. The content (that the body of his first love has been discovered, frozen under the snow in the Swiss Alps) is shocking for the husband. Further developments over the next few days are even more shattering to their marriage. 

In some way, this felt more like a Michael Leigh movie, to be frank. What an incredible drama about love and marriage, but quite different from all others. Stunning acting performances from the two veteran actors, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.  A must watch cinema. 

Band de Filles - Girlhood - by Celine Sciamma  2015 - French

The ideal translation should have been Gang of Girls, but like always the English name for this French movie too, is misleading. I loved the two previous movies of this director, both was about teenage girls coming into adult hood. She is again into the same age, and still comes out with a gem.

A teenage girl joins a gang of 3 others, in their poor neighborhood (cite) and slowly her life changes, some for good and some for bad.

A beautiful cinema, wonderfully performed. In fact there are moments in this cinema when I was wondering, how in the world can somebody act so natural like this.. Brilliant.

Macbeth by Justine Kurzel 2015 - British/French/American co production
Another adaptation of the Shakespeare play. However I would say this is the most cinematic of all the theatre adaptations I have seen.

A stunning performance by Michael Fassbender, who seems to be on a never ending climb in his career. With Hunger, Steve Jobs (I didn't like the cinema at all) and Macbeth, he is placing himselves among the very best in contemporary cinema. 

The Perfect Day by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, 2015 - English/Spain

The first English movie by this Spanish director, within few minutes we realise why it is made in English. It follows a day of a group of aid workers in war torn Balkans. And obviously the group has people from different countries.

An aid group in the war torn country has to retrieve a dead body from a drinking water well. They just miss something to do this task though, some piece of rope. 

This is really a black comedy. A really serious subject told with lots of shades of humour in the fore ground. The director uses a relatively slow pace that we are in some ways forced to look deeper and feel for the villagers and the aid workers.

Straight Outta Compton by F Gary Gray 2015 - Hollywood
About a music band (hip hop) which emerged from difficult back grounds in Los Angeles. 

This is a well told, straight forward cinema based on a true story. And excellent music too.

It is ridiculous that this movie, along with Beasts of No Nation, didn't get any mention in the Oscar nominations. For me both these movies are definitely the best I saw from Hollywood 2015. Both have 'black' backgrounds and especially Straight Outta Compton, which actively talks about the harassment of the blacks, by the system, have been completely ignored by the Oscar 'white' awards. Not that I care about these awards, but still how they can be so blunt is beyond me.

Spotlight by Tom McCarthy - 2015 Hollywood
The best one, out of all the Oscar nominated movies.

The investigation by a Boston Globe team of journalists about child sex abuse by Catholic priests, in Boston

A well made cinema, the best part for me was the performance of Mark Ruffalo. The kind of subtle and crystal clear changes he brings in -  both in his body language and dialogue delivery - to each and every important character of his, is unbelievable. What an actor.

Room and The Gift too were interesting cinema in the ways in which it got out of its probable cliches , typically possible endings or treatments, with similar themes before. Room concentrated  a lot on the child and The Gift simply made a European style climax.