Tag Archives: Malayalam cinema

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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Snehaseema

Award winning malayalam movie “Snehaseema” (1954) directed by S.S. Rajan and starring Sathyan, Padmini among others.

As per wikipedia, the story is an adaptation of L.A. Tennyson’s Enoch Arden, but with a twist. In Enoch Arden, the sailor does not come back for 7 years and is considered as lost in war, but here the character has been declared as dead by the army and the lady marries within 3 years of his death to the soldier’s best friend.

Sathyan has acted brilliantly as usual in the movie, his acting is master class and Padmini has over acted as usual. Too much of emotional scenes and too lengthy make it slightly boring but the movie is worth watching purely for Sathyan’s acting. He is brilliant.

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Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha

Dense historical fiction Malayalam movie “Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha” starring Mammootty, Madhavi, Suresh Gopi among others.

The story is set in the 16th century Kerala. Basically its a fight between two brothers, one real and one adopted. Both of them are students of kalaripayatt, an ancient Kerala martial arts form. Both these young kids gain proficiency in that art under their father. Their sister Madhavi is also proficient.

This is where it gets ugly. Gopi despises Mammootty who is a better kalari player than him. M likes the sister, but she is married off to somebody else under a family tradition. Unfortunately the man to whom she is married off is an eunuch. Then there is one girl Chithra who loves M but he does not reciprocate her feelings. She is married off to Gopi so there you are, he lost two girls in a row.

M leaves their household and takes up training under another acclaimed master. There the master’s daughter loves him, but M rejects her as well. In between there is another family dispute on a property matter between two brothers which they resolve to get it sorted out by a kalari duel – duel unto death.

So each unit of family recruits one professional kalari player – Gopi is chosen on one side and M’s new master on the other side. M becomes the seconds of Gopi which is like a betrayal to the new master but M could not do anything because Gopi’s father requests him to do so. Old family ties you see.

Anyway, the duel happens and both kalari players die, both by mistake, one by deceit with the knife used and other accidentally stumbling onto a sword. M is the suspect in both deaths then he escapes to find out who played hookey with the knife. He discovers that the master’s daughter had done that so he goes about to affront her, but she is found hanging.

So there you are M loses three girls, his half brother, his love, family etc. The clan fight has taken a heavy toll. Much like the Godfather of the 16th century. But the story is obviously not over, there is revenge, anger still burning so somebody needs a closure for their grief and redemption.

Overall its a longish movie with a lot of kalari moves which are all quite good. Its a good sport and i hope it gets the recognition it deserves. They got a bunch of awards for this movie. Its a story of love, deceit, cunning, rejection, redemption, anger, revenge all aplenty. Mammootty got the best actor award at the Nationals but i thought it is Madhavi who has acted quite brilliantly in the movie.

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Manichitrathazhu

A kind of psycho thriller historical fiction, horror Malayalam movie “Manichithrathazu” (1993) starring Mohanlal, Shobana, Suresh Gopi among others.

Suresh Gopi (Nakulan) and Shobana (Ganga/ Nagavalli) are a couple and they come to their ancestral house in Kerala. That house is supposedly haunted by some previous lady who had a bad childhood and who was refused in hand by the landlord of that place who was smitten by her.

Fast forward to the present day, the spirit has supposedly entered into the hearts of somebody in Shobana/ Suresh Gopi household and strange things start happening from time to time. Enters Mohanlal who is a psychiatrist but also a ghost buster and has a world wide name and fame.

The script and dialogues are good and so is the direction, cinematography and music by M.G. Radhakrishnan is excellent. Shobana has played out of her skin – a brilliant bravura performance that rightly earned her the best actress national award.

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Peruvazhiyambalam

Award winning Malayalam movie “Peruvazhiyambalam” (1979) directed by P. Padmarajan and starring Asokan, Bharath Gopy, Lalitha, Azeez among others.

Made in a new realist style subtly depicting the impact of violence on a society. Prabhakaran Pillai (Azeez) is a local goon who has gone to prison for 3 months on a female sexual violence charge. He comes back to the village and terrorizes people, kills the witness who gave him away.

Raman (Asokan) is a young kid staying with his two sisters. He is a hot headed young boy not given to servitude. Prabhakaran Pillai has raped one of his sisters. In a local festival there is a scuffle between the two which results in the death of Prabhakaran Pillai. Raman goes on the run.

He is saved by a local tea shop owner Vishwambaram (Bharath Gopy) who lodges him with a prostitute Devayani (Lalitha). She starts developing maternal instincts towards the boy. But the boy is restless, he wants to learn about news of his village and wants to go back.

In the end he goes back to the village and a small crowd gathers around him in awe of him. The film uses violence as a metaphor for respect, awe and leadership. Prabhakaran Pillai gains respect because of his violent streak but Raman garners respect because of his violence in ending another greater and evil violence.

Overall acting by everybody is superb, music by M.G. Radhakrishnan is brilliant. Padmarajan has used minimal lighting and special effects in the making of this movie. It won the national award for best film in malayalam in that year.

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Vanaprastham

Brilliant award winning Malayalam movie “Vanaprastham” directed by Shaji Karun and starring Mohanlal, Suhasini Maniratnam among others.

Kunhikuttan (Mohanlal) is a Kathakali artiste of repute but he is a lower caste bastard child rejected by his father. He studies Kathakali, a dance form in Kerala and becomes an accomplished artiste.

He is invited to perform at the various functions including the royal family of Trivandrum. There the Diwan’s niece Subhadra (Suhasini Maniratnam) is awed by his performance and starts following him. She is also a composer of plays, understands the art form including the mime and does research on the subject.

She writes a play called Subhadraharnam which is like her masterpiece and wants Kunhikuttan to perform Arjuna in that play. In the meanwhile both of them fall in love and beget one son. But she refuses to allow Kunhikuttan to grow up with his son because all along she believes she has loved Arjuna the character, not Kunhikuttan the man behind it.

Kunhikuttan has a bad marriage but he pulls along only for his daughter whom he loves very much. Double rejection by his father and by Subhadra leaves him much distressed and anguished. He then decides to perform one last time as Arjuna in the play written by Subhadra for which the character of Subhadra will be played by his own daughter, who learns kathakali by then.

The entire community including his family members is aghast as to how he has selected his daughter to play that role. Mohanlal has acted out of his skin for this movie for which he won the Best Actor award at the national level. The film also got the best feature film award at the Nationals.

Music by Zakir Hussain is breathtaking, while cinematography, photography, camera work, sound, direction are all of very high standards.

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Chidambaram

Brilliant award winning movie from G. Aravindan “Chidambaram” (1985) starring Bharath Gopy, Sreenivasan, Smita Patil among others.

Muniyandi (Sreenivasan) is a cattle helper in a farm where Shankaran (Bharath Gopy) is a senior superintendent working in the office. There is another farm supervisor Jacob who is frosty towards workers and does not believe in mingling with them.

Shankaran is more easy going and friendly nature with everybody and invites Muniyandi for a drink on the last day before Muniyandi leaves for his village for his marriage. Jacob his boss wants him to come back to work immediately after his marriage.

Muniyandi comes back with Sivakami (Smita Patil) who is like besotted with the natural greenery and forests, trees, plants and flowers of the valley where the farm is situated. She is a typical village girl, afraid of everything and everybody.

Jacob comes back and eyes Sivakami lustily. They have a small drinks party on a hill top where Jacob espies Sivakami going somewhere and suggests if anybody is interested in her. Upon which Shankaran gets angry and charges at him.

Aravindam has slowly and beautifully constructed the plot upto this stage showing Shankaran, Sivakami, Muniyandi and Jacob in their natural elements. From there onwards story takes a subtle but perceptible shift which we come to know about only at the end of the movie.

Jacob puts Muniyandi on a night shift and offers a job to Sivakami which he rebuffs. Muniyandi is naturally suspicious of Jacob and when he hears a bike going away from the farm, he rushes to his home to find his door locked and somebody runs away from the house from the other side. He becomes crestfallen and Shankaran is racked by guilt and starts drinking heavily. There are few suspense elements, which i am not revealing. Chidambaram is a temple town from where Smita Patil hails before her marriage.

Bharath Gopy has acted masterfully with his full range of emotions as a guilt ridden man. Smita Patil as usually is smashing in her role as a Tamil speaking village girl. She is magnificent. But the movie is all about Bharat Gopy.

Camera work, cinematography, music, direction are all outstanding to say the least. Nice story with good dialogues to lend the movie credibility. This movie won the National Award for Best Feature Film in 1985. It deserved it.

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Vidheyan

Brilliant Malayalam/ Kannada movie “Vidheyan” (1994) directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. The closest to a slave movie you can find in Indian cinema.

Thommy (M.R. Gopakumar in a brilliant role) is a poor person with his own 5 acres eking out a living somewhere in South Karnataka. Bhaskara Patellar (Mammootty) is his landlord, who is a raw face of terror in the area. He has some three people supporting him all the time, but he is deadly, aggressive, tyrannical, giving to booze and women. He has total contempt for anybody and wont to give to kicks and slaps to get his away.

Thommy gives into his landlord, including allowing him to sleep with his wife Omana (Sangeetha Anand). Bhaskara wants to kill his wife Saroja (Tanvi Azmi) who is the only one opposing him, and comes close once when the bullet accidentally hits Thommy instead of Saroja.

Bhaskara finally manages to kill his wife but then is racked by guilt and indecision. Thommy accompanies him as they are on the run to Kodagu forests while Saroja’s brothers are out to kill him.

Mammootty is the deadly villain in the movie. As a villain it will rank as one of the best performances ever in Indian cinema. M.R. Gopakumar has acted quite brilliantly as the servient slave to his master, taking in all the punishments and hits and abuses with equanimity. Cinematography by Markanda Ravi Varma is stunningly beautiful. Music by Vijaya Bhasker is superb and the camera work and sound are quite magnificent.

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Aalorukkam

Breathtaking movie of rare cinematic brilliance – Aalorukkam directed by V.C. Abhilash in his debut film and starring Indrans, Srikanth Menon, Shaji A.J., Vishnu Agastya, Seethabaala among others.

It tackles the difficult subject of transgender persons with lot of maturity and emotions. Pappu Pisharody (Indrans) is an Otham Thullal artiste and is out in search of his son Sajeevan who has left his house 16 years ago and not returned. He somehow lands up injured in a hospital run by Dr. Sita (Seethabaala in a very matured role). She enlists her friend Priyan (Vishnu Agastya), a journalist to search for the missing son, now 37 years old. Priyan in turn asks his police friend Kabir to help him out.

In the meantime, Pisharody narrates his tale of woe to the hospital staff and his friends at the hospital. Finally the son is found but Pisharody is unable to reconcile with his son. He becomes numb with shock and does not utter a word at all during his stay with his son. Pisharody has nobody left in the world, his wife has died and his only daughter committed suicide four years ago and he himself has played many female characters during his Otham Thullal days. He is like dying to meet his son after so many years and to spend his old years away under the care of his son.

Its like an irreconcilable shock to him to find his son in such a state after so many years. Director Abhilash has done a superb job in exploring the depth of human emotions, anguish, sadness, loneliness, despair, frustration, love in tackling an extremely sensitive issue of transgenders in the society. There is no preachiness, no melodrama, no overacting in the movie.

Indrans and Srikanth Menon as central characters have given a flawless performance. In fact all the characters have played their part perfectly. Writer Abhilash has given a lot of feeling to the script while the music by Ronnie Raphael is brilliant and sensitive.

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