#51

Raid is a 2018 Hindi language film directed by Raj Kumar Gupta with Ajay Devgan and Saurab Shukla playing the leads.

Though he has doned different roles, to me Saurab Shukla will always remain Gopi from Tehkikaat. That funny assistant who looks up to his detective friend, Sam (Vijay Anand). In this film in the role of the villain, Thauji, the landlord who is raided, he has the maximum scope of emotions.

Turns out, I don’t remember the last film I stepped into a theatre to watch Ajay Devgan act. It could be as long as more than 10 years with Bhagat Singh or his home production, Raju Chacha. Was he a part of that political drama based on the Mahabharata starring Ranbhir Kapoor & Katrina Kaif with a mother who couldn’t act – Rajneeti. Even that film seems to be a long time ago. You get the point don’t you?

Here, he plays this ‘ultra’ honest ‘patriotic’ officer (you should here his lines about nationalism and mother India) who is also shown to be madly deeply in love with his (newly wedded) wife (Ileana D’Cruz). If their romance was the so called comic relief in this terse drama — it turns out to be more of an irritation, incumbrance & subversion to the plot!

Picture this, Devgan as Amay Patnaik, 10-15 of his department colleagues, with a blue bus full of police troops (think guns, helmets, troops running out to make a boundary line) is at the house of this (most) powerful man, Thauji (Shukla), searching his haveli (mansion like house) for the black money and the records he has kept hidden. Apparently, this is a secret operation so that nobody in high places can tip off this influential man, also a politician, also a member of the parliament to hide his illegal assets elsewhere!

The ‘beautiful’ dainty wife walks in with a tiffin box at lunch time for her IRS officer husband saying, you’d be tired, or the wife knows everything!!!! Comic relief, absolutely. Initially I was horrified, the emotion turned to irritation and finally sarcasm! 😉

The film would have retained its seriousness without this couple angle! Nevertheless, the wives and the kids (when they are present) is the pawn to coerce the honest officers into succumbing to the corrupt villain!

The plot is based on true events about the longest recorded raid in the history of Indian Revenue Service (IRS) – roughly 2 days in 1981. The ending is inspired from a couple of incidents from real life, the aftermath of raids in these towns.

I agree that more films should be made on the stories of these honest officers who dared to enter the lion’s den to thwart corruption under unfavourable circumstances of liaison between the rich, the police, judiciary and the politicians. However, it can be done with a seriousness it requires to get the message across, not resort to unwanted drama like the romance and presence of Dcruz in this film.

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#33

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Mussouri is a 2017 film (Oscar nomination) as the title says is about a grieving mother’s public howler to her town’s police chief, Bill Willoughby & force.

Most of the rest of the film is a bunch of reactions to her this action. That said, this isn’t another crime thriller, or about a wailing mother who lost her daughter crying out for justice .. it is about this unrelenting gritty woman who has separated from her husband on reasons of abuse, wants the shake up the police force from their laid back routine. Three billboards puts this quiet town on prime time TV, and gets its people talking, enraged ..

Since the content is serious, there are times when as an audience we’d wonder, what is that that made us laugh about particular scenes. And we do laugh out loud often, continue to laugh at the verbal and situational humour during a dead serious conversation.

“Did she say begets ..?” is one such point, but it also encapsulates the theme of the film in one stroke!

A teenage girl is raped, burnt and murdered in this town. Her mother is irritated that the police force in spite of a diligent officer in charge hasn’t caught the culprits responsible for her daughter’s cruel fate since 9 months. She pays to paint her messages up on three billboards on a less frequently travelled road on an impulse, but that act makes her the target of the ire of the (almost) the whole town.. They, the priests to ex husband, do everything –go from giving her advice to hurling objects at her, her car, arresting her friend under false allegation, beating up the owner of the advertising co who leases the billboards, to setting them on fire– but she stays put, on the way she finds she has new friends and well wishers …

Nevertheless, the story doesn’t end here. Thats for you to find out when you watch it. I’m tempted to share about the god narrative tool but then if I do that I’d have to add spoiler alert to this post! 😀 (some other day, but that narrative tactic speaks out loud everything possible ending that could play in our minds about the direction of the film) 😉

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, especially after a dampening Black Panther. Saw those two, back to back one night, and went to sleep peacefully thereafter.

A slow paced #Villain, left me with a headache! 

Reviews have been calling this film an emotional tense thriller, a film re-defining the nature of a villain, a hero, and an anti hero. It does delve deep into the master killer’s life.. but there are 2-3 villains in this film, who can be but into boxes of good, not so good, monster, beast 

When Mathew Manjooran (Mohanlal) remarks, “there is a villain in every hero, and a hero in every villain” the water tight distinction between two known types in the popular imagination does not begin to blur, but it does lead to a momentary break from the usual black & white categories. 

The good villain is always the social empath who cringes at the sight of injustice. Too many of these incidents leass them to become thr villain – their rise is a tale of their consequences & motivations, the pinnacle of their (mob) justice, eventually ending in the rise of a new hero to erase older villains, gradually leading to their transformation into the newer villain/hero as the case may be. It seems to be a cycle in which anybody, a hero, can be struck down by an unexpected calamity …

… Manjooran is a borderline case, his wife and daughter were unexpectedly snatched away from his happy life …

 can turn into an antihero in due course of time. Does he or does he not (after Drishyam it is hard to speculate) don the role of a villain to avenge the death of his family to become their hero … is one part of the film.

The film begins on the day ADGP Mathew Manjooran (#mohanlal) decides to end his career in the police force voluntarily. He has opted for an early retirement 7 months after a brutal “road accident” killed his wife killed his wife (Manju Warrier) and teenage daughter. 

A melancholic Mohanlal in a salt and pepper bearded bespectacled gentleman in a trench coat look. We are sure to empathize with the restless demons he faces inside him, the craft of this actor. He is on a journey to a mysterious somewhere, away from his familiar people and places … who knows for what purpose … 

Meanwhile, a murder is planned and executed the previous night, discovered in the morning of his last day which stops him from starting on the that trip. The task force concludes that it is the beginning of a series of public grievence redressals. Somebody has turned vigillante to rid the society of its “criminals” who have escaped the law with their power and money. “If that is the intention, how many people will they kill,” asks the Commission to Manjooran. This is the second part of the story.

The third part of the story is when Manjooran and the vigillante come face to face in a dialogue to review the current plight of the system of justice. The Fourth part … is there a suspense in this story… 😎

Stylish, slick & technical in its packaging, the office of the task force looks very similar to the one in The Blacklist or Hollywood films of the genre. In spite of the excellent dialogue delivery of two very seasoned actors, Mohanlal & Siddique, with a supporting cast of  Ranji Pannicker, Chemban Jose & Rashi Khanna in uniform, the idealistic Samaritan intentions in Manju Warrier’s Dr. Neelima, Vishal and Hansika Motwani bringing in the rest of the cast, the satisfaction of public punishments played out in this police procedural was too slow paced and predictable for my taste, or that of an edge of the seat thriller genre from the Grandmaster team. 

Although categorised as a thriller, it seems to be more on the lines of B Unnikrishan’s take on the greyer shades of people psychology. The series of murders is the drama he pulls up to convey this. He uses Manjooran to filter down this to us.  The film like a murder as the top cop remarks a simple equation of who killed who. The rest of the theatrics are ways of camoflauging the details. 

if only the pace was a notch faster, the script, the actors and the style would have fallen right in place making it a crowd puller.

Reaction: I had to get out of the theatre to buy a cup of extra strong coffee as I was fighting hard not to sleep inside. (The speculations of the men sitting behind me about the film kept me awake 😉) 

Villain is a 2017 Malayalam film starring Mohanlal, Vishal, Siddique, Manju Warrier, Chemban Vinod Jose, Ranji Pannicker directed by B Unnikrishan. 

Spiderman Homecoming (2017)

All the reviews say it is awesome, the best in spiderman movies so far, so on and so forth. But the second half was hopelessly long.. There were points were I sat there watching because I was a fan! Sometimes some things act as compulsions, one of moments….  The teenager, the classroom, the excitement of being part of saving the world team, tom Holland ….. spot on, but … there are many many many buts after they set all this up in the first half.. 

Would love to know what all of you made of it.. 

Take-off (2017)|Mahesh Narayan|Parvathy, Kunchacko Boban, Fahad Faasil

Takeoff is a well made film in all its departments, conceived, and executed well by its technicians and actors. The only problem I had with the film was, to me, it seemed more like a documentary, which is also is a way of filmmaking. There is no doubt the film will amass awards, Parvathy, in particular, who has held the film together from start to end. I loved Fahad Faasil’s role as the Indian Ambassador, Manoj Abraham, the best among the key characters. 

Takeoff is a Malayalam film released in 2017 based on true events surrounding the rescue of 46 nurses held hostage in Tikrit, Iraq in 2014. The film on top of that, is a tribute to late Rajesh Pillai (d. March 2016) the director who gave Malayalees, Traffic, touted to be the film that changed film making in Malayalam in recent times. 

C/o Saira Banu (2017) Malayalam | Manju Warrier, Amala Akkineni, Shane Nigam

Manju Warrier dons the role of a postwoman, Saira Banu. She lives with her college going son, Joshua Peter played by Shane Nigam. That’s the mystery the trailer leaves you with. Keeping the religious parentage mystery aside, the story moves on to a murder of a Bengali worker in a freak road accident one night. Joe, short for Joshua is implicated on multiple charges, arrested and in prison in remand. Amala plays advocate Annie John Tharavadi who is convinced about Joe’s part in the road accident. The crux of the story is none of above, but about motherhood. Watch the film to know the tale. 

There are major lip sync issues especially with Amala, who also has only one smiling expression all through. It is difficult to believe she is the one who sat in a corner covered in blood in the last scenes of Ulldakkam! Shane is a very cute guy on screen, Manju Warrier still needs to look out for a role that can give her a comeback boost. 

What’s the first memory of you? | Lion (2016) | Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nichole Kidman

What’s the first memory of you from long long time ago? I remember the night my brother was born, when my mother came out of the bedroom and told my father, that it is time to go to the hospital. A rainy night in August, it was around 11 or 12, a Saturday night therefore I was awake that late.

After effect of watching the film LION. A boy is lost when he was a child. 25 years later he goes in search of his mother and brother. The trailer is pretty intriguing too.

PS. It takes about 53 minutes for the back story of the film to come to the present and begin the search. The narration is linear, no flash backs. The pace keeps the interest going. and the trauma of a boy who remembers his past brings up an emotional connection. it is quite an adventure. the younger Surru is adorable!

It is always the little memories. In case of Suru (Dev Patel) it is the jalebis/immerthis that rekindles his urgency to get set go and search for his mother and elder brother. I remember a birthday of mine when my maternal uncle gifted me ladoos, 9 ladoos, for my 9th birthday because I was crazy about them, but the size of the ladoo was 5 ladoos put together, I could hardly finish one.

Manichitrathazhu & the newgen Malayalee

As recent as last week, I hear somebody say that Manichitrathazhu is a crappy film. Pin drop silence followed. It takes time to digest statements like these among a certain breed of Malayalees who love, adore this film. It is a topic which the new age Malayalee brought up in the 90s and after can talk endlessly on if they are movie buffs. Even if they are not, references from the film in the nature of songs, dialogue and trolls pop up every other day.

Manichitrathazhru is a 1993 Malayalam film directed by Faasil starring Mohanlal, Shobana, (she won her first national award for her role as Ganga), Suresh Gopi (one of the two roles in which I love Suresh Gopi the other being the character he played in Innale), Vinaya Prasad in the lead ( who made her way later into Malayalee daily life with her popularity in the non ending serial Sthree alongside Sidduque aired on Asianet), with Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, KPSC Lalita, Ganesh as the supporting cast. To the non Malayalee/non Madrasi as Shaggy puts it, this film is what inspired Chandrmukhi in Tamil and Bhool Bhulaiya in Hindi in recent years. A film, I’d recommend to anybody who’d ask me about what to watch in Malayalam.

Given this context, when somebody says, everybody in the film over acts, the reaction to such is first silence, then may be a kootathalu (a street rabble) or a long discussion that never seems to end. (snarling!)

What is that makes Manichitrathazhru special? For one, I’m a fan of its narration. Two, how the plot itself begins to deconstruct the myth it creates. For instance in scene one, Innocent is seen inspecting the painting work in an age old palace which is declared haunted. As he climbs up the stairs, he accidentally hits on a rocking chair which continues to rock for a while, so much so that when Innocent walks down and runs out, he feels the ghost is in the chair, rocking. I will never tire of speaking/writing about this film, but as an introduction to it, I guess this little bit should suffice. Until somebody else begins a discussion on how muscular Vidya Balan looked while she lifted that heavy cot in the Hindi adaptation, signing off…

Manichitrathazhru means a lock, one of those traditional locks on ornate wooden doors.

Utharam (1989) (in search of an answer) | MT Vasudevan Nair|Pavithran | Mammooty, Sukumaran, Suparna, Parvathy

Utharam (meaning answer) one of my favourite Malayalam films is a murder mystery. Leena (an upcoming poet and a happy sort of wife) commits suicide without any provocation one morning using her planter husband’s (sukumaran) double barrel gun.

Her husband is heart broken. The servants in the house are distraught. Mammooty, a close friend of the family is unable to console any of them and himself. Everyone is shocked, trying to come to grips with what has happened to their beloved Leena/leenamma as they call her affectionately.

Mammooty with the permission of his friend begins a personal investigation to find out the cause for Leena’a sudden decision. He begins with her published poems, her diary entries, and gradually travels to her past, meets different people associated with her since childhood, and her school days. The plot is very similar to a police procedural, but it moves forward without that quintessential police officer. As it is a journey of a friend into a friend’s past there are moments when the journey turns quite emotional.

Does he find the answer – utharam to her death? Is the million dollar queation.

The film stars Sukumaran (husband – the planter), Mammotty (journalist friend), Suparna (upcoming poet, wife who dies) Parvathy (prof and close friebd of Leena). Written by MT Vasudevan Nair, Directed by Pavithran.

Ore Mukham (2016) & Angels (2014)

Two films in Malayalam I stubbled upon by chance. They turned out to be thrillers of the police prodecural kinds.

Ore Mukham (same face)  released last year with a cast of Dhyan Srinivasan, Aju Varghese and their friends who until now have made out and out comedies when cast together like in kootamani.  That’s the twist of the tale, I began watching the film thinking of it as one such but it began with a murder, to be continued with an investigation and finally there was a killer, (obviously!) I found it very similar to Ee Thanutha Veluppan Kaalathu (1990) or I was reminded of the film, one of the two, I don’t know which. 

Even Angels for that matter is a benign title. Who would have thought it would be the story of three murders? With Indrajit Sukumaran in the lead who sits down to solve a crime with the help of a journalist and a live talk show host Haritha. 

The non linear narration makes the twists and turns interesting!