Okay, here is a Review of a Malayalam Movie I worked on(Scripted a Segment). This is a very detailed review, Sify gave an awesome review, albeit short, so not posting that.
Movie – Kerala Cafe (Malayalam)
Directors – M Padmakumar, Shankar Ramakrishnan, Shaji Kailas, Uday Ananthan, Anjali Menon, B Unnikrishnan, Shyamaprasad, Anwar Rasheed, Revathy & Lal Jose
Producer – Ranjith
Release Date – 29th October 2009
This is a completely experimental film though the posters may suggest it as another mass multistarrer like Twenty-20. My sincere request to all the viewers is that please dont go for this movie with that expectation. The makers should have kept the photos of the 10 directors in the poster instead of the stars. Because, this movie completely belongs to these 10 people and the mastermind behind it all, the producer, Ranjith. The audience here for the first show of the movie in Cochin was pathetic, as they were all howling throughout the first half. They became a little more settled once the movie got into its second half. Fans of a certain superstar in the movie were getting restless waiting for their hero and were booing for every other short film. I couldnt hear many dialogues of 2 of the short films because of the extensive howling by all these people. If it was a Hindi or a Tamil film with the same theme, the same people would stay quiet and watch the movie seriously. Just because it is a Malayalam film, they get restless and start doing all sorts of nonsense. They dont deserve great movies like this one. They should be continuously given brain-dead movies with more than middle-aged heroes fighting, singing, dancing, romancing and giving one-liners. What has the Malayalam film audience come to? Having said this, let me move on to my view about this wonderful experiment by Ranjith.
The film is introduced by Sathyan Anthikkad, one of our best filmmakers and he gives a clear idea on what to expect out of the film. The censor certificate appears after this introduction and the movie begins by showing a coffee shop at a busy railway station, called Kerala Cafe.
Director – M Padmakumar
Cinematography – Anil Nair
Editor – VT Sreejith
Art Director – Salu K George
Music – Tej Merwin
Based on the poem ‘Naattuvazhikal‘ by R Venugopal
Cast – Dileep, Navya Nair, Sudheesh, Babu Namboothiri, Suresh Krishna
This is the first one among the short films. It begins from Dubai and shows us Johnny Kutty (Dileep), a gulf based Malayali who keeps singing praises about his homeland while drinking along with his other Gulf Malayali friends. Interestingly, his mobile’s ringtone is the anthem of Gulf Malayalis, ‘Thirike njaan varumenna‘.But when the same person comes back to his town, he has nothing but complaints. He always talks about nostalgia when he is abroad, but he doesnt have time to get nostalgic memories when he is in his hometown. He hurts his parents, children and his wife too, and says that he is doing all that for them. He returns to Dubai and continues talking about nostalgia. Dileep plays the Gulf Malayali convincingly, complete with gold chain and mobile phone which is always in his hand, rather than being in the pocket. Though his acting could have been better at several instances, Dileep gives a certain likeability to the character (which has a slight negative touch) and we all have seen such characters many times at many places. Navya Nair puts in a decent performance. M Padmakumar has finally made a story different from Devasuram after his debut, Ammakkilikkoodu. (His 3 other films, Vargam, Vasthavam and Parunthu had the same basic storyline of Devasuram). All in all, an interesting movie, though the idea could have been conveyed in a better way.
Rating – 3/5
Director – Shankar Ramakrishnan
Cinematography – S Kumar ISC
Editor – Mahesh Narayanan
Art – Manu Jagadh
Music – Manu Ramesh
Screenplay – Shankar Ramakrishnan
Cast – Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Rahman, Sukumari, Manian Pillai Raju
The very first shot of the movie featuring Prithviraj was received with such maddening applause heard only for superstar movies usually. And when he utters the word Mangalasshery Neelakanthan, the crowd goes even more wild. I couldnt hear any of the first few dialogues because of the noise. Later, we realize that Prithviraj is writing a story about a certain incident and that he is now going to revisit the place where the incident happened. Rahman, Sukumari and Manian Pillai Raju are also people affected by that particular incident and all of them meet at that place. Jayasurya plays a non-Malayali who decides to cancel his plans of going to Vallikkavu Ashramam, in order to help out Sukumari. From a narration by Prithviraj, this movie moves on to Jayasurya who shares his experience to a senior officer sitting inside Kerala Cafe. This is a technically slick movie with some great cinematography by veteran S Kumar and art direction by Manu Jagadh. Prithviraj looks dashing, so does Rahman. All the actors perform well, and Sukumari, who is not seen regularly these days plays a strong role. Jayasurya does a neat job in his short role. A very impressive debut by Ranjith’s assistant, Shankar Ramakrishnan.
Rating – 4/5
Director – Shaji Kailas
Cinematography – Sujith Vasudev
Editor – Samjith Mhd
Art – Salu K George
Music – Shan
Writer – Rajesh Jayaraman
Cast – Suresh Gopi, Jyothirmayi, Dhanya Mary Varghese, Jayan
This is the most poor movie among the 10. When you think of a Shaji Kailas – Suresh Gopi movie, you expect some sparks flying and action happening. But here, Shaji Kailas narrates a story of an extra marital affair and how the protagonist is affected because of it. The story does not gel with the undercurrent theme of ‘Yathra’ and does not have a strong base too. Shaji Kailas doesnt go for fancy camera movements and editing gimmicks this time around. He gives some neat shots and also tries to bring about a change in colour tone in the present and past sequences. Majority of the audience were howling throughout for the film and I couldnt hear any of the dialogues that Suresh Gopi said. I had to figure out the story from the visuals alone. And from that, I think Suresh Gopi and Jyothirmayi did a good job, while Dhanya Mary wasnt very impressive. The television actor Jayan shows how much of a natural actor he is in a miniscule role. I dont know what is there so much to howl about in this movie. It may not be as good as the others, but it certainly shows us a different approach of Shaji Kailas, who is known to make complete action potboilers.
Rating – 2/5
Director – Uday Ananthan
Cinematography – Hari Nair
Editor – Samjith Mhd
Art – Manu Jagadh
Music – Ouseppachan
Writer – Ahmed Siddique
Cast – Thilakan, Fahaadh Fazil, Rima Kallingal, Unni Shivapal, Anoop Menon, Meera Nandan
This one also doesnt gel with the theme of ‘Yathra’ directly. (The makers may explain some indirect links). It is basically a horror story. A horror fiction writer comes to meet his half-sister in Kerala Cafe and talks about an incident that happened in a spooky ‘mana‘. It is about a journalist who goes to the old mansion’s owner to find out about the unusual deaths that keep happening inside it. In spite of several warnings by the owner, the journalist decides to spend a night inside the scary house. In between this, he also proposes to the karanavar’s granddaughter. What happens to him finally? Uday Ananthan is not so successful in creating an effective horror mood, which is required for this movie. The audience were booing away to glory for this one also. At one point we would be confused whether all those voices were actually in the movie, or were made by some talented mimicry artistes among the audience. Fazil’s son Shanu, in a new name, Fahaadh, reappears after his pathetic debut Kaiyethum Doorathu. His acting is impressive and he looks good too. Rima Kallingal is a natural actress and as what usually happens to heroines who have a little brain, she is also booed at strongly. Thilakan is credible as always. The mediocre movie surprises you with a good and clever ending, though a lot of questions are left unanswered. (It can be excused, as short films have that advantage of leaving a lot to the audience’s imagination).
Rating - 2.5/5
Director – Anjali Menon
Cinematography – MJ Radhakrishnan
Editor – B Lenin
Art – Suresh Kollam
Music – Issac Thomas Kottukappally
Sound – AS Lakshmi Narayanan
Writer – Anjali Menon
Cast – Jagathy Sreekumar, Nithya Menen and Bindu Panicker (Voice).
This movie is certainly the second best among the ten movies. And it can also be called technically as the first Malayalam movie by a lady director. (Anjali had already made a beautiful film called Manjadikkuru, which is yet to release). The basic theme of this movie is battle of the sexes. How a man tries to take advantage of a young vulnerable girl and how the girl faces him strongly and scares the living daylights out of him forms the story of the movie. Jagathy Sreekumar is absolutely stupendous as the flirtatious (or slightly horny, if the language can be excused), typical Malayali uncle. Kudos to Anjali for extracting such an amazing performance from one of our best actors, who is grossly wasted in all the recent movies that he has been doing. Nithya Menen has already proved that she is a good actress and she does a neat job here too, other than appearing really beautiful also. Almost the entire film was shot inside a bus, and in spite of that, the technical departments have done a great job including cinematography, art and sound. This is the first movie of the lot where the whole theatre was clapping together in unison. Each and everyone present there loved the film. Anjali Menon is a filmmaker to watch out for. (I have already seen her debut film Manjadikkuru, and it is absolutely brilliant). The movie has its interval point where this movie ends.
Rating – 4.5/5
Director – B Unnikrishnan
Cinematographer – Shamdat
Editor – Manoj
Art – Joseph Nellickal
Music – M Jayachandran
Writer – B Unnikrishnan
Cast – Siddique, Shwetha Menon, Sudheesh
This movie is a tale of a nuclear family affected by global recession. It is a very relevant topic and the movie has a superlative performance by Siddique with great support from Shwetha Menon. The camerawork is very impressive and the interior designing of the house which is the main location for almost the entire movie, is also effective. The whole credibility of the movie is solely based on Siddique’s performance, and the brilliant actor gives a great effortless performance. The audience feels for him and sympathizes with him, and that is Siddique’s success as an actor, and B Unnikrishnan’s success as a director. Shwetha Menon is also very good. B Unnikrishnan already has the experience in directing short fiction, especially for some very impressive telefilms in Amritha TV. Since this movie was in the second half, and the audience became used to the film’s format, it got a good round of applause when it ended.
Rating – 3.8/5
Director – Shyamaprasad
Cinematography – Alagappan
Editor – John Kutty
Art – Raju Chemmannil
Music – Rahul Raj
Writer – Joshua Newtonn
Cast – Suraaj Venjarammood, Vindhyan
Shyamaprasad deviates from his usual serious kind of cinema to make this light hearted short film, which begins with a scene which shows what happens when a Slumdog meets a Millionaire during an off season at Kovalam beach. Suraaj Venjarammood plays the lead role in the movie and his Thiruvananthapuram style dialogue delivery is utilized once again. Thankfully, it does not appear repetitive and is quite authentic, since the movie is set in Kovalam. Suraaj plays a happy-go-lucky guy who makes his living by doing all sorts of jobs at the beach. He comes across a Portugese couple and he thinks he can make some easy money by conning them. But he realizes soon that all his attempts were in vain. But in spite of this, a bond comes across between them and the movie ends depicting this bond, which doesnt have the barrier of culture, region or language. This movie also talks about the global economic recession and how it has affected people around the world. Suraaj puts in a decent performance. His first shot is received with maximum applause (probably as much as Prithviraj and Mammootty got in the movie, and definitely much more than what Dileep and Suresh Gopi got). I had begun to hate him and was irritated by the undying love for him shown by Malayalis in spite of the atrocious things he keeps doing in movies in the name of comedy. But in this movie, he is controlled by an excellent director like Shyamaprasad and is made to deliver a good performance. Alagappan’s frames are excellent. Art by Raju Chemmannil is very impressive. Rahul Raj recreates a happy version of the classic sad song ‘Manasamaine Varoo‘. All in all, a decent effort.
Rating – 3/5
Director – Anwar Rasheed
Cinematography – Suresh Rajan
Editor – Vivek Harshan
Art – Diljith
Music – Rex Vijayan
Writer – Unni R
Cast – Salimkumar, Shantha Devi, Kalpana and others.
I wanted to give a standing ovation for this movie so badly. It is clearly the best piece of cinema to have come out in recent years in Malayalam. And that too, from a total commercial masala filmmaker who has given back to back blockbusters with superstars like Rajamanikyam, Chotta Mumbai and Annan Thampi. You never expect such a movie from the Anwar Rasheed who gave us all the above mentioned movies. Ranjith has given him the creative space and freedom to express himself without thinking about the commercial fate of the project. And this has helped him create a beautiful work of art, called bridge. It is a tale about two rejected souls. I’m not mentioning anything about the story, as it would spoil the experience when you watch it. Salimkumar puts in yet another credible, serious performance after Achanurangaatha Veedu. Kalpana is completely natural. But the best actor in this one, and probably in the whole Kerala Cafe movie is the old actress Shantha Devi. She definitely would bring a tear or two to your eyes. The film has some truly exotic frames captured by Suresh Rajan, who is a pass out of Kolkata film school (the one where Amal Neerad came from). I heard that this guy is going to do Mani Ratnam’s next film. So you can already guess the talent of this guy. Absolutely stunning. Vivek Harshan’s editing is also perfect. Unni R, who wrote some kickass dialogues in Big B, has written this touching story with ample scope for Anwar to give a visual treat. Bridge is definitely the best among all the ten movies in Kerala Cafe.
Rating – 5/5
Director – Revathy
Cinematography – Madhu Ambat
Editor – Rajalakshmi
Art – Shankar
Music – Bombay Jayashree
Story – Revathy
Screenplay, Dialogues – Deedi Damodaran
Cast – Sona Nair, Augustine, Srinath, Sreelakshmi, Archana, Jayarao, Sasi, Master Arun, Sai Shree
Revathy is known to make movies with women as the main protagonists. Here, she talks about a girl child who is sent away from her family in exchange for money to the comforts of a rich family. What finally happens to that poor child, forms the rest of the story. Revathy has narrated the story with a great sensibility and each member of the cast has given great performances. Sona Nair and the lady who acted as the child’s mother were really good. The shot where the younger brother runs behind the speeding car from a top angle, by legendary cameraman Madhu Ambat is sure to haunt you. The movie leaves you disturbed and Revathy and Deedi Damodaran (who wrote Gulmohar earlier) make you sympathize with their characters. A well made movie in all aspects. A beautiful short song composed by singer Bombay Jayashree is used very well in the movie.
Rating – 3.5/5
Director – Lal Jose
Cinematography – Vijay Ulakanathan
Editor – Ranjan Abraham
Art – Mani Mannarkkad
Music – Bijipal
Screenplay – Lal Jose
Based on CV Sreeraman’s short story Puram Kaazhchakal.
Cast – Sreenivasan, Mammootty, Sreelekha
This film narrates the story of a bus journey. It begins when a middle aged man, played by Sreenivasan who goes on a bus route which he had long forgotten because of a tragic past. He remembers those incidents while traveling through those routes and seeing those places. A stranger, who is in a hurry comes and sits next to him. He tries to begin a conversation but he is totally not interested. He appears to be in a hurry and seems to have an upset mind. The movie then proceeds to a great climax which startles the viewer. Sreenivasan is good and gives a controlled performance. The track of his past wasnt really necessary. Mammootty was brilliant in his miniscule role. The actor in him is utilized fully just through mere reactions and looks. He hardly has any dialogues in the movie. He emotes completely through his expressions. And the best part is that, you will realize that it was a really amazing performance, much more when you see the climax. This movie would certainly be disappointing for Mammootty fans who expected him in a lengthy role. They would even think that he had nothing to do in this movie. But he is here as just another talented actor who is perfect for that particular character. Being part of this experiment is a great gesture from Mammootty’s side as his presence would certainly bring in more attention and hype to this movie. The great locations were captured very well by cinematographer Vijay Ulaganathan. All in all, a great movie by Lal Jose though it might not satisfy the huge expectations caused due to the coming together of Lal Jose, Sreenivasan and Mammootty.
Rating – 4/5
Different characters from all these movies come to Kerala Cafe at certain points of time and wait for the train that is about to arrive. Finally, after we know the story behind each one of them, the train arrives and all of them go away in a hurry from Kerala Cafe. And we are left with a haunting shot of 2 characters from the best movie of the lot, Bridge, sitting at a corner of the railway station. The movie then proceeds to the end credits which appear along with the awe inspiring song ‘Kadhayamama Kadhakalathi Sagaram‘.
Ranjith has effortlessly merged together all these 10 stories into one great cinematic experience which Malayalis have never had before. In Hindi, there was one such movie called Dus Kahaniyaan, but in that, most movies were ripped off from foreign short films and half the movies were directed by the producer Sanjay Gupta himself. This movie stands way above that one and is certainly a must watch for all lovers of good cinema. It was conceptualized, shot, edited and released, all within 4 and a half months with over 1800 people as part of the crew. This can certainly be the change that Malayalam Cinema badly needs. But if the crowd continues to react in the way they reacted during the first half of the movie today, I dont think they deserve such good movies anymore. But I hope this type of crowd will go away in some days as more and more people will become aware of what the movie actually is about and watch it for that, not for the star studded poster of the movie, which gives an impression that it is yet another Twenty 20.
But it is interesting to note that, Malayalam Cinema is suddenly getting a fresh lease of life. Movies like Passenger, Bhramaram, Loudspeaker, Pazhassiraja, Kerala Cafe, Swa Le, etc are coming and people are slowly appreciating such movies, even though the mass crowd still prefers the other kind of cinema. This should also change gradually and we can all hope that we get back to the glorious period of our cinema which we had during the 85-95 period.
Thank you Ranjith Sir for giving us this movie. You have always been a trendsetter. Whether it is by writing movies like Aaram Thampuraan and Summer in Betlehem at the same time or giving a Nandanam after a Ravanaprabhu, you have always surprised the Malayali viewers with your offbeat as well as commercial ventures. Now that you have shown the capability of the amazing producer in you and has tried to bring about a change in our declining film industry, we have huge expecations out of your next movie Palery Manikyam. Hope it turns out to be even better. Thank you for Kerala Cafe. The coffee was delicious!!
Rating – 4.5/5 (An extra .5 just because such efforts should always be appreciated and promoted)