Pardesi AMA – Ask Me Anything!

This is long, but I had many, many questions on my Pardesi Youtube channel and on Twitter.  In the video description, there is an index so you can skip ahead to questions that interest you.  I expand on my introduction video, and tell more about the story of how I fell in love with Indian cinema.  I discuss my favorite directors in the Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil cinema industries.

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 Maheshinte Prathikaaram – Fahadh Faasil is great in this unconventional revenge story

Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) is a delightful Malayalam Comedy-Drama starring Fahadh Faasil.  I think this is actually only my third Fahadh Faasil film, but I have many of his recent films in my watch list.  I loved him in Bangalore Days.  Oh, my gosh when he revealed that huge tattoo!  I hated him for most of the movie, and then he totally won me over in those emotional scenes.  I really didn’t like him in Amen, but then his character was such a nebbish!  He was true to the character, which was a character I didn’t like that much.

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Mahesh, however was such an interesting character.  As was the whole small town setting of the movie.  I loved this peak into the Indukki area of Kerala, which has very tough women.

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Like many Malayalam films, the entire first half meanders it’s way through character introductions and not a lot really happens until almost the interval.  But I didn’t mind at all.  I picked this movie to watch on a day that I had been watching news of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas.  I relished getting away from it all to this beautiful small town in Kerala.

Mahesh has a photo “shop” where he takes passport photos, “Chin up.  Shoulders down.”  He’s a fixture taking photos at every wedding and funeral in town.  He’s not very good.  He has a long distance relationship with a girl he’s had a crush on since childhood, and then she gets another marriage offer from an NRI.  Mahesh is passive.  He doesn’t pursue the girl.  He’s satisfied just taking passport photos.

And then there is an incredible cascade of arguments and spats that starts with a disagreement at a funeral and ends in a brawl.  This whole sequence of one fight leading to a bike accident, to the next argument, and on and on was one of my favorites.  It was very clever.  One person’s ill temper leads to the next situation and so on.

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And finally Mahesh gets drawn into a brawl with some rowdies from a nearby town and gets literally hit in the head — pushed into the metal bar of a rickshaw.  He is so thoroughly trounced that his elderly father has to step in to say “enough” to the rowdy.  Mahesh is humiliated and vows to go shoeless until he gets his revenge — throwing his flip flops away!

And Interval.

That’s the set up.  This passive, happy to just go along in life guy, suddenly wakes up.  And starts to make things happen.  He meets a girl.  He realizes he doesn’t really know how to take pictures, and learns to appreciate photography as art.  And he does get his revenge, eventually.

The gentle story telling makes those couple of intense fight sequences all the more visceral.  They felt very real. The final scuffle was so intense I cried out because I though someone had a broken limb and my son came out of his room to see if I was okay.  “Oh.  It’s just a movie.”  LOL

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What’s delightful is just letting this movie wash over you.  I just loved the meandering gentle story telling.  Learning about all the people in this small town, and especially the spunky girl Mahesh meets.  Young actress Aparna Balamurali was absolutely fantastic as Jimsy!  She’s blunt and speaks up for herself in a very straight forward way.  “Love me if you’re brave enough.”  Both the women in this film totally were able to make their own choices.  Even the ex-girlfriend when presented with an arranged marriage offer is given free choice by her family.

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The supporting cast was all universally great, too.  I particularly liked the performances of Alencier Ley Lopez as Baby, Mahesh’s best friend who owns the next door shop, and Soubin Shahir as Crispin, Baby’s new employee.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram won the Malayalam National Film Award and I can see why.  Director Dileesh Pothan and screenwriter Syam Pushkaran transported me to Kerala for a few blessed hours.  The cinematography and music were very nice too.  There was a flash mob scene with Aparna which I though was a brilliant way to have a big dance number in a natural feeling film like this.  It totally fit her character!

 

New Solo Teaser – Dulquer Salmaan as Shekar

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I found this Shekar teaser trailer really interesting.  The look reminds me a bit of Dulquer in Charlie.  We learn the character has a stutter, which I think Dulquer pulls off really well in the small amount of dialogue shown here.

The actress Dhansika who plays Rhadika in this trailer is just stunningly beautiful.  Loved the little bit of their romance shown, and wondering what leads to her tears and him being beat up in the end of the trailer.

Can’t for this film!!

Malayalam Trailer Roundup

With the holiday of Onam, there is a cluster of big releases in Kerala.  There are new releases from Nivin Pauly, Mohanlal and Prithviraj.  Also we’ve had a few teasers now for Solo, Dulquer Salmaan’s upcoming film Solo.

Mohzin ( ) reports from Kerala that the Prithviraj and Nivin Pauly films are doing well in Kerala and getting decent reviews, while the Mohanlal is average.  There can be a couple of week delay until we get Malayalam films here in Chicago, but I hope I can catch some of these new films in the theater.

Here is my song reaction to Enthaavo from Nivin Pauly’s Njandukalude Naatil Oridavela.  Enthaavo has been on the top of the Malayalam charts on Saavn.

 

There’s also been a  trailer and a song from Mohanlal’s Velipadinte Pusthakam.  Mohanal plays the vice principal of a school in the film.

 

 

Adam Joan is a new thriller starring Prithviraj.  It seems to have been mostly filmed in Scotland.

And finally, we get another teaser trailer from Dulquer Salmaan — the character Siva from Solo.  I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Dulquer play a gangster like this.

Trailer Reactions – Solo, Bhoomi, Simran and Yuddham Sharanam

 

So many trailers came out last week!  Here are my reactions to four of the new films that I’m looking forward to seeing.

Any new movie from Dulquer Salmaan is one I’m looking foward to seeing.  After I posted this, someone commented that the film is an anthology and Dulquer will play several characters in the film.  This is just the first character, Rudhra.

 

Bhoomi shows Sanjay Dutt as the father of his daughter Bhoomi.  No subtitles but I get the basic gist that this is a revenge story.  I’m looking forward to seeing Sanjay play a father role.

 

Simran is the “maid” picture that was filmed in the States.  What I just learned is that the director Hansal Mehta is the same one who directed the fantastic Aligharh.  No subs, but it looks super quirky!

 

Finally subtitles, although they don’t show up in my reaction.  This is just a teaser for Chay Akkineini’s latest film, but it looks exciting.  Chay is definitely a great action film actor, and I’m enjoying following his career.

Pardesi – Launching my new YouTube Channel!

 

I have just launched my new YouTube Channel Pardesi with Kartik of Bollyfools.  He first interviewed me right after that very first IMAX showing of Baahubali 2, and we struck up a frienship.  After I did Indian Cinema reviews for the Bollyfools Youtube channel for the last few months, we’ve decided to strike out on our own with this new Pardesi Channel.  We decided on Pardesi because I’m a foreigner reviewing Indian Cinema, and Kartik is an ex-pat in America.

I’ll be doing movie reviews for the most part in the four main Indian Cinema:  Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.  I’m going to try trailer reactions and song reactions.  In fact I just did one for the first song Boom Boom from Mahesh Babu’s Spyder.  I had to take the Picture in Picture and audio out from the song because I got dinged right away.  I think I look ridiculous bobbing my head to silence but I have to know — why is there the word Hogwarts in a Spyder song??!!  It’s so strange!

 

I hope if you follow me here, you’ll subscribe to my new Youtube Channel Pardesi.

The Amazing Classic Malayalam Mohanlal film Spadikam

I’ve been on vacation out of the country for a couple of weeks, so I’m catching up on the films in theaters.  One of the films I brought with me on my iPad was Mohanlal’s Spadikam which is on ErosNow.  I love that ErosNow lets you download films now!

 

I loved the crazy action, but especially the intense family drama between Mohanlal and Thalikan, who plays his stern father.  Devasuram is still my favorite Mohanlal film, but this one is right up there.

The film is also readily available on Youtube.  Check out how crazy the first 10 minutes of the film are.  The viewer is just dropped into the action, with no initial clue as to who Mohanlal is fighting or why.

Comrade In America – First Video Review together with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood!

Margaret of DontCallItBollywood and I have been friends for a couple of years, and I was the one that got her to start watching Malayalam films.  There’s only one theater in Chicago that plays them, and we meet in the middle there to watch them together when we can.  It’s a 45 minute drive for both us — but for Dulquer, it’s worth it!  I’ve started doing regular reviews on the Bollyfools Youtube channel, and this is my first joint video review with Margaret.  We filmed it quickly in the lobby of the theater, so I apologize in advance for all the background noise.

CIA didn’t blow us away, but it was an enjoyable one time watch.  Margaret’s more extensive review of CIA is posted here.

 

 

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Amen – Pellissery’s Quirky Musical Comedy

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Lijo Jose Pellissery’s 2013 Malayalam film Amen has all the elements that should make it a tailor made movie for me.  It’s a quirky comedy about a band competition and the lead actor even plays the clarinet, the very instrument I played as a child.  The film reminded me very much of the comedies of Michel Gondry or Wes Anderson.  We have a cast of odd characters in this Kerala village.  Pellissery seems to have a troupe of actors he likes to reuse — like Wes Anderson does in his films.  The film has a magical realism element to it, like the film Amelie.  There’s an inherent sweetness to the story, and a nostalgia for life in this little village with it’s troubled church.

The film opens with a story about a prank delivery of a packet of faeces causing a fued between two families in the village.  This has nothing to do with the main story of the film, but sets the scene of a village where everyone gets in each other’s business.

The opening credit animated song was perhaps my favorite song sequence of the whole movie:

 

The cinematography of the film is stunning, set in the scenic Kuttanadan area of Kerala, where the most common mode of travel is by canoe or ferry boat.  The ferry brings a new priest to this village, Vincent Vattoli (Indrajith) but at first he’s not recognized as a priest because he wears secular clothes and dances with a young French tourist on the ferry boat.  He arrives at the church under the iron grip of the stern head priest Father Abraham (Joy Matthew) and the corrupt sacristan.  Father Abraham is ready to tear down the church and abolish the church’s band.

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Fahahd Faisal (Solomon) plays clarinet only in secret to his love Shoshanna (Swathi Reddy).  He’s the son of the most famous clarinet master player of the area who died in a boat accident.  Solomon can’t overcome his fears to play with the band, and in their yearly competition, until Vincent Vattoli comes to town.

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There are some gorgeous set pieces when Solomon plays his clarinet in the dark to Shoshanna, and on a boat in the moonlight.  But his character is such a nebbish that I had trouble sympathizing with his plight.  Shoshanna’s family locks her away after she almost elopes with Solomon.  Swathi Reddy does a decent job and has some spunk to her, but she doesn’t have a lot to do in the film.

There’s another one of Pellissery’s long tracking shots for a song set during a “toddy” shop fight between the two rival bands, with the cameramam ending the scene floating away in  a boat.

This film should be my catnip, as I love Wes Anderson films, but this Amen film just did not resonate with me.  The romance between Solomon and Shoshanna is sweet, but I really didn’t like Fahahd’s nebbishy wishy washy character.  I did like Indrajith’s priest character, and he even gets his own song as the French tourist fantasizes about him!

The music was interesting because it’s entirely Western musical instruments.  In fact, with songs like When The Saints Go Marching In, it had a sort of New Orleans Jazz sound to the band combos.

 

This is my third of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s films, and so far my least favorite.  I love, love, love Angamaly Diaries, and I really enjoyed City of God.  Evidently, before Angamaly Diaries, I think Amen is the director’s most crowd pleasing film.  It must evoke strong emotions for the Kerala audience that just didn’t translate to me.  I admire the technical brilliance of the film making, and Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood does a great job expanding on that aspect.  But, Amen for me is a film I admire, but doesn’t make me love it.

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