Jomonte Suvisheshangal – Dulquer Salmaan in a sweet family drama

What spurs me to drive 40 minutes to the only theater in Chicago that shows Malayalam films? – a new Dulquer Salmaan movie!  A woman stopped me as I walked out of the theater, “Do you like Malayalam films?” I told her of course and that I’m a big Dulquer fan.  She was incredulous and asked me if I understand Malayalam.  Not a word, I replied.

The trailer for Jomonte Suvisheshangal [Jomon’s Gospels], as with many Malayalam films, doesn’t tell you much about the film.

Like me, they probably assume that viewers don’t need to know much more than Dulquer looks good in a film very different in tone from Kali and Kammatti Paadaam.  Jomonte Suvisheshangal, a film you can safely bring the entire family to see, was also probably a refreshing change of pace for Dulquer from the intense acting in 2016’s Kali and Kammatti Paadaam.

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With bad news coming at us in America like a fire hose, it was just what I needed to go see a sweet family film starring Dulquer.  He’s getting a bit old to play the spoiled young man, it felt like a bit in the first half.  Just in looks though.  He acted it perfectly.  Dulquer was very much a mazik in the first half.  That’s a Yiddish word for someone mischievous, especially a young person.  He constantly got into trouble, but would just kiss his father after being scolded, “You still love me!”

A perfect example is in the clip below.  He badgers his father, Mukesh, for a motorcycle, “Petrol is so expensive!” and his father relents saying that he won’t give him cash, just have the shop send him the bill.  Then he rolls up in the most expensive bike possible, costing 18 lakh.

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No one in the family feel they can count on the irresponsible spoiled Jomon.  He misses his sister’s wedding, can’t seem to pass his MBA exam, and spends his days running errands for the family.  His father tries to get Dulquer involved in one family business after another, the most hilarious his stint supervising their bus fleet, enjoying all the female attention he gets.

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Not much happens in the first half except a flirtatious romance with a rich girl, played by Anupama Parameswaran of the Premam films fame.   That gives us the one non-montage song sequence in the film.  The machinations of Dulquer’s family to get him attached to this rich girl I found quite amusing.  Innocent plays Dulquer’s uncle who relishes matchmaking to try to unite with this wealthy family.

(On a petty note, I don’t think that super skinny jeans style is flattering on Dulquer!)

And then, right before the interval, everything in the family comes crashing down.  Mukesh has taken a bet on a business expansion, putting even the family home and cars in a money lender’s name.  While the rest of the family just heaps scorn on the family patriarch, Mukesh, Dulquer is the one to take him in the middle of the night away from it all to safety.

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I have not yet seen what Margaret told me is Nivin’s very similar son-coming-of-age film, Jacobinte Swargarajyam.  This film is very much a story of the relationship of a son and his father.  I don’t think I’ve seen the actor Mukesh in another film yet, and I really thought he was fantastic.  He has some very emotional moments as he goes from powerful businessman, to a crushed man who tries to help his son by making him a tiffin lunch.  Both Dulquer and Mukesh are terrific actors, and were very believable as loving father and son, each hiding painful truths from the other.  In the second half, Dulquer has to really grow up and become the man of the family.  He is betrayed by a close friend and learns how to succeed through hard work and moxie.

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Unlike the superficial romance in the first half, he gradually comes to get to know a prickly young Tamil woman, Aishwarya Rajesh, from his job selling textiles.  She doesn’t have time for his slick ways, but he gradually wins her over, daring her to smile.  “God wants us to smile at least once a day.”  This is one of his many pronouncements.  Her boss puts her in a tight spot keeping a rich French client happy, and she turns to Dulquer in desperation.  Like Dulquer, she lives alone with her father.  I wish their romance had been fleshed out a bit more, but what was there was very nice to watch.  I wasn’t completely happy with the ending to their story, which involved a prank on Dulquer’s father, Mukesh.

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Does Dulquer learn the value of hard work and create a company out of nothing with his friends and win the big client?  Does he reunite his father with the rest of the family after proving just how responsible he can be?  What do you think?  While the story can be predictable, I found the journey a welcome time pass, especially with the warm father-son relationship portrayed by Dulquer and Mukesh.  I was also fascinated at an inside look at the textile industry in India!

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Margaret and I saw this film together, and her review has a very interesting take on Dulquer’s character’s expressions of love contrasting with the rest of the family’s obsession with commerce and money.

 

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Premam – Naga Chaitanya shines in this Telugu Remake of the Malayalam blockbuster

Premam [Love], the Malayalam film starring Nivin Pauly was one of the first Malayalam films I ever saw, and it remains one of my all time favorites.  When I heard they were making a Telugu remake of this massive hit film, I was filled with dread.  They’ll ruin all that made it special, no one could match Nivin Pauly’s charm in the three different ages, etc.  Then I saw Naga Chaitanya in Manam and discovered he was the lead in the Telugu Premam.  Now I HAD to see it because he was so adorable in Manam.  I saw one of the last screenings at my local theater, all alone.  For the most part, Naga Chaitanya captures the magic that is Premam.  He’s great in the three parts, playing Vikram (Vicky) at 16, 20 and his late 20’s.

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First, one of the best decisions of the remake was to have two of the actresses reprise their roles.  Anupama Parameswaran returns as the wild haired teen that is the object of 16 year old Vicky’s massive young love crush.  In the Malayalam film, she is the Christian Mary, here she is Suma.  The Telugu love song sequence references that great wild hair, slightly tamed in the Telugu remake.

In this first section of the film, I nearly thought that Chaitanya was doing an impression of Nivin Pauly as a teen.  He must have really studied Nivin’s performance, because so many expressions were similar and head tilts and so on.  If you’d never seen the Nivin Pauly film, you would love this Telugu film unreservedly.  One thing from this early sequence that differs is that I think the Malayalam film was in a more rural setting which added to the feel of innocence about the adolescent love story.

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The middle section is the strongest in the Malayalam film, and the weakest in the Telugu.  And that’s not Chaitanya’s fault.  He is fantastic as the college rowdy.  Since it’s a Telugu film, and they probably had a higher budget than the Malayalam, they take the initial explosion prank in the first college scene up a notch.  It’s a huge fireball explosion of a transformer instead of a little firecracker to disrupt the festival performance of their rivals.  And then the fight is not just a simple mud fight, but a big slow mo fight sequence in a construction sight with big sprays of sand, and bricks flying and what have you.  There is also a typically Telugu cameo of star Daggubati Venkatesh as Vicky’s uncle.

The issue with this middle section is that Shruti Haasan is no Sai Palavi.  The filmmakers have basically admitted that including Shruti in the remake was for financial reasons to have a name star.  She just does not have an ounce of the charm and for lack of a better word, gravitas, of Pallavi.  The romance doesn’t seem as deep.  I remember Malar and Vicky talking marriage in the original, but it doesn’t seem to go that far in the Telugu.  Since the romance isn’t as deep, the tragedy isn’t as deeply felt either by the audience.  Chaitanya doesn’t handle that overcome with grief scene as well, but granted, it’s probably one of the best Nivin Pauly acting scenes of his career.

In the Malayalam, part of what made this college romance section so special was that the rogue Vicky falls, and falls hard for a young woman with acne, and not just a little facial acne.  His friends mock him and don’t understand what he sees in her, but we the audience see how beautiful she is through Vicky’s eyes.  Shruti Haasan with her flawless porcelain skin?  Who wouldn’t fall for your teacher when she looks like that?

They used the same melody in both films for this beautiful love song  (Malare becomes Evare), and the scenery in this Telugu version is just jaw droppingly gorgeous:

One nice addition to the Telugu remake is that Vicky wins over Sithara (Shtuti) by making her a (Marathi??) traditional sweet for a holiday.  So that when we get to the final section of the film, and Vicky has become a prominent chef with his own restaurant, you see that he has taken his love of cooking from his college romance.  In the Malayalam the final section, where Vicky finds his bride was the the shortest and an underdeveloped romance, and the fact that he owned a bakery/sweet shop seemed to come out of nowhere.  This is supposed to be the love of his life and his bride, and maybe they ran out of money or Madonna Sebastian didn’t have longer dates for filming in the Malayalam version.   I had always wanted a bit more, and the Telugu gives it to me.

We get a love song in the Telugu!  It shows their developing relationship in the film, and when she reveals that her parents have arranged an engagement, the betrayal hits that much harder for Vicky.  I think Chaitanya really came into his own in this final part of the film.  Nivin Pauly played the older Vikram as reserved and lonely.  Here, Chaitanya’s Vikram is a busy chef who doesn’t care about the marriage arrangements his sister is trying to make in a phone call.  I really liked that they beefed up this section a bit more.

The wedding scene however, doesn’t have quite the same punch.  Shruti sees that same dessert on the buffet (that Vicky had made for her) and that spurs her memory, and she just looks back a little wistfully.  Again, she’s no Sai Pallavi.

So, not spoiling it, if you’ve never seen the Malayalam original ( and you should because it’s fantastic!), but this is a worthy remake.  The plot is nearly identical, with a few nice additions.  I really enjoyed it.  It’s no hardship watching Chaitanya for a few hours!  His father Naga Nagarjuna has a nice little cameo at the end as well.

Also, one of the things that had me laughing so hard out loud happened when a certain character is tied up and being beaten up.  His tormentor yells, “Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?!  Tell me!!”  LOL  Gotta love Telugu films.

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