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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Podcast with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood!

 

How we met through her masters thesis project, and how we both started watching Indian films!

Angamaly Diaries – A Fresh Malayalam Crime Film that Knocked My Socks Off

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I saw a Malayalam film tonight that absolutely blew me away.  Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood emailed me that she’d heard great things about Angamaly Diaries — did I want to join her tonight?  So, I went in knowing pretty much nothing about it, other than that @Mozhin123 raved about it to me on twitter, too.  Every single face in the film is new except one cameo by the debut screenwriter, actor Chemban Vinod Jose (Charlie, Kali, and Oppam).  I had director Lijo Jose Pellissery‘s film City of God recommended to me, but this is my first film of his.  Oh. My. God.  Pellissery is the rock star of this film!  The direction and editing knocked my socks off!

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Chemban Vinod Jose and director Lijo Jose Pellissery

From the very first moments of the opening credit sequence I could tell this was going to be a very different kind of Malayalam film.  There were lots of street shots, and close ups of real people, intercut with food, glorious street food, being made.  The food in this film is a whole character in itself!  From the first, I got a strong sense of this place, Angalamy, that pretty much the entire movie takes place in.  I looked it up when I wiki’d the movie when I got home tonight, and it’s a town of about 33,000 people.  The name means batttleground, an ancient battleground, which is so fitting for the script!

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The quick editing is a hallmark of the film, as well as steadycam shots that took me right inside each and every scene.  To get a sense, here’s a behind the scenes making of video, showing how the camera men ran along with the actors in chase scenes and got right into each fight.  I felt like I was right there in the middle amongst the characters in the action.

 

Another key aspect of what made this film so great was the soundtrack and the Foley sounds!  They added such tension and rhythm, with screeching metallic sounds in key action sequences that evoked pigs squealing — and pigs are key to the drama.  I have often complained that the soundtracks of Malayalam films just aren’t scary enough when they need to be – Ezra, I’m looking at you!  This soundtrack is a standout.

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As I was driving home, I reflected that the story of Pepe (newcomer Antony Varghese) is not that original in the crime drama Angamaly Diaries.  We have the familiar flashback to childhood, and the formation of the key male friendships that form the “team” or gang.  We have the innocent teen romance, and more serious relationships as he’s older. We have a rivalry with other toughs in town.  But it all still felt fresh because of the way it was filmed, and the fast paced editing.  This is not the sleepy paced drama that I’m used to in Malayalam film.  The bones of the crime and gang story and the set up feels familiar, but how it’s presented is new and original.  It just felt so gritty, so real and visceral!

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Tito Wilson and Sarath Kumar

 

There is a dramatic turn in Pepe’s life that happens just before the interval.  I was holding my hands over my mouth, stunned.  I needed that few minutes of the intermission to process it.  After the interval, the plot turned in some surprising ways. Sarath Kumar as Ravi and Tito Wilson as Rajan are Pepe’s rivals throughout the film.  They kill Pepe’s mentor Babuji in the first half, and then have a competing pork business to Pepe’s gang.  Things come to a head and fisticuffs, and then turn deadly.  If this was a Telugu movie, these seeming arch villains and rivals would be killed off by the end of the film by our hero, but that’s not what happens here.  Things are more complex, and I loved that, and how it surprised me.

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Pepe has two main romances in the film, one with Sakhi played by Binny Rinky Benjamin, but my favorite was Lichi, above, played by newcomer Reshma Rajan, the older sister of one of Pepe’s pals.  I just adored how she literally pounced on Pepe to let him know she was interested!  I also loved how Pepe’s main friend in the gang, ‘Pork’ Varkey (Kichu Tellus) has troubles because he’s dating a police woman!  Their wedding is one of the highlights of the film.

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The climax of the film is an incredible 11 minute tracking shot with no editing cuts.  We are immersed in a festival in the town and the procession, and follow the characters in and out of houses and encounters, and finally in a big fight and chase sequence.  That sequence is stunning filmmaking.  I was gobsmacked by it.

I was fascinated by just about everything in this film. The food.  The depiction of Christianity in the town, as most characters are Christian, and the festivals.  Even the pork business the gang was in was fascinating, with the open butcher stalls and all.  This film reminded me in some ways of the gritty Kammatti Paadam, but that film and its Dalit characters are all viewed through the perspective of the middle class Dulquer Salmaan.  This film was all about working class people and their lives in a way that I don’t really think I’ve seen in Malayalam films.  Most of the films I’ve seen, the recent ones at least, have been about middle class people.

I was really impressed that all these newcomers to film acted so well, even the child actors.  Antony Varghese is quite the looker, and I thought he did a great job.  Reshma Rajan as Lichi had sass and spunk, and I’d love to see her in another bigger role.  Going in, I kind of dreaded that I wouldn’t know a single actor in the film, but it served the story better that all the faces were fresh.  It made the drama more real feeling and visceral.  I am so excited that director Lijo Jose Pelissery has some older films for me to watch.  I will be seeking them out pronto.  Pelissery is such a talent.  He is one of the greats already.  This film is groundbreaking, and is garnering praise from everyone.  Anurag Kushyap tweeted that this is this is his film of the year so far.

I need to see this film again.  I’ll likely buy the DVD, because I have to see that ending tracking shot again, at the very least.  It was amazing.  I am so glad Margaret invited me to see this film!  Here’s her rave review.

Update:  Margaret and I did a podcast about this wonderful film.  Check it out!

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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.

 

OK Jaanu – Adiya Roy Kapur is adorable in this decent remake of OK Kanmani

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I’ll be honest that I’ve been dreading OK Jaanu [OK Darling] because I love OK Kanmani so very much.  I went to an A. R. Rahman concert in Chicago and I heard the song Mental Manadhil for the first time, and I was completely blown away.  Rahman played this video while he sang the song, and I just had to see this movie.

OK Kanmani is a Mani Ratnam Tamil movie about two young people who are working in Mumbai, and thrilled to find another Tamil speaker.  I didn’t know at the time that Dulquer Salmaan is actually from Kerala and known for his Malayalam films.

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So Adorable!

I’ve become like all those people in South India — the Southern original is so much better!  There is an undeniable magic to the Mani Ratnam Tamil original.  The chemistry between Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen is amazing.  And it’s one of my all time favorite A. R. Rahman soundtracks.  I listen to it all the time.  O Khadal Kanmani is the movie that started me on my journey of watching Malayalam films, because I just had to see what other films Dulquer and Nithya had done, which led me to Bangalore Days and on and on.  It all started with the Tamil OK Kanmani, which I have watched multiple times.

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So, I had trepidation about OK Jaanu.  I like Aditya Roy Kapur okay, and Shraddha Kapoor.  I saw Aashiqui 2, and they do have decent chemistry together.  Then the Humma song came out, and I got excited.  The song from this scene in the original movie is cute, but one of the weakest of the Tamil soundtrack.  This is waaay sexier.

Then, something happened a week ago.  My father became very seriously ill and he has been in ICU at the hospital for this entire past week.  It’s been incredibly stressful, but he seems to have come out of the crisis.  I’ve been exhausted and spending all my time at hospital with my parents.  When I’ve had a moment to wind down, I’ve turned to Bollywood song videos as my sort of comfort food.  And tonight, I decided I deserved a break, and went with a neighbor to OK Jaanu.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  It took me away from all my cares and worries for a few hours.

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I think this is the best movie I have seen Aditya Roy Kapoor do.  He was truly adorable.  Because I know Dulquer’s performance in the original so well, I could tell when he was even trying to match Dulquer’s mannerisms, but he made it his own.  Shraddha is no sparkling Nithya but she was good enough.   Aditya was good in Aashiqui 2 and, not horrible in Fitoor (that movie had other problems), but I like him so much better quirky and cute like this than brooding and angry.  I’m also one of the few people who liked most of Daawat-e-Ishq.  (Not Aditya’s best look, but I still love this title song!)

The plot of OK Jaanu is basically identical to the original.  Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) is a young video game designer who has just arrived in Mumbai, and is staying in a room of the house of his brother’s former boss (Nasureedin Shah).  Nasureedin’s wife has Althzeimer’s.  Adi meets Tara and a torrid romance begins, but they both vow they never want to marry.  He’s determined to move to the US, and she wants to study architecture in Paris.  They convince Adi’s landlord to let them live in sin together in his room.  All comes to a head when they both have to leave to follow their careers — will they choose love or their career?  It does have a fantastic message that a girl shouldn’t have to give up her career for marriage — her career is just as important.

 

Some of what made the original special is lost in the Hindi translation.  Part of what drew Adi and Tara together was that they were two Tamil speakers alone in the big city of Mumbai.  That plot point is gone. Naseeruddin Shah is of course his excellent self, but I so adored the big hulking Prakash Raj, who so often plays the big villain, being the tender devoted husband to his ailing wife in the Tamil OK Kanmani.  The sets are certainly bigger and more expensive looking.

One thing that is a welcome addition are the new songs.  Enna Sona, sung by Arjit Singh is gorgeous, and the film turns black and white during this sequence as Adi is missing Tara while she’s away on a work trip.

My neighbor thought OK Jaanu was better than the original.  But she doesn’t really speak Tamil (her husband does) and watched it without subtitles.  She said Dulquer Salmaan’s accent was so thick she couldn’t understand him.  The original will remain one of my favorite films, and if you live in the US, I urge you to watch it on Netflix.   But, the Hindi remake is quite enjoyable.  It’s partly my frame of mind with all I’ve been going through but, this movie allowed me to forget my troubles for a few hours.   Thank God for Indian Cinema and that it is there whenever I need it.  I told my husband what a comfort it is to me in times like this.  I think I’m being more generous than some other reviewers may be, so sue me.  It’s no hardship to watch Adiya being this adorable for a couple hours!

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Mirzya – I’m in love with the soundtrack but there wasn’t sizzling chemistry in this love story

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The soundtrack of Mirzya is simply amazing. Shankar, Ehsaan, and Loy have written some of my all-time favorite soundtracks, but Mirzya seems like it is a whole other level. This soundtrack is A. R. Rahman level fusion of folk sounds and electronic dance beats.  I downloaded the whole thing — I don’t often buy a whole soundtrack — and I’ve been listening to all 15 tracks constantly.  I had heard very mixed things about Mirzya the film, but I wanted to see it just to see the song sequences.  They were amazing.  The film itself was not always stellar, but it was worth it just for the glorious music.

I saw the very last showing of Mirzya at my local theater, all by myself.  This movie sure came and went lightning fast.  I enjoyed myself, and I will be buying the DVD when it comes out just to rewatch the song sequences.

I listened to The Bollywood Project girls’ podcast review of the film, and they recommended reading about the legend of Mirzya and Sahiban before watching the film.  I don’t know that it’s completely necessary, but it helped me recognize the mural on the wall showing Mirzya and Sahiban under their tree at the beginning of the film.  There’s also plenty of references to Romeo and Juliet just to drive the tragic love story point home.

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Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directed the fantastic film Rang De Basanti, and he uses a similar dual track storyline in Mirzya. Harshvardhan Kapoor is (Monish/Adil) and also the mythical Mirzya.  Saiyami Kher is both Soochi in modern day, and the legendary Sahiban.  Both actors made their debut in Mirzya and it shows, unfortunately.  Harsh is, of course, Anil Kapoor’s son and Sonam Kapoor’s brother, and I’ve read that Harsh took no salary for the film.  This is a tragic epic romance and while both Harsh and Saiyami are pretty to look at, they just didn’t have the sizzling chemistry needed.

 

Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra uses a sort of Greek chorus of folk dancers for the songs, and they have more sensuality and sizzle than the two leads, especially in the Chakora song barn love scene.

The modern day story shows young Soochi and Monish as childhood best friends, separated after something tragic happens.  Both child actors were fantastic, and the little boy had more screen charisma than adult Harsh!  Possibly my favorite song on the soundtrack is the pounding Hota Hai, and I was a little taken aback as the song in the film shows their separation as children and what happens to young Monish.

 

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Soochi’s devoted single father is played by Art Malik.  I don’t think he’s done many Bollywood films, but it was so great for me to hear his voice again.  Oh, my gosh, did I have such a crush on Art Malik back in his Jewel in the Crown days.  (Oh, Hari Kumar!)  It’s rather ironic that he’s playing the disapproving dad keeping star-crossed lovers apart when he is perhaps best known for the tragic interracial romance in Jewel in the Crown!  He had one scenery chewing drunk scene in Mirzya that was way over the top, but otherwise, great to see him on film.  Malik (Pakistani born, and raised in England) has a mix of Hindi and quite a bit of English dialogues in the film, and teaches his daughter Soochi English using Romeo and Juliet lines — in case we hadn’t gotten the point.

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Soochi and Monish (now Adil) reunite as adults as she’s about to marry an actual prince (!!) and he is the literal stable boy.   (The prince Karan was played by debut actor Anuj Choudhry, who was quite good.)   Soochi and Monish did not have the kind of chemistry needed for us to believe Soochi would leave her prince for the stable hand.  I thought we should see both of them just burning holes in each others clothes with smoldering glances before the big barn love scene, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

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I wanted to fall in love with their princess and the pauper epic romance, but it just didn’t work all the time.  She was supposed to be this firebrand, and Harsh played his scenes quite passively.  Another better actor would have acted humbly while showing us an undercurrent of passion towards Soochi and resentment and rage towards the prince.  But Harsh doesn’t have the skills yet to do that.  I suspect Harsh will improve with time, as his sister has.

This is a petty point, but Harsh is quite slight of build and small of stature, and his baggy stable clothes made him look quite tiny next to Karan the prince.

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Bottom line, the film was worth seeing just for the incredible song sequences alone, and there were a lot of them.  The cinematography was also gorgeous, and Mehra shows us some beautiful scenery in Ladakh and Rajasthan.   These two newcomer lead actors, though, just didn’t have the spark and sizzle needed for the epic tale of Mirzya and Sahiban.

I think Harsh could grow and I’d like to see him in something where he actually has more lines to speak.  He can be relaunched in something else.  What genre, I have no idea, but hopefully with a better beard or shaved so we can see his pretty face.  Being a star kid gives you a chance at being a film star, but you have to have the goods to sustain a career.  This great article about Dulquer Salmaan forging his own path in the shadow of superstar father Mammooty shows that you have to have the talent to make it big after you get that first break!

Read Margaret’s great spoiler free review of Mirzya here.

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ABCD – The Dulquer movie, not the Prabhudeva one

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ABCD, the Malayalam film, is not Any Body Can Dance (the Prabhudeva film), but American-Born Confused Desi.  The comedy was released in 2013, early in Dulquer Salmaan’s career (after Ustad Hotel in 2012), and is obviously a showcase for him.

The interesting thing is that he plays a spoiled brat jerk who really doesn’t reform by the end of this comedy.

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Dulquer is Johns Isaac, son of a millionaire doctor who I think owns some sort of medical company.  (The name Johns is odd — it’s not just John, and for awhile I thought he was being referred to by his last name.)  Johns hangs out with Korah (Jacob Gregory) his best buddy in New York, and they drive around in a Lamborghini.  Johns has flunked out of multiple colleges, and is a spoiled brat.  Johns gets into a fight with a black guy at a club, and the gangsters shooting up his parents mansion is the last straw for his parents.

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They send Johns and Korah to  the ancestral place in Cochin, Kerala.  Dulquer is expecting a luxury vacation, and is horrified at the house his father rented for them, with no A/C and an outhouse.  They blow through $20,000 staying at a luxury hotel until suddenly the credit cards are cut off, and they’re stranded in India.  They get scammed by a guy in their neighborhood, and are down to their last $10.  (Their neighbor was pretty funny, played by S.P.Sreekumar)

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Dulquer’s dad then phones to say that he will pay them 5000 a month if they go to the local college where he has already enrolled them.

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This is where this American-Born Confused Non-Desi got really confused.  They meet Madhumitha (Aparna Gopinath) who is an activist at their college.  She basically has this stern expression this entire movie, to be honest.  There is absolutely no romance in this film whatsoever, even though there is an epilogue over the end credits that Dulquer sends his love from NY and she sends it back.  But that part of the film is severely underwritten.  We’re just supposed to fill in the blanks I guess.  It’s like a hate-to-love that stays in the hate part for pretty much the whole thing.

Anyway, what confused me is that Aparna sort of set them up as if they are political activists, protesting the rising tuition that drove a classmate to suicide.  She’s trying to put these spoiled American boys in their place, but to her consternation, they become social media celebrities, and they get invited to join lots of other protests, which they do, because there is usually free food.  Interviews with press, free food.  It all snowballs until one protest turns into a near riot with police beatings.

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The competing political parties that want these two American kids who have supposedly rejected their families’s millions to live the simple Gandhi-like life — these scenes were probably hilarious to people from Kerala, but mostly went right over my head.  There’s a basic level that was still funny, but I know I was missing a lot of the subtleties.

Johns and Korah read in the paper that they are in competition for young activist of the year — the 1 Lakh prize money they are planning to use to get back to the US.  Their main competition is the son of a local politician, and played by Tovino Thomas.  Again, it probably would have been hilarious if I knew what political party their rival was, and why he derided them for being Communist (I think?)  The slapstick fights with him and all, still funny, but the political satire that is the basis of most of the second half is beyond my limited understanding of Kerala.

These two spoiled jerks never really learn their lesson or reform.  I guess I won’t spoiler how they do find their way back to the US.  The satire of second generation NRI’s being clueless about India and spoiled brats– that humor I could totally get, and it was pretty hilarious.  Dulquer’s time at Purdue University probably helped him nail that part!

So, an amusing film, but you can definitely tell just how far Dulquer has come in a few short years.  And while there was no Prabhu, there was one catchy dance number from the NYC beginning part of the film, sung by Dulquer himself.

 

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Kammatti Paadam -Dulquer Salmaan is the star in this gripping gangster movie, but Vinayakan and Manikandan steal the show

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Kammatti Paadam is a gangster epic. This film has a lot of depth and meat to it.  Dulquer Salmaan was amazing.  I’m admiring his choices of films and roles this past year.  He’s breaking into new ground and showing his acting chops outside the charming romantic lead type.  The poster shows him present day as a salt and pepper haired 42 year old security guard living in Mumbai.  (Yes, we see him doing security for a Bollywood film doing a street shoot!)  Just a touch of gray to his hair and mustache.  And I think he must have gained weight for the role.  He just looked more like his father Mammootty than ever with that substantial thick mustache.
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I looked up during the interval who the director is – Rajeev Ravi.  He’s only directed a few Malayalam films, but he’s worked extensively as a cinematographer in Bollywood, with Anurag Kashyap especially.  He was cinematographer on Bombay Velvet, Gangs of Wasseypur, Dev D, etc.  And key in Malayalam cinema, he was cinematographer for Classmates.  There were some really interesting shots — into plate glass windows, some shaky handheld work during action scenes, etc.  It just was visually interesting and not all straight forward shooting as we sometimes see in Indian film.

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The story is shown in a series of flashbacks after he gets a call in Mumbai from an old friend in Kerala who is in trouble.  Dulquer is Krishnan, a Hindu middle class kid and the name of the movie is the neighborhood he grew up in and the name of his gang.  We see his exposure to violence as a very young child, as he and his best friend Ganga see a local tough kill three men who challenge him.  Then another actor plays Dulquer as a young teen and we see that he has fallen in love with a Dalit girl.  The trouble is, so has Ganga.  Ganga and the whole gang are dalit, and the ringleader is Balan, Ganga’s older brother.  The actor who played Balan was incredible – newcomer Manikandan.

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Balan is played by newcomer Manikandan
We see Krish’s descent into violence as a teenager.  He gives a necklace to Anita, the dalit girl, and another reviewer pointed out that it was an echo of Michael Corleone in Godfather.  I recognized a Nayakan poster in one scene, but evidently there are more references and posters to other Indian gangster films in flashbacks.

Krish is jailed after he saves Ganga from being arrested by slashing a cop with a knife/machete in an impulsive act, ending up killing the cop.

When he gets out of jail, it’s young Dulquer acting the part.  We keep flashing back and forth in the narrative, and we can see present day Dulquer/Krish is injured with a bound torso, trying to keep conscious while riding a bus.

Balan, Ganga and the gang introduce Krish to their current operation — mostly transporting illegal hooch and bootlegging.  They also are hired to run off some poor families who are refusing to sell to a real estate developer.

Balan’s grandfather confronts Balan with his shame that his relative could do this to their relatives and people, and then the grandfather dies of the shock and shame.  This changes Balan and he wants to get out of the business as does Krish.  But they know too much, and a new rival in the organization won’t let things stand.  Balan is killed and Ganga blames Krish for it.

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Ganga, Krish and the gang go after Johnny, the rival and then lay low after the altercation.  Ganga tells Krish that he knows that Krish and Anita love each other but their families will never allow them to marry as it would be intercaste.  He says that he will marry Anita and try to make her happy.  Krish then goes to Mumbai.  The mystery through much of the film is how if Ganga was his romantic rival and “stole” his girl, why would he leave everything to help him and look for him all these years later?

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Vinayakan as the young and older Ganga

The guy who plays Ganga as an adult, Vinayakan was also fantastic.  I just looked him up and he was the villain John in Kali! The director found some great actors, and your sympathies are with the Dalit and how they keep getting screwed.  Their boss goes respectable and becomes a business tycoon in legal liquor and real estate, but the gang are left with nothing.

There is a final revenge scene, and Krish looks out over the city Ernakulam, Kerala.  He says to the person he’s killing that the city was built on the thick black blood of the Dalit people.  And then I realized that the idyllic country place from the childhood scenes, to the motley semi-rural shacks in the young men section to then the present day bustling city were all the same place.  And the point of the movie was that this vibrant young new city was built on the Dalit community being dispossessed and they did it for quick money to their own community.  That was probably obvious to the Kerala audience but I didn’t really get it until the end.

The women in the movie didn’t have much to do, much like many gangster pics.  One interesting note was that Balan’s wife seemed to have become a don herself after his death (and more successful.)  She assists Krish to find the answers at the end.  And there is an unrequited romance for Krish, and a whisper of a song motif for them, but no full fledged song numbers at all.  It was very much parallel cinema.  I’m guessing it’s much like Gangs of Wasseypur (which I haven’t seen yet), Kerala version.

Krish is our entre to their world, but he’s more a witness to what happens to the Dalit community.  He’s still middle-class and Hindu in the end and can move to Mumbai to start over, unlike the rest of the gang.

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The film felt long to me, and I wished it had been edited a little tighter.  (The filming ended in March evidently.)  It’s a sprawling gangster epic in the mode of Nayakan, Godfather, Casino, etc.  It’s not my favorite type of film.  So, so violent.  Shockingly violent in several parts.  The acting was great, but it’s a story of brothers of circumstance if not of blood or caste.   It’s the story of Ganga and Balan, and also Krish.

I admire this movie very much, but it’s not something I want to see over and over again.  It’s just very dark and violent and searing.  It was hard to see Dulquer be so violent in Kali, and this is even steps beyond that.  It’s not a silly action Masala movie.  He does the action scenes well, but he’s not a hero.

I thought we were seeing Dulquer play an adult in Kali, but this film shows him really, truly coming of age.  I’m excited to see him take on that mantle, and looking forward to see what roles he’ll take on next.

Four stars out of five.

New Poster for Dulquer Salmaan’s Kammattipaadam

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Dulquer Salmaan just posted this new poster for Kammattipaadam on his Facebook page.

You know what I love about these young Malayalam stars?  They put out a movie every couple of months!!  Just when I’m thinking — Gee, I wish there was a new Dulquer movie, there’s one about to come out!  May 20 is the release date in Kerala.  Hopefully we’ll get it in Chicago.

Here’s another poster with a different look:

 

Kammattipaadam, directed by national-award winner Rajeev Ravi.will evidently be a period drama.