Meri Pyaari Bindu – Video Review of a Charming Delightful film!

I loved this charming sweet film!  Ayushmann Khurrana and Parineeta Chopra were both great in this best friends to lovers romance.  First time director Akshay Roy did a fantastic job, and I can’t wait to see more films by him.  I loved how he gave a wink and a nod to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and even directly referenced Natalie Portman in  Garden State.

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Sarkar 3 Review – Amit Sadh and Amitabh were great but film not my favorite

I went to see Sarkar 3 without seeing the first two films in the series beforehand.  Margaret of Don’tCallItBollywood clued me in to the backstory from the previous films, which are heavily influenced by The Godfather films.  I went to Sarkar 3 because I wanted to see Amit Sadh in this kind of role.  I loved him in Sultan, and he was fantastic in Running Shaadi earlier this year.   Here’s the video review I did for Bollyfools:

 

 

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The Return of the Hollywood Musical with La La Land

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Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, wrote an article last week about La La Land and the state of the Hollywood Musical:  ‘La La Land’ Makes Musicals Matter Again

The first time I watched Damien Chazelle’s musical, La La Land, I thought a lot about how it worked, about its form, his craft and how the lickable candy-colored costumes bring to mind both M&M’s and Jacques Demy.  I thought about how Mr. Chazelle and his stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, fit into the history of the film musical. When I went to see La La Land again, I was in a terrible state, and this time I just fell into it, gratefully. I surrendered. Afterward, I realized that this is what it must have been like to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers during the Great Depression.

I have a passion for musicals.  Back in the day  — gather children and hear about the dark ages before DVDs – I would set my alarm to get up in the middle of the night when an old Fred Astaire movie was playing on TV.  Then we got a VCR and I’d tape them to watch over and over.  It was pure magic.  The dance becoming part of the expression of the characters that she describes in La La Land is just what I found in Astaire/Rogers numbers like ‘Night And Day’ from my favorite of their films, The Gay Divorcee.  That exquisite Cole Porter music, and their magical romance through movement.

I watched the Gene Kelly musicals, too, but Fred was my first love.  He even dances in roller skates with Ginger in ‘Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off’ in Shall We Dance.

Hollywood has done musicals in the modern era — God bless you Baz Luhrmann for your crazy wonderful movies like Moulin Rouge.

And there have been the sporadic adaptations of Broadway hits, like the dark cynical Chicago and the recent Into the Woods.  (Which gives me the perfect excuse to include my favorite song from Into the Woods, the ‘Agony’ duet of Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen.)

 

There has really only been a sporadic spotty record of musicals from Hollywood in recent years, and not the steady diet I craved.

Then, I discovered Indian Cinema, and that void in my life was finally filled.  For others, the music numbers are an excuse to visit the bathroom, but they are the main event for me.  I love the earnest love stories and the emotions, and just ….ALL of it.  I love the BIG numbers, and the intimate duets in mustard fields.

 

Contemporary American movies could use more s’wonderful, more music and dance, and way, way more surrealism. They’re too dull, too ordinary, and too straight, whether they’re mired in superhero cliches or remodeled kitchen-sink realism.  One of the transformative pleasures of musicals is at even at their most choreographed, they break from conformity, the dos and don’ts of regimented life, suggesting the possibility that everyone can move to their own beat.

Amen, sister.  Amen.

Manohla talks about Damien Chazelle’s passion for the old musicals I love, the Fred and Ginger movies, the Gene Kelly masterpieces.  Every article I’ve read about La La Land just raves and raves that “they don’t make movies like this anymore.”  Thank God someone in Hollywood finally is….again.  I. Can’t. WAIT!  December 9th can not come fast enough.

Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya – Or the one where Salman is shirtless with a guitar

pyaar-kiya-toI watched Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (If you loved someone, don’t be afraid) written and directed by Sohail Khan (brother of Salman Khan) over the last two days.  I bought it super cheap in one of my DVD orders from India and it had no subs, but Youtube to the rescue.
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Going in, I knew nothing about the film other than it was a love story with Kajol and Salman Khan coming out the same year as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.  I didn’t know that Dharmendra has a key role as Kajol’s uncle.  Kajol is an orphan raised by her brother Vishal (Arbaaz Khan) and her uncle.  Vishal is extremely overprotective of her, driving away suitors by beating them up.  Kajol finally convinces her brother to let her attend college, and that’s where she meets Salman Khan, a rather goof off student.  Salman starts the movie shirtless!  This is his intro scene for the movie — the famous “O O Jaane Jaana” song.
pyaar-kiya-to-darna-kya-1998-3Wastrel Salman first wins over Kajol, and then has to win over her family, especially her skeptical brother Vishal.  Salman is particularly ridiculous in many scenes playing his role for broad comedy, and I was wondering if he let the Vishal brother of Kajol character upstage him so much because it was his actual brother. I literally had no idea Arbaaz Khan was Salman Khan’s brother AND that he was the producer of Dabangg.  He is such a looker in Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya!  I think this is one of his first movies, and he did a great job.
 It was interesting that Arbaaz got a whole seduction song with the Ujala character.  (Kajol’s friend Ujala is the one doing the seducing.)  He’s a secondary character that in most movies would not get his own song.  Especially these days Salman is so, well, SALMAN that he overshadows everyone else.  In this earlier movie, he wasn’t quite so much larger than life, if you get what I mean.
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I don’t know that Kajol and Salman had any smolder whatsoever, but they were sweet and cute together.  The first half didn’t grab me, but the second half songs are great, and the finale scene with Dharmendra, Salman and Arbaaz fighting together to rescue Kajol is really something to see.
One other minor note.  The director made Kajol dance in what looked to be the most awkward type sandals for dancing, unless they had a strap on the back I couldn’t see.  Like slip on wedges or something.
Lots of shirtless or nearly so Salman and great songs so worth the watch!
I also don’t remember seeing another movie yet in my watching history, at least, where Dharmendra is playing this uncle fatherly type of role.  That was interesting, too.
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Shivaay – Awesome Action in this attempted mashup of Taken and Bajrangi Bhaijaan

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I love Ajay Devgn.  Unabashedly love him.  In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I am totally Team Ajay.  One of my Desi friends expressed amazement that I like Ajay and was looking forward to Shivaay, “What?  He’s so ugly!” She’s still my friend even though I now wonder both about her eyesight and her mental acuity.  He has superb screen presence and can actually act, but he just has an unmistakable swagger as an action star.  The Shivaay trailer just blew me away.  We’ve never seen this level of stunt work and action cinematography in Indian cinema.  I had heard mixed things about Shivaay once it came out, but there was no way I was going to miss this film on the big screen.

With Shivaay, it’s almost like Ajay the director is trying to combine an action thriller like Taken with the emotion and family heart of Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  The action sequences are fantastic, and really thrilling.  They measure up to the quality of Hollywood films, and the Bulgarian scenery is just gorgeous.

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I absolutely adored Ajay’s relationship with his young mute daughter.  She was a terrific child actress.  Did she have to be mute? — maybe that was a way to get around the plot point that she doesn’t look like her Indian father and the actress wouldn’t be able to speak good enough Hindi.  As Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood points out, this is really a special father/daughter relationship on screen.  It has nothing to do with a daughter leaving home for marriage, and we have an adoring single father. raatein_shivaay_ajay_abigail

Why did this film not touch me in the heart the same way Bajrangi Bhaijaan did?  It has more serious peril with human trafficking by the Russian mafia, and a cute kid and all, I can’t quite put my finger on why it didn’t work for me.  Shivaay was just that much darker and had few moments of lightness and fun.  Ajay also didn’t have anyone supporting him of the quality of Nawaz or Kareena.

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There was maybe too much time spent in this romance plot with Polish actress Erika Kaar, who does not have the acting chops of Kareena Kapoor Khan.  The villains are also mostly interchangeable Eastern European bad guys.  The big reveal of the ultimate bad guy mastermind was pretty predictable, and the final battle was pretty damn awesome.  The title track by Badshah is great, but the rest of the music tracks also don’t have level of Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s soundtrack.

Ajay is a solid action director.  I wish the script had been a bit better, and aside from the delightful child actress, the supporting players of better caliber to match Ajay’s intensity.  I would still recommend catching Shivaay in the theater, because the action scenes look amazing on the big screen.  Ajay’s showing the way — you can play a dad, and still have swagger and cool.

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And wield wicked weapons like those rock climbing hooks!

Three and a half stars out of five for the great action.

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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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Oozham – My first Prithviraj movie in the theater!

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I was excited that Prithviraj’s Onam Malayalam release Oozham [Turn] was coming to Chicago, but I was forewarned that it wasn’t his best film.  I didn’t care.  I was still excited to see Prithviraj on the big screen for the first time.  I have not yet seen writer director Jeethu Joseph‘s previous films Drishyam (Mohanlal) or Memories (Prithviraj).  From the reviews I’ve read, and especially this savage 1/2 star take down by Anna Vetticad, the disappointment in Oozham is particularly acute because Jeethu Joseph’s previous films have been so great.

I didn’t hate Oozham like Anna, but I certainly don’t love it either.  It’s okay — and with Prithviraj, I also would expect better than okay.  The man has made what, 100 films?  I’ve only been watching the cream of the crop, and they can’t all be at the level of Mumbai Police.

Spoilers ahead warning –

The set up of this revenge film is fantastic.  Oozham means turn — and Prithviraj turns the tables on the man who had his family killed, because he has special skills.  Not a particular set of skills like Liam Neeson in Taken.khhbgfe

One special skill — Prithviraj’s job in the US is as an explosives expert engineer (building demolition and such.)  And it’s super handy that his adopted brother is a white hat hacker!  That is a hook that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, in Hollywood or Indian cinema, having the good guy be an expert in plastic explosives.

The film starts with a van full of bad guys with guns (almost a clown car level amount) who are in search of someone, and there is a small explosion when they try to open an apartment door.  Prithviraj is behind that door!  The film cuts between this action sequence of Prithviraj on the run, and fighting with groups of these chasers, throughout the happy family scenes, the setup, and most of the film, frankly.  Our director is too clever by half, as he uses a visual transition every blinkin’ time – focusing on a shoe in the chase, and then a shoe in the happy family scene, etc.  Every. Single. Transition.

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Prithviraj is visiting his family for a few weeks for his sister’s engagement.  He’s the oldest, and besides his sister is an adopted Muslim brother (who lived next door, and who lost both parents.)  Prithviraj’s dad is a health inspector, and very busy with some sort of virus outbreak and always rushing off looking worried.  He has a police officer friend who drops by for dinner with his younger sister to set her up with Prithviraj.

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The happy family scenes dragged quite a bit, but I really liked the relationship Prithviraj had with his younger sister.  Prithviraj was, of course, the best actor in the whole film.  I liked how flustered he got being set up with Divya Pillai as Gayathri.  And in the physical fights he looked like a guy who wasn’t necessarily an expert fighter, but you can totally believe he is clever enough for all the plans that follow the family tragedy.

Once back in the US after the engagement, he’s Skyping with his sister, when he witnesses her murder and the murder of his parents.  The bad guys look right into the computer screen, but don’t know they are on camera as she had minimized the Skype window.  Prithviraj makes you feel his horror and helplessness as he is thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.

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The cop friend is killed the same day by a “terrorist attack”.  Prithviraj, his adopted brother and the sister of the cop think that coincidence very strange, and they get into their father’s email and piece together who had a reason to kill him.  The villain is head of a big pharmaceutical company that the father suspected was putting a virus into drinking water (this part was very vague and not explained.)

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Watching the revenge plot unfold was the best part of the film.  They do try to approach the police, but of course one of the killers is a rogue corrupt cop.  There were some very clever sequences, as they pick off the conspirators one by one, using controlled explosions.

The villain (Jayprakash) to be honest wasn’t that scary, and he has two lines in English that Anna Vetticad calls out as inexcusable.  He hires his own explosives expert, Captain, to protect him and find out who his adversary is.  Captain (Pasupathy, who was the rebel terrorist leader in the Tamil Kannathil Muthamittal – A Peck on the Cheek) has failed to protect someone close to Jayprakash and he says “How Dare!” and the subtitles say How Dare You both times.  One time I could excuse that they didn’t have time to reshoot an emotional scene, but twice?  The subtitles were pretty bad, but the English sprinkled throughout the film wasn’t good either.

My main issue with the film is the pacing.  I can give a slow buildup in the first half.  The inter-cutting with the chase/action fight scenes was pretty good.  But the film should have moved at a swift pace in the second half as the action heated up, and it lagged.  I really did like the ending, except for one thing.

My beef is that the villains are of course killed — but the virus that they spread in the water or what have you?  That issue is completely ignored in the conclusion.  You had a hacker for cripes sake!  He hacks all their emails to track the villains’ movements — how about sending all the incriminating emails to the press or the authorities?  In a Hollywood film, I think that would have been a major part of the revenge plot.

So, I wouldn’t necessarily run to a theater to see this film but it would be worth a rental.

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Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw it together.  She agreed that Oozham was just “okay”.

Devasuram – A Malayalam Classic with masterful performances by Mohanlal and Revathi

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Devasuram [The God Demon] was recommended as a classic must watch Malayalam film from 1993 — one of the best of Mohanlal’s career.  It’s also considered one of the finest of director  I. V. Sasi.  The film was written by Ranjith who based the character of Mangalassery Neelakantan (Mohanlal) on his friend Mullasserry Rajagopal.   Rajagopal, bedridden for years, had a passion for music, and his wife was devoted to him.  He evidently joked that “Ranjith had not managed to show even half of what he did in his life.”

Mohanlal is Neelan, running through his inheritance from his father, a bit of a rowdy and a womanizer, but known for his love for music and the arts.  He has a devoted land manager/servant who is really a father figure to him, and a small group of rowdy friends.  The rowdy friends try to be loyal to him, but end up getting him into touchy situations.

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This film really has it all.  Mohanlal is this macho manly figure, not afraid to leap into a fight, but who has the soul of an artist.  He has a feud with a rival family that is revenge after revenge back and forth.    There’s a fantastic hate-to-love romance with Revathi, a young woman who is ready to start a career in professional classical dance.  (And we have established how much I LOVE the hate-to-love trope.)  Revathi is off the charts amazing as Bhanumathi, daughter of a feckless drunkard father.  She is so arrogant and proud, and she explodes at Mohanlal’s rowdies, who have come to ask her to dance at a temple event Mohanlal is sponsoring and help her fall down drunk father home after they find him in a ditch outside the house.  She assumes they are the ones who got him drunk in the first place, and yells at them to leave her property.

That sets up the whole course of events to follow.  Mohanlal seems to apologize to the father and make peace, but instead tricks them and the performance is to be for him and his friends at his house.  Her first dance performance should have been an auspicious event at a temple, and he treats her like a courtesan.  Her father cannot pay back the performance money, so she must dance.  This scene I have watched over and over and over again.  It is simply amazing.

Revathi’s classical dance performance is full of fire and anger.  The expressions she gives!  I’ve just started taking an Indian dance class, and while I’m no expert judge I think Revathi is an exceptional classical dancer.  The whole dance is a battle of wills.  He winks at the accompanying singer to try to trip her up, then he sends one of his friends to offer alcohol to Revathi’s father in the middle of the dance, and Revathi just glares and shakes her belled foot.  Then at the end Mohanlal motions to a cymbal player and another drummer to increase the tempo faster and faster, but nothing fazes Revathi and she just swirls and pounds her feet like a whirling dervish by the end.  She finishes the dance to acclaim, as she is left pouring with sweat and panting for breath.

The clip above has no subs, but she says to him, “You think you’ve won?”  He replies, “I always win.”

“You are not worth my dancing bells.  You’re an insult to my art.”  And then she takes off her bells from her ankles and throws them at him, vowing to never dance again.

She has cursed him, and suddenly all sorts of horrible things happen to Mohanlal.  Revathi and her family don’t fare much better.  They lose their home, and still she is too proud to take Mohanlal’s servant’s offer for help.  But when she is almost sexually assaulted at the home they are staying in, she finally gives in and they move into Mohanlal’s huge mansion house.

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Mohanlal and Revathi avoid each other, but she can’t help see the depression and changes he undergoes at the death of his mother (and she overhears him rage in the rain one night, learning that he discovered he is a bastard at his mother’s deathbed.)  He tries to get her to dance again, and take up her career, but to her that would be losing and letting him win.  She is so full of pride!

One night he is beaten horribly by his rival and his goons, and he ends up paralyzed on one side.  Mohanlal’s character goes through so much in this film!  Revathi is chastened, and feels that it was her harsh words that did curse him, so she prays at the temple for him to recover.

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The romance grows slowly.  As he reforms, he’s a redeemed rake that doesn’t think he is worthy of Revathi.  He is determined to see her dance again, and to give her the career she should have had.  She retains her pride for a long time, not wanting to “lose” to him again. Once he is nearly bedridden, he begs her, “You said you would only dance again when I was dead.  I’m nearly dead, please let me repent this one sin before I die.”  She dances joyfully for him to give him a moment of happiness, and that’s what starts his recovery.  Both characters are so full of charisma, each with their own deep flaws.  They both need their own redemption, it’s not the usual one-sided story.

The film ends with an absolutely riveting confrontation between Mohanlal and his rival Shekaran.  If he fights back, they will harm Revathi who has been kidnapped.  So Mohanlan takes blow after blow until he sees she is safely rescued.  Then, this man who had been handicapped, comes roaring back like a lion.

I don’t know which actor I loved more.  Revathi was such a little spitfire in Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film Mouna Ragam.  But here, she was even better, plus she got to show off her classical dance training.  Mohanlal is the heart and soul of the whole film.  It is his master performance.  The supporting characters are particularly good, too, especially Innocent as Mohanlal’s father figure servant and Nedumudi Venu as Appu, Revathi’s (Bhanumati’s) father.  Napoleon, who plays Shekaran, is quite the villain — with a notable scene pinning down the paralyzed Mohanlal on the floor with his foot — “Get well so I can cut you into pieces next time!”

I’m so glad I bought this one on DVD so I could watch it with subtitles.  This is a movie I’ve already rewatched multiple times, and just that dance sequence alone many times.  Each time, I see something I didn’t see before.

This is justifiably a true classic, not just of Malayalam film, but of all Indian cinema.

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The whole film is available on Youtube, but without subs (but you can overlay a subtitle file through a Chrome extension.)

There’s also a great discussion of the film on Don’t Call It Bollywood.

Mumbai Police – Prithviraj’s stunning performance in this film gobsmacked me

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I was absolutely gobsmacked by the amazing performance of Prithviraj in the Malayalam crime mystery drama Mumbai Police.  I had seen Prithviraj in a stellar if unflashy supporting role in the Hindi film Aurangzeb, also as a cop.  Then I saw Classmates as I was told how influential it is in modern Malayalam cinema.  He was very solid also in the romantic drama Ennu Ninte Moideen.  I had been impressed by his body of work, but nothing prepared me for his incredible performance in Mumbai Police.  Essentially, he’s almost playing a double role.

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In the opening scene, Tony (Prithviraj) is driving down an empty street at night in his police jeep.  He is speaking into a phone saying, “I have found the culprit.” in Malayalam and then repeats it in English.  Suddenly a refrigerator falls off a truck in front of him, and he swerves and the jeep rolls over.  The next scene has a bewildered scarred Tony in a car with Farhan who tells Tony he is his best friend.  Tony has lost all his memory, and this fellow cop friend and the doctor are the only people who know that.  Tony was in the middle of the investigation of the murder of a fellow policeman and the political and press pressure is intense for the case to be solved.

Tony doesn’t know who is friend and who is foe.  After Farhan drops him off at his apartment, Tony is attacked by several men, and is stunned that he can quickly dispatch all of them.  He asks his doctor if he can really return to work, and she has him solve a sudoku puzzle.  She explains that before the accident he was “Person A”, and after he lost his memory he is “Person B”.  He may have different likes and preferences as Person B, but all the skills he learned as Person A, any languages he learned, he will still know.  She brings up that Steve Wozniak lost his memory the same way for five weeks after a plane accident.  (All the computers in the film are Macs).

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So, Tony returns to work, bluffing his way through his interactions with subordinates and poring over the investigation notes.  He learns the murder victim was his good friend Aryan, and Tony, Farhan and Aryan were known as the “Mumbai Police” since they had served there together before returning to Kerala.

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The films Memento and Ghajini deal with short term memory loss, but Mumbai Police reminded me more of the old Harrison Ford movie Regarding Henry.  In Regarding Henry, Harrison Ford plays a hard charging lawyer who loses his memory and has almost a complete personality change after being shot.  He’s two different people and his family has to adjust to the “new” Henry.

Tony at first wants to get back to what he was before, but in the course of reinvestigating the murder, he discovers that he was quite the asshole. He was confident and arrogant, with a certain swagger, but his staff walked on eggshells around him waiting for him to explode.  There is a scene where Tony is questioning a possible witness, and grabs the guy’s wife and manhandles her, molesting her in front of everyone.  His female subordinate looks on in complete disgust at his abuse of power.  And we in the audience had been falling for this super competent cop, and then his darkness slaps us in the face.

Gradually, Tony finds that the murder happened from a specific kind of sniper gun from a nearby building to the murder parade ground.  Aryan was about to be decorated with a medal for bravery and his speech is cut short by the bullet to the heart.  Tony was the one who actually deserved the medal, but was letting Aryan take the credit.  Tony’s team lose confidence in him because they can see that he had steered the investigation to protect someone.  And you sense, that maybe it was Tony himself.  But WHY??  It makes no sense!

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The last 20 minutes of the film are shocking.  Yes, the film has been out for three years, but I’m not going to spoil it, in case you, dear reader, have not seen it yet.  I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open.  It’s Six Sense or Crying Game level shocking and I wouldn’t spoil the reveal in those films either.  Prithviraj in those final scenes had a level of acting that was just so beyond anything I had ever seen him do.   He is raw, completely vulnerable and just devastating.

The script of this film is put together like clockwork, written by the team Bobby-Sanjay who also wrote Traffic.  A lot of Indian films can feel like they have slap dash scripts, or maybe had no written script upon filming (ahem), but this was almost like a Hitchcock film in how it was so carefully crafted.  Solid directing by  Rosshan Andrrew, and a nice moody soundtrack.  The supporting players are all good, but none really stood out to me as exceptional.  What is extraordinary is Prithviraj’s performance and he gave his all for this film.  Everyone needs to see this superb tour de force movie.

Four and a half stars out of five, and now one of my all-time favorite Malayalam films.

Only if you’ve already seen the film and know the surprise ending, read the Don’t Call It Bollywood analysis of the film which has tons of spoilers.

Ennu Ninte Moideen – Just as special a Malayalam film as I’d been told it would be

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Over and over, I’ve had the 2015 Malayalam film Ennu Ninte Moideen (Yours Truly Moideen) recommended to me.  It’s an incredible love story starring PrithViraj and Parvarthy.  And it is so incredible because it is a real life story of Moideen and Kanchanamala.

In 2006, director R.S. Vimal interviewed the real Kanchanamala and people who knew Moideen in the half hour long documentary Jalam Kond Murivetaval (or) One Who Was Wounded By Water

Kanchanamal wanted Prithviraj to play Moideen because she thought looked very much like him.

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Ennu Ninte Moideen is the tragic love story of an interfaith couple who were kept separate  by their families for years.  Moideen and Kanchanamala’s fathers were friends and each were land owners in Mukkam, Kerala.  Moideen’s father was a renowned Muslim leader, and Kanchanamala’s family were Hindu.  Kanchanamala and Moideen went to school together as children, but later Kanchanamala went away from her home to attend college.

As she was returning to college from a school vacation, the family car broke down and she was allowed to take the bus back to the college town (something she was normally not allowed to do).  On that bus, Moideen and Kanchanamala’s eyes met, and they fell in love.  It’s an adorable scene in the film.  Moideen sends a book of poetry to Kanchanamala and then they exchange secret letters.

She steals away from the college, and there is a beautiful love song in the rain.

 

In their courtship, Moideen and  Kanchanamala never even touch once.  When their families learn of their romance Moideen’s father throws him out of the house when he won’t go along with an arranged marriage.  Kanchanamala’s brothers and uncles react even more cruelly, and lock her up in the house.  She’s barely allowed to even leave her bedroom.

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They sneak letters to each other, and even come up with their own private language to communicate with each other.

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Moideen becomes a political activist, in opposition to his father’s politics.  He uses the campaign speaker car to speak his love to Kanchanamala.  Moideen’s father attacks him with a sword in the heat of an argument over Kanchanamala, and Kanchanamala’s relatives beat her to try to break her bond with Moideen.

The decades long devotion of Moideen and Kanchanamala would seem impossible to believe and like a fairy tale if it were not based on a real life story.

Finally, they decide to emigrate to America, but then a tragic accident happens.  I thought the director had hyped up what happened for dramatic effect, but the documentary showed the newspaper clippings!

Moideen’s mother has left Moideen’s rigid father in disgust after the sword attack, and she takes Kanchanamala into her home as Moideen’s widow.

Ennu Ninte Moideen is an extraordinary love story.  Tragic and very sad in the end, but still inspiring.  The acting is wondrous both from Prithviraj and Parvarthy.  Luminous soundtrack as well.

The real Kanchanamala criticized the director for changing parts of the story, but for a biopic, I think he was maybe almost too slavish to the true events and could have tightened up the narrative a bit.  Still, a magical romantic film about love that transcends religious and  cultural barriers.

Four stars out of five.

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