Saturday, July 28, 2007

Big B, Vinodayathra: Review

'Big B' reads almost like a James Hadley Chase novel - I mean, a renegade gang of orphans set out to get their revenge against the murderer of their surrogate mom, is typically something that Chase, Lee Child or even Louis L'Amour would write. D'ebutant director Amal Neerad is obviously inspired by his mentor RGV, at least insofar as technique is concerned. However, the premise of the movie is as stale as they come.

Social worker Nafisa Ali is brutally murdered on the streets of Kochi, murkier than the Mumbai of RGV's 'Satya'. Four of the many street urchins she has helped nurture are determined to avenge her death. Leading them is Bilal, the Big B, a dark, brooding killer who is apt only to mumble - that too in monosyllables. The role doesn't ask much of Mammootty, merely his best impersonation of Ajay Devgan. For while, the movie promises an interesting twist, but soon meanders off to
the archetypal good vs. evil finale, where good overpowers evil, and all is well again.

As noted earlier, the basic good vs evil theme is certainly redundant, and there is nothing remarkable about the performances either (although a couple of the newcomers are endearing, and show promise). What eventually saves the movie is the fresh directorial style of Amal Neerad. From the way the shots have been framed, to the song picturizations and fights, the director leaves no stone unturned to showcase his capabilities. The dialogues are crisp - and for a change there are no Sanskrit hymns in the background, nor does the hero spout endless pages of dialogue in English, Sanskrit, Hindi etc. Things are kept simple, and in the end its a decent outing that at least doesn't make one cringe.

Sathyan Anthikkad, veteran film-maker, teams up with aspiring superstar Dileep to churn out yet another sample of his brand of feel-good cinema, named 'Vinodayathra' (Picnic) this time. Stale theme, lacklustre direction, terrible song picturizations, music that ranges from bad to okay - this movie showcases all that is wrong with today's Malayalam cinema.

Dileep, in yet another variation of his boy-next-door persona, is a wayward MCA graduate, who is irresponsible, irritating and exasperating all at once. One feels for his brother-in-law (a splendid Mukesh), who is forced to house Dileep. Of course, Meera Jasmine plays one of those do-gooder girls who, despite numerous setbacks (and I do mean numerous - an ailing dad, a non-wedded mother as a sister, bank loans - its quite a big list), refuses to give up. Of course, by the end of the movie, Dileep ends up spellbound by the fighting qualities of Meera, and turns over a new leaf.

The performances are alright; of course, it probably helps that each of the actors have done these roles a million times before. You can actually predict each scene, including when the songs are about to come etc. If Mukesh and Innocent manage to rise above their roles, its just because of what good actors they are. All the other technical aspects of the movie are taken care of, so that nobody can complain. One senses that Ilaiyaraja is merely going through the motions here; so is Meera, normally a highly competent actress.

Verdict: Avoid the movie unless someone gifts you a free copy (and think twice before you watch it even then). Btw, the young actress who plays Mukesh's sister looks like she has the makings of a very competent and attractive heroine; hopefully the two Ms (and Dileep) would have retired by then.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ek Chalis Ki Last Local: Review

At last, someone has tried to copy the spirit of Tarantino's cinema, rather than the scenes verbatim. Sanjay Gupta could learn a lesson or three from his namesake, debutante director Sanjay Khanduri. He pays tribute to a host of movies, ranging from Tarantino's own Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (it even manages to do both tributes in a single shot), to Natural Born Killers, Oldboy, DDLJ, Gireftaar and even pays homage to Nana Patekar and Rajnikanth.

The story reads a bit like Chameli, about a young man stuck in the night who accosts a call-girl. But that's where the similarities end, and the creatures of the night step out. This has got to be the wierdest (and one of the greatest) set of characters in a desi movie ever - whores, gamblers, pimps, serial killers, encounter cops - you name them and you got them here. I mean, a Nana Patekar-like autowallah, a friend resembling the protagonist of Oldboy, a trigger-happy couple roaming around in a cab akin to Natural Born Killers, the Rajni-cop persona from Gireftaar / Andha Kanoon, the mob-men in the car whose gun accidentally goes off (Pulp Fiction) and shoots off the ear of a guy (Reservoir Dogs) - great characters, and tributes galore. Yeah - this is certainly my kind of cinema. And wait, there's a lot more, but giving away more details would destroy the movie for you.

What I didn't like: the whole rona-dhona bit about how Neha became a call-girl 'coz of her ailing mom, and I felt that the editing could have been a lot more crisper. Also, though it was certainly courageous of Abhay to accept this role, and he pulls it off rather well too, he still does look very effeminate in certain scenes, and he has to cut that out pronto. However, that said, he does deserve full credit for understanding and lending support to such a whacked-out screenplay.

Go watch this now, and let's hope new filmmakers like this emerge in regional language films as well (especially in Malayalam cinema!).