Posted in Malayalam with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2014 by Roshan Mathew

This review is going to be a little different. It is slightly personal for me. I have been closely following director Jeethu Joseph’s career for the last few years. He was my husband’s schoolmate in the small town of Piravom near Cochin, Kerala. I found his rise in the film industry fascinating, solely because he was born with a silver or even a gold spoon in his mouth and then choose to put himself out there to face success or failure, come what may. It takes a special kind of character to push yourself out of your comfort zone, especially when there is nothing else pushing you forward other than raw passion and a sense of having a need to crave something out for yourself, instead of taking the much easier route of living off of your inheritance. I can’t help but respect that in a person.

Now about him as a director. He has shown great variety in his subject matter in the movies that he has done and he usually has a strong social,very identifiable moral or psychological commentary weaving the story together. He is a master at capturing the subtle nuances of daily life, infusing reality and warmth to his characters. His movies are very character driven and he spends considerable screen time to flush them out and make the audience invested in their onscreen lives. Drishyam is no different on these scores.

It is the story of an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things, for the people he loves. Georgekutty(Mohanlal) is an uneducated family man, living in a small town with his wife Rani(Meena)and daughters, Anju(older) and Anu. He has made a comfortable life for himself by running a cable TV providing service. Along with a propensity to be stingy, Georgekutty has developed an obsession with movies and constantly refers to movie scenes and uses situations from movies to solve problems in his own life and in his community. His idyllic life is shattered when evil happens in the form of Varun, who is an acquaintance of Anju. In a case of blackmailing gone terribly wrong, Varun ends up dead. The rest of the movie is about how two families(Georgekutty’s and Varun’s) deal with this tragedy. It is setup like a thriller. Matters get tough for Georgekutty’s family when it turns out that Varuns mother Geetha Prabhakar(Asha Sharath) is the Kerala inspector general. Varun’s helpless father is done to perfection by Siddique.

There are no false steps by anyone in this movie. And I mean anyone! Everyone from the cameraman, to music,acting and directing is impeccable. It is very gratifying to see Mohanlal given roles like Georgekutty that actually utilizes this actors tremendous talent. Right when you start questioning his fall from the superstar pedestal, he gets pulled right back on it. The stand out among the kids was the the girl who played Anu( Esther). She is a natural on camera. I love the way Jeethu has captured many scenes that show the microcosm of a small community, which always seem to centre in the local chayakada(tea shop). I recognized a lot of linguistic and attitudinal nuances that are very true to people from those areas between Kottayam and Cochin. I am guessing he drew them from his own life. The only thing that could’ve been done without would be the completely gratuitous screen time given to Anthony Perumbavoor. I guess you have to accommodate the producer.

The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the box office. Drishyam has become the highest grossing Malayalam movie of all time. So if you haven’t done so already, get to the theater to watch this thrilling entertainer. Just like the protagonist in his movie, Jeethu, an ordinary guy has managed to do the extraordinary because of his love for movies.


Patom Pole

Posted in Malayalam with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2014 by Roshan Mathew


This is cinematographer Alagappan’s debut directing venture, with a script by Girish Kumar. The movie opens with the elopement of young lovers Karthik(Dulquer)and Riya(Malavika Mohan). Expecting opposition from their respective Brahmin and Christian families, they decide that elopement is the only way for them to be together. Their parents surprisingly are very calm, understanding and loving(How very Anti Aniyatipravu of them)Once the compatibilty/economic realities of building a life together sets in, they decide to break up and return to their homes. Their families welcome them back with open arms and wants them to be together, especially Riya’s parents as she has compromised her virtue by living with a man for 4 days(rolls eyes).The ex lovers move on with their lives, getting jobs at the same event management company run by Mike(Anoop Menon). Then ensues some probable love triangles complications that lead to the inevitable conclusion of the lovers reuniting, once they realize their real feelings. I realize I just gave away the ending. But who are we fooling here. The ending can be discerned about 15 minutes into the movie. So no surprise there.

Bottom line is there is nothing good about this movie other than Dulquer Salman. Even his presence during the movie just makes you question his judgement in selecting this role. The only couple of good scenes in the movie belong to him and Anoop Menon. The script and direction are the weakest links. The script starts of good enough, but then meanders along aimlessly, crammed with chockfull of love story cliches. There is no story element that gives us a convincing argument as to why these two people should get back together other than a couple of half hearted attempts to conjure up a love triangle. Alagappan is a cinematographer through and through. Every frame is constructed beautifully, but that’s about it. It felt like he directed the movie, just so that he could direct his own camera, rather than telling a story. There are a multitude of beautiful shots of Allepey backwaters. The songs are average and shot very badly with terrible choreography. Newcomer Malavika is not a very good actress. All eyes and breathing, a la Kristen Stewart. I found her on screen presence very distracting.

The context of the movie was good if it had ended up in the hands of a decent scriptwriter. But even that would not have been good enough, with Alagappan at the stern. There is no saving this one. Never ever watch it.

True Detective(HBO)

Posted in Hollywood with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2014 by Roshan Mathew

Indulging in binge watching an exquisitely crafted series has turned into one of my favorite, albeit destructive passtimes.

True detective Season 1 consists of 8 episodes and the finale aired yesterday(March 09), here in the States. It is an anthology series, which would mean whole new cast and story for the next season. The story is a psychological crime solving thriller. Hart(Woody Harrelson)and Coehle(McConaughey) are Louisiana state police detective partners. They share a mutually uneasy partnership with each other, but they make a very good professional team. They pursue a ritualistic, satanic serial killer case during a time span of 17 yrs. It’s directed by Cary Fukunaga(Jane Eyre, Sin Nombre fame)and written by Nic Pizzilatto.

The cast is stellar and the story will leave your brain going in circles for days after you watch the whole thing. It flows like a 8 hr movie filled with psychological and emotional twists and turns that leave you at the edge of your seats the whole time. The scope of the series allow Pizzalato,enough time to spend on character development for his two leads. Hart and Coehle are two of the best psychologically flushed out and interesting characters I have seen on TV since Dr Weston from In Treatment( another great series, till the second season)

I started watching True Detective half heartedly as I am not a Mathew McConaughey fan, mostly because his younger roles turned out to be such a caricature of himself. Kind of like a hollywood Sharukh Khan, very linear in his portrayals. His performance in True Detective was anything but linear. He has truly transcended his previous roles to give us an amazing, completely immersive character experience. I was not very happy about his Oscar win as my imagination couldn’t stretch enough to comprehend him giving an oscar worthy performance. I know, I know I judged him on his past performances and on his over the top acceptance speech, without even seeing Dallas Buyers Club. Can you blame me after his movies like The Wedding Planner? But it is undeniable how much effort he has put into breaking free of his past and to grow as an actor while redefining his space in Hollywood. In a way his crazy Oscar speech makes sense about him striving to overtake his own better self. I take it back. That speech is still way out there. I am guessing Matthew will be adding an Emmy to his Oscar for his role in True detective. Definite must watch if you have 8 hrs to spare, especially to see McConaughey’s unusual career arc, great writing,directing and acting.