Koode Finds Anjali Menon in Heart-Warming Territory!

Koode is a heart-warming tale about the importance of relationships in life. Sounds cliche? This movie, the third feature film by Anjali Menon, is far from being cliche.

Its leading man, Prithviraj said that Koode is the sort of film that is difficult to conceive. Perhaps he is right, but what has transpired is a deeply moving portrayal of relationships. It is often the case with Anjali Menon, who has given us Manjadikkuru and Bangalore Days previously.

Koode mainly centers on brother and sister Joshua (Prithviraj) and Jennie (Nazriya Nazim). Still, even their van and the dog named Brownie has something enchanting about them. The movie is beautifully shot by cinematographer Littil Swayamp in the tree-lined locations in Ooty and has a melancholic feel. Yet, it is the endearing characters that stands out.

What could I reveal about the plot of Koode? Nothing much. This movie’s plot is based on a magical realism and a Marathi film titled “Happy Journey.” But more often than not, I got the feeling that the plot of Koode is so surreal that it cannot be both things – magical and realistic – at the same time.

I did not buy the surrealism, which forms the foundation for the Nazriya Nazim character. That hardly matters because if a film is destined to be as magical as Koode, then everything else is secondary. Her character is an archetype, which Anjali Menon use as a narrative tool to tell the character transformation of Joshua.

The delicate relationship which Jennie and Joshua form in Koode warms the heart. It is just exquisite and at no point seemed forced into the narrative. Yet, the movie is not just about the bonding between these two. There is also that weary old man, Aloshy who works as a small-time mechanic. The casting of Aloshy, Joshua and Jennie’s father, is another masterstroke from Anjali Menon. She gives Aloshy (director Renjith) several moments in the sun, including one which shows how much he cares for Joshua. The revelatory nature of the scene, which shows the mechanic father working on a model train set, harkens back to similar scenes from Anjali Menon’s previous films. We find it as revelatory as Aju showing a mural of RJ Sarah, his lover, in Bangalore Days.

The casting helps set the equation between Aloshy and his estranged son straight. The chemistry they share in Koode seems more like that of a foster parent and an adopted son. It is aided by Prithviraj’s searing intensity – he is sort of actor who smiles and cries in one frame. In other words, he is endearing.

Then, there is Sophie, which is an almost silent role but Parvathy makes her presence felt. The directions her character go through is equally fascinating to watch in Koode, yet Anjali Menon insists that the movie is about the siblings. No one would have imagined Prithviraj and Nazriya as brother and sister. Their chemistry is so wonderful that at times it is hard to fight back tears and other times not to break out in laughter.

Menon’s craft reminds us of an old filmmaking notion from Alfred Hitchcock – to play the audience like a piano. A piano has black and white keys, the sort of emotions which the characters in Koode, Joshua in particular, go through. Even an eulogy turns out to be a reference to a dappankuthu song, and while we ought to be fighting back our tears, we end up breaking out in laughter. There are many other such moments in Koode, a movie we are going to hear a lot about in the coming days.

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How Neymar Could Help Brazil and PSG’s Economy?

Ever wondered why the roads in Brasilia are so wide that Neymar could one day practice on it when the traffic is less. The cityplanners won’t mind that since they get to expand one of the world’s widest roadways for the footballer. It might even give the economy of Brazil a much needed push. Don’t be mistaken by this, but Brazil is a developing country and the 8th largest economy in the world. Although, it is facing a mini-crisis at the moment.

Brazil love their football and hate it when their team loses, which explains this. The mob attack on Brazil Football Team’s bus is now trending on social media. It is different from burning an effigy, since it gets to the point where “you don’t play good football, and I am going to come and get you.”

It is partly agitation, partly the weight of all the expectations of the people of Brazil. It is even futile to wonder how come fans recognized that it was Brazil team’s bus without even getting one look at the stars? Surely, there was escort behind the bus. The agitation may have also got to do with the fact that their most talented player since Ronaldo was a mere shadow of himself at the World Cup.

Seeing those four tyres, the only portions that stands out in the bus, those Brazilian fans may have even remembered Neymar rolling all over the pitch in Russia. It was all about him, and you got to give it to Tite and team for encouraging Neymar and at times making him the de facto leader. A coach with a thing for big calls would have dropped Neymar just to make a statement. For the Brazil team, though, the statement was more like this: Let us win it for the game called football. And, for Neymar, it often rhymed with a car manufacturer’s advertisement: For the Game Called Road (could be one for Neymar brand of tyres.)

Besides, having bigger roads might even help their automobile segment and thereby the economy. Speak of economy, ever wondered how Neymar could reach Real Madrid from PSG? Just let him roll his place over there, and there you have it: a big money transfer for possibly a roller coaster season in Spain.

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Good Neymar or Bad Neymar, which one will we have today? Who knows.. .

The Dramatic Power of Casablanca

Who would have thought a hiding place would turn out to be a lovers’ paradise? In Casablanca, which is set in Second World War period, the city is a refuge to 3 people who are caught up in a love triangle. One of them is Ilsa, who is played by the evergreen starlet Ingrid Bergman. If movies are all about characterization and moving drama – this one from 1942 and directed by Michael Curtiz is timeless.

One can only quote 4 lines absurdly to explain the magic of Casablanca, the movie that speaks to the heart. The line that shows Rick’s angst when he sees his lover after a long time, “Of all gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”; the quote that shows Ilsa’s angst, “But, what about us?”; and, Victor Laszlo’s gain “Thank You. I try.”

Rick had to emphasize – “We all try, but you succeed” – but the takeaway of the film has to do with man’s empathy and sacrifice. These 3 characters are caught up in a whirl wind of emotions, and Casablanca shows how ironical their problems are compared to the war backdrop the movie is set in. If you show no empathy, you are as good as the Nazis. But if you do show, you become as good a human being as Rick, Ilsa, or even Victor Laszlo.

Speak of humanity, it brings us to the best scene in Casablanca, the one in the cafeteria, where Laszlo (Paul Henreid) provokes the German officers to stand up and sing the French National Anthemn “La Marseillaise.” Did he really have to that? Being a Czech patriot and French Resistance leader he perhaps had to, but considering the subtext, one would even dare say that he was out of his mind. If Germans recognize who he really was, then that would have been the end of his pursuit for Ilsa and even the story.

Then, there are the two scenes featuring Ilsa and the piano player named Sam (Dooley Wilson) who works in Rick’s cafe. In one of the scenes, she enters the cafe and Sam is surprised to see her. The first time we see Ilsa, who is actually reappearing years after, she still holds the feelings for Rick, whom she loved in Paris under the assumption that Laszlo is dead. But, upon knowing that he is alive, Ilsa goes back to France only to the shock of Rick. We learn all these events in a flashback, which lasts a few minutes.

When she reenters Rick’s life, he has become a rich man running a nightclub in the Morocco city. And, Casablanca is about the sacrifice the two makes for the greater good of humanity. The could happen only if Germans are defeated, something which was bound to happen even as the movie ends assuming all good things will come.

Casablanca is also about “the beautiful friendship,” which Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) forms with Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains). There is only a fine line between the friendship they share, the romance of Rick and Ilsa, and the hostility of the wartime era. It is a timeless, classic romance movie if there is one. It is hard not to be moved by it, and Bergman will certainly win over your heart. One cannot really blame Rick for falling for her, but then again, time and tide waits ror no one. In the memories, “We’ll always have Paris” says Rick and Ilsa nods in agreement.

People say that “I saw that movie countless times” in reference to classic films. When it comes to Casablanca, let us just summarize that there are countless moments in it that sticks in the heart. I have seen it only once some 6 years ago, but it still resonates.

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Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Ee.Ma.Yau Makes us Laugh and Think in Equal Measure

Leave it to an auteur to make a satire on something as morbid as an old man’s passing away and still bring laughs through gallows humor. It is almost a cardinal sin to call Lijo Jose Pellissery’s “Ee.Ma.Yau,” simply funny or humorous. It is the sort of humor that aches; if you feel ashamed to laugh, then Pellissery has got you in a state of soul-searching. That is what Eeshi (Chemban Vinod) does for the most part of the film, having lost his father Vavachan mesthri (Kainakary Thangaraj) due to cardiac arrest we suspect.

The highlight of this film is a chat the old man has with his son. If I die will you give me a ‘grand funeral’ asks the father and the son replies in agreement. It is a typical Christian response and this atypical film is full of such ironical talks. Moments later, the inevitable happens and the family of Vavachan is caught off guard. Not knowing how to deal with their father’s passing away, they seek the help of neighbors. One of Vavachan’s daughters even ask will dad’s photo get featured in tomorrow’s newspaper? Has he got an award or something, we mull over. At least, there is a time and place for such questions and one can tell why Eeshi, for one, is not amused.

Moments later the villagers gather around his coastal home, and being the chief among them, Ayyappan (Vinayakan) decides to help out with Vavachan’s funeral. When he asks Eeshi how is he planning to go about it, the latter responds as per my father’s wish. We know Christians perform funerals with adorned coffins and other luxuries that a living man could only wish for. It is such customs that Pellissery questions in “Ee.Ma.Yau,” and the result is an audacious film that makes us laugh and think in equal measure.

For instance, when Ayyappan tries to dissuade Eeshi from buying a plush coffin we also see the coffin salesman pitch the product to Eeshi telling Ayyappan to stay away from the deal. It inspires that classic line – “It’s not your father who died, so let Eeshi decide which coffin to buy.” Precisely at this point in the film, I began to question my own instincts – are we supposed to laugh or do that hiding under the chair? The funeral plans get even more complex for Eeshi, especially when Vicar Father Zazcharia Parappurath (Dileesh Pothan) enters the screenplay. For a Vicar Father, he is one who enjoys the rumors on how someone from his own parish died, and even uses a mobile phone to communicate.

It’s not for amusement sake that Ee.Ma.Yau throw plenty of in-jokes on a Christian custom, which is the equivalent of having to live penniless and die rich. In fact, Pellissery does not really say if its totally bad, but what he does with the sarcasm is something even the almighty couldn’t fathom. Alas, that is what the clouds are there for – to burst out in anger in the form of downpour.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Verdict: It is simply a masterpiece!

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Kammara Sambhavam: To Play Fast and Loose with Revisionist History!

Rathish Ambat’s “Kammara Sambhavam” is about this idea that everything we are taught in a historical context is far from the truth. The film begins with a fascinating quote from Napoleon Bonaparte that “History is a set of lies agreed upon,” by communalism. The makers of Kammara Sambhavam play fast and loose with revisionist history, but in a really fun way. Boring is hardly the adjective that fits it; spellbinding is.

The story begins in the present day Kerala, in the midst of 4 abkaris who hatch a plan to bring back a waning Indian Liberation Party from the depths. They are frustrated by the government’s constant chopping and changing of the Madya Nayam, the prohibition on the sale of alcohol in the state. Instead, they have their eyes set on producing a movie on a weary old Kammaran Nambiar, the freedom fighter played by Dileep. A tamil director gets roped in to make the movie on Kammaran, and influence the public to cast vote for him being the ILP candidate. One of the liquor barons say that hiring directors from Kerala would have a leftist or a rightist viewpoint on the script, and that would invite an outrage from the public. Hence, the director for the movie within the movie is Pulikesi (Bobby Simha). That is Murali Gopi reading the script of his Left Right Left, which didn’t get an extended run in the box office because the lefists were wary of his provocative film.

Kammaran (Dileep’s make up is similar to the old man he played in Kalyanaraman) narrates the real account of his life during the pre-Independence. We are introduced to other ‘participants’ of the independence movement, including a ruthless janmi Kelu Nambiar (Murali Gopy), an idealistic Othenan Nambiar (Siddharth), and his love interest Bhanumathi (Namitha Pramod). The film picks up pace, when Kammaran joins hands with Othenan. He’s not the Thacholi Othenan featured in Vadakkan Pattukal (Ballads of the North) but a brave wartime hero who goes all out against the Brits. We see him take part in Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA, the nationalists he formed to free India from the British rule with help from Japan. We see how Netaji’s plan go all awry, as his nationalists switch alliance to the British army. Othenan says the big frontier to India’s freedom quest is those who support white nationalists and treason the country. Siddharth plays this character every bit fascinating, while seldom relying on histrionics. The same goes true for Murali Gopy, who also wrote this film, and Namitha Pramod who puts in one of her finest performances. Her soulful, expressive eyes has the power to evoke empathy in the viewers.

His script dares to question the integrity of these events set during India’s independence, and depicts the people involved in it at times a touch farcically. Kammara Sambhavam, therefore, relies a lot on Dileep’s machiavellian titular character that traces back to the bygone era. In fact, Kammaran is cunning but there is also a human side to him. Kammaran is just not the free thinker who sets out to free India, and Dileep plays him every bit cunning and dishonest. It’s one of the actor’s finest performances. We see the fear in Kammaran, when he acts all fidgety in front of Kelu Nambiar for whom he has scores to settle. He’s the kind of guy who makes ‘truthful lies’ and triggers a mass uproar.

In the second half, though, Kammara Sambhavam focuses on the retelling of Kammaran’s account of history. In the vision of the tamil director, his biographical story turns out to be a hagiography that praises his character. It’s in the much extended latter half that the film soars both literally and metaphorically. Even as an action caper, Kammara Sambhavam works. From a popcorn audience’s perspective, its loose account of history is fascinating and fast-paced narrative is a yarn. History is a deep subject, which most people often couldn’t get the head around. Be prepared for a toss-up of ideologies.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Movies Like this Rare Come to Cinemas Only Once in a Blue Moon!

Dec 23, 2016 10:16 AM 580

Damien Chazelle’s love letter to Hollywood titled La La Land is a beautiful song and dance. It’s that rare musical, which makes us want to fall in love with cinemas once again. Damien Chazelle’s second film is a unique piece of work showing why high art is always “come-grab-a-piece-of-me.” Movies work best, when three elements make it a point to follow that notion right through the runtime:

A. The Man with a Movie Camera (The Director)

B. The Audience

C. The Screen

Meaning it is not just Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) dancing on the moon but most of us also feel the moment. Chazelle takes a lot of liberties to reach out to people, churning out breathtaking images like the one that has both Mia and Sebastain levitate on the screen. In that scene, the lovers in La La Land are seen cock-a-hoop in the Griffith Observatory literally dancing on astrophysics for the sake of the imaginary. The artistry of Chazelle hasn’t lifted Rodin Sculptures but love can move even a monolith. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone do what movie stars do: make us move to the tunes and relate to its emotional cues served up as songs and dance.

The ingenious La La Land leave us a in a loop only to raise an important question concerning the two waning art forms, Jazz and Musical. If improvisation fails to succeed or succeds to fail in either genres who are responsible for it? Is it the artiste or the audience whose taste don’t match with the repertoire? Chazelle gives us several moments in La La Land that substantiates this point. Consider the moment Mia and Sebastian meet for the first time – while he plays a piano in an LA bar, she walks in involuntarily. And, even as Mia falls for it, nobody else seems to care. Even the bar manager has him sacked for playing something offbeat. Love happens between the two once the lights go down and the stars come out in LA. The duo makes such a song and dance about it in a day and age when they should be sharing romantic selfies. What’s not to like?

The song and dance is something new for Hollywood even today, but for our audience the musical genre seems somewhat inaccessible just like the wordplay. Some like it; some doesn’t. For me, however, what was disappointing to see was the response which La La Land got in PVR Kochin. There was only a handful of audience paying attention to the screen, and even they were few and far between, which was very sad for a film such as this. I tell you what happened and as to why you should singalong to La La Land.

There were some couples in the theater romancing like how Stone and Gosling hold fingers in this movie. They couldn’t let go of their buttered popcorn, nor their passion for each other. For the love of movies, and for fear of being a fat foodie, only one ghostwriter saw it through without the buttered popcorn. It was an option, I could have tried. I could have even called a hooker just to feel the moments in LA.

Unlike me, no one realized since Chazelle’s musical warrant food for thought. Experiencing his movie is a bit like “something is moving on the screen and you look to see what it is” (©Roger Ebert). The imagery here is both magical and dreamy, so why wouldn’t you?

P.S: Pay attention to everythink wink wink before you judge any type of art forms. It may seem wafer thin but enjoyable and eye-popping in actual. Chazelle bridges the gap of communication and across the aisles are Stone, Gosling, and the Screen. No hooting and clapping, not even when Ingrid Bergman shows up? Apparently, it is the screen which speaks volumes about the talents of La La Land.

What It Means to Watch Raging Bull?

Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull,” is a man of great contradictions. He is a professional boxer who is feeble at heart, and a husband who suspects his wife’s integrity without any tangible conflict. He is also a brother who holds an animosity towards his sibling, and a stand-up comic who thinks he is funny.

Robert Deniro plays this real-life pugilist as a schizophrenic. Through his Oscar winning performance, we see Jake LaMotta’s journey to the world middleweight title in the 1950’s and to a low point in life. If there is anything human about him, it’s the state of grief he gets caught up in much later in the film. What preceeds it, though, is rage.

Scorsese’s Raging Bull starts with an obese LaMotta prepping for a comic act in a nightclub, and flashbacks to an early bout in his career. This is where it starts for LaMotta: big bouts, large crowds and his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) throwing the weight behind him. Outside the boxing ring, though, he is more of a sadist who abuses his wife at times even over how fry a steak shall be in the kitchen.

It’s only when LaMotta enters a new marital relationship with Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), that Scorsese’s film go full throttle. The director of Raging Bull draw parallels between what happens in the boxer’s personal life and what unfolds in each of his bouts. For instance, before a big match, we either see LaMotta yelling at his wife or brother. Scorsese also shows the rage inside his mind, which translates to inside the ring.

Sometimes, this inner conflict is an outcome of feeling jealous over Vickie’s remark on Jake’s next opponent. This alternating narrative continues in Raging Bull, and a point comes when LaMotta couldn’t draw a line between his personal life and the professional. The price he pays for it is heavy.

Scorsese transitions between real events that happens before LaMotta’s bout to what transpires in the ring. This has an effect of a real world to alternate reality narrative shift in a sci-fi movie. The imagery in the boxing sequences has a dreamy effect. We never know who’s going to come out victorious at the end of bouts and that’s what makes Raging Bull a fascinating watch.

Scorsese is an auteur, someone who revisits similar narrative arcs from a previous work. Like how Travis Bickle loses control over his emotions following a break up over a pay phone call in Taxi Driver and the way Scorsese symbolizes it, there is a scene in Raging Bull where we see the protagonist on the verge of losing all sense of perspective. That scene is the one wherein Jake LaMotta gets punched to the point of death by Sugar Ray Robinson. As the pugilist waits for an announcement of the winner, the cinematographer of Raging Bull Michael Chapman focuses the frame on the rope with blood on it. This is the point where the boxer loses, with his career and life literally on the ropes.

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