Puzhu: A Gripping Psychological Study

Superstars playing characters with negative shades isn’t very common. Even if that happens an attempt is made at the end to sanitize the character. Generally things take a turn towards the climax. However debutant director Ratneena’s Puzhu is a different beast altogether, there are no redeeming qualities thrust on Mamooty’s character, neither have you got any quick whitewash. For much of the film you experience a combination of fear mixed with revulsion, it is akin to what the son Kichu (Master Vasudev) feels towards Kuttan. Essentially Puzhu is a character study of an unsympathetic guy through the lens of social, political and cultural degradation.

Mamooty plays a police officer called Kuttan. He is a widower who stays in a posh apartment along with his son Kichu. Kuttan has an overbearing nature that suffocates his young son. The son at times wishes his father to be dead; Kuttan starts to feel that someone is trying to kill him. He starts developing paranoia. This paranoia is further accentuated by the arrival of his younger sister Bharati (Parvathy Thiruvothu) who comes to stay in a nearby flat along with her husband who is a theatre artist. The husband name is Kuttappan. Kuttan shares a problematic equation with Bharati. The reason being she had eloped with Kuttappan. Kuttappan comes from a lower caste. This is just the synopsis of Puzhu, can’t reveal anything more since there are many more layers to the story.

Puzhu has many complex layers starting with how the character of Mamooty has been written. Rateena doesn’t waste any time in establishing Kuttan. From early on we understand that Kuttan has deep hatred for those who belong to different communities and castes. You also understand that his parenting skills need a serious change over. It is not just unhealthy but it also borders on child abuse. His handling of the son is akin to the way he would handle a criminal.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/276aSWaJ7gM?feature=oembed However there are certain moments in the film which make you empathize with Kuttan. There are scenes in the film where he tries to connect with his son after Kichu openly rebels against his father. There are also a few occasions where Kuttan draws out laughs. For example there are scenes where he keeps visiting a suspect every time he escapes an attempt on his life. The lighter scenes are few and far in between but they momentarily relieve the otherwise tense ridden drama.

Mamooty is an absolute revelation in his part. The way he generates hatred just through the twitch of his eyes is simply remarkable. The senior actor once again shows why he is considered as one of the legends of Malayalam cinema along with Mohanlal. He captures the various nuances of Kuttan without missing a single beat. Mamooty does all this without going overboard even for one bit.

The characters of Bharati and Kuttappan are mostly side players but they have their share of moments too. Parvathy in particular shines as Kuttan’s warm and still hopeful sister.

Special mention must be made of Master Vasudev as well. He stands his own and manages to not get overshadowed, this in spite of sharing screen space with Mamooty and Parvathy.
The element of theatre also plays an important part here. A comparison is drawn between Kuttan’s situation and an epic play performed by his brother- in law. This angle adds more heft to the film.

Watch Puzhu for the subject matter and also the terrific Mamooty.

Salute: A Gripping Police Procedural

Dulquer Salmaan comes out all guns blazing in this gritty gangster drama and Director Abhilash Joshiy does not reinvent the wheel but, however there is enough fodder for hardcore masses
King of Kotha (Malayalam). 3 out of 5
Starcast: Dulqer Salmaan, Shabber Kallaraakal, Prasanna and others
Director: Abhilash Joshiy
Writer: Abhilash N. Chandan
Producers: Dulqer Salmaan and Zee Studios
Production Companies: Wayfarer Films and See Studios
Music and background score: Jakes Bejoy
Genre: Action/drama
Running time: 2 hours and 54 minutes

The genre of police procedurals isn’t something new. Earlier also we have seen films which look at the inner workings of the police department. Salute directed by Roshan Andrews is a suspense drama, a murder mystery and a whodunit all rolled into one. It is a cocktail which works in spite of some familiarities. You can see the influence of last year’s critically acclaimed Nayattu. What makes Salute work is the tight script and also Dulquer Salman’s performance.

Salute tells the story of sub-inspector Aravind Karunakaran. He belongs to a family of police officers. His role model to join the force is his own brother Ajith Karunakaran (Manoj K Jayan). Aravind takes pride in working with his brother. Things take a turn when the police nab an innocent auto-driver Murali on a double murder case. An upcoming election and political pressure leads to Murali being implicated.

At the start of the film we come to know that Aravind has taken a sabbatical after realizing that his brothers had done wrong. The difference between the brothers comes out clearly from the beginning. Aravind wants to pursue the truth, his brother Ajith on the other hand mocks him and constantly says this is how the system works. The reason for Aravind reopening the case is the accidental interaction with the sister of Murali. Diana Penty plays Aravind’s girlfriend. She looks pretty but nothing more can be said about her character or performance.

Salute works best when the focus is on Dulquer and Manoj. The cat and mouse game between the brothers while living under the same roof is a delight to watch, you can see that they are keeping up appearances for the sake of the family. But at the same time they are trying to outwit each other. These scenes work really well.

The pace of the film is deliberately slow. There is no hurry to make the police catch the criminal. More often than not the film plays out as a battle between a hero who is haunted by his own conscience and a faceless villain.

Just when you think that Aravind has caught the criminal the story takes a turn every time, the best thing about Aravind’s characterization is that he is not shown to be invincible. He is as vulnerable as anyone.

The background music by Jakes Bejoy also adds to the impact. It adds a layer of intrigue and threat.

One of the areas where Salute fumbles is its last stretch. The finale of the film doesn’t quite live up to the buildup. Also none of the female characters adds much value to the film.

Dulquer Salman and Manoj K Jayan are in perfect sync with each other. Dulquer makes you empathize with Aravind’s moral dilemmas. There are no traditional hero antics but Dulquer shows that he is equally adept at serious roles. In a nutshell Salute is a gripping investigative drama that deserves to be seen.

Bro Daddy: A Watchable Family Entertainer That Never Becomes Memorable

Prithviraj Sukumaran’s first directorial debut Lucifer was a well made political drama within the commercial framework but it wasn’t a film that stayed with you. With Bro Daddy the director attempts a comedy. Just like Lucifer, Bro Daddy also relies heavily on the screen presence of the legendary Mohanlal to make it work. Although Prithviraj has casted himself as the second lead it is Mohanlal who runs away with the show most of the time.

Prithviraj takes the conflict point from the film Badhaai Ho. Just like Neena Gupta’s character in Badhaai Ho here too Meena who plays Mohanlal’s onscreen wife gets pregnant at a late age, the sons in both the films aren’t happy with their mother getting pregnant at that age. However, director /actor Prithviraj Sukumaran doesn’t fully dwell into this topic, he treats it as a mere side plot as the proceedings unfold.

Bro Daddy begins off with a short animation clip. This clip gives the audience a good idea about what to expect from the film. Constant jokes are made about the age gap between father John Kattadi (Mohanlal) and son Eesho John (Prithviraj Sukumraran). The age gap jokes just don’t end here; the audiences are reminded of it at frequent intervals. The reason for the age gap between the father and son is that John and Anna (Meena) had married quite young.

They are waiting for their son Eesho (Prithviraj) to marry. Eesho works as an advertising professional. He is in a relationship with a girl who is also Anna (Kalyani Priydarshni). This Anna is the daughter of John’s best friend Kurian (Lalu Alex). The reason for Kurian naming his daughter Anna too is that once upon a time he wanted to marry Meena’s Anna. However, it wasn’t possible due to certain circumstances. But Kurian’s love for her is still there. Whenever Kurian meets or talks to her soothing background music starts playing.

Coming back to the plot, the parents of both the parties don’t know that their children are having a live in a relationship in Bangalore. Things take a turn when Kalyani Priyadarshini’s Anna gets pregnant and she decides to go ahead with the baby. Eesho isn’t happy with her decision but there is nothing much he can do. Another shock awaits Eesho when his father calls and says that he needs to discuss something important with him in person. What follows are a bunch of comic set pieces, some of them definitely land but there are also certain episodes that leave you with a bitter taste.

One of the things that Prithviraj gets right is the characters of John and Kurian, as John Kattadi Mohanlal oozes charm and vitality in every frame. His comic timing feels absolutely effortless, at no point you feel that the actor is trying too hard. His comic timing and expressions play a major role in some of the jokes really landing well.

Kurian’s Lalu Alex is another character which is worth mentioning here. The core of Kurian is his caged anger management issues. As Kurian Lalu Alex not only displays wonderful comic timing but he also gives a strong performance in the emotional bits.

For example, there is a key scene in the second half involving the big reveal. His hurt at being kept in the dark by his best friend and also his daughter is wonderfully brought out by the actor.

The father and the son equation also gives the film some lovely moments. John Kattadi comes across as more of a friend than dad to Eesho.

The biggest downer of Bro Daddy is the lack of strong emotional connect. This can be particularly seen in the characters of Meena and Kalyani Priyadarshini. Both the Anna’s start off strongly but they are left midway. The character of Esho is also something which leaves a lot to be desired.

The frustrations of Esho are understandable but there is not much development in the character that you see. Before the pre- climax there is a scene where John makes his son understand Kurian’s point of view. However, the transformation feels very abrupt and doesn’t give a complete sense of him having changed.

Some of the comedy bits are too annoying to say the least. Soubin Shahir’s event manager is meant to be a spoof but instead of being amused you feel like fast forwarding.

There is a serious hangover of Priyadarshan’s Hindi fims that you find in the comic style adopted by Prithviraj Sukumaran. This method doesn’t really pay dividends here as the humor hasn’t got that rip roaring quality to it. It is another matter that Priyadarshan himself has become a stale filmmaker over the years.

Watch Bro Daddy if you are in the mood for some light hearted fun but don’t expect too much.

Kuruthi: A Nerve Wracking Thriller

Before going into the film Kuruthi (burnt offering) it is necessary to applaud Prithviraj Sukumaran for producing a film of this sort. It is a brave film which talks about how our country is fast slipping into divisiveness. Apart from dealing with religious bigotry it also talks about a kind of humanism where communities help each other to survive.

The film starts with a shot of a goat which is about to be ritually sacrificed by a plantation worker Ibrahim played by Roshan Mathew, his young daughter who has grown fond of the goat implores her dad to not kill him. It is not clear whether Ibrahim ultimately kills the goat but nevertheless the scene gives us an idea into his character. We see that he has a sense of kindness and consideration.

The background story of Roshan Mathew’s character is that a terrible landslide killed his wife. He lives with his child along with an aged father and a younger brother. The Hindu neighbour Sumathi played by Srindaa cooks for them and takes care of the family. Sumathi is the only woman in the ensemble of men.

One night as Ibrahim and his family are waiting for Sumathi and the dinner there is a knock on the door. An inspector (Mural Gopi) barges in with a Hindu prisoner. The prisoner is accused of accidentally killing a Muslim in the chaos which followed the desecration of a temple. Later when things get tense Sumathi asks Ibrahim if he would stay quiet if a mosque was to be ravished.

What follows is a cat and mouse game when Liaq (Prithviraj Sukumaran) along with his friend try to get into the house and kill the prisoner. This is the synopsis.

One of the highlights of Kuruthi is the characterization of Roshan Mathew’s Ibrahim. He is someone who is torn between the religious fanaticism and a sense of humanism. The way the character has been built up and how he goes to his maximum level of saving the Hindu boy has been portrayed with lot of finesse. A scene which deserves a particular mention is the one between the character of Srinaada and the family in the context of the prisoner.

In this scene she gives an important message on peaceful co existence and it is something which feels very relevant particularly in today’s times.

Director Manu Warrier uses the set up of a home invasion thriller to talk about many issues. Apart from the already mentioned ones you have the growing fear of the majoritarian sentiment, alienation of minorities etc. To pack these many things is a difficult task and in the hands of a less skilled director it would have fallen flat, however thanks to Manu Warrier’s skilled direction the film never gets dreary and works perfectly as microcosm of our society.

The ultimate message is that the violence committed in the name of a god is a vicious cycle and is never going to stop until the individual takes one for the greater good of human civilization.

Besides the political aspect of the film Kuruthi also works as a nerve wracking thriller. The set of the home invasion has been well used and the director skillfully builds up the suspense. He is aided well by the cinematography and the overall technical department.

The performances of all the actors add more magic to this film. But the ones who stand out are Roshan Mathew, Prithviraj Sukumaran and Srinaada.

Joji: Malayalam’s Macbeth

Over the years the works of William Shakespeare have influenced many directors. It started with Romeo and Juliet which has been made multiple times across languages.  A popular desi version is the Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla starrer Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. You also have Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela which placed the story in a town that resembled Varanasi. Apart from Romeo and Juliet other works like Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth have also been adopted into movies. For example there is Vishal Bhardwaj’s critically acclaimed Maqbool which took the story of Macbeth and placed it in the setting of a Bombay underworld. Dileesh Pothan draws inspiration from the same source and makes a thriller which haunts you.

The setting of this story is an estate of an influential patriarch PK Kuttapan played by the terrific Sunny PN. Kuttapan lives with his three sons, daughter-in-law and others. From the very first scene we see how powerful Kuttapan is both physically and mentally. He has an iron grip on his family and as a result all the members fear him. Things take a turn when he falls and has a serious injury. Revealing anything more wouldn’t be appropriate given that it would spoil the fun of watching it.

The best thing about the film is the equation shared between Fahadh  Fassil’s  character Joji and the sister-in-law Bincy played by Unnimaya Prasad. Bincy is a character which is stuck in the daily routine of taking care of men around her. The kitchen is the only place where you will find her. In this woman Joji finds his Lady Macbeth. What brings them together is the circumstances and the oppression that they have gone through.

The strength of the writing can be seen in the dynamics that these two characters share. She knows how Joji is turning all the things in his favor, but both of them have a silent agreement which will benefit them. What they want most is freedom. However there is a minor issue which I have and that is the character could have used more given its potential.

The writing of Syam Pushkaran deserves a special mention as well. He skillfully builds up the tension and the dread which is very important for a story of this genre.

Each character has been well etched. The director also shows the aspect of alcoholism, a serious problem in Kerala through the character of joji’s brother. Almost all the characters are flawed and everyone becomes a catalyst for the tragedies that follow.

The film is also rich in atmospherics as the locales have been brilliantly shot. The interiors of the house also tell a story of its own. You can feel the oppression of the character Bincy and she being non relevant in the family decisions.

The house is large but almost sterile. Due to this reason the greenery outside the house offers a big relief to both the characters and also us as audiences.

Fahadh Faasil has created a niche for himself as one of the most exciting actors of this generation and with Joji he continues his brilliance. Unnimya Prasad also delivers a standout act as the oppressed daughter- in- law. Baburaj is terrific as the elder brother.

In totality Joji works as a fascinating study of human beings while exploring the lengths to which humans can go for a thing known as better living.

Drishyam 2: Super Follow Up To Drishyam 1

Sequels are always a tricky business given the expectations of the people and it is very rare that a sequel is as good if not better than the original. Drishyam 2 is one such where it completely lives up to the expectations of those who loved the first part. It is a perfect example of how to make a good thriller. The twists and the turns keep you completely hooked. The climax and the pre climax deserve particular mention.

For those who haven’t seen the first part the plot revolved around a Cable TV operator George Kutty who is leading a happy life with his wife and daughters. Things take a turn for the worse when his family commits an accidental crime and the burden of protecting them and their secret falls on him.

The story of Drishyam 2 begins six years after the incident. George kutty now owns a theatre and also plans to make a movie. The two daughters are also grown up. Anju played by Ansiba Hasan is a subdued college student.  Anu played by Esther Anil is somewhat rebellious. Meena is still the naïve wife who picks on her daughters and isn’t very happy with her husband’s plans. Asha Sharath also reprises her role of ex cop Geeta Prabhakar.

But beneath the normalcy the family is still scarred by what happened in the past. Director Jeetu Joseph paints a realistic picture of the trauma. Anju develops a medical condition because of it. This includes having nightmares and feeling fear whenever she sees the police. Meena’s character is constantly worrying about where her husband had buried the body and someone will find it one day. Whenever her husband goes out of town she asks her neighbor Sarita to sleep with her as she cannot sleep alone. Anu the youngest has kind of moved on.

However it is not just the family which has changed, the people around them have also changed. In the first part the people of the town were rooting for George Kutty’s family horrified by the police actions. This time around they have loosened their tongues. Most of them believe that they indeed committed the crime. What really happened on that day becomes a matter of gossip everywhere. The situation changes when the current IG deploys shadow police officers to get the truth out of George Kutty and his family.

Just like the first part the biggest strength of Drishyam 2 is its writing. It is tough to write a sequel to a story where the crime is the same but Jeetu Joseph does a super job in building up the plot. He also brings freshness to the sequel while retaining the spirit of the prequel.

A suspense thriller is not only about how you begin but it is also about how you end. The courtroom scene in the pre climax mirrors a crucial scene from the first film. Just when you think that Geroge Kutty is going to be punished a new twist shows up where we realize that George Kutty has pulled the rug from under the feet of everyone including the audience.

Drishyam 2 also scores high on emotions. There are many scenes which move you. If the movie has to be summed up in one line it is what the judge tells the IG in the end that both families deserve justice. The director is successful in making you empathize with both Mohanlal and also Asha Sharath, but more with Mohanlal. There are no heroes and villains here.

Mohanlal carries on from where he left off in the first part. He makes George Kutty’s character his own proving once again why he is a legend. The supporting cast also does well but Asha Sharath deserves a particular mention for her performance as a mother who wants her son’s killers to be punished.

In totality Drishyam 2 is a highly satisfying sequel to the first film.