Year Roundup 2021: Reflections On Malayalam And Tamil Movies

Welcome back to the year ender special. Here I review of films across Malayalam and Tamil. First start with Malayalam movies. You can click here to read my first part on Hindi and Telugu movies as well.

 Joji :

Shakespeare is one of writers who has influenced many directors across the world. His works like Romeo and Juilet have been remade into several languages. In Hindi itself there is Qaymat Se Qayamat Tak and Ram Leela among others. The likes of Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth have been taken into movies by Vishal Bardhwaj.

Joji directed by Dileesh Pothan took inspiration from Macbeth and delivered a thriller that haunts you. The setting of this Malayalam Macbeth is the estate of an influential patriarch PK Kuttapan played by 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. Things take a turn when he falls and has a serious injury. This is only the basic synopsis.

The most satisfying aspect of Joji is the equation between Fahadh Fassil’s character and the sister -in –law Bincy played by Unnimaya Prasad. Bincy is someone who is stuck in the daily routine of taking care of men around her. In this woman Joji finds his lady Macbeth. What brings them together is the circumstances and the oppression that they have gone through. Fahadh Fassil was brilliant in the title role but Unnimaya Prasad sprung a pleasant surprise in her role of Bincy.

Kuruti :

The set up of a Home Invasion thriller is something that Hollywood has regularly used. Director Manu Warrier took this set up to talk about a country that is fast slipping into divisiveness. Apart from religious bigotry another major themes of the film were the growing fear of majoritarian sentiment, alienation of minorities etc. Along with director Manu Warrier actor Prithviraj Sukumaran also deserves a high praise for not only acting but also producing it.

The plot of Kuruti is about a plantation worker played by Roshan Mathew. He wife had died in a terrible landslide. Now he lives with his aged father and a younger brother. There is a Hindu neighbor Sumati played by Srindaa. She cooks for them and takes care of the family. One night as Ibrahim and his family are waiting for Sumati there is a knock on the door. An inspector 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. What follows is a cat and mouse game between Liaq (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and Roshan Mathew’s Ibrahim. Liaq is hell bent on killing the prisoner.

One of the highlights of the film was 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 was built and how he goes to the maximum level of saving the Hindu boy was portrayed with lot of finesse. The ultimate message that Manu Warrier gives is that violence committed in the name of god is a vicious cycle and is never going to stop until the individual takes one for the greater good of the human civilization. Apart from the political aspect Kuruti also worked as a nerve wracking thriller. The director skillfully builds up the suspense with the help of the cinematography and overall technical department. The performances of all the actors added more magic to the film but the ones who stood out are Roshan Mathew and Prithviraj Sukumaran.

Nayattu :

Martin Prakkat’s Nayattu was a socio political thriller which captured the truth of the political circus. It is a film which talked about how we only want a show of justice without any procedural fairness. Who gets justice and who is sent to jail is something which is dictated purely by the political agenda of that time.

The plot of Nayattu is set during the election season in Kerala. The people in the government are busy planning what strategies to use so that they can win. It is also that time of the year where even a person belonging to a lower cadre can give orders.

At the heart of this story you have three police officials. They are Praveen Micheal (Kunchako Boban), Maniyan ( Joju George) and Sunita ( Nimisha Sajayan). The three become thick friends during the election season. Things take a turn when their paths cross with an egotistical youngster who belongs to a political outfit that has significant ties with the government in power. This youngster never misses an opportunity to rub this in the face of the three police people. Following an unfortunate incident Praveen, Maniyan and Sunitha become prime suspects in a murder case. They haven’t actually committed murder. It is actually the case of an unfortunate accident. Praveen tells Maniyan that the youngster should be admitted in the hospital. Maniyan gives in to Praveen’s saying. All hell breaks loose after this.

One of the keys aspects of Nayattu is how it portrays the politics of the general administration which includes the police too. Writer Shashi Kabir makes some strong observations which resonate a lot. It also helps that Shashi Kabir has been part of the police department in real life.

The performances of the trio were also in perfect sync with the story. Joju Gorge and Kunchako Boban were particularly impressive in their roles.

The Great Indian Kitchen :

Jeo Baby’s The Great Indian Kitchen was a hard hitting film on Patriarchy, family and religion. It packed in some uncomfortable truths about the typical definition of a happy household.

The film begins off with the soon- to-be- bride (Nimisha Sajayan) practicing dance even as her parents prepares for the arrival of the groom (Suraj Venjarammodu). This is followed by the wedding of both the characters. Nimisha’s character is very happy as she sets foot in her marital home. Initially everything is fine but the drudgery of household work soon gets to the young woman.

There is a recurring shot in the film which involves the hands of the women as they cook, grind, clean, wipe and sweep. On the surface it looks repetitive but the aim of the director is that he wants the viewer to feel the exestuation of this endless cycle.

It goes without saying that both Nimisha and Suraj are terrific in their respective roles. Nimisha is brilliant at conveying the suppressed anger and the hurt that she feels at her husband’s indifference. Not surprisingly you cheer for Nimasha’s character when she finally takes life in her own hands. Suraj on the other hand is successful in making the audiences hate the character. You feel like going on to the screen and giving him a good shake.

Tamil films

Jai Bhim :

T.S Gnavel’s Jai Bhim is an important film in many aspects. For one it introduced the audiences to the real life lawyer Chandru who had fought for the downtrodden. The case that we see in the film is among the many that Chandu had fought. Director T.S Gnavel did a splendid job in using Surya’s character of the firebrand lawyer. He made sure that the actor’s star power never overpowered the narrative. It also helped that Surya delivered his lines with absolute conviction; it looked like Surya really believes in Chandru’s ideology.

Another significant aspect of Jai Bhim is how it portrays the horrors of custodial torture and the deep-seated rot in our criminal system. The director brought this out in an extremely hard hitting manner. The scenes of the custodial torture are blood curling but they still need to be watched for the way it showcased the reality.

Through the characters of Lijo Mol Jose and Manikandan the director touched upon a tribal community called Irulas . The men and the women of the Irula community are regularly subjected to police brutality. Their only fault is being born as Irulas.

Lijo Mol Jose delivered a breakthrough performance as Sengani. She is so good that you don’t really notice the likes of Prakash Raj and Rao Ramesh. Manikandan was equally effective in his short role. His performance in the first half is particularly praiseworthy.

Sarpatta Parambarai :

I personally liked PA Ranjith’s Kaala more than this one. Kaala was more cohesive with better emotional impact; the female characters led by Eshwari Rao were also delight to watch, having said that Sarpatta is a watchable film in many ways.

For starters PA Ranjith is successful in capturing the milieu of 1970’s North Madras. He transports the audiences back in time. The political upheavals of the mid 1970’s triggered by the imposition of emergency are also portrayed with finesse.

The story of Sarpatta is located long time back but there is certain contemporariness too. This contemporariness can be seen in the portrayal of people battling oppression. Rangan played by Pashupathy is not just a revered coach but he is also a political activist in his clan. In fact more than Arya’s Kabilan it is Pashupathy who stands out. PA Ranjith also did a good job with the boxing scenes. They had an authentic feel to them.

Where Sarpatta faltered was its indulgent length. The film feels way too long particularly in the second half. Also the family drama involving the mother and wife just doesn’t land. The training montage towards the climax also lacked the emotional depth which is needed.

Tughlaq Darbar :

Delhi Prasad Deenadayalan’s Tughlaq Darbar was an entertaining political satire which looked at what if our politicians had a conscience and it stopped from them doing something wrong. This twist made it stand out from other films of this genre.

Vijay Sethupati’s Singaravelan is born during a political rally. He grows up thinking that he’s destined to be a politician. In order to achieve that goal he does everything in his power to win the trust of Rayappan (Parthiban). Singaravelan slowly rises in power and soon becomes a trusted aid of Rayappan. The twist comes in when he has an unfortunate accident that leaves him in a peculiar condition. The peculiarity here is that Singaravelan starts experiencing events where his conscience takes control, whenever he experiences this he is not able to do anything wrong.

The director was most successful in how he explored the dual personalities of the main character. The focus is not on mocking the condition of the protagonist. It is about the inner battles that rages in his mind and how he eventually develops a conscience. Along with Vijay Sethupati’s winning act Parthibaran as Rayappan also contributed significantly.
With this we have come to the end of part II. Once again wishing advanced happy New Year and here’s hoping that we will finally have more a more comprehensive list of films to analyze for 2023.

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