This is a request to the good people of Kerala who presently reside in Kerala. Please go watch Kerala Café, in cinemas now. It’s a brilliant, brilliant breakaway from the embarrassment we call Malayalam Cinema these days (A precious few masterpieces not including). A brief yet thankful lapse from the superstar cult. All of 10 short films, Kerala Café is a celebration of talent, humane, the glorious mundane, poignant moments and heartrending insight. The film is bigger than every single fragment in itself – the directors, the actors, the stories and the hundred and one places where your heart just skips a beat. I’m not exactly someone to comment, since I barely watch Malayalam movies and I think Mohanlal in the post-Kilukaam era (leaving aside Devasuram which was brilliant extraordinaire) became the overweight middle-aged uncle of Malayalam Cinema. And he has no one to blame. He decided to ride on his superstardom rather than deliver Talavattom-esque stellar performances. But that's just further proof of the decadence of Malayalam Cinema and here's what I thought.
Right from the opening of the film, you sort of warm up to the whole "feel" of the film. A railway station café, where people share tables if nothing else. A reststop of brief acquaintances, forgotten sooner than the aftertaste of the coffee and masaladosa fades. But nevertheless a backdrop to countless sleights of circumstance.
Padmakumar’s NOSTALGIA, the first of the ten short films, makes everyone think of their NRI relatives with a sardonic smile. Dileep slips in with ease into the role of the arrogant, full-of-himself, constantly dissatisfied, I’m-the-centre-of-the-world NRI in this film which is a reflection of our own dissatisfaction with ourselves.
Suresh Gopi redeems himself from the “Just remember that” and his infamous thickly accented English which make the new-gen snobby Malayalee (including yours truly) want to relinquish all associations with him in LALITHAMHIRANMAYAM. Though Jyotirmai and the pretty girl with straight hair (Dhanya Mary George) own the film, he is at least a decent, if not, excellent prop to the story directed by Shaji Kailas who surprisingly has delivered a rather sensitive rendering of an extramarital affair.
ISLAND EXPRESS by SHANKAR RAMAKRISHNAN to me was sort of the catastrophe it was about. Half way through the movie I was wondering why I couldn’t understand anything – it was in Malayalam, and yet it felt as alien as whatever language they speak in Czechoslovakia. Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe it. Those who did understand it enjoyed it enough. So you have my sincerest “All the best”.
OFFSEASON by Shyama Prasad left me with no clue whether I liked it or not. The visuals were gorgeous, picture-postcard-perfect and Suraj Venjaramood was funny enough. But God, I was disappointed especially since I’ve always associated Shyama Prasad with “the magic touch”. No magic in this one.
In AVIRAMAM Siddique’s film with Shweta Menon ripped me apart. I mean it was an ordinary enough theme. But the characters lived, breathed and bled. So convincing that you reached out to the story and you begin to wonder where did you take that wrong turn that lead to this jaded existence. Directed by B. Unnikrishnan.
Mamooty..aww I love this guy. He’s just so incredibly handsome that it’s not funny. In the Lal Jose directed PURAMKAZCHAKAL, he brings out with brilliance the one hundred and a million reasons why a random person could be a co-passenger from hell. Very sensitive. Very beautiful.
Saleemkumar can be as ridiculous as he can break your heart. The Anwar Rasheed directed BRIDGE was a story of small, seemingly insignificant losses and how lives slip through the cracks in the pavement of life. Whether it’s an old mother who has outlived her purpose or a little kitten who is yet to fill its space in a little boy’s life.
Anjali Menon’s film HAPPY JOURNEY with its subtle humour and excellent characters is a brief release from the other poignant-heavy films. It leaves you refreshed and of course, it comes with its fair share of insight, which primarily is to cherish your life like it was the last day on earth. Revathi’s film MAKAL though it was a tried and tried even more theme on child prostitution and predictably lots of tears, it made me spare a thought for the plight of those countless people who go unaccounted for. You’re left with a strong feeling of discomfort for having an easier and better life, which you take for granted nevertheless. Finally, the movie that really KICKED ASS was this movie called MRITYUNJAYAM by Uday Ananthan. It’s spooked me out so much that I was so convinced that my house was haunted that night, that I was making 3am resolutions to give my family priest a call.
On the whole it’s a gorgeous movie.
Please go watch it and give our dear film industry reason to experiment for the better and do more films like Kerala Café.