We all get stuck in the lift. Those who haven’t are the ones who are waiting to get stuck there. Two years after the release of his Thalsamayam Oru Penkutty, this director has returned with what is listed as a psychological thriller – Up & Down: Mukalil Oralundu, which deals with the same issue. But I would not say that it is psychological, as it is more of a murder investigation; a suspense thriller of the recent Mumbai Police model, but the style resembles Banking Hours 10 to 4. But this surely has a good advantage over that; the advantage of the powerful base plot which forms the undercurrents. But the question would be about how it surfaces and faces those ships and boats, the critics and the common man who watches them after watching Neram, English and Mumbai Police in the other theatres. The more famous movie review sites doesn’t seem to have taken this one well, but as long as I am concerned, this is surely above average, and this successfully entertains more than any other Malayalam movie after the age of Amen. Even with its flaws, and the times when sharks become little crocodiles, this wide sea of thrills manages to make an impact on the viewers.
The whole thing happens in the tallest building in the city, a flat where a major event is taking place at the top, that is the twenty fourth floor. There is a lot of preparation going on, and there are many important guests arriving on the day. But it is not in a room, in a hall or at the premises of the flat that the story takes place, as the film is a story of eight people and a kid who gets stuck in the lift on a day when there is a major program there. The trapped people include the lift operator of the flat (Indrajith), the city police commissioner (Ganesh Kumar), the flat’s builder and a major businessman (Baiju), his wife who is a dancer and is dressed for an item in the program (Remya Nambeesan), an alcoholic writer and a stoic personality with a “Carpe diem” attitude to life (Prathap Pothen), an IT professional who plays the role of Godse in a drama for the program and also the secretary of the residents association of the apartment (Rejith Menon), his girl friend and the one in charge of the program (Sruti Menon), a former NRI from the United States who play the role of Mahatma Gandhi for the program’s drama item (Nandhu) and a little kid (Master Devaraman).
The writer keeps telling everyone that he reached there early morning; the kid keeps enquiring about his mother (Meghana Raj) and the lift operator himself tells the police commissioner about his doubts on the missing person. They are on their way to the top of the flat for the program when the lift gets stuck. The man who comes to repair the lift is an alcoholic (Koch Preman) and this delays the process further. The lift has a lot of problems, and this time, it causes bigger trouble as the function has to begin, and soon the writer has chest pain. They also find that there is a dead body on the top of the lift, and the police commisioner guesses that one of the people in the lift is responsible for the murder. He pledges to find the real victim before the lift is opened. But the question remains if it is possible in such a small space with so many people being related to the murdered person in one way or the other. The talks and actions of the people in the lift keeps on raising more and more suspicions. Even the investigator and the most respected people in the lift doesn’t seem to the kind of righteous people who can’t commit a brutal murder. Slowly, a good number of secrets are revealed, which would change their lives once they get out of the trapped area.
This one is more of Meghana Raj’s movie than anybody else. She is present in most of the flashbacks where the core of the movie is revealed. It might also be Ganesh Kumar’s best police role ever. Indrajith has very little to do as the serious lift operator who never has a moment of happiness in life. Prathap Pothen has the most interesting role in the movie, as an alcoholic who enjoys his life without worrying about the past, present or future. He provides the best comic relief with Nandhu. In many ways, this might be one of the most interesting intellectual alcoholics, a reminder of the wise fools of William Shakespeare (that was a little far-fetched) who provides those funny lines as well as the words of wisdom. It is the strangeness of his character that works the best in a situation of being trapped in such an environment. His character is most well-drawn, and the rest are just a little less developed. Some of them really don’t have any interesting character traits at all. The presence of flat characters subtract some points from the situation, and the scenes outside the lift losses in comparison to what happens inside the lift.
So where does the 2010 American supernatural thriller film come into the picture? No, The Night Chronicles: Devil doesn’t really come into the scene here. It had the supernatural within modern city life while this one has the usual crime within the modern urban life. There is no people getting killed one at a time, and there is surely no devil. The only common thing is the lift and the only similar event is the people getting trapped in the lift. So there is no place for Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan or whoever he is. But in a world where the humans can do his job better than him, who needs that personality from the depths of the pain’s own abyss called inferno? There are satan’s little helpers who are both intellectually and spiritually better people of evil than the prince of darkness and eternal pain. Well, this one is successful in building that tension which remains there for most of the time. It is close to being brain dead in the end due to its attempt to come up with something strange and the requirement of another twist, but still, considering the fact that we have seen much worse Malayalam movies, and the greatest disasters of the Malayalam movie industry, this is not at all a bad thing in its glory.
The movie would have been better if the creators had simply forgotten about everything outside the lift and there were more incidents inside rather than the outside. That would have been more of the psychological piece as expected. May be the makers thought that the common movie watcher of this world who hasn’t watched movies like Buried might not stand a chance if they had to face with a monotonous environment such as a plain lift. The need for some colourful factors always comes to the scene when entertaining crowd-puller movies are considered. The movie’s subtitle “Mukalil Oralundu” would signify God, but there is no such direct involvement. The operation of the lift can be related to that divinity, but it is not something that can be directly connected. If the title means the dead body on the top, that would make more sense, but that would turn the usage into a rather funny thing. The more interesting thing might be about considering the lift as a character, which works as it wants itself to. Such a thing can’t be avoided even if that factor is also not explored. The supernatural clearly takes the backseat when the not-so-natural human beings takes control and leads the way.
To be frank, I have been waiting for this one for quite a long time, as the release date was changed from 17th May to 24th May; something unusual for me to long for a movie which had no special cast or nothing to boast about – I was impressed by the trailer and this being a thriller added to the longing. But the movie doesn’t seem to give what the trailer conveys to the viewer. The mystery should have been a little more bifurcating for my mind if it was so. But here, the mystery is straight, but still strange. This suspense works very powerfully throughout the first half and the movie soars high despite of some small troubles, and goes through with half of the second half without too much trouble, but it is the end that fails to justify the means. It was as if everything was made just to make the end happen, or the finish was just made for the movie to end. It is somewhat uninspiring, but everything else throughout the movie is worth all the attention. It might not be what one expect after watching the best of the world, but with the limited resources, it has been turned into something which can be watched for the fun and thrills, especially that first half which keeps one guessing about what happens next, or what can’t happen next.
Release date: 24th May 2013
Running time: 115 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: T. K. Rajeev Kumar
Starring: Indrajith Sukumaran, Meghana Raj, Prathap Pothen, Remya Nambeesan, K. B. Ganesh Kumar, Baiju, Nandhu, Sruti Menon, Rejith Menon, Master Devaraman, Kochu Preman, Vijayakumar
@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.
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