Mr. Fraud

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The Heist Stuff :: The heist movies have always managed to keep us interested (the Bollywood ones not included), and among them, I would rate The Italian Job as the best, followed by many others, including Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen, along with Tower Heist and The Art of the Steal, even Fast Five turning into a Rio Heist making one believe that heist was a kind of new successful genre to explore. Even Bollywood had The Italian Job remade as Players, and it was only a matter of time until Malayalam movie industry also came up with a heist movie, and it comes from B. Unikrishnan with Mohanlal in the lead, and it was called Mr. Fraud – quite a negative name for a heist movie (may be it is named from the point of view of the victims). There will be the genuine question about why these heist films are so popular. I would say that people are having more tendency to take risks, and it is basic human nature to desire for something that someone else has, and it is the envy that takes over – at that moment combined by the risk plus desire/envy, the robbery becoming the wonderful art of steal and there begins the world of heist movies. These movies usually have many twists, innovations and the robber is usually portrayed as the good or better person.

What is it about? :: The centre of attraction is Bhaiji or Mr. Fraud (Mohanlal), the man with many names and many faces, none of them real or revealed. He is a man who commits heists against impossible odds with the help of his assistants Abbas (Vijay Babu) and Priya (Manjari Phadnis) as well as special electronic gadgets. After stealing from the dowry of a billionaire’s daughter, they are ready for one final mission to end all heists, and it includes stealing the treasure from the basement of one of the old palaces which is kept there due to a dispute between two parties and a petition to make them public. The two rivals, the two sons and their sons and daughters are waiting for an opportunity to pounce on the treasure and claim the whole of it as Bhaiji comes in between disguised as the evaluator of the treasure. Inspector Sajan (Sai Kumar) also comes the scene hoping to make some profit out of it and takes over as the head of security. In the middle of hatred and discomfort that prevails in the palace, can the man of disguises steal what he has come there to steal or will he lose his way?

The defence of Mr. Fraud :: How many real heist movies do we see in Malayalam movie industry? The other one concerning robbery was Robinhood which was really dumb and that movie had absolutely nothing, and we surely can’t bring Lokpal to the equation when talking about movies which are above average, even as there was the movies like Gangster which won’t stand a chance in front of even Lokpal. This need has been answered by Mr. Fraud which has enough heist moments, along with that idea which is in the centre. Even as it is not anywhere near those awesome heist movies that we watch in Hollywood, this one has managed to do the stuff in the same style, but weaker in content and execution. The movie, even as it has limited thrills, is never boring – that is a new considering how difficult it has been not to bore the audience. They have also managed to come up with a superior first half and nice early second half. The cast is also superb and most of them have played their characters with beauty. The movie hasn’t tried anything too much, it seemed to attempt and be a decent one, with mediocre elements and that is what is has managed to achieve.

The claws of flaw :: Mr. Fraud has had mostly negative or average reviews from the audience, and it has created a clear doubt when the memories of Lokpal comes to the mind. The biggest problem of the movie is that it is not sure about its own genre, and it deviates from its purpose more than once, adding too much emotions. The protagonist also doesn’t become the true fraud that he is supposed to be, not justifying the title – he is not even the exact opposite here. Some of the characters are not fully developed with so many of them there just for the sake of existing there under the shadow of doubt, and the ending is forced. The movie might seem to lose its steam during the climax, and all the action scenes which don’t involve the heists are quite bad, with the superhero side and slow motion taking over, but that is only about a few scenes. The superhero should have remained under or may be on par with the actor when we consider this movie. The background score often gets irritating and so do the songs which jump out of nowhere and the audience has to ask who let them out when they were not really needed.

Performers of the soul :: This is one of the triumvirate movies of Mohanlal which are expected to score big and release soon enough – Koothara, Peruchaazhi and this one, all three expected to be special for one reason or the other, and Mr. Fraud is the first one to reach the theatre despite so many delays. If I had to choose one among them earlier, I would have chosen Koothara to be the better one. This had to be his movie as it is, and from the family man role to this one, he runs the show as usual, and the good thing is that this doesn’t go to that level of Sagar Alias Jacky and there is the limit under control. His looks are nice and keeps things cool. Manjari Phadnis is there for the looks, but surely has her short moments, and Mia also got so much less to do even as she does that without any significant problems. Vijay Babu never gets to do a lot, but Siddique and Sai Kumar excel in the supporting roles as both are there in the roles which they have perfected before. Suresh Krishna in a bigger role would have been nice though, as the situation seemed to suit him, but that was not to be. Characterization, come up with more power next time!

Soul exploration :: There is the need for heist, and even Inception was about heist, wasn’t it? They were the ones who stole ideas, and planting an idea is just the same as stealing one, as one idea is lost while another one takes its place. Mission: Impossible also had its heists going through. Fast Five was a better heist movie than many of the full-time heist movies. So when the bogeyman steals our dreams and convert them into nightmares, isn’t he also a man who is part of this art? Can he be considered one of the first and the most efficient heist artists of all time? Even as it is nowhere near any of the mentioned, Mr. Fraud steals, and performs that operation well. For most of the people though, heist is an adventure, and in the case of such a ride, it has to be entertaining and having a better motive than just to steal. Heist is usually considered different from the usual robbery, and that word is often used positively, thanks to the heist films. The ambiguity remains in this movie too, if it is right to steal under any circumstance or not to; who is evil and who has the fountain of goodness flowing through? Well, the characters in movies like Big B was not with any goodness, and considering that people supported the main characters, the ones in heist movies are much better. Only if this wasn’t that mediocre, we could have come to a conclusion.

How it finishes :: Mr. Fraud is not as bad as some people might suggest, and a comparison to Lokpal is kind of ridiculous and the question of it being better than Gangster is answered with only one sentence – Gangster was the worst movie of the year, challenged only by Salaala Mobiles. It is brought down only by the hype it created, and by being mediocre. Well, Mr. Fraud has its advantages in the theatre, the most important one being the postponement of Bangalore Days which has such a multi-starrer cast that can bring every other movie down – How Old are You will hold onto its place for quite a long time as the family audience have taken it into hearts, and this position that Mr. Fraud was about to lose will be there for at least one week as Bangalore Days has been on a postpone-spree which might or might not end on the upcoming Friday. Kochadiiyaan is not creating the impact that it should have, and Heropanti is running low, so the only challenge that Malayalam movies have is from the English movies, but none of them can replace these movies in content, and they are miles apart in what they come up with, all three Hollywood movies in the theatre dealing with superheroes and super-monsters not really attracting the families.

Release date: 17th May 2014
Running time: 138 minutes
Directed by: B. Unnikrishnan
Starring: Mohanlal, Mia George, Manjari Phadnis, Vijay Babu, Pallavi Purohit, Dev Gill, Siddique, Sai Kumar, Vijayakumar, Rahul Madhav, P. Balachandran, Devan, Suresh Krishna, Rajeev Parameshwar, V.K. Sreeraman, Kalasala Babu, Sathaar, Balachandran Chullikkadu, Biju Pappan, Ashvin Matthew, Balaji, Amritha Anil

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

London Bridge

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Malayalam movies in 2014 :: This year hasn’t started really well for me, as I don’t think that any movie from Kerala in 2014 has been even average, may be because of that extending the limits by Drishyam, but with London Bridge, there is a some comeback. I do have to warn you in advance that it is a love story, but not your usual romantic love story – the romance factor is not the point here, and what takes over is humanity or rather compassion and goodness in its most innocent form. So, if you are expecting too much of intimate scenes and the dialogues professing eternal love, you are going to be disappointed. But the love in this movie still manages to be more genuine than what was seen in most of the love stories, especially those repetitive romantic love tales of the same kind. This love might look kind of ordinary, but there is so much going through the background, a flurry of emotions which takes one’s heart by storm, and it is clear that even nature comes in just to help and leave after taking a bow. Why wouldn’t gaia wish to contribute when it can see the loss of mankind’s loss of inherent evil? If there is another movie to which this one can be connected, that should be Diamond Necklace – you will know!

What is it about? :: The movie tells the story of Vijay Das (Prithviraj Sukumaran), a promising young businessman in the city of London who after starting off in a student visa has made it big with the help of his mentor Francis (Mukesh). As he runs a number of shops and money lending business, and in his path, Vijay comes face to face with a huge business tycoon CS Nambiar (Prathap Pothen), one of the richest Keralites in the United Kingdom. Even as they start off against each other in the beginning, Nambiar is impressed by the ambitions and hardwork of his fellow Malayali, decides that he will be a nice choice for his daughter Pavithra Nambiar (Andrea Jeremiah) who is determined to be a social worker and is not interested in marriage. As Vijay works on Nambiar’s instructions and attempts to please Pavithra, he comes to know that she is interested only in art, literature and charity works, while he is always after money. He struggles to keep with her, but as Vijay’s car hits Merin Elsa John (Nanditha Raj), he finds a chance. Merin has just come to the country and is just about to start her job as a nurse when this ends up in he hospital – she is regularly visited by Vijay to show his compassion to Pavithra who starts falling for him, but Merin also starts developing feelings for him, which he also develops.

The defence of London Bridge :: I am sure that a lots of people will be asking me to this, after watching this or while reading the other reviews. Yes, I am going to start by admiring this movie for its assertion of compassion and goodness. One can’t avoid the emotional power of the movie either. There are simply good-looking people and breath-taking scenery – I have never seen the beauty of England and Scotland being captured in this manner. There is the countryside at its best and also London, especially the London Bridge, Big Ben, Tower of London and London Eye. There are also the support of some brilliant shots which help the movie. It creates an incredible amount of nostalgia in me, related to my last visit to the United Kingdom. I know my brethren will be having nostalgia about many things, but this is one completely belonging to me, and increasing my desire to visit the place again; may be there was something that I left unfinished. The movie should make the United Kingdom tourism proud, especially the countryside and London in the way in which they are portrayed. This will remain one of the most visually stunning movies as far as capturing nature is concerned. Now you know why William Wordsworth and company had to write poems; how could they not see such beauty while being such visionaries?

The claws of flaw :: London Bridge doesn’t try to be different with its script, as it goes on and on with what the audience has known for quite a long time. There are dialogues which doesn’t really like to pick up, and there moments which were to be awesome, but remains ordinary. The movie drags a bit, and it can make the audience looking for entertainment asking for more, especially as this movie lacks exaggeration of any kind with its good length. There is no creation of a romantic world for these three people and the romance might look kind of weak from the outside. There are simple human emotions, fear, compassion, love, pain and frustration; even if it is quite normal to have these in a normal way, most people are not going to like it, that is for sure. This might also be my favourite movie from this director who has touched a new area, but I know there are skeptics who will disagree. They might feel that this is not “cinematic” enough, but I would disagree as usual. I am a person who love to agree to disagree when it comes to movies, so you should know. It needed some polishing that is for sure, still there is a typical flow and the movie can do a Hobbit-dwarves-barrel-escape, as it is pushed into the river of love and emotions powered by humanity. May be they could do better with a few wood-elves with nice archery skills, especially as this is such a competitive world that hitting the bulls-eye is so important (unless you wish to be devoured by impatient entertainment-orcs).

Performers of the soul :: The performance department is led by Prithviraj Sukumaran who fits into his role with ease. The transformation that his character has, and the variation that happens to his attitude as well as his relationship with others are admirable; especially from a heartless businessman to the man with the golden heart. He has once again rightly chosen not to be a superhuman character, but a normal human. Nanditha Raj as Merin is one of the most lovable characters ever, and with a stunning cuteness, she has done her agonized character so much life that, her eyes and expressions tell the story better than the words. I would be surprised if anyone would be cuter in a role such as this. But she is still never a weak character as she holds on to life without giving up or asking for favours, and never does she cease to care or be good. One has to love that change in expression when she comes to know that he is the one who hit her, and that was a nice sweet moment. She’s most impressive in those moments of sadness, and incredibly cute in those moments of happiness. Merin Elsa John is a character in pain from the moment she is introduced to us, but there is always a certain amount of innocence associated with her which touches our heart, and the way she finds cute smiles between tears and agony is wonderful success to Nanditha’s debut in Malayalam. She makes us feel for Merin each and every moment like a needle piercing through out hearts, and you have to say that the teeth adds to that innocence!

Other performers :: I have to say that I was also touched by the performance of Andrea Jeremiah which is second only to Nanditha. There has always been something mysterious about her, and the way she deals with Pavithra is worth mentioning anywhere. Her character as the rich heiress to a huge business should have been the exact opposite of our other lady character, but she develops something more of her own, and actually surprises us in a pleasant manner, right in the beginning and particularly in the end. She comes up with something by the end which gives this movie an extra emotional boost. I didn’t like her in Annayum Rasoolum, but not this time. Prathap K. Pothan has a strong role to play, as his character is special, and different from what you usually see with such a character, a rich businessman looking to marry off his daughter. Sunil Sukhada catches the attention with his character and Lena Abhilash has a very good presence as Gracy which is boosted by her own performance. Mukesh contributes as he always does, and it is nice how he fits into such characters. Yes, they all did well and it made me feel very good in the end, I was happy when it finished, and the performance of each of them made sure that I was with them, that is for sure. The songs are nice performers too, especially “Kannadi Vaathil” and “Venmegham”; while “Ennum Ninne Orkkanayullil” is cute and “Chinni Chinni” is fine. They look the best with the visuals.

How it finishes :: I am recommending London Bridge for anyone who likes to watch a feel-good movie and not some random glorification of anything, whether it is cricket, violence or sex. The credit of the same goes to our three leading actors, the superstar who accepted the role of a normal guy in an ordinary movies, and the two leading actresses, one giving life to an innocent girl from Thiruvalla and the other to a true humanist and charity worker who is more alive than anyone else. The movie is strong at soul, even as it displays its strengths so less due to its execution problems. Its ends up telling us that we will know the importance of someone in our life only when we feel that we are going to loose them. Prithviraj and Nanditha makes us feel it, so much more and more as the movie progresses to the end. But I would like to add that this is not that much for mindless entertainment; this is for serenity, and this is a tribute to that love which is not based on lust and infatuation, as we see in most of the other love stories. Thank you Anil C. Menon, for this perfect cast, and it is the best thing, along with the incredibly beautiful visuals of the United Kingdom and the feeling that it leaves us with. It makes me wish to go to the British Isles again, and re-create my time there. The flaws might be many, but the pain is perfect and it strikes as it touches your good side as long as it exists! I would also ask the viewers to keep away from the usual conventions about a love story, as it is not how this works!

Release date: 1st February 2014
Running time: 150 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Anil C. Menon
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Andrea Jeremiah, Nanditha Raj, Prathap K. Pothan, Mukesh, Sunil Sukhada, Lena Abhilash, Amritha Anil

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Thira

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What is Thira? :: On a vague translation, it is what the fifth century Greek dramatist heard on the Aegean Sea, and what Matthew Arnold felt on the English coast and wrote down in his Dover Beach. What do we have here though? Thira is the latest addition which joins Vineeth Sreenivasan’s success as a director, as this is another add-on to Malarvadi Arts Club and Thattathin Marayathu, two of his earlier success stories. Lal Jose brings us no bad movies, so there is the guarantee yet again. Instead of the terrible loss of faith in Dover Beach, we have the loss of humanity, its righteousness which has been quickly disappearing with its belief in God. The situation is yet again that of the darkling plain, for the situation of the Victorian Age was more of faith, belief and humanity than it is now. This flick from Vineeth Sreenivasan is not light as his other two crowd-pulling ventures, as this is dark and on the other side of humanity, where there is no happiness of friendship or the beauty of love, rather the bad or the evil side of society which leaves us with nothing but disgust about a lot of things that is happening in this world, but not without a ray of hope – remember the movie Passenger.  When Shobana says “have faith” in the movie, remember…

What is it about? :: Thira tells the story of Dr. Rohini Pranab (Shobana) who is a cardiac surgeon trying to find the mystery behind the death of her husband. But as she tries to unravel one mystery, another one comes forward, as girls from her welfare home are kidnapped, and she herself is brought under suspicion by the media. Meanwhile, Naveen (Dhyan Sreenivasan) comes to meet his younger sister after a long time, as he had run away from his house a few years ago. But just before he get a chance to get to her, she is kidnapped by a group of people in a car, vanishing before he could do anything. As police refuses to help him, he picks up clues and reaches a place where he finds two girls held captive and releases them until he is captured by the goons along with Rohini who comes searching at the same place. They escape and join forces to find the missing girls with the help of an honest cop and Rohini’s co-workers. Naveen is told that he has a maximum of twenty four hours to save his sister, as Rohini finds out that there were some clues left behind by her dead husband who was after the same group of human traffickers.

The success of Thira :: There are not many other actor or actresses that we have noticed before in another movies except for Shobana (releasing at a time when the half-a-sequel to her classic Manichitrathazhu also came to the theatres in the same weekend and struggled). But still, this one has managed to get the best out of the rest, supported by its wonderful narrative and background score, supported by the right use of its partially adapted story-line. Its theme might be too much used, but the treatment here is different, as in the movie Passenger, this one also takes the path of the common man who fights against the system and those people who tries to take advantage of the corrupt system with their illegal works. To add to it, the movie never bores, as it is fast – may be too fast that it often forgets to create suspense and create the thrilling moments; but that still works. It takes on a social message very well, and successfully creates the much needed objective correlative with its connection rightfully established. For that, it is three out of three for Vineeth Sreenivasan, and the ratings from me would be 59 out of 100 for Malarvadi Arts Club, 80 out of 100 for Thattathin Marayathu and 81 out of 100 for this one, that is how I personally see the improvement.

Flaws of victory :: The camera shakes – that is the first thing I didn’t like. That doesn’t really make the scenes more realistic or interesting, and it is a major flaw whatever the movie is. The beauty on the screen can’t be loved that easily with so much shaking around. Meanwhile, this is going to be trilogy, and with the expectations high, and the second part of movie never really becoming as good as the first, we have to bite our nails a lot. Yes, there are too many movies to which this movie seems related, mostly with the theme and the outline plot. The movie also delivers less as a thriller, as a good number of moments becomes predictable and defy common logic, even as that doesn’t affect the flow or the totality of the story. Fighting against such a huge racket supported by politicians and police seemed to be too easy, and once they get together, almost all their ideas go in the right direction. It makes us sad about the state of the kidnapped, but it doesn’t add enough suspense or enough twists to make this the thriller which rules its genre. But how many people can claim about a flawless victory? Not even Liu Kang or Kitana can achieve the same with ease, in a Mortal Kombat game.

Performers of the soul :: This is Shobana’s movie as one would expect. She plans and takes steps as a lighter female version of Taken‘s Liam Neeson, who doesn’t care who she has to fight to get her girls back (Remember “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you” from Taken). It is a fantastic return to our favourite leading actress of 1980s and 90s. She plays the strong protagonist, while Dhyan Sreenivasan plays the weaker one who still has to take on the goons physically due to the love for his sister – like Suresh Gopi’s character in Rudraksham. One has to say that he is very good as a newcomer too. With Vineeth Sreenivasan directing, I did wonder if this was one of those roles which could have perfectly suited the only leading actor he had in his movies, Nivin Pauly. May be we can have him in the sequel, as Dhyan’s character is done with this one, and that should be great, and very interesting indeed. There are so many other characters, but none of them really getting the needed screen time to be talked about much. The only exception might be the girl who played the sister role, and she’s good indeed. Thira rests on two performers, and as they scores, the movie takes off.

Details with spoilers :: I don’t know about its alleged borrowing from Amazing Grace and The Whistleblower, and it being the unofficial remake of the 2007 film Trade. But it will remind people about the 2012 action thriller Karmayodha which was rather a weak attempt on the same subject of human trafficking, especially of women. This movie is rather a very good reminder about how good Karmayodha could have been and how badly it missed out. Well, there are two other movies which I would like to mention – they are the 1994 Malayalam movie Rudraksham and 2009 English movie Taken. The former deals with a man (Suresh Gopi) looking for his younger sister in a strange city and ends up in the abode of a gangster who runs a brothel. The latter is the story of one man (Liam Neeson) who uses all his skills to save his daughter and her friend. The former could be Dhyan who tries to save his sister as a one-man army and the latter could be Shobana who tries to save more than one girl with her skills. The hopelessness of the former and the determination of the latter combines here. The dark tone of these movies seems to make them blood-brothers.

How it goes :: Vineeth Sreenivasan has surely come a long way from Malarvadi Arts Club, but even as the first thriller from him, this won’t be a Thattathin Marayathu in the box office, despite the comparative richness in content. Geethanjali‘s failure to live up-to the expectations will help this one a lot though. It is a clear winner at the box office, and may even exceed our expectations if the next releases doesn’t work that well. To add to it, we have the ability to accept the different, unless it doesn’t become Olipporu – our audience accepted Traffic, Chaappa Kurishu, Amen and North 24 Kaatham (about Annayum Rasoolum and Kili Poyi, God knows why they were praised). Just like they say in Neram, there is good time and bad time, and this is indeed the good or even the best time for Thira. What it makes out of it is up-to the viewers, but so far it has been good. Now waiting for Salaam Kashmir – if it has stopped its procrastination, a procedure it has followed for such a long time and made the movie lovers wonder if it is a “mission impossible” or going to release on a future possible “6th day”.

Release date: 14th November 2013
Running time: 120 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Vineeth Sreenivasan
Starring: Shobana, Dhyan Sreenivasan, Deepak Parambol, Gaurav Vasudev, Sijoy Varghese, Amritha Anil

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.