Balan Vakeel

What is the movie about? :: S Balakrishnan (Dileep) is a lawyer who works under the reputed advocate Pramod Sujanapalan (Arjun Nandakumar). But he hasn’t been able to achieve much in his professional career due to his stammer, even though he was known to be a smart & intelligent person during his college days. His father and mother (Siddique and Bindu Panicker) are concerned about him, but are sure that he can only be a failure in life, with former also being a chain smoker who tries different drugs. His first successful case is that of Ansaar Ali Khan (Aju Varghese), a local goon who is involved in a robbery case. Ansaar doesn’t have the cash to pay as his fees, and therefore provides him with a place to stay at low rent. But this new place has Irumbu Babu’s (Bheeman Raghu) presence, and he considers it to be his own room and wants him to leave. But it will be the smallest of his problems.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: It is then that his brother-in-law P Mohanan Pillai (Suraj Venjaramoodu) comes up with a plan to make some easy money. He asks Balakrishnan to be a part of it, and she accepts the same reluctantly. He sends a notice to a given address asking for compensation in the name of a woman (Priya Anand) who claims to have been abused by the person at the address. But it turns out that it is the address of the DGP of Kerala Police, KE Eapen (Renji Panicker) who is suprised to get the same. The charge of investigation goes to Indhulekha Marar (Lena) who gets only a limited amount of time to solve the case. Meanwhile it turns out that the person whose name is in the letter is Anuradha Sudharshan (Mamta Mohandas), a woman who is completely unaware of this. There seems to be some conspiracy behind all these. But there is no clue regarding where to begin.

The defence of Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel :: There are the twists in store in Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel for sure, and there is mystery awaiting to be revealed, related to a conspiracy. We also have incidents which seems to reflect reality, but there is the certainty of exaggeration regarding the same. The emotional flashback in the movie becomes effective with the last twist, but otherwise it feels strange, and makes you wait the whole time trying to find something out of it. There is also the presence of a fine cast to support everything out there, making sure that they manage all that this movie can provide. There is some good humour out there, even though not throughout the flick. It is seen more in the initial stages, starting from the introduction of the main character itself. The interval punch is strong enough to make one interested in the second half, even though the first half wasn’t that much there.

The claws of flaw :: It can be seen that there is no attempt to make this movie go through a fully entertaining path, and there is no plan to make this a perfect journey as an investigation thriller either, as this is caught somewhere in between. The jokes are also just partially effective, and we see that the funny side in the name of children hitting older men, people falling on electricity lines and surviving, a drug addict father instead of the usual alcoholic one etc – they are just there for the sake of adding some strange funny side. There is also the presence of some unnecessary mass scenes, and the hero sending people flying around comes in, and the struggling protagonist that we wanted to watch from the trailer is lost. Having such a protagonist beating up people all of a sudden works against the overall mood of the movie, and what we know about the protagonist. The songs are not that good either.

The performers of the soul :: This seems to be a movie nicely made for Dileep, as he has this in control, just like many other movies of the same kind. There is no problem here, as he had played advocate trying to serve justice before in Passenger, and there was Mamta Mohandas there too, with the same name for her character, Anuradha. Well, Passenger is a movie long way ahead of this one, without doubt. Mamta Mohandas is here for a full role unlike what she had in 9. There is not much for her to do regarding the investigation here though, as she is the victim and there is the protagonist to save the day. A little romantic side added there seems to be rather forced though, as this movie could have done without it. The focus on its main idea would have been enough, and trying to play cupid between the main character didn’t do both of them any good.

Further performers of the soul :: Siddique’s father character is kind of strange, but brings the funniest moments of the movie with ease. There is his comic timing that lightens up the movie really well. Aju Varghese is the next person in the comedy department, and it works well for him most of the time too – he does get some memorable funny ones. Suraj Venjaramoodu also has the comedy working in his favour, even though at parts it seems out of order. Priya Anand gets another smart role after Ezra and Kayamkulam Kochunni, but with lesser time spent on the screen. Veterans like Ganesh Kumar and Renji Panicker right there, doing what they do the best in police roles. Another person who shines so well inside the uniform is Lena, who is also there Varikkuzhiyile Kolapathakam, and mystery-solving journey of puzzles which is also running in the theatres.

How it finishes :: For B Unnikrishnan, this movie comes after Villain, which was a smart one for sure. Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel does take the path of Vikadakumaran and Jolly LLB, a trend related to a struggling lawyer whenever the same is the protagonist. This one has its moments of thrills and twists are brought into the scene, but there is not doubt about the fact that this could have done better. There is the fine premise already set, and the idea that has scope for a lot, but it is not utilized in the best way. Maybe we have to wait to get something better out of a story related to courtroom, and we can do that. Until then, lets watch Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel and enjoy the interesting side. For those who wants the more realistic side, there is always Kumbalangi Nights & June running, and seemingly good enough to keep doing the same for a long time.

Release date: 21st February 2019
Running time: 155 minutes
Directed by: B Unnikrishnan
Starring: Dileep, Mamta Mohandas, Priya Anand, Aju Varghese, Siddique, Ganesh Kumar, Renji Panicker, Bindu Panicker, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Saiju Kurup, Vamsi Krishna, Harish Uthaman, Lena, Arjun Nandakumar, Pramod Sujanapalan, Bheeman Raghu, Veena Nair, Pradeep Kottayam, Thesni Khan, Sajid Yahiya

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Villain

What is the movie about? :: Mathew K Manjooran (Mohanlal) is the ADGP in the city who has been out of action for about six months following a road accident which lead to the death of his wife and only child. He is looking forward to take voluntary retirement from service on the day on which the murder of three big names in the city occur in an abandoned mansion. Therefore, it becomes the final case that he has to take care of, even though he is forced to carry it over through for a few days after his retirement, as requested by his colleagues in the department. In this twisted case which includes a police officer Vinod Abraham (Kottayam Nazeer) as one of the dead, he is provided assistance by H Sreenivasan (Renji Panicker) who was first given the investigation charge, along with two subordinate officers Harshitha Chopra (Raashi Khanna) and Iqbal Mohammed (Chemban Vinod Jose) who are now part of the city task force which he had started long ago.

And what is to follow in this particular adventure? :: The one who used to be one of the strongest arms of law, has undergone quite a change in the recent past, as Mathew seems to be more of a tired and philosophical man these days. The one thing that he does hold on to is his love for Shakespeare, with a reflection of the same in his life, as he remembers Lady Macbeth’s words about all the perfumes of Arabia, has his own hesitation related to vengeance like Hamlet, fights a possibility of being drowned in madness like King Lear, and has his own Brutus in the police force, as does Julius Ceasar – he is also the Prospero of his own Tempest. He figures out that there is someone trying to get their attention, and at the same time, another murder of three people takes place. Meanwhile, the clues seem to lead to Shaktivel Palanisamy (Vishal) and Shreya Venkatesh (Hansika Motwani). But they wonder about how the six dead people are related.

The defence of Villain :: There are thrills in store with Villain, and there is some suspense over how things are going to come down. The first half has us guessing about more than one thing not just about the murderers, but also about the protagonist. We feel that there is a link coming up between everything, and things are set very well by the end of the first half. The thrills are there, and the twists are provided a little too early unlike The Great Father. The mass elements also take the backseat for most of the time, which is a great thing here. There is also the case against vengeance here, as we hear about it eating up the one who seeks it as much as those who end up on the receiving end of an act of revenge. You will notice that the emotional side is very strong with this one, as we feel the grief as much as the protagonist does on the big screen. Villain is also a very good-looking movie on the screen, as there is so much of visual beauty, and the locations seem to be nicely chosen. The songs are also sweet.

The claws of flaw :: If the identity as well as the motive of the murderers was left for a big twist in the end, that would have served this movie a lot better. This is the kind of premise that can support more twists in between, and the movie doesn’t use its resources to the best effect. The movie also needed a flashback from Vishal’s character’s angle, to really explore his perspective instead of taking a few things for granted – it is the same with Hansika’s flashback which relates to him. Also, the movie is a little too long, when you look at it. The scissors could have been put on some of the flashback sequences, and they could have been restricted to the songs and a few dialogues – we see have seen that done very well with the movie Memories. The idea about killing out of love and killing out of hate is very good, but not done in the way it could have brought the best effect. The talk about “the grey” side between black and white is also not used to its best advantage in the final scenes.

Performers of the soul :: The tranquility among the waves inside his mind, which is wonderfully depicted by Mohanlal with this character is the best thing about this movie. The serenity that is reflected on his face which has the feeling of pain visibly hidden, is nothing less than beauty to watch. He has two looks in this one, a side of the confident police officer determined to fight crime, having the look with the mustache, and also the side of the tired former police officer trying to solve one final case with just hope, having the look with the white beard. The latter one goes deep, and the pain that this particular avatar seems to possess, got the ability to break your heart with an abiding sadness if you get too close to the character with a case of empathy. Coming right out of a good run with Udaharanam Sujatha and C/O Saira Banu, Manju Warrier plays the wife of Mohanlal’s character, and she has handled it without trouble, even though the same is not a long one. The girl who plays their daughter was also very good, strong and energetic all the time.

Further performers of the soul :: Vishal and Hansika Motwani make fine debut in the Malayalam movie industry, even though a number of their sequences do give way for style over the rest. The former seems to have perfect hold of his character, while the latter, along with looking good, comes up with good support, despite given not much of a character development. We feel that Vishal could have been here earlier. Srikanth has much less to do than expected, and has a little too stylish a villain as his character. Aju Varghese has a rather small appearance as in Loham, while Renji Panicker and Siddique have no problems in doing their job here. Also, one can’t help not loving Chemban Vinod Jose as a police officer once again. He is at his best when he is playing a thief or a police officer, and he scores high here too. Whether it is about playing the good guy or the bad guy, whether it is about doing a funny role, or a serial villain, he has been so good these days. Coming out of a thief role in Varnyathil Aashanka, here he is doing protagonist’s support with ease. Also, another person to note is Raashi Khanna who began with Madras Cafe getting to play a smart cop here, and that works, a long way ahead of the other supporting female cops in our movies.

How it finishes :: The one movie to which this flick seems to have the most similarity, might be B. Unnikrishnan’s own movie, Grandmaster. But the reflection of sadness in this movie, and the situation of the protagonist is more comparable to that of Sam Alex in Jeethu Joseph’s Prithviraj starrer thriller, Memories. But you can easily notice the difference in treatment here, as things go more philosophical in nature, and the same replaces the powerful suspense and twist that Memories had, and the identity of the killers and the motives are revealed rather too early. But Villain is never short of being entertaining. It is surely better than the two huge Mohanlal blockbusters of last year Oppam and Pulimurugan, but is nowhere near Drishyam with the same. Villain is the kind of movie that would work with almost every kind of audience, and it is one more reason for you and your family to not miss this engaging thriller.

Release date: 27th October 2017
Running time: 143 minutes
Directed by: B. Unnikrishnan
Starring: Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Raashi Khanna, Vishal, Hansika Motwani, Aju Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Srikanth, Siddique, Renji Panicker, Anand, Idavela Babu, Kottayam Nazeer, Balaji Sarma, Antony Perumbavoor, Sai Kumar, Irshad, Sanju Shivram, Vishnu Govindan

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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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