Diamond Necklace

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As they say in the movie Neram, there are two types of time, the good time and the bad time, and the good time of Fahadh Faasil had started from Chaappa Kurishu, with no disasters at the box office moving on to Immanuel. I didn’t really like what came later though, but as we know already, another thing about our versatile actor is that we can often identify his career with the quote from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities too; “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and I would identify the same with his other movies, Annayum Rasoolum and Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla. Yes, Diamond Necklace was part of the good time, or the best of times, and it was the best from Lal Jose, no real doubt about that unless you bring Achanurangatha Veedu, Classmates or Arabikkatha into the picture with a handful of logic. Does any of these movies have this simple a plot set in too simple a world, and still come up with such an intriguing situation on screen? No, they were movies of incidents, revolving around one major incident or decision which set the events running while Diamond Necklace belongs to everyday life, and a collection of life; its celebration as the worlds of ups and downs which flows through our life, supported by beautiful songs, “Nilamalare”, “Thottu Thottu” and “Nenjinullil”.

Arun Kumar (Fahadh Faasil) is a docor who lives in Dubai and leads a life of luxury, supported by his wallet full of credit cards. He has no regret about the past or worries about the future, as he lives in the present, spending money lavishly with nobody to stop him from doing the same. His friends belong to higher league, and he shares apartment with his friend in the tallest buildig in the middle east and the world, Burj Khalifa. Savithri (Rohini), his boss in the hospital also seems to spoil him with her sisterly affection, but she is also unaware of how much of a debt Arun is putting himself into. He has acquaintances with labourers from Kerala, especially Venu (Sreenivasan) whom he tries to avoid in his stylish, high quality life which has no place for the lesser people of lower social status, even as he is still friendly with all on the outside. Driving the latest cars and enjoying life to the maximum, he meets Lakshmi(Gauthami Nair), a newly recruited Tamil nurse in his department. She is the first girl to whom he is seriously attracted. She had come to the middle east with a dream of making enough money for building a hospital in their village, so that no more people have to die there for having no facilities or money. Arun is impressed by her wits, attitude and dedication towards work.

Even as their relation blossoms, his chances of going through with it receives a serious blow, as he runs out of money and his car is towed away by the creditors. He is left with no way to go home and see his sick mother as the credits keep him in the country. He is helped by an influential man, Narayana Menon (Maniyanpilla Raju) who makes it possible for him to go back to Kerala, but at the same time, he is tricked into marriage with Narayanan’s niece, Rajasree (Anusree) who is a simple village girl who has absolutely no clue about city life nor life outside Kerala. Even as they are thought to be a rich family, Rajasree’s world is later known to be a small and simple one, not enough to pay back even a percent of Arun’s credits. When he comes back to Dubai, he is left with no place to stay, and as he doesn’t have enough advance to pay for any place, he stays in the labor camp with Venu. Lakshmi who comes to know about his marriage, ends their relationship and refuses to talk to him. Maya (Samvrutha Sunil), a relative of Savithri, is a fashion designer who was diagnosed with cancer, with a wish to start a boutique in Dubai. Her fiancee had left her due to her illness which had left her highly depressed. Arun ends up sharing her apartment and becomes very close to her.

Later, when she sees Rajasree with him, she is shocked as she didn’t know that he was married, and is admitted in the hospital. It leaves Savithri with lesser affection towards him. As he gathers her possessions, he notices a diamond necklace that she keeps with her, something which can save him from his problems. He decides to replace it with a fake one and does the same successfully. This is where the whole situation revolving around a necklace arises, as his wife finds the original necklace and wears it thinking that it is a birthday gift from him. Meanwhile, Maya almost dies due to an overdose of medicine. He is unable to get the necklace back from his wife who has shown the same to almost everyone including her foul-mouthed relatives of vanity. He often feels that he should return it to Maya and he can’t, and neither can he sell it. Caught between the worlds of greed, remorse and helpless, the only people who are with him consists of the simple labourers whom he once avoided. So, the plot still revolves around the ladies in his life, and how Arun comes out of this problem, not with any deus ex machina or a huge twist of fate, but rather with the simple things being the result of everyday happenings and common feelings makes the whole of the story. The artificial stuff has been kept out for good.

So, here is Fahadh Faasil showing his abilities as a versatile actor, moving away from the new generation trends of Chaappa Kurishu and 22 Female Kottayam, but coming up strong as an energetic youth who symbolizes the common young man of the century, with the usual attitude of “I will drink Life to the lees” which was said by the protagonist, the Ithacan king and the Greek hero, in the poem titled with his own name, Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. That suspected hedonism in the face of our inescapable mortality found in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Edward FitzGerald translation, going back to the eleventh and the twelfth centuries has found ever increasing rhythm in this generation, but without the octopus hand of death and the ultimate end. “Carpe diem” as they can still say, from our own most mentioned ancient poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to most of us as Horace – “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the next day”, an idea which has developed into a liefstyle with loose morals leading to a life of unimaginable pleasure among the new generation. Epicureanism has made a more powerful entry to the new world, and as a kind of hedonism finding pleasure as the only intrinsic good, there is a new environment which is powerful and fast spreading. These, as I have already mentioned in my review of Spring Breakers, symbolizes the character Fahadh is playing in this movie.

But what does this hedonism, the power of “Carpe diem” bring to him? Does this help him to seize the day? Yes it does, but those days become long gone. I agree to the fact that we are all kind of hedonists in one way or the other, varying only in the degree. But considering the current world and the environment to which we are exposed, something which stays within the limits can rarely be interpreted as hedonism. But our protagonist belongs to the higher degree of “Carpe diem” as he puts as little trust as possible in the next day, as a man who is exposed to all the luxuries of the magical world of the city of Dubai, powered by oil, and highly influenced by modernity and science rather than antiquity, history or literature. For a man who comes the humble backgrounds of a small village, this might have been a big moment for him, being in Dubai and earning so much. It is evident in his relations with the labourers whom he consider as lesser people. But soon he realizes that they are the ones who are there to help him without asking anything in return, and it is his time to live like a common man rather than a hedonist, and live his life of responsibilities. Such a realization is supported by a beautiful ending which makes sure that his world remains one of beauty and goodness rather than crookedness and money. The movie itself is a message against irresponsible hedonism, and a support for unconditional love, responsibility and equality.

Once again, Fahadh Faasil is the man to watch out for, and I guess there is not much need to talk about the same, as it nothing unexpected. Samvrutha Sunil has a powerful role and she has done it with lots of life. Gauthami Nair makes a strong impact as the determined, powerful character. Anusree’s role is worth a lot of acclaim, and the funny moments come from her character’s stupidity, and still the goodness and love that the character exhibits makes this one quite a beautiful portrayal. Rohini and Sreenivasan have to play the roles of two seniors in the life of the protagonist who lends him advice and helping hand, and they form the world of light and goodness in his life. Diamond Necklace relates to its viewer with its tenderness and its high dose of objective correlative; with a reigning simplicity and reflections of the common incidents and random life events. It is the Malayalam movie of the year 2012, no matter how much anybody tries to prove that it isn’t. Also look out for the cinematography by Sameer Thahir; about our director Lal Jose, there is nothing more to say other than making a call to watch the movie. This was a movie which came into the theatres, disappeared, and came back again; such is awesomeness of this movie, even as only a few people recognized it during its first run, and myself came across the same during its comeback run in the local theatre.

Release date: 4th May 2012
Running time: 157 minutes
Directed by: Lal Jose
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Samvrutha Sunil, Gauthami Nair, Anusree, Rohini, Sreenivasan, Maniyanpilla Raju, Kailash, Sukumari, Thesni Khan

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Spring Breakers

“I will drink Life to the lees” said the protagonist, the Ithacan king and the Greek hero, in the poem titled with his own name, Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. That suspected hedonism in the face of our inescapable mortality found in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Edward FitzGerald translation, going back to the eleventh and the twelfth centuries has found ever increasing rhythm in this generation, but without the octopus hand of death and the ultimate end. “Carpe diem” as they can still say, from our own most mentioned ancient poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to most of us as Horace – “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the next day”, an idea which has developed into a lifestyle with loose morals leading to a life of unimaginable pleasure among the new generation. Epicureanism has made a more powerful entry to the new world, and as a kind of hedonism finding pleasure as the only intrinsic good, there is a new environment which is powerful and fast spreading. In an attempt to maximize pleasure, and keeping the pain and worries away, there is this chaos which is the side-effect of this pleasure-seeking, and Spring Breakers deals with such an effect. The loss of values, traditions and religion in the contemporary world is given a shocking reflection. It is also a satire on all those “finding ourselves” nonsense which has been thrown on us. The modern life might be empty enough without these, but are these not another group of visages of vanity?

The movie begins with a spring break beach party and goes back college attended by four friends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brittany (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine). Candy, Brittany and Cotty despises their normal life at the college and spend their spare time smoking, drinking and partying, while Faith is part of a religious group for the youth in which she seems to be a reluctant participant and finds her world horribly monotonous. When the spring break arrives, the four friends decide to go on their best ever, and enjoy it like never before, but they find themselves terribly short of money. Candy, Brittany and Cotty commit armed robbery at a restaurant and finds enough money to make the trip. Despite of her religious friends warning her about the three friends, Faith decides to accompany the trio in the trip. After reaching Florida, the girls attend wild beach parties and indulge in various unruly activities, and the scene skips to the present when the situation goes and reaches a girls gone wild environment. So much for the shocking mirror of the so called modernity, which is a disturbing world captured in slow-motion.

But after spending a lot of their time in cocaine and alcohol, they are arrested, and taken to the cell and spends two nights in jail, and when all hopes are lost, they are unexpectedly bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a local rapper, a Brittany Spears fan and a gangster who had become very interested in the girls, and calls them “different from the rest”. But as he takes them to one of his usual hangout places, and Faith becomes more and more uncomfortable with his attitude, lifestyle and his friends. Despite his attempts to convince her to stay telling her that he likes her a lot and they would have fun, she decides to leave. But her friends decide to stay despite her begging them to accompany her. They are introduced into Alien’s criminal world full of glamour and money, as they become his partners in crime or soulmates as he would call them, dressed and maked in pink and armed with guns, performing more and more armed robberies not just for the monet, but also for the fun of inflicting the pain and the thrills and advanture associated with it. All these finally leads to Cotty being shot on the arm by a rival gang and returning home as a result of the trauma. But the two girls and Alien decides to stay, continue what they started and seek revenge even as everyone is going back to school, along with taking their relationship to a new level – so the spring break continues.

So, that is how it goes, depicting spring break as an escape from reality, into another world, and two of the girls decides to continue in it, with one leaving when she realizes what is going to happen and the other when she comes to her senses about what is really happening. Then the question would be about reality, and where would one need to escape into. They girls chose the world of drugs, alcohol, sex and violence, rather than something which could have revived them spiritually. From the words of Faith: “It was really great. I think we found ourselves here. We finally got to see some other parts of the world. We saw some beautiful things here. Things we’ll never forget. We got to let loose. God, I can’t believe how many new friends we made. Friends from all over the place. I mean everyone was so sweet here. So warm and friendly. I know we made friends that will last us a lifetime. We met people who are just like us. People the same as us. Everyone was just trying to find themselves. It was way more than just having a good time. We see things different now. More colors, more love, more understanding. God, it’s so nice to get a break from my uni for a little while. I know we have to go back to school, but we’ll always remember this trip. Something so amazing, magical. Something so beautiful. Feels as if the world is perfect. Like it’s never gonna end.”

Consider this and think about the fact that Selena Gomez’ Faith is the only girl out there with some sense left in her. Even she considers that world as “warm and friendly”, the things there as “amazing, magical and beautiful” and people there as “just like us”. Her concept of “colour, love and understanding” were entirely disturbing for someone with a strong religious background. Her desire was change and escape from the monotonous world, and she needed to be awakened. She herself says “I’m starting to think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been”; and what she needed was a spiritual awakening, not a physical one. Despite of knowing that the three girls stole the money for the vacation, she still decides to stay, and needed a bigger jolt of being arrested and taken to the gangster world so as to come to know that she was wrong all the time, and it was not the world which she wished for. Selena’s portrayal of the comparatively good girl has been a sweet one. Right from the beginning, when she gets into the bikini with her friends, it seems clear that she is the misfit with her body as well as the expressions, but her role is that of substance, and her character does something other than being crazy and wild, which is to think. But the question would remain if she needed this much of a backlash to get away from her so called friends?

Cotty (Rachel Korine) is the next person to come into her senses and she required to be shot on the arm for the same. She would seem like the sexually charged person of the gang, as the sole female wet, wearing nothing but her panty and surrounded by males in a room throughout the spring break, while her friends spend their time together. But after getting shot, she shows that everything was just a mask of being the strong, smart and sexy lady to be part of the gang. But Brittany (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) takes the same to the next level, beginning a sexual relationship with Alien (James Franco) as well as taking the violence to another stage. Vanessa Hudgens seems to have shed her cute Disney image completely with this one, and Ashley Benson seems to rule the movie as the most gorgeous of the gang as well as the most beautiful. The final two form the best of the bad girls, with no remorse about anything they have done, and still hanging onto their idea, of pretending that it is a video game or a movie. James Franco is big revolution, and as the rapping hunk who takes the girls under his wing, he looks so different in his looks, his way of talking and his style that nobody might recognize him if not told. He is the Mephistopheles of this morality tale, and even as Faith lives upto her name and suvives the temptation, and Cotty repents as he realizes the horror, the two remaining ones – the “soulmates” are damned with their soul. In this age when tradition has disappeared, and religion takes the exit, such things tend to be stronger than ever.

Well, this movie might look like just a random party show, but what does this tale come up with? It is a morality tale covered in bikinis, as it gives us a horrifying look into the present day culture which has gone to that path which is nothing less than the worst of all hedonism. It is a twisted allegory towards contemporary culture. It is a take on the contemporary world of loose morals and the absence of faith which they lost with the return of Faith, and remorse which they lose with the return of Cotty. There is a Don Juan and there is a Doctor Faustus in all humans beyond the ability for denial, but there is a limit to how far that takes one, and as long as Spring Breakers are concerned, they have taken it to the limits, from the monotonous life to seeking change, they have taken the forbidden path, but still, they are not judged. The new generation has been lost, as it would say, or the most of it. The inherent evil in man has taken control more powerfully. This one can’t work as a morality tale though, as there is a lot of strong outer covering. But what it can do is that it can shock the audience into taking a look into the contemporary world of late night parties, drugs and booze which has taken over the teenage girls, and its raw reflection is Spring Breakers. This shock has been used in a simple manner in Papilio Buddha, the Malayalam movie, but in Spring Breakers, they use it in an exaggerated, twisted manner, but the result is that they surely shock the audience into understanding the terror that is modern culture, with sadness and depression. They could have done without the repeated uncomfortable images, but this is still a different movie using a different style.

Release date: 22nd March 2013
Running time: 93 minutes
Directed by: Harmony Korine
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco, Gucci Mane

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.