North 24 Kaatham

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This is one of the gifts from Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) as I am concerned. No, they didn’t produce this ticket, but a powercut had me going to the theatres. If you wonder if it was the first time, the answer should be no.  And yes, I liked the movie, and there was no reason not to. If any of you don’t like it, I have to say that I don’t write for you. Yes, I write what I find and what I feel; now that wasn’t really a surprise. Well, unlike the fanboys’ stuff like Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi, North 24 Kaatham has more soul than most of those movies out there, yes this blog itself is about the movies of the soul, and if you do not possess a soul or intellect enough to respect others’ opinions, why bother reading reviews when you know that you shall come up with a different opinion than the reviewer? Except for the fans whose opinions are fixed, I would like to believe that there is hope for Malayalam movies. Well, there is no bigger evil than people who do not respect the opinions of others, and I have to say that some of them don’t even know what an opinion means, and it is disappointing in this world.

You evil ones are lesser in number this time, as the critics as well as each and every one in the theatre liked this movie and clapped. So, I am going to be very clear about this one. I have more reasons to like this one than a leading actor and a leading actress who can act. Before that, let me tell the good people among you and the others motivated by self-interest with willing distrust of human (or bat) sincerity, on what goes on in this movie. It is the story of Hari (Fahadh Faasil), a genius computer programmer who is hated by his colleagues due to his lack of social interaction, over-cleanliness and the seemingly hostile attitude to most of the things. He is that kind of a person who hasn’t even gone outside his city, living with a fear of travel. But he is forced to go on a journey as part of his job, and on a day of harthal, he is caught in the middle of a world which he is not familiar with. He is caught up with two other people (Nedumudi Venu and Swati Reddy) and he joins them on their journey, and on the way, he changes his attitude towards life and by the end of the journey, he is a changed man.

I know what kind of questions the evil world can come up with. It might be about the change in the protagonist, but I would say it is clearly a believable change, if not incredibly perfect to the core, but even that wouldn’t be acceptable to the new generation fans. Our protagonist was never a bad man, and nothing has changed in his soul if we look at him. He surely might have had his share of psychological problems, but as a good person, through a few incidents, he realizes his mistakes. Remember how one major psychological problem was solved by one major incident in Manichitrathazhu? This is actually not that much of a problem, for Hari had the right to live in his world as much as anybody else, which is why I say that change is a change only on the surface, and therefore it is nothing for which you have to push a huge stone to the top of a mountain and jump into water with the same stone tied around your neck. Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi was based on selfishness, just like Annayum Rasoolum. But this movie has a lot of goodness in it, and therefore try to enjoy the little things which give the good people happiness rather than be evil and go on a meaningless trip leaving your family behind, for life is reclaimed by goodness and the joy of art and literature alone, and not by having fun, sorry hedonists.

Fahadh Faasil gives a brilliant performance yet again, and yes I was so disappointed with his Olipporu that I couldn’t watch his critically well-received movie Artist, and D Company again let me down. But even with so much less dialogues, he scores and raises the level of this movie with his co-star from one of the movies of the year Amen. Yes, I am talking about the wonderfully talented, charming lady lead that we have got here, Swati Reddy. She plays a modern social worker, wearing a hood and shortening her name Narayani as Nani. She continues her good run in the Malayalam movie industry even as this is an entirely different role from her earlier debut in Malayalam this year. Even as Fahadh is the centre of attraction in this movie, she is charm, and the way in which both of them contradict each other brightens each other, as much as the black and white compliments each other, like no grey character could have ever did, and please note that this black and white doesn’t stand for evil and good, for that age has disappeared. Like Solomon and Sosanna, here is Hari and Narayani, but I would wonder myself if such a romantic side was forced, still a better love story than Annayum Rasoolum and a better travel story than Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi.

The performance by our own veteran actor Nedumudi Venu is another highlight, for he plays the third person in their gang of lost people on the day of harthal. How can I praise someone who is beyond the same? That leaves us with the factor that lies under what seems to be an ordinary plot. It is the social message which worked just the opposite in Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi. Here, it is perfectly done. It is a powerful message against harthal and labelling people as not belonging to the group. There is the trouble of harthal and the condition of the roads that are alluded in the movie. Well, the question remains if Hari needed to change, for he was always good, hardworking and doing what he felt was right. Who would know the minds of the others who surrounded them? Well, it shows how important it is to display your inner goodness or pretend to be caring like some of those devils with human masks do, or the society shall keep you at a pterosaur’s wings apart. It shows how society doesn’t like people who are different, but Hari’s difference in the end is the kind of change that society likes – there lies the biggest paradox of man as a social animal.

As Fahadh plays a much misunderstood man with no heroic quality in him other than goodness, there is that deconstruction of the hero image which the fans would love to identify with. Swati’s character take over some traits of that heroism, and I would guess that a few wouldn’t like this reversal of roles. As Swati’s character makes it her responsiblity to get the old man home safe, Fahadh’s character take the smaller role of accompanying them. The heroism is attributed to the lady here, and in that case, Swati Reddy plays another Sosanna of Amen who fights for her aim, instead of Solomon. She helps the old man out of the train and Hari into the bus, a moment of visible shock in the faces of both. She leads the journey even when Hari keeps moving on the front. The people they meet on the way are presented with their own shades of grey, some of them closer to white and the others close enough to black. They are all down to earth just like the plot of the movie. This feel good movie doesn’t have that new generation add-ons and neither does it has any action sequence; therefore it is a good movie which reflects the goodness of Onam and the right movie for the season.

In a life which is consistently plagued by death, our celebration of life should come from doing the right thing from within our limitations, and not by the unruly “Carpe diem” behaviour. We have such a short life, that is for sure; but living that with a selfish motive of maximum pleasure being the only intrinsic good is not something to be recommended. North 24 Kaatham nullifies the “travel for pleasure philosophy” of Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and uses the “goodness of a travel philosophy” which is much needed in our age. Why do I talk like this?  Because I have travelled with someone, a stranger who didn’t know the local language and made sure that he got home, not this much of a long and interesting story, but I have done what I could on multiple occasions even as I am becoming more skeptic every day – this is our own story, with its own add-ons.  Well, the movie is funny, innovative and thought provoking all at the same time. What more do you need? What more should a debutant director provide you with? If it still, doesn’t touch our heart enough, we are not human enough, and we have no soul within us. It is not old, but it still glitters like gold, and entertains us with its righteousness and the realization like in the 2007 Hollywood movie Evan Almighty, that “the way to change the world is by doing one Act of Random Kindness”. By the end of the day, we are all heroes, not just someone who is born heroic or rises to heroism due to his nobility; thank you dear director.

Release date: 15th September 2013
Running time: 125 minutes
Directed by: Anil Radhakrishnan Menon
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Swati Reddy, Nedumudi Venu, Sreenath Bhasi, Premgi Amaren, Srinda Ashab, Chemban Vinod Jose, Salaam Bukhari

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✠ The Vampire Bat.

Silent Hill II

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This is the time for flashback, to a few months ago. This is the time when the thirst for horror has reached its zenith. This movie series itself is a legend in quenching this thirst, as it comes up with that horror which is so difficult to fathom as a simple horror fan. The movie is not just an enigma, for it gives everything away; but the problem is about what we take in. I have to admit that I am at loss; for none of the horror movies came here this year; guess they can’t take the terror from Hollywood, and it must be so beyond them. Did the good horror die a painful death? The answer would be no, as I would try to resurrect this one out of my mind and have that vision of horror which the critics never liked, but I enjoyed without that sceptical mind. There will be no bones scattered and no blood spilled in the review; there would be the horror of returning to the Silent Hill that will be horrifying enough. There will be pain and suffering, for this dimension is not for the faint-hearted. Well, one just doesn’t go to Silent Hill on vacation and come back refreshed with a heart full of immense happiness and pleasure, so as if there was the chance to dance with the daffodils. They can still flash upon that inward eye and fill the world with fear; for nightmares of the night are outdated and those of the day take over.

Welcome to Silent Hill. Welcome to the fictional foggy American town of Silent Hill far beyond the reach of the electronic equipments, and its dark alternate dimension. There is the original world and the Otherworld, both separated by nothing but time. The Silent Hill has a cult, “The Order” which does ritual human sacrifices and awaits the rise of their diety, something which could be equated with the anti-christ. But the concepts of good and evil are inversed in this Otherworld of Silent Hill, and they would stop at nothing to bring the goodness that is pure evil upon Earth. They have their priestess and the good amount of blind followers. Their attempt to create the pseudo-paradise on Earth will unleash the inferno, or the original hell on the planet. It shall be the beginning of the end. Considering such a background which is firmly based on a highly successful video game, people tend to expect more, which would lead to disappointment. But as long as this one is considered, what it does is performing its duty to its genre and scare as much as possible; its scary elements remain strong, and may be it works even better than its predecessor. Everything else will slowly come into terms as the base is still strong, even as the influence is less.

Continuing from where the first part had left off, Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) has managed to save her daughter from Silent Hill, even though she gets caught in that dimension. She made the choice so that the girl as well as her world would be safe from whatever evil lurks inside the foggy dimension of the abandoned town. But the horrors of the alternate dimension hasn’t left Sharon Da Silva (Adelaide Clemens) who is currently living as Heather Mason with her adoptive father Christopher Da Silva (Sean Bean) in another town, as they go on changing places every now and then making sure that the people from the cult of Silent Hill won’t find her. But she is plagued by consistent hallucinations and nightmares, and she even feels the shift from this world to the other. She still believes that they are on the move because her father killed a man in self-defense and the police are seeking him. She is also made to believe that her adoptive mother Rose had died in a car crash. Now, as time has passed and she has grown older, the cult has increased the frequency of their search for her.

Heather fails to belong to the class or the school where she studies, and successfully becomes a complete outsider right from the beginning itself with a speech warning the other students against befriending her. She is approached by a private investigator named Douglas Cartland (Martin Donovan) who explains to her that he was hired by the Order to find Heather, but has decided to help her as he come to know some disturbing information about his clients. He also tells her that she is not what she thinks she is, and the life she is living is more of a lie than anything else. Heather is curious, but before he tells more about it, a fierce demon from the other world, the Missionary, kills Douglas, and Heather becomes a suspect to his murder as all the clues point to her. She finds that her father is missing, and at home, she finds a message instructing her to go to Silent Hill. She learns the truth about the place by reading a letter from her father, and decides to go to Silent Hill to rescue him even as the letter prohibited her from going anywhere near the foggy town.

Her classmate Vincent (Kit Harington) who helps her throughout reveals that he is the son of the cult’s leader Claudia Wolf (Carrie-Anne Moss), and was there to convince her to willingly come to Silent Hill, as it would really work if she is forced to be there. But he changes his mind and wants her to survive and therefore he tries to stop her in her attempts to rescue her father. He further tells her that Heather is actually a part of Alessa Gillespie, a girl who was burnt thirty eight years ago by the same cult but never died, leading her to create the town’s shifting dimensions. Heather is the manifestation of Alessa’s remaining innocence and goodness, as the other side knows only pain and suffering inflicted upon herself as well as the others of the town. A quick shift to the Otherworld occurs unexpectedly, and Vincent is dragged away by the same demon, Missionary. Heather enters the other dimension to find her dad as well as Leonard along with knowing more about herself. This is where the next level of horror begins.

I have believed in Silent Hill as much as I had in Resident Evil, as a computer game. The latter had been with me till Resident Evil 4 and has been my favourite video game adaptation so far along with Hitman and Tomb Raider, and the former is more of memories, mostly of Silent Hill 3 which was similar enough to this movie title. For me, this genre of fear was mostly about Undying, the first graphically good enough horror game which I had played. Well, these three games together make such an impact which nothing else can; the horror is possibly better than most of the horror movies around. The world of gaming has almost ended for me, even as there is a little dose of Age of Empires, Age of Wonders and Unreal Tournament at times – who can forget the classics, right? I would wait for the release of the games based on Need For Speed, Deus Ex, Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed though, for they have memories of the other dimension, that reality where I spent a good amount of my life. There is another parallel world, that of computer games, and some games like Silent Hill got another reality inside its reality; sounds complicated enough. But the question would be about which reality being the most evil of them all, and the present human world qualifies for a race to that position.

For a movie made more for maximum horror than anything else, this one has done a very good job. If you are looking for ambiguities, come with a big truck as there might be a huge load of them. Well, it works on parallel universe or alternative reality. When a video game based horror movie deals with the self-contained separate reality which co-exists, there is always going to be loose-ends. Even the first half had its own collection of ambiguities, some which has carried over to this sequel. We can still consider the Silent Hill as that alternate reality which always co-exists, as a place for those belonging to the evil, for they are there even without themselves knowing. For them, it should be the original place and where they live should be their Silent Hill where they do not belong; a place which scares them with the goodness. But considering where the world is going, there is going to be the same reality here and there. There will be two Silent Hills and the choice would create more ambiguities. Still, this alternate reality helps one to live another life, something different, but all the online world which creates a second life can turn into another Silent Hill all of a sudden. It is always about faith which keeps the Silent Hills away, or without evil.

Release date: 26th October 2012
Running time: 94 minutes
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kit Harington, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell, Radha Mitchell

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Up and Down

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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

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.