Tag: Review

Premam Review: How the 2015 Malayalam Film Affected Me

Eight tall men walk into a shopping mall through the main entrance. At first glance, you would think they have vandalism in their minds, but if you look closely, you will realize all of them are sporting an unusually similar look. Wearing stark black shirts with sleeves rolled up elegantly through mid-arm over white mundus (waist cloths) with black border lining, and sporting fake Ray-Ban aviators with deadpan expressions on heavily bearded faces – you know they are all succeeding in imitating the loverboy of a protagonist of the 2015 smash hit Malayalam film, Premam. This is my review of a film that I have watched countless times since it opened on 30 May 2015 to a boisterous reception.

This particular trend of imitating Nivin Pauly’s character from the film had spread like a wildfire in the nooks and corners of Kerala. While that sounds justified as far as the southern Indian state is considered, what should one deduce from a phenomenon where a budding Engineer like me who was born and brought up in the island city of Mumbai and who has always been repulsed by the very idea of visiting Kerala starts experiencing a fondness for everything Malayalam?

The Premam Effect

You may call it “the Premam effect” similar to “the Narasimham effect” which engulfed Malayalis all over the globe (and chiefly in Gulf countries) in 2000 when Malayalam film superstar Mohanlal hypnotized his audience with his charming moves and a piercing moustache in the film with the same name. Honestly, the film is a big fat 7 (out of 10) for me as I watched it first day first show with my mother in a Mumbai theatre (Cinepolis). The hall was houseful, which is an unusual occurrence when it comes to Malayalam films in Mumbai theatres. Just to put that into perspective, the time when I watched the critically acclaimed 2014 film North 24 Kaatham by debutante Anil Radhakrishnan Menon in a Navi Mumbai theatre (INOX), there were a total of 8 people in the hall, including the two redundant ushers.

I have been reviewing Malayalam films since 2012, but the sheer magical experience that I shared with my fellow audience that day has left me in awe. And now whenever the beautifully sung love-song ‘Malare’ by Vijay Yesudas plays on TV, I lapse into a state of total entrance.

Three months after I watched the film and three weeks after the apprehension of those little lover pirates who shared a preview copy of the film over the web, the so-called “Premam effect” has not winded down. It is chiefly because of the elements used by maverick director Alphonse Putharen in his second feature (after Neram (2013)); the pure native elements of a Kerala district that any malayali can relate with.

Premam Review: A Dose of New Wave

The protagonist’s journey from being a teenager who is head over heels in love with his petite classmate to his fascination with the beautiful guest lecturer in college to finally end up in the arms of an unsuspecting dame is captured in the most appropriate and stylistic way. This is absolutely how real life love stories occur, and if you were to ask any shuffling adolescent at the Kaladi junction or at the Kochi pier or at Lulu Mall to describe about their love life, you will now most obviously be shot with the title of the film as an answer, which translates to “love” in the English language.

Premam review

A poster of Premam designed by Thought Station / © Anwar Rasheed Entertainment

The unofficial political activism rampant in the by-lanes of colleges, teacher-student love affairs, and unsolicited hotheadedness are all marks of the modern adolescent who will take to Facebook to ask that girl out rather than asking her in person. What Premam manages to capture is the intricate details of such a person’s daily life – how it affects his life partially, and how friendship plays a significant role in it.

That is why when I was talking to an old friend of mine about why I now want to often visit Kerala as opposed to my random, infrequent visits, and get more exposed to Malayalam cinema, understand Santosh Pandit’s psychology and philosophy (if any), get married to a girl who is a born-Malayali and in whose arms I would lay and watch the film Premam again for the umpteenth time, he replied, “This is exactly what I have been thinking of lately. The effect is huge.” And this friend was also born and brought up in Mumbai.

Moreover, if a Malayali who was born somewhere outside Kerala and is not much exposed to the essence of Malayali soil, “the Premam effect” will make sure that he starts respecting his roots. There are a lot of people who talk negative about being a Malayali, and smirk at the thought of being counted among them. However, even the most righteous prig will stop and wonder how charming his roots are once he watches it. The film’s photography will make him weak, the songs will make him swoon, and the Kerala exoticism will eventually break him into submission.

In future, when someone asks me what my story is, to keep it dramatic and filmy, I know I would answer that my adolescent life can be divided into two parts – pre-Premam and post-Premam. That is the solid effect of the film which is arguably one of the best Malayalam films of 2015 and one of the best Indian films of the decade so far.

Have you watched it yet?

What’s Wrong With The IMDb Page Of The Film, GUNDAY?

Not to fret over how bad or good the movie was, as I usually do when it comes to movies, this article is being written after I saw a snippet on my Facebook feed shared by The Low Budget Satya Show. It was a snapshot of the IMDb page of the latest Ranveer Singh starrer, Gunday.

I had watched the movie first day, second show and ended up rating it a 3/10 here. I can understand Himmatwala ranking at 31 of the IMDb Bottom 100 Chart, but Gunday is not worth this ignominy. Because if I were to be kidnapped and given 3 movie DVDs of Himmatwala, Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobara & Gunday to induce torture, I would select & watch Gunday again & again & again till my family accepts and then fails to bring the ransom because I come from a poor family. But that is another story.

Now, the Himmatwala score is legitimate; IMDb users are often true and rate films solely based on how they feel about it, the IMDb inside tactics notwithstanding. But, the score of Gunday has another story behind it. On the day of its release, it had a fair rating of 6.0 from an average 3000 registered users and about 20 user reviews, all genuine. The next week, the score dropped to 4.8, then to 3.0 and eventually 1.2 as of Sunday, February 23, 2014, a week after its release on Valentine’s Day. Around 34000 users have rated it, more than what Swades: We, The People (with a rating of 8.5) has. There are more than 800 user reviews now and 98% of them say one and the same thing, that the plot manipulates Bangladesh’s Liberation War history.

Now I am not much of a history guy, but as far as the movie is concerned, only the opening few minutes talk something about it as the two leads are introduced as two Bangladeshi immigrants. [And I have been told, the movie DOES manipulate the history. So, I understand their plight.]

But, the IMDb reviews and message boards are filled with messages of protest, asking for apologies from the makers for maligning the history of Bangladesh‘s Independence. Here as well, 98% users are from Bangladesh (Dhaka, chiefly), so suggests their profiles. One stands to wonder, at this point, that how come so many Bangladeshis own an IMDb profile, taking into account the fact that there are not many Bangladesh-origin films listed there. I am not saying they cannot come over and rate foreign films along with their own ones, but that just doesn’t look credible. I myself am not into much of my own language flicks, but had joined IMDb last year to keep a record of everything I watch. If I were to joke about it, which I am not, I could say that there are more Bangladeshis in IMDb than in the country itself. But then I would have to look oblivious because the country is the 8th most populated country in the world.

One review, with 2029 out of 2063 people finding it useful, reads,
“I just began to watch the movie (though I do not watch Hindi movies a lot) but in the beginning, the timeline of 1971 war between Bangladesh and Pakistan (Which was later changed as Indo-Pak war 1971) was full of lie and manipulation. Bangladesh was never born from the war between India and Pakistan, 1971. It was a long history and clash between Bangladesh and Pakistan since 1952 Language revolution. Later India joined the war (3 December, 1971) and helped the Freedom Fighters’ of Bangladesh. As a Bangladeshi, I am not denying the fact that India helped us a lot that time, but its my right to protest against the proper manipulation of a country’s birth history! It was our great leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who declared the independence of Bangladesh in 26 March, 1971 and after that the war began between East and West Pakistan. East Pakistan later became Bangladesh, a sovereign state. Along with 90000 soldiers Pakistan army surrendered to the commander in chief of India and Bangladesh joint forces. The instrument letter of surrender clears the fact. Anyone can search in internet and even in wikipedia for the truth : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh_Liberation_War”

It is interesting to know that that this single review has been copied around 400 times and published by other users, ridiculing the film, giving it a single star and hence forming a factor, for the drop of overall score to 1.2. Now, as an Indian Y-gen adolescent, I truly am not aware of what happened, neither have I read about it. And if the reviews were not enough, the message boards of the film has at least 10 messages, asking for apologies from YRF studios for not sticking to reality and showing the Bangladesh freedom fighters in low or no light.

It is ironic how IMDb editors do not even have a gander at the reviews thrown at them, let alone edit them. It is evident how even a 2-year old kid can cook up a review and they will publish it in few hours. I was under the impression, previously, that a new user needs to rate and/or review few films before he is considered a true user and only then his rating is considered. But, looking at the fact that the users who have helped in the decline of Gunday’s score are only one or two day old account holders, I am sure there is no guideline or stopping from a film getting poor reviews and since we have reached a point where IMDb ratings play a sizable part in the success or crowd-pulling factor of a film, the one and only victim is the film itself. And if the film is genuinely a true celluloid, there is no measure of the woes and that will per se, appall me, as a movie aficionado.

Why this personae non gratae have taken up a topic so trivial yet bold to prove a point is beyond the theorizing part of my brain. Its not about making the point I am concerned in, but on how  they are making their point. Mainly because there was nothing much reasonable to hurt anyone’s sentiments. (The pre-title prologue of the flick runs for less than 5 minutes; if the whole film continuously showed disrespect, if they at all did, that is, I would have struck, as well) And if I were from Bangladesh, maybe even I would have joined them because when it comes to the love for one’s country, nothing can be ignored. Maybe I would have chosen another way to prove a point. Their step will attract more people and fanatics to have a look into the film thereby upping the revenue collected by the producers, if they don’t know how to torrent, that is. It could be a publicity stunt by the producers, but the use of heavy expletives in these messages prove that wrong. How a Bollywood movie with no famous actors, but only newbies enacting came into so many Bangladeshis’ sight is also a factor to ponder upon. Yet, the one thing we can learn from this event is the power of unity of Bangladeshis or the group of so-called right-wing activists called Gonojagoron Moncho. I appreciate their like-mindedness but their modus operandi, I laugh at.

I am in no way supporting the makers, either. They didn’t do their homework and now their month-long efforts will forever be etched in history as the “film with the lowest score in IMDb.” I’ll drink to that!

My idea of a win-win situation would be that since it is impossible and non-economical to re-release the film reels all over the world/continents a disclaimer from the producers apologizing for referring wrongness in their film’s DVD/DTH/BluRay release would calm the situation; a media letter of apology citing this action of appending the disclaimer, to the citizens of Bangladesh would calm the moment for now. After all, it is peace that we all desire.