Sunday, 16 January, 2011

Kerala Café.

Not in recent times have I seen such a touching and realistic portrayal of life in Malayalam movies. It has been at least a couple of years since Renjith's Kerala Café - the concoction of 10 different short movies by different directors - was released. I regret not seeing it before. An excellent brew of emotions, the twists reminding me of O'Henry classics, brilliant performances by some of the best actors in the industry - I am surprised at the kind of reception it received among the supposedly mature audiences of Kerala. The 10-story gem of a movie could just gross over its costs.

After a long day of infinite assignments, classes and work, I was deprived of sleep yesterday night. The best option next was either a sitcom or a movie. Whose Line Is It Anyway has been the recent routine. Somehow I stumbled upon Kerala Café in one of those long forgotten must see folders yesterday. I had read a few reviews so the idea was to see a couple of the short movies and hopefully go to sleep. But every single movie made me long to watch the next, and the next.

Two parallel stories with one moving slightly ahead, and in the end, reaching a tragical symbolic connect between the two, Bridge was easily the best. The first story of a motherless child being deprived of his pet kitten by his father. Another of an old mother taken by her son on a long awaited trip 'to see the ships in the city'; In the background is his poor family and the incessant nags of the wife about how she has been taking care of the old lady. At first the son taking his mother alone on a trip and the joyful moments they share brings a warmth in your heart. But the climax is so tragically unexpected that it is haunting me still.

Puramkazhchakal of Mammootty and Sreenivasan is another one I loved; And hated for the way it hurts you in the end. The extremely temperamental passenger played by Mammootty is mocked by everyone on a bus. But little do they, including Sreenivasan, realize the reason why he is rushing to his home, his dear ones.

Happy journey
is another gem which oddly reminded me of the bus journeys from Kochi to Bangalore. Set in a 4 hour bus journey, this one shows a middle aged man JK (Jagathy Sreekumar), trying to flirt with the girl in the next seat. Slowly during the course of the journey, her meek demeanor changes to that of a creepy determination and a fear grips him forcing him to see life in a new light. With a fitting climax this one was a treat to watch.

Island Express, which is a take on the old Peruman tragedy, has a new treatment and some very good performances by Prithviraj, Sukumari, Kani and Maniyanpilla Raju. The boldness in the portrayal of the life of Prithviraj and his friend is something unseen of in Malayalam movies. Lalitham Hiranmayam was a portrayal of infidelity and conflict in relationships and stood out for a strong performance by Jyotirmayi and Dhanya. I felt Suresh Gopi could have been used better though. On the same rating would stand Aviramam; showing Siddique who attempts suicide after sending his family for a vacation. Shwetha Menon has brilliantly portrayed the wife.

All the others - Makal, Mrityunjayam, Nostalgia and Off season - could have been way better. Given that Revathy was the director, Makal could have been much more gripping and lacked the depth one would expect from her. Mrityunjayam, being the horror story, to be honest, left me confused. Nostalgia was a tight slap on the Malayali hypocrisy and is successful in making one hate Johnykutty (Dileep); but it was definitely not worth the opening shot. The humorous take in the middle, Off Season, failed to strike a chord despite Siraj being the protagonist.

A few such shortcomings apart, this attempt by Renjith to bring together 10 of the best directors and most of the acting geniuses in the industry together, deserves a standing ovation. For me some of these stories were the best movies I have seen after the times of Padmarajan or Bharathan. I feel sad to say that I can point to no movie in recent times which can much up to the best of the lot in Kerala Cafe. Hope it changes. But for sure, Kerala Café is a must watch.


Victor Guerra said...

Kerala Cafe is indeed an awesome flick! Although, the concept has been inspired from the hindi Dus Kahaniyaan, I felt the malayalam versions even deeper and touching than the hindi ones. My favorite short story was Siddique's narrow escape from suicide, very touching.

Nice write up.

Neenu said...

I watched 'Kerala Cafe' a long tym bak, bt ua post brought back memories of d muvi..It was indeed a good muvi vid a fresh treatment f story.The part I liked best of all was that of salimkumar's old mom finding d kid's pet kitten..D muvi was beautifully crafted to describe the intertwining nature of our life. A totally diffrent approach!!

I suggest u watch 'passenger'. Its another beautiful muvi. Dnt expect the depth of 'Kerala cafe' in it, but u'll defintly notice d freshness n gentleness f d story.