2020 Hindi

Vidya Balan as Shakuntala Devi (2020)

Anu Menon’s film Shakuntala Devi straddles a difficult territory between the public & private lives of a public figure. She goes about this by focussing on the lives of the said famous woman & the other key women who shapes her life, her choices to love, hate, discard & be possessive about them on her terms while she continues to live a life she owns on her merit.

A major focus is on her daughter, and a tale of a strained relationship between the daughter Sanya Malhotra as Anu Banerjee and her mother played by Vidya Balan.

Menon’s motive of making a film on the chinks in the relationship of mothers & daughters is clear from the beginning. If it isn’t, the repetition of mothers & daughters thrice by three different sets of people towards the end should drive it in. Shakuntala Devi & Anu Banerjee happen to be a part of it.

Did she need to feature them to tell this tale of a World Famous Mathematical Genius is a question to ponder about. Since she chooses them the next question is, do we really want to know the inside lives of a world famous personality — the not so always smiling for the camera, sanguine cheerful & vibrant persona on screen & shows? This clash in a fan’s perspective is brought in through the character of Ajay, Anu’s husband brilliantly executed by Amit Sadh.

Then, what is it like to be a famous personality when the camera and mics are not focused on them. Do they carry the fame inside their homes, or do they leave it at the doorstep and walk in to lead “perfectly normal” lives like the rest of the world? What is their definition of ‘normal’?

Vidya Balan owns her role. Sanya Malhotra looks a little weird in her outfits & hairstyles but she brings out the irritation and strain of living in the shadow of a famous mother well. If only the script was meatier then this film would have been an equally engaging one like Menon’s earlier outing Waiting.

One thing I did after watching the film is, I went searching for Shakuntala Devi’s videos to see her perform her genius. Youtube has a few of them ☺


Deepika Padukone as Piku (2015) with Irrfan Khan & Amitabh Bachchan

My roommate prepared me for Soorjit Sircar & Juhi Chaturvedi’s Piku. She & I, and the rest of her friends, and mine bonded over our motions & emotions in those two years. I don’t know about the others. The lucid talks made me less inhibitory about discussing the noises, pains and smells in ‘the punishment room’  in front of an audience.  I had entered a new phase of vocal —  it had a vocabulary of yellow mango pulp like,  lot of gas & farts, so much grumblings, dub dub dub droppings and jet spray. Craig Raine definitely had not met all of us before he wrote ‘A Martian sends a Postcard Home.’

Her day began by sipping water, a total of 3 litres between 4 am and 7, before she finally headed to the loo. The morning I spotted her drinking from the bottle in her sleep from across the room I was certain this habit has been in place for a while. There was no water spillage on the bed, the floor, not a drop dribbled down to her neckline from the corners of her lips wetting her teeshirt and the bedsheet. Wow!

“I’m building pressure” she replied when I asked her later. “What pressure?” She gave me a graphic description about the water path inside her body systems.  I shouldn’t have asked.

The initial discomfort gave way to plenty of home remedies for good motions. Did you know snacking on guavas can increase the frequency of motions during the day preventing bleeding & butt bruises? That the Indian way of sqautting on the floor is easier to build better pressure, and drinking luke warm helps to empty bowels quicker when we wake up late for a 6 am yoga class. I’ve had these discussion but in the privacy of a doctor’s cabin during a bout of illness. This every day chitchat on bowel movements with strangers-soon to be friends like critiquing  the supper menu in the hostel mess notice board was new. As Irrfan’s character asks Deepika’s Piku, is this the normal? We had fallen into a routine.

Over the years, I figured people grew loquacious when they have an audience to listen to their shit  trauma. There are folks with severe tummy troubles —  as extreme as constipation because they are visiting a different city, a runny tummy as there is too much chilly in a dish,  fart fart & flatulence, transform your room into a gas chamber from an overload of pulses in sides & or over eating on the seasonal jackfruit seeds, a case of irritable bowels, eating disorders and medical ailments. There are also the occasional undigested tales of the seeds of gergins and okra, the colourful pink and green initiated by the beetroots & spinach. I tell you, there is no dearth of starting points even when you have a cast iron stomach and regular bowel movements. Therefore, joining in as Irrfan did over that lunch conversation adding grosser details, than sitting out making poker faces is the best option.

Come to think of shit, it is just food exiting our bodies through a different hole in a different shape after a long winding journey across the torso. My appetite has run dry like Piku’s date’s did a couple of times as the first few times can be torture if you are not used to this kind of open talk. Piku confirmed Incan sit through and lol as a result of my training.

When somebody took shit seriously they made a delightful film with an exquisite cast to deliver the message. She prepared me for Bhasker’s mundane distress.  Without her I may have cringed a little, taken a while, and would have had to watch Piku again to unwind over shit & enjoy the nuances of Piku. 

2016 Asif Ali Malayalam

Biju Menon & Asif Ali as a father-son duo (2016)

I finally got the film’s name right today. Anuraga Karikkin Vellam.

The film opens to a nuclear family, a working policeman father (Biju Menon), a housewife mother (Asha Sharath), an older son looking for a job after his course in architecture (Asif Ali) & a school going daughter. The rest of the cast are friends/colleagues of this central family. However, the strain in their relationship stands out, be it between the husband-wife, father-son and mother-son.

Eli (Rajisha Vijayan) is Abhi (Ali’s) girlfriend from college, but their relation too is filled with irritations, and not much love. So they break up, however she has a way to return to Abhi’s life. Her intervention brings in the much needed ice breaker and spark back into his family. That’s in short the story of the film, and the transformation from strain to familial ..

Soubin, Sreenath Bhasi, Irshad & Sudhir Karamana support this cast.

2016 biopic English

Dev Patel as Sheru, Lion (2016)

A boy is lost in India when he was a child. 25 years later he goes in search of his mother and brother from Australia. The trailer is pretty intriguing too.

It takes about 53 minutes for the back story of the film to come to the present and begin the search. The narration is linear, no flash backs. The pace keeps the interest going. and the trauma of a boy who remembers his past in patches brings up an emotional connection. it is quite an adventure. Sunny Pawar as the younger Saroo is adorable!

It is always the little memories. In case of Saroo (Dev Patel) it is the jalebis/immerthis that rekindle his urgency to get set go in search for his mother and elder brother.


The mystery that is Adaline (2015)

Adaline is a character in a 2015 romantic fantasy who does not age. At the present time in the film, she is 107 years old or close to that number but is still at 38 years. She never grew older or younger than that age, she remains that age after a certain incident.

The film has its own explanations for this no aging phenomenon but what strikes a chord is the irony of it all. Look around and most people hold on to youth for possibly many different reasons, sometimes lying about their age, trying out various methods to slow down the process of growing old, at least visibly, looking young and youthful! The idea of age as a concept plays out in many conversations, it could be a senior-junior relationship at work, a younger-older familial, social relations, during a marriage alliance! Age becomes a factor when sickness hampers bodily routines! It is referred to when it comes to the colour of the hair, a government appointment for a job, or to make a point, take it thru..

And here is a woman who is granted that wish of being forever a 38 years old young, a wish for an infinite future at 38 as long as she lives.. a future of youthfulness.. yet she is unable to remain happy.. she feels she cannot hold on to a relationship of any kind for longer than a particular period of time… She also fears she’ll become a curiosity specimen for global scientific experiments.

If you ask me whether I loved the film, well I can’t answer that with any kind of certainty, but it has certainly carved out an imprint in my mind about the fantasy and irony of age.. living.. happiness.. and its worth! I was glued to it… Something and all has been triggered somewhere, the thoughts I have not been able to write out as succinctly as I would have liked to.

What it is to grow up together with a set of people, starting with parents, siblings, classmates, spouses, children, colleagues and friends.. and generally people around us.. may be something many of us do not give a thought to.. what it is to lose somebody we know on the way..what is it to feel secure and happy in our the age we are at!

2020 Malayalam

Anjaam Pathira (2020) sets out well but …

Anjaam Pathira sets out as an edge of the seat first half. The background score by Sushin Shyam, the slick editing and the play of lights create the desired shock to the characters, and the audience before they break for the interval. But it loses this quality somewhere in the middle of the second to create a predicatable but fitting ending.

The film begins and ends with Kunjachacko Boban, the consulting criminologist on the case. His first real case, therefore he seems to be the most invested in it, his intuitions take the story forward, this is also one of the flaws in the script. His character does not organically grow to fill the plot like the doctor he played in Virus. Here, he happened to be, and became like a coincidence.

But director Mithun Manuel Thomas has chosen him to shoulder the anticipation of the crimes to be. Even then, his deductions aren’t mindblowing breaks. They aren’t exactly flattering to the round the clock working police force. Therefore, a weak script. A character and actor to look out for, Unnimaya Prasad as the lead investigator in a full length role makes a mark. Her dubbing for this character is also excellent.

That said, in this age when the audience begins to participate in the making of a story streaming in front of us, it becomes tricky to make a film like anjaam pathira. We are unconsciously making our own conclusions and moving to the next scene in our heads, it may match, it may run parallel to the plot until we find a point of re-entry into the plot to continue our hypothesis. But nothing will come close to the motive of these murders until the big reveal here. So much so that when the sketch of the killer is shown to the audience we have no idea who this person is, or how they are related to the crime as this is their first appearance on screen..

the premise of the backstory is relevant to our times, it is a story to be told, to be made aware of, one we should not ignore no matter what.


Revisiting Drishyam (2013) | Jeethu Joseph

By now I’d have watched Drishyam more than 20 times, that’s a small number when compared to the number of times it comes on television almost every couple of months in the last few years, its easy accessibility on ott platforms. Between then and now, the film has been remade in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, gained appreciation and attracted its share of controversy over the Korean novel it is loosely based on. Out of which I’ve only watched the Hindi remake where I felt Tabu trumps Devgan in impact on screen unlike its original in Malayalam where it turned out to be a excellent start for Asha Sharath in the industry, but still couldn’t over shadow Lal.

What’s the secret in watching a thriller, a whodunit when we know, & have all the details by heart with years of watching & discussing it. Obviously, the first time edge of the seat mystery isnt there. Then .. what is?


Ajay Devgan in Raid (2018)

Raid is a 2018 Hindi language film directed by Raj Kumar Gupta with Ajay Devgan and Saurab Shukla playing the leads.

Though he has doned different roles, to me Saurab Shukla will always remain Gopi from Tehkikaat. That funny assistant who looks up to his detective friend, Sam (Vijay Anand). In this film in the role of the villain, Thauji, the landlord who is raided, he has the maximum scope of emotions.

Turns out, I don’t remember the last film I stepped into a theatre to watch Ajay Devgan act. It could be as long as more than 10 years with Bhagat Singh or his home production, Raju Chacha. Was he a part of that political drama based on the Mahabharata starring Ranbhir Kapoor & Katrina Kaif with a mother who couldn’t act – Rajneeti. Even that film seems to be a long time ago. You get the point don’t you?

Here, he plays this ‘ultra’ honest ‘patriotic’ officer (you should here his lines about nationalism and mother India). He is also shown to be madly deeply in love with his (newly wedded) wife (Ileana D’Cruz). If their romance was the so called comic relief in this terse drama — it turns out to be more of an irritation, incumbrance & subversion to the plot!

Picture this, Devgan as Amay Patnaik, 10-15 of his department colleagues, with a blue bus full of police troops (think guns, helmets, troops running out to make a boundary line) is at the house of this (most) powerful man, Thauji (Shukla), searching his haveli (mansion like house) for the black money and the records he has kept hidden. Apparently, this is a secret operation so that nobody in high places can tip off this influential man, also a politician, also a member of the parliament to hide his illegal assets elsewhere! The ‘beautiful’ dainty wife walks in with a tiffin box at lunch time for her IRS officer husband saying, you’d be tired, or the wife knows everything!!!! Comic relief, absolutely. Initially I was horrified, the emotion turned to irritation and finally sarcasm! 😉 The film would have retained its seriousness without this couple angle! Nevertheless, the wives and the kids (when they are present) is the pawn to coerce the honest officers into succumbing to the corrupt villain!

The plot is based on true events about the longest recorded raid in the history of Indian Revenue Service (IRS) – roughly 2 days in 1981. The ending is inspired from a couple of incidents from real life, the aftermath of raids in these towns.

I agree that more films should be made on the stories of these honest officers who dared to enter the lion’s den to thwart corruption under unfavourable circumstances of liaison between the rich, the police, judiciary and the politicians. However, it can be done with a seriousness it requires to get the message across, not resort to unwanted drama like the romance and presence of Dcruz in this film.

verdict: If you have the patience & time ..


A slow paced Villain (2017) left me with a headache!

When Mathew Manjooran (Mohanlal) remarks, “there is a villain in every hero, and a hero in every villain” the water tight distinction between two known types in popular imagination does not begin to blur, but it does lead to a momentary break from the usual black & white categories. 

The good villain is always the social empath who cringes at the sight of injustice, their rise is a tale of their consequences & motivations, the pinnacle of their (mob) justice, eventually ending in the rise of a new hero to erase older villains, gradually leading to their transformation into the newer villain/hero as the case may be. It seems to be a cycle in which a hero, can be struck down by an unexpected calamity …

… Manjooran is a borderline case, his wife and daughter were unexpectedly snatched away from his happy life …

… he can turn into an antihero in due course of time. Does he or does he not (after Drishyam it is hard to speculate) don the role of a villain to avenge the death of his family to become their hero is one part of the film.

The film begins on the day ADGP Mathew Manjooran (#mohanlal) decides to end his career in the police force voluntarily. He has opted for an early retirement 7 months after a brutal “road accident” killed his wife killed his wife (Manju Warrier) and teenage daughter. 

A melancholic Mohanlal in a salt and pepper bearded bespectacled gentleman in a trench coat look. We are sure to empathize with the restless demons he faces inside him, the craft of this actor. He is on a journey to a mysterious somewhere, away from his familiar people and places who knows for what purpose … 

Meanwhile, a murder is planned and executed the previous night, discovered in the morning of his last day which stops him from starting on that trip. The task force concludes that it is the beginning of a series of public grievence redressals. Somebody has turned vigillante to rid the society of its “criminals” who have escaped the law with their power and money. “If that is the intention, how many people will they kill,” asks the Commissioner to Manjooran. This is the second part of the story.

The third part of the story is when Manjooran and the vigillante come face to face in a dialogue to review the current plight of the system of justice. The Fourth part is a suspense in this story… 😎 (No spoilers)

Stylish, slick & technical in its packaging, the office of the task force looks very similar to the one in The Blacklist and the Hollywood films of the genre. In spite of the excellent dialogue delivery of two very seasoned actors, Mohanlal & Siddique, with a supporting cast of  Ranji Pannicker, Chemban Jose & Rashi Khanna in uniform, the idealistic Samaritan intentions in Manju Warrier’s Dr. Neelima, Vishal and Hansika Motwani bringing in the rest of the cast, the satisfaction of public punishments played out in this police procedural was too slow paced and predictable for my taste, or that of an edge of the seat thriller genre from the Grandmaster team. 

Although categorised as a thriller, it seems to be more on the lines of B Unnikrishan’s take on the greyer shades of people psychology. The series of murders is the drama he pulls up to convey this. He uses Manjooran to filter down this to us.  The film like a murder as the top cop remarks is a simple equation of who killed who. The rest of the theatrics are ways of camoflauging the details. 

if only the pace was a notch faster, the script, the actors and the style would have fallen right in place making it a crowd puller.

Reaction: I had to get out of the theatre to buy a cup of extra strong coffee as I was fighting hard not to sleep inside. (The speculations of the men sitting behind me about the film kept me awake 😉) . Reviews have been calling this film an emotional tense thriller, a film re-defining the nature of a villain, a hero, and an anti hero. It does delve deep into the master killer’s life but there are 2-3 villains in this film, who can be put into boxes of good, not so good, monster, beast.

Villain is a 2017 Malayalam film starring Mohanlal, Vishal, Siddique, Manju Warrier, Chemban Vinod Jose, Ranji Pannicker directed by B Unnikrishan. 


Shylock & Big Brother are companion pieces with bad scripts (2020)

Shylock (Mamootty) and Sachiettan (Mohanlal) have come to Amazon Prime this Friday. I wouldn’t have enjoyed them in a theatre, but on Prime with enough breaks & other home distractions, in the comfort of my couch they seem watchable in spite of the overwhelming violence, over the top stunts and fan frenzy in the scripts.

Nevertheless, the two leading actors in Malayalam stand out proving they can act any role given to them. The body langugae of these two men, Mammooty’s gesticulations during the song in a dance bar, and Lal as this very shy guy who shrinks away from crowds, done well. Come to think of it, the two films have a similarity apart from being a fan film. What fails in these films is the slapstick comedy, and of course the script.

Vineeth dubbing for Arbaaz Khan in Big Brother doesn’t have the effect he had being Vivek Oberoi’s Bobby in Lucifer.