Category Archives: Movies

Colloquial Aayittu Paranjaal…

Kerala is a tiny state and the people there speak one language – Malayalam. But, the number of dialects there are, and the variety of usages in different regions of Kerala is simply startling. Growing up in a Malayali community in the Middle East exposed my siblings and me to a variety of these dialects. But most of all, it was all about the Pathanamthitta, Thiruvalla, and Kottayam accents. So we called each other edo, thaan, thante. All this, of course, was not palatable to our cousins back home. It sounded rude and just distant to them. Why? Because we are from Thrissur—the land of kidaavu, gedi, and ishta.

And if you really believe what you see in the old Malayalam movies of the 80’s, the land of enthoottu and shavi. Thankfully, Innocent came into the scene and made things more realistic. And no, what you hear in Thoovanathumbikal is not Thrissur slang. And I don’t know what happened to Mohanlal’s Thrissur slang as soon as the movie got serious with Clara and all. For a long time, there was no focus on this diversity of dialects. And I speak specifically about the movie industry.

I cannot say much about Malayalam literature; at least not with a lot of confidence. I am aware of Madhavikutty’s distinct style of writing where she explored the “Palakkadan shaili” and of course there is Vaikom Mohammed Basheer who wrote in the typical mappila colloquial style. But I digress.

Let me focus on a medium that I know a thing or two about. The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw Dileep’s Ernakulam dialect and Jayaram’s Preumbavoor style of talking. It injected warmth and humour into the family dramas that were produced at that time. The “Namboothiri” style of dialog delivery was used for the “illam” “mana” and “tharavaadu” plots. Or there would be a comedian using that dialect. Who can forget the Jayaram-Kalabhavan Mani scene from Dilliwala Rajakumaran? We still had most “serious” characters still speaking in that accent that you don’t hear anywhere in Kerala, except for on the big screen. I think it was a residual form of Malayalam. Something that was left over from the professional theatre troupe days and something that was infused because of the general focus of the Malayalam film industry in Chennai. It was not as theatrical as the Sathyan-Naseer-Sheela days, but it was not quite natural yet. Then there was temporary (thankfully) phase of experimentation with the Thiruvananthapuram slang. I like to call this the Rajamanikyam/Suraj Venjaramoondu phase.

Some character actors were smart enough to make their colloquial slangs into their USPs and enjoy popularity. We had the inimitable Kuthiravattom Pappu and his Kozhikodan style, Mammukoya and his Mappila style, and Innocent and Philomena and their Thrissur style. Jagathy was very versatile. He would easily switch between the southern Kerala dialects, Valluvanaadan dialect, and anything else that you threw his way. Once again, very few “hero/heroines” would speak any of these dialects. There were a few attempts. Remember “Kilichundanmaambazham”?

These days, with the revival of Malayalam movies, we see a trend of embracing all the local dialects. The made-for-screen Valluvanadan slang is slowly giving way to the way how we REALLY speak. You get to sample Biju Menon’s Palakkadan bhasha in “Ordinary” and style in “Thattathin Marayathu”. There was a sincere attempt in “Indian Rupee” and a lovely presentation in “Bavuttiyude namathil”. Then there are the buddies and teams from Fort Kochi and Vypin. And the Tessas from Kottayam and the Pranchiyettans from Thrissur. The beauty of these films is that the slangs and lingos are carried right through the length of the movie.

I wonder how a Delhi-based or a Mumbai-based Malayalam story would pan out in the current situation. The Malayalees in Delhi, for example, stumble by in broken Malayalam with a generous slathering of Hindi in there. Unlike the earlier movies that were based in these cities, would directors and scriptwriters work on the local language aspect as well? How would it be presented? Would the audience accept it? Now, I am really curious. In the meantime, if there are any scriptwriters who are basing a story about a Malayalee family living in Kuwait, I have a language recommendation for you. Abbasiyah accent!


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Malayalam Movies of 2011: One-Timers

In continuation to my previous post, I want to bring five Malayalam movies to your notice. These movies of 2011 sounded promising when I saw the trailers. But the full length movies seemed jaded in comparison. I will not say that they were bad; each one of them had some highlights.

Take a look at another movie-related article that I contributed to

What do you think?

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Malayalam Movies of 2011: Top Tenners

Although it may be a wee bit late for the year-end round ups, I just thought of penning this down before the first month of the new year closes its door on us. (Turns out that if you leave a post in your draft for too long, Jan will close its door on us!)

2011 was an excellent year for the Malayalam film industry, if you ask me. Right from Salt N’ Pepper which is probably the first Malayalam movie that told a story that celebrated food, and the love for it, to Beautiful which captures the beauty of life, the films had quite a few unique stories to tell. Pranayam was heart-warming while Adaminte Makan Abu almost made it to Oscar list. The most underrated movie of the year has to Melvilasom, which deals with some pretty serious and contemporary social issues. Salim Kumar, Vineeth Srinivasan, Anoop Menon, Baburaj, Fahad Fazil, Shewtha Menon, and Kavya Madhavan have given us performances to remember for a long time to come.

I had contributed this article to, recently. Take a look:

What do you think?

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Thoovanathumbikal (1987) : My Thoughts

Thoovanathumbikal (Translation: Dragon Flies in the drizzling rain) is a 1987 Mohanlal-starring movie by Padmarajan. I have seen this movie many many times. But the last time I saw it, was probably when I completely immersed myself in the film to study the characters.

The story revolves around Jayakrishnan lives a nondescript life in rural Kerala. He also leads a secret dual life where he gallivants around town drinking and partying with boisterous friends. Jayakrishnan falls in love with a lovely strong-minded lass named Radha. At around the same time, he has a brief encounter with a sex worker named Clara. The film then explores Jayakrishnan’s emotions and how his will is torn between the two women. He is extremely sincere and doesn’t hide his encounters from either of the women.

The portrayal of the three characters is extremely well done in this story. The author has carefully sculpted and built each of these characters to make us love/hate them. None of these characters are completely “good” or “bad”. Each of them have flaws and there was no attempt to cover them up. Jayakrishnan, for instance, is ruthless and adamant when he wants something. Radha is shown to be too head-strong and Clara is — well — a “fallen” woman.

This is what I liked the most — the bold theme. It is not something that is usually discussed in Malayalam movies. Even then, the director did not take it over the top or underplay it. Watch it if you can :)

The movie is available on youtube (with subtitles).

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South Indian Film Fest | Do-It-Yourself Version

To beat monotony and the drabness of a regular working week, I made a list of movies that I have been wanting to see. Most of them were movies made in South India.

Most people think of overgrown moustaches, oily fat jiggly men, thunderous-thighs-owning heroines, soft porn, unusual dance numbers, and lungi-stripping fight scenes when someone mentions about a south indian film.

In an attempt to prove this stereotype wrong, I thought I would list out the movies I saw this week.

Name : Mouna Ragam (Silent Symphony)
Language : Tamil
Year : 1986
Director : Mani Ratnam
Music : Ilayaraja
Cinematography : P. C. Sriram
Cast : Revathi, Mohan, Karthik
Plot : Divya accedes to familial pressure and enters into an arranged marriage with Chandrakumar, an executive working in Delhi. She is unable to reconcile her marriage with a haunting past marked by memories of a former lover, Manohar, and yearns for a separation. Chandrakumar graciously acquiesces to her wish, but because the law stipulates that a divorce can only be granted after a one-year period, they continue to live divided lives under the same roof for the duration of the period. The film is a psychological study of a newly-married husband and wife, who find themselves caught in an unexpectedly tense relationship.

Name : Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It)
Language : Tamil
Year : 2000
Directed and co-written : Rajiv Menon
Music : AR Rahman
Cast : Mammooty, Aishwarya Rai, Tabu, Ajith Kumar, Abbas, Srividya and Raghuvaran

Kandukondain Kandukondain is a Tamil musical and romantic film based around, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility features two young sisters with differing views on love find themselves with three suitors. The elder sister attracts the attention of an aspiring film director, while a wounded commando falls for her younger, hopelessly romantic sister but hesitates because he is much older than she. Meanwhile, the younger sister meets and falls for a businessman with a passion for poetry. However problems lap up from different directions, resulting in emotional turmoil for both sisters. Whom the sisters marry at the end of the film form the crux of the story.

The film went on to win several awards in different competitions, with Shankar Mahadevan winning a National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in the process.

Name : Naalu Penungal (Four Women)
Language : Malayalam
Year : 2007
Direction & Screenplay : Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Story: Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai
Cinematography : M J Radhakrishnan
Music : Isaac Thomas
Cast : Padmapriya, Geethu Mohandas, Manju Pillai, Nandita Das, Kavya Madhavan, Sona Nair, Remya Nembeesan, KPAC Lalitha, Manoj.K.Jayan and Mukesh

This film by Adoor(tenth feature from him) is a tribute to the strength of Women. Unlike other Adoor films, Naalu Pennungal develops through four different stories by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, each distinct from the other with no apparent attempt to link them together. The film distills to a rare purity four tales of village women in south India. Their titles are elemental: The Prostitute, The Virgin, The Housewife and The Spinster.

The quartet (‘Oru Niyamalanghanathinte Katha’,’Kanyaka’,’Chinnu Amma’,’Nityakanyaka’)of these stories is set in a chronological order starting from the middle of 1940s to 1960s.Though all the four stories haven’t any direct link, the director maintains feminism and sexual exploitation on women is the under current.

Name : Namukku Parkan Munthiri Thoppukal (Vineyards For Us To Dwell In)
Language : Malayalam
Year : 1986
Direction : Padmarajan
Music : Johnson
Cast : Mohanlal, Shari, Thilakan, Vineeth, Kaviyoor Ponnamma

Namukku parkkan munthiri thoppukal is a landmark film noted for its rich and detailed screenplay, expressive cinematography and flowing musical narration. It is considered as one of the seminal works of the golden age of Malayalam films that lasted from the late 1980s until the early 1990s.

Namukku parkkan munthiri thoppukal is a warm and lyrical motion picture centered around Malayalee Syrian Christian-Nasrani life. It was based on the Malayalam novel Nammukku graamangalil chennu raappaarkkaam (“Let us go and dwell in the villages”) by K. K. Sudhakaran (1986). The title of the film/novel is based upon a passage from Biblical book of The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs; Chapter 7:12. The Protagonist quotes this passage at one point during the movie. The film is especially noted for the brilliant performance of Thilakan and also for the flowing and warm thematic music by an important South Indian composer.

Name : Thaniyavarthanam (Repetition)
Language : Malayalam
Year : 1987
Direction : Sibi Malayil
Story : Lohithadas
Music : Radhakrishnan M G
Cast : Mammootty, Babu Namboothiri, Thilakan, Mukesh, Saritha, Asha Jayaram, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Parvathi, Philomina

One of the ‘must watch’ movie in Malayalam noted for its excellent script/screenplay by Lohithadas. This movie depicts the changes in the life of a man by the blind beliefs/prejudices of the society. In one of his career best role, Mammooty enacts Balan Mash, a middle class school teacher hailing from an old tharavadu. His uncle became a mental patient after the seperation of his love and this underlined the deep-routed belief among their family that one male from each generation will become mad. The screenplay is so strong that it close all loop holes, one can think about, by which Balan mash can escape from the clutches of society. That’s where I really felt the power of the script. This movie has a hauting power and it stay in the mind of viewer forever. Thaniyavarthanam was Lohithadas’s first movie as a script writer and he proved he is a person to be watched.

Name : Oru Cheru Punjiri (A Slender Smile)
Language : Malayalam
Year : 2000
Direction : MT Vasudevan Nair
Story : Sriramana
Cast : Oduvil Unnikrishnan,P.K. Venukuttan Nair, Aliyar, Ramankutty, Jayakrishnan

Oru Cheru Punchiri is a 2000 Jnanpith Award Winning film based on Telegu writer Sriramana’s short story Mithunam. The central character is seventy-four and his wife is sixty-four and they have been married for 49 years and are still very much in love.

The film was shot on the banks of river Periyar at Parappuran, Puthiyedam, Chovvara, Sreemoolanagaram and Alwaye in Cochin and has been photographed by Sunny Joseph.

Oru Cheru Punchiri was screened at the third International Film Festival, Mumbai in November 2000 and at the International Film Festival, Kerala in 2001. It has also been selected for the Munich International Film Festival.

Name : Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek)
Language : Tamil
Year : 2002
Direction : Mani Ratnam
Story : Mani Ratnam
Music : A. R. Rahman
Cinematography : Ravi K. Chandran
Cast : R. Madhavan, Simran Bagga, J.D. Chakravarthy, Nandita Das, P. S. Keerthana, Prakash Raj

The film’s title is a famous phrase from a poem written by Subramanya Bharathy, which literally means a peck on the cheek. Mani Ratnam presents a glimpse of the Island of Sri Lanka at civil war, through the eyes of a child of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage, who desires to meet her biological mother.

The film premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, and was selected as India’s official entry to the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It also received a strong reception when screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2003. The film went on to win six Filmfare Awards South, six National Film Awards, and Best Film awards at six international film festivals.

I did not write the synopses for these movies. I compiled it from various websites.

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