Thilakan and “The Gangs of New Kerala”

What goes on in the Malayalam movie industry these days make the movie lovers quite sad. The current state of the Malayalam movies is quite pathetic. We have only a couple of hits each year and rest of them bombs in the box office. The state of the cinema theaters is also pathetic that one wouldn’t take the pain of going to a theater to watch a movie and would rather watch it at his own home. With the arrival of big LCD screens, Dolby home theater sound systems and DVD/Blue-Ray discs, watching a movie at home is much much more comfortable than watching it in a theater. As a result, many theaters are closing down rapidly.

But who cares? There is absolutely no effective discussions going on about a rescue plan. The people in the industry are busy making crappy movies and the competition is so high in this field that we get crappy, crappier and crappiest movies – one after one. Then there are these organizations (AMMA, MACTA, FEFKA and all those funny names) which functions like gangs and we see their gang wars quite often. And it is cinema that dies in this war.

The whole incident of Thilakan being an outcast from Malayalam cinema has proved that there is no hope for any improvement in the near future. Thilakan had accused AMMA (Association of Malayalam Movie Artists) of not allowing him to work in the movies and he pointed fingers at the superstars (Mammootty and Mohan Lal) in particular. What followed was a series of cheap stunts.

Director B Unnikrishnan, general secretary of Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), said that the actor in Thilakan has died. But Thilakan has some great performing moments of Malayalam cinema (or rather Indian or world cinema) to his credit and we all know what kind of movies B Unnikrishnan has directed. Unnikrishnan also said that he would resign from his general secretary position if Thilakan could prove that FEFKA banned Thilakan from acting in films. Incidentally, the same FEFKA has threatened to pull out all technicians from the movie “Dam 999” if Thilakan was cast and the producers threw Thilakan out of the project. And as far as we know B Unnikrishnan still holds on to his position.

The above incident proves that there is some truth in what Thilakan says. He also lashed out at the Super Star fans and I whole heartedly agree with him on the fan-hood. The fan associations work like thugs, threatening people if they boo in cinema halls (and they themselves send booing teams when their enemy star’s cinema is released) and they also threaten people who leave after intervals when they are fed up of watching crap movies, and now the fans of Mohan Lal and Mammootty have united against Thilakan. Kerala now see that the rivals joining hands to fight a lone, old man.

Thilakan undeniably is a great actor. The truth is that if there is Thilakan acting in a super-star movie, he outshines the super stars with his acting prowess; however small his role is in the movie. So there are good reasons to believe what Thilakan says about the popularity-hungry, fan-fed Superstars working on denying him chances. Take a couple of superstar movies for example. “Kireedam“, an award winning movie where Mohan Lal and Thilakan played father and son, had both Mohan Lal and Thilakan in an equal performance and for the movie lovers, it was a treat (remember the scene where Thilakan says “kathi thaazheyideraa…“?). Or take Mohan Lal’s commercial hit “Sphadikam“. Thilakan’s Chacko maash was the most powerful character in that movie than Mohan Lal’s Aadu Thoma. Or take Mammootty’s “Kauravar“. It was an outright Thilakan movie, though Mammootty was in the lead role. Or take movies like “Perumthachan“, “Moonnaam Pakkam” etc. I can draw a lot more examples.

But he had very little support from industry, probably because nobody wants to question the “kings” and destroy their own career. Sukumar Azheekode came in support of Thilakan but he only added more garbage to the already stinking mess. Thilakan had claimed that he is a staunch Communist, but the party kept mum on the whole matter. It is understandable particularly when Mammootty is the chairman of party-owned Kairali TV. So the party did not back the ‘lesser Communist’ when they have ‘elite Communists’ in their fold. But renowned director Shaji N Karun came in support of Thilakan. He said, “The organizations have nothing to lose if they ban Thilakan. But the it is the cinema viewers who are going to lose.” He is so right. It is not AMMA, FEFKA or any other organization who is going to lose, but us, the Malayalam movie viewers. And the members of these organizations are busy looting our money and give us crappy movies.

Bhramaram is of Mohan Lal

What is common between Mohan Lal and Kamala Hassan? Both of them are amazing actors but fans and stardom destroy them quite often. You may agree or disagree, but they don’t want to discard the Macho Man image even for non-commercial flicks. They need fights (even in films which don’t need fight scenes) and want the younger women to love and want them (remember that scene from “Anbe Sivam” where Kiran licks in the water drop that drops off Kamal’s mouth?).

The reason I am mentioning this here is how the stardom effect has ruined the otherwise perfect character delivery of Mohan Lal as Sivan Kutty in the movie Bhramaram. The movie is okay, the script is not as crisp as Blessy’s first and it has too much melodrama towards the end. It is gripping in the first few minutes, then you can easily predict the story line. But still you would sit back on your seats for just one man’s performance – Mohan Lal. He immerses fully into the character of Sivan Kutty and delivers one of the best performances in his career. You would forget that you are watching a Mohan Lal movie.

But – then comes a fight scene at a roadside dhaba which reminds you that you are actually watching a Mohan Lal movie. For those who say that this fight scene was needed to project the complexity of the character, I would beg to differ. Sivan Kutty was a complex character for me until this fight scene happened. But that is not all – a lorry driver glances at Sivan Kutty’s penis and appreciatively comments on the size of his thing! Fans must have become happy by then, Mohan Lal must be glad that he kept the Macho Man image but those who love cinema get disappointed right there.

Mohan Lal used to be a director’s actor in his non-commercial, parallel cinemas and had not turned out to be a Kamal Hassan yet. The very recent example could be Paradesi, directed by P T Kunjumuhammed. So I would blame director Blessy for not having the balls to discard such scenes. Suresh Menon gives an aptly supporting role as Unni and Lakshmi Gopalaswami as Unni’s wife is also good. Cinematography by Ajayan Vincent is wonderful. The song “Annaarakkannaa” is an easily hummable tune with simple lyrics. But the background music is disappointing. I think people should learn something about how to do background score. Not all scenes need a melodramic tune to feel the scene. Sometimes you could just leave the background silent as the emptiness itself would speak to the audience.

Lt Colonel Mohan Lal

MohanLalIn 2007, I wrote a blog post about Mohan Lal’s promotional ads of a liquor brand. Mohan Lal had formed a business alliance then, with the owners of the same brand, Original Choice. When the news became controversial the defenders were of the opinion that Mohan Lal was only promoting ‘evening snacks’ under the same brand name (just like how Vijay Mallya is selling only soda and mineral water under the brand name King Fisher). Die hard fans and Mohan Lal himself had also argued that there would not be any raise in the number of drunkards just because the actor was promoting it, considering the fact that Kerala has the highest alcohol consumption in the country. The opposition’s concern was that the actor has high influence on people in Kerala, particularly the youth who see Mohan Lal as an icon and role model.

Now let us just casually say that Mohan Lal’s celebrity influence on the youth of Kerala was not going to boost the sales of anything – be it gold, lungies or liquor (you might ask then why would the commercial brands use celebrities for promotion and pay them millions for that, but let us just put it aside for the time being). In the last week, Mohan Lal has been granted the Honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army. This honor comes after Mohan Lal’s two successful Malayalam movies (Keerthichakra and Kurukshetra) in which he enacted the role of an Army Major. As per the Army Chief Deepak Kapoor, Mohan Lal will be yet another brand ambassador of the Territorial Army. Defense Minister A K Antony also said that, “this will be an inspiration for the younger generation to join the armed forces“. A CNN-IBN article on this says that, “Mohanlal’s role will be to inspire youth to join the armed forces“.

It is at this point that I have a question – As per the supporters of Mohan Lal during the time of Original Choice advertisement, his influence on the youth did not take any effect in boosting the sales of liquor. Has that changed all in a sudden? Now would Mohan Lal inspire the youth just because it is a good patriotic cause?

Skeptics say that youth is more prone to go under the bad influences first, than good ones.

PS: Some also say that considering the situation, Mammootty should be conferred an honorary position in CBI for his 4 successful movies as a CBI officer, or Suresh Gopi as an honorary Commissioner of Police for his numerous super hits as a highly ranked police officer. 😀

(Image source: Google Images)

Looking Back to 2008: Mammootty & Mohan Lal

[Today’s is a guest post by K K Moidu].
A look at the career graph of Mammootty and Mohanlal and their dominance at the box office. At the end of 2008, front line Malayalam superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal had reason to be happy — they remained in the top slot. Their box office successes with super hit films and success guaranteed projects in their hands show their strong presence in the industry.


He started 2008 with the hit film Roudram by playing a cop for the 25th time in his career. His double role in Anwar Rasheed’s superhit Annan Thampi was one of the biggest superhits of the year. Other films of Mammootty like Parunthu and Maya Bazaar didn’t do well at the box office. But the actor, who started the year by playing a cop ended it by shining in a lawyer’s role in the magnum opus Twenty 20.

Compared to the seven releases in 2007, Mammootty had only five films last year including Twenty 20. In 2007 the actor had two offbeat films like Ore Kadal and Kaiyoppu, which has screened in various film festivals and won few awards. But this year the actor didn’t have an art film.

The biggest achievement of the actor last year is not the released films, but his completed projects like Pazhassi Raja and Kuttishranku. The epic movie Pazhassi Raja, made on a big budget, reunites the literary genius MT Vasudevan Nair and Mammootty. The film, directed by Hariharan, also stars senior Tamil hero Sarath Kumar and veteran Ilayaraja scores music. Like Pazhassi Raja, Mammootty is playing a rare role in Kuttishranku directed by National Award winning director Shaji N Karun. Both the movies have a chance of benefiting him by winning accolades at the national and international levels.

Mammootty has already completed the shooting of few commercial entertainers and the first release of 2009 will be Love in Bangkok directed by Rafi-Mecartin. Telugu heroine Navneet Kaur is making her Malayalam debut as his love interest. His bilingual film Vandemataram titled in Tamil as Aruvadai has only few scenes left for completion. Tamil action hero Arjun plays an important role in the film. Mammootty romances Sneha and their pairing in Thuruppugulan was a hit at the box office.

According to reports, three times national award winners Mammootty and Kamal Hassan are expected to team up in a forthcoming film in different South Indian languages. The film will be a remake of Bollywood offbeat hit A Wednesday. If Kamal succeeds in buying the rights of the Hindi movie, he himself will act in the role of Naseerudheen Shah and Mammootty will once again fit the cops cap as a police officer, which was enacted by Anupam Kher in the original.

Mammootty will play the lead in director Jayaraj’s forthcoming film scripted by Renjith. The ace director’s earlier movie Johny Walker with Mammootty in the lead, released one-and-a-half decades earlier, was also scripted by Renjith. In the forthcoming film Thaappana, which means an elephant used to train wild elephants, Mammootty plays the proud owner of a famous elephant. The film will be the next directorial venture of Akku Akbar, after his runaway hit Veruthe Oru Bharya. It will also feature the elephant owned by actor Jayaram featured earlier in Rappakal.

Continue reading Looking Back to 2008: Mammootty & Mohan Lal

Padmarajan’s Clara – Part II

[ This post is the second of a two-part post that tries to explain how Clara (from the movie Thoovaanathumpikal by Padmarajan) stands out as one of the most powerful woman characters of Malayalam cinema. The first part is here. ]


[Continued from here]

Clara begins to give shock treatments to Jayakrishnan’s ego from the night they first make love. She tells him that she already knew that Jayakrishnan was not whom he pretended to be. Perhaps it did not matter to her whether ‘He’ is a Jayakrishnan or a Punnoose as she is all prepared to see more of such faces in her life to come. But she is amused by Jayakrishnan’s honesty in love when he proposes to her. She could easily say “yes” to him, but she doesn’t say that. Here she leaves it for us to guess. Is it because she thought that it could be just a result of their physical union? Or is it because she thought that she wouldn’t fit into Jayakrishnan’s world, considering his social and family status? Or is it because she was ambitious and did not want to end up with the role of a mistress at that time? It could be either one of these or all. We don’t know.

Clara leaves the place in silence, in the next morning when Jayakrishnan is not around. She doesn’t want to stay even after Jayakrishnan says that his proposal was not prompted by previous night’s boozing and he is serious about it. We see a shattered Jayakrishnan standing in the empty hotel room after he realizes that Clara has left. He just lost the first woman he ever loved, had sex with, whom he wanted to make his partner for life. At this moment, Clara becomes the most complex and over-powering character of the film than Jayakrishnan.

After some days, Jayakrishnan receives a telegram message from Clara. There is rain in the backdrop which reminds him of Clara. The message says that Clara is coming to town and would like to meet him. By this time Jayakrishnan had fallen in love with another woman – Radha – who is a modern and educated girl. Even though his love for Radha has grown stronger, nothing can stop Jayakrishnan from meeting Clara. So he meets her in the railway station in an early morning, they take a walk around the town and spends a night together. Clara is a little sentimental this time.

Continue reading Padmarajan’s Clara – Part II

Padmarajan’s Clara – Part I

[ I am a great admirer of writer-scriptwriter-director Padmarajan’s movies like any other Malayali. After watching his movie Thoovaanathumpikal, I was fascinated by it’s leading lady character Clara. This post is the first of a two-part post that tries to explain how Clara stands out as one of the most powerful woman characters of Malayalam cinema ]

Padmarajan is a director who has given some of the best on-screen characters of Malayalam cinema. Female characters have important roles to play in his films but not at the cost of side-lining the male characters; just like any other typical commercial movies of our times. However, there are a couple of movies in which he portrayed some of the most powerful women characters of Malayalam cinema. And I think Clara, the prostitute from the movie Thoovaanathumpikal, stands out from the rest and is one of the most powerful women characters of Malayalam cinema to the date.

Thoovaanathumpikal (meaning Butterflies in the Spraying Rain) is a much talked about film of Padmarajan where the praises have gone to actor Mohan Lal for his portrayal of Jayakrishnan, a man with complex characteristics (and Mohan Lal has done his job perfectly well). But very little has been written about it’s women characters – Radha (played by Parvathi) and Clara (played by Sumalatha) – but they are proof of Padmarajan’s craftsmanship.

Padmarajan’s Clara is not a typical woman character usually portrayed in Malayalam cinema (or Indian cinema). Clara is not a shy village girl who would surrender herself in love before a man and then would spend her entire life in grief if she was cheated. Here Clara is an exact opposite to the female lead of Padmarajan’s another movie, Novemberinte Nashtam. The leading girl of Novemberinte Nashtam is a happy-go-lucky girl who falls in love with a man who uses her only for the physical pleasure and leaves her in a mental shock which in turn makes her a murderer. But Clara is very practical and ambitious. She chooses the way of prostitution to save herself from her step mother, but she does not want to end up with a pimp who would extract money out of her. She even manages to get Jayakrishnan, the male protagonist, like a firefly to the light, but she doesn’t want to be the reason for his misery. In Thoovaanathumpikal, Clara does not appear throughout the movie but it is she who drives the whole story.

Continue reading Padmarajan’s Clara – Part I