Movies. The one thing other than books that gets me all excited and dreamy-eyed.
As a movie-crazy teenager, I never thought I'd grow out of that phase. However, there was a lull in my twenties when I could no longer find movies that made my pulse quicken.
But all that has changed and how! I'm no longer addicted to the mindless Bollywood movies they churn out in dozens every week! And the Hollywood movies I adore have taken a backseat too. It's plain old (and new) Malayalam movies I'm addicted to. As a true-blue Malayali, let me tell you that cinema is in our blood. Every Malayali you meet is a born storyteller. Maybe that's why, as I've been discovering lately, this industry has been producing some of the most brilliant movies I've ever seen.
Be it dark and menacing, or light and fluffy or just basic drama, we have it all! Here are some of the movies that have affected me profoundly. This isn't the complete list of my favorites, just the recent ones I'm in love with.
24 North Kaatham: What I really want to say is, I love the actor in this movie. I could list all his movies here. Be it the simpleton in Amen or the morally bankrupt character in 22 Female Kottayam, he can do justice to any role he's given. This movie is special because it's stayed with me long after I watched it. It is a road movie of sorts, and a coming-of-age one too. The protagonist is a misfit, a loner with chronic OCD. How he opens up to the possibility of being human, and being humane is beautifully translated onscreen. There is one particular scene which I love. His fellow travelers delay the journey as they're lost in the beauty of a stream. He comes back to see what is so special about the scenery, and is unable to feel the same emotions. That one scene conveys so much!
Iyobinte Pustakam: Like I said, I just can't stop at one. This one is more than a movie, it is an epic. This larger-than-life story, set in British India is an ambitious account of three brothers and has all the elements of a Shakespearean drama. There is revenge, ambition and the age-old trope of good versus evil. Every character is nuanced and layered. It's like reading a Jeffrey Archer novel, only much more detailed! The research that has gone into the making of this movie is just impressive, for every scene looks just like it should be.
Ustad Hotel: There's a scene in this movie where the young, restless protagonist asks his grandfather about the secret of his sulaimaani (black tea). His grandfather keeps him guessing; however, he does share a lesson in love. It is one of the most beautiful and moving scenes I've ever seen. This is a feel-good movie, but it stays with you long after you've watched it.
Om Shaanti Oshana: Malayalam cinema has female actors who aren't just props. Infact, they are as essential to the medium as their male counterparts. I wouldn't call Nasriya a great actor. However, this movie belongs to her. It is the love story of a teenager, whose crush on an older guy just doesn't go away. The beauty of this movie is that it's narrated by the girl, and her daydreams and asides are a part of the movie. We get into her head and watch her grow from a silly, infatuated teenager to a somewhat goofy yet determined woman. The one thing that remains constant is her first love. I must admit, rather shamelessly, that this movie is a favorite because I've been that silly girl, atleast as a teenager.
Premam: I kept this one for last. This movie has been called overrated, hypocritical and what not. And I must say that I did not really find it all that great when I finished watching it the first time. But there was something about the movie that made me want to watch it again. And again and again! Alphonse Putharen has beautifully bottled up lost childhood, laughter, dreams and hope in this visually stunning movie. The name is love, and it honestly covers three chapters of that elusive emotion. Three phases in the life of a man who is in love with the idea of love. For everyone who said that this one really does not have a story, it does. It is the story of every teenager who has lived in the nineties. The soda bottles, colorful candy, dark musty tea shops, cycles, it's all a heady trip into a childhood that was devoid of technology. An era where the idea of idling away time was much more rewarding as it meant being with your friends. The awkward teenage years with friends who you could share everything with, missed calls on landlines (with caller IDs!), following your crush all around town…all this is so beautifully captured. What the director cashes on is our love of nostalgia!
The second part of the movie was even better! Those reckless college days where being a defiant rebel is your idea of "cool". The opening fight sequence is a goosebump-inducing level of awesome! I cheered with the rebels in black because I've seen this as a college-goer in Kerala. That was an era where beating each other up was the worst college kids could do. Not the scale of violence and drama we see today!
The third part of the movie is my favorite. Everyone who's watched the movie loved Malar and George. Including my dear husband. For me, the last part, where George has transformed, from boy to man (albeit reluctantly), is just sublime. This story was a little abrupt. But it did subtly capture the nuances of what happens to you when you're an adult. There is this bit of you, that just refuses to be a cynic, no matter how much life has tried to break you. And having dipped my toes a hundred times in what I like to call love, I know how it is to finally meet the person you know will fit just right into your life. If the first story was about infatuation, and the second about passionately beautiful love, the third story is about your choices. I know that, if I had found the love of my life five years earlier than I did, I wouldn't really have fallen for him. Because both of us hadn't grown into the people we are today. That is essentially what the third part of this movie portrays. That, when the time is right, you find that one person who is yours. Forever. It isn't fairytale-romantic all the time, but it is pure contentment. :) Having said that, the ever-romantic George proposing to a girl he's met just twice, is heartbreakingly soulful. Add to that, the Red Velvet music which is haunting! I'm a fan of the cake too!
I hope the Malayali peeples keep this up! I just can't get enough of these movies!