Just watched the malayalam movie Arike (So Close) by Shyamaprasad.

Now I’ve not been a fan of Shyamaprasad’s previous endeavours. I’ve always felt that while he does have his heart in the right place and knows how to weave in humor in unexpected ways, his movies often skim the surface of what he really wants the viewer to feel – thereby missing the point completely.

Arike however, is good. Languid and unhurried, a summer afternoon movie that let’s you soak in lives that could be just about anywhere in the world, and yet resonate with you. There’s no overt attempt to benefit from the Kerala/Malayalee background (script is based on a bengali short story) and that’s (for me) a huge plus.

There are subtle hints about relationships that are mostly just a scene and a few words: a father whose expectations from his daughter and obsession with fatality narrows down to a man who lives with the fear of having almost lost his raison d’etre: his wife; a guruji who’s compassion towards a beautiful child reflects in his outpouring of joy in her presence – there’s a message there – true spirituality is unconditional love; an indulgent mother who hasn’t been able to make her daughter grow beyond frivolousness perhaps because she is guilty of the same; a boy who feeds on perceived weakness of those around him using them as a channel for his anger at being deprived…

In most movies, not devoting enough time and space to develop the ethos of the characters often makes them seem hollow and unnecessary in the script. In Arike, Shyamaprasad manages to avert the danger smartly, without spending reel and air-time. I would put it to his skill as a director in extracting unspoken words out of the actors and using their body language to the maximum – works beautifully here.

This is not a review btw, and is just my appreciation of the movie, so I won’t belabor on the plot per se. Mamta Mohandas stands tall in her role – strength in softness devoid of feminity. It’s something I didn’t think could be shown on screen, but she does it and how. Muted and yet intense without needing either dialogue or action. There are scenes where she could just merge into the background and yet, the story flows through her. I’ll probably have to watch this movie again to see how that’s done.

There’s Dileep and he proves my belief yet again that he’s an actor who can rise above the crass and comic when he needs to. He’s almost feminine energy in this movie – in movement, words and emotions. The scene where he realizes that the woman he loved chose not to be with him – there’s denial, trauma, a hint of anger, helplessness, and finally a revelation w.r.t what she & her friend meant to him – all in a few minutes. I watched that scene closely because that is something that could easily suffer from a casual treatment and emerge dramatic or worse insensitive – no dialogue can really convey the intensity of the loss if the character was really in love. But here again, the cleverness of the director and the actor scores.

Samvritha: in this movie she’s like little silver bells; pretty, enamored by herself and the state of being in love, and obtuse about everyone else. As a character, there is intentionally nothing that draws you to her – she’s eye candy and that’s it. Maybe there would have been merit in exploring just why she changes her mind at the end, but I don’t grudge Shyamaprasad for his slightly meager treatment of this considering the rest.

Having spoken about everyone else and everything else in the movie, I come to the one reason why I’m writing this post first of all. Vineeth and his cameo. The cameo is crucial only to divulge why Mamta’s character is what she is and even with the first hint of his presence, one could easily guess what follows. But Vineeth bursts through the screen with a presence that is at once magnetic and repelling, and is riveting in the process.

I’m just marveling at how he managed to nail it like this with the brief that he got. Here emerges a man for whom no one else exists in the world but he. And yet, he manages to reach out and make the person next to him feel glorified. You know exactly what he is upto and Mamta’s character, sitting next to him – you know she knows to say no if she wants to, but she doesn’t. His occasional sighs, the shower of abrupt laughter, the inappropriate casualness, breaching personal boundaries without a flicker of worry, and throughout it all, conveying that his lust is the most natural thing in the world. There’s a dialogue that, when loosely translated, is him telling her “I want to make love to you”. It’s said with so much ease that the implication doesn’t even register in the consciousness. Because it just seems right that a man would want to appreciate a woman of beauty and flawlessness with all the love in the world!

Gautham Menon needs to take a page out of Shyamaprasad’s diary on how it’s not enough to have these words in the script for the shock-value but to express it’s real worth 🙂 (remember Vinnaithandi Varuvaya?)

For me, Vineeth is really the pick of the movie. And as a movie that explores with honesty several facets of love and lust, and makes no attempt to be complicated in the process – I really enjoyed Arike.

Kudos, Shyamaprasad!

Sillunu (Jillunu) Oru Kaadhal

Thought I’d break the prolonged silence on my blog with a music review :).

SOK Music Rating: 4 and 1/2 out of 5.

I had heard the music of SOK some time ago, because there were a lot of people talking about it, and I was getting requests to post a review. After three weeks of intense personal activities, here is my take on the album (whew…finally :)):

What can I say about AR Rahman, that hasn’t been said before. It can only be a man of pure genius (like him) who can come up with a number like Munbe Vaa En Anbe Vaa. Each time I hear the song, I feel my senses melting – suddenly, nothing else matters in the world and the song takes my body and soul into another dimension altogether. The song starts with a piano interlude (don’t I love songs that start like that :)) and the combination of Shreya Ghosal and Naresh Iyer, that follows, is sheer magic. While her sweet honey-like voice wafts into your ears and fills your being, his husky, silvery tones gently brush alongside hers and sweeps into prominence almost at the end of the song (I would have liked more of Naresh in the song though 😦 )… Rahman blends multiple layers of both the voices to create a masterpiece that only the maestro is capable of. I also love the lyrics (and will be posting it on my song lyrics page soon) – here is the extract that I like the most, because I think it has this spark of naughtiness 😉

Nilavidam vaadagai vaangi
Vizhi veetinil kudi vaikkalaama
Naan vaazhum veettukul verarum vanthaley

Thenmalai thekkukku nee thaan
Unthan thoLgalil idam tharalaama
Naan saayum thOlmel verorum saainthaley…

Neerum sengula chErum
Kalanthathu poley kalanthavar yaar…

The next song that I liked in the album is the other popular number Machakari. I first saw the song on TV before I heard it, and what struck me initially was that it  is almost a continuation of Rahman’s experiments with western music. Its a dance number with catchy beats, and will  get you to shake your head, tap your feet in tune with it. Shanker and Vasundhara are complete rock stars in this song, and Rahman succeeds in tapping the raw-ness potential in both the voices thereby giving us facets which we haven’t heard earlier; Also another surprising element in the song is that both loud and soft sounds intermingle and there are instruments (that I cannot recognize) playing softly in the background contributing to the multi-layers.

NewYork Nagaram was the surprise piece for me, because I never really expected it to be so addictive. Rahman is in superb form (his voice tugs on my heart); the guitar strings and the hollow chorus in the background is haunting. The perfect song for solitude :), and for commemorating long-distance love, and longing… [Infact, the song is so perfect that I found the visuals in the movie lacking – it was looking like a Tanha Dil (DCH) copy :(]

Jillendru Oru Kaadhal is the opening song of the movie. Very stylishly packaged song – reminds me of the English Broadway musicals in the 60’s, of jazz, the movie Chicago, and Rahman’s own number “Hello Mr. Ethirkatchi” in Iruvar. The voices (Tanvi, and ?) are very cute, I loved the indulgence :).. there is also a stray alley-cat somewhere there. Leave it to Rahman to add a bit like that 😉

Majja Majja: SPB Saran in yet-another-sensual number, with Shreya accompanying him. Reminded me of kaadhal sadugudu… but please don’t compare the visual presentation of the song. Kaadhal sadugudu is a treat for the eyes – sensual and subtle whereas even though Majja Majja is interesting and catchy, the visual in the movie is in-your-face, and there are too many jatkas-matkas that destroy the subtle nuances of play in the song. I was disappointed because this was the song where Surya’s and Jyothika’s chemistry should have set the screens ablaze, but it did nothing of the sort. The song is  beautiful – please listen to it while banishing all thoughts of the actual visuals – you’ll enjoy it then.

Maricham: Techno-indulgence. Rahman displays the finesse that he showed in “Dol Dol” in Ayudha Ezhutha, here also. I love what he is doing to Indian contemporary music – we get to hear so many world influences in his pieces nowadays… we’re coming of age :). Some parts of the song have an Enigma hangover, and then some parts of the background that remind me of the Nightrider theme music. I didn’t understand much of the lyrics – I think if I do, I will appreciate this piece more. The “Tejomayam” echo lingers on…

Kummi Adi:  This is a track set in the tamil village – exulting over a marriage with elements of the Iyer culture thrown in generous doses within the lyrics. Kummi Adi is the perfect icing on the SOK cake that blends such diametrically different music in the same album. I wish I could understand the lyrics a little bit more – for now, my appreciation of the song is limited to its native flavoring, and of course Naresh’s presence in it 🙂 – Rahman surely knows how to tap the vocal dimensions of this guy – what a contrast Kummi Adi is to Munbe Vaa, Roobaroo and Tu bin bataye.

Summing up, this is one album every Rahman fan needs to have with them. However, when I watched the movie, I did secretly wish that it had been Mani Ratnam instead, to give the perfect visual interpretation to the maestro’s magic… anyway, I guess the effort was good enough. I’d give the movie a rating of 2 and 3/4 (because it wasn’t good enough for a 3)… oh, but then that’s content for a whole new post isn’t it ;).