KERALA CAFÉ - What I made of it..
I tend to get affected by movies not often, but still more than I think the average person does. There are a number of Malayalam movies which have left a deep impact on me, like Thanmathra, Kadha Parayumbol..off the top of my head. Today I watched a movie called Kerala Café. The concept was not completely radical in terms of world cinema, but was a first in the Malayalam film industry as far as I know. The movie comprised of 10 more-or-less independent stories. While there were a lot of positives to each of the stories, my reaction varied from mild confusion to very impressed. Here’s a list of the 10 stories and why I liked/disliked each one.
The first story/documentary, Nostagia I think would be my pick of the lot. It handles a very subtly negative character played by Dileep. There’s a bit of this character I feared I might be relating too. I don’t remember the name of the protagonist – let’s say it was ABC. ABC seems to be a by-the-book successful, sufficiently popular family man who rose from humble beginnings, something he never forgets, and never fails to emphasize to his acquaintances. ABC is a man of big words, philosophies, justifications, but it doesn’t take you long to realize he is not as sincere as he might seem. ABC is a character I think a lot of us are in danger of becoming if we get too caught up in ourselves. Self obsession, I think was ABC’s disease, and self obsession I believe would be his downfall
2. Island Express
Island Express started out as a puzzling film. I kept waiting for the different pieces to fall in place but it never quite did, for me at least. It could be because of my poor comprehension skills, but it did not impress me much overall. It revolved around a tragic train accident (The Island Express)- that happened 2 days after I was born, if I’m not mistaken, and the survivors of the mishap.
3. Lalitham Hiranmayam (The Story of 2 women)
This rather absurd (purely my opinion) story is about the bond between the 2 women in a man’s life, his wife and mistress. It unnecessarily melodramatises the issue of infidelity. As far as I am concerned, the husband is just a weak character who enjoyed the love of two women and needlessly put them through a lot of pain. The way it was put across made me feel the film-makers were trying to make us empathize with the husband, when all I could muster was a feeling of reproach for the man and disbelief at how well the women adjusted to the idea in the end.
Possibly the most meaningless of the lot, Mrityunjayam attempts at what I really do not understand. If it was meant to be a horror documentary then it failed. Many of the scenes seemed to play any role in the overall story and if the story line was supposed to send any message across, then it was lost. The parts that did intrigue me turned out to be nonsense in the end.
5. Happy Journey
Possibly the most light hearted story of the lot, Happy Journey, very entertainingly (is that a word?) describes how a slimy, sleazy, female-crazy yet harmless married middle aged man tries to chat up a pretty young thing during a bus journey (too many adjectives in one sentence?), and how the girl eventually has the last laugh. Naturally this bit was directed by a woman, Anjali Menon J.
Again, I could not much grasp the point of this story except maybe the power of love or whatever, which to me felt kind of tame here. It made me think of the concept of suicide, but not to a degree that I may re-evaluate my distaste for it. Another lame story if I may say so.
This one was funny, witty in bits I suppose. But yet again.. what is it trying to say?? Oh and apparently u can say fuck multiple times in Malayalam movies (!!). Kovalam is now on my honeymoon wishlist by the way.
I can’t pinpoint why or whetheri even did like this documentary, but I nearly cried so I know it must have touched me on some level. It talks about 2 separate but similar heartbreaking scenarios very realistically. And it got me very conflicted because while I knew what the 2 protagonists were doing was wrong, I could notconfidently say to myself I might not have done the same thing in the same scenario. Brilliant performances by all the actors.
Makal, means daughter in Malayalam and this story did nothing to stop the incoming onslaught of tears that had begun last segment. Yes, I am far too easy. Actor-director Revathy handled a very sadly real topic pretty well. A poverty stricken family is forced to give away their daughter to a seemingly well-off and loving couple looking for a child. It wasn’t completely shocking but I was still fighting against the prospect that things may not be as they seem. Ofcourse they weren’t. Off went little Selvi (or whatever her name was), another pawn in the flesh trade. I wish, at some point in my life, I could make a difference to such despicable phenomena, instead of sitting here talking about and crying about it. The little brother, the peacock feather she held, the hopes she had, the fact that her family might never even find out..
10. Puram Kazchakal
The last movie, looked promising to say the least, with Srinivasan (one of my favorites) and Mammooty (One of Kerala’s favorites) in the star cast. Being the sentimental piece of crap that I am I did cry, but I really feel this film didn’t do much but make us all feel bad about ourselves. Maybe the most it taught me was to not judge people in a hurry. Imagine, just for a moment that maybe that person you’re antagonizing has a good reason. Otherwise, I think this movie just very cheaply and desperately exploits human sentimentality to make it work.
So these were some of the thoughts that were bursting out of my mind as I was watching the movie. I tried to jot them down with as few spoilers as possible just in case anybody ends up reading this and would like to watch the movie. Its not the best Malayalam movie I’v seen, but it holds a lot of promise. It reminded me of how much Malayalam and quite a few Tamil films are ahead of mainstream Bollywood in terms of acting, costumes, realism and story.