I Finally Got to Watch a Modern Malayalam Film! It was not as good as it could have been (Slight Spoilers for Oru Indian Pranayakadha)

My randomly organized stack of all the Malayalam movies owned by my library has finally turned up something from the past 10 years!  And it even stars a guy I have seen before,  Fahadh Faasil from Bangelore Days (and apparently in real life he is married to Nazriya Nazim?  Who I love forever because of Ohm Shanti Oshaana).  It was good, and definitely similar to the other modern movies I had seen, but just not quite as spectacularly good as they were.  And that’s actually what I wanted, to experience something not spectacularly good.

Back when I was getting into Hindi films, I asked my friends and the counter guys at the store and everybody else for recommendations.  And they gave me, basically, the “white people” picks.  Or more accurately, the “all the young ABCDs love them” picks.  So, I saw K2H2 and K3G and Main Hoon Na and Kaho Na Pyar Hai and Kal Ho Na Ho and Dhoom and so on and so on.  And then I ran out of really really really good movies and had to start trying stuff like Yes Boss and Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Na Tum Jaane Na Hum.  And then I got down to what one precocious 12 year old boy behind the counter at an Indian grocery referred to as “the really really bad ones.”  So, Duplicate.  Tum Mere Ho.  And one dark day, even Sangdil Sanam.

(It is exactly the movie you think it is from this cover.  Only worse.  And apparently produced by Kajol’s Dad?)

The problem was, people were giving me the very very best options for one very limited category of film (Let’s call them 90s-2000s rom-coms, for lack of a better term).  And then when I ran out of the very very best, I just kept going lower and lower in quality within the same category.  It took me years to realize I needed to branch out, that maybe instead of watching every lame Shahrukh movie, I should try out a Priyadarshan comedy, or a Raj Kapoor classic, or an Amitabh action film.

The other problem was, I had a very limited idea of what “quality” meant.  After two years of only watching rom-coms mostly set abroad, I thought of a “good” movie in terms of the slick song sequences, romantic gazes, and cute plot.  I didn’t consider factors like social messages, script quality, original narrative, or even acting ability (beyond being able to really sell the love scenes).  By this metric, I actually thought that Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage was a better movie than Sarfarosh.

(Fun movie.  Not a good movie)

(Not a fun movie.  Very very good movie)

Anyway, now my goal when I attack a new area of film, is to try to watch a broad range of films, both in terms of quality and content, right from the start.  So I don’t end up with a skewed perspective on the industry, and it doesn’t take me three years to try something outside of my comfort zone.

Which brings me to last night’s Malayalam film!  Oru Indian Pranayakadha, which I think (and feel free to correct me in the comments) would slot in as a good solid modern rom-com, but not a stone-cold classic.  The love story was a believable slow build, there were some interesting touches to the story, both the leads were likeable, the quality of the cinematography was high (good film stock, good lighting, good sets, interesting angles, stuff like that), but in comparison with the other modern movies I have seen (Ustad Hotel, Bangelore Days, and Ohm Shanti Oshaana), it just didn’t quite reach that level.  Of course, I was very lucky with those 3 movies, because a wise friend picked them out for me as the films that I would absolutely love.  And she was right!

I was tempted to watch Oru Indian Pranayakadha first when I brought my library DVDs home, but I am so glad I didn’t!  If I had watched it before Vanaprastham or Aalkkoottathil Thaniye, I would have thought it was a really good movie.  Like, really really good.  Just because it had clever political/social commentary and a decent female character and a real-feeling relationship between the leads, all covered in the gloss of modern film techniques and standards.  But now, having seen films that are better directed (within the limitations of their time period), better acted, and with stronger scripts, I sort of know where to put it.  I think.  Again, correct me if I am wrong!

Oh, and I also learned some interesting things from my googling of the film!  Apparently, it was a sleeper hit that exceeded expectations by actually competing with the latest Mohanlal film Drishyam.  If I remember the reviews of the Ajay Devgn Drishyam remake correctly, it is a kind of police/political drama-thriller type thing?  So that is interesting, that a medium quality rom-com was able to challenge it at the box office, perhaps a sign of changing tastes in general from mystery thriller films to rom-coms?  And from Mohanlal-Mamootty older actors to the new generation?

I also looked up the actress, and she is so young!  And Nazriya Nizam is so young!  I thought I was used to youthful actresses in the Hindi cinema, where they regularly launch at 19, but at least now, in Hindi films, there is usually a gap between the big launch film and when they really hit their top success.  Like, Deepika launched in Om Shanti Om, but then worked as a second lead and in B movies and stuff that didn’t really hit for about 6 years until Cocktail made her really big.  And she was already 21 in OSO.  But my very very small sample size of Malayalam actresses hit the ground running at 19 and didn’t stop.  But that could just be a problem with my sample size, or maybe it is something about the industry, if actresses have a very short shelf life, and are only viable between 19 and 24, that would explain why they start so young and so strong.  Or maybe it is just that the whole industry is super young!  At least the modern rom-com/social commentary films part of the industry.

Let’s see, do I have anything to say about the actual film?  I found the cynical attitude towards politicians really fun and refreshing.  I’m so used to the Hindi film attitude, where they are either saints or villains, never just sort of humorously venal.  I found the attitude towards adoption super interesting, our Malayalam born-Canada raised-adopted by an older White couple heroine seemed to identify as Malayalam very comfortably.  There was a brief nod to a Malayalam neighbor family as teaching her about the culture, but in general the film treated her like any other NRI raised heroine, not like someone raised completely within White culture.  Little things, like immediately understanding that a daughter’s wedding is the most expensive challenge a family will face, and that the weddings are different in  Kerala and North India, that is a really high level of awareness for someone raised by White people in Canada.  I don’t know if this is good or bad, necessarily.  In some ways, it felt disrespectful of her adoptive family to have her be so immersed in Malayalam culture, but at the same time it was refreshing that the film actually dealt with the conflicted feelings of an adopted child who belongs in both places at once, and neither.

Let’s see, what else?  Oh!  They had a song entirely in Hindi!  That was fun for me, to actually be able to follow along a little.  There were a couple of other Hindi things sprinkled in, I think our hero’s grandmother was supposed to speak Hindi at home a lot?  Anyway, I have no idea what is up with that.  Are they trying to reach the broader Indian market?  Is it fun for the kids who are learning Hindi in school?  Is it just a character touch, to indicate when someone is from outside Kerala?  And isn’t there supposed to be A Thing about Dravidian films using Hindi?  Or is that just in Tamil Nadu?  Anyway, the song is pretty.

 

And that’s all I have to say, really.  Which is my biggest indicator of quality for a film!  When there isn’t really much to say, then it isn’t a really really good movie.  When there is a lot to say, it is a great movie.  When there is nothing to say, because I am still so breathless and over-whelmed by the experience, then it is a once in a lifetime movie.

 

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23 thoughts on “I Finally Got to Watch a Modern Malayalam Film! It was not as good as it could have been (Slight Spoilers for Oru Indian Pranayakadha)

  1. In this movie it clearly says that grandmother spent her most part of life in North India with her husband. she is really proud that she know hindi and hero fahad encourage her to talk hindi so that he can learn hindi and as a congress politician he can impress congress High command by communicating in hindi

    It is a specialty of malayalam movie that if if a character portrayed as from another state he will speak that language and if the film gos to another state it will have a song in that language. therefore we have hindi tamil kasmiri songs in malayalam
    example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbzjwG3vWh0

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  3. The grandmother’s whole Hindi schtick was a gag about politics and the Congress party and how the only family member supporting him was a loony old lady. Hindi is a tool to prop up national ambitions and highlight a relationship to the centre and Congress high command. This tangent about Malayalis’ relationship with the political North and Hindi is explored in depth in the film Vellimoonga (I’d recommend it but enjoyment is really dependent on the lightening quick Malayalam jokes flying everywhere).

    While Nazriya is definitely young and started as a child actress, I suspect Amala Paul is older than her wikipedia age. Most actresses who start as adults do age down 3-5 years.

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    • Thank you! I felt like there had to be something more with the Hindi usage.

      And now I feel foolish for believing the “official” age of actresses. I’d heard the same thing about the Hindi actresses (and it usually makes me feel a little better, for instance I don’t really want SRK to be acting opposite a teenager in Rab Ne Bana di Jodi!). I should remember, always add 2-3 years to an actress’ age, and remove 2-3 inches from an actor’s height 🙂

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      • I really liked “oru indian pranayakadha” and i enjoy reading your post. However this one i was not able to get past the initial few lines cause you descrivbed Nazriya and Indian film actress. But in fact the actress is Amala Paul(from malayalam Mili), and I agree Amala looks a lot like Deepika Pudukone. I noticed a similar error in your review of Premam, it was mentioned that George’s (Nivin’s) friends keep changing through out the film, actually George/Shambu/Koya ‘s friend ship is the only constant though out the film.

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        • Please, any time you spot an error, let me know. Especially with Malayalam films, I am just feeling my way with them since I am so new, and I am desperate to learn more.

          In this case, you will be relieved to know that it wasn’t an error in my understanding, it was an error in my writing. I was referring back to Nazriya because she was the only Malayalam actress I knew at this time, I was trying to compare her with the actress in this film, not say it was the same actress. It just didn’t come out clearly.

          With Premam, I have to confess I am still confused about his friend group. My understanding is that in each of the 3 segments, he had a group of about 5 friends, yes? And of those 5, 2 of them were recurring in each segment. But there were others who were only there when they were his roommates in college, or back in high school. And I think one of the friends he gets drunk with in the last segment was actually his enemy back in college?

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          • My take on Premam is that there are 3 thick friends Koya/Shambu/George, from school to Adulthood. He has got acquaintances/ not so close friends. These are his roomates in college timeframe, we all do have such roomies to share rent etc, its not like we are the best of friends. Lastly about his “friend/enemy” Justin, the tone of his conversation with Justin on phone was very formal, starts of with “who is this” and when Justin identifies who he was, he was not thrilled or angered just indifferent. They had definitely moved past there differences in college. Now you might ask why did Justin have to invite George and gang to the wedding I can think of 2 reasons,
            1 it was there college mates, and he had moved past his issues
            2. Justin does indicate to George, that Shambhu who had become a music composer, should play his popular number on his wedding.

            BTW that is my take, again since your interpretation about the movie was totally from subtitles. A huge aspect of the movie was the nostalgia effect, Every Keralite/Indian would have related to the single phone line homes, cycling to move around. The costumes, in the firsts segments was trousers and shirts, no cell phones only phone booth. Second segment was bikes/ feature phones , people on phone at night(there was this whole play of night time having cheaper rates for phone) etc. So nostalgia was a big part which struck a chord

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          • Thank you so much! All of this I didn’t get at all from the subtitles. The tone of the conversation obviously wasn’t clear to me. And I didn’t know things like the night time phone calls. Really, it shows how remarkable the film was, that even without all of that context and meaning, I still enjoyed it so much.

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  5. Actually Oru Indian Pranya Kadha became such a Hit because of Drishyam. Drishyam is the highest grossing malayalm movie ever. All the shows of Drishyam was sold out during the first month. Saw whoever didnt get ticket went and saw Oru Indian Pranaya Kadha.

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  6. Malayalies liked the political satire part more than the romantic part. Hero running to save himself during the rally was my favorite movement.

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    • Yeah, I should really re-watch this movie now that I know slightly more about Kerala politics. I still don’t know much, but at least I know a little more than when I first saw it.

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  8. I manage to finish it only thanks to Fahadh Faasil. He started a little disadvantaged , because I read that Nazriya Nazim stopped acting after she married him, and I was upset. But he as so cute , that I almost forget all this story.
    On the contrary, I liked Amala Paul, since beginning (she is so beautiful!) but then I discovered that she has like 5 facial expressions and was tired at the end of the movie.
    Overall it’s a nice movie, but one time watch.

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    • I had the same feeling about Amala Paul. But then she did a really good job in the next two films I saw her in, so I had to reconsider.

      Oh, are you the one who likes Madhavan? If so, or even if you don’t, let me recommend Vettai. Super cute movie, Madhavan is really lovable in it, and Amala Paul does a good job.

      And since you like Fahadh Faasil, the two movies I liked him best in were Annayum Rasoolum and Iyobinte Pusthakam. Those may not be the ones you like him best in, but they are both interesting films.

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      • This morning I rewatched Irudhi Sutru, just because I missed some sexy Maddy, so yes, I’m the one who likes Madhavan 😉
        And I have Vettai on my list! Will watch it soon (if I won’t decide to watch some random bad movie instead like always).
        Thank you for recommendations. Both Fahadh’s movies look very interesting. I’ll search them.

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        • Vettai is a little more teddy bear Maddy than sexy bear Maddy. But, for myself, I kind of like that better.

          On Tue, May 16, 2017 at 8:20 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

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          • I know that it has nothing to do with Oru Indian Pranayakadha, but I like Maddy in all versions. I’ve even watched his “I want my wife to be traditional-quiet-stay-in-joint-family woman” version in Priyasakhi. Man, this was one bad movie, and I finished it just for him. I’m sure I will like Vettai.

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