Monday Malayalam Special: I Was Stuck In Traffic Behind Nivin Pauly!!!!

Last night I went the North American Film Awards, which are essentially the Malayalam IIFAs.  So, the IIFAs without any backup dancers or rehearsals, but with a lot of really detailed eloquent speeches and as much applause for the directors as their was for the stars.  And in a theater which is about the same size as a high school auditorium, and wasn’t even sold out.  But that’s not important, what’s important is I got stuck trying to get out of the parking lot because I was blocked in by NIVIN PAULY!!!!

I’ll just skip to the highlight of the evening.  I zipped over to my car as soon as the show was over because I remembered getting stuck in the parking lot after seeing Vishal-Shekhar here.  And it worked, the lot wasn’t that crazy.  And then I spent 5 minutes getting “Malare” set up on Saavn on my phone to play on repeat while I drove home (because I got to hear it sung live at the show and it gave me a taste for it).  And by the time I looked up, poof!  Cars EVERYWHERE!  Big string of suburban looking SUVs blocking me in.  So I start to slowly edge backwards trying to get into the line and I notice this group of people walking behind me, hit the breaks so I don’t hit them.  But then they stop and gather around the passenger side of a car behind me.  So rude!  You don’t have to stop and talk to your friends while I am trying to pull out of my space!  But wait, they have their phones out and are talking pictures?  What’s up with that?  OMG IT’S NIVIN PAULY!!!!!  In the car right behind me!!!!

Now, if I were a different person, I would have leaped out and taken a photo too.  Or if I were really brave, introduced myself and mentioned this blog.  Or if I were slightly crazy/brave, hit the accelerator and backed into his car in order to create a meet cute.  But because I am me, I was perfectly happy to just sit in my car and watch him in my rearview mirror for 5 minutes while I waited for traffic to move.  IT WAS SO EXCITING!!!!


So, that was the highlight of the evening.  I could have arrived, parked, and sat in my car for 6 hours and it still would have been a good night if at the end of it I had pulled out and almost backed into NIVIN PAULY!

But the rest of the night was good too!  First, let me back up and try to explain how wonderfully funky this theater is.  It’s an old Polish community center, there are murals and statues of famous Polish figures everywhere, and an old fashioned bar in the corner, and a big sweeping Devdas style staircase.  And it was completely filled with desis in fancy clothes!  Who were getting very very very drunk.  I went out to use the bathroom in the middle of the show, the lobby was as full as the theater, and everyone was having a great time.

Image result for copernicus center

(there’s busts of Copernicus all around the edges.  It’s very funky)

Which brings me to one of the most surprising parts of the evening, towards the end of the show the hosts and some others kept mentioning that this night was so much better than last night, when they had done the same show in New York.  Which surprised me, because the Chicago audience is never better!  We are all midwestern and restrained and can never figure out how to clap along right or anything.  But now I am thinking, maybe the New York venue did not have a bar in the lobby?  Because I think that might be key.

It was an odd mixture of dignified and not dignified and an progressively drunker audience worked well for that.  We started with the most dignified, Manju Warrior.  Who got HUGE cheers.  Partly just for herself, I am sure, but also I think because she is in the middle of this whole messy divorce/domestic thing with Dileep and it wasn’t sure if she would be able to get a Visa to come to the show.  Maybe I am projecting, but it felt like the cheers were partly because people were happy she was able to come, and partly in support of her side of the messy personal thing.

But she herself was super dignified!  Came out in a very classy sari, gave a long dignified speech in Malayalam, received a gift from one of the leaders of the local Malayalam community, and an honorary white scarf thing (what is that called?).  And then left.

Image result for manju warrier

(this kind of sari, not the chiffony style everyone else wore)

That set the tone for the evening in a lot of ways.  Manju was the first celebrity, and everyone did kind of the same thing as she did.  Very dignified, graceful speech.  And the awards weren’t given by fellow celebrities, but by the president of the Midwest Malayali Association and stuff like that.  Oh, also, what is the etiquette the white cotton honorary thing?  Because they all received it around their shoulders, and then immediately whipped it off again and passed it over to someone else once the photos were over.  Is that insulting or is that just practical?  I mean, you don’t want your outfit ruined by having this white shawl thing over it, right?

What I kept thinking about as these celebrities came out and stood on stage was that it was a very Darshan-y kind of event.  They weren’t there to entertain us exactly, or really “do” anything, they were just there to stand and wait while we all looked our fill.  And they were very very good at that, just standing there waiting while everyone looked at them.


Besides just standing there being looked at, they also spoke.  But that was pointless to me because it was all in Malayalam.  Which was FASCINATING!!!!  At the other shows I’ve been to, a lot of it is in Hindi, but like really bad simple Hindi that even I (or an ABCD who never really learned how to speak it, or someone from outside the Hindi speaking belt who only knows it from movies) could understand.  This was clearly very elaborate and sophisticated Malayalam.  Including a standup comic who spoke for like 20 minutes to gales of laughter.

Along with the leading figures in the society giving the awards, and ending the evening with the Indian national anthem (never seen that before!), the whole thing felt a lot more connected and specific to this one community than I have ever seen at the other shows I have been to.  Oh, and I was definitely absolutely one of only two white people there (I went with moviemavengal).  At other concerts there has been a slight chance that there was someone else I just wasn’t seeing, but this time we were for sure the only ones.

Let’s see, what else did I want to say?  Oh, with the whole “darshan” vibe, it was great when the people came out who actually liked doing live performances instead of just giving speeches.  This awards show, as most awards shows, was clearly designed around “so, who can we get who is willing to come?  Okay, now we have to invent awards to give them!”  The most important award of the evening was the “Rising Star” award for Neeraj Madhav.  Because he was GREAT!  Very enthusiastic while getting the award, and then came back later to do a dance for us, extremely energetic, leaped off the stage and danced into the audience, stood on seats to dance with the audience, and pulled Kunchacko Boban up to dance with him too!  Oh, and danced to “The Humma Humma” song, so I actually could sing along, which was just a nice little bonus for me.

(It was like this, but with no costumes really and minimal back-up dancers and just on a bare stage with no lights or anything else.  And it was still really impressive!)

Oh, and Kunchacko Boban got some kind of award too, and he was also great!  He felt the same as the other shows I have seen in that the biggest and most experienced star was also the one who worked the hardest.  He got his award, gave an amusing speech (I assume, other people were laughing), then agreed to have one of his songs played and faked playing along on a violin?  I assume that it is from a movie where he played a musician?  And then, just on his own without the host prompting him, he went over and borrowed the guitar from another musician and played a little something while the audience lost its mind.  And throughout the show, all the big stars were in the front row, but he was the only one willing to be pulled back on stage, or stand up and dance when asked, or any of that.  And he was the one popping up and down any time someone new arrived in that front row, and leading the standing ovations and all of that.  This was very satisfying for me, because that kind of hardworking supportive personality is what I pictured for him based on his willingness to take roles like the husband in How Old Are You? which supported the film as a whole but didn’t necessarily help his own stardom.

Speaking of music, that was fascinating!  There were 4 musicians, a keyboard guy, a guitar guy, a violinist guy, and a drummer.  And they played some stuff they had clearly practiced in advance, big elaborate things.  But what really impressed me was the stuff that they hadn’t practiced.  This was the second night (they did this whole thing the night before in New York), and it was a show that we had bought tickets for, so you would think it would have been all worked out and rehearsed.  But, nope!  People came on stage, were asked to do a song, pulled out their iphones or tablets and pulled up the music, and just told the musicians what they wanted to do.  And then the musicians went with it!  It was kind of cool to watch, because it wasn’t just the musicians, it was the singers, doing this song off the cuff, and also conducting the music while they did it.  Very similar to my experience at Arijit Singh, that he isn’t just a singer, he’s an everything musician.

Speaking of singers, one of the random “let’s invent an award!” people was Vijay Yesudas, a playback singer.  Who came out and did a great medley of his hits, after a couple minutes of chatting to the keyboardist to explain what he wanted.  That’s why I was sitting in my car looking for “Malare” on my phone because he ended with that and the crowd lost its mind.  And also, it sounded really really good live.

(Do you think he is already sick of singing this?  Or does he have another few years before the “Tum Hi Ho” effect falls into place for him?)

Let’s see, what else?  Tovino Thomas was there.  And he is just as distinctive looking live as he is on screen.  And also really shy!  They introduced him and said we have to applaud really hard because he is shy, and then he came on stage and really did look shy!  Barely said a few words and kind of skittered of stage as soon as possible.  It was cute.

Nivin was the closer of the evening (of course), and he seemed kind of shy too.  Or, not exactly shy, dignified.  He came out, he spoke, but he didn’t do a dance or anything like Kunchacko did.  He just talked.  There was a lot of “sneham” and “santosham”.  Thank goodness I know those two words!  Thank you Alai Payuthay and Santosham!  So I got the jist of all the speeches, everyone loved us and was happy.

In the midst of all these speeches that were basically just “———–love—————-happy” for me, I did have the entertainment of watching all the bored small children.  There were about 3 who kept running up to the stage and dancing.  One of them eventually ended up on the stage holding hands with Rakhi Sawant (I’ll get to her later) and looking confused.  And then up in the balcony with me, there was the constant adrenoline rush of waiting for this one 2 year old to climb over the railing and kill himself.  He came close a couple times, but a random audience member grabbed his shirt, and then the second time his big sister stopped him.  So instead he just threw stuff over the railing for a bit.  That was fun!

I think they kind of knew that the evening dragged at some points.  Because in the middle of all less interesting awards, and acoustic song medleys, they made a big deal of when the stars came out from the back to sit in the audience.  It must have been semi-scheduled, they could be back their eating dinner and relaxing, and then like an hour or two hours into the show, the host would pause and announce and the star would come out from the wings and wave at us and then go sit down in the front row.  They wouldn’t actually do anything at that point, but we could all start watching them sitting there, which added excitement to the rest of the evening.

The big closing excitement was Rakhi Sawant.  Of all people!  Who could be less in tune with the restrained dignified tone of much of the rest of the evening?  But she was super fun. They had mentioned earlier in the evening that she was in the audience and would be dancing, so we were all waiting.  And then way at the end, they brought her up on stage and she just kind of danced around.  Like, the way you would dance at a club or a party.  No fancy moves, no back-up dancers.  And she was GREAT!  Clearly having a good time on stage, pulled up other people to dance with her (including the confused small child), and danced to music we all knew!  Hindi stuff!

Oh, that was really interesting!  It was all RD Burman.  Except for “Muqabla” at the end and “Badtameez Dil” right at the beginning.  But everything else was classic RD.  Which goes back to that debate we were having on RD’s birthday post about whether Rahman has matched him yet.  Apparently not.  If you are looking for music shared between Rakhi Sawant an Kunchacko Boban, RD is the only meeting place.  Well, and “Muqabla”.  So Rahman has one song as good as all the RD songs.

(Biggest applause of the night)


And then they stood and so did the audience for “Jana Gana”, and then I zipped out to the parking lot and had the THRILL OF A LIFETIME, and then drove home singing along to “Malare”.


30 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam Special: I Was Stuck In Traffic Behind Nivin Pauly!!!!

  1. Fun Nivin story! I wonder if any of these shows (awards or performance) will ever come to Philly? I feel like most of the desi population in NJ is more New York centric…so probably not anytime soon.


  2. That’s so cool that you saw Nivin Pauly!!

    I’m not sure about Tamil and Malayalam but in Telugu “sneham” means friendship, not love.


  3. This was quite the experience to share with Margaret. I’m going to write up a post later today. I took quite a bit of video and pictures that will give a taste of the event.

    Margaret, I can’t believe your luck being blocked in the parking lot by Nivin.

    I’m not sure if Nivin was shy or just very reserved or feeling above the event. He gave what seemed to be a heartfelt dignified speech after given the best actor award and he was the headliner of the night. I was left frustrated because he didn’t entertain us with a little song and dance the way Dulquer did last year (from what I saw on Youtube:


    In contrast, I am now a HUGE Neeraj Madhav fan — what an entertainer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was so glad you were willing to come with me! I would have felt super awkward (and bored) sitting there by myself for 4 hours while people spoke a language I don’t understand. But with you, it was great fun!

      On Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 10:06 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Only reading about your encounter with Nivin is excited, so I can imagine how aroused you were!

    I must confess that I’m confused with those North American Film Awards. I would never say it has something to do with malayalam cinema.


    • I KNOW, right? I only found out about them because this theater has done Indian shows before so I periodically check their schedule in case there is something coming up. I was curious what “NAFA” was, so I clicked through to the full listing, and there was a big poster with Nivin on it!

      Indian shows in general are so poorly publicized, I’ve gotten obsessive about doing things like checking the listings for theaters that have had them before because otherwise these kinds of things just slip through the cracks. Especially if they have a confusing name.

      On Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:35 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. “Oh, also, what is the etiquette the white cotton honorary thing?”

    It’s called ponnada aniyikkal for luminaries or older people who are honored citizens by default. The entire posture of the luminary also sends a message of humility. You bend a little to have the person honoring you drape it around your shoulder. It’s a very south indian way of honoring – you might be an icon but you’re still a humble soul. Youtube is full of ponnada aniyikkal videos.

    Even as an upcoming actor, Nivin looked uncomfortable with any sort of showmanship onstage so it makes sense he’s even more reticent in interviews and onstage as he’s settled into his stardom.

    Dulquer is a much more cosmopolitan person and seems more influenced by Telugu and Bollywood stars. He doesn’t seem to want the kind of stardom Nivin has anyway since it would be too much like his dad’s.


    • With the ponnada aniyikal, are you supposed to take it home with you? Is it about the moment of being honored, or is it also something that you would keep for the memories?

      On Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 10:42 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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  8. Hi,
    Manju Warrier has been the darling of Kerala ever since she was in 8th grade. She was the “Kalathilakam” (something like the champion in the state wide youth festival – big deal in Kerala) for two years. Then she came into movies, and in three years’ time (and 20 odd films), became a super star. Then she got married, quit films. Divorced, and came back into films after about 14 years, and still has a lot of fan base (both men and women).
    She, along with Parvathi, are probably the two actresses who can bring in the crowd without the need for an A-List actor.
    The divorce would’ve only helped to reduce her fan base given that her daughter chose to stay with Dileep, and she was being pictured as a “bad mother”.
    Anyway, the “good father” is in prison now for allegedly conspiring to sexually assault a fellow actress who’s actually a good friend of Manju.
    Manju was the first person who told publicly there was a conspiracy angle behind the attack, and when the investigation appeared to head nowhere, she was instrumental in forming a “Women’s Collective” in Kerala and put pressure on the Kerala Chief Minister.
    Btw, here’s a video of her dancing from a recent film:-


    • Thank you! And that Dileep case is something you (or someone) is going to have to explain to me once it all shakes out. I have given up on following it, without knowing everything about the Kerala industry.


      • This is what we know so far –

        # Hero has a grudge on the attacked actress because he thinks she’s responsible for his divorce.

        # Hero is on a revenge spree – blocks many movies that’d have gone to her.

        # The “attacked actress” – though one of the leading stars in the industry – goes to other industries for work (Tamil/Kannada/Telugu)

        # The attacker somehow convinces the hero that he’s having an affair with the attacked actress

        # The hero arranges for some “manipulated” “leaked videos” of the actress. He insists that the neck and engagement ring should appear in the leaks (probably to rule out morphing)

        # Gives the attacker a “contract” (“quotation” – as it’s called here) and pays some advance.

        # Some failed attempts…

        #### The unfortunate incident happens ####

        # Neither the hero nor the attacker thinks that the actress would go to the cops ( you can re-revisit your ‘Drishyam’ review perhaps)

        # She goes to the cops – there’s a huge public outcry.

        # The attacker gets nabbed. Initially denies any role of an outsider.

        #### Something happens in between ####

        # The attacker names the hero

        # Cops receive ‘prima facie’ (as per the honorable High Court of Kerala) evidence against the Hero

        # The hero gets arrested… claims innocence, bail rejected by the high court…

        # The attacker says more names will follow.

        Note: It’s rumored that the “grudge” was because the attacked actress informed the hero’s ex-wife about his affair with his current wife.


        • Thank you! First, for explaining what “quotation” is, in Vikram Vedha a huge plot point was a Kerala “quotation” gang moving in and I had no idea what that meant.

          One thing that I saw in an article when I was trying to follow the whole thing was that there was some difference between how the older and younger generation of actors wanted to handle things on behalf of the industry? I first ran across this story when I was preparing my Ezra review and found Prithviraj’s big angry reaction, and I am seeing that he has continued to be very aggressive in taking sides instead of standing back and waiting for things to shake out?


          • Yes, that’s true.

            There’s an association called AMMA-Association of Malayalam Movie Artists. Though it started with noble intentions (like paying pension for the old/neglected actor/actress), it quickly grew into something like a mafia, a few people controlling things. They would unofficially ban actors (reputation notwithstanding), directors, producers and all. Thilakan, considered by many as the best actor from the industry, had to move back to the theatre to find work. Prithviraj’s father was banned for 3 years… The group more or less existed to ensure that the super stars will continue to be super stars for as long as they can.

            Many felt that the response from AMMA to the actress attack incident was very muted. When Dileep was interrogated, they stood by Dileep. The association, and the superstars were getting heavily trolled on social media as a result.

            Dileep is a very powerful guy within the industry… head of the theatre association, member of the producers association, and was virtually controlling AMMA. He’d decide which movie will run where and for how long. Even the super stars were considered as pawns within the organization.

            Prithviraj took a very strong stand right from the beginning… Right through his career, he was never seen as a pro-AMMA guy, but more like a rebel.

            Later when Dileep was arrested, it was the younger generation (led by Prithviraj) who wanted a very strong response. There were even talks of the young guys splitting up from the mother… As a result, Dileep remains suspended from all these associations.


          • Thank you! This is the kind of stuff I just can’t learn unless someone tells me, it’s not exactly laid out and explained in newspaper articles or textbooks.


        • To add more:

          It is alleged that the current wife (Kavya) and wife’s mother are also involved/were aware of the plans (to attack the victim actress)

          Cops have found that current wife is wife#3, Manju was wife #2 and that he was married to a distant cousin before he married Manju. Marriage#1 was in know of relatives/close friends and has not been formally dissolved, which means marriage #2 and #3 are not legal. Wonder what the marriage registration offices for marriage #2 and # 3 have to say and what the court has to say (for granting divorce in marriage #2).


      • its a bit early to judge dileep and believe he is guilty.. news media is being too harsh on him(they were irked by his criticism earlier) and already declared him as guilty even before investigation completes or court proceedings start. public is against him now because of the excessive media coverage and its probably the end of his career.. but some legal experts including supreme court lawyers who took the time to study the police chargesheet revealed its really weak and there isnt any strong evidence against him.also some evidences released by police to media looks really silly. if the police story is true (which is having contradictions) then dileep is really a big fool and it doesnt suit his current image of intelligent criminal .. anyway the case helped to divert media and public attention from many burning issues in the state and was a big relief for the governent


    …ahem. Sorry. He is my first celebrity crush so I’m kinda going overboard.
    Great overview of the awards. I like that you made the effort to learn some words in Malayalam and you actually sat there and listened so patiently! Hats off to ya lady. Its nice when people show that kind of appreciation (unlike some Indians I know who walked out of an AR Rehman concert because he sang in Tamil koff koff)
    Oh and you should be glad that Nivin didn’t dance…because he did do a dance show here during the 19th Asianet Film Awards and um. Well. It was…bad. Very bad. Mostly because he er, isn’t that great a dancer? And he is a shy guy in life apparently so it was very awkward watching…I like Nivin when he is dignified and silent he is so cuuuute. Dulquer on the other hand is a noisemaker god bless him.


    • It was pretty exciting! The night as a whole was pretty neat. And yeah, I am glad Nivin didn’t dance too. I would rather he just talk but look happy to be there, than that he danced or something and looked miserable.

      On Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 2:13 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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