Monday Malayalam: I Saw Solo! What an Interesting Experiment (No Spoilers Review)

Sorry!  Padmavati took all my time yesterday, so we missed Monday Malayalam.  And now I am doubling up on Tuesday, a no spoilers and a spoilers review, both, for Solo.  Because it came out in Malayalam and Tamil, so I have decided it works for both.

It’s tricky to do a No Spoilers review for this film, because it’s really 4 separate films, each with their own themes, characters, story styles, etc.  The only thing they have in common is Shiva intertitles, and Dulquer Salmaan as the lead.  Well, and really interesting/imaginative visuals.

The Shiva intertitles and Dulquer Salmaan are of course related.  It’s showing us 4 different Avatars of Shiva, connected by Dulquer.  Not quite Avatars exactly, aspects?  That might be more accurate.  Dulquer plays a contented lover, a cold revenge seeker, an untethered force of violence, and a crazed unpredictable lover.  Each film has a few running themes which (I think) are also present in the Siva Purana.  For one, the balance of male and female.  It is needed by every avatar in order to remain sane and steady, whether that woman is a wife, a daughter, a mother, or a lover.

There is also a theme of sexuality, procreational sexuality in particular.  Every story revolves in one way or another around a pregnancy as a result of uncontrollable sexual desire.  And every child is born cursed, in some way.  Fatherless, motherless, damaged somehow.  Again, very Siva.  Based on what little I know.  His children were not born easily, his did not come into this world under simple circumstances.

And finally there is the theme of the elements.  The first story represents water, the second wind, the third fire, and the fourth earth.  Setting aside these individual thematic meanings, the idea of all 4 elements being represented is another sign of Shiva’s power, that he controls all 4.  And the elements also help to represent each of the respective Dulquer characters.  The first is soft and flowing, the second is invisible but powerful, the third is destructive, the fourth is firm and immoveable.

And there is the theme of this film serving as an audition reel for Dulquer.  He does a great job in every story, but I couldn’t help noticing that the characters aren’t just different in subtle ways, but in “actorly” ways.  A stutter, a brusk military bearing, soft doctor posture, and tough guy gun handling.  I’m not saying he did that poorly, or I really had a problem with any of that.  I guess it even makes sense for this kind of film, we had to be able to separate each version of Dulquer from the last and physical tricks help with that.  But it also really really feels like “hey!  See everything I can do!  Cast me in something!”

It wouldn’t feel quite so much like that if this weren’t also being treated in some ways as Dulquer’s audition.  Karan Johar launched the trailer, it’s getting coverage in the national press, and that’s on top of being a Malayalam/Tamil double release.  It may not turn out to be a huge hit at the box office, but it is aimed at “influencers”.

Small detour here, over the weekend as I was driving around running errands I passed a McDonald’s in a hip neighborhood that had a line around the block with a bunch of young people holding smart phones.  And then I passed another one in a slightly less hip neighborhood which had no line or anything unusual.  I looked it up, and they were giving a limited time only release of their Szechuan dipping sauce, thanks to a reference in the adult cartoon show Rick & Morty.  All of which sounds very cutting edge and hip.  And not terribly practical, to release something just for fans of a fairly obscure niche TV show.  But, on the other hand, everyone I saw in that line had their phones out.  They are going to be tweeting and texting and whatever else it is kids do.  McDonald’s is no doubt taking a huge loss in the pure logistics of this alone, somehow creating a speciality item and distributing it to only a few locations.  And for only a few people to enjoy it.  But they will reap a long term benefit in word of mouth and brand identity and so on thanks to the “influencer” types who care about this one small thing.

And thus this film!  It’s a very very interesting film.  The stories are unique (although the first one post interval, the “fire” story, is not as good as the others I think), the characters are not quite like what we have seen before, and the visuals are clean and beautiful.  There is some work with intercutting, with light filters, with long tracking shots, which are technically remarkable.  This is the kind of film that people who pay attention to film will watch.  Not just producers like Karan Johar, but the audience who matters.  The ones who are picky about films, who will talk up ones they care about, who pay attention to directors and actors and so on.

The producers already know about Dulquer.  He’s Mammootty’s son, he was in OK Kanmani, he’s got a bit of a leg up on the other young actors in Malayalam film.  And he seems to be a little more interested in using that leg up, more willing and able to handle public appearances, publicity, a twitter presence, and so on.  Karan bought the rights to OK Kanmani, he must have seen the original and seen something worthwhile in it.  And he probably wasn’t the only one in the Hindi industry.  Dulquer has some possibilities here.  And this film is a way of checking what those possibilities are.  If the right kind of audience embraces him, that is another step closer to making a full-fledged national release viable for him.

At least, that does seem to be part of it.  Otherwise, why would Karan Johar bother launching the trailer for a movie he has no stake in, which isn’t even being released in Hindi?  And why would the film make such an attempt to be Hindi friendly?

Because it is Hindi friendly!  Officially it is just Malayalam/Tamil, but there is a fair smattering of Hindi dialogue, not to mention Neha Sharma and Dino Morea.  And the stories, short though they are, are also very non-specific.  A college romance, a thriller, a gangster story, and an army story.  Nothing specific to Malayalam or Tamil culture, a brief flash of a communist flag and a reference to MGR is as far as it goes.  The locations are non-specific too.  A college, a hill station, an army camp, a city.  No villages, no historic monuments.  Not even anything with food!  No familiar snacks mentioned or anything more identifiable than rice.

If these were not short films, it would feel shallow.  No texture to the location, to the characters. But as it is, that is all we need.  A simple location, a simple story, a few good actors and interesting visuals.  It’s worth watching, and it leaves you satisfied.

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21 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: I Saw Solo! What an Interesting Experiment (No Spoilers Review)

  1. Karan just made a cool 25-30cr just having his label attached to Bahubali 2. What he seems go be doing isn’t bringing the south to hindi audiences; he seems to be taking his own brand down south. I think that’s an awesome strategy. He’s going to project himself as THE guy for all those amazing south stars looking for a hindi launch while he’s in Bollywood. In the south industries, he’s establishing his brand and getting the necessary handshakes. When the time comes, he can use these “friendships” to make south films. It seems very informal but it is very very shrewd. KJo is looking to change the game.

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    • Oh really good point! And it would be a really good extension of Dharma’s strengths. They are great at developing new artistic talent and promoting films, not so much at infrastructure, distribution, etc. So he can expand into non-Hindi places and develop different artistic talent and promote to different audiences. Instead of taking the Yash Raj route and focusing on just getting bigger and bigger and taking over every aspect of Hindi cinema.

      And if he gets really ambitious, he doesn’t have to be limited to the Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam area. Punjabi films are up and coming, so are Bengali and Marathi, there are plenty of non-Hindi industries that Dharma could open up a branch office in, as it were.

      On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:12 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • KJo also has the nepotism problem biting him in the butt now. He spent his best years only making films with his pals. Now those pals have their own banners and nobody is free to do a film exclusively for KJo. Plus, all of those pals are now probably pressing him to launch their kids and he’s probably tired of grinning politely and making up white lies like “yeah I’m working on a script for your kids”

        My gut says, he’s breaking the cycle. Being business-like. He’s already seen his own and his friends’ brands diminish and since he doesn’t have the luxury of acting in his films, he’s just making sure his banner keeps earning profits and stays relevant.

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        • Excellent point. Another of KJo’s strengths was always in finding and mentoring new talent. But he has run through the new talent in the Hindi industry, or at lest the new talent he can find without stepping on anyone’s toes, so it makes sense to step outside and look elsewhere.

          On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:43 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Well,Karan Johar might be doing a favor for the director Bijoy Nambiar.The latter has already made some 3-4 movies in Bollywood.Not big budget ones.But ones which got plenty of attention from the critics and the multiplex audience.And Dulquer might be paving the way for his Bollywood movie with Irrfan Khan.

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    • I thought I remembered Dulquer actually had a Hindi film signed! But then I couldn’t remember any details. Thank you!

      On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:22 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I’m not sure if you saw the controversy that came up with the ending of the film, the Rudhra portion. No spoilers here, we can discuss further in your spoilers review. But my audience on the first night laughed at the conversation with the mother, and it wasn’t meant for laughter. Then I got messages from Mohzin and others that the ending was changed in the theater because of poor audience reaction. THEN, Dulquer posted this to Facebook over the weekend, pleading #DontKillSolo:  https://www.facebook.com/DQSalmaan/posts/1122929887809488

    Don’t kill Solo, I beg you.
    (This is long ! So people who dislike reading can give it a miss)
    I’ve been meaning to write a note about Solo after watching the film myself and because of my sched I could only get the time today. I saw it. And it’s turned out much better than I could ever imagine it. I loved every second of it. Sure there are a few issues here and there, in terms of language, because it is a bilingual and maybe the Shekhar track needed longer screen time. But, I absolutely LOVED the FILM. The original version. The version my director, Bejoy Nambiar envisioned.
    Films like Solo are any actors dream. I loved it the moment I heard it. I loved every second of shooting it. And now I love the final product on screen. I put my heart and soul into the film. On a limited budget to make such a big film, we put our blood and sweat into it. And I’ll do it again for films like this. For films I believe in. For films I find ‘different’.
    People tell me Solo isn’t like Charlie and Bangalore Days. They asked me why I did it. They say I could have avoided it. They say this kind of experimenting is unnecessary. But you know what, that’s why I love it. I want to constantly do “different” films. Yup the biggkillet over used cliche of the film world. “Different”. So why do a certain section of our lovely audience fear, dislike and mock different ? 7 billion humans walk the earth. There is bound to be that many stories. That many issues. That many conflicts or differences. If you are not familiar with it, doesn’t make it go away. If you are not aware of it, doesn’t make it wrong. Cause if you do, you just run the risk of being ignorant. Or judgemental. Or both. We are only human. So why judge?
    I seek stories wherever I go. Whether it’s news articles. Whether it’s people I meet. Whether it’s movies I watch or books I read. And I’ve always believed my viewers give me the courage to tell any story. If it’s original and if we tell it well, you will all enjoy it. Good, bad or ugly. Black, white or grey. It’s always been my deciding factor in choosing scripts.
    So when several people mock and hoot and write badly about my favourite track, The Rudra story in Solo, it breaks my heart. It excited all of us actors. Be it Nasser Sir, Hasini Ma’am, Neha or Me, we were kicked that it was so unique and bold. It’s based on true incidents and there have been several news stories like it. We wanted to make a film about it. We thought the best way to tell it was through humour. So when people say it became unintentionally funny I don’t get it. The sequence where the amazing Suhasini Ma’am in a stellar performance of apprehension/embarrassment/awkwardness breaks the news to my character Rudra, has been for me one of the greatest scenes in my cinematic career. It was a single shot and I had to interpret it how I deemed best. For an actor like me that was new and unprecedented. With no reference point. I enjoyed that more than any scene in my life cause it’s different from anything else. And it was funny when Bejoy told us about it. It was funny when he called cut. It was funny during dub and it was funny when I saw it on screen. Of course the characters won’t make it a comedy. They will be sad and broken and awkward on screen. Especially Rudra. Sadly because it was awkward people didn’t understand if they were laughing with us (the makers) or laughing at us (the makers). Dark comedies are meant to be awkward. Always have been. That was our intention. So mocking it, booing in theatres, spreading negativity and hate and degrading the film because you didn’t get it, just kills the film. It breaks our hearts, breaks our spirit, and kills the courage you gave me all along.
    So I beg you. Don’t kill Solo. Give it a go with an open mind and you will have a blast with the film.
    P.S. I stand by Bejoy Nambiar. And his version. Always. Cutting, shuffling or whatever by persons unrelated to the making of the film will also aid in killing it.

    It didn’t make sense to me, but then I read a news report that they chopped off the film just before the conversations with the parents and just went to credits — against the director Bejoy’s wishes. I’ve had messages from people who have seen the original and the chopped version. What a travesty. I’ve never seen anything else by Bejoy — never caught Wazir.

    I think people went in with expectations of this film being BIG like Action Hero Biju, and it’s really a more Indie experimental film. People are reacting because it’s not what they wanted or expected. I didn’t have those expectations, and four times the DQ is great for me. Looking forward to the spoiler discussion. My spoiler free review:

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    • Oh, I wanted to ask you about this! I saw the Tamil version because of showtimes, and what I saw was that the Malayalam was edited but not the Tamil, but I couldn’t understand if that meant all Malayalam versions, or just the ones in India. So the one you saw, it was full?

      On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 10:34 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I saw it the very first night, Thursday last week, so it was the full Malayalam version. I asked in my comments if anyone had seen the edited to tell me what it was, and someone responded where the cut was, because he had talked to a friend who narrated the original ending to him.

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    • As I wrote few days ago, I love when actors have the courage of trying something new and DQ gained a lot of points for doing Solo. Anf now after reading what he’s written I like him even more.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The world of Shiva (the fire story) got the best reviews. Can’t wait to hear what you thought of Rudra’s story.(which was widely unappreciated).
    I guess only the Malayalam version was altered, because I saw the Tamil version and i got the whole story.

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    • Really? The fire story was my least favorite. Felt like another messy complicated gangster story. A lot of noise and nothing actually happening. Whereas the other stories kept things simple.

      On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 1:12 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. The director gave dulquer 4 AMAZING opportunities to showcase himself as an actor through the various characters, but. didnt know give an ounce of opportunity for his four female actors. I loved the movie (it was so different and refreshing) but I was upset on the lack of female involvement in the stories (with some females not even having names). Feel like it would have been such a good movie if the female were shown to aid the male for the goodness of the story.

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    • Now that I think about it, you are right. It’s an odd conflict in message. On the one hand, the women are the driving force for the hero. But on the other hand, we don’t really get to spend a lot of time with them.

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  6. Could someone who has seen the malayalam version recently tell me if it is edited or not? I’m going to see it this Friday and I don’t want to see a butchered version.

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    • Unfortunately I can’t help you. But from what moviemavengal said, it sounds like the edited version would be at least 5 minutes shorter. It’s possible the running times could help you figure it out?

      On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 3:11 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Then that does sound like the edit. If there is Tamil available, you could always try just going to the other showing in order to watch the last few minutes.

          On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 3:36 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. Pingback: Tuesday Tamil: Solo (SPOILERS Review), More Than the Sum of Its Parts | dontcallitbollywood

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