Monday Malayalam: Aadhi Review (No Spoilers), Nepotism Perks and Parkour

Another Malayalam film in theaters!  I braved the cold, and left the dog home alone for 8 hours, and it was kind of worth it.  Not super worth it, but not horrible.  If nothing else, it was nice to feel warm for 3 hours watching a movie in Kerala.

I’ve been thinking about nepotism again lately, no particular reason, just some of our discussions about the exciting talented actors working today (Rajkummar Rao, Amit Sadh, Vikrant Massay, Jim Sarbh, etc. etc.) have made me think again about what problems nepotism might create.  Mostly I am still of the feeling that it’s none of our business, if these private producers choose to cast who they choose to cast, it is nothing to do with us.

But what makes the difference, I think, is the “launch” film.  Star kids get their “launch” film, a running start in the race.  While other actors struggle along film to film.  The problem is when all available film slots are being taken by the star kids and their “launches” so there is nothing left for other actors to make their mark and be noticed.  That’s where the unfairness comes in, when there is no space for experimentation and trying something new, let them have their “launch” but let other people have those films too.  And let films be made that aren’t “launches” at all, but just films that can stand on their own merit.

Image result for aadhi film poster

I’m noticing these issues particularly with this film not so much because Pranav Mohanlal was so underserving, but that it was so strange to see this kind of film in Malayalam cinema.  A movie where one character seems weighted towards success more than the others.  Where the story isn’t given time to breath because it is so focused on making one person more important than all the others.  The entire film was set up to make sure that Pranav would not, and could not, fail.  Rather than making sure that the film itself, as a whole, would not fail.  The last time I felt like that watching a Malayalam film was ABCD with Dulquer.

There’s a difference between these star launch films with the kids rather than with the established stars.  This film, in almost every way, felt very similar to Oozham, another Jeethu Joseph movie in which the hero has a special skill, average man turns into revenge seeker, and so on and so on.  But in that one, our hero was played by Prithviraj.  And you wanted to watch Prithviraj, so much that he didn’t have to be onscreen or mentioned every second for us to remember him.  The other characters had their own stories with their own resolutions, and we came back to Prithviraj only when the story was ready for us to come back to him.  He was the hero, but he wasn’t the center of it all.

Because, Prithviraj didn’t need any crutches to be the hero.  He just Was.  The story was written for a hero, and Prithviraj showed up and did the job.  That’s what happens when you are a star with a dozen years and a hundred movies behind you.  The same was true in Drishyam, the other Jeethu Joseph movie I have seen.  I found it a little irritating in both movies just how heroic the hero was, but I was irritated because that is how the script was written, that character was supposed to be the center of it all.

In this film, the script suffers when it tries to swing around Pranav’s strengths instead of going where it wants to go.  His strengths, and his weaknesses.  The plot is confused partly because Pranav’s parents in the film Siddique and Lena must constantly join in by phone in order to help us understand Pranav’s emotions and motivations because Pranav’s acting isn’t anywhere near able to convey that.  And the other more interesting actors and characters are undercut, their stories shortened, their heroic moments taken from them, in order to give them to Pranav.

It’s a solid film overall, that’s why it was picked for Pranav’s launch.  Jeethu Joseph is a solid director/writer, Mohanlal took a small chance on him by starring in Drishyam which paid off in a big way for both of them.  A little later, Mohanlal (I am sure) asked him to hire Pranav as his assistant director.  And eventually this film happened, Jeethu knowing what Pranav’s strengths were, and Mohanlal and Pranav knowing that Jeethu would craft a “can’t miss” film around them.

But the whole time I couldn’t help thinking of the other film that could have been made.  The one that starred an unassuming young actor with a lot of experience, who happily shared the screen and plot with those around him.  Where the plot remained focused on the plot instead of on building up the perfection of one actor/character.

Most of all, a film with either less, or better, parkour.  Maybe I am spoiled having seen District B13 approximately ten million times, and Ong-Bak Thai Warrior have that many, and every Tiger Shroff movie at least once, but there is a difference between someone who does decent parkour and might as well do it in a movie, and someone who does jaw-dropping mindblowing parkour, so good that you HAVE to make a movie about it.  This is definitely the first option, a guy who does better parkour than anything else, so you might as well use it.  But really, and I say this sincerely, “eh”.  Less parkour=better movie.  But also, less parkour=less Pranav.  And so, by the transitive property, we ended up with more parkour=more Pranav=worse movie.

(Now THIS is a parkour scene!!!)

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11 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: Aadhi Review (No Spoilers), Nepotism Perks and Parkour

    • I don’t mind it all the time, like Varun in Student of the Year, that felt like he was considered for the role because of his name, but got it on his own merits. And most of all, the movie would have been made with or without him, it wasn’t written just for him. But this film feels like it was only made to launch Pranav.

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  1. TYPO ALERT:
    You’ve used “Pranav”, “Pravam” & “Pravan”. The first one’s correct!

    Have to agree with your nepotism argument. This specific movie was taking it a bit too far – with a cameo from Mohanlal himself. He was present during the audio launch of the film.

    Two years back, Mohanlal was asked about his son’s launch, and he replied that Pranav’s not interested in films and all and he’ll never interfere in his son’s career choices and all.

    I was in two minds about watching this movie after some decent reviews (3/5) from multiple sources. Glad that you’ve shown this movie it’s place…

    Don’t know if you’re aware, but ABCD was not the “launch” movie – infact, Dulquer’s first was a very low key movie called “Second Show”. The first role offered to him was for “Ritu” (you’ve seen this one, right?). An average film goer like me only realized that Mammootty’s son is in movies when “Usthad Hotel” happened. ABCD happened after this.
    There doesn’t really appear to have any “father hand” to any of the movies he has done. They’re not even seen together, the father never speaks about the son in any public forum. The one clip that I saw where they had to share the stage for an award function had them standing miles apart!

    And here we have “Global Pranav Mohanlal Fans and Welfare Association” being thanked during the opening credits! [http://www.filmcompanion.in/aadhi-movie-review/ Courtesy: B Rangan’s review].

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    • Thanks, I’ll fix typos.

      The other thing about this that feels odd is that it was so sudden. I guess Pranav was a child star, so technically he has acted before and all, but to leap right into being the lead in a major film seems extreme. The whole thing reminded me of Ranbir, in a bad way. Like Ranbir, he had time as an assistant director for the director who launched him, and that was his only training. Like Ranbir, their were conscious nods to his heritage in his very first film. Like Ranbir, the film was carefully framed around his particular talents. And it’s worrisome, because it also means that, like Ranbir, he may never learn to jump out of his comfort zone, may never even realize he is in his comfort zone, because he has had everything handed to him.

      With Dulquer, I definitely definitely feel that he was given parts based on who his father was that he never would have gotten as a regular outsider. But at least he took a wide range of parts and took his time finding his place. ABCD was horrible, and I wasn’t that impressed with Njaan even. But he learned, he grew, he tried different things. This feels like a launch that is supposed to establish a particular star persona and set him up for life right from the first film.

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  2. You know, every time i see a talented actor not get good roles and the nepotism argument showing up in their context, I’m immediately reminded of the Ranvir Shorey-Rajat Kapoor-Vinay Pathak group. These people, all of them fine, fine actors, have made so many brilliant films together, they’re a brand on their own, sans big banners behind them. Vikrant got a great chance with Gunj and I seriously hope he continues to work in these off-beat roles instead of waiting around for the big films.

    Nepotism you see will only take you so far. Yes, you will get the launch. That’s the same as a jeweler’s kid not having to start his own shop from scratch when they’re ready for a career. They can just join the family business.

    It’s the same for starkids. If they’re good, at some point, they’ll have their own brand. If not, they’ll be producing films with the talented actors that came up without a family name in the biz.

    More than filmmakers, I feel, the fault lies with the audience for hyping star kids so much. And not giving enough chances to the smaller films and smaller stars. Maybe up until five years ago we could say “Well, we don’t have a choice” but we dont have that excuse today. We can choose to watch the smaller film on a streaming platform and we can choose to keep track of the smaller star via social if they’re not getting the same coverage as the star kids!

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    • All good points. I certainly don’t want to see a brilliant actor watered down to being just a star.

      One thing I have noticed with the “star kids” in terms of hype is that there is a difference between “industry kids” and true “star kids”. Varun, Hrithik, Salman, Aamir, Uday Chopra, they all benefited from connections and experience and so on, but it wasn’t like there was a huge audience curiosity about seeing what David Dhawan’s son would look like, or Salim Khans. Versus Jhansi Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, and Pravan Mohanlal and Dulquer, where their parents were soooooooooooo famous and some of that fame rubbed off on them.

      On Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 11:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think that would be because actors’ kids always naturally draw more relatable memories of their parents than kids of producers, directors and writers. With Hrithik, even though his father was an active A lister, it had been so long since his father had has a hit of his own that the recall factor wasn’t as much as say with someone like Sara Ali, Dulquer and Jhanvi

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        • And it feels like the social media and new media effect for this new batch happened even before they started acting. There is just so much more access, even with the biggest stars who never bothered to hide their kids, like Amitabh and Abhishek, you can look for old photos and there is hardly anything. But with someone like Nyssa, say, who isn’t really being put forward by her parents but is just there, there are sooooooooooooo many photos. Everyone with a cell phone takes candids when the family is at the airport or overseas, we all know what she looks like and are already casting her in our fanfics. Just the kids growing up in the past ten years, they are famous long before they are acting. And we are even disappointed if they don’t start acting because we already feel like we know them so well!

          Going back to Hrithik, it seems like Tusshar Kapoor and Rakesh Roshan would be at about equivalent levels of fame. But I am already way more interested in Laksshya just from his adorable baby photos that are everywhere than anyone was in Hrithik back before his first movie came out.

          On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 9:48 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Rakesh Roshan got the advantage of being an average actor at a time when acting skills weren’t a top priority and he was rather handsome.

            Tusshar, poor things, has very average looks and even worse acting skills and he arrived at a time when better looking second generation stars were ruling. He did find his niche as the mute dude in golmaal. But that’s just a lewd comedy role.

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