Monday Malayalam: Ennum Eppozhum, Mohanlal and Manju Reunited

This was a nice movie!  Not a great movie, the plot kind of went up and down and all around, but a very pleasant movie.  The kind of sunshine and nice people movie that the Malayalam industry does not quite like anywhere else.  And which was perfect to watch on an overcast late winter day in Chicago.

In some ways I wish this had been my intro to Manju instead of How Old Are You?  The other one is a much better role for her, but she is so much more charming in this film!  You fall in love with her even before Mohanlal does.

It’s good that she is so charming, because that’s kind of all this film has going for it.  Mohanlal does his usual excellent job, but it isn’t a great role for him.  And the plot kind of falls apart if you poke at it.  And character motivation seems to strangely come and go scene by scene.  But by golly Manju Warrior is charming!  And that’s enough to carry the film.

That, plus the usual lowkey pleasantness feeling to it.  Manju’s neighbors are nice, her clients are nice, even the scary businessman Renji Penecker turns out to be nice.  Nothing bad can really happen, because the world is just too good and safe for anything to be bad.  The worst that can happen is you might be middle-aged and unmarried, but the film even solves that.

To take a brief detour, I am so glad Malayalam films are using their aging superstars appropriately!  Middle-aged romances or married action heroes, no more young hotstuff kind of roles.  This is about as bad as it gets, trying to sell Mohanlal as someone who might intrigue a younger woman romantically, but then ending by putting him safely with his old familiar heroine Manju.

It’s an old familiar director too.  Sathyan Anthikad who has worked with Mohanlal I-don’t-even-know how many times.  Probably why this film is so weak.  It looks like he works a lot and generally has successful films.  Which means he is a little less hungry for the hits.  Versus, for instance, Manju Warrior!  Who was coming back in only her second movie in 15 years.

This seems to be an oddity of the Malayalam industry, how much directors work.  Maybe it is because screenwriters do so much more?  So a director can just take the script and go from there, instead of agonizingly putting together every detail of the film along with directing it.  Along with the super super fast turn around time for filming for Malayalam films, which I still don’t fully understand although I appreciate it (so many star films every year!).  Anyway, it means this charming little film is carried by the actors and the generally pleasant competent feel to the direction, but doesn’t feel like a brilliant passion project.

And that’s okay!  Not every film has to be perfect every time, or even “important” or, well, logical.  Sometimes they are just nice films about nice people with nice endings.

 

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We start with Mohanlal’s character view of the world, which nicely matches with the perspective of this film.  Essentially, his attitude is to just let go, relax, don’t worry, and assume it will all work out.  He works for a magazine as a reporter, but doesn’t really care about his job.  He lives in his family home, his photographer/co-worker lives there rent free in return for doing simple household chores.  Mohanlal rolls out of bed late, puts sandalwood paste on his forehead, and then wanders off to work without even brushing his teeth. He misses the morning meeting, makes an appearance, then goes to the bathroom to finish getting ready, misses the next meeting with the new boss, the daughter (niece? I was confused) of the owner, Reenu Mathews.  She is a young gogetter, ready to start new projects and new plans.  And with no patience for lazy dead weight Mohanlal.  Most recently, Mohanlal interviewed an up and coming actor and accidentally reported his mother’s boyfriend as his father instead of her husband, getting the magazine into hot water.

We see him go about his job in a lazy way, he isn’t necessarily bad at it, he is maybe too good.  He doesn’t take notes because he doesn’t need to take notes, he can sit there half paying attention and throw together an article that is good enough.  And when Reenu goes home to complain about him, she learns from her mother (or aunt?) that Mohanlal is the son of her dead best friend, he has hidden qualities, and anyway she promised his mother he would always have a job.  Reenu is frustrated.

And then, FINALLY, the plot kind of starts.  Well, the kind of plot. All that matters in this movie is the fun chemistry between Manju and Mohanlal, the whole movie is just a series of incidents to throw them together.  Mohanlal is casually causing a traffic jam when his car runs out of gas and Manju is on a bike with no time to wait for him to figure things out.  And then they almost overlap again when Mohanlal shows up at the child’s talent contest that the magazine is hosting and Manju’s neighbor Innocent (excellent as always) is there with her daughter as a contestant.  We start to get a sense of the two of them.  Both of them solitary and missing a family, Mohanlal still living in the house that is exactly as his mother left it, Manju and her daughter forming a half family with their neighbors Innocent and his wife.  But otherwise opposites, Manju working working working, driving herself ever harder, and Mohanlal relaxing.

The plot actually puts them together when Manju has her photo taken after falling in a pothole on her bike, and then forcing the man who hit her to guarantee a fix for the roads.  She is a minor human interest story celebrity and Reenu decides she will be the cover story for their next issue.  And she also decides to assign Mohanlal this impossible story and make his career hinge on it.

And now, finally, we have a reason for Mohanlal and Manju to interact!  Over and over and over again.  He approaches her at her office, she sends him off and when he asks for a reason, pulls out that she doesn’t like his sandalwood tika.  Mohanlal can’t give up, because he made a big speech to Reenu guaranteeing he would get this story.  So he starts following Manju, trying to get to know her, seeing her very very busy day.

And at the same time, we the audience see even more of Manju’s life.  Her good friend Lena comes to visit, we learn that Manju’s ex-husband was terrible to her but no one else could see it, she has custody of their daughter for now but is worried about what will happen when the custody is revisited once she turns 12.  Lena breaks the news that her husband is remarried, Manju doesn’t seem to care.

More interestingly, Lena starts talking about her own marriage.  Her kids live with her parents, Lena travels all the time for work, and her husband is cheating but they don’t talk about it and just stay married.  This is as close as the film gets to a theme.  The idea of what middle-aged relationships look like.  You might be divorced and happy to be rid of your husband and living alone.  You might be never married, solitary, still living in the family home with the shadow of your mother over everything.  Or you might be married, and miserable, and more disconnected then the single people.

That’s what it’s about, feeling connected somehow someway.  Manju works and works but ultimately is lonely.  Mohanlal slouches through life, but is lonely too.  Manju starts to soften when Renji Penickar approaches her, a builder that she has taken up a case against despite her boss’s warnings.  He threatens her, subtly, and suddenly Mohanlal is there, part of his following her around.  He doesn’t do much, he is just there, with her.  And Manju says later how strange it was how much better she felt once he showed up.

And that’s what keeps happening.  Mohanlal doesn’t really do anything special, he is just “there”, all the time.  Until he has a chance to do something a little extra, he is there when Manju’s scooter is hit by a car and her daughter is knocked off and injured.  He is there to take her to the hospital, to reassure her, to just generally support with his presence.  He doesn’t leap in right away to save her, when Manju’s ex uses the accident as an excuse to take back custody Innocent fights off the police, but Mohanlal just stands and watches.

But he is thinking, just like when he does the bare minimum at work but still does his job.  He noticed a sticker on the car that hit the bike, he notices it again later and follows the car, still calm and quiet and slow.  And then once he meets the driver, he lets loose and actually acts, does something for once, beats the man up and forces him to admit that he was hired by Manju’s ex in order to create grounds for taking back custody.

There is almost a kind of character journey to Mohanlal.  He is a man who seemingly doesn’t care about anything, but we learn later that as a boy he used to always get angry, so his mother started putting sandalwood on his forehead which calmed him down, and he has been calm since then.  He always had something inside of him, he just never let it out.  But his new boss Reenu starts the process of inspiring him to work more, and then Manju really challenges him, is so much out there and works so hard and cares so much more, that he starts caring.  He actually works to get the interview, he dresses more nicely and follows her around and eventually even loses the tika because she said she didn’t like it.  And, finally, he beats up a man for her.

But he doesn’t change entirely.  Manju has come to rely on him to be her soft supportive presence, she doesn’t want another alpha male type.  At the end, she finally finally agrees to give him the interview and they spend one long day together.  He plays with her daughter and walks behind her at work, and is just there, all day.  And that’s the end of the movie.  Finally getting that interview, that he has been working for so long, acheiving his goal.  And then getting his reward, as he sits down to write, Manju calls him on the phone to tell him he should start wearing the tika again, she likes it.  Implying that she also likes him.

Now, in a better movie, there would be an actual plot and conflict and messy things like that.  Mohanlal’s boss maybe sort of getting a crush on him wouldn’t be thrown in for no reason.  We would find out what happens with Lena and her ex-husband.  Mohanlal wouldn’t switch between a lovable loser and a cool troubled type for no reason for a scene (a cool troubled type who listens to Rod Stewart.  I know almost nothing about American music after 1964, but I feel like Rod Stewart isn’t a cool troubled guy singer).  And the resolution to Manju’s custody battle would take more than 20 minutes.  And the ending wouldn’t have such a “wait, is that it?” feeling to it.

But this movie is good enough!  Mohanlal and Manju have great chemistry together and I love their character interactions.  Innocent is brilliant.  The romance between a divorced single Mom and a guy who just never got his act together is refreshingly different.  And there’s sunshine and a little girl and a classical dance performance, it’s just nice.  Watch it next time you have a rainy day and nothing better to do.

Image result for ennum eppozhum poster

(Oh, and also there is a clear real life parallel with Manju as the working single mother with the scary abusive ex who just got remarried and no one believes he is abusive, but I don’t want to get into that thing)

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: Ennum Eppozhum, Mohanlal and Manju Reunited

  1. Gossip Time? This was initially supposed to be Manju’s comeback film but Mohanlal backed out in fear that Dileep will unleash “his people” and boo the audience out.
    My mother is a HUGEEEEE Saytan Anthikad fan, and we drove 3 hours to watch this movie. It was honestly a disappointment. Unlike all Saytan Anthikad movies, there was no message here?

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    • Total conspiracy theory: maybe the message was supposed to be more about jerky husbands and bad relationships, but Saytan Anthikad got scared off too?

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      • Urghhh! Like, come on Manju, we all know you didn’t have the best relationship with Dileep but why you gotta let it show in your movie choices?!?! Like How Old Are You? (Not the best supportive husband) This movie and Rani Padmini were all like, screw paternity!!

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      • Urghhh! Like, come on Manju, we all know you didn’t have the best relationship with Dileep but why you gotta let it show in your movie choices?!?! Like How Old Are You? (Not the best supportive husband) This movie and Rani Padmini were all like, screw paternity!!

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        • I hadn’t thought about that before. From the general film side of things, her movies are so refreshing to have a strong woman without a man. But you are right, if you line up every film she has made next to each other, they do seem kind of similar to each other. Although there are a few of her comeback films I still haven’t seen, it’s possible they are different.

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    • Anyone to start loving Manju should be watching:
      Ee Puzhayum Kadannu (Family),
      Summer in Bethleham (Comedy Romance),
      Kannuezhuthi Pottum Thottu (Revenge genre),
      Kanmadham (Family – strong character),
      Dhaya (story from 1001 nights).
      (all available on Youtube but no subtitles)

      She just excels in any role.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I should warn you, it’s really not that good of a movie! I’ve only seen 3 Manju films (I think) and this was definitely the worst as a movie. But it was also the happiest all around, so I guess it depends on what you are in the mood for! Her performance was best in How Old Are You? I think, and as a movie I found c/o Saira Banu best all around.

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  2. I also had the “is that it?” feeling when it ended.
    Expectations were so high for this movie!!! It was supposed to be the re-union of a “hit” pair from the 90’s.

    Now I’ve totally given up on Sathyan Anthikad. His last good film was “Achuvinte Amma” which came out in 2005 (see if you can track it, it’s pretty good). Don’t think there’ll be a comeback. But credit to him for surviving for so long and particularly the onslaught of these so called “new generation” film makers.

    There were rumours that the “abusive ex” persuaded Mohanlal to back out of this film – but he’d have nothing of it! Even Kunchacko Boban stated to the cops that he was compelled to withdraw from “How Old Are You” and when he denied, the ex tried to scuttle his opportunity in another film.

    http://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/dileep-had-grudge-against-actress-reveal-statements-of-actors-actress-attack-case-kavya-madhavan-manju-warrier-1.2471127

    Talking about re-union of old hit pairs, the news from Mollywood last week was that Nadhiya is soon going to be seen opposite Mohanlal after some 34 years!
    Their first film together – “Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu” was one of the biggest hits that year and a pretty decent one (available on HotStar)

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    • I hadn’t thought about it until you mention it, but the style of this film is really well-done considering it is an old-fashioned director. the camera work and stuff feels modern and timely. It’s not as experimental as other things I’ve seen, but it’s also not stilted and struggling to feel modern.

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  3. I had wondered how is it that despite having such a strong adversary in the form of her ex, how Manju managed to have films designed around her & built such a strong brand in her second coming. Because if her ex is as powerful as being speculated(he is)no one should dare to hire her-however talented she is. So what I understood reading between the lines is that Manju has a big promoter in Kalyan group(who has the Bachans, Akkinenis, Sonam and several stars across industries as their brand ambassadors). Dileep was their brand ambassador first (while married to Manju). He moved away from them & they seemed to draw closer to Manju(not sure which happened first).To me the issue between the couple seems linked to Kalyan-specifically to Shrikumar Menon-who directs all the ad films for Kalyan & has designed Manju’s entire comeback(right from the first ad for Kalyan where she appeared onscreen after 15 years),makeover. His talent firm handles her PR, media image etc. I have an inkling that he was instrumental in getting Amala in c/o Saira Banu. I don’t find anything wrong with all these, just that no one ever talks about these and how this new-Manju looks & acts different from the young Manju. She was known for her effortless charm & acting(a la Sai Pallavi)in her first innings. But the new Manju seems very forced & unnatural along with looking perfectly made-up all the time. I can’t care for her acting now.

    Fun fact -Shrikumar Menon is turning director for the first time with Mohanlal& Manju in the leads.He has also announced a 10 billion movie -Mahabharata-with Mohanlal in the lead.

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    • This all makes complete sense to me. Not exactly a vast powerful conspiracy (I don’t think that’s what you are saying), but more that people can build tight relationships through these brand ambassadorships and ad campaigns, which can challenge the movie industry connections. Both in terms of finding a mentor you trust to help you rebuild a career, and building bonds and relationships that can be called on between equals.

      It’s kind of reminding me of what we were talking about in some of the comments on the marriage posts, how Indian actors can appear so much more intimate in public, seem to have such tight bonds, compared to Hollywood actors. Partly because it’s not just acting together in films, but also performing on stage shows, being in ads, this whole variety of connections between them and others. R. Balki got his first film because Amitabh trusted him after doing the ad films with him, Aish first got noticed in ads (right?) which lead to her being cast in films, and on and on.

      On Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 9:53 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Agreed. Just that in Kerala, the brands,ambassadorships,image-building,business associations etc are very lightly played. Folks do not like to think they have been nudged to think in a certain way & that anything other than talent, hardwork & humility(🙄)has a role in how an actor’s career flourishes.

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        • It’s funny, the “nepotism” arguments and so on are always coming up, but no one brings up the non-family connections that might be helping people. Not that I even necessarily disapprove of those connections, you always need connections to make it in a career, but that they are swept under the rug in comparison with the nepotism stuff.

          On Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 10:15 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Maybe cos a relation-connection is quite obvious v/s an industry connection which is mostly behind the scenes. Also an industry connection takes time to build & flourish v/s being born into connections.

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  4. Manju’s comeback movie was apparently something called “G for Gold” with Mohanlal and Prithviraj as male leads, to be directed by Ranjith. But of course Dileep would have none of it and forced Ranjith (who I guess owes one to Dileep) to pull out of it. Ashirwad had her dates and hence they planned this quickie, which is actually pretty evident. This is Sathyan Anthikad’s weakest movie till date. Atleast Manju’s character looked like it had some thought going into it, but Mohanlal’s character was so lazily written. I also had major issues with Manju’s dubbing – which sounds super artificial off late.
    Dileep has continuously tried to get actors from backing out of Manju’s projects. In fact Jayasurya was supposed to do Amala’s role in Saira Banu and he got Jayasurya to back out too, ultimately forcing the makers to turn it into a female role.

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    • Okay, if he had her dates already and they just threw this together, that makes a lot of sense. Her character and performance was great, but a lot of other things felt a little off. It might even explain some characters who never got resolution, maybe they just ran out of time to film a final scene with them. Not major characters, but like that little boy Mohanlal was hanging out with suddenly disappeared halfway through, and his editor Reenu never really got a final scene, was just dispatched with in voice over.

      On Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 11:28 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • We should ban voice overs, it was used very well in OSO and Bangalore Days(Nivin’s oratory skills are to die for), but off late its just filmmakers using it cos they are lazy.

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  5. i am not very anti dileep or pro manju on the controversies. since i have been following the whole actress attack issue thoroughly , not just from news medias but opinions of many legal experts and other activists too, i know that many false allegations were widely circulated against dileep and kavya through medias. but medias never bothered to correct themselves or apologize when truths were revealed later. it felt like a campaign organized against him.and any revealings that support his statements were purposefully ignored. some of the advocates i follow predict after studying the police report that it will be an easy win for dileep in court. i dont know about how he controlled the industry but i firmly believe he is not part of the actress attack case based on my observations.like actor sreenivasan said dileep is not a fool to plan something like this.
    since he took over the leadership of all organizations in malayalam cinema within a short time,he made a lot of enemies . and since issues between him and the attacked actress were well known inside and outside industry, they might have decided to use the attack incident to destroy his image and career.
    btw divorce was actually filed by dileep not manju..his reasons to divorce was always kept hidden but recently people close to dileep made it clear once the case is over they will reveal all details about divorce since there are many baseless allegations against him.and manju immediately took precaution alleging dileep was overly suspicious of her. and their daughter always made it clear she will support her father always and she wont go with her mother.

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  6. I also wanted to throw in a thought around the old school v/s new-gen film making in Malayalam. You are right that old school was more about script & actors carrying the film forward. While new-gen school is less about scripts,dialogues(often improvised)and more about scene design, camera angles, sounds & behavioural acting. The two different ways came to a clash when the 2015 KeralaState Awards were announced & Premam-the most popular & successful film of the year-did not win a single award. Answering the media,the jury chairman-an old schooler who hadn’t directed in years-commented that Premam lacked form or structure & is a hastily/lazily made film. Yes-he said those exact words. The director of Premam then responded to him explaining his thought on film making & why he made Premam the way it is. Not that he was worried about not winning any awards but wanted to inform the veteran that there is more than one way of doing things. I see the old favourites-who created the golden age of Malayalam cinema in 80s &90s-Fazli, Sibi Malayil, Satyan Anthikadu, Kamal etc -struggling to get it right in the new millennium & the new gem creating fascinating films. Unlike the Hindi films where who spend the money- single producers v/s corporates-kinda underwent a change , Malayalam films changed in the style of film making. For the audiences, it’s not a loss as content is still the king in Malayalam films.

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    • Fascinating points! It makes me appreciate Lal Jose even more, it seems like he is one director who made an effort to mentor and encourage the new age directors, even while retaining his own original style. Or maybe I’m wrong?

      On Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 10:21 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Lal Jose is a 2000s director(AD to Kamal for several years)& not as prolific as the earlier directors. So while it may have been easier for him to see & adapt to the turn of things, his willingness to encourage newer talent is definitely a rarity.

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