Qarib Qarib Singlle

Jaya (Parvathy) is a single woman, busy with her career and an array of friends who rely on her for help. She has been a widow for around ten years, and there is something both wistful and a little salacious in the way she notices signs of sex all around her. She wants to move on but is a bit conservative when it comes to dating publicly, and is wary of losing someone she loves again. But she sets up a profile on a dating site and one response stands out amongst all the sleazy ones. She sets up a coffee date with Yogi (Irrfan, still so fancy he needs no last name). He is a scruffy and unpretentious bloke who seems to say whatever is on his mind. Yogi is convinced his exes are all still pining for him while Jaya is pining for her dead husband. Through one of the few really clunky exchanges in the film, they agree to go on a roadtrip and visit his exes. They can get to know each other on their co-funded separate bedrooms holiday, and Yogi believes Jaya will come to see what a catch he is.

Parvathy is impressive as Jaya, initially quite stitched up but revealing more of her hopes and desires as she opens up under Yogi’s impulsive influence. Jaya is a career woman and Parvathy is authoritarian as a hardarse manager but in Jaya’s personal life she shows the fragility and caution that has stopped her from really moving on. She has wonderful chemistry with Irrfan and as she warms to Yogi I found I was seeing him differently too. In some scenes the sparkle of laughter in her eyes could be genuine amusement at his outrageous behaviour. When Jaya lets herself go she is physically braver than Yogi, while he seems socially and emotionally more robust. Jaya often interacts directly with the camera and Parvathy is amazingly skilled at acknowledging that we are watching and aware without breaking out of Jaya’s character. Jaya finds herself tagging along with a carefree and chaotic guide, and between the stress, fights, and hilarity she reconnects with life. That sounds grand but this is an intimate and very personal story.

Irrfan is charming and funny as Yogi – who could almost be a Manic Pixie Dream Manchild (MPDMc). He is entirely comfortable with himself, and has a deep and possibly delusional confidence in his charms. Yogi needs to let go of his past too although he doesn’t recognise his nostalgia as toxic. He is a catalyst if not a wrecking ball. Yogi can’t help himself from going off on tangents and has a very lax approach to time management and logistics. And I won’t start on his fashion sense. He would have driven me mad. But he is a kind and intelligent man, and Jaya responds to his curiosity about her. Some of the antics are clearly just for the sake of having something go wrong at that point to force Jaya off onto another tangent, and Yogi bears the burden of the poor decision making based comedy. But Irrfan plays his scenes with Jaya with wit and warmth and only a few lapses into acting school improv shenanigans. As an MPDMc Yogi did get on my nerves but I was relieved and happy when Jaya called him out on those behaviours, and also appreciated his response. If, like me, you liked Irrfan in Piku or Life in a Metro, then I think you’ll enjoy this performance too.

The extended trip and varied transport allows for other characters to enter and leave the story without taking up too much space. Also I greatly enjoyed the dashboard decoration of one taxi, fake grass and all. Yogi does spend some time with his exes but the glimpses of their lives look like they are all well and happy, not hung up on him at all. Neha Dhupia is all glamour and self-assurance as his legendary second love. I also enjoyed the direct life advice from the taxi driver played by…someone whose name I have neglected to note.

The story meanders across India from Mumbai to Rishikesh and Gangtok and elsewhere, using planes, trains, taxis and autos. Tanuja Chandra and Eeshit Narain manage to make every location look breathtakingly beautiful and instantly recognisable without resorting to tourist brochure clichés. The golden afternoon light and conversations under the stars create an atmosphere that keeps things anchored in the world and avoids feeling stagey in the dialogue heavy scenes. The music is largely used in the background but when made a focus it seemed that the lyrics were pertinent to the drama. There are no big production numbers and that is just perfect for this film.

The mechanism to get the roadtrip underway was highly contrived, the material is a bit thin in places, and the ending is a little too rushed. But the journey in the middle is charming, infuriating, and ultimately uplifting largely due to the excellent work by Parvathy and Irrfan. One to see if you like a sensible and respectful approach to your rom coms.

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Charlie (2015)

Charlie

Charlie is simply an amazing work of art. From the stunning apartment where Tessa (Parvathy) takes refuge from her interfering family to the many and glorious shades of green of the hill station she visits, the vibrant colours of Kerala radiate from every frame. The lead characters are equally colourful – literally, in their tendency to wear bright Bohemian clothing and figuratively in their offbeat personalities that blend seamlessly into the intriguing yet deceptively simple storyline. The film shows Tessa’s search for Charlie, a man she knows only through other people’s perceptions but someone who may be her soul mate, if only she can find him. Director Martin Prakkat does a fantastic job of keeping the film engaging right to the last frame, and with an excellent cast and beautiful music from Gopi Sunder, Charlie is a great start to a new year of cinema.

Tessa (Parvathy) is the unconventional daughter in a conventional family who arrives home just in time to celebrate her brother’s engagement but takes off again as soon as her own marriage is discussed. Tessa is part bohemian nonconformist and part spoilt brat as she refuses to contact anyone in her family apart from her grandmother, even going to the extreme of destroying her phone SIM to ensure her privacy. She gives up her job in Bangalore (money doesn’t ever seem to be an issue) and rents an apartment in an old hotel, but when she arrives finds that the previous tenant left most of his belongings behind. Since these include an eclectic mix of furnishings and artwork as well as an accumulation of rubbish, brewing equipment and a goat on the balcony, Tessa is unimpressed by her new surroundings, particularly when strange people appear in her apartment too. However the charm of her musical neighbours and the beauty of her surroundings soon begin to work their magic, persuading Tessa to stay.

Unlike Tessa, I totally loved this apartment from the very first moment and cannot wait for the DVD release so that I can pause, rewind and absorb every small detail of the room. Every frame shows yet another fascinating sculpture or curious work of art and it’s somewhere I could happily live – even with the goat on the balcony!

Apart from being visually spectacular, the exotic and surreal décor adds a fantasy element to the storyline that’s further enhanced here in the song Oru Karimukilinu

Once she deals with the disorder in the room, a photograph and an unexpected phone call kindle Tessa’s interest in the former occupant. When she then finds an unfinished comic strip describing the events of one night, Tessa becomes obsessed with finding the author and discovering what really happened and how the story ends. As part of her search she meets Sunikuttan (Soubin Shahir), the burglar who features in the drawings and who helps Tessa connect to other people in Charlie’s life.

As Tessa begins her search for the elusive Charlie (Dulquer Salmaan), she discovers that he’s a fly-by-night kind of guy who doesn’t seem to take life seriously. From various sources she learns that Charlie appears unexpectedly, interferes in peoples’ lives and then takes off again. The implication is that he’s a free spirit who appears only to do good, except that his actions don’t always have a happy outcome. The more people she meets and the more she finds out about Charlie, the more questions Tessa has, and the more connected she seems to feel to a person she has never met.

Parvathy is excellent as slightly dippy Tessa, and I love a heroine who wears glasses without losing them at the end in a ‘fashionable make-over’. Although some of her idiosyncrasies don’t quite come off, such as wearing unmatching sandals and her almost paranoid avoidance of her family, mostly her character is sympathetically portrayed. The obsessive nature of Tessa’s search for Charlie does fit in with her personality and her rather haphazard approach to her search also seems plausible. Parvathy strikes a good balance between hippy chick and modern independence and the hints of vulnerability she shows are nicely nuanced to fit with her current lack of direction in life.

Although Dulquer is excellent in his portrayal of the eccentric Charlie, his character is somewhat less successful due to a tendency to veer a little too far off the rails into borderline deranged rather than keeping to eccentrically bohemian territory. Dulquer also tries for a deep belly laugh which came across rather forced at times and doesn’t gel with the rest of his persona. However despite his occasional crazy escapades Charlie is basically a nice guy, and Dulquer gets that feel good aspect of his personality across well. I could have done without the shaggy beard look, but I loved his costumes and Charlie’s generally relaxed and casual approach to life. There is a magic to the character too that is smothered by too much mania, but when writers Unni R and Martin Prakkat allow the mysterious element full rein the effect is enchanting.

The rest of the cast are also good in more serious roles that give structure to the story and highlight the unconventionality of Charlie and Tessa just that little bit more. Aparna Gopinath is excellent as Kani, a doctor with a difficult past, giving her character some dignity when faced with Charlie’s more spontaneous decisions. Kani works at a retirement hill station of sorts where Charlie has gathered an eclectic mix of people with the most notable being Kunjappan (Nedumudi Venu) who has his own love story to tell. These diversions into other people’s lives along the way help to define Charlie to Tessa and slowly lead her towards her ultimate goal of finding the man himself. The brief stories are full of emotion too and while each successfully gives another layer to Charlie, they also enhance the film in their own right, adding depth and shade to the screenplay.

Jomon John’s cinematography is spectacular and his camera captures the beauty and colour of Kerala, weaving them into the magical storyline. The quirky story is captivating and Parvathy is a delight to watch as she follows in Charlie’s footsteps, always that one step behind. I loved every moment, even the excessively loud craziness of Dulquer’s Charlie and this is a film I will want to watch again and again. Beautiful music, an offbeat story, colourful characters and all the wonderful sets make Charlie well worth catching in the cinema and a film I highly recommend. Don’t miss it!

Maryan

Maryan

Finally! It has been a long time since 3, but the wait has been well worth it. Dhanush is back in Maryan, a movie that sets out to prove that true love really can conquer all even if you were a bit iffy about that true love at the start. This is the debut film for writer/ director Bharat Bala and while generally he does a great job, there are times when the screen play lags a little, and the focus on desert imagery resembles a National Geographic special. However, superb performances from all the cast and A. R. Rahman’s wonderful soundtrack combine to ensure that Maryan is a film to savour. Plus English subtitles – perfect!

The film starts with Maryan (Dhanush) working in the Sudan for an oil company, where his love for Panimalar (Parvathy), his fiancée waiting at home in India, is perfectly captured by a brief phone call. But it hasn’t always been that way, and the film switches into flashback to explain just who Maryan is and how he came to be working in Africa when he is so obviously yearning to be home.

Maryan Maryan

This first section works very well, where Panimalar is seen as a lovelorn girl, chasing Maryan endlessly despite his disdain and often brutal rejection. Maryan is a fisherman who hunts in the traditional way and has developed amazing lung capacity, allowing him to remain submerged for longer than the other fishermen. He calls himself the king of the sea and obviously has an intimate relationship with the ocean which is really the only thing he cares about. Dhanush effortlessly establishes his character as a brash, arrogant young man who has his faults but is generally likeable and can dance up a storm.

Maryan

Slowly Maryan comes to appreciate Panimalar’s charms helped along by the active encouragement of his best friend, Panimalar’s brother Sakkarai (Appukutty). Dhanush and Parvathy play their roles perfectly here and the romance is expertly developed with an eye to small town sensibilities. Parvathy has a better than usual role as a heroine and she makes the most of it, using her eyes and body language to express her feelings as she establishes Panimalar as a feisty girl determined to get her man, no matter what it takes. There are a few funny scenes between her and her future mother-in-law Seeli (Uma Riyaz Khan) which work very well, and both Parvathi and Appukutty are to be commended for the way they manage to establish their sibling relationship so well in a few brief scenes.

Maryan

Despite the excellent chemistry between Maryan and Panimalar, there are a few miscues and the amount of violence Panimalar experiences at the hands of her beloved appears quite unnecessary. The initial slap when Maryan is frustrated by Panimalar’s persistent attempts to declare her love is perhaps understandable, but later scenes including Maryan saying, “Who else will I hit if not you?” are sadly all too common in Tamil films. I understand that this does depict real life where domestic violence is an ever present problem but I wish directors would use the characters to show that it’s just not acceptable rather than brushing it off as an apparently appropriate way for a character to show their distress.

Maryan

Maryan is forced to work in Africa to pay off debts incurred by Panimalar’s father Thomayya (Salim Kumar) and prevent her forcible marriage to Theekkurissi (Vinayakan). However just as Maryan is on the way to the airport to come home, he is kidnapped by Sudanese militants who hold him, his friend Sami (Jagan) and a fellow co-worker for ransom. While the African militants are poorly drawn, being caricaturised and frequently over the top, Dhanush and Jagan are both brilliant as they show their gradual mental and physical deterioration at the hands of their captors. There are some scenes here that are frankly uncomfortable to watch due to the sheer honesty of Dhanush’s performance and although this type of mental anguish is a role he has portrayed before he takes it to an entirely new level here. Jagan also seems perfectly cast as Sami, and his change from happy-go-lucky guy to terrorised victim is well portrayed.

Maryan Maryan

Despite all the drama, the film does drag a little in the second half. After all there are only so many times you can show someone running up a sand dune before it gets a little repetitive, but the hallucinations (yay – cheetahs!) and Maryan’s determination to make it home to Panimalar help keep things moving long. There is also a lack of hair continuity for Dhanush which is irritating considering the care which has obviously gone into the rest of the film. One good point is that Panimalar doesn’t do a disappearing act in the second half and the film does cut back frequently to show her initial despair and then fervent belief that Maryan is coming back to her. Parvathy is impressive in these scenes and her performance really is on a par with that of Dhanush.

Cheetah!Maryan

Technically the film looks and sounds beautiful. I’ve been enjoying A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack since it was released and the songs are even better on screen. The only one that doesn’t work so well is ‘I Love My Africa’ which has poor justification and picturisation but on the whole the songs are well placed in the narrative. I often don’t notice the background score on the first watch of a film, but here it is sweetly evocative and the natural music of the ocean and the desert are added in for haunting effect, adding to the magic of the images. The excellent cinematography by Marc Koninckx perfectly captures coastal Tamil Nadu and the deserts of Africa, highlighting the contrasting light of the two locations and make the landscape just as much a feature of the film as the actors themselves.

Maryan

Maryan is a film to watch for yet another amazing performance from Dhanush and equally impressive acting from Parvathy, while beautiful imagery and evocative music add to the overall effect. Even if the action part of the film doesn’t work quite so well, the love story is charming and inspiring. Watching Maryan you have to believe that true love really can conquer all and that’s a very heart-warming message to take home on a cold Melbourne winter night!