The Hangout Series #6 – Thanneer Mathan Dinangal

Watching this film I kept wondering what kind of one-liner the director would have given to convince the producers. When you think about it, the concept of Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is so simple that it can work only on the screen. But that is where the magic in this film lies. What looks so simple is brought to life in a stunning manner. Director Girish A.D. who also co-wrote the film makes the film work on a technical as well as emotional level.

There is something here for everyone to connect with irrespective of your age. All of us would have felt some version of what these characters feel. Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is further proof of Malayalam cinema’s ability to find magic in the ordinary. I kept thinking how this kind of a film would have worked in Tamil or Telugu. And to it’s credit I couldn’t see it working as well as it did here. Mathew Thomas who stole our hearts in Kumbalangi Nights is back to show that he can own the screen as an actor. He is perfectly at home as the somewhat cocky, shy and learning to deal with life teenager Jaison. Anaswara Rajan as Keerthi is dignified and etched in a substantial manner. Sure, we get to see most of her from Jaison’s point of view but she is still a fully formed character.

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Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is also full of another Malayalam cinema trademark. Characters who appear for only a scene or two have something to say and are very often scene-stealing. This fleshes out the universe that the film exists in. The incidents that happen in this classroom could happen anywhere yet it feels unique to this place. That is a major victory for the film.

Ultimately, this is the kind of film that is guaranteed to make you forgot your worries for a brief while. I had heard good things about the film before seeing it but I was genuinely blown away by the quality on display. A special mention has to be made about the dialogues that brim with life and are full of jokes. These funny quips are not used for the sake of it but it grows and flows organically. Thanneer Mathan Dinangal will take you back to a simpler time. It will put a smile on your face whether you are in school or not. This is the magic of cinema – it captures a specific time yet it allows itself to be timeless. Go watch this if you want a good laugh.

Until next time, bye.

The Hangout Series #5 – Premam

It is four years to the day of the release of one of my favorite films, Premam. And I’d like to warn you that this post will be more of a celebration than anything else. Not that the film is beyond criticism, its just that I don’t feel that there is any nitpicking required here. It is a celebration of life, love, friendship and everything in between. So, instead of trying to analyze the film, I’d like to put forward a few reasons why Premam is an enduring classic.

The characters – when a film focuses more on the people rather than the story, you need to have characters that are interesting and ones that we can relate to. This is where Premam is stacked with from top to bottom. Even characters that appear for a scene alone add so much vibrancy to the proceedings. A good example of this would be Jude Anthany Joseph who plays a dance master.

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Sai Pallavi – making her debut, she makes an impression that is simply unforgettable. Whether it is her dialogue delivery, the cute reactions, the dancing and the emotional impact later on in her arc, everything works wonderfully. You do not feel that she is a newbie as she has that magic element of Malayalam cinema, naturalism.

The camera – although Premam didn’t invent a new visual language, the way it was shot was quite different. In many ways, it felt like the camera was a character on its own. It kept shifting from one spot to another like a butterfly, an important motif of the film. The camera would be tracking one person, but we would be hearing dialogue from two people far away. Sounds simple but the effect is unique and makes the frame more lively. Credit has to be given to the decisions made by director Alphonse Puthren who infuses Premam with some visual and aural mastery.

Nivin Pauly – we travel with George David (Nivin Pauly) in three stages of his life and the difference in his personality is palpable. We buy his actions because he makes them believable be it the shy schoolboy, the rugged college boy and the world-weary entrepreneur. Each stage feels different and the aforementioned camera work amplifies that effect brilliantly. Premam simply would not have worked without Nivin’s performance and the response from the audience shows this. I would like to finish by requesting Alphonse Puthren to make more movies, the world needs to see your craft on display again.

Until next time, bye.

The Hangout Series #4 – Booksmart

AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX OUTSIDE THE USA

There are certain kinds of films that we have seen over and over. The coming of age film would definitely fall under this category. So, how do you make a film that feels different even though it is using the same basic framework. If you are Booksmart, you come up with two memorable characters who share an absolutely incredible friendship. Directed by debutant Olivia Wilde with a script from Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman, Booksmart is a funny, realistic take on high school that will resonate with many. If last year we had Eighth Grade, this year belongs to the charm of Booksmart that gives us a friendship for the ages. You can write all the great characters you want but unless you have the actors to pull them off, it will not work.

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This is where Booksmart gifted in that it has two outstanding young actors in Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. The chemistry between both of them is palpable and it feels very real and lived-in. This makes us root for them and we feel like we know them personally. Though we can predict what is going to happen within the framework of this kind of a film, the two leads keep it engaging and in many places it is truly hilarious. Watching Booksmart you are sure to be reminded of the greatest friendships from the cinematic world and that is a good thing. I would really like to see a sequel to this film where we catch up with the characters again. You just do not want to stop hanging out with these people and that is the highest praise that I can shower on the film. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, watching this film will give you something to connect with.

Until next time, bye.

The Hangout Series #3

The one thing that can be said about Kancharapalem is that, you feel that you know what is going to happen. But the way they take this story forward is quite interesting. I do not want to say more and spoil it for those who haven’t yet seen it.

This is a film with four ‘different’ stories that talk about one emotion – love. We see love of different ages and shades and the keyword here is relatability. No matter how old or young you are, there is something that you can relate to and that is the beauty of the film.

A film like this needs to have interesting characters to work and thankfully it has quite a few of them. Take one look at your neighborhood and you are sure to run into someone who is quirky in their own way. Kancharapalem at times feels like a documentary. This is not in its cinematic form but rather in its treatment of the characters. We feel like we are a fly on the wall that is observing what is happening.

When this happens, you do not need to have a plot per say, all that needs to happen is for the proceedings to flow in an organic manner. This happens for the most part and aside from a few cinematic moments at the end of the film, what we see is a highly realistic portrayal of small-town India.

Another aspect that works in the film’s favor is the universal appeal of its setting. Though the story is set in Kancharapalem, this could be any small-town in India. Everywhere, we get to see problems relating to religion, caste, social status etc.

There is a lot of humor present in the film and that makes it possible to truly hangout with these people. Yes, there are some really emotional moments but you do not feel overwhelmed by them. Even when something poignant happens, the way it is presented is very simple. It is just everyday people having everyday realizations.

This is nice because not all of us have these realizations in a big dramatic way. Kancharapalem presents this in a more understated fashion and for that I would like to thank director/writer Venkatesh Maha.

As for flaws in Kancharapalem, I did feel that the length was a little too much at times. But every time that happened, there was something to make me smile or tear up. A true hangout film doesn’t make you feel the same emotion over and over. It takes you on a journey that can sometimes be bumpy but the destination is beautiful and that makes it worth it.

Until next time, bye.

The Hangout Series #2

The Hangout Series

One of the genres that would fall under the hangout category, is the one about college students. Kirik Party which came out two years ago is about friends from an engineering college in Hassan, Karnataka. But their antics and interactions are so relatable that anyone will instantly connect with what is going on. Though the film is about a group of people, the primary focus is on the character of Karna played by Rakshit Shetty. His performance is at times endearing, funny and most of all, authentic.

The rest of his friends add to the feeling of authenticity. We believe that these people have been buddies for a long time and that chemistry is visible. It doesn’t matter whether you are an engineering or arts student, you will see flashbacks of your college life. And if you are someone who is yet to go to college, you will still find a lot to like and talk about.

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A special mention has to be made of the two female leads played by Rashmika Mandanna and Samyuktha Hegde. The former is more of the quiet type and the girl the entire college is after. The latter is a bundle of energy that has eyes for only one man. They are written with depth that gives them more dimensions. This makes them feel like a person rather than a character. You may be able to see similarities between this and other films of this ilk but that is what makes it special. Even if we have an emotional scene, there will be a hilarious one coming right up. This balance makes the film a breeze to watch. If there is any flaw in the film, it is the length. But for most of the film, you will lose track of time. College is a time for learning academics as well as life and Kirik Party shows us some heart-warming lessons about the latter.

Until next time, bye.

The Hangout Series #1

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS FILM YET, IT IS AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX.

When I think of a hangout film, it is one that works very well when your hanging out with your friends or family. But if you happen to be watching it alone, you can hang out with the characters and that is fun as well. I like to think of it as something that you pretty much know how it’s going to turn out, but you are still along with it for the ride. In Hollywood, a lot of Indie and Mumblecore films would fall under this category. The story is pretty low-key though it can have some real emotional moments. They are more often than not feel-good films that are bound to leave you with a smile. Now that we have got that out of the way, I would like to talk about one of the more underrated films to come out of Hindi cinema in the recent past. Tu Hai Mera Sunday is in many ways the right kind of hangout film. It does not take much effort to watch but the characters are so real that you want to see what happens to them.

While the film does have a plot to speak of, the focus is more on the characters and the interactions between them. By using the central concept of football, the director Milind Dhaimade is able to bring together these people that showcase the multicultural beauty of Bombay or Mumbai, whichever you prefer. It is a bit surprising to me that this film didn’t do well as it has the sensibilities to appeal to what the industry would call as the “multiplex audience.” Every emotional moment is followed by one that is lighter and the more the film goes on, you do not realize the time passing by.

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Perhaps this film will appeal more to those who live in a metro where space is at a premium. The true beauty of Tu Hai Mera Sunday is that it uses the search for a place to play football and finds ways to show us people who find love, companionship and most importantly happiness. At no point do you feel a sense of melodrama that can creep into films like this. The characters are etched out with a lot of detail even in the short amount of screen-time they have. Whenever they speak, it feels like we are listening to real people and the actors bring this out in a beautiful manner. In terms of performances, the highlight would have to be what could be considered as the lead pair. Both Barun Sobti and Shahana Goswami have a story that is both endearing and relatable. This dynamic is one that we may have seen in earlier films but the actors make it different. All of this is just my way of telling you to watch this film. If you see it and don’t like it, talk to me. At least then, I will know what kind of films you would like to hangout with.

Until next time, bye.