Innale – a classic Malayalam film gem

With strong recommendations from my Quora answer, and also Margaret of Don’tCalllItBollywood, I watched the Malayalam 1990 classic film Innale  [Yesterday] this weekend.  It’s available on ErosNow.com.

Margaret promised a cozy movie to watch, and it was.  This classic film gem, by director  P. Padmarajan came out in 1990.  It stars Shobana as the victim of a bus accident in a pouring rain storm.  She is found half dead on a river bank by some villagers who steal her bangles and jewelry before they take her to get help.

When she regains consciousness, she has no memory of her past, or even her name.  Sarath, the son of her doctor, is the hospital administrator and he calls her Maya for expediency.  She is the sole survivor of the accident, and it is presumed her family died in the accident.  She recognizes none of the photographs of the dead.  They post her picture in the paper, but only get imposters trying to claim her.

Sarath gives her the a guest cottage on his family property and a maid servant, and even sets her up with a teaching job at the local school.  And, he’s falling under young Maya’s spell.  At one point, Sarath is driving Maya and the Tracy Chapman song For My Lover was playing on the radio of the car.  It took me right back to that time in the late 80’s/early 90’s when she was so popular, and the song choice was particularly poignant.

T’d climb a mountain if I had to
And risk my life so I could have you
You, you, you…

….

For my lover for my lover

I follow my heart
And leave my head to ponder
Deep in this love
No man can shake

 

Shobana was absolutely luminous in this film.  She was the best actor in the whole film, and I was so impressed with her.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing her film Manichitrathazhu now, which also stars my second favorite actor of Innale – Suresh Gopi.

Jayaram as Sarath, the young man who falls for the amnesia victim Maya was fine, and sweet.  But after the interval we are introduced to Maya’s husband, returned from the US to try to find her.

Suresh Gopi as Dr. Narendran, Maya/Gauri’s bereft husband, had not very much screen time, but he was exceptionally good and has a deep impact.  We see his loneliness and grief, and a glimmer of hope that his wife may have survived the bus crash.  Through several flashbacks we see how happy he and his wife were in their brief marriage.

This is what Indian cinema does so well.  Set up for the audience these dilemmas.  We don’t know who to root for, as our heart is tugged both ways.  Maya is blissfully happy with Sarath, but we see how happy she was with Dr. Narendran in her past.  Suresh Gopi just broke my heart at the end of the film.

It’s like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai with Shahrukh and Salman in that final wedding scene.  So much crying!!

 

Or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam with Aish, Salman and Ajay.  Team Ajay all the way!

 

I loved Innale, scratchy old film print and all.  Four stars out of five.  Suresh Gopi co-stars with Shobana in Manichitrathazhu , which makes me look forward to it even more.

My first Kannada Film – the Amazing Lucia! ****1/2 Film review

On my Quora post, over and over again, the Kannada commenters listed Lucia by Pawan Kumar as a recommended film. I watched the trailer here and the film is a total mind f*ck kind of trip. Watch the trailer, and you’ll get a taste of what I mean!

First, the way the film got made is totally interesting on its own It was crowdfunded! One of the production thingies at the beginning is “Audience” films, and then they show a grid of like 100 youtube videos of people holding signs. 110 people contributed to make the film, for like $70,000. It won the audience award at the London Indian film festival, where it premiered, and was short listed for the Oscars film from India.

YES, it’s that good!!

It’s a micro-budget film, but one of those indie feeling films where they were super creative and did a LOT with very little. It would totally fit in at Sundance.

So, what’s it about? Lucia is the name of the Lucid dream drug. The movie starts with policemen investigating why a certain patient is in a coma — and news TV debates whether euthanasia should be allowed.

The movie is very non-linear. We flash from color scenes of Nikki, a “torch-shiner” or usher in a tiny little theater in Bangalore, who lives in a shack with 4 other guys. He’s an insomniac, and a local drug-peddler gives him a sleeping pill, Lucia, that will give him dreams so real, he’ll feel that he lived them. But if he stops taking the pills, the dreams become nightmares.

The dreams are in black and white, and suddenly Nikki is Nikhil, a movie star! It’s like Wizard of Oz in reverse, as all the people in his humble life are in the movie star life, which is black and white. His uncle the little theater owner, is now his trusted manager. The pizza parlor waitress girl he’s crushing on as Nikki, is his item number girl in the movie he’s filming.

Lots of meta commentary on the value of the little tiny one screen theaters. And life as a movie star in India, etc.

The main actor, Sathish Ninasam, who plays Nikki/Nikhil is amazing. He is this humble sweet poor schlub Nikki, who doesn’t even think he deserves a cute pizza parlor girl and then he has this amazing confident movie star air as Nikhil. The main actress who plays the pizza parlor girl and the item number girl, the love interest in both worlds, is pretty good. I especially love her as the spunky pizza parlor girl. She tries to get Nikki to learn English and get a job at a multiplex, which leads to some very humorous scenes.

The film has sweetness, and a very filmi romance while also being a near Matrix level psychological — which-world-is-real kind of sci-fi plot. This is an Indian film where the script is truly king. It is quite the story — certainly not like anything else in Indian film, and yet, with the dual role, so very filmi at the same time!

I now feel like I have to go back and thank each of those people who recommended this on the Quora post. So good and so interesting! I really enjoyed the roller coaster ride. The director’s next film, U-Turn, is evidently about to come out. Lucia got rave tweets from Irrfan Khan and Anurag Kashyap tweeted “My birthday gift to myself would be lucia…”

Highly recommend this quirky strange wonderful Kannada film.  4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Rent Lucia for $2.99 on Youtube with English Subs.

Why I Love Indian Cinema

A few weeks ago, I answered a question on Quora, “Does anyone besides Indians watch Indian movies?”  This post is adapted from the answer I gave.  At first I gave a brief answer, but then people commented and wanted to know WHY?  Why would a non-Indian love Indian films?  Many commenters were at first incredulous, but then thanked me for showing them an outsider’s view of their cinema.   As of this writing, the answer has garnered over 170,000 views, and made me a Most Viewed Writer about Bollywood on Quora.  (Which still blows my mind.)

Netflix in the US has over 80 Hindi films at anyone time.  Because of the kind of films I enjoy, Netflix recommended I watch Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge about 2 years ago.  Since I fell in love with Bollywood, I’ve seen over 200 Indian films.  I’m lucky that in my area new release films play in a few local theaters.  I was able to see Kapoor and Sons just last night and I absolutely loved it.

I’m not the only non-Desi in America to love Bollywood movies, but I wouldn’t say it’s very common.

My father’s church has a monthly movie night, and he asked me to show a Bollywood movie last week.  I chose Dil Se, and showed it to 15 people, including my parents, who had never before seen a Bollywood film.  They all loved it!

Editing to add my answer from the comments below, WHY I love Indian films:

I also love old Hollywood musicals like Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly films.  Hollywood does not make them anymore.  I love the singing and the dancing in Indian cinema, but also the earnest love stories are not the kind of films that Hollywood makes either.  Rom Coms are becoming rarer and rarer in American films which tend to be more cynical.  The emotions in Bollywood films are something that is rare to see in Hollywood or English films.  People joke about how much Shahrukh Khan cries in his films, but I really respond to the emotions shown in Indian cinema.  Also, the colors on screen!  Bhansali’s film Ram-Leela is an example of this.

ram-leela_song.jpg

I listen to Bollywood music all the time, as well.

Indian films just give me things I cannot get from Hollywood or other Western cinema.  Plus Shahrukh Khan.  I’ve watched 47 of his films alone (which doesn’t count the countless times I’ve watched DDLJ.)  🙂

Dilwale-Dulhania-Le-Jayenge-shahrukh-khan-25741330-1280-528

I do love South Indian films as well, and I have seen a little over 30 South Indian films.  I fell in love with Prabhas after watching Baahubali last year (four times in the theater!).  I now own many of his Telugu films on DVD.

prabhas-shivudu-role-in-baahubali-movie_143140913210

Recently, I’ve been watching quite a few Malayalam films, especially recent ones with Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan.  I have watched fewer Tamil films, but I asked my neighbor to bring me back some DVD’s from her recent trip to Chennai, and have been working through the dozen films she brought me.  Last week, I watched Raja Rani, and liked it.

For those interested, I keep track of all the Bolllywood films I’ve watched on Letterboxd.com, and here’s my list of Regional films I’ve seen, up to 32 now after watching the Malayalam film Classmates last night.

I asked for commenters to recommend their favorite Indian films — and oh boy, did they.  I’ve created a Letterboxd list now of all the films recommended there in the comments that I have not already seen.  Now up to 372 (!!) films in several Indian languages:  Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, etc.  The question now is will I live long enough to watch even half of them!

My first Bollywood film ever was Lagaan, back almost 15 years ago when it was nominated for the Foreign language Oscar.  That was back when you could only rent Netflix movies via DVD in the mail.  I then watched Dil Chahta Hai, because that also had Aamir Khan.  But it was not so easy back then for a non-Hindi speaker to find out about other Bollywood films.  The internet has helped so much, and Netflix’s recommendation engine is the reason I fell in love with Bollywood 2 years ago.  DDLJ was recommended to me, then I was able to watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi right after that.  I texted my Indian next door neighbor for other suggestions, and she loves Hrithik Roshan and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was also streaming on Netflix and I was off to the races with my new obsession.

I have been mentored by two other non-Desi lovers of Bollywood who then suggested many other films for me to try, and in some cases pushed the DVD’s into my hand saying, “YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS!”

Kathy Gibson of AccessBollywood.net  and Margaret of DontCallItBollywood

Shout out also to the gang at Bollywhat forum!