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7/10
Delightful Black Comedy
15 January 2023
It's pure delight to see Mukundan Unni Associates unfold. Titular character (Vineeth Sreenivasan) is a 30-something loser with a middle-age crisis who is hoping to make it big in his profession and thereby chase success. Suddenly he seems to be going in the right direction but the audience doesn't feel that way. Yet Mukundan Unni keeps on going and that is what I mean by delight. Unni is a pure evil character doing nasty things to get what he wants; his monologues helping us create a picture of him and helping us like him to someone among our friends and family. We know at least one person who thinks like this. Well, this film shows you what happens when thoughts turn real. An overall peppy film with the right dose of dry humour, character study, and morals. Watch it.
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8/10
Excellent Ambient Horror
13 December 2022
I went blind into this film which was being showcased at a midnight screening at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala in India. While it takes a few tens of minutes to warm up, what follows is a cracker of an experience for any horror film fanatic. Mostly made up of jump scares which work and some of which are inventive, Satan's Slaves 2 has good writing that shows itself throughout. Some really good humour, scares, and inventive horror elements are what made look behind my back all night as I walked back to my house at three in the morning in the Kerala capital where cars don't stop and dogs only bark. This is must-watch for horror film fanatics.
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1001 Nunakal (2022)
8/10
Magnetic
13 December 2022
While as a whole 1001 Nunakal (Thousand and One Lies) may look like a The12th Man ripoff, it has a more magnetic atmosphere. There is not one dull scene in the film that sees a bunch of couples get together. After a night passes, they play a game where everyone has to tell their better half a lie that they told them since they got together. As one would expect, things take ugly turn for some of them, ultimately breaking open our own beliefs about what a truth or lie is. 1001 Nunakal is well-directed and it makes you think. That's what some films are for.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum.)
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Thampu (1978)
6/10
Vivid Documentation
13 December 2022
It's a surprise to me as I walked in to watch the restored version of Thampu (The Circus Tent), considered a classic world cinema. The factor of surprise was that this is more of a documentary about a circus troupe organizing a show in a village for about a week and then leaving it. The 2-hour long film therefore has no solid story. It instead takes time to show us the performances of the troupe (at least 4 times in total) and the reaction of the village folks as they stare in wonder and enchantment. If you look closely though, you'll see that Thampu talks a bit about class, unemployment, the unfortunate lives of some circus performers who are forced to play fool to feed for their families. It's a bit discomfiting to watch Thampu 40 years later as you see children performsl gymnastics under invisible pressure. A classic for many reasons but don't go in looking for a story. If you do, perhaps you may find one or many.

(Watched at the International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum.)
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The Whale (2022)
8/10
Poignant
13 December 2022
It's rather interesting to see how Darren Aronofsky includes critical themes without even mentioning it in the plot or as dialogues. You enter into the life of Charlie (Brendan Fraser) who is currently reeling under pressure from his nurse due to his ill health caused by overating ultra processed food. This particular point of the cause of his obesity is never mentioned in the film as it proceeds to establish Charlie's character from his own as well of others' points of view. And by the end, you feel a lot of emotions barging in without your permission as you realize the virtues of companionship and fatherhood. It made my eyes wet.

(Watched at the International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum.)
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8/10
Anti-Everything
11 December 2022
Ruber Ostlund is a new addition to my favorite directors currently active. In Triangle of Sadness, he pits everything against anti-everything, talking about hedonism and class. As with all Ostlund films, this one is boisterous and risque, calling out every single virtue and brand out there including H&M and Balenciaga. What I loved about Triangle of Sadness is the right amount of punchy music, drama, ample irreverent humour, and high attention to detail. The kind of film I love to watch and be entertained. Watching it on the big screen is what I consider one of the many good things in life. This is brilliant cinema.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum.)
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The Bra (2018)
10/10
Funniest
11 December 2022
The Bra is the funniest film I saw at IFFK 2022 at the time of writing. More so because a lot can go wrong in a film like this that often inadvertently tries to enter misogyny territory but never does. You can't predict what's going to happen and that's the charm of the lead character in this silent film that's periodically funny and ultimately poignant. I 100% enjoyed the film like I had never before and it's for that experience I give it a full 10. I'm gonna think about it days and kaybe weeks ahead and would highly recommend my women friends to give it a try so that I can know if the idea of liking the film is mutual.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum.)
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Zwigato (2022)
7/10
A New Perspective
11 December 2022
Nandita Das stunned me via Zwigato with two things. One, the beautiful way she has weaved topics of caste, unemployment, poor handling od pandemic in India, the gig economy, class, family, and patriarchy. Two, the amateur filmmaking and production value of the entire setup. Going in to the movie - especially with how the central app is designed or the attention to details - you almost wonder why not much thought was gone into it and it's working. It's a bit satirical but more than anything Zwigato gives you a new perspective about online food delivery. As a mere consumer, Zwigato surprised me and think will make me a bit more patient and considerate while ordering food online. The jibe at Zomato and Swiggy is immense here to the tune of lawsuit vulnerability.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala at Trivandrum.)
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Klondike (2022)
5/10
Devastating
11 December 2022
You know what's going to happen here yet you watch it for the strong character that leads Klondike with her family who are suddenly finding it difficult to exist. There's levity in the proceedings that make you really wonder what is all this for. With excellent performances and haunting visuals, Klondike kept me hooked and made me morose at the same time. The visuals are so stunning you almost believe you are at the Ukraine-Russia border. The worse part is that you dear for your life too. Interestingly, at the IFFK this year all I have seen so far are tragedies.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum.)
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9/10
Made Me Tear Up
9 December 2022
Tori and Lokita broke my heart. The final minutes of this drama played with my heart so unabashedly I had to resort to crying. Thinking of kids in my family, thinking of a little boy and a girl in my family who are so close to my heart. The Dardenne Brothers do their thing again in building a story that speaks volumes of the current, tried times. In here, they narrate the story of a boy and an elder girl who are hoping for a better life together in Belgium as siblings having left Africa as refugees. Yet in the developed world, they face rampant bureaucracy, corruption, child labour, and abuse. By the end of it all - it's the same story we all know - I was devastated. I may never watch this film again.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Trivandrum.)
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Zapatos rojos (2022)
6/10
Haunting
9 December 2022
Red Shoes starts by smartly showing the dreary life of an oldie living on his own looking impassively ready to welcome death. Yet what comes instead is a notice issued by the local law enforcement informing him about another death. The film meanders slowly and doesn't say much - like the lead character - but it says a lot through its sequences about loneliness, bureaucracy, intimacy, and relationships. By the end of Red Shoes, I had a few more thoughts to think about if in future I ever become a father to a daughter.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Trivandrum.)
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Declaration (2022)
6/10
Striking for Some Reasons
24 November 2022
For some reason, Ariyippu's (Declaration) most striking scenes are that of the assembly line of hand glove factory where the two central characters of the film work. I felt it was a metaphor to something Mahesh Narayanan was trying to convey, yet was overburdened by his main story of that of a Kerala-based couple stuck in Delhi with an ambition to move abroad. More than the conflict in the film, it's the aftermath that is loud here, asking you to think about the politics involved. In several places, I saw shades of Ishq (2019), leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, Ariyippu is a decent film worth watching to know why you shouldn't be careless about what you do.

(Watched its India premiere at the 2022 International Film Festival of India in Goa.)
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7/10
Good Film
24 November 2022
There's a cover of artificiality in The Storyteller as it starts to narrate the story of a retired serviceman's (Paresh Rawal) retirement journey as he moves from Kolkata to Ahmedabad and takes up a job. But all that dissolves away as the story dives into its crux, introducing a rather novel (though, not exactly, as this is an adaptation) conflict on film. It's something that I have not seen before, so naturally it worked for me, albeit less than what succeeds it. The film is centered on Paresh Rawal and Adil Hussain's effortless performances, also helped by Revathy and Tannishtha Chatterjee. By the end of it, I sat there amazed. This is a good film.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of India in Goa.)
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Abhimaan (1973)
9/10
A Stunner
24 November 2022
Abhimaan (Pride) is a mellow film that does not falter at all. Narrating the story of a popular singer (Amitabh Bachchan) who courts and marries a woman (Jaya Bachchan) and how her superior singing ability makes his ego come out of the den is told so beautifully, it's hard to dismiss any of the scenes. Of course, the film is problematic from today's lens but after having watched it on the big screen for the first time 50 years later since its initial release, I kind of get it why it's legendary. A true gem of a film worth its melodious songs, central cast and their chemistry, and the overall vibe of this 1973 stunner.

(Watched at the 2022 International Film Festival of India in Goa.)
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8/10
Fantastic Laugh Riot
17 November 2022
Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey (Oh Win, Win, Win, Win) is a laugh riot that came out of nowhere. From the opening sequence, the film is clear in its ambition. To break open the systemic, sticky gender bias we all preserve in our daily lives. And from there, it goes deeper to flesh out related themes of domestic abuse, inequality, and matrimonial issues. And never does it stop pumping the humour while making statements about marriage and its typical workings. It's almost a satire but hits so hard that families watching this are bound to laugh out loud and then go back home to introspect. A wonderful cast doing a wonderful job is so rare and a laugh riot of this stature hasn't been done in the last decade in Malayalam movies.
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Appan (2022)
7/10
Cracker of a Film
28 October 2022
A cracker of a film that is instantly likeable. The opening scenes build up the titular character and that's just one of the superb ways the film handles itself as it weaves a story about a family in their wits' end. With an electric plot that faintly reminds one of Joji (2021), the characters come alive with proper weightage given to all of them so as to let the story narrate itself. You keep wondering why these people continue to put up with misery, but then the film answers that question indirectly. Though the film loses steam as it crescendoes, the characters stay with you longer after you have closed the SonyLiv app. Appan is a surprise hit for me this year.
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Peace (II) (2022)
7/10
Really Good Black Comedy
23 October 2022
Peace is chaos, so you'll need to pay attention. It's a dark comedy centered around a group of four trying to get out of a mess with a cop and it goes on and on. Some refreshing outtakes, inventive dialogues, and overall charming cast performances made this 2-hour long fare a breeze for me. I loved the casual atmosphere of the film where characters discuss things like cow vigilantism, live-in relationship, and weed. We need more films like this. The climax irritated me a little and that's the major shortcoming of Peace in my book. But I do recommend this to anyone who believes Malayalam cinema doesn't produce inventive stuff.
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7/10
Feel-Good
4 September 2022
Watching Priyan Ottathilaanu (Priyan is on the Run) gave me a happy feeing throughout its 2-hour runtime, thanks to the relatable central character who is bogged down by a stream of never-ending responsibilities. Sharafudheen is a treat to watch and his effortless carrying of the role further attracts you into the character and that of those whom he cares for. I wish I could be like Priyan but then his life is a bit too far from reality so I'm not hoping much. Aparna Das is also a treat to watch and I see potential in her but Nyla Usha seemed a bit odd here. A good film with its heart in the right place.
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7/10
Comedic Zenith
17 August 2022
Darling Darling is an intelligent film which is obvious in the way in which it moves the plot ahead. Involving two best friends (Dileep and Vineeth), Darling Darling narrates their love story, where both fall for the same girl. Yet one hasn't seen the love of his life yet, and the other actively ensuring that he doesn't. It's a comedy that'll keep you at the edge of your seat while you roar with laughter and sometimes verbally abuse one of the protagonists.
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Darlings (I) (2022)
7/10
Highly Relatable
8 August 2022
It's almost funny how relatable Darlings feels to me because I have been witness to domestic abuse. It's so ordinary and routine everywhere that the quality makes it funny when you see the same proceeding unleash on the silver screen with high-profile actors looking ready to get behind the camera portraying such roles. As for the film as a product, I believe the whole cast and crew do a wonderful job at showing the extremes of what domestic abuse can do to people on both sides of the spectrum. The matured take on the morality? It's like the chef's kiss on this darling film. Watch it on a laid-back evening.
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Dear Friend (2022)
7/10
Eerily Deadpan
23 July 2022
I love how eerily deadpan Dear Friend is in narrating the lives of a small group of friends living together in Bangalore. Even better is the way the conflict unfolds and puts the viewer in a tizzy, eager to find out what's really up. Vineeth Kumar's second directorial is well-made, well-thought, and well-acted, and that's all enough reason to watch this underrated gem.
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Puzhu (2022)
6/10
Unsettling
23 May 2022
Puzhu (Worm) is a brilliant study of casteist prejudice, powered by Mammootty's performance as a single father not coming in terms to what his bigotry is doing to those around him. There's an attempt to mix and match several things at once here, which dampens the experience, but it does take sometimes subtle and sometimes blunt potshots at several other things, making it an overall arresting, essential film.
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12th Man (2022)
6/10
A Welcome Template
23 May 2022
12th Man is a good entry to the Malayalam crime mystery books as it projects a whodunit template that's rarely (if at all) existed here. It has a really, drawn-out build-up - 11 friends getting together for a bachelor's and ending up playing a privacy invasion game just for kicks - which makes things interesting. However, what succeeds is a rundown version of a reality TV game that gets too tiring and unsatisfactory for the majority, despite the bits of damp execution that pops out every now and then. Still, this is a good late night watch.
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Veyil (2022)
8/10
A True Study of Poverty
27 April 2022
Veyil (Sunrays) is a marvellous depiction of the 'poverty is the root of all evils' adage. Narrating the teenage years of Sid (Shane Nigam), the careless of a widowed mother's two sons, the other being bright but medically insufficient, this drama takes you on a 3-hour journey to the lives of these people and their relationships between each other and with the outer world, which is often ruthless and selfish. Veyil stayed with me for its lively and heartbreaking moments, its performances, and how miserable it made me feel towards the end, also thanks to the nonchalant music. Watch it!
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Antakshari (2022)
7/10
Tight Thriller With Only a Lazy Escape
22 April 2022
Antakshari (Game of Songs) has an inventive overall structure despite the familiar plot and execution. A cop named Das (Saiju Kurup) finds himself become the target of much random animosity after a series of events at his police station. And so starts his quest to find out the intentions of a stranger. There are some raw and terrific shots here that are sure to make you go agape, also accentuated by the brilliant potshots at casteism and sexism (although some of these do look pretentious). I enjoyed watching Antakshari and I found myself on the edge of my seat from the start except for the lazy third act which feels a bit stretched and unsatisfied. I'll look forward to more from this team.
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