Ennum Eppozhum: Always and Forever

Ennum Eppozhum. Roughly translated to “Always and Forever.” Considering the title encapsulates a catchphrase I recently adopted from my brother, I felt that I simply had to go see this Malayalam film.

 

Meet Vineeth N Pillai (Mohanlal). A senior reporter at Vanitharatnam magazine in Ernakulam, Kerala. A lazy employee who never shows up on time to important meetings but an intelligent, genuinely good-hearted, and generally respectful man. Enter Deepa (Manju Warrier). A strong independent lawyer, social activist, Kuchipudi dancer, and single mother. Essentially Deepa is superwoman because she is able to effortlessly juggle all of these responsibilities. The basic premise of this plot is that Vineeth is asked to interview Deepa by his boss Kalyani (Reenu Mathews) but in the process of doing so, Vineeth encounters many difficulties due to Deepa’s busy schedule with professional and personal commitments.
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The most appealing thing about Malayalam films is that directors generally do not compromise when it comes to the character development of their protagonists. The artistic choices made by the director Sathyan Anthikad were so meticulous and detail-oriented to the point, for example, that Manju Warrier is actually a Kuchipudi dancer in reality, which is why her classical dance technique in the song Dhithiki Dhithiki was flawless. Naturally, there is no way to know for sure whether the Kuchipudi element of Deepa was developed first or Manju Warrier was selected for the role first. In any case, it worked out perfectly because it was a pleasant surprise to watch her perform a solo Kuchipudi dance piece in the film. Additionally, there is one scene where Vineeth delivers a few punches and blows to a guilty taxi driver. Instead of arbitrarily including a stunt scene out of context, as is done quite frequently in Tamil and Hindi films, there was a clear logical reason associated with Vineeth’s ability to randomly beat up someone, which is that he used to be a boxing champion in the past. For a film that otherwise demands no violence or stunt scenes, the placement and existence of this particular one was purposeful and stayed in-line with the character and past experiences of Vineeth. To put it simply, he didn’t randomly have the fighting skills required to punish the guilty taxi driver (which frequently occurs with heroes in Kollywood and Bollywood).
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As kind-hearted and nice Vineeth is shown to be, he is still human and falls into the traps and negative thoughts of others. In one scene, Vineeth recounts how he asked Deepa for an interview and she blatantly refused. While retelling this incident to a friend, his friend says something along the lines of “when women say no, it doesn’t really mean no.” This dialogue is problematic for many reasons but obviously it was placed there for a reason – to show that the human mind has the potential to be highly influenced by others’ ideas (specifically negative ideas in this case). This particular situation in the film speaks to the larger role that society plays in conditioning men to treat women a certain way, ignoring the idea of consent (that no means no) by stalking and constantly bothering the woman until she agrees to whatever it is that the man wants, whether it’s an interview or sex. Needless to say, Vineeth gives into his friend’s suggestion of essentially stalking Deepa but gets into trouble with the authorities, a punishment that teaches him never to use this tactic again. Obviously, the most important awareness-raising part of this entire situation is the fact that Vineeth is punished for what he did and he learns from his mistake of taking a step backwards on his path to interview Deepa. It’s admirable that Sathyan Anthikad took such a common trope from all Indian movies (the ideas of stalking and consent) and challenged it by making it satirical, adding to the comedic elements in certain scenes.

 

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 Contributing to character development is the fact that Malayalam movies in general are so natural and realistic, and Ennum Eppozhum is no exception. Each character is so purely human that it is very relatable and pleasant to watch this film. The acting by Mohanlal and Manju Warrier is excellent, and they essay their roles beautifully. My favorite aspect of Mohanlal’s character Vineeth is the fact that he truly respects and admires women. The physical appearance or attractiveness of women exists but it does not come into the picture for his interactions with any of the women in this film, whether it is his boss Kalyani or advocate Deepa. His occasional prayers and conversations with Lord Ganesha at the temple are also very endearing and add to the innocence of his personality. The music by Vidyasagar is quite pleasant, melodious, and complements the narrative very well. Special mention must also be given to Manju Warrier’s costume designer for her lovely churidaar sets, Western outfits, and professional lawyer attire.
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Final Verdict: Ennum Eppozhum is a lovely film with beautiful acting, well-crafted characters, and situational comedy. Although it is a bit on the long side, around 2 hours and 15 minutes, the realistic direction, natural acting, and human sentiments keep viewers engaged. A fun family entertainer for all!

Bangalore Days – Malayali Multicultural Modernity

Bangalore.  A multicultural metropolis with crowded streets, umpteen shopping malls, and fast-paced lifestyles. Even though it is known for being the silicon valley of India, booming with software jobs and fresh IIT graduates, this garden city has its fair share of nature parks and mountains as well. Director Anjali Menon effectively and seamlessly blends these two worlds into one in her latest Malayalam flick Bangalore Days.

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The story revolves around three cousins, Divya (Nazriya Nazim), Arjun (Dulquer Salmaan), and Kuttan (Nivin Pauly) and their efforts to balance freedom with responsibility as they begin a new phase of their lives in Bengaluru. While vivacious Divya struggles to gain love and appreciation from her aloof husband (Fahadh Faahsil), Arjun couldn’t care less about worldly approval and continues to live life on his own terms. Between these two extremes lies Kuttan, a traditional Mallu boy with conservative attitudes and an undying passion for Kerala. Anjali Menon does a fantastic job with the characterization of her protagonists and reveals just enough at the right times to keep the plot moving at a steady pace. Mammooty’s son Dulquer does a fine job playing a true rebel who eventually finds the answers to his life questions vis-a-vis RJ Sarah (Parvathy), whose words of encouragement on the radio inspire him to make something of his life.
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Within the first twenty minutes, this film has the feel of a Chetan Bhagat novel-turned-movie (perhaps as a result of the first-person narrative from Kuttan’s perspective). However, as the story proceeds, there is a lot of psychological analysis that can be done because the characters have quite a bit of emotional baggage to be dealt with, most of which is related to unresolved past circumstances in their lives. Thus, time is an underlying theme in this film, as foreshadowed by the word “days” in the title. Throughout the plot, the characters attempt to conquer the past and dream of the future while, at the same time, living and enjoying in the present. They experience situations unique to city life in Bangalore that force them to face reality and modify their outlook on life for the better.
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In addition to the infusion of modernity and tradition in values and mindsets, cinematographer Sameer Thahir does an excellent job weaving Kerala images with Bangalore skylines in his captivating nature shots. The combination of traditional Kerala landscapes, with its blue skies, houseboats, and lush greenery, and Bangalorean tall skyscraper offices and crowded highways  reveal the diversity of representation in nature that Menon aims to depict in the film. This contrast in natural landscape and the intersection of old and new perhaps hint at a faint internal identity conflict experienced by Malayalis in Bangalore, especially by Kuttan, who loves the city and the freedom that comes with it but yearns for his native soil in God’s own country.
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The one thing I love about Malayalam films is that they are very realistic and relatable. Certain scenes, like when Divya complains about doing the dishes or when Kuttan’s mother embraces new activities such as laughter therapy/yoga and healthy cooking, are easy to identify with because of the distinct generational characteristics. In other words, we see ourselves in Divya’s laziness and independence, and we imagine our parents in the older generation trying to regain or maintain their youth like Kuttan’s mother. Gopi Sunder’s music creates an additional fun flair in this family drama, and Brinda’s choreography lends spunk and silliness to the characters’ cute personalities. Although the film is a bit on the long side, around 2 hours and 30 minutes without intermission, it definitely sustains audience interest. The witty dialogues, clean humor, and subtle direction in the intimate romantic scenes add charm to this fresh, lively film.
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Final Verdict: Bangalore Days is a complete package, with elements of drama, comedy, and romance that appeal to all ages. It certainly has the stamp of a female filmmaker and is worth watching with family and friends!