Sometimes you get an idea that flips you over: an idea so strong that it doesn’t let you sleep at night. Most filmmakers are prone to these eureka moments, I guess. In fact, most of the brilliance we appreciate in films are essentially a set of disparate ideas that the makers may have got somewhere along the way. Sometimes, it all works out perfectly; from the seed of the idea getting into the womb of production, and finally the delivery of a perfectly balanced brainchild. But sometimes, there are complications in the uterus – sorry, in the pre or post production phases – that result in a lifeless baby, or a baby with congenital deficiencies.
Today, we are going to take a look at the congenital case: films that had shades of absolute brilliance, mostly at the ideation stage. It would be wrong to say that these films lost their way during production, but I feel these ideas could have been fodder for more impactful cinema. However, these are all definitely worth a watch for the novelty they brought to the screen. This post is …an ode to these ideas. And anyway, it’s quarantine time, and you’re probably looking for some variety recommendations too, amiright?
Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla (2013)
The caretaker of an apartment (also an aspiring writer) gets ostracized by its inmates. To find solace, he begins to write an alternate reality with the characters in the apartment. But do the characters in that reality stay within his (sadistic) grasp?
- An underrated performance from Fahad Faasil.
- The self-aware screenplay by Shankar Ramakrishnan, with plenty of fourth-wall breaking and meta-references.
- Crisp editing by Mahesh Narayanan.
Samsaram Aarogyathinu Haanikaram (2014)
The state encounters a virus that makes people mute. This virus gets transmitted by….speaking.
- Some eerily familiar plot points, such as : the government ordering a lockdown to contain the virus, and people socially distancing themselves.
- Intelligent use of situational comedy by director Balaji Mohan.
Homely Meals (2014)
Alan, who is crazy about films, conceives a unique TV show for a sinking channel while battling all the hurdles thrown at him.
- The movie is written by Vipin Atley, who was crazy about films and made a unique show (Confusion) in the early 2000s for a sinking channel (Jeevan TV). Meta much?
- The quirkiness of the TV show within the movie is a delight to watch.
Double Barrel (2015)
Pancho and Vinci are behind two diamonds. But they are not alone; everyone from the Russian mob to local gundas are involved in the deal. And everyone wants the diamonds. Away from all this (at least temporarily), there are also a pair of lovers trying to find the perfect spot to kiss, a mute sharpshooter, a newly married couple and a hallucinating lover.
- The ensemble cast: most of them come up with the goofiest performances of their career.
- Becomes more enjoyable if seen as a moving adventure comic book and not a ‘comedy’ per se.
- The high-octane climax that goes all guns blazing, literally; this was shot using four Red Dragon 6K cameras.
KL 10 Pathu (2015)
Ahmed elopes to get married to Shadiya, and a day-long search for the couple ensues. This and many smaller interlinked tales are recounted to the viewer by a Djinn.
- A hyper-localized script by Muhsin Parari, that could be called a spiritual predecessor to Sudani from Nigeria (also written by Muhsin)
- The portrayal of Malabar Muslims; instead of the stereotypical two-wives-ten-kids men, they are presented as simple folks who love football, food and art.
Ayal Njanalla (2015)
A Malayali man who has lived in Gujarat for many years, returns to his homeland to sell off his ancestral property. But the people back in Kerala mistake him to be film star Fahad Faasil, whom he closely resembles.
- Fahad successfully suspends our disbelief and makes us feel that Prakashan is real, and that he’s just a Fahadh Faasil lookalike.
- The idea, from a story by Ranjith, is not new (heard of Vinayan’s Superstar?) but it does try to explore fresh situations.
- There are some great earthy shots in the Gujarat portions, thanks to Shamdat.
Kallan Pavithran bargains with God to not kill his third and last child, as karma for his sins. In a parallel universe aka Earth, two incompetent police officers find themselves in a soup involving dreaded gangster Raghu.
- A Nadodikattu-Meets-Tarantino universe, with a unique mix of Western and naadan sensibilities.
- Ample doses of dark humour (including arguably the funniest death scene in Malayalam cinema, feat Manoj K Jayan).
- The heaven subplot, with Dileesh Pothen giving a never-before-seen side to God.
A fictional world where the living and the dead coexist without the knowledge of the living. Vyshakan is out to woo Fida with the help of his grandfather. But one day his grandfather dies and very soon, Fida leaves town to study Arabic. He is left all alone. Or is he?
- The world-building by director Rohith VS, who is ably supported by the costumes, art and cinematography departments.
- The genre – musical fantasy comedy – which has rarely been explored in Malayalam.
- The delightful twist given to the idea of Death.
- One of the most unexpected moments of comedy featuring an Aju Varghese cameo.
Paapam Cheyyathavar Kalleriyatte (2020)
A marriage involving two dysfunctional families, crores of rupees in dowry, multiple illicit relationships and…a death, perhaps?
- The script, with its brand of absurd humour.
- The filmmaking style by Shambhu Purushottaman; for example, long shots that you don’t usually associate with a ‘comedy’.
- The cacophonic climax where multiple skeletons tumble out of the closet.
We know that there are a LOT of wacky films we haven’t covered; especially the older ones. There will be a part two. And soon! Until then, maybe let’s discuss the above films in the comments section?