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Friday, March 7, 2008

The Hitchcock of Malayalam Cinema

Last week, I wrote about the most discussed Padmarajan film, Thoovanathumbikal. And on Sunday, I got a call from a friend calling me an "idiotic *******" for writing about the film in such a bad taste.

So, on Sunday night, I got hold of another Padmarajan movie, Kariyila Kattu Pole (Like a zephyr of dry leaves-thanks to Wikipedia for the translation). It's a murder investigation and it shows of 'the wonder that was Padmarajan'. A multi-starrer, with Mohanlal, Mammoty, Rahman, Unni Mary, Jalaja, Karthika, Sri Priya etc, it's the best ever mystery movies made in Malayalam(Or maybe even in India).

From the starting when it shows the title, to the end when the killer commits suicide, Padmarajan has followed the same pattern that was followed by Hitchcock. The title music reverberates you with the feeling that something is crouching somewhere down the way to jump on you. That music takes you to a high altitude which is suddenly brought down by the spanning shot of a small coconut plantation (What I thought of was the introductory spanning shot in Psycho). Then, in less than 5 minutes, the murder is discovered. And what is more surprising is that the dead person is none other that Mammooty. (I think this might be the first and last film in which such a main actor will be shown dead in the first shot itself. Think of the introduction scenes in Roudram, Narasimham and Bharatchandran!!).

Then, everything moves into action. Mohanlal as the DYSP takes up the case. Now, the movie follows the way Mohanlal goes around with the case. What I am saying is that it shows from Lal's perspective. All the sub-plots and secondary characters merge into the storyline of the investigation.

Everywhere throughout the movie, I felt the Hitchcock effect. The camera angles, the background (reminds me of the innovative themes by Bernard Herrmann in Hitchcock movies) by Johnson(?), the absence of any songs, the shady past of the characters..everything is as perfect as in a Hitchcock movie. The only difference that I could find was the absence of the trademark Hitchcock's appearance. Or, a picture on then wall shows Mammooty wearing the trademark Pappetan cap and directing. Maybe it's an indirect reference.

One more interesting thing about the movie is that in the only scene where the superstars are together, Mammooty is just a . Maybe that's a shot that will be scene nowhere else.

Another interesting thing about the movie is that the story for Kariyila Kattu Pole is not by Padmarajan. He developed the screenplay based on a story by someone else. And, he rarely did that. (another one is Nammukku paarkkaan munthiri thoppukal [Vineyards for us to dwell] and Koodevide [Whither the nest]).

Kariyila Kattu Pole has become the second most watched movie in my list after Manichitrathazhu. Another murder mystery by Pappettan which features a serial killer is Ee thanuththa veluppaankaalaththu [In these cold wee hours] which was directed by Joshi. I haven't seen it, but anyway Joshi will not be able to capture the scenes a Padmarajan did in Kariyila Kattu Pole.

Last time, I wrote about how naive he had been in presenting a great love story in Thoovamathumbikal. I am not tracing back and correcting myself, but I must say that watching Kariyila Kattu Pole had been the most enthralling ever for me. Not even Hitchcock or Infernal Affairs can make it better than this.

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