Friday, October 30, 2009

Kerala Cafe is a worthwhile experiment

Whenever the word experiment is used in films, we tend to take it with a pinch of salt because the word has been so abused that it has become synonymous with providing a slight tweak in the formula. So even when someone uses 'experiment' in the true sense of the word, we tend to be sceptical about it.

The same demons of doubt continue to pester us when we settle down to watch Kerala Cafe, director Ranjith's experimental venture featuring ten directors helming ten diverse stories all tied together by a common thread.

And the characters in these ten stories demand our attention. And, like all journeys, this film too leaves us with memories of a mixed variety -- happy, sad, humourous and even melancholy.

Beginning with M Padmakumar's Nostalgia, where a rich expatriate played by Dileep (he is working in the Middle East) longs for his homeland, but once there has only complaints. His character can be termed as the ultimate fence-sitter -- one who will not use his power to change things but go on complaining -- a self-centred and money-minded person.

The other theme that stands out in some of the stories is economic recession which has made life miserable for some people. We see it discussed in stories like Nostalgia, B Unnikrishnan's Aviramam and Shyamaprasad's Off Season.

Off Season is the only story that uses full on humour to convey the sufferings of people around the world due to economic recession. Kunjapai (Suraj Venjaramood) survives by doing odd jobs in Kovalam beach. He befriends a Portuguese couple expecting a windfall but later realises that they too are penniless backpackers who are in search of a job.

Meanwhile, the other stories like debutant Shankar Ramakrishnan's Island Express, Shaji Kailas' Lalthiamhiranmayam and Lal Jose's Puram Kazchakal are more personal narratives, which do not seem to have any connection with the happenings in the world.

A scene from Off SeasonIsland Express deals with the survivors of a train accident while Shaji Kailas' story starring Suresh Gopi , Jyothirmayee and Dhanya, deals with the emotional upheavals of a person entangled in a extra marital affair.

Anjali Menon's Happy Journey on the other hand, talks about the fear of terrorism in the mind of a common man. The movie stars Jagathy Sreekumar as a flirtatious insurance surveyor who is scared to death by a young girl (Nithya Menon) travelling with him in a bus. She pretends to be a terrorist carrying a bomb with her.

Makal directed by Revathy talks about the plight of a girl child born into an extremely poor family. It shows how she lands up in flesh trade on the pretence of being adopted by a rich couple.

Anwar Rasheed's Bridge is striking as it draws parallels between street animals and the aged. This simple story shows the love of a small boy for a kitten that he has found on the road, and the struggle of a slum dweller who finds it difficult to take care of his mother.

Mrityunjayam, Uday Ananthan's horror story which supposedly deals with the recklessness of youth, cannot find any link with the other stories. It seems to be there only because it is in the horror genre, so as to show that Kerala Cafe covers every theme.

But on the whole, Kerala Cafe proves to be a worthwhile experiment deserving a dekko.


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