Monday, October 3, 2011

Chappa Kurishu

Director: Samir Thahir
Cast: Vineeth Sreenivasan, Fahad Fazil, Remya Nambeesan, Nivetha
Year: 2011
Language: Malayalam

Brilliant movie! Chappa Kurishu reminded me again why movies are my drug of choice.  

The title itself is pretty brilliant from a marketing standpoint. As soon as I heard the title, I wondered what it meant. Even watching the movie didn't enlighten me in that regard. Nowhere in the movie do they even say the words "chaappa kurishu" (well... except in a song). 

In case you're wondering what it means, here's what I found on Wikipedia:
"Chappa Kurishu" means Head or Tail in Malayalam. Sameer Thahir says: "While I was writing the script itself, giving shape to the main male leads, Arjun and Ansari, i knew that they were the two sides of the same coin. So I thought of ‘Heads and Tales’ as the title. But I wanted it in the colloquial lingo. It's called 'Changum Chappayum' in Kollam, 'Thalayum Valum' in Kottayam, 'Raja Kozhi' in Thrissur and 'Chaappa Kurish' in Cochin. And I belong to Cochin."
"Two sides of the same coin" does not seem like the right analogy for the dynamic between Arjun (Fahad Fazil) and Ansari (Vineeth Sreenivasan). To me, that implies that they share similarities somewhere, somehow. I don't see any similarities. But their personalities do evolve in opposite directions throughout the movie, and meet at the same point in the climax.
Ansari starts out as an unassertive type (ഒരു പാവത്താന്‍) who allows everyone to run roughshod over him. Arjun starts out as an arrogant bastard who runs roughshod over everyone else -- even those who love him. 

They meet inadvertently at a restaurant when Arjun knocks his phone off the table in a mad rush out the door and it falls at Ansari's feet. After a few moments' hesitation, Ansari grabs the phone. Initially, when Arjun calls to get his phone back, the timid Ansari is willing and even eager to return it. But at their meeting location, Ansari changes his mind. Thus starts a game of cat and mouse. Arjun has to get the phone back at any cost, because it contains all his business files as well as a video of him making love to his girlfriend. So he alternately threatens and pleads with Ansari, who starts to enjoy the game and begins to gain a lot of confidence. At one point he says to his "girl",  "When I have this phone, I feel like I don't have to fear anyone."

The movie is all about human relationships and our insecurities. 

The director did a good job casting the two male protagonists. I read a lot of reviews online praising Fahad, and he does his job well. But I just couldn't identify with his character. The English-speaking, pretentious malayali is just the type of person I dislike. It's not a knock on Fahad -- I just don't like the Arjun-types. Ansari, on the other hand, is someone anyone can identify with. Because he's the underdog. The whole world can identify with underdogs. Everytime someone insulted Ansari or treated him like shit, I felt it personally. And I rejoiced when Ansari changed from easy prey to predator. Vineeth was perfect as Ansari. The director has to be commended for his casting choice. I can't imagine anyone else as Ansari.

I hope and believe that Chappa Kurishu, coming at the end of a very productive year, is fresh evidence that Malayalam Cinema has entered a new era -- one where young, intelligent directors experiment with new styles and make world class cinema for the malayali audience.

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