The movie is called Anwar and it is the latest film from the new Super-Star Malayama Actor, Prithviraj. It was my first film in Malayalam and, as I went in with little to no expectation (admittedly leaning more to the little side), I came out pleasantly surprised. Having said this I have tried to add some humor to the situation and I would like to point out that these are only my experiences from one movie at one theater in one city. For those reading this in Kerala and my American friends who enjoy watching Malayalam movies: SPOILER ALERT!!!
The plot line is quite simple: A young Muslim man’s family is killed in a bombing committed by a Muslim terrorist organization in a jewelry store here in India. In the aftermath many Muslim men are rounded up for questioning—including the young man who lost his family. He tells the India authorities he will do ANYTHING to get back at the men who did this. He is quickly trained in the arts of explosives, hand arms, martial arts, as well as a much fitter body, a strong sense of courage, military tactical prowess of a seasoned veteran and deadly instincts. He is placed in the prison to befriend the supposed perpetrator of the bombings. In prison he becomes one of the most trust men of the mastermind. Upon their release (which is never actually explained) he is quickly recruited by the mastermind to join his… terrorist group… (I guess?!?!). He joins the group and he gets into the inner circle. He ends up committing a number of acts of violence in order to be accepted by the mastermind. In the end he learns that it was in fact the mastermind who killed his parents. In the end they face each other at gunpoint and the mastermind commits suicide.
END OF SPOILER ALERT!
So needless to say it was good.
There were a number of reasons it was interesting.
First: The population of Kerala is split up into equal thirds when it comes to the major religions. There are 33% Christians, 33% Muslims, and 33% Hindus. Meaning that, give or take a few people, a third of the audience was probably deeply offended and angry.
Second: It is a movie about terrorism and they still managed to find reason for not one, but TWO song/dance numbers (Interestingly enough the hit Malayalam songs on the radio are usually the songs from the big movies of that season).
Third: There is ALWAYS an intermission. No matter what.
Fourth: Popcorn and tea is actually quite a delicious combination.
Fifth: You buy tickets according to where you want to sit. Usually, families and groups of girls sit up in the balcony (45 rupees) and the boys and young men sit in the floor seats (30 rupees).
Sixth: There is no message before the movie to silence your cellphones. Come to think of it… there wasn’t a message for “don’t talk on your phones during the movie” or “don’t carry on loud conversation to discuss the goings on in the movie”.
Seventh: Not even the cinema is immune to the frequent power-cuts in India. We stopped our movie twice. Once for 13 minutes (it was the second time and I happened to look at my clock… I wasn’t timing it or anything).
Eighth: Indian men are good whistlers.
Ninth: Seriously…. Popcorn and tea is actually good.
Some other interesting things to know about the Malayalam film industry.
The highest costing film was just over 5 million dollars which is equal to the cost of golden leaf toilet paper used by James Cameron while filming Avatar (the 230 million dollars used to make Avatar is more money than then each of the ten smallest economies make in a year and the worldwide box-office grossings of 2.7 billion are greater than the forty-six smallest national-- RIDICULOUS). The major Malayalam film stars are in as many as ELEVEN films a year. They like to use only one take for fight sequences (there are a lot in every movie… probably even romantic comedies…) and are infamously fast about how quickly they can set up and take down film sets. They also usually film in live settings… i.e. the actual road, or the campus of the college I am at (it was used in the 2006 hit comedy, Classmates).
Another nice thing about Malayalam films is they don’t use lead actors with chiseled abs, handsome features and uncanny debonair…. Oh no… they use THESE GUYS (and yes... these are two different men):
It leaves the chance for all of us to be movie stars!
And finally, in a state that democratically elects and is, in fact, run by the Communist Party the Malayalam Film industry is one of the finest examples of cut-throat unabashed Capitalism you are ever likely to see. If public reception to a film is bad the film will run no longer than a week. If a film is loved it will last in theatres for months. Theatres here have one screen not multiple smaller theatres. The auditoriums, which usually have a balcony and a floor level, seat over a thousand in a single screening. The film on offer is showed four times a day, everyday. You wait outside and with fifteen minutes to the start of the film a bell goes off and you are able to pay fory our tickets and shuffle through the turnstiles. Inside the theatre is already dark, the floor is stone, and the techno music is bumping (LOUD). If a film is not doing well and not enough people come to see it the cinema will simply stop showing it and put on one of the MANY other films out there.There's no business like show-business!