Wednesday, October 20, 2010

There's no business like show business!

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.


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!


  1. Do they need anyone in the film business who speaks with a really cool Scottish accent while wearing a kilt?

  2. Would be perfect for dad. Looks like at least one of them wears transitional clothing!!

  3. And thinks he can sing and dance!!

  4. I can sing "Loch Lomond" and jump around. Can I be an extra?

  5. hahaha great post!!! sounds like a really cool experience

  6. Not to date myself or anything, but your comments for some reason made me think about all the Elvis movies. I don't know what the production costs were but I'm sure very low comparitively speaking. Elvis made 33 movies and amazingly you can still catch them on cable. The scripts were always very similar, Elvis gets the girl, but only after some serious singing and hip girations. Oh, by the way , that was sweet tea with the popcorn - right?!?
    Crop walk this Sunday - as well as Stewardship Sunday. Big day for OAPC.
    Keep 'em coming.

  7. Wow. First, I'm shocked that tea and popcorn taste good together. What kind of tea? And is the popcorn salted?

    Second, I literally was giggling this entire post. I kind of love that you wrote an entire blog to the films in India!! Maybe I'll go ahead and look into one. I should become a Bollywood star...

  8. please tell me dad will not wear transitional clothes like that! he would scare an entire population of people!

    thanks for posting Jim! I imagine tea is good with most things...

  9. Oh you are totally underestimating the sexiness that is Mammooty and Mohan Lal. Hollywood guys just won't excite you anymore when you come home. Glad to hear you're enjoying Malaywood!

  10. That Mammootty is quite a man's man (wink wink nudge nudge). India's James Bond?

  11. I think I am probably the most 'dramatic'of the clan I can certainly sing and have wonderful rhythm (most of you will be aware of this !! ) was it black tea? with the popcorn and were there any refills ? glad your having fun