Saturday, January 14, 2012

Malayalam Movie Review: City of God



When I sat down to watch the Malayalam movie 'City of God,'  I expected nothing great. But once the movie began, I was totally glued into the unique way the story is presented, interlinking incidents in the lives of Tamil workers who work and live in the state but whom many Keralites may see as a 'nuisance' than as laborers and how they are caught in the ugly war between Kochi's real estate mafia and business groups. No doubt, it shocks me that the depiction of life in Kochi has become so violent, brutal and almost adulterous. But the movie represents the changes that have shaken Kochi as a city that is increasingly becoming a hub for the bad, the deadly and the dangerous.


A small time Tamil labourer, Swarnavel (starring Indrajith) is in love with Marathakam, a Tamil woman who flees her village to escape from her cruel husband..Indrajith is impressive in bringing to life the Tamil labororer he portrays. His performance is authentic and definitely a fantastic feat for a Malayali actor to accomplish on screen. Like many Tamil workers in the state, he works very hard to earn a living and dreams of settling down with the girl he loves - Marathakam (starring Parvathy Menon) though he knows that she has a six-year old son and a terrible marriage stacked that made her run away from her husband who lives in Palani. But tucked away in Kochi, their relationship blooms.

Meanwhile, the city's ruthless, wily business man and builder, Sony Vadayattil is doing everything to bring back the love of his life whom he had to abandon  - Soorya Prabha (starring Rima Kallingal). His love and longing for her borders between the desperate need to win back and possess the girl who had suddenly shot into fame as a celebrity and actress as well as prove his clout. 

Soorya Prabha represents the contemporary professional who is torn by ambition to make it big without having to compromise herself in the process and her own simple, sincere self that has a dangerous vulnerability, in the sense that it makes men become more attracted to her. The fact that her husband forces her to compromise herself brings out another uncomfortable facet of Kerala's so called respectable society - it is all a game of social hypocrisy.

Sony's best friend is Jyothilal (starring Prithviraj) has to constantly get the lady back into Sony's  life though he keeps pointing out to Sony that she had been married to a good-for-nothing guy for four years. The silence and scorn between Jyothilal and Soorya Prabha clash unspoken because their mutual attraction is deadly and intense. Their eyes and body language give them away though in words, they seem to contradict the emotions that are underneath.

In the midst of all this, Jyothilal kills Poonoose, a wealthy businessman because of a conflict that happens in a land deal. The businessman's widow Viji Punnose (starring Shwetha Menon) witnesses the murder of her husband, and is ready to do whatever it takes to revenge her husband's death. Shwetha uses her youth and looks to influence a young man who is so besotted with her that he is willing to kill Jyothilal. Their relationship is fueled by a mutual need that has nothing to do with love.


What makes 'City of god' gripping is that it has so many scenes and moments that are taken straight out of real life in Kochi and many moments are likely to get you truly reflective about contemporary social issues that are gaining acceptance in Kerala's once-conservative society. You have skyscrapers stand out wherein a beautiful celebrity is abused by her own and asked to be with other and on the other hand, a vengeful widow who pours expensive drink to a young man, hoping to win him over for all the wrong reasons. On the other hand, you have the slum like areas  wherein Lekshmi (starring Rohini) drinks liquor openly at the local toddy bar like a man. 

I also liked the way in the movie concluded. There was no usual preaching or message left for the audience. The movie treated the audience as intelligent enough to reach their own conclusions about the relationships that unfold due to circumstances that are both inter related and beyond control. 
Performances by all the actors are impressive. I think Indrajith is the best, followed by Parvathy Menon who plays role of the distraught but sexy Tamilian girl who is ready to lit ve with another man other than her husband and naturally, loves her son as the bane of her life. 

Lijo Jose Pellissery's 'City of God' is not the city that I know as my own. The Kochi he has shown is raw, bleeding and adulterous. It seems like a city that is forsaken by the gods.
But I'd say, it's a movie that is worth watching.

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