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Varavelpu (1989)

Having the best intentions and hard work to match it, doesn’t ensure good results, especially if you are a simple and honest person. Muralidharan finds this out the hard way in the movie ‘Varavelpu’.

‘Varavelpu’ is about a sincere and honest gulf-returned Muralidharan (Mohanlal) who pours all his savings into a business and struggles to keep it afloat. His seven years of labour overseas, helps the careers of his elder brothers, but when it comes to returning the favor, they back out. His sisters-in-law, who compete to serve him lavish dishes upon his arrival, quickly downgrade him to rice gruel. Left stranded, he is forced to fight a system that is callous to new entrants’ travails and progressive thoughts.

Though this movie is set against the social political background of Kerala in the late 80s, it still mirrors the current problem of entrepreneurs and small business people. Everyone dishes out free advice but do not step forward when things go south for the individual, and worse still, pursue their personal agendas at his expense. Union Leaders, Local associations etc, do not offer any assistance and even hinder the efforts of a few helping hands like that of the mediating labour officer.

Mohanlal shines in a character, that allows him to play its various shades of innocence, frustration and finally a stoic realization. The way he internalizes all that happens to him and conveys with a simple smile or smirk, is a treat to watch.

Robert De Niro and the art of reveal : This Boy’s Life

Streaming on Amazon Prime

It’s amazing how great actors reveal shades of characters and draw you in to their world and to their performance. While the script definetly has to offer such opportunities, it is the actor who has to be in that particular moment of the character arc and portray the same. A bit less or bit extra would ruin the moment and actors like Robert De Niro are perfectly aware of that and bring out the portrayal to near perfection, as he did in ‘This boy’s life ‘.

He plays a regular abusive step father, but what’s really out of the world is how he transforms himself into the final avatar before our own eyes.

In the first scene he shows his conceited nature, his eagerness to please. Later he brings out his inabilities and insecurities to the fore in the rifle shoot scene. And then finally his abusive nature in several scenes and how it is a actually a reflection of his inner demons and his incapability to make a mark for himself in the real world. Even when the scenes are repetitive and you kind of know what to expect, he still manages to hold your attention.

It’s easy to play a straight forward cardboard villain where atrocities are out in the open, but very difficult to play someone where the evil actions are projected from what is subdued and lurking inside. Robert De Niro has shown it again and again in several films like ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Cape Fear’, ‘Goodfellas’ etc..but in each of these he somehow succeeds in making these performances stand out as unique and authentic. Of course, ably supported by terrific scripts, master league directors and excellent co-actors, like Leanardo De Caprio in ‘This Boy’s Life’.

Tail piece: The final reveal of the character comes in the climax, when Robert De Niro plays the sissy part so well. Infact, it is the sissies who resort to abuse, knowing the other person is too weak to give it back.

‘Halal Love Story’

Films like ‘Stranger than fiction’, ‘Bowfinger’, ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’, ‘Get Shorty’ etc explored either the personalities involved in film-making or the process of it.  And films like ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Sur’, ‘Swathi Kiranam’, ‘Rangeela’ ‘Janam’ etc threw light on the relationships of the protagonists and how they change for better or worse during the course of their artistic careers or specifically during a project..

‘Halal Love Story’ does a combination of both. It’s about a bunch of likeminded people who know exactly what their film should be, yet absolutely ignorant of the whole process. Interestingly they get the first step right—The producers. These are like the Chili Palmer(Get Shorty) kind in ‘who believe they don’t have to know much about producing’, yet smart enough to make the key decisions about how their film would eventually turn out as per their inspiration, which in this case is the Iranian classic ‘Children of Heaven’.

‘Halal Love Story’ is an endearing tale of emotions and how the simple things become complicated in life and then simple again. It’s a must watch for any person who is interested in movie-making and management. What in management? One can still stick to his principles and get a project done and that accommodating the emotions of the team always helps in a better output.

Tailpiece 1: ‘Bowfinger’

Q:Why don’t you wait till you get a star who wants to be in it?
Mr.Bowfinger: I’m 49 years old. Admittedly, I could get away with 44, 41, maybe 38. But when you hit 50, they don’t hire you anymore. It’s like they can smell 50.

Tailpiece 2: ‘Get Shorty’

Q: What the f do you know about producing?
Chili Palmer: I don’t think the producer has to do much, outside of maybe knowing a writer.

Tailpiece 3:

When my father made a film for TV, he called it TV Cinema 🙂 That’s the same term producers use in ‘Halal Love Story’ 🙂

Tailpiece 4

Sync sound used to be a very expensive affair. Not sure how it was even considered at that time. But the cameo of Soubin Shahir is very funny.