Bejoy Nambiar’s SOLO or That time when the marketing bit the product in the ass. (contains strong language, dank memes and spoilers for Kottayam Kunjachan)

SOLO, according to the internet is many things. An experimental film, experimental art film, experimental art anthology film etc. But in reality it is just an anthology film. It definitely isn’t an art film and technically it can be called an experimental film but it definitely doesn’t belong to the category of experimental films such as ‘Samsaram aarogyathinu haanikaram’ or ‘Double Barrel’; even ‘Hardcore Henry’ is more experimental than SOLO.
An experiment is when you try something new and something that hasn’t been done before without not being so sure about the outcome.
Why is SOLO an experimental movie?
Is it because it’s an anthology movie?
No, that’s been done before. (5 Sundarikal is a personal favorite of mine)
Is it because of the whole elements of life aspects?
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Nope, Deepa Mehta did it like a decade ago as individual movies.
Is it because Dulquer Salman is playing all four characters?
Well, that is quite an experiment.
Anyway, SOLO is a bilingual experimental anthology blah blah blah no one give a shit consists of four short films. Each titled Shekhar, Trilok, Shiva and Rudra. All are names of the Lord Shiva. You might think there’s a reason for that. Well, as far as I know there really isn’t any. I might be wrong because I don’t know much about Shiva. This whole Shiva thing is one of many gimmicks that are present in SOLO.
The following is a conversation i had with a good friend of mine after i watched SOLO.
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This is an objective immediate reaction of every sensible person who saw the movie.
And NO, I’m not going to chill. I’m going to beat the dead horse like you’ve never seen before.
As i was watching the movie, one thing that really bugged me were the dialogues. They all sounded robotic except for Soubin (who probably improvised his bits). Every line I heard, there was something off that i couldn’t figure out. It was like someone wrote the dialogues in some other language and translated it word to word into Malayalam. Turns out, it probably was. What i didn’t know was that Bejoy Nambiar doesn’t speak Malayalam. He is a malayali and he can understand perfectly but isn’t really well in normal casual verbal interaction. This is so obvious in the movie. He wrote the movie in Hindi or English and maybe had someone else write the dialogues or translate the dialogues. That didn’t work at all because every single dialogue in the movie fell flat. In the Shekhar segment there’s this confrontation happening on a bridge and listen to the guy who’s wearing a mundu. That is this whole script issue in a nutshell.

World of Shekhar (Blind Love)

This is the opening shot of Shekar. Please excuse this nitpick but why the fuck does he have baseball bat? I have noticed this in other movies too. Who the fuck plays baseball in India? *ugh*

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Anyway,

This is the love story of a stammering man named Shekhar and a blind girl named Radhika (Sai Dhansika). The story spans over four years. They fall in love, she gets pregnant, they get married, the families make the obligatory fuzz, she dies while giving birth (of course she does) and he’s left with his kid.

This element for this story is water. You probably know that already because Bejoy Nambiar was screaming it using the visuals throughout this segment. This segment is also a giant Kochi tourism advertisement.

The story is fairly sweet on paper but on-screen it’s just dull and boring. One reason is the weak script (which I mentioned earlier) and horrible dubbing (which gets progressively worse in the later segments) Shekar’s stammering and Radhikas Malayalam lip syncing was noticeably bad. It wasn’t a dubbing disaster like ‘Nee-Na’. Anyone remember Deepthi Sati in that movie? You don’t? I’m glad.

The relationship was underdeveloped and rushed. It was unconvincing just like every other movie relationship that includes a person who has some disability. It’s a kind of pet peeve but I don’t buy it. For me they are just as unconvincing as the dumb ass action scenes where the bad guy literally flies away with a kick from the hero. The whole point of movies in general is suspension of disbelief. So i guess that’s okay.

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(I’m not hating on Bangalore Days. It is a good movie and i did enjoy it. But this whole thing was a bunch of bullshit.)

Dulquer Salman did an okay job with the character but a horrible job with the dubbing. And discount Rima Kalligal played the most unconvincing blind girl I’ve ever seen.

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Come on, i can’t be the only one! When I first saw this poster I honestly thought it was Rima Kallingal. Maybe they first approached Rima and after reading the script, maybe she told them to go fuck themselves. Who knows?

The entire wedding sequence was cringe. They ruined an amazing song. And, exactly what the fuck was going on? People are dancing awfully throughout the scene even during the wedding ceremony. There’s couple of ladies with chendas for some reason despite there’s a song playing during the whole scene.

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Jesus.

World of Trilok (The cyclist)

This is the story of Dr. Trilok. Basically what happens is Triloks wife was accidentally killed by two people and he hunts them down and kills them. It is pretty enjoyable. Other than the suspense there isn’t anything worth praising. There are some things that genuinely pissed me off.

Before the movie came out there was a lot of talk about the women in SOLO. Well, despite being important aspects of every story, the women have nothing to do with the movie. They’re all their because they’re hot. That’s it. I’m not saying you have to have strong female characters. But since you had a whole marketing aspect specifically for the ‘women in SOLO’, I expected to have some. Discount Rima Kallingal, Ann Augustine and Sai Tamhankar was kind of good and that all you’re gonna get. It’s all downhill from there.

The women in this story is named Ayesha played by someone who I didn’t bother to find the real name. She is in this movie because of 3 reasons.

1. Hot

2. Knows how to ride a bicycle

3. Has nice legs
Creepy? Well you should see the fucking movie. I don’t know if Bejoy Nambiar has some sort of leg fetish or anything (which is fine, good for him) but the emphasis on her legs came across as just creepy and weird.
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She doesn’t have any dialogue (smart move), no character development, no back story nothing. It’s just….well, legs.
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Another thing that really pissed me off was the car crash.
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How come this idiot didn’t know the brakes weren’t working until then.
Well, Bejoy Nambiar obviously has a time machine which he used to bring back this cliché that we left in the early 2000s.
World of Shiva (Ties of Blood)
This is the usual gangster story where the hero is an angry violent man who has a messed up past and all that shit. Sai Tamhankar and Rohan Manoj was really good. It was quite enjoyable because of the action scene towards the ending which was extremely well shot (pretty fucking stupid, but well shot). Especially this shot which is a tracking shot which really shows the audience what Bejoy Nambiar is capable of.

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Bejoy Nambiar is the Indian equivalent of Zack Snyder. When there’s action or any sort of physical movement happening on-screen often accompanied with music, he’s at home. His first movie which is the excellent Shaitan(2011) is the perfect example. The whole movie is basically a 2 hour chase scene and it is done perfectly. The shootout/escape scene where he used a modern version of an old Hindi song was brilliant and was an amazing spectacle. When it comes to storytelling… it’s meh, and he cannot do comedy. Vikrams part from David was is an example for that. He has a weird sense of humor (not an issue) and he fails completely in expressing that on-screen (is an issue).
I really liked how the movie concluded. It was unexpected and very interesting. Dulquer’s character was silent throughout this segment . He only speaks two words. Even though not at all similar, for some reason Shiva reminded me of Ryan Goslings character from ‘Drive’.
The things that didn’t work. One is the aspect ratio change. This segment was shot in a wide-screen format. I believe it’s called Anamorphic format/ lensing. I’m not an expert on all the technical stuff. The images in this segment was a little narrower than a 70 mm image and slightly stretched. It seemed pointless and the action scenes would’ve been better with a normal aspect ratio. One of the reasons behind the insane hype towards the movie is the song ‘Aigiri Nandini’. At least that was my reason to watch the movie, despite the lukewarm response. I wanted to see how that song was used. And it was a disaster. The song already is pretty loud. It was used in a shootout scene that has hundreds of people running and screaming. So there are gunshots, people screaming and crying and some other noise and on top of all of this the song is playing.

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On earphones it might sound fine but the people who watched it in theaters know what I’m talking about. It was just loud noises. I had no idea what was happening. Who is shooting what or where is the sound coming from. Sound engineer and whoever was in charge of mixing did an awful job. It was just noise.

And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s this guy.

THIS FUCKING GUY.

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This violin playing motherfucker has been torturing my ears since 2013. Now he’s torturing my eyes as well. Fuck you, fuck your violin and fuck your stupid fucking band.
*deep breaths*

Another thing that didn’t make sense is this. Manoj. K. Jayans character is telling Shiva’s brother- “oru pullanum illatha sthalathu poi vende adikkan? athokke ninte chettan!”.

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From this dialogue i assumed that Shiva wasn’t stupid enough to attack someone when there’s lot of people around.

*18 minutes later*

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Goddamn it Bejoy!
World of Rudra (The affair)

Okay. This is where Everything went south. If i have to pinpoint the exact moment it is this.

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This is the story about a military trainee named Rudra who is the son of a brigadier. He has girlfriend who the daughter of some other military douche. Anyway, whenever someone comes to the girls house for a marriage proposal, Rudra goes to that house challenges them to a fist fight if the person win he can have the girl. Because that is what men do. (Oh and this story is set in the 2010’s and not in the middle ages). And the usual Indian movie bullshit happened. She was sent to study abroad but she promises Rudra she’ll always be his. But Rudra never heard from her again. And years back Rudra and a bunch of his stupid fucking horribly dubbed friends set out to find why.

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You all probably know the story so I’m not gonna explain it further.

This segment is the most cringe to ever put on film. I have never cringed so hard ever. I was cringing so hard I could feel physical pain. I was cringing so hard my body was in pain I was almost in a fetal position throughout the proposal scene and that stupid fucking song called Roshomon. Why why why???!!!!

The so-called twist was executed so terribly it ended up being fucking stupid and unfunny. Just like almost everything in this movie, it sound good on paper but the execution is a clusterfuck. Dulquer was claiming that was dark humor and the people didn’t like it because they didn’t get it. I’m no expert in comedy but I think I have seen my fair share of dark comedies. And whatever the fuck was on Rudra wasn’t dark humor or any humor for that matter. You can’t defend your incompetence claiming that its dark humor or the audience just didn’t get it. It’s funny because people had no problem understanding and enjoying the dark humor in ‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’ which came out just around the time of SOLO. The problem wasn’t the audience who didn’t get it, the problem was a director and a writer who didn’t knew what the fuck the were doing.

Just take the L.

Marketing.

This movie had the biggest and most obnoxious marketing I could think of. At first when I saw the teaser for Shiva, I was pretty excited. Then they started flooding YouTube with teasers, songs, jukebox and whole bunch of other shit. Every time I go on YouTube and something related to this movie is there. I like watching movies with little to no knowledge of it at all. Despite me clicking ‘not interested’ over and over again it kept on coming back. I was honestly annoyed by the stupid fucking marketing.

An important thing about marketing is you need to know the product and the customers well. The SOLO marketing team really overestimated the movie and really underestimated the malayali audience. Bejoy Nambiar made some gorgeous garbage  for idiots and thought the audience were going to swallow it just like that. Some of them did, but the majority didn’t. Because at the end of the day, no one really cares how hot the actresses are or how cool the hero is or how awesome the music is-all people care about is if it has any substance. SOLO had everything except that.

One trend I saw last year in Malayalam movies are the best movies came out with just the minimum amount of marketing. Movies like Angamaly Diaries, Mayanadhi and Thondimuthal just had a trailer and that’s it. Parava didn’t even have a trailer! The marketing strategy for all these movies were word of mouth and through the social media of the personnel. Especially Mayanadhi, it was released around Christmas along with many other huge releases like Aadu 2. When i went to watch Mayandhi maybe four days after it was released. There were 7 people in the theater (yes, i counted) and Aadu 2 tickets were sold out. But once all the hype surrounding the other movies settled and the people who have seen Mayanadhi had great opinions, lot more people wanted to watch the movie. And after a week or so i saw a great amount of people outside the theater where Mayanadhi was running. The movie later had screenings all over India and all over the world. It made me really happy and joyful for some reason.

And it worked for Mayanadhi because it was a good fucking movie.

The whole tragedy of SOLO can be explained using the ‘Kottayam Kunjachan’ analogy. In the movie ‘Kottayam Kunjachan’, Kunjachan(Mammooty) was opening a driving school. He said to everyone that Mohanlal was coming for the inauguration. He made the event really popular and important. He created mad hype around the event. He kept on saying Mohanlal was coming. And then the inauguration day finally arrived, the whole town was there expecting Mohanlal. Turns out Mohanlal was never coming and Kunjachan’ was bullshiting everyone to have a huge crowd at the inauguration. Kunjachan then brings Pachakulam Vasu and he did the inauguration. All the people were genuinely got pissed and angry because Kunjachan has been telling them Mohanlal is coming and they ended up with Vasu. Of course they got little aggressive and violent and the whole inauguration ceremony was a huge mess.

This is exactly what happened to SOLO. Kunjachan is the SOLO crew and the marketing team, Mohanlal was what they claimed SOLO would be and Pachakulam Vasu is what we saw in theaters.

At the end of the day, we are left wondering who SOLO’s audience is . It is too stupid and incompetent for the cinephiles. It is too unconventional for the fanboys who’s got bone in their brains. This was quite a difficult conundrum. And then I witnessed some things from some of the SOLO apologists.

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And this man who has next level cinematic knowledge he makes Roger Ebert look like a nobody, who is defending SOLO but have no idea what the fuck he is defending.

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And at this very moment, I figured it out! it was right in front of my face. SOLO is for the fanboys with bone in their brains, who pretend to be cinephiles.

At the end of the day, all of this is just my opinion. We all are allowed to have our own thoughts and opinions so you don’t have to agree with me. But, just so you know – you’re wrong.

Roses are red, violets are blue, Kali benda mwone, adares thada.

Thank you, amazing person who’s reading this and I hope you are doing well!

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Ee Ma Yau – A story about death and all that follows it.

Lijo Jose Pellissery is know as one of the best directors in Malayalam movie industry today. After watching Ee Ma Yau, I think he just might be the best one. 

This movie was shot in just 18 days and it premiered last November but was only released in theatres couple of days back. It was being shown for various film festivals and it won the State awards for best director, best character actress and best sound design.

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I remember when a friend of mine once said Lijo Jose Pellissery is what you get when an art movie director choose not to be so full of himself/herself. I didn’t quite agreed with that but after watching  Ee Ma Yau, i think he just might have a point. Pellissery is known for his eccentric ideas and approach to film making. Everything he has ever done are things when you hear them makes you  go “yeah..I don’t know about that”, like the time he wanted a movie to be so realistic he didn’t use actual actors and did the movie with 86 people who have never acted before. Despite his ideas being labelled crazy, he still does it anyway. When he made ‘Amen‘ back in 2013 I thought “this is his classic, he is not going to top this”. Then last year he made ‘Angamaly Diaries‘ and I thought “alright this is his best, there is no possible way he can top this”. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy for being wrong. Pellissery killed it again with Ee Ma Yau.

This is a story of a man trying to keep a promise that he made to his father. The promise he made was to give his father the amazing funeral that he wanted. But the death came early and unexpected. The movies is about the funeral and everything around it. Pellissery’s movies belong to his own genre. Ee Ma Yau is no different. At it’s core it’s a drama written by a man who is fascinated with death. The story explores the effect a death has on human emotions and behavior. There’s a pinch of magical realism (which was an important layer in ‘Amen’) and there’s a great amount of situational pitch black humor which is handled brilliantly and it never felt out of place.

The technical aspects of this movie is flawless. The sound design by Renganath Ravi is very impressive. If you close your eyes it feels like you are literally near an ocean. The score is done by Prashant Pillai who chose a minimalist approach. Pellissery uses the sound of waves, wind and people crying as the ‘score’ for most of the time and when the actual score kicks in it takes the movie to another level. The script by P.F Matthews was outstanding. He kept everything interesting and realistic without anything unnecessary.

The cinematography by Shyju Khalid is out of this world.

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Most of the movie happens at night. And it was actually shot at night which is amazing, because night time actually looks like night time!(Looking at you Adam Joan). The light in most of the scenes are natural that ranges from regular lights in a house, to a torch light or street light or a match which is lit to smoke a beedi. It looks like there’s no extra lighting but turns out there was. Most of the frames there’s an abundance of the color black-which apparently is impossible to get if you’re shooting digital (you end up with greyish black), yet Shyju got it anyway. Even Ashiq Abu (who produced the movie) says he was dumbfounded and  has no idea how Shyju did it. And once its day time it’s starts raining and it was shot gorgeously with amazing texture and Shyju managed to capture the melancholy with his visuals.

Pellissery who is known for his fetish for single takes (which he made clear with the insane 11 minute climax tracking shot with almost 1000 people in Angamaly Diaries) does the same thing here. Almost every scene is done in a single take and it did a great job in holding the audience’s attention and gave the story a natural and effective flow.

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The characters are well written and performed excellently by the actors. Kainagiri Thankaraj plays Vavachan, who is the deceased father did a great job. He owned every scene he was in despite being in the coffin for most of the movie. Chemban Vinod plays the character of Eeshi who is Vavachans son. Pauly Valson played Ponnamma who is Vavachans wife. Dileesh Pothan plays the Reverend and did a great job because I only saw a priest who is borderline evil  and not ‘pothettan’ who’s a sweetheart. Vinayakan plays Ayyappan who is the panchayath ward member who has a  brotherly bond with Eeshi(Chemban), and he is the only person who actually cares and is doing something. He is doing his best to help the situation. The characters are faced with problems over problems and there’s a moment where Ayyappan breaks and it was painful to watch because I (the audience) could feel the pain he was in, and he almost stole the movie with that scene until the last 20 minutes where Chemban went to another realm with his performance-oh my God!– my jaw was on the floor. This whole time his character was doing everything he could to keep the promise he made to his father and when everything turns against him including religion and even the weather, he finally breaks. All his frustration and anger explodes and it was terrifying and depressing to see. This is Chemban’s best performance yet. In my mind I was like “Holy shit man, who knew you were this good! And where the hell have you been!!” It reminded me of the time when Vinayakan went beast mode in ‘Kammattipadam‘.

The last 20 minutes is pure cinematic perfection. It was almost like a competition between the director, cinematographer and Chemban. All three were at their absolute best. The burial happens during this time and it is heart wrenching. The way it was filmed is pure genius. By the end of the scene I felt as if I had a huge weight on my chest crushing my heart making it almost impossible to even breathe. and it is my favorite scenes from the whole movie and it is going to haunt me for some time.

I always believed it doesn’t even matter if it’s film or digital and you don’t need 3D or iMax or whatever else that is being shoved down the audiences throat these days in order to have a ‘cinematic experience’, all it takes is a director and a crew who knows exactly what they’re doing.

Ee Ma Yau is a living proof of that.