Monday, October 17, 2011

Indian Rupee

23 years after we saw CP struggle to make it big in the world of construction contract business in Vellanakalude Nadu, Ranjith takes us to the world of JP – Jayaprakash (Prithviraj), who along with his friend CH (Tini Tom) try to establish themselves in the cut throat competition of real estate brokerage business. The landscape has changed across two decades, the stakes are much higher and the money involved runs into crores (cr as referred to in the movie). The movie is not about land corruption (something that Ividam Swargamanu focused on) but more on the desire of middle class youth who try to become rich and make it big in life in quick time.

JP and CH run a small time broker agency in a run-down office near Palayam vegetable market in Kozhikode. They are small time folks primarily acting as sub-brokers in the city, under the aegis of bigger players like Rayan and Joy. The commissions that they receive for the deals that they receive are meager and they dream to make it big one day.  JP believes that his luck has changed when Achutha Menon (Thilakan), an old man appoints them as brokers to sell his property. The deal goes down the drain but Achutha Menon stays back with them and advises them as they pocket their first real income after arm-twisting a client. Through a mega deal with Gold Pappan, they aim for the sky but the spiraling circular flow of crores and its effects makes them realize the folly of their actions.

Indian Rupee has a free-flowing script and keeps you entertained throughout and there isn’t a dull moment anywhere in the movie. The satire crackles throughout and the references to public entities (Shashi Tharoor, ICICI) and incidents throughout make it easy to relate to it (though I did think the reference to Pranchiyettan was a bit contrived). There is an underlying social commentary on religion, land politics, black money, NRIs and old age which is thankfully not preachy but engages us at different levels. Conceptually, the movie acts as a prequel to Pranchiyettan since the primary objective is making money, either by hook or crook - social respect would only be next on the agenda.

Ranjith shifts the plot from Thrissur in his last movie to his home town Kozhikode here and the dialect plays an important role in bringing life to the city. We are able to relate to all the characters and realize that this story could just have happened in our neighbourhood. The world and lingo of real estate is brought very close to us and we see the amount of money that is floating around which could have been frightening, if it were not entertaining. He does not show any form of corruption which is high in this sector but I guess there is an underlying assumption, even acceptance, that when vast sums of money crosses hands, some of the palms need greasing and so there is no need perse to show it.

JP is a likeable character whom you root for even though he is devoid of scruples. He is willing to arm-twist a client into making money, pay off company agents to get deals and even get involved in fake money to pursue his dreams. At a personal level, he shirks responsibility back at home by fleeing home when people come to see his sister and has borrowed money from his mother but sunk the money. But Ranjith still presents him as a struggler who needs to do all this to survive in the tough world and the question of right and wrong are not so important – maybe it’s to do with the world that we now live in that we empathize with this character. Maybe it explains why we empathized with CP and wished he followed the right path but we accept JP and want him to succeed. Prithviraj carries the role with aplomb and fully justifies the faith that Ranjith reposes on him –a role that will be noticed after his act in Vaasthavam.

Achutha Menon’s character confused me a bit as I tried to understand what exactly Ranjith wanted to convey through him. He is an intellectual who’s bitter with all the –isms of the times that he has lived in and finds himself at the crossroads of his life with no support with him. He advises JP and CH in their deal to ‘threaten’ their client and himself tries to cheat his son by selling their house but the need for money is provided as a justification for his actions. Ranjith probably envisioned him as a sort of conscience keeper for JP as he attempts his dealings but am not very clear about this.

While Achutha Menon’s intervention in JPs house ensures a dowry-free marriage for his sister (in a tad preachy sequence), this is the only act that gives him that halo – otherwise, he remains just an old man who tries his best to keep his family afloat. Similarly the usage of the Gandhi bhajan Vaishnav Jan to Tene Kahiye attempts to create a moral aura that does not exist. He is an important character, no doubt, in the plot but it looks as if a few critics have given him a greater relevance in the movie than can be understood.

Glad to see Thilakan on screen after a long time and I hope we see more of him now, especially in these times when Malayalam cinema has been losing its great artists regularly. His presence adds solidity and earnestness to the character and when JP asks him the question Evada aayirunnu ithrim nallu, Ranjith prompts us to put this question to Thilakan. Jagathy as Gold Pappan is a scene stealer (think he is the first choice for directors who create odd ball characters now) in his cameo as a spend thrift millionaire while Tini Tom needs to thanks Ranjith for discovering him as an actor and he picks up from where he stopped in Pranchiyettan.

There are a couple of scenes which are unnecessary in the plot (I always find this with a Ranjith movie) like the doctors get together and the song and the ones involving Achutha Menon’s family. JPs family itself disappears in the 2nd half and the entire plot begins to revolve on a 85 Cr deal that has many takers. The deal itself gets sabotaged due to reasons that are unconvincing (Pappan’s haste to get the money the same day is not very clear) and his demands seem more driven by the needs of the story than that of the deal.

While there is big money involved in the entire set of operations, it felt awkward when lakhs and crores are bandied about loosely without any worry. A future brother-in-law giving 50 Lakhs or a doctor feeling not too bitter about having to give 25 Lakhs makes the entire flow of money look so simple and insignificant, which is never going to be the case. The movie ends in a nice little finale but I am unable to buy the need for a flashback or Lalu Alex explaining the story to the people who visit him, looking for JP.

There are a few such pinpricks here and there but at the end of it, I left the theatre content after watching watching a well-crafted movie – something that Ranjith has a made a habit in his second innings. In his works, he represents a film maker restoring the glory of the 80s in a more traditional style (reminiscent partly of the Sreenivasan film of thought) unlike the newer crop of directors that we have seen lately. This is August Cinema’s second production after Urumi and we hope to see more interesting stuff from it…

***Incidentally, Shaji Natesan (the third person behind August Cinema along with Prithviraj and Santosh Sivan) plays a cameo in the movie as the NRI who buys the mall eventually…


  1. Hi Pradeep, Nice to find a place where newer Malayalam films are being reviewed. I'm always looking for recommendations. :)

    Renjith is a director I'm beginning to like a lot. His movies *are* different - simple, well-made, and with a strong script. So much so, I'm willing to overlook tiny quibbles.

    Thanks for the write up. Will be back to read some more.

  2. Anu, welcome here..will keep reviewing the latest Malayalam movies that I find interesting and hopefully get others like you to watch them..

    In his second avatar, if you could call it that, starting with 'Nandanam', Ranjith has been injecting life into Malayalam cinema which has been suffering until very lately. These tiny quibbles are primarily being driven by the quality of his output - perfection can be improved:)...