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Monday, January 26, 2009

Tribute to Twenty:20

Here's a Malayalam movie I would like to pay tribute to. It's one of a kind, and is on a scale never before attempted in Indian cinema. All the stars of the Malayalam movie industry, otherwise commonly referred to as the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA in short...which also means "mother" in Malayalam and most South Indian languages) got together to make a movie to be able to make money for AMMA.

As it turns out, and I'm not really clear on this, none of the actors demanded a fee, except maybe a couple. Also, it meant that they all had to clear their busy schedules and be available to make this project a reality. All the stars of Malayalam cinema, young and old, make some sort of appearance in the movie, and those who didn't due to several reasons are paid tribute in the opening credits.

Looking at the movie poster briefly, let me put some names to the people on it. Going from left to right: Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Mammooty, Mohanlal and Dileep. All have been greats of Malayalam cinema, especially during my life time, but the two biggest names in all things Malayalam movies are Mohanlal and Mammooty.

I've had the opportunity to meet Mohanlal and he's very down-to-earth. He can relate to and with most people he meets, and doesn't seem to have as big an ego as someone with his popularity should. I haven't met Mammooty, but I've heard some "uptight" things about him. Both of them, though, are brilliant actors in their own right: Mammooty is a brilliant by-the-book kind of actor, and Mohanlal flatters with his versatility and his sense of humor. To use an analogy, it's like someone who can recreate the magic of a piece of piano music by reading the notes, having never heard the song before, and another who can play from memory with such ease, after only hearing the song once.

Extended ego assuaging aside, and moving on to the next couple of names on the list, Jayaram and Suresh Gopi have had their own successful forays into Malayalam filmdom. Suresh Gopi, fortunately or unfortunately, was soon typecast as a perfect fit for police-related stories, and that's his role in Twenty:20 as well. Jayaram, well, he was more of a comedian, and as opposed to his earlier successes, his later movies lacked that punch. They seemed to be a forced collusion of comedy and semi-tragedy, which often ended up in a bit of a forced plot and predictable ending. But I still have a couple of favorite movies with him in the lead.

With Dileep, well, I haven't seen any of his latest stuff, but he's quite a funny guy. Also, he seems to have a more natural sad-to-serious kind of transition in his movies, when it is most required, and this makes people laugh, then cry, and finally laugh again. I think Malayalam audiences appreciate this sort of thing, and that's why he's enjoying his current string of success after success. Interestingly, he is the one who produced this movie, and he plays a crucial but truncated role in this movie.

About the plot, well, I liked the way in which the story managed to give all of these stars their own time in front of the camera, without stepping on each others' toes and all that. No egos were bruised, apparently, and although the plot may seem a bit contrived, I think it managed to provide enough surprises and twists to keep the story interesting.

Please watch Twenty:20, if nothing else, because it attempts to incorporate almost every single Malayalam movie star into a single story, and it manages to do this effortlessly.
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