Last weekend, after a particularly depressing development in the world of Bollywood, I found myself searching for content that would give me some respite from this constant stream of bad news. Cinema is the best way to escape reality, and for a movie buff like me, it’s often the alternate reality that I choose to live in.
Sometimes that escapade also becomes tough, what with OTT platforms serving weighty titles like Aarya, Maafia and Breathe every week. Seriously, what’s with streaming services constantly throwing horrors, thrillers and gang wars at us? Aren’t we living with enough mental stress already?
So I decided to take a break from Hindi to look for lighter content in regional cinema and catch up on films I have missed out. I had heard a lot about Bangalore Days, OK Kanmani and Premam over the years but never got around to watching them. I thought, if not during the lockdown, then when?
Now I watch one feel-good movie a day. I sleep much better these days.
Starting with Malayalam films, every week I will be sharing some of my regional favourites that have lightened my mood and made my day better during this wretched pandemic. You are welcome.
Premam (Disney+ Hotstar)
This was the first film I checked out because I had heard so much about Sai Pallavi’s performance, but it was Nivin Pauly who impressed me. Despite his transformation from an infatuated teenager to a rowdy college-goer to a mature man, his character’s innocence remains intact all through. His heart still flutters at the sight of a girl. Director Alphonse Putharen’s second film, Premam was a huge hit and I can see why. It’s hard not to connect with George’s faith in love, despite multiple disappointments. It’s an emotional story peppered with humour. Add to that impressive music and beautiful visuals, and Premam becomes the feel-good ride worth every moment of its slightly long screen time.
Bangalore Days (Disney+ Hotstar)
This one is a must on any list of feel-good Malayalam movies’ list. Hinging on the unique premise of the bond between three cousins, Bangalore Days chronicles the changes in their lives as each of them find purpose in life. What stays constant all through is the friendship among the characters of Nazriya Nazim, Dulquer Salman and Nivin Pauly. Fahadh Faasil and Parvathy Thiruvothu support the film brilliantly. Each character has been etched endearingly by directed by Anjali Menon. They are so relatable that it’s very easy to join them on this joyride. And you will have brilliant music by Gopi Sundar to keep you company. I am still dancing to Thudakam Mangalyam.
Ohm Shanthi Oshana (Disney+ Hotstar)
It might seem that I am partial to Nivin Pauly’s movies, but it’s completely by chance that I came across Ohm Shanthi Oshana, read the reviews and decided to give it a dekko. This is a delightfully feminist romantic comedy. Nazriya Nazim has aced her role as the obsessed teenager with a singular focus. Nivin plays the object of her affection, he did not have to do much other than be the village do-gooder. Nazriya is the driving force of the film. She obsesses over him, stalks him, takes care of his mother and even joins his charity cause – all in order to impress him. In short, she does everything a man would traditionally do to pursue a woman. I watched a totally enjoyable romantic comedy after a long time.
Kumbalangi Nights (Amazon Prime Video)
One wouldn’t quickly slot this one among the films above, especially till the first half. But the rustling coconut leaves, bright sun and sparkling waters of Kumbalangi, and the story of despair and hope playing out in between will force you to rethink. Despite the dreadful moments, Kumbalangi Nights makes everything good in the end. Set in the eponymous fishing village of Kumbalangi in Kochi, Kerala, the film centers on the strained relationship between four brothers living together in a dysfunctional home, and how they ultimately stand up for each other as a family. The film critiques hypermasculinity and patriarchy through the character of Fahadh Faasil as Shammi, whose cold smile will run a chill down your spine. The movie also has feminist undertones, as the women act as motivators for the men to take charge of their situations.
Ustad Hotel (Disney+ Hotstar)
Ustad Hotel isn’t brilliant, but definitely heartwarming. The screenplay has its flaws, but the story and its message are beautiful. Dulquer Salman plays the only son among 5 siblings, and so is burdened by his rich businessman father’s expectations. But his plans are different, and his father’s attempts to foil them leads to him finding his true calling. Directed by Anwar Rasheed and written by Anjali Menon, Ustad Hotel draws heavily on the philosophy of living one’s life for the good of others. Gopi Sundar’s music adds to the feel. The combination of rock and folk in ‘Appangalembadum’ is brilliant. Food and its nuances becomes a central character in the film as a catalyst of personal transformation. The popularity of Sulaimani chai is also explained in a scene. Food enthusiasts should definitely check this one out.
Another list of feel-good movies coming up next week in another regional langauge.