I had missed this movie a the theatre when it was released. So I caught up when the DVD came out. And boy, had fun watching it and reminiscing of the good old days. It is a fresh , nice , simple movie, with it’s heart in the right place, and nothing vulgar. The story of the girl falling for and pursuing the boy has been told many times, but here there was a certain freshness to it.
In the movie’s first scene, when baby Pooja is born, and the good doctor is informed that it is a boy, an interrupting person in the room congratulates him. “Having a boy baby is much better than a girl baby”, he says, and proceeds to support it with some of his points. Doctor Mathew looks heavenwards and says “Praise the Lord !”
Then the nurse arrives and informs him , saying she had made a mistake. And the baby is a girl, not a boy. The stranger who had earlier congratulated him, now gets up and walks away. Doctor Mathew looks heavenwards and says “Praise the Lord again !”
A simple , but important message, to love the girl child. From this point , the movie talks of only one thing- Girl Power ! Kudos for the makers to take time to weave this into the very first scene.
Easter Eggs Galore :
The main character and narrator of the movie, Pooja Mathew, played innocently by Nazriya, is born in 1983, the year I was born. And throughout the movie, the story makes numerous tributes to many things of that era. It was a fun going back in time, and here is the list I could point out.:
- Year 1999. The grown-up Pooja is introduced in mega-serial announcement style. These mega-serials began as a boon to the otherwise entertainment drained Indian TV viewers, but is now the bane of the idiot box. Many mega-serials run for many years with a crazy twisting story line which made no sense.
- Rambo. In the 90’s the only place you could see a six pack was in a hollywood movie. Rambo established Sylvester Stallone as the action star to watch out for, and youngsters repeatedly rewatched the series just to see him flex his muscles and arrow down copters. Even today, I watch it when it is on TV. There is also a picture of Clint Eastwood, the original cowboy of Hollywood.
- Complan. The complan boy and complan girl was one of the most successful and common ads on TV back then. It made stars of both the young models.
- Niram. The 1999 Mayalayam campus hit movie Niram was talk of the town when it came out, and re-introduced the chocolate hero. When you watch the movie today, you could see the crappy direction, and crappy acting, unimaginative songs, and severe lack of story and coherence. But back then, people just swooned at the cute story of the young couple in love.
- Pooja sees the Hero Honda CBZ in the movie, and gets one for herself. The CBZ was the first muscle/sport bike to be introduced in India. Before the introduction of the CBZ, the Indian motorcycle market trend was towards fuel efficient, small capacity motorcycles (that formed the 80–125 cc class). Bigger motorcycles with higher capacity virtually did not exist (except for Enfield Bullet). The launch and success of Hero Honda CBZ in 1999 showed that there was demand for performance bikes. Other Indian motor companies would soon follow the trend and bring in high performance bikes of their own.
- Pooja’s class goes on a tour to Veegaland , which was the first amusement park of Kerala. It soon became the preferred holiday destination of Malayalees of all ages, specially school and college trips. But the huge rid pipes of the park are as dirty today as shown in the movie !
- Pooja’s father gifts her a new Nokia 3310 ! For many of us (at least for me!) , this was our first mobile phone. Kerala was one of the first states to launch mobile connection services, as early as 1995, cell-phones were becoming available in the market. But the call rates where highly consumer-unfriendly. In some of the usage plans, the rate of outgoing calls was 12 Rs/- per minute, while incoming calls were charges Rs 7/- per minute ! Of course, this meant that calls from unrecognized numbers where not answered :-) . In order to save on costs, many of us began to develop a system of codes using missed calls, 1 missed call meant something, 2 short missed calls meant urgent… Those who had landlines where given missed calls repeatedly so that they would call back landline to cell phone, landline rates where still cheaper and often free for some minutes.Bigger and better cell-phones were brought to Kerala from the Gelf , and the market had limited options. The Nokia 3310 turned out to be a consumer favourite, it was small, it’s battery ran for 2 days, and the interface was extremely simple and easy to use. The ring tone composer on the device was a crowd favourite, because unlike modern smart phones, this was probably the only way to customize your phone – by getting/composing and playing the latest songs as phone ringtones.
- More bikes ! David Kanjaany drives a Yamahaa RX 100, the cheaper 100 CC bike of boys of that age. While Giri arrives on his loud and inefficent , but sturdy Enfield Bullet.
- Karate ! Before Keanu Reeves popularized Kung Fu in the Matrix movies, Karate was the number one marital art style taught and practised. People used to go to such Karate classes, some organized in schools too, preferring the imported art over Kerala’s own traditional art of Kalaripayattu.
- Shakhtimaan plays on the TV at Pooja’s home. Shakhitmaan was India’s first TV superhero, (the first Superhero was of couse, Mr India, in the movies), playing every Sunday. When Shaktimaan first aired on Doordarshan, there were a lot of controversy created as children set themselves on fire or jumped off buildings hoping that Shaktimaan would save them.About 400 episodes were telecast before it finally lost its charm.
- Video libraries. Pooja and gang go to a video cassette library and ask for Spadikam, and is told that Velliyettan has come in. Giri comes in and borrows the casette of Enter the Dragon, the Bruce Lee karate classic. Till the end of the 90s, these casette libraries were the place to get the latest movies, in every language. These casettes could be overwritten, so the library owners would just record a newer movie when they get a master copy.
- David Kanjaany opens an Internet Cafe in the village. Internet arrived in India end of 90s, and internet cafes opened up all over the country, where people could pay and use computers to use the service. The charge were also high, some charge upto 70 Rupees per hour. Today, internet rates have plummeted in the country , and it has become cheap and affordable on smartphones.
- Doctory Mathews drives an old Contessa Classic. It was a popular car in the 60, but was a dinosaur in the 90s.
- That Prathikaranam show was hilarious. It used to be the weekly audience-channel interaction program of Doordarshan. The anchors where actual DD employees, and the Nirma ad , was overplayed on TV.
- The spooky Manichitrathaazhu theme plays when Pooja asks for permission to go out from her father. Apart from being the highest grossing Malayalam film of the year 1993, Manichitrathazhu is considered as one of the best thrillers ever made in India as well as one of the best Malayalam films ever made. The Vidamaatte ! was iconic , and fetched Shobana the National Award for Best Actress. Although the movie was cheaply remade into 6 languages, none of the remakes had the aura and spookiness of the original, which did not use any computer graphics or VFX, and relied entirely on set design and background music and lighting to show its mysterious spookiness.
- Hrithik Roshan’s entry into Hindi movies, and the hit song from Kaho Na Pyaar Hain. This was the movie which was full of cliches, but the audience lapped it all up, turning him into a superstar with his very first movie. And our generation began drooling over his body..:-)
- The Dil Chahtha Hain song plays on Pooja’s TV. DCH released only one year later than KNPH. It was another iconic trendsetter movie which even won a Award for its debutant director.
- The entrance coaching bit was funny, and the class and teacher was modelled on the PC Thomas’s entrance coaching centre in Thrissur. Many of us lost our money and countless days lost in his strict classes, and some of the really gifted ones even got good ranks ! Just to clarify, I never attended his classes, and spent my weekends programming away on my own PC.
- The cassettes in the video library are replaced by CDs. The new medium promised better picture and sound quality, but soon ended up promoting video piracy because they could be easily copied onto computers.
- Kozhikode is described beautifully, it has a culture of its own. And a timeless charm. The year is 2004. And a lot of things happened in the preceding four years. MadhuMohan stopped his serials. Veerappan is killed. The 2004 Tsunami hit India too, and affected millions of lives, and the word Tsunami entered Malayalam lexicon.
- It is said that “Every Facebook user has had a dark past. Orkut !” Before Facebook, Indian youngsters where hooked onto Orkut, the social netwoking service launched by google in 2004. Orkut could show you who all visited your profile, so it was common for boys to lurk around and try to make as many orkut-girl-friends as possible. But after numerous scraps and spams, users got bored of it and abandoned ship to move to Facebook. On June 30, 2014, Google announced it will be closing Orkut on September 30, 2014.
- Pooja uses a ThinkPad laptop, the design of that lines of laptops has not changed till this day, even after IBM sold Thinkpad to Lenovo.
- The boring Doordarshan song plays in Pooja’s classroom, it has been a standard tune to denote boring situations.
- The Classmates song plays and movie is talked about. The movie itself only came out in 2006, but it was a box office hit and has a cult following.
- Rajamanikkyam poster in Pooja’s home. Man, I hated that movie, but everyone else loved it.
- For some reason, Dr Mathews is reading Vanitha !
My only rant about this movie, Dr Mathews. Nicely played by Ranji Panikker, this father is by far the most carefree father I have seen, in movie or real life. He does not worry when his teenage daughter leaves home often, or notices the sudden changes in her mannerisms. He is not at all concerned when the grown up Pooja leaves and arrives home at odd hours, even 12 in the night. He gifts her a cell phone in high school and is not worried if it might be misused. And when he finally knows about her affair, is so cool about it, he welcomes them whole heartedly without thinking of the possible problems of this relation to his family and community. I have seen some dads who are casual to their children, bug Dr Mathews is lost in his own world, and is a lazy and careless dad.