Sunday, December 8, 2013

Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi–Road not Taken ?


I got the chance to catch another malayalam movie on torrent again, Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi, release in Aug 2013.  I had missed this movie due to all the wrong reasons, and by the time I made it back to kerala, it had gone out of the theatres. It was called the first malayalam road trip movie, and those who watched it told me it was a keeper, another one of those new generation movies, no stereotypes, no superstars, and no formula at all.

It tells the story of two guys, who make a bike journey from their roots in Kerala, to the North Eastern Region of India. On the way, they meet a host of colorful characters, learn a bit of life, get nearly robbed, help others selflessly, and even grow up a little. The cinematography of the movie is awesome, all the promos and pics are slick and stylishly shot. But the real hero turned out to be the background music and the songs. You will be compelled to take out a bike and go on a similar trip yourself.

Now personally, I never understood why grown up men go on long, endearing bike trips at all. Was it the destination that mattered, or the journey itself ? The preferred choice of bikes are those old style British thumpers, with 50 year old engine designs , very little mileage and a lot of noise. They pollute everything around it, and are difficult to maneuver and maintain. I have myself travelled on some bike rides with my friends, and what I learned : in the long run, its uncomfortable, and unsafe on Indian roads. And not to mention , expensive. The same trip would work out lot more cheaper if travelled by train (my favourite Smile). But I guess, it is an adventure, simply to break convention.

Anyway, back to our movie. Kasi (Dulquar Salman), wanted to to go on a solo journey, the reason for this is not revealed at first. But his best buddy (Sunny), intercepts and joins him anyway. The best bike movies are told by buddies anyway: Motorcyle Diaries, Easy Rider. After a fun start and joyous ride, they run into another group of bikers, and end up in Puri, a place know to be a holy city, but now a surfing destination. Ishita, a surfer girl from Pondicherry, is smitten by Kasi, but he is not looking for happiness , it seems. The bike boys leave for Kolkatta, running into Bimalda, the leader of a down trodden village fighting against capitalization. The boys contribute in their own way. Part of the story, and the reason for the journey, is revealed in a flashback.

Apparently, Kasi was an ideological an honest college student union leader. He meets and falls in love with Assi, an girl from Nagaland who is in his college under the North East quota. She has had a violent past, lost both her parents to communal violence, and lives in constant fear of being targeted by the same. Kasi himself hails from a well-to-do influential Muslim family, and wants to give Assi a new life. But the death of a close friend, and questions from Kasi’s orthodox extended family forces Assi to leave his life. Kasi is heartbroken, and feels betrayed, both by his love, and his family. He needs something to take his mind off, and what better way to forget, than a bike journey ?

When the duo reaches Assam, they witness the act of communal violence firsthand, and Kasi decides to turn back. But when he contemplates on the journey so far, accelerated with nice weed smoke, he decides to go meet Assi all the way in Nagaland. Once there, he leaves with her, having made up his mind up once and for all.

The first half of the movie is captivating, you are able to connect to the duo riders, and all the other people they run into. But then the story introduces communal and religion and politics into the equation. At least for me, I was not able to relate to these ideas, those bits could have been very well left out. I think the writer was inspired by MotorCycle Diaries, in which Che Guevera came to understand the troubles of his country men firsthand. Anyway, we are back on the road with the riders, and able to complete the remainder of the journey.

What stood out :

  1. Music. OMG. Both the background score, and all the songs have that new age feel of modern Malayalam music to it. Rex master rocks ! For some reason, the guitar seems to be the best instrument to compliment motorcycle journeys (or any road trip for that matter). Rex uses different styles for the different locations and moods in the movie.
  2. Dulquar: He once again portrays a person fighting with himself. Kasi is depicted as an honest and truthful student union leader. He is not easily corrupted by petty party politics. Its hard to come by such a peson nowadays. When every other movie nowadays has smooch scenes and pre-marital affairs, Kasi and Assi are shown as old school, abstaining from such a relationship. Again, it is hard to come by such a couple.
  3. Thrissur !: Hailing from the lovely town myself, it was fun to note that the flashback story was running in Thrissur Engineering college, and various points in Thrissur town. Also the beach is shown, so brownie points for that.
  4. Too many malayalees: The duo travels in North India, right ? But then, too many people they run into speak the difficult language, including Raghavan, the puncture fixer. Looks like we are here, there ,everywhere !


The best way to enjoy this movie is with your best buddies.

The at one point, the story depicts the suicide of a student, due to inability to pay her fees. This is inspired by an actual event: in 2004, Rajani, an engineering student jumped to her death for similar reasons. I remember this because this happened during my third year in Engineering college. The incident sparked fire to the already hot topic of exaggerated fees in many self financing colleges in the state. Every college went into long strikes, disrupting normal college life, and the future of many colleges and their students seemed in trouble. Reminds me of the many strikes and slogan shouting I myself participated in, knowing that there was no easy solution to the problem.  Anyway, the four years I lost in college was probably the worst of my life, that time is lost, and I have no intention of going back.

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