Thursday, March 31, 2011

Urumi - Sify Review

Movie: Urumi
Director: Santhosh Sivan
Music: Deepak Dev
Cast: Pritviraj, Prabhu Deva, Genelia, Jagathy, Nitya Menen

Santosh Sivan’s Urumi is a miniature masterpiece of moods, emotions, anxieties ruled by a thirst for revenge. The film unfolds like a ballad and is a sweet and simple fairy tale. The 170 minutes film works to a large extent to its perfect casting, fantastic performances, soothing score and technical brilliance.

Santosh has made it like how a period drama should be made without too much talk about freedom struggle, no bombastic dialogues or playing to the gallery for heroism. His vision and concept gives this epic the feel of a Brave Heart or Gladiator.

It provides us a new insight into the hearts and minds of ancient heroes and shot in locations that reflect the period as everything looks fresh, green and clean and one can feel even the mist. Another major plus is that there are hardly any CG special effects that one would associate with a period war film.

Shankar Ramakrishnan’s script is simple and straightforward and keeps the narrative absorbing and inspiring. The film starts in the present day with a modern don’t care youth Krishna Das (Prithviraj) and his friend (Prabhu Deva) having a jolly good time. A big corporate offers Krishna Das a bomb for his ancestral property in Kerala.

On his arrival in Kerala to sign the papers, he learns the truth about his land and ancestors, which is told in a flashback. A brave warrior (Arya), wants to kill Vasco da Gama, the Viceroy of Portuguese Empire in India. But he is brutally killed by the invaders and his son Chirakkal Kelu Naynar (Prithviraj) is out to take revenge with a golden Urumi, that he makes with the ornaments of dead women and children who were burnt alive in a ship that was going to Mecca. It was set on fire and sunk under the instructions from Vasco Da Gama.

The film is spread between the second and third visit of Gama to India and chronicles a varied version of how Gama could have met a bloody death in 1524 AD. Kelu is supported by his childhood Muslim buddy Vavvali (Prabhu Deva). In the journey he meets warrior princess Ayesha (Genelia), who has her own axe to grind against the foreign invaders. Will they be able to kill Vasco Da Gama ?

The major highlight of the film is the performances of its lead actors. Prithviraj as Kelu Naynar is dashing. You cannot take your eyes of him, it’s a difficult role and he has come out with flying colours especially in the climax scene. Prabhu Deva is there in as many frames as Prithviraj, and is a real treat to watch. He does comedy and romance with ease and the chat song with Nithya is a scream.

However it goes without saying that this is Genelia’s show. She has shed her bubbly image for an out of the world controlled performance and her Kalaripayattu action scenes are thrilling. Nithya Menen looks pretty and is a scene stealer, while Jagathy is outstanding. Amol Gupte, Alex, Robin and others are lifelike. There is also walk in cameo appearances by Arya, Vidya Balan and Tabu.

Music of Deepak Dev enriches the film with Aaro nee aaro, Chimmi Chimmi and the theme music is haunting. A pat for Shankar Ramakrishnan for his intricately crafted script, super editing by Sreekar Prasad without any gimmicks and eye catching beautiful camera work by Sivan and his assistant Anjuli Shukla.

Santosh Sivan has come out with a story of valour with an admirable degree of craftsmanship and clarity. The producers Santosh, Prithviraj and Shaji Natesan can be proud of this epic.

Urumi is a fairy tale fantasy film that has a heart and technical artistry. Go for it.

Verdict - Very Good


Santosh Sivan: 'Shooting Urumi was exciting'

Internationally acclaimed cinematographer Santosh Sivan's latest film Urumi, is one of the most eagerly awaited Malayalam films. He is also making the Tamil, Hindi and English versions.

The film, produced by Shaji Nadesan, Santosh Sivan and Prithviraj, has an array of stars and actors from all Indian languages: Prithviraj, Genelia, Prabhu Deva, Tabu, Vidya Balan and Amol Gupte, to name a few.

Santosh Sivan's first film as a director was the children's film Halo followed by the internationally acclaimed Terrorist.

In fact, Pulitzer-prize winning movie critic Roger Ebert has included Terrorist films in his series of 'Great Movies'.

As Urumi gets ready to be released on March 31, Sivan, in the midst of postproduction work, spoke to about the film.

What was the inspiration behind a period film like Urumi?

I like the idea of recreating the bygone era. It is interesting to think of the characters you have heard as real. Also, it excited me to have cannons, swords and urumi (curling blades) in a film. The writer of the film Shankar Ramakrishnan was really into all these historical dramas.

What is Urumi about?

Urumi is set in the backdrop of the warrior clans of Northern Kerala who belonged to the sixteenth century. It is the story of Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar (Prithviraj), a man with a mission to kill Vasco da Gama. Kelu meets a Muslim warrior princess Ayesha (Genelia) of the Arackal Sultanate.

Kelu has a legendary golden Urumi, made from the ornaments of dead women and children who were burnt alive in a ship that was going to Mecca. It was set on fire and sunk under the instructions from Vasco da Gama.

Vavvali (Prabhudeva) who is Kelu's childhood friend from the Muslim neighbourhood supports him in his mission

The film also has mystical characters like Makkom (Vidya Balan), a displaced Devi Deity in the form of the Oracle .

Kelu tracks his mission through treachery and treason. The organised revolt started by him was the first movement of its kind against colonial advance in India.

So, Urumi is a film about Chirakal Kelu Nayanar's revenge.

Is the story real or fictionalised?

It is part real and part fiction. Whenever someone wins, only their version of the story is recorded. I feel the characters represent the people and I do not want to portray some of them bad or some good. It is never like that in real life.

These are people from both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. For example, Vaavvali, the character played by Prabhudeva comes from Nagapattinam.

But the film is the journey of Kelu.

What is the significance of Urumi in the film?

Urumi is an interesting weapon, which can be used to keep people away and not only to attack. He uses it to take revenge.

Ashoka and Before the Rains were period films and Ananthabhadram was fantasy. What fascinates you about such films?

It is the characters that fascinate me. I also like the idea of re-creating a world that I have not seen. You can use your imagination and re-create such an ambience.

Yes, in Urumi, you cannot re-create exactly how it was then, as women were topless in those days (during the Malabar period). So, you stylise the kind of dresses they wore in that era. It excites me to get into a period where air was purer, everything looked so clean and the land looked virgin.

But it is not that I like to make only period films. I have made children's films and films in all genres. I like to make all kinds of films.

Filmmaking is like reading; you read all kinds of books and don't restrict yourself to any one type.

You are a cinematographer. What is to you to direct a film?

It is not to make a living that I direct films. I want to have fun. I want to enjoy myself. I want to do something different; yes, different is a much-abused word. That is why I direct films.

What high do you get when you direct a film?

Most of the creative process is like a journey; it's a special journey from start to finish. It takes a great deal of effort to take the journey because it's very creative. The experience of making a film itself gives me a high.

If people like what you have made, it gives an even more high. Of course, people do say good and bad about your film. You have to be prepared for that.
Filmmaking is an interesting experience for me. As a cinematographer, I have worked with so many interesting directors and as a director, I have worked with so many interesting actors. Similarly, when I was asked to act, I looked on it as another experiment. Many people asked me why I decided to act (He has acted as painter Raja Ravi Varma in Lenin Rajendran's film). There are no answers to such questions.
Image: A scene from Urumi

How was it working in films that are made abroad and here?

Working style is definitely different. For example, there is a lot of silence on the sets of those films while it is not so here. I am one person who likes silence on the sets but you won't get it here. For actors also, silence is very good. So, the atmosphere itself is so different.

But making a Malayalam film is much, much faster.

So, is it less strenuous making a Malayalam film?

Filmmaking itself is strenuous. While making English films, we follow a typical timetable. We start at the same time everyday and stop at six everyday. There is no question of any deviation from that. When you go for lunch also, the plates, forks and knives are kept well but here in Kerala, if you are hungry, you go to the kitchen and take whatever you want! That is the difference (Laughs).

How do you prefer to work, in a disciplined atmosphere or an informal one?

Each has its own charm. The challenge is in enjoying and relishing everything. I enjoy the kind of freedom I have here because most of the people I am working with are people I have known for decades. They are all like family.

I also enjoy working there. I had my team coming from Scotland to work here when I made Before the Rains. And they adjusted so well playing football in the afternoon, etc.

I would say it's interesting to be with your people here, at the same time, the international atmosphere also excites you. The good thing is, I get to enjoy both.

I still remember visiting the sets of your film Terrorist, 13 years ago. It was a small, informal production then. Do you still have the same passion you had when you made Terrorist or have you become more confident and relaxed?

I don't think I have become confident (Laughs). I cannot afford to be confident too. I think nobody can be confident unless he makes a formula film.

If I did not have passion for cinema, I would not have attempted a big film like Urumi. Luckily, we have different versions of the film and why we have them is because it offers potential. I want it to reach out to a bigger audience. I have hope for the Malayalam audience outside.

I felt happy when the English version (Vasco Da Gama - Urumi, The Warrior who wanted to kill Vasco da Gama), a shorter version was selected to be shown at the Hong Kong film festival.

When you made Halo and Terrorist, did you think you would be making so many films?

When I first made Halo, many people expected me to make only children's films. When I made Halo and Terrorist, each with duration that of less than 90 minutes and without songs, I made them with the intention of showing them outside India. When I can see Japanese films in India, why not show my films there?

I was a bit fortunate because I got so many awards at many festivals. Before the Rains also was presented well by Merchant Ivory and they released it all over the world.

But when I was about to make Urumi, I thought of making it with songs, which are part of our tradition and recreate that period.

You are also doing the cinematography of Urumi. Does it not tire you, as you are the director too?

No, not at all. I cannot think of not shooting my film. It is like this: if I am directing the film, I am shooting it also. I am someone dealing with the visual language, so I cannot but shoot my own film. When I am shooting my film, I get an opportunity to convey it in the language I am are comfortable with, and for me, it is the visual language.

Your intimacies, the cultural baggage you carry, your influences come out when you shoot using the visual language you know, and here, you are not imitating the west. An artist's work becomes interesting when he has his stamp on it, which is what he carries with him as a part of his culture and background. That is when people from other parts of the world also find your work interesting.

Does that mean how you shoot a film will be influenced by your cultural background, and how and where you are brought up?

Most of what you are and who you are comes from your cultural background and travel.

I still remember, as a kid, going to my ancestral home and feeling mesmerised by the architectural marvel, the dark interiors, sharp light peeping through the jaalis, etc. The images have stayed with me.

Was it exciting shooting Urumi?

It was exciting as I got to work with some very good actors. Genelia trained in Kalari for two weeks and she also learnt horse riding. For actors like Genelia, it was a different experience and actors like her want to do a different kind of cinema.

I wanted Vidya Balan to do a daasi aattam and she also trained for one and a half weeks for that. She wanted to do everything and I like this kind of commitment.

I know Amol Gupte from the FTII days. He, Aamir Khan, etc were there at the FTII when I was a student, to make Holi. I know him from then. I liked the body language he brought in as the Thampuran in Urumi. It is interesting to see such a body language.

Then, there is Jagathy (Sreekumar) who is an amazing actor. He and Amol made a great combination.

Prithviraj was there as an actor and he was also the producer. Other than acting, he was also helping the others with the dialogues.

I also had so many great actors together in Before the Rains.

These days, especially when you want to reach out to people outside the country, you put together so many actors of calibre.

How did Prithviraj become the producer of the film?

I had approached him as an actor. When we sat and discussed how we should make it, he decided to start a production house and join us. It was not planned; it just happened. Shaji Nadesan is also the producer for the film.

After making so many films, how do you feel when your film is ready for release?

Do you remember the film Perunthachan? I shot the film and won my first national award. MT Vasudevan Nair had written the story and dialogue for the film.

There is a line spoken by Perunthachan when he was making an idol for a temple. He says he sees some imperfection or the other in the statue all the time. He goes on to correct each imperfection before the consecration of the idol as he cannot touch it afterwards.

Similarly, till the release, I see some or the imperfection in my work all the time! It never ends. That is how I feel now.


Urumi - Has Quality Music (Music Review)

After creating an impression in the film world as an architect of techno music, musician Deepak Dev is finally all set to earn a lot of applauds from the audience as well as the music critics for his new work ‘Urumi’, with plenty of traditional looking tracks of a completely different genre. And, this is new for the musician who had mostly given foot tapping songs in the past. The album with lyrics by Engandiyoor Chandrsekharan, Kaithapram and Rafeeq Ahamed is composed as as salute to the 16th century dialects and narratives, that is shown in the movie. The album is packed with eight songs and a theme music, rendered by Yesudas, Shwetha, Manjari, T R renji, Shaan Rahman, Reshmi, Job kurien, Guru kishen, Rita and the lead actor of the movie, Prithviraj.

1.'Aaranne aarenne'.

The album opens with this duet, which echoes the playful acts of a harvest festival and shows its colourful display through traditionally delivered lyrics by Engandiyoor Chandrsekharan, in lively soundtrack.The musical mood to acts of joyfulness, giving its male singer Job kurien, a former reality show winner, a right break to show off his talents. Rita’s vocals are not as effective as her male counterpart, though the track with plenty of drum beats is foot tapping and will become a chart topper easily.

2.'Aaro nee aaro'

Shwetha excels again in expressing heart warming and sentimentally penetrative expression of beloved who craves for her soul-mate in this emotionally enriched song. A rather slow and supple song in the lines of Deepak dev style, Yesudas complements shwetha with his experience. The musical arrangements and violin interludes are interesting. Kaithapram describes the optimistic state of mind where the thirsty souls crave for eternal love.

3. Appa namam

The relatively new singer, Reshmi shows her panache of folk singing with her mesmerising and modulating vocals in this number based on traditional lyrics and tunes. It's indeed a great offering to hear this impressively conceived soundtrack where her harmonious vocals work in tandem with an ambiance of supreme divinity with synchronised musical display

4. Thulu thele

The rendition of a traditional looking number coupled with the backing up instruments make for marvellous music. The debutante singer K R renji has given his soul out to perfect the song with preferred soft and instrumental harmony.The lyrics echoes pain, ecstasy and suffering of the characters. Engandiyoor’s maturely rendered lyrics work effectively in echoing the inhibited joyous sentiments and will put him in the cadre of meaningful lyricist. Pure unadulterated music - a winner!

5.Chimmi chimmi

The soft and titillating sounds of natural beauties are resonated with brilliant concoction of delightful orchestration in soulfully enchanting soundtrack ‘Chimmi Chimmi’.The lyrics by Kaithapram packs in plenty of interesting allegories and Manjari’s playful voice is a delight to hear. Deepak Dev makes the fine use of soft pitched instrumentation that shows the soft and subtle natural ambiance, to end up as a notable track in the album.

6. Vadakku vadakku

Guru Kishen, a Jassie hear alike with Shan rehman sings this funny and foot tapping number.The lyrics create a blissful aura of playful antics of friendship in folksy lyrics in adequate musical impact. The dance song may well appeal to young audience. The song‘s rock version is sung by actor prithviraj, who had also made a good rendering

7. Chalanam chalanam

Towards the end comes the track rendered by Reshmi in altogether different mood than her previous one in the album. The soundtrack has situational feel and should work as an effective marching song and background score in the film, but even in this, the blending of various instruments is just mind-blowing. Penned by Rafiq Ahamed, this is an above average number, though.

8. Theme music Depak Dev maintains a low tempo and soft pitched musical mode for the title track that captures the essence of the movie.

The music track of 'Urumi' is targeted mostly towards class audiences who demand quality music with soulful experience. A definite collector’s edition with ensemble music tracks, it will garner colossal critical acclaim from all sections of the media and the critics. A good job by Deepak Dev, Santhosh Sivan and team.


URUMI Posters

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Deepak Dev: I had to reinvent my musical vocabulary for Santosh Sivan's multilingual film Urumi

The curly haired composer's melodious ‘Picha vacha naal…' for the Prithviraj-starrer ‘Puthiya Mugham' had ruled the charts last year and catapulted him into the top bracket. ‘Christian Brothers,' which was released last week, as well as the period saga ‘Urumi, scheduled to be released in the last week of March, should do the same for this young musician with a rich musical vocabulary that fords the bridge between young and old buffs of Malayalam film songs. Speaking on the phone from Chennai where he has shifted to from Kochi, Deepak talks about the challenges of composing songs for a multi-lingual film like ‘Urumi.' Incidentally, it is his second movie in Tamil after ‘Sadhoo Miranda.' Excerpts …

No electronic music

Composing nine songs for ‘Urumi' was a challenge as all the songs are completely different from each other. As the film is set between 1502 and 1524, Santosh Sir [Santosh Sivan, director of the epic film] had proscribed all electronic music. This meant that I could not even use the piano to play the music for the film. I have never done this kind of music till date; I had to explore and reinvent my music base.

Sound sense

‘Urumi' is a multilingual film in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and English and Santosh Sir was keen that we have music that incorporates the soul of the soil but would have a pan-Indian appeal, and sounds good and sensible in other languages too. So we played the music with the lyrics in Tamil and Hindi too to check out the effect and to ensure that it would not be too regionalised. What we have now is a kind of music that is earthy and organic.

The songs

The lyrics, written (in Malayalam) by Rafeeq Ahmed, Kaithapram, Prashanth Narayan and Chandru, encompasses many genres – folk, lullaby, ballad… So each song needed a different voice and feel. At the same time, it had to flow with the narrative of the film. Moreover, each song begins with a word that has been repeated for effect.

The singers

Ranging from maestro K.J. Yesudas to K.M. Ranji, who has never sung in a studio prior to this recording, the songs have been sung by an interesting array of voices. ‘Aaara nee, aara…' has been sung by Yesudas Sir and Swetha, the first time the two are singing together. Then there is ‘Chimy Chimy' sung by Manjari. It is my tribute to M.G. Radhakrishnan Sir, a composer I admired a great deal. The edakka plays an important role in this song.

Newcomers ...

During the days of the first edition of ‘Super Star,' a music-based talent hunt on Amrita TV, in which I was one of the judges, I had promised Job Kurien, one of the finalists in the show, that I would give him a song of mine. He has rendered ‘Aarane Aarane,' a kind of folk song. I have felt Job's voice and rendering would be best utilised in a song like that. Reshmi Sathish is a new voice I am introducing in this film. She has sung two numbers (‘Chalanam Chalanam' and ‘Appa'). There is a rustic, raw edge to her voice and she has done a good job with ‘Chalanam,' which has been picturised on Vidya Balan. Reshmi's voice scales several pitches to suit the scene as she whispers, chants and yells. On the other hand, ‘Appa' is a lullaby that she sings to the accompaniment of the santoor.

‘Thelu Thelu' is a patriotic number that sings of the yearning of the land and her people. Ranji's rustic voice and accent has done a great job. The funny thing is that I still have not met the singer. I sent the track to Thrissur, where the singer hails from, but then we discovered that Ranji has never sung in a studio. The process of having to do so was affecting his natural, full-throated rendering. So we recorded his voice and later, I arranged the music around that. It is a marvellous, soulful song.

And music directors and actors too

‘Vaddakku Vadakku' is an ode to friendship that has been picturised on Prithviraj and Prabhu Deva. I got two of my friends, Shaan Rahman and Guru Kiran, both music directors in their own right, to sing this number. Prabhu speaks with a Tamil accent and so Guru Kiran, a successful composer and singer in Kannada was just right for that. The feisty folk number was reworked into a hard rock song that has been sung by Prithviraj too.

Thanks to Prithviraj

I must put on record that it was Prithviraj who got me on board ‘Urumi.' We had worked on ‘Puthiya Mugham' and he had also sung for me. So he knew how I worked and trusted me to come up with something special for ‘Urumi.' Santosh Sir and Prithviraj were in Kochi and they were trying to get in touch with me to discuss the film. Shaji Nateshan, one of the producers of the film, walked into the restaurant and there I was… all set to celebrate my grandmother's birthday. As soon as he told me that Santosh Sivan wanted me to meet me for a film. I could not wait to rush out and meet him as I had always dreamt of composing a song for a film directed or shot by Santosh Sir or his assistants. Now here was a chance to work with the master himself. I was on song!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

‘Urumi’ to open in Hong Kong

One of the most anticipated movies of the year, ‘Urumi’, will have its release on the 31st of this March. But before its wide release plans, the movie will have its representation and trailer in the Hong Kong festival which starts this Monday. One of the big markets for Asian films, the movie is expected to get selected to all major international festivals, which will make it a globally approved film from Mollywood. The lead actress of the movie, Genelia will represent the movie at the festival.

‘Urumi’ is simultaneously made in Malayalam, Tamil and English.


Shankar's first script for 'Urumi'

Shankar Ramakrishnan, an associate to Renjith is all set to offer his first movie as a scriptwriter in 'Urumi' which is all set to reach the theatres by the last day of this month. Shankar who had earlier scripted and director 'Island Express'- a short in the 'Kerala cafe' package has researched for years before he embarked on the scripts of ‘Urumi’, which is a historical thriller.

Shankar has completed the primary draft of the movie, one year ago after going into detailed study about the Kerala history. Then he made eight versions of the material with the help from historians like Dr P K Rajasekharan and Dr N M Namboodhiri.

The movie directed by Santhosh Sivan will bring to light the tales of an age that are largely forgotten from the Kerala history.

'Urumi' featuring Prithviraj, Genelia, Prabhu Deva, Tabu and Vidhya Balan will grace the theatres by the 31st of this month.


Genelia is all praises for Prithviraj

Genelia D'Souza debuts in Malayalam cinema with Urumi which also stars popular stars like Prithviraj, Vikram, Prabhu Deva, Arya, Vidya Balan and Tabu amongst others.

However, Gene has taken a special fondness for hot hunk Prithvi. The actress feels that Malayalam heartthrob Prithiviraj has got the looks and attitude to make it big in Bollywood.

In a recent interview Gene said, "I feel Prithvi will be a rage if he comes to Bollywood. He's got the hunky looks and has good command over not JUST Malayalam but other languages also. So I fell he will do well if he does Hindi films."

For Genelia's information, Prithiviraj is in talks with some Bollywood filmmakers and her wish to see the hot hunk do Hindi films may soon come true.