Friday, July 12, 2013

Left Right Left (Malayalam) - Movie Review

I don't usually take a lot of time to get a movie out of my head. A good night's sleep is usually enough to wipe the movie from my mind.

But somehow, with Left Right Left, it's not happening. It's been two days, but I'm still caught in the magic of the movie. I can't figure out why. Is it the movie itself - is it the great script, the gritty characters, the brilliant acting and the addictive music? Or is it that the movie awakened the deeply-buried kernel of communism that exists inside every mallu, never mind the three years she has spent in the corporate world?

Coming out of the theater on Monday night, I found it tough to get back to reality. Suddenly, my own life seemed very ordinary, my own concerns very petty. Where was the headiness, the romance, the sheer willingness to fight for something, that the movie had just shown me?

Yes, the movie is THAT good.

LRL is a very harsh depiction of politics in Kerala today. It focuses on communism, and somehow manages to both romanticize and criticize it at the same time. It shows us the sacrifices people have made for the fictional Revolutionist Party of India (Marxist) or RPI (M) since the beginning, and how it has lost its way today. Nobody is spared - not the two main leaders (easily identifiable in the movie), not the party's youth wing, not even the people who're trying to criticize it from the outside. The movie has seen a slightly controversial release, because one of the two identifiable characters is cast as a corrupt man, a man who will stop at nothing to maintain his hold on power.

But wait - let's begin at the beginning. LRL follows the lives of three characters - a Marxist leader named Kaitheri Sahadevan, a corrupt policeman named Jayan, and an erstwhile Communist youth leader named 'Che Guevara' Roy. Apart from these three, there are some other minor story-lines as well. There are two journalists - ex-members of the RPI (M) - who publish an explosive story about Sahadevan's corruption, and are forced to go on the run. There is a nurse who is trying to escape her violently abusive and unstable husband. There is 'Che Guevara' Roy's wife, a former Communist herself, who is trying to make her husband take care of his weak heart.

The script is based on the tenet that a man is part genetic material, part something unknown and part what he sees and goes through as a child. And so the movie begins with three scenes - one each from each man's childhood. Kaitheri Sahadevan's uncle is murdered by the landlords; his father goes out to avenge him, and never returns. Roy's father is murdered during the Emergency - right in front of Roy's eyes. Jayan's sister is dying of TB, and a policeman tries to help out with money he has accepted as a bribe. So Jayan decides two things - he will become a policeman, and he will earn a lot of money. 

My favourite thread in the movie was that of Roy and his wife Anna. Roy has visible scars, a limp, a dysfunctional left hand. But we're not told how he came by these. We only get hints that it's linked to his commmunist past. The story gradually builds up, till it's explosively revealed. (Though it IS a bit jarring to hear two Communist sakhaavs breaking into English while talking to each other. There's also a scene where Anna breaks into a Spanish song about Che Guevara, and I went, "Huh?")

The film's main strengths are a set of extremely real and gritty characters, and some great acting - mostly by people I'd never seen before. The actor playing Kaitheri Sahaedevan seemed to fill the screen with a magnetic presence (something that the person the character is based on isn't exactly known for). Indrajith as Jayan played the role of a lifetime. I haven't generally been a fan of Murali Gopy's acting, but he puts in a brilliant performance here as 'Che Guevara' Roy. Even Lena, whom I hadn't thought of as a great actor before, puts in an amazing performance as Roy's wife. 

Murali Gopy as 'Che Guevara' Roy
The other factor that makes the movie so absorbing is the music. I've had the LRL Anthem on repeat for the past three days. The background score is brilliant as well - it helps create that Communist chora-thilapp

Since I loved LRL so much, I'm now determined to watch Ee Adutha Kalathu, this director-writer duo's previous movie. 
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