No, its not a bad movie, but its definitely not worth the hype. First things first, the movie is blessed with an awesomely energetic cast. The first 20 minutes were a breeze, thanks to the lightheartedness, the mockery of our Nair Tharavadus and Nivin Pauly, this despite that wedding song (Thun thuna ney na... and than thana ney na... where do you come up with such deep lyrics I wonder!). It feels like Anjali Menon is picking up from where she left us at the end of "Manjadikuru", letting us know what happened to those cousins as they grew up.
The movie follows three (and a half) different story arcs of the three (and a half) main leads connected by their intermittent get-together at Rasta Cafe (I give it to them for their will to drive 50 KMs routinely through the Bangalore traffic for some coffee).
Dulquer plays the cool dude, the biker, the rebel, the go-to guy, the RJ stalker among other things with a look that has become quite a regular with him now. He might soon start getting type cast. But then he carries it off so well. Nivin plays the simpleton trying to get along with the city life. However caricaturish the role and performance, I just loved the character and this was the track I liked the most. Nasriya plays the lighthearted girl who gets into an arranged marriage way too early and to someone who doesn't make it easy, played seamlessly well by Fahad, despite the boring/unconvincing character (and that's where we get the half character and story arc).
Of the 2 other main characters, Parvathy gets a meaty role and plays it to perfection, while Isha gets a role that suits her very well - of looking good and breaking hearts (with none of the innocence of her earlier role in a thattum). And then there is Kalpana who cracks us up in the second half and of course Vijayaraghavan in that one scene where he is only heard...brilliant! Nithya Menon in her cameo is, well, BAD and yes, it does breaks my heart to say that.
Despite the superficiality, the movie entertains in parts, but not as a whole. It stretches so, especially the Nasriya-Fahad track which is the least convincing and boring. Dulquer's track is predictable till the entry of Parvathy Menon. She has a very interesting character to play and without giving away any spoilers, keeps things from going downhill. Coming to the highlight of the movie (to me), its Kuttan, played by Nivin Pauly. That innocent, simpleton who finds it almost impossible to get along with the new lifestyle, the one who gawks at people kissing in public, but can't accept it. The reason behind the mallu hypocrisy which many fail to see.
The movie handles the arranged marriage, the transition of a naive young boy to the city lifestyle and such nuances very well. Music is just about good, the background score though should not have been so obviously plagiarized. Scenes and locations are great, after all, the movie focuses on good looking faces and places. Like my cousin's 5-year old said, "Wow! No garbage on Bangalore roads!!!" You need some serious cinematography talent or CGI to achieve that.
At the end, Bangalore Days, ends up being a Malayalam movie in Bollywood format, a "Dil Chahta Hai" for us. You got the multi star cast, you got the good looking people and locations, you even got the wedding song and dance... its got the works. A"Karan Johar"-ization of Malayalam cinema (of course at a much better quality). You know the kind, where someone, who is seemingly an entry level employee at an IT services firm (which has a training center at Mysore...now which one was that?) but lives in a fully furnished Confident group ka flat, all ALONE (no roommates and no scope to share rent). He hasn't even been onsite yet!! Since when did they start paying so well??? Come on guys, please set realistic expectations. Anjali Menon, you should make more responsible movies. Now, how am I gonna explain to my relatives that we don't live like that here! Finally, did I like the movie? Well, I've got a love-hate thing going for "Bangalore Days". Loved that someone attempted a decent "Dedication to Bangalore from a Malayalee" and Hated that they deviated mid way. Loved the cousin camaraderie and Bangalore parts, Hated that it turned into a candy-floss, cliché' ridden, Bollywood-ization of Malayalam Cinema. Loved the Nivin Pauly character and the half-decent Dulquer track, but absolutely Hated the Nasria story.
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There are two kinds of ‘predictability’ you come across when you’re watching a film. The first, more commonly occurring type, is when you absolutely know where the story is headed, because the writer and director had no imagination while scripting and making the film; the ‘yawn’ kind of the predictability. The second, which is so rare, particularly in our films, is when your characters are so well etched out that there is really no other step the person would have taken when faced with a particular situation. It doesn’t jar; it just feels, for want of a better word, natural.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, when Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days had a lot of the second kind of predictability. Now if you look at the run-time of the film - just a shade under 3 hours – you wonder why a film that is about young people and by inference, targeted primarily at young people, would be so long. (We’ve reached a stage where not many have that kind of an attention span, and most films hover around the 2 – 2.5 hour mark.) The answer, again, lies in the characterization. The characters are given room to breathe, explore and discover themselves.
Bangalore Days, thus, surprised me on multiple levels. The three main characters, Arjun, Divya and Krishnan (fondly called Kuttetan), are cousins. Extremely close to each other while growing up in Kerala, they always promised each other that they’d go to Bangalore when they were older. As it turns out, their life takes them exactly there; and their journey is something truly worth sharing.
Handled with a surprising amount of patience and maturity, we get involved in each of their stories equally. Newly-married Divya’s problems with a reticent husband – the fourth important character in the film; Kuttetan’s yearning for a simple, Malayali girl who’ll make him happy; and the nomad Arjun’s journey towards internal stability; each of these tales could have been a story in itself. Put together, though, it makes for a soul-stirring ride. Because not only is each of the characters written well, but their relationships with each other have also been crafted with love. They stand by each other, fight, make up and pull each other along beautifully.
Yes, the film has its share of ‘twists’ that seem a tad out of place. But one way to look at them is to find out how our primary characters will deal with them. So what eventually make the twists work is the fact that they tie in with the lives of the characters beautifully.
The film is also about little moments, little deft touches which add a wonderful texture to the story. I don’t want to give anything away, but these little moments show that a lot of thought went into putting the film down on paper. Insight into human behaviour and relationships, a love for the little flourishes of life, and genuine fondness and affection for the characters being written. Yes, some of these moments would be classified as ‘filmy’; but they all have one origin – the writer-director’s heart.
The icing, then, is the cast. Cute-as-a-button Nazriya as Divya charms you. The fact that her husband, known through most of the film as Das, is played by her wonderfully talented real life fiancé Fahadh Faasil, gives their story that added zing. Nivin Pauly as Kuttetan has a sweet, bumbling presence. And young Dulquer Salman, who plays Arjun, is a star. The screen presence and confidence is in his genes, of course, but he’s also a solid actor – a talent that cannot be taken for granted even if your father is Mammootty.
Bangalore Days is one of the most honest films I’ve seen in a while. The effort put into the film manifests itself in ways that can’t strictly be quantified. The film is well shot as well, and has some really nice music. Bangalore, a city that I personally love, is also beautifully captured in the film. It seems so long since we’ve met characters who we fall in love with and walk with while they fall in love themselves. Bangalore Days offers you just that.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.