For around ten minutes after Angamaly Diaries ended, I was still recovering from the breathlessness the movie gave me. I have never seen anything quite like this. I had heard great things about it. Even Bollywood director Anurag Kahyap called it the ‘best film of the year’. I don’t know if I’m there yet…..but yes, Angamaly Diaries is an exceptionally well-made film.
The story is set in the eponymous Angamaly, a small town in Kerala. Angamaly is ruled by gangs known as ‘teams’, who’s way of solving issues is drawing blood. Our hero, Vincent Pepe too, is part of a team which he formed in childhood – called the Palliyangadi team. The story revolves around Pepe’s life, his friendship, his enemies, his romance and so on.
The story is as old as the hills. But the direction by Lijo Jose Pellissery is what makes Angamaly Diaries so riveting. I haven’t seen any of his previous films, but now I want to watch all of them! Every scene, even if it’s just a conversational one, feels so…alive. There’s not a single moment where the pace slackens. The movie has a lot of fights, but each fight sequence is different. The very first action sequence, where Pepe is introduced, takes place with characters dressed as Jesus, a nun etc, with a brass band playing Ilayaraja’s hit number Ilamai Idho Idho. Another sequence is a fun take on why the hero punches the villain’s sidekick before landing a punch on the villain.
One thing that can make or break a movie for me is the presence of female characters. I don’t have an inclination towards films with very less women, which is why I was reluctant to watch this movie initially. But the women of Angamaly Diaries shine in their limited screen time. There’s Seema, Pepe’s first love, who’s bold enough to make the first move. There’s Sakhi, Pepe’s second love, who’s dates him despite kind of knowing that his primary focus is going with her to Germany. That doesn’t mean she’s a weakling. She doesn’t shy away from showing displeasure when Pepe snaps at her for wearing sleeve-less clothes. There’s his sister, who vehemently states that she be married off to a person who seeks no dowry, and asks for that money to be used to help her brother when he’s in trouble. There’s Alice, Pepe’s friend’s girlfriend who’s also a police constable. Then there’s Lily Chechi aka Lichi, the elder sister of Pepe’s friend, who doesn’t hesitate to tell him off when he’s in the wrong. Pepe’s relationships with all of them are well-etched.
(My fav song in this!)
This film features 86 newcomers, and each of them are brilliant, almost as though they have ‘lived’ the characters. Antony Varghese (Pepe), Sarath Kuamr (U-Clamp Rajan) and Tito Wilson (Appani Ravi), deserve special mention. Of the girls, Reshma Rajan (Lichi) seemed a bit awkward when she doesn’t have any dialogues, but she does her best. Angamaly Diaries also marks the debut of the actor Chemban Vinod Jose as scriptwriter, and he does a neat job in turning this familiar story into something interesting. He himself is from Angamaly, and the love for the city is quite evident in the film. Angamaly is the heart an soul of the movie, with its inhabitants’ love for food and fights.
Speaking of food, there are a lot of food metaphors in this film. Pepe and Seema’s combination is compared to the hit combination of tapioca and egg curry in Kunjooty’s shop. And their breakup and subsequent relationships are compared to Kunjooty’s realization that tapioca goes better with pork, and egg curry with green peas.
The music, by Prashant Pillai, might not appeal to everyone when you hear it in isolation, but it works wonderfully in the context of the film. Consider this song, which takes three raps on a door and repeat it in different scenarios,
And this song, which basically just talks about how bad the tea in a tea shop is
There’s a lot of humor in the film too! One of my favorite scene involves a dead body that just doesn’t fit in the coffin. The man’s mistress (who is more upset than his wife), howls when the body is led into the truck, and stops when the coffin doesn’t go in. It happens thrice, so rhythmically, that it made me chuckle. Another scene that made me smile involved a stolen python. Another had a man embracing a tree while preparing a bomb.
All these made me like the movie. But what made me LOVE it was the last scene – a jaw-dropping ten minute long sequence done in a single shot. What makes this feat so stunning is the sheer number of people in this scene. It is set during a festival and everything – people greeting each other to procession, a stunt sequence to an explosion – all covered in ONE SINGLE SHOT (kudos to the cinematographer Girish Ganghadaran)! This shot not only stuns technically but also by the way it captures the entire essence of the film. The feel of life in a community, where everybody knows everybody. Where everything is linked to every other thing. Compare this scene to the very last scene of the movie – Pepe sitting on a crane in Dubai, high above but all alone. He’s in a better position in life, as compared to his friends back in Angamaly. But the relationships he shared there are now restricted to a phone call from thousands of miles away.
Do check out dontcallitbollywood’s review which served as an inspiration for this post