Koimoi Recommends Angamaly Diaries:
I still can’t understand how, but Malayalam filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery is a man who choreographs chaos immaculately and makes it look rhythmic and chaotic at the same time. Confused? Let me explain! PS: Lijo Jose Pellissery has been added to my favourite directors’ list, this will be a Lijo appreciation writeup. Also, Lijo, if you ever read this, how?
Director: Lijo Jose Pellissary
Available On: Netflix
Language: Malayalam (with subtitles)
Set in Angamaly as the title suggests, this is a story about a young boy who idolises a local goon. Dreaming of growing up to be a gang leader someday, he forms a gang that supports him in thick and thin. They together plan to start the pork business and rub their shoulders with another powerful gang. The friction creates sparks that lead to our protagonist on the wrong side of the law.
No summary can actually define what Angamaly Diaries is. Having seen filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissary’s two films, maybe that is how his stories function. You need to witness them to understand. I wonder how he manages to pitch these. Lijo, tell me how, this too. Also, this was his debut film, you all!
So, Angamaly Diaries. The film opens to a village obsessed with its life and food, moreover pork. If you have seen Lijo’s Jallikattu, we are on the same page (I know Angamaly Diaries released before Jallikattu). Lijo has an obsession with the rawness of the surrounding, the local food and the love people have for it. Like here men talk about having pork every evening, Jallikattu has a father having sleepless nights thinking about not having beef in his daughter’s wedding. So food is the key.
We meet Vincent Pepe (raw and charming Antony Varghese), a boy who even fights with a set of rules. He is the guy with a dream to become a gangster, with the heart of a priest. In this case, when he accidentally gets involved in a murder case, you know it was him, but a part of you roots for him to get out of it. And Antony Varghese plays this character with innocence.
The film stars 86 newcomers (yes I haven’t done a typo, it’s 86). Maybe that helps in bringing the rawness. Now, I haven’t been to Angamaly. But this film was a tour and an authentic one. Men folding their vesti (lungi), always ready to fight on the drop of a hat. A mix of women, ones who have their voices & and others who chose to be silent. Beautiful surroundings, crucifix at every turning. Undercover romance, some incomplete love stories. I know it all, and the makers win here.
Now coming to what I loved. THE CHAOS. Now, having seen Jallikattu before Angamaly Diaries, the former has a storyline that revolves around a chase. The chaos all the time there is a strong reason. Angamaly Diaries has many subplots and some even very much undertone and subtle. In this case, when Lijo decides to introduce fights at each interval it looks risky. But trust me, nobody can choreograph these sequences as good as this man does.
Especially in the last 11 minutes. This climax is one of the bests I have ever seen. The set-piece opens up to a Church celebration, you start following a character out of tens that are about to enter. Revelations are made, revenge is sought, teams attack, the procession is held and the antagonist gets its end. Everything in 11 minutes, single take, 1 camera and actors coming in and out like it isn’t staged at all. I am not joking, witness it yourself.
Writer Chemban Vinod Jose, Lijo and cinematographer Girish Gangadharan seem to be thinking with one mind. Because every note here syncs, nothing for once goes out of beat. The cherry on the cake comes in with Prashanth Pillai’s unique BGM. Having researched a bit, most of the songs used are folk songs of Anagamaly, and boom, I know a bit more about the town. The brave move here was introducing a Hindi song to a Malayalam movie and not make it look misplaced, you aced. Also, Do Naina has made it to my playlist.
I have one complaint. Why did we not get a bit more of Pepe and Lichi’s love story? Maybe I have asked Lijo too many questions. You better answer them!
Talking about performances, most of them being newcomers, they have come in with no idea of the process. Which Lijo, Chemban, and even Gangadharan with his camera use to their fullest. Some of the actors who deserve special mentions are, the very talented Sarath Kumar, Reshma Mahajan, and Tito Wilson.
Angamaly Diaries is a non-preaching tour guide to a town that you might not even visit ever. But this film will take you on its tour, while you are on your couch. Join Pepe as he comes of age. Get into his fights, droll over the food he shows, marvel the climax, and thank me later! I recommend you Angamaly Diaries completely.
Angamaly Diaries Star Rating: 4/5 Stars (Four Stars!)