Anjali Menon's 'Bangalore Days' is an exquisitely composed film, that has been hard-wired with an emotional intensity that is simply impossible to resist. Impressively directed and beautifully written, it blends in loads of happiness and a few heart aches, to dexterously attain a burnished sheen of its own.
As kids, cousins Arjun (Dulquer Salman), Kuttan (Nivin Pauly) and Divya (Nazriya Nazim), have always dreamt of having a blast in a happening city like Bangalore. Years later, Kuttan has turned into a terribly homesick techie, who during work breaks grabs a much needed respite from watching pics of a green backyard back home, Arjun into a runaway graffiti artist with a bike racer past, who despises his divorced parents and dreams of making it big someday without them, and Divya into a docile housewife for whom life has gone topsy-turvy post a hasty marriage. And yet, their dream remains.
The insightful character studies that Anjali has on offer this time around are profoundly fascinating to say the least. The heartwarming portrait of a huge family that has had its share of springs and storms, thus hides within it subtexts of alienation, estrangement and loss, surprising us at times and almost shocking us at others.
It's not just the wedding song which is already a rage that affirms once and for all that this is a writer who knows the land that she hails from, like the inner palm of her hand. The unbelievable hustle bustle, the random enquiries to which there seems to be no end, the decked up women folk, the air of urgency, the fragrance of jasmine flowers, the upbeat spirit all around, and the fun and merriment - everything is captured with such fine detail, and not a stone left out of place.
The wedding blues descent on Divya like a thunderbolt, and when she lets out some steam (literally) before bowing her head for the nuptial ceremony, it turns out to be one of the most hilarious scenes in Malayalam films, bound to be remembered for a very long time to come. In doing so, Anjali almost nonchalantly breaks down a cultural norm without the slightest clamor whatsoever, and leaves us beaming in the process.
There is this tremendous ideal of sorts that all of Anjali's films seem to hold on to, without never ever proclaiming to - that of real, raw love in its most pristine form, that is possessed by individuals and passed on without hesitance. It's an idyllic world, without doubt; one in which tears eventually do get replaced by smiles, and nothing but love prevails.
I couldn't but help get my scalpel all ready and dissect the relationship that Divya and her husband Das (Fahad Fazil) get entangled in, and to my surprise, despite the initial weary, busy, picky hubby vibes that Das sends out, he comes across as a man who is desperately seeking some private space for himself. He does verbalize it as well, which is why, for me, even without the gala revelation about him that arrives much later, Das appears a very ordinary man who has reluctantly, but decisively decided to give his life a second go.
Divya, in contrast, has immense trouble getting used to a claustrophobic existence and the rumbling of her globetrotting husband's suitcase, holed up inside an impeccably done flat in plush Bangalore, as she had ironically always dreamed of. And at one precise moment, when Das loses his cool, and hollers at her to 'Grow Up', we realize that she is still very much the adorable kid that we had seen in the title cards, whose only crime was that she had simply grown up.
As a sober looking Das almost clumsily steers his car around a Bangalore night along with Divya, Kuttan and Arjun, for a moment I found myself checking the driver's seat once again to see if it wasn't me sitting there instead of him, with my wife and her three male cousins whom she famously bonds with, for company. Though similarities in our lives are non-existent, it is this absolute believability that Anjali brings in to her vibrant characters, that makes them someone whom you have always known, or someone whom you have had the privilege to live your life with.
There is a definite attempt to break down stereotypes in 'Bangalore Days' and it works exceedingly well. It also draws on perceptions, and dwell on how they get irreversibly transformed over time. Kuttan rediscovers his demure mother (Kalpana), as his dad makes a sudden, unforeseen exit from their lives. She moves in with him to Bangalore, where she emerges a new-gen mom in no time, holding kitty parties and busying herself with the Yoga and Cookery classes on television, when she isn't busy fitting herself into newly stitched oversized attire.
Another label gets pulled out, torn to shreds and thrown to the winds as Kuttan bumps his head on his first flight, and is attended to by the bewitching flight attendant Meenakshi (Isha Talwar). Hopelessly seduced by her captivating ways, he even gets his hair all spiked up and learns a bit of salsa for her, until an ex-boyfriend walks in and almost as quickly makes an exit, leaving him with nothing more than a bleeding nose.
And of all the different tales that Anjali tells in 'Bangalore Days', I fell for the one that talked of Arjun and his love Sarah (Parvathy Menon), a physically disabled RJ whose voice had managed to rein in his wanton heart. Having lost faith in expectations and assurances, Arjun has a tough time convincing himself that here finally was a woman whom he wanted to call his own. Which is why, when he tells her that he would rather walk with her than follow her around, you realize that the outspoken biker has finally made a choice.
It's real tough to pick out the best from this awesome lot of talented performers, and I would hence merely state what I liked best in each of them. If you hate Das, for the indifferent, brash individual that he seems to be, it's thanks to the splendid performer that Fahad Fazil is. He has made a huge gamble without doubt, cast in a least favored role, and man, hasn't it paid off!
Dulquer Salman, is the most adorable of the them all, and his charm and allure has the audience swooning all over. That he has the best lines to mouth is an added advantage for the young actor, who plays the unsure, insecure and yet defiant Arjun to perfection. Kuttan, who often has you in splits with the occasional comedic stumbles that he makes, rests safe with Nivin Pauly, who surprises as much with histrionics as with his voice.
Nazriya excels with a delightful feat, in a role that almost seems to have been tailor written for her. She is every bit the sparkling youngster that Divya is, while in sharp contrast, Parvathy Menon terrifically impresses with a mature performance that speaks volumes of the actor that she is. Isha Talwar and Nithya Menon throw in some glitter and star dust, with their very special cameos.
Sameer Thahir is the man behind the camera, and it isn't a wonder that Bangalore looks spellbindingly beautiful in his frames. Gopi Sunder's musical score is easy on the ears, though on screen, a couple of songs at least could easily be edited out.
'Bangalore Days' is a buoyant examination of love, the basest of all human emotions and the bonds and bondages that it leaves in its wake. Pungently played out in the metro city of Bangalore, it's a stunning reminder of a spectacular marvel that unravels before us every day - a marvel called life.