Rajeev Ravi is a well-known name to people following Hindi Cinema seriously. He’s mainly known for his collaboration with Anurag Kashyap whereby he’s been the DOP on films such as No Smoking, Dev D, Gulaal, That Girl in Yellow Boots and Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1 & Part 2). But outside this association also he has handled the cinematography of films like 99 and Chandni Bar (his debut film) and in fact has left his mark on Malayalam Cinema as well with Classmates ( 2006 ) being his most successful film. While one would expect that with his growing popularity in Bollywood he would hardly be able to find time for Malayalam cinema, Rajeev has managed to balance himself fairly well. He has continued to work in Malayalam Cinema like the recent Ivan Megharoopan (2012). Hence it came as no surprise to me last year when it was known that Rajeev will make his filmmaking debut with a Malayalam film instead of a Hindi film.
So Annayum Rasoolum as his launch pad seemed to look interesting from many angles. It was a love story, a genre which somehow hasn’t really been explored well in Malayalam Cinema of late until the recent Thattathin Marayathu came along. Then came the news about the casting and Fahadh Faasil and Andrea Jeremiah seemed to make an interesting pair. Fahadh has been having a good run of late and looks keen to explore various shades and characters. Andrea is someone I have always respected both as an actor and as a singer. The trailer and the songs did ensure that the initial curiosity and interest was justified and then it was just about time to watch the movie itself. And now that I’ve seen the movie it will certainly be a shame if I do not write about it.
Annayum Rasoolum is a film which is more or less centred around Kochi. For those unaware, Kochi/Cochin consists of a group of islands connected to the mainland. Traditionally ferry service is used to connect the islands (like Fort Kochi, Vypeen etc) with the mainland and also interconnect the islands as well. Why am I mentioning all this? Well I’ll come to that soon. Rasool (Fahadh Faasil) is a tourist taxi driver living in Mattancherry, along with his brother Hyder (filmmaker Aashiq Abu). Anna (Andrea Jeremiah) works as a salesgirl in a sari shop in Kochi (Ernakulam City) and lives in Vypeen. Rasool is a carefree guy and generally spends time with his friends Collin (Soubin Shahir) and Abu (Shine Tom Chacko). He comes across Anna by chance a couple of times and is captivated by her.
Like all others staying on the islands Anna too takes the ferry every day to the mainland to her workplace and to get back home. And thus the ferry becomes a 2nd home of sorts for Rasool as he tries to be around Anna all the time. Ashley (Sunny Wayne) is a mariner on leave and a neighbour of Anna. And Ashley’s home also serves as another place for Rasool to hang out for obvious reasons indeed. How does the story move from there on? Does Anna too fall in love with Rasool, what happens to them at the end, how do they impact the other people around them etc are all what we get to know in the rest of the film.
On the surface one might probably feel what’s so special about the film? Isn’t it just another inter religious love story (Anna is a Christian and Rasool is a Muslim)? After all how different can a love story be? The lovers either unite at the end or do not, so what’s special about Annayum Rasoolum? Well to this I would just say one thing, it’s all about the treatment and that’s where Rajeev Ravi shows his class in his maiden effort as filmmaker. This is not a candyfloss love story at all and there is nothing fairy tale like as such being shown. There are no usual clichés thankfully in the film as well. We see that Rasool generally hangs out with Collin, Abu and Ashley but again there is no tomfoolery being depicted in the usual fashion in those portions.
The characters in the film are extremely believable and true to life and this applies to the supporting characters too. Rasool’s brother Hyder aspires to go to the Gulf and work there but the local Policemen act spoilsport to clear his passport application, this element by itself has the ingredients to be made into a film. Abu is shown to be living life dangerously and yet he’s a family man and his wife Fazila (Srinda Ashab) dotes on him. While she is wary of the work he does, she also doesn’t sit quietly seeing him get beaten by someone else and implores Abu to retaliate. Again this is a segment which by itself has all the ingredients to be made into a separate film. Similarly is the story of Ashley and Lily (Sija Rose).
But what’s amazing is that while all these and other characters are reasonably well developed and have a story of their own, none of them distract us from the main story which is all about Anna and Rasool. And there is a lot of authenticity to the surroundings and milieu chosen. Look at the house where Rasool and Hyder stay for instance, there is simple but effective use of curtains to act as partition between rooms. Similarly the local church celebrations (perunaal) are again quite natural and even remind me of a similar moment from Mani Ratnam’s Unaroo in fact.
Instead of handling the cinematography himself Rajeev entrusted Madhu Neelkantan with the responsibility and I must say that he has done justice indeed. There are a lot of interior shots and shots in darkness/dim light and they correspond very well with the otherwise open and clear shots as well. I’m sure Rajeev Ravi must be quite proud of Madhu’s work in the film. It is said that sound and music always work in tandem to produce an optimum result and K’s BGM comes out so effectively aided by Tapas Nayak’s sound design. In fact for K who has worked on Tamil films likeYuddham Sei, Mugamoodi and Aarohonam this is his first Malayalam film.
Talking about the songs I must admit that for someone who is not from Kochi or even Kerala for that matter it’s a commendable job by K to have come up with songs that go with the flow of the film and add to the beauty of Kochi. Of course it also shows that K must have understood Rajeev’s brief very well in terms of requirement. 2 songs are recreated from old hits sung by the late Mehboob, ‘Kandu Rendu Kannu’ is from Chuzhi (1973 with music by M.S.Baburaj and lyrics by P.A.Kasim) while ‘Kayalinarike’ is written by Meppalli Balan.
In Annayum Rasoolum both the songs are sung by Shahabaz Aman who lends a totally different flavour to the songs giving it a contemporary feel and yet with a lot of soul. ‘Kando Kando’ is a lovely number sung by Andrea herself and picturized quite well too. ‘Yaaname’ sung by Anand Arvindakshan has a rock feel to it and ‘Vazhivakkil’ sung by Anand Arvindakshan and Shweta Mohan is a neat melody. All the 3 songs (Kando Kando, Yaaname and Vazhivakkil) are written by Anwar Ali. Which brings me to ‘Zammiluni’ , sung by Shahabaz Aman and written by Rafeeq Thiruvallur. This is a special song with lyrics in Arabic-Malayalam dialect and Shahabaz elevates the song to a new high.
Kochi is a special city alright and though I’ve never lived there, I’ve always enjoyed visiting the place whenever I could, starting from my childhood days. I still cherish the memories of watching films (my 1st film there must probably be Nakhashathangal), enjoying the sights of Fort Kochi, freaking out on the food etc. At one stage I almost ended up marrying a girl from the place and hence there’s a romantic angle that I share with Kochi as well. This is probably why I can relate to the city and hence I’m thrilled with the way Rajeev Ravi has captured the city in the film without focusing on the usual highlights depicted in other Malayalam movies. For anyone living in Fort Kochi or Vypeen the ferry becomes an integral part of their lives and in Annayum Rasoolum the ferry service is almost a character of its own. The romantic scenes between Anna and Rasool are well written and appear fresh. Talking about the scenes will spoil it for those who are yet to watch the film and hence I will not do so.
In terms of performances before I talk about Fahadh Faasil and Andrea there’s a whole lot of others to talk about. The film has 5 filmmakers acting in it- Aashiq Abu who plays Hyder, P. Balachandran who plays Rasheed, the uncle of Rasool and Hyder, Ranjith who plays their father, Joy Mathew who plays Anna’s father and M.G.Sasi. Of these Aashiq Abu does well as Hyder and Ranjith is effective as always. P.Balachandran also does well within the limited scope that he gets to perform. Soubin Shahir as Collin and Shine Tom Chacko as Abu really impress and so does Srinda Ashab. Sunny Wayne is easily emerging as one of the actors to watch out for in Malayalam Cinema. Here his role is in sharp contrast to what he’s done in his earlier films and he carries off the role of Ashley with flourish.
Andrea makes a sparkling entry into Malayalam Cinema and she’s extremely effective as Anna. Her character is of someone who doesn’t really speak lengthy dialogues and most of her communication is through her expressions and that’s where she scores. Her voice has been dubbed by singer Shaktisree Gopalan and it fits her very well. It’s tough to actually imagine Annayum Rasoolum without Fahadh Faasil, that’s the kind of impression he leaves on you with his performance as Rasool. He looks supremely confident and composed throughout the film and that shows in the way he’s delivered, extremely impressive indeed.
Yes there are many who probably complain about the length of the film and as to how the film just chugs along merrily without anything much happening. But that’s deliberate if you ask me as Rajeev never really set out to make a film with twists and turns. It was meant to be a film unravelling in its own languid pace and that’s the beauty of the film actually. So while this might not make it mass friendly it’s heartening to see that the film has takers and we need more of that lot. Annayum Rasoolum is a film made with a lot of heart, take a bow Rajeev Ravi.
And on a closing note here’s the original ‘Kandu Rendu Kannu’ song from Chuzhi
While here’s the new version from Annayum Rasoolum, this is what I call a good reworking of an yesteryear hit song.