Lock, Stock, and Guy Ritchie Sukumarans’ Smoking Double Barrel!
Let’s face it. It’s not one of the typical festival releases. In fact, it is not even close to any of the other movies that you have seen in Malayalam. In Double Barrel, Amen and City of God director Lijo Jose Pellissery tells a heist story in the gangster-spoof format with Prithviraj, Indrajit and Arya in the lead. Despite warning us that the film will not be like any of his previous outings, Lijo is facing flak for not meeting audience expectations or sticking to the well-accepted ways of scripting and directing a film. Hence, what we can watch now is a “revised” version of the original “Director’s Cut.” Nevertheless, Lijo’s film doesn’t tell much of a story, but gives us a glimpse of the vision of a director who thinks out of the box.
At the outset, a few messages mark the opening of the movie, one of them being the famous Stanely Kubrick quote “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” This line does not set the complete context that Lijo wanted to set before screening his crazy and ambitious film. In fact, Kubrick didn’t stop at that but went on to say that “perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all!” As the end credits roll, you can’t help recalling these lines, particularly if you are among those who are tired of watching movies that are cast in the same dye.
On the other hand, one cannot fault Lijo for the plot. As the famous Godard saying goes “a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” it is quite evident that Lijo started off with a decent plot that had a beginning, a middle, and an end with a few twists, which could have easily worked as a normal comedy too, but he wanted to give a tad bit more than a normal festival release. Doesn’t that explain all the buffoonery and the crazy goings-on in the film? Well, they are part of the plot–not the film’s but the director’s!
We live in an interesting time when independent filmmakers find voice and mainstream directors pave their own path breaking the mould. Even a commercial blockbuster like Premam offers whacky scenes—remember the hero’s lines when he beats the pulp out of the drug addict (played Alphonse Puthran) who is engaged to his love interest? Connecting Bob Marley and fuel price hike, anyone? An African character talking Malayalam in Fort Kochi slang is an unintended comedy that we have enjoyed in umpteen dubbed Hollywood movies, but see how this foley mix has been made in to a laugh riot.
Whichever way you look at it, with hell of a whacky script and treatment, Double Barrel brings loads of freshness and raw energy to the Malayalam screen. It’s not your usual fare of action-comedy, but a theater of the absurd where you could laugh your heart out relating to many cinematic clichés that we live with. The Goan mafia spoof woven around Laila and Majnu, two diamonds that have no value expect when they are sold together and a number of rivaling gangs chasing each other to possess them, is mostly well-executed, except for a couple of sequences involving Arya, Swati Reddy and Chemban Vinod that slow the proceedings. Off-screen brothers and on-screen buddies Prithviraj and Indrajit handle comedy with ease for most part without resorting to slapstick, but appear unconvinced in a scene or two, which is quite natural because the whole industry must still be in awe about how the likes of Prithviraj, Arya, Indrajit and Santhosh Sivan could be convinced about this rather “absurd” plot.
With plenty laughs weaved in, mostly by random gangsters from different ethnicities moving around speaking local Malayalam slang and a mockery of some oft-repeated stunts in commercial cinema, Lijo’s talky script refuses to take any conventional or familiar route. There is no character or situation that you’ll form an emotional connect with, but all is fair in war, love, and gangster comedies! Three cheers to writer-director Lijo Pellissery and the key technicians behind the scenes—cinematographer Abhinandan Ramanujam and designer Manoj Surve for the visuals and production design that suit the mood of the film and Prashant Pillai for the music. May be, the film will be accepted by many more when it releases on DVD and TV like Lijo’s own Nayakan and City of God, which were box-office rejects primarily because of their freshness in treatment. Go for this if you want to see something original this season, which you can either enjoy or rip apart. Please don’t forget to keep your expectations and stereotypes at a safe place before you enter the hall!