Posts by mahdiahmed

WRITING SEASON 3 OF KARUHAKURU

A day ago, I wrapped up writing season 3 of Karuhakuru, the first Dhivehi sitcom series. In short, I had a blast writing all the 12 episodes.

In season 3, best of all, I weathered all the pressure that I faced while writing some of the episodes. However, unlike the previous seasons, they were few and far between. But most importantly, I was able to resolve them with show creator Munko and producer Saaji with ease. Thus, I delivered each episode right on time to fit the shooting schedule, including a day for table-reads. Shooting getting delayed, postponed, or canceled due to unforeseen reasons was beyond me.

The season 3 revolves around the funny yet the lovable family of Rasheed coping with the impending COVID 19 and the ultimate lockdown doom. It will be easier for everyone to relate to this situation since we are still living with it. But for this family, staying home for too long has comical side effects. Some characters find a new love for unusual things, and Liu and Liz, an infatuation for Mabrouk. For him, who didn’t?

One of the biggest challenges in writing season 3 was the newest addition to the family. Wish I could reveal this character and the actor portraying the role, but I can already see Saaji eyeballing and breathing fire at me. Worry not, Saaji, I am not going to spoil anything here. But I can peel this much, the new addition is no small feet, but yes, I consider the character a baby, but a very live wire baby. This actor inspired me to shift my writing into fourth gear and pedal to the metal.

However, the greatest challenge was to keep Nai, the leading man of the series, in a face mask throughout the entire season. But actor Raufath, playing Naai with OCD gusto, has given an outstanding performance in all the scenes he appeared with only his eyes exposed. I haven’t heard any other actor doing that for an entire season in a sitcom. Awesome!

Lamha, the heart, and soul of this series, has shown how quickly she has grown into her character as Liu. Her comic timing is spot on, and her acting sublime.

When I heard from the set that Aysha, who plays Liz, has improved so much, I was tempted to make her role very demanding. With each episode, I tested her acting chops. And I must say that she has come out with flying colors. Her bitterness over Kuday’s mishap is a testament that she could rip the screen even with her screams.

Rasheed remains the firm foundation of the family holding everyone together. Actor Nazim does justice to his character as he did with the previous two seasons, but this time with a coolness that would make even cucumbers green with envy. Wait, they are already green, no?

The always out of element Zack, played by National award-winning Ayya, shows why he is such a versatile actor. He can fit himself into any glove. But the character of Zack is a snug fit for him. In this season, he discovers a way to stand with neither of his feet touching the ground.

Finally, I can’t imagine anyone else but Afrah taking the role of eccentric Kuday. He is lucky enough to return home from Bangkok. He recommences his misadventures with the Rasheed family. This time he has more stories to tell about Joan. Or is it John? John or Joan, ingeynu?

Karuhakuru will always remain my sweetest writing experience ever. I am looking forward to spend few more seasons with Rasheed and his family. I also feel that I have grown with each and every one of them—my sincere thanks to the entire cast and crew, especially Orkeyz Inc. Yes, that did the trick. I no longer feel the fiery breath of Saaji anymore.

Cheers!

BIGIL (2019) REVIEW

This film is an entertaining mix of crime and sports. It’s engaging, action-packed, fast-paced, funny and dribbles its way to an exciting conclusion.

Bigil, played by Joseph Vijay, is a gifted soccer player whose career comes to a halt due to a tragic turn of events. Years later, he is forced to become the head coach of a women’s soccer team and steers them to their dream of winning the national championship, a feat he missed as a player.

The team comprising of women from impoverished rural areas with the dream of making it big, at first refuses Bigil as a coach due to his criminal life. But he eventually wins their heart and along the way not only earns their respect, but he empowers them on and off the field.

 Like a soccer match, the film has two halves. The first half is an intense build-up to the second half that entirely deals with the soccer team while examining the lives of the key players and tackling timely women related issues.

 Vijay is mesmerizing in a dual role as father and son. The scenes they share are heartwarming and at some point, heart-wrenching. 

Nayanthara as Aasirvatham is Gibil’s love interest. Here, she is not just a pretty face. Her character is pivotal to the narrative. She uses compassion when dealing with situations where Gibil fails, or most men would in general. Also, her comic timing is spot on.

The stories of Anitha and Gayathri performed with aplomb by Reba Monica and Varsha Bollamma respectively as the late inclusion to the team are both moving and inspiring.

It’s writer-director Atlee Kumar who steals the match. In the second half, he creatively puts the protagonist in the backseat and let the remarkable team of women take over to fight their way to victory. It has a rousing finale that made me jump out of my seat. 

The song Singappenney by A.R. Rahman gave me goosebumps. In it, watch for Rahman and Atlee in a cameo.

Though the film has a running time of almost three hours, I couldn’t care less. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Highly recommended.

SUPER DELUXE (2019) REVIEW

This Tamil dark comedy with three main eccentric stories arrested me from its very opening credits on a black screen.

The first story has an unfaithful wife whose life turns into a whirlpool when she finds her secret lover dead on her bed right after having sex.

The second story has a group of students who gather to watch porn only to find that the leading lady in it is the mother of one of the boys.

The third and the most sensitive story has a small kid who is eagerly waiting at the arrival of his father after a long absence. But to his surprise, his father is now a transgender woman.

All these stories then branch out with more engaging subplots until its expository and sometimes philosophical ending about existence and the origin of life, the design pattern and similarity of the universe, solar system and atomic structure of atoms.

But I must admit that the way one subplot unfolded, I wish it was done differently. Nevertheless, the powerful performances kept me glued to the seat. Even its almost three hours running time which again I thought could have trimmed down a little bit, I didn’t mind.

Though all the cast standout, its Vijay Sethupathi as the transgender woman who steals the show. His portrayal of Shilpa is heartfelt and compassionate. The scene where he dresses up in front of his shocked wife Jyothi played wonderfully by Gyathrie is stunning.

Bagavathi Perumal also turns in an outstanding performance as Berlin, a sadistic cop that I wanted to strangle him to death so badly.

But the real star of this film is writer-director Thiagarajan Kumaraja for weaving such an engaging narrative with multiple subplots. And through these subplots, he not only exposed the real problems persisting in Chennai but also India as a whole.

Another striking feature is the cinematography by Nirav Shah and P.S. Vinod. The use of colours, the lighting, the camera shots and movements are exquisite. Even the first scene grabbed my attention that I knew I was going to watch something special.

The original music by Yuvan Shankar Raja added more depth to the unfolding stories evoking sadness, sympathy and menace.

This film is a winner. It is highly recommended.

JERSEY (2019) REVIEW

This heart-wrenching yet deeply satisfying Telugu underdog sports drama kept my floodgates opened long after the end credits rolled. My wife and I kept sobbing loudly.

Arjun, played with restraint and conviction by Nani, is gifted but a down on his luck retired cricketer. When his life hits rock-bottom, he is forced out of retirement, at a cost. But his raison d’etre would never leave a dry eye in the house.

The entire cast hit sixes with their exceptional performances, especially Shraddha Srinath as Arjun’s abandoned wife who carries the burden of supporting the family. Sathyaraj as Murthy who is the long-time mentor and the only person who never stops believing in Arjun. And Ronit Kamra as Arjun’s son who adores his father despite his pitiful struggle to keep his family together.

Anirudh Ravichander hits all the right chords with his engaging music, and the cinematography by Sanu John Varughese adds a solemn depth to the intense drama and the sports sequences.

The screenplay is creatively written by Gowtam Tinnanur, keeping his nonlinear narrative poignant and straightforward. He even hits a biggie out of the stadium with his solid direction.

Highly recommended.

WITH LOVE…

My dearest love,

I feel blessed and thrilled to be celebrating another memorable year of your life.

Regardless of what age you have turned, your inner and outer self remain intact. But every now and then, you are anxious about your eyesight, your skin and your wrinkles. On second thought, who isn’t? But worry not. ISA, you are beautiful, loving, tender, caring and intelligent. By the way, those are just a few of your traits. If I must list all of them, I might run out of space here and end up with blisters on my fingertips. And yes, you will always be my Jessica. Purr!

Simply put, I couldn’t be prouder to be your husband. There is no greater happiness for me in this world than to have you in my life. And then there is Kokko. Together, you both complete me.

I have lived all the beautiful moments of my life with you. Our courtship, getting trapped in a room, us getting married, the day you conceived, your entire pregnancy, your delivery, parenting Kokko, your graduation and the exhausting adventure we had finding your phone some three days ago is some of the best memories that will remain engraved in my heart forever. Even all the problems, difficulties and tragedies we faced from the tsunami to your depression when you were unjustly fired and to my botched-up colonoscopy have helped us to be better and stronger. And most importantly, we value each other with the utmost care and respect.

We were utterly clueless of our destiny even though all your life you frequented to my house, and we crossed our path million times. But look at us today, it seems as if fate was written for us. I am confident with all my heart that ISA our love will last, and we will be together forever. You and Kokko are in my prayers every day.

Kokko fills our hearts with joy and happiness. He is more like you possessing your sense of humour and sincerity. But I am happy if he has my adorable cheeks. I also feel contented seeing that you are such a wonderful mother who takes good care of him and continues to do so day in, day out. You provide him with your undying love, affection and heart.

Thank you very much for making me who I am today. Thank you for sprucing me up. Your love, caring, and affection keep inspiring me.

Thank you for helping me when I am not in my best of moods. Your wittiness never fails to leave me in stitches, especially when you dance an Oryantal or the Bharatanatyam. I am already cracking up. Thank you for making me see how beautiful our life is.

I am glad you have this newfound admiration for the diarist, late AH. May his soul rest in peace. Even I have been reading some of his excerpts secretly and find his writing very inspirational and amusing. Thank you for obtaining almost all his digests.

We still love riding over the bridge even though we feel our heads falling off from our shoulders at the end of our spin. Yes, the helmets have robbed the maximum experience we previously enjoyed. But we keep communicating to and from HulhuMale’ like astronauts on a motorbike.

We’ve been quite the opposite of what we do. You love all the contemporary music while I am still in the 80s. When you watch an exciting movie, I am catching a few zees. While you are funny and open-minded, I am closed and an introvert. But we are low on tension and more on the fun. Now I wholeheartedly believe in the saying that opposite does attract.

It’s inevitable that with time, we will grow old and wrinkly. But all that is trivial to me. What really matters is that we are together and with you today is better than yesterday. I wish and pray that our love keeps getting stronger with each passing day. I give you my unconditional love and the rest of my life and eternity with you.

Happy birthday, my love.

BAVATHI review

First and foremost, I want to congratulate first-time writer-director Ilyaas Waheed for his above par effort to bring a movie not only dealing with an ominous subject but presenting it with such a never before seen visual flair and style. His work as a writer and a director is promising and deeply felt. Our film industry has found a force to be reckoned with.

This film also marks as the first Dhivehi psychological thriller that focuses mainly on the psychosis of the protagonist and delving deep into a few clinical practices used in psychology. It’s a slow burner, though. But once it starts to simmer and comes to a full boil, it’s an experience both spine-chilling and thought-provoking.

The narrative is hard to explain without spoilers. But I say this much, it’s surprisingly imaginative. In most part, there are glimmers of brilliance in Ilyas’ writing and directing. And it’s the way he peels off the narrative layer by layer using beautiful and sometimes creepy visuals mixed with intense drama that stands out. For a first-timer, I say he is impressive.

Nuzhath Shuaib has established herself as one of the most versatile actors in the local film industry today, showing her acting prowess in a vast range of roles. It’s not surprising that she accomplished her stardom in such a short span of time. Here, her performance, which is evenly balanced with restraint and nuance, will put her a notch above the rest. She plays an alienated woman who begins to experience strange occurrences around her once she relocates to Male’ after marrying a fitness trainer she meets from her island.

As the narrative progresses, she keeps raising the level of her performance as her life starts spiralling both physically and mentally to a point where her reality becomes blurry. In some sequences, she made me disconcerting and in one pivotal scene, gasping for air even.

However, its at the climax where she bites to the bone of her meaty role showing her acting brilliance with aplomb. It’s a role that any actor would die for. But she made her performance so convincingly powerful that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in it. I am her biggest fan now.

My admiration goes to all the newcomers in the cast, especially Ahmed Ifnaz Firag and Fathimath Latheefa. The former plays the fitness trainer that Nuzhath marries who is not only sympathetic, he’s likeable and will stop at nothing to protect the love of his life. And the latter plays Nuzhath’s uncompromising mother. For their debut, both give decent performances.

Even though veteran actor Mohamed Rasheed appears briefly, his role is crucial to the narrative and heavily supports the new actors. He gives assurance to them.

One of the highlights and in my opinion, also an essential character in this movie is the visual effects combined seamlessly into the narrative. I applaud Orkeyz, the VFX and the technical team behind this film to bring the unique vision of Ilyas to the screen with such finesse. If my memory serves me right, no other Dhivehi film to date has used visual effects so extensively, if not effectively as this.

Kandi Visan’s cinematography is another plus. The way he has set the mood elevates the mystery and the creepiness around Nuzhath. And the long tracking shots used sparingly are lively and a joy to watch.

Regardless of how much technical effort employed, a film is soulless without music. This is where Mistee, the music composer shines. After a praiseworthy composition for Illnoise, Hahdhu and the recent blockbuster, Gohraalhu, he has done it again. Unlike the previous films, which are of contrasting genres as well, he has composed a piece of brooding and moody music that’s so fitting to the sensitive theme of this film. It’s at times heart-pounding too.

In short, this film shines in all the filmmaking departments. For a film from a first timer, it’s technically good and well-performed by the entire cast with a gripping narrative. Highly recommended.

Black and White

Few black and white snaps.

Bokeh

A Selection of bokeh shots I have tried over the years.

Mud boy

On our visit to the beautiful mangrove of Huraa, my son loved sitting in the mud.