Mohanlal’s Grand Master – Review

Mohanlal’s early 90’s whodunit “Mukham’ directed by Mohan is one of my favorite movies, so is Mohan’s “Pakshe”. “Mukham” if I remember correctly was a flop, but nuances of the movie keep growing on you on repeated viewing. Though reception of the movie was lilliputian compared to K.Madhu’s “CBI diary kurippu”, “Mukham” trumps the Mammootty flick by tactfully meshing the two quintessential parts of a whodunit – the crime, and the mind of the investigating officer. B.Unnikrishnan’s “Grand Master” does just that, and is a movie worthy of repeated viewing. After all the idea of Sherlock Holmes is as much about the crime as about the cocaine.

Story: Mohanlal plays Chandrashekhar,a defeated IPS officer, who takes his personal briefcase of losses to work. He unlike Sherlock Holmes who uses cocaine, plays chess in office to keep his mind alert. Chess references abound in the movie, as a serial killer challenges Chandra to a game which combines crime and personal life. There is a trail of murdered women. Nothing is out of bounds, as Chandra accepts the challenge. Lalu Alex is the killer. (I’m kidding! he is not there in the film)

Good:

10,000 feet view of B.Unnikrishnan’s “Grand Master” comes down to three people – B.Unnikrishnan, Mohanlal, and Babu Antony.

B.Unnikrishnan – is an award winning script writer, and I have thoroughly enjoyed most of his movies. His attention to detail of the dialect in “Madambi” was remarkable, and his story “Aviramam” in Kerala Cafe was delightful. I have not watched “Jalamarmaram” but “Grand Master” is B. Unnikrishnan’s most intelligent script to date. There are ‘educated’ comments in forums which say it was adapted/loosely based etc on an Agatha Christie work, by people who I am sure haven’t read Agatha Christie nor watched “Grand Master”. It’s one of those Chutiye tu retire ho ja , tera time khatam” moments of movie reviewing. B.Unnikrishnan skillfully weaves the crime and the mind of the investigating officer without loud, unending action scenes, or thank God! slow motion (which Shaji Kailas claims he invented). There are enough breadcrumbs in the movie to crack the case, and so unlike S.N.Swami, B.Unnikrishnan does not insult our intelligence. And not the least, it’s a relief in the age of “Inception” esque scripts to watch a good old rough on the edges whodunit, though it might take more than one viewing to catch some subtleties. I mean even after two decades, majority of the folks who enjoyed “Manichitrathazhu” haven’t yet started to think ‘why’ Ganga transforms to Nagavalli.

Mohanlal – is an award winning malayalam actor, and I have run into trouble before when I called Mammootty the undisputed number two actor in malayalam. But one has to admit, it’s true. Because when Mohanlal finds a character that resonates with the actor that he is, he delivers sheer onscreen magic. While “Grand Master” doesn’t compare to lets say “Bhramaram” (which I think is Mohanlal’s role of the decade), there is a sense of calm and ease with which the actor fits into the character of Chandrashekar. Mohanlal plays his age and his physical form, and is completely at ease as he carries the movie. Anoop Menon, Priyamani, Jagathy, and Narain support well, but this is a Mohanlal movie. It’s one of those movies like “Udhayananu Tharam” where after the intro scene you forget you are watching a Mohanlal movie. A well played performance which constantly dodges our attempts at getting into the head of Chandra to figure out how he is going to crack the case.

Babu Antony – is often called an actor by mistake, and is the most hilarious part of “Grand Master”. Now calling Babu Antony an actor is like calling Vinayan a film director. I will watch this movie again for comic relief to see Babu Antony play Babu Antony playing a psycho. It is so much fun to see one of the more limited actors (he stays exactly where he started in ‘Chilambu’) in the industry struggle to fit his eight feet four inch frame into an unstable psycho’s skin. Personally I am a big Babu Antony fan, but I haven’t seen a more funny psycho since Vineeth played one in “Maanathe Vellitheru”. Kudos to B.Unnikrishnan, next time try Kunchacko Boban.

Bad:

Treatment & shoddy camera work – Great whodunits like “Ee Thanutha Veluppan Kalathu” mesmerize the audience with a heady mix of lighting, mood setting back ground score, and a camera that move like a cautious cat. The cats who made “Grand Master” while coming up with a good script entirely loses sight of the details. B.Unnikrishnan who carefully delivered “Madambi” & “Smart City” fails the viewers in this one, and prevents the movie from going to higher places in the pecking order of malayalam thrillers.

Verdict: It’s too early to say if Mohanlal has rediscovered himself like Bachchan did, but this a terrific start if he is trying. It is a highly watchable malayalam thriller without the noises, and thank god! slow motion (which Shaji Kailas claims he invented).

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10 Responses to Mohanlal’s Grand Master – Review

  1. Bala May 11, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Neither have I seen the movie nor seen / engaged with Mohanlal movies in the breadth and depth with which you have! And I am reading the review before the movie!

    Brahma, as always, refreshing! I feel this is one of the best movie reviews I have read for a long long time!! Its sometimes good for reviewers not to pretend that they don’t carry any biases. Maybe it happens when we cross from being amateur to professional in anything!

  2. scorpiogenius May 11, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Back with a bang! Your review brought back memories of Mukham, Thanutha veluppan kalathu and those classical noirs of our time.

    I’m so very detached from malluwood now-a-days, never kinda gave some attention to the new genere of films. If this is as good as you say, which I feel strongly it is, then good for Lal…

    Now, how did you get on to watch this? ebay okke vittu thirontharathu ethiya? ;)

  3. BVN May 12, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    @BK, thanks. it could be amateur to professional or maybe it’s that you dont need to cater to an audience anymore :)

    @Scorpio, kollam. nalla padam, can watch again. surprisingly the movie released in california in first week.

  4. scorpiogenius May 12, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    May be of interest, but I read the plot is loosely based on Agatha Christie’s “ABC Murders”. Thoughts?

  5. BVN May 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    @Scorpio, Wikipedia says “.The plot of the movie is an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s detective novel The A.B.C. Murders”. As I said above, first person accounts of folks who say “this is based on ABC murders” is often funny because none of them in a reasonable probability has read any agatha christie :)

  6. scorpiogenius May 18, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I’ve read most of Ms Christie’s books, ABC Murders among them. It was a long time back so had to fall back on good old Wiki to recollect the plot. Donno, it’s something which anyone could think of. Christie’s writing style, and the air of complex character weaving into a seemingly tangled plot creates the aura of awesomeness in her books. May appear pedestrian on celluloid, esp in 2012. Anyway, as you said, I can’t compare as I’ve not seen the film.

  7. KENU May 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    THE VERSATILE ACTOR OF INDIAN CINEMA. BUT NOBODY UTILIZED YET

  8. Bombaydosti June 18, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    All that you say about Mohanlal, resonated with me as well. Truly enjoyed seeing Mohanlal play his age. Loved the look and feel.

    But I am surprised you did not feel the slowness in Lal’s dialogues? That was the most frustrating part of the movie for me. Since you mentioned Sherlock Holmes,I was reminded of the jingoism of that movie? Had a similar feel in this one as well. I thought, they had too much “effects” whatever that was, especially in the first half of the movie.But of course, SH was boring. GM was not.

    The latter part was engaging.

    But then, I did wish they had lesser action. He is shown to be the intelligent guy. Why make him fight, as well? Even when a fit Mammooty was playing CBI, they kept the action out.

    Then, why do Police Officers in Malayalam cinema need that brash, stupid, irrational female police officer to compare themselves with??? Aren’t they great enough having solved the puzzle?

  9. Joshy August 17, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    The review was mentioning about the comment that this film has some resomblence with Agatha Christie work but he strongly dis agree with it saying,by people who I am sure haven’t read Agatha Christie nor watched “Grand Master”. But does the script writer or this reviewer will oppose me if i say it is copy paste of a malayalam tele serial named Black and White starred Siddique telecasted by Asianet in 2003-04 periode???? one of the stories of the mentioned serial has had same detto story with some minute changes like the third victim that is ‘C’ was man and the villain was the psychiatrist doctor..remaining all are same to same except of mohan lal’s characters personnel life…

  10. SYAMNATH December 25, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    This Movie As I Watch For The First Time Post Release Had A Serialised Version Telecast On Asianet In 2004 With Actor Siddique The Role Of The Detective(Serial Name: Black And White)I Still Recollect.B.Unnikrishnan wrote that,directed by Viji Thampi.As I Continue To Watch It Post The Ad On Tv I Promise The Word Nimhans Will Be Used In The Climax. Actor Tony Is A Common In Both The Version.

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