You stay in a place for a long time, long enough for you to soak in the minutest of its details. You imbibe the rhythm of the place, the peculiar rhyme of the spoken language, the pace with which the day progresses there. You catch the quirks of the people there, the way they eat, sing, dance, celebrate, and cry. You become the place, the place becomes you. Chemban Vinod Jose could not have written Angamaly Diaries , perhaps his ode to his native, if he had not done all the above.
Angamaly, known in Malayalam cinema till now for its “Prime Minister,” comes alive vividly on screen, as the milieu in which plays out the tales of survival of a bunch of people. It is essentially the diary of Vincent Pepe (Antony Varghese), who grows up idolising the local goons and football players. He wants to build a gang of his own and have the town under his control. And, he and his friends slowly build one.
Lijo Jose Pellissery puts aside his famed fantasy glasses to give us a realistic tale here. Though the story and the narration through the different phases of the protagonist’s life can draw comparisons to last year’s Kammatipadam , but the similarities stop there. Here, there is an element of light heartedness amid all the bloody fights, unlike the sense of gloom in the latter.
The rivalry between the gangs is not permanent. It is blow hot-blow cold. They sit together, they drink, and are ready to forget their revenge, if it furthers their business interests. Pepe and his friends are painted with a lot of greys too. And, then comes the food! You have everything from puttu to pork and even a python. The food is there always in the background, being cooked or eaten. Conversations, long and short, are woven around it. Pepe falls in love for the first time and compares their romance to that of the hit combination of ‘kappa and mutta’ in the local thattukada.
As key to the narrative as food is Prashant Pillai’s music, another Lijo staple. The background music, replete with bugles, horns and snare drums gels with the ‘katta (hardcore) local’ flavour. Cinematographer Girish Gangadharan lets himself go with the madness all around, culminating in a glorious uncut manoeuvre set during a church festival.
Lijo’s biggest experimentation here is with the actors, with all 86 of them being newcomers and not one of them missing a beat, putting up natural performances. If not for anything else, the film will be remembered for contributing 86 new actors.
His previous work, the brilliant ‘Double Barrel’ had met with wildly polarising reactions, but with Angamaly Diaries , Lijo is sure to have more positive opinions on his side. The town owes him and Chemban Vinod a treat, of pork roast.