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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Salala Mobiles rings many a bell!

Scene one: The narrator’s voice wise-cracks thus —What if you had an instrument that could read others’ minds for you? The boys will use it to know what girls think, and the girls will use it to know what other girls think! Sadly, the director could only prove his first proposition, and the second one remained unexplored. 

The debut movie of director Sharath A Haridaasan, Salala Mobiles, is a sum of many possible ‘whole’s, but never makes it to an agreeable one. 

Afsal (Dulquer Salman) is a lazy young boy, who sleeps and intermittently eats the biryani his caterer mother (Gita) makes. Worried that her son isn’t going to turn out any good, she seeks the help of her brother. Afsal’s uncle helps him open up a mobile store  — Salala Mobiles. 

With his friend Binoy (Jacob Gregory), Afsal starts to sit in the shop, waiting for customers, and as is customary in such a scenario, he sees Shahana (Nazriya Nazim), and it is instant love. One does wish the love would filter in instead, especially when Afsal ever so quickly turns into a forlorn lover gaping forever at the girl, not mustering the courage to even hint at what’s on his mind. 

And then the unconventional twist — instead of stalking her, like most heroes in love do, he stalks her over the phone, and without her knowing it!

He chances upon Azhagarsami (Santhanam), an engineering drop-out, who makes mobile-apps and sells them for cheap rates. Through him, a phone tapping app comes into the hands of Afsal. 

The app lets him literally listen in to any conversation that anyone has over their mobile phone, provided he stores their number and transferred the app into their mobile, which is almost just like a virus. It is an easy job for him and Binoy, considering they do top-up recharges for a living. 

It is amusing to note how misleading the trailer proved to be. The movie was supposedly a romantic comedy, but it shifts lane once the phone tapping marks its entry. Afsal and Binoy go on a tapping spree, overhearing dozens of conversations every day, and there is even a facility that lets them interfere, which they put to good use! 

On the one hand, you have an aspiring lover, so to speak, who taps the calls of the girl he loves, and on the other hand, he saves the government from falling and plays the good cop by collecting money under false identity to help others. The moral dilemma of such a situation is almost completely obliterated by the boys who’re having fun intruding into private conversations. The police department is searching for the crooks. 

Big words like overthrowing government, terrorism and spy-work are used and speculated on one side, and on the other side, the inane young chaps are in a reality-show inspired situation. There is a particular instance where the two are listening in to phone conversations with popcorn in their hands, and I couldn’t put my feelings in one place at that. The same wasn’t the case in ‘Chappakurishu’ that tackled the technology mishap, and the shifting of power and authority in an intense way. 

This movie comes with a grave subject, and it was all taken in a lighter vein (any lighter would have broken the veins). But where quirkiness counts, it had a few sparkling moments.

Santhanam, the Tamil ‘additional fitting’ (in his terminology) was there to up the quirk factor —designing strange apps, replacing the lion in the MGM pictures logo with his head in his apps, along with Tini Tom and Ramesh Pisharody. Fleeting glimpses of Mamukoya and Janardhanan breathe in some much needed familiarity into the movie.  

Salala Mobiles aspires to be big; from beginning the story with a narrator’s point of view, which was done to great success in ‘Ustad Hotel’, to aiming for high dramatic scenes, like those in ‘Amen’. But this is neither structured like the former, nor as novel as the latter. ‘Love’ is a motive, but it doesn’t seem enough. Dulquer and Nazriya play their parts well. Thanks to their sensitive faces, the emotions, though baseless, seem genuine. 

The narrative has tried to be different, using more of imagery and expressions than lengthy dialogues. Dulquer hardly says more than a sentence in any given scene! But the story makes it to the end abruptly, and a lot of questions rush to mind. And then, thinking on the lines of a badly translated Malyalayam idiom, “the crane has seen too many ponds”, I think to myself that all is made okay in the land of candyfloss dreams.

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