Mammootty's 'Big B': Revisiting Malayalam cinema's cult action film

We explore the factors that made 'Big B' a trailblazer for an entire generation.
Mammootty's 'Big B': Revisiting Malayalam cinema's cult action film
Mammootty's 'Big B': Revisiting Malayalam cinema's cult action film
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By Neelima Menon
Amal Neerad’s directorial debut Big B was an average grosser at the box office. Released in 2007, this stylishly packaged action fiesta fizzled out in the company of more commercially enticing flicks like Mayavi, Chocolate, Vinodayathra, Chotta Mumbai, Hello and Arabhikatha. But like most films that are ahead of their times, Big B proved to be a slow burner. Almost a decade since its release, it is considered one of the more technically superior films of our times. We explore those factors that made it a trailblazer for an entire generation.

Bilal John Kurishingal: He is the modern day Phantom — the man from nowhere. Inscrutable, unsmiling and a do-gooder to boot. He speaks in crisp, gruff one-liners with just the right degree of menace that spells doom for his antagonists.  Bilal walks with slow deliberate strides, gaze unwavering. Neerad tailors him around the lines of all the old jungle sayings that we have heard about the Phantom — “The voice of the Phantom turns blood into ice.” “The Phantom is rough with roughnecks.” “Go into the jungle and call: the phantom hears.”

Bilal also gets one of the most swashbuckling intros for a hero in the history of Malayalam cinema — fittingly in the backdrop of torrential rain and a terrific background music. As he saunters from his SUV, in a bandana, thick jackets and boots, one is hit by that towering, unfathomable presence of THE MAN!

Only Bilal can saunter calmly into a room full of nasty men, look into their eyes and mouth this succinct punchline with a straight face — “Kochi pazhey kochiyallenennariyam. Pakshey Billalu pazhey Bilallu thanneyanu” (Kochi may not be the same old Kochi. But Bilal is still the same Bilal”).

Or tell a cop — “Saarey Georgey, marippinulla vadem chayem njan tharunnunudu. Ippolalla pinney.”

Bilal’s brothers:  They are a small band of merry men—Eddy, a reformed family man, playful Murugan who is also a movie stuntman and the gentle and light-eyed Bijoy. Bilal’s soft corner for his youngest brother is evident when he forbids him from using a gun —”Ninakku njan palli perunnalinu vangi tharam.”

Sayippu Tony: Long auburn hair, grey eyes and an eerily throaty voice — Sayippu Tony is a chillingly blood-thirsty villain. He doesn’t bat an eyelid as he guns down a cop, tailing it with a horrid disclaimer. He is introduced to viewers in the middle of an impromptu boxing match. Clad in a black clammy vest and jeans, he makes short shrift of his opponent. And once he is done, he picks up a heavily inebriated woman into the room, not before smashing a plateful of biryani on one his handyman’s face. Sayippu Tony’s cockiness that revolts you and he doesn’t even flinch when he discovers that Bilal has brought all his men to face against him. “Tony ennum ottaykku thanna ninnittullathu. Njan theetta kodutha ethu kaiyya enikkittu pani tharunnathennariyanamallo.”

The Amal Neerad tropes: In no movie before or after Big B have we seen such a symphony of style and action. Each shot has a deliberate, unhurried pace — even in the most morbid scenes, the frames have a gleam — like a polished piece of black metal. Each stride is measured, each dialogue hits the bullseye and the actors seem to be revelling in the glory of playing their part. Being his first film, even the slow-motion sequences that later came to be branded as the Amal Neerad staple has an undeniable charm on screen. Ideally, Amal Neerad’s movies should be categorised as before and after Big B. And didn’t Bilal’s sardonic one-liners catch on like wildfire? 

Note: This article was first published on The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.

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