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Ustad Hotel – A gem that keeps shining brighter

Thilakan and Dulquer Salmaan in Usthad Hotel

There is this beautiful sequence in Ustad Hotel. While returning from the bank, Kareemka asks Faizi-‘Marubhumiyile Mazha kandittundo Faizi mon’. They continue their conversation next on the sea shore where they talk about fate . Kareemka says ‘Kisamth ennonnu undu Faizi. Athine arkum thadukkaaan pattilla’. Faizi then tastes the Sulaimani and asks what is special in it. Kareemka replies ‘Oro sulaimaniyilum orithiri mohabbath venam’ .

He then narrates his story where he went to cook for Moulavi’s daughter’s marriage and fell in love with her. It is followed by the beautiful’ Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil’ song. At the end of it, Kareemka says- ‘Aaa hoori aaranneriyumo .. Ante Ummumma’… 

I still remember the huge applause this last line was greeted to in theaters. Few months later, Anjali Menon also walked away with the National Awards for Best Dialogues. Take recent years in Malayalam Cinema , its seldom you witness sustained brilliance for such longer period on screen. Its seldom you see such great warmth and chemistry between leading actors. 

Ustad Hotel told the story of Faizi who was forced by circumstances to work in his grandfather’s hotel. It was the last resort for him when his ambition to be a chef faced a setback and his dad kept hold of his passport. There started a very special bond between a grandfather and his grandson. There is a certain beauty to how Anjali Menon’s script unravels the layers one by one on how this bond slowly grows.

At first Faizi thinks his grandfather is harsh and strict because that is the image his father had created in his mind . He is made to do all the hard work in the hotel, take loads etc. He then slowly learns the reason for the rift between his father and grandfather. He realizes the influence Kareemka has on the nearby 5 star hotel when he gets a job there. He learns his grandfather helps a lot of people, has a lot of loan to settle but still wouldn’t hike up the rates of food items in his hotel. During their conversation at seashore, Kareemka gives Faizi the hint he needs someone to carry over the work he had been doing. But you could see Faizi shuts down the idea. 

Then comes this scene which struck me the most. When Kareemka is hospitalized, Faizi tells Shahana-‘ Uppuppa ivide thanne nikkaan parayathirunna mathiyaayirunnu.. Emotional blackmailinu pattiya samayama’ . That was life-like. That meant that even after getting so close to his grandfather , it did not change him completely as a person. It would still need some more time and a journey to Madurai before Faizi finally completely gets to know about his grandfather. These are the sequences that are proof for why Anjali Menon is regarded among the finest writers we have today.

Despite all the controversies he was tangled in, we were glad that Thilakan gifted us one more hugely memorable character before he left us. You just cannot imagine any other actor in Kareemka’s place. National Jury honored this powerhouse of talent when he was bestowed posthumously with the Special Jury Award for his heartfelt portrayal of Kareemka. 

Anwar Rasheed once again showed that he can elevate a fabulous script to even greater heights with his execution. Particularly impressive is the manner in which he used shadows to depict the first meeting of Faizi with his grandfather at the time he was born. Dulquer Salman was lucky to have such a movie in only his second outing . He looked a complete natural. He was impressive most in the scene where he could use his eyes to convey his love for Shahana after he had helped her climb into her house.

Finally if there is one thing about the movie that you cannot keep apart, it is Gopi Sunder’s gorgeous music. In arguably his career best work, Gopi Sunder used such wide variety of tones throughout the movie and each bit gelled beautifully with what you saw on screen. Among the songs, ‘ Vaathilil Aa Vathilil’ would remain eternal.

There are movies that bowled you over on the first viewing but which would later lose its shine over the years. Then there are movies which you liked first but which still keeps growing on you as you watch it again and again. Ustad Hotel for me , belong to this second category. Talk about blending a good social message so perfectly with an immensely entertaining story, you won’t find much greater examples than Ustad Hotel this decade.

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