Monday, January 28, 2008

National Holiday

On 26th Jan morning, when I went early morning to the milk booth,I heard two gentleman talking and one of them was telling "arrey yaar, agar yeh republic day , monday hota to teen din ka continous chutti mil jaata". This made me think that all the important festivals have nowdays deteriorated into mere holidays. Just what is the significance of national holidays (Independence day, Republic day, Gandhi Jayanti etc.) in the present context?
When I was in school, I believe we 'celebrated' these with more gusto. I'm not talking about the forced celebrations in school :) . At home, I used to get up early on Republic Day as we had to see the parade on TV, the lovely 'Jhankiyan' (floats) and the awesome fighter jets . As I was staying in Airforce quarters, I would rush outside on hearing the thunderous sound of the aircrafts and rush back in to house to watch them do the fly past in the parade. Independence day though was more subdued as there was no celebration or fun as far as we were considered. However there used to be celebrations in our locality. On Gandhi Jayanti I remember that Doordarshan used to show Richard Attenborrough's film 'Gandhi'.
In todays date these National days are just an holiday for most of the people. I believe that most of the people flip TV channels past the Republic Day parade which was earlier such an important part of the whole 26 January experience. Today I am no longer interested to see the parade, and neither bothered to check who received param vir chakra, padmashree or the bravery award. Instead more interested to watch the cricket match in Adelaide (the game of the country from whom we got Independence), a hollywood blockbuster, a tennis match etc. As a kid, when I watched the president give away the param vir chakra and the children who received the bravery award sitting on elephants and walking along Rajpath, I used to get very emotional. I used to get moved a lot when they described the supreme sacrifices our soldiers made for us. But now I just feel flipping the channels.
Gandhi Jayanti has also deteriorated and nowdays most of the people are more worried about the fact that it is a dry day rather than any other reason on that particular day .
Independence day, I hardly see any celebrations in any colonies nearby. I see some street hawkers selling indian flags (made of plastic sheets) at the traffic signals. Newspapers carry less matter about the relevance of these national days and most of them have more advertisements like 'Sale/Discount on @#@#@", Buy one get one free, etc.
This is not a judgement call, just an observation, but it seems that we're celebrating Christmas and New Years way way more than these National days which are so much more significant in a country with a history like ours. We are more busy on these national days discussing about Harbhajan singh controversy, Share market, TV soaps, Latest Hollywood/Bollywood releases, Rakhi Sawant....etc rather than remembering about the significance of this day. We should remember how powerful and idealistic leaders we had during those times.....And then I look at our present President... :(

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Shortbus - Let me warn you beforehand that this movie has a lots of sex, you'll see full-frontal nudity, male and female, and a variety of sex scenes. The first 15 minutes may take you directly to a different world. The movie is erotic but it is not a pornographic, at some point you can relate to the characters. "Shortbus" is a funny, painfully honest look at the sexual lives and relationships of a group of New Yorkers, gay and straight, who meet in the infamous underground club which is named Shortbus. They all come together in post 9-11 New York, and all have problems in connecting with each other sexually. There's a married sex therapist who's never had an orgasm. There's a gay man who is suicidal despite being in a loving relationship with his room-mate And there's a dominatrix (woman who charges money to engage in fantasy play ) who can’t connect emotionally. This is Director John Cameron Mitchell's second masterpiece after his successful 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'. I liked the movie to some extent because this was a totally new way of story telling, the movie creates a stage to debate over a lot of sexual related problems.
Let me quote the Director John Cameron Mitchell's words - "The explicit sex in Shortbus will be seen as a provocation. But I am trying to present the sex in a sympathetic, un-erotic way, as a metaphor for modern-day America. Fear of sex is at the root of many problems that aren't directly connected to sex. Countries that fear sex have more violence, and such repression leads to all sorts of problems."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Ekantham (Solitude) is Madhu Kaithapram's maiden venture.Ekantham has two brilliant actors - Thilakan and Murali as the lead actors. The story has nothing new, the cast is not crowded, no cluttered scenes, no flashbacks, no technical gimmicks, no 'item' song :) . It is basically simple recollections in conversation depicting sensitive portrayal of the loneliness felt in old age.
Ekantham is the story of two brothers. The elder brother Achutha Menon (Thilakan) is a successful person, and had put in years of service in Delhi and even abroad. The younger brother Ravunni Menon (Murali) stays at his ancestral home in a Kerala village, looking after the farm and enjoying the simple village life. Because of some misunderstandings between their wives, both brothers haven’t been keeping in touch for several years.
The movie begins showing Achutha Menon performing the after-death ritual's of his wife. Achutha Menon is now very lonely and old, he does not have any children. He plans to spend the remaining days of his life at his ancestral house with his younger brother Ravunni Menon. Achutha Menon travels back to kerala to meet his younger brother Ravunni Menon. Ravunni Menon is also leading a lonely life as his wife passed away a few years back and his son and daugher are settled in distant town. Ravunni has deep affection and respect for his elder brother and he is happy after the arrival of Achutha Menon. Ravunni is ailing from a serious ailment.
When the brothers come together, they cherish the memories of old times and are happy being together. Both of them move along the village, meet their old friends, visit temple, have bath in temple pond and all these scenes are captured excellently. Upto this point I felt that the movie was going to be one of the rare movies that depicts old age, loneliness , nostalgia etc in a sensitive and matured way but from this point the Director and his team disappointed me.. The story takes a new twist and the movie becomes a big letdown. The story then shows Ravunni's health getting worse, and Achutha Menon takes him to a holistic treatment center. The movie then brings more characters of the Hospital, salim kumar as a ailing patient, Meera Vasudev and Manoj K Jayan as Doctors and the story shift to the love story between these doctors. The main story between the brothers gets sidelined and the movie progrsses towards a predictable climax.
Thilakan and Murali were brilliant as usual. Madhu Kaithapram should have concentrated more on the nostalgic and the friendship part between the two brothers. Johnson's background is good. MJ Radhakrishnan's cinematography captures the typical kerala village brilliantly. One of the highlight of this movie is the soulful song "kayyethum doore oru kuttikkalam" rendered by Yesudas.
Ekantham could have been a better film, as the Director has two of the best actors and he had an excellent technical team. Madhu Kaithapram as a Director shows a lot of promise and is a someone to watch out for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ten Canoes

I was going thru the list of movies at the video library shop. I saw a DVD which had a very striking cover design, the name of the movie was 'Ten Canoes' and had a tagline 'One hundred and fifty spears, ten canoes, three wives... trouble'. I had never heard about this movie and the shop owner said that nobody has ever taken this DVD. Watched it and truly it was one of a kind viewing experience. The film begins showing an aerial shot with the camera just sweeping over the scenic beauty of the primeval wetland with David Gulpilil’s voice in the background narrating“Once upon a time in a land far, far away. No, it’s not like that. It’s not like your story, but it’s a good story all the same. It’s a good story, this story I’m gonna be telling you about the ancient ones. There’s more wrong love in this story, and plenty spears too, and plenty wives. Ahh, you gotta see this story of mine cause it’ll make you laugh… Might cry a bit too eh? But then you laugh some more cause this story is a big true story of my people.
If you are interested in Anthropology this movie will at the top of your list. This is an Australian movie made by Director Rolf de Heer. The film is based in large part on the work of Donald Thomson and won a special jury prize at Cannes and is Australia’s entry for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the Academy Awards this year.
Ten Canoes is a film about the Aborginal tribe people and culture which is at the brink of extinction, fighting back and trying to recapture and preserve a small part of who they were and still are... This tribe is from the Northern part of Australia. The Aboriginal perspective of Ten Canoes gives the film a fresh quality while dealing with universal themes about human nature, and the relationship of men and women. The director and the technical crew should be complimented because they used the excellent technical knowlege and for acting part they used people who have next to no experience with the medium of film.
The Director has used a tricky way of narrating the story in this film - simple act of telling old story involving a complex structure with three levels of narrative. It is a story within a story. The story of the ancients told to a young man. A story of how to live, how to behave. a story to teach ... to learn about a nearly forgotten culture ... to continue to understand the link to the land. The film also has a cool website here. Ten Canoes contains nudity, violence and sexual humor but the movie is amazing and must watch for its art of storytelling, excellent cinematography and bringing an ancient tribe to life.

Ore Kadal

Adapting a literary work to screen is always a challenge and Shyamaprasad is the Director who I feel is getting better with each movie. His version of Lalithambika Antharjanam's "Agnisakshi" and his "Akale" based on Tennessee William's "Glass Menagerie" was okay but I feel that his latest film Ore kadal (The same ocean) is better than his previous two creations. Ore Kadal is based on the Bengali Novel 'Hirak Deepthi' by Sunil Gangopadhyay. The story is an adult love story and looks very unconventional....but unlike the stereotyped lovers the protagonists here are realistic, vulnerable and we can feel their dilemma and pain.
The story revolves around four characters. Deepthi (Meera Jasmine) housewife with an unemployed husband Jayan (Narain) and a young son. Dr. Nathan (Mammootty) is a social scientist of repute. He is also a loner and a alcoholic. He lives in the same apartment complex as Jayan and Deepthi. Dr Nathan does not believe in emotional attachement and for him women are just objects to quench the sexual desires which he can’t resist. Bela (Ramya Krishnan), a call-girl turned restaurant owner is one of his bedmates whom he don’t love but depends emotionally!The movie starts showing Deepthi talking to her husband over phone from a public telephone, and telling him that son is very sick and need to be taken to hospital and she does not have money. Dr Nathan happens to listen to her making the call and he helps her take the child to hospital and gives Rs 500/- for his treatment. Later Nathan tells Bela that he did not help Deepthi out of sympathy or attraction but because the plight of this middle class nuclear family made an interesting case study -- and he would write about this in his new book that he is writing.When Jayan returns he thanks Nathan and asks his wife Deepthi to go and ask some more money from Dr Nathan to pay the flat rent. Nathan helps her and from then on an illicit relationship starts between Nathan and Deepthi which leads to sexual relationship between them. Deepthi gets pregnant with Nathan's child but Nathan does not believe in love, family and commitments and is very indifferent to Deepthi's getting pregnant. Deepthi gives birth to a girl child and the sense of guilt and her unrequited love for Dr. Nathan continue to haunt her and she ends up as a schizophernic. Jayan admits her to a mental asylum and after a couple of years Deepthi returns to her old self only to be disturbed again by Dr. Nathan, who is on his way to self destruction pondering over the unjust treatment meted out by him on Deepthi.
I have not read the original novel so I will not be able to comment how good the screen adaptation is. Though the characters are strong I felt that there is no substantial reason why Deepthi wants to get into sexual relationship with Nathan, He just helped her twice and then she gets drawn to him. Shyamaprasad seemed to be in a hurry to bring deepthi close to Nathan. I personally feel that he should have given more time in that area, and should have woven it out more beautifully.Even Jayan's character is very weak. I remember that there was a excellent movie made by Late Basu Bhattacharya, 'Astha' starring Rekha and Ompuri which showed Rekha a mother of two children getting adultery and infidelty outside her married life. In that movie Rekha's character had strong reasons behind her taking this step and the audience can feel that.
Mamooty excels in the role of Nathan and he was perfect. Meera Jasmine I felt was not fit for this role though she got many award for portraying this character. The best character I felt was Ramyakrishnan as Bela, (some scenes between Bela and Nathan made me remember the interaction between Meryl Streep and Ed Harris in 'The Hours'). The character Bela is the ego of Nathan and weaknesses of Nathan’s character and tries to let Nathan observe it. Ramyakrishnan has done perfect justice to the role. Narain's role was one dimensional and it was okay.
Azhagappan's camerawork is good esp because most of the shots are inside the flat and the lighting and the angles should be with the theme of the movie. For example some of the scenes are shot in such an angle that we can make out that the scene is taking place inside the flat of a apartment complex. Special mention I would like to make about the costume designer Cuckoo Parameshwaran. Ousepachan's music is outstanding.
Shyamprasad has done a good job technically but there was something lacking in this movie which made the movie just short of becoming a masterpiece. There is not enough substance or clarity given to the characters and also there were few continuity issues. But Shyam had succeded in making the characters in flesh and the usage of Background music , silence to bring the emotional turmoil deserves a special acknowledgement. This is his best work till date. The movie could have easily became a soft porn movie with vulgarity and lots of melodrama but it is Shyam's direction that has given the story a class and dignified look. It is not a masala entertainer but once you watch this movie some scenes like sheets of papers flying on the street from the balcony of a flat, an electric pole near the streets with lots of power lines crossing to different directions, meera jasmine's smile after biting mamooty's chest,.......all these shots will haunt you after you finish this movie.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year

As I wish everybody 'Happy New Year', I think - the 1st of Jan is just another day like any other. Why can't every day be treated as a Happy New Day? I mean, good things happen to all of us everyday, maybe more for some and less for others but they do happen The sun rises like any other day and sets as usual. But yet, we celebrate it because it is the first day of something new. Everything seems new, whereas, it really isn't. But if you think of it, every day is new and each moment is new.
I get this feeling every morning when my little daughter wakes up. She opens her eyes, looks around and smiles as if she is seeing everybody and everything for the first time. In the soft sunlight of the morning, her bright eyes look brighter as she greets everybody with the same enthusiasm. She bounces, and dances, and looks around every room with delight and smiles happily when she encounters her favourite things. It is as if she re-discovers everybody and everything each day and finds happiness in it. And that fills me with cheer and I find myself looking around and saying, "Yes, Life IS Beautiful."
So this year, along with joy and peace, I wish for all of you the ability to find happiness in every new moment, appreciate little things, and live life to the full.

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