Friday, December 14, 2012

Theevram and the question of Judas

The evolution of Malayalam cinema is very amusing. In the last couple of years, the change has been very startling and sudden. I wouldn’t say that the change was unwelcome. It’s been more than welcome with the commercial wing of Malayalam cinema slumping to drudgery with the ‘single-hero’ concept. There was a brief threat of sleaze cinema making a come back. But the advent of internet broadband  coupled with cheaper and faster download ensured that the porn starved youth were treated to ‘healthy’ western porn.

Malayalam film makers tried its best to hold onto the old world concepts for a long time. But nothing can beat the market economics. Mallu audiences were being increasingly exposed to Hindi and Tamil cinemas. It didn’t take long for the palate to get adjusted to the grandoise visuals. The good old Malayalam cinema had no option but to change.

The main factor that catalysed the change is technicians who came back after doing a stint at the fertile grounds of Bollywood. They brought with them a whiff of fresh air and was in a good mood to rebel against the set patterns. Besides editing was not a costly affair. The change was so startling and sudden that quite a few big names got washed off the face of Malayalam cinema.

When we keep apart the technical side and examine how the neo-Malayalam film deal with the social landscape of Kerala, more interesting facts start to emerge. Most of the movies are shot in and around Kochi, specifically- Fort Kochi. They may have better studios, and the location towards the central Kerala is an advantage. Besides there are visible evidences of urban degradation, which is not that visible in other parts of Kerala. The new generation directors prefer to base their movies on the travails of a metro crowd. Our generation has moved on from the green & good rural stories to more mean & menacing city ones. An after effect is we have lost the capability to film the diverse social set up across the country. We have some of exemplary work being done in angles, lighting, editing etc. But is there a serious creative back up or thought process to it?

Let’s take a cross section from a few new age Malayalam films that have been hitting the markets. All the characters have some strong, striking resemblance with each other- right from the job profile, the age, the wardrobe, the slang, the aspirations. A young doctor will be one sure shot character. The reason being, you’ve got doctors like plague in the streets. He will in a designer pad, driving a swanky car around with a hottie in it. The other acceptable professions are real eststae agent, software engineer or hotelier. The films which proclaim more power to women put them as Barbie dolls in call centres, private secretaries who wear tight skirts or pants. They have to show up the waxed legs to proclaim modernism and screw the boss for promotions.

Last day I went out with my friend. We had some last minute change of plans and we hit the movie halls. The movie was ‘Theevram’, which can be translated in English as Intense. The film starred the young son of erstwhile superstar. The superstar has been doing some really forgettable films while the son is faring marginally better. I loved the way he did the first two films and had some great hopes for the third.   

In Theevram the SoS (son of superstar) has gone a step ahead and played a grey shade. I learnt that the director once played the role of a child artiste long ago. As often seen in Malayalam cinema these days, the first ten minutes were dedicated to saying thanks. I wonder of this is being done seriously, or just as an offering to spare the movie!

The best part about the movie was the colour tone. From the vivid multi colour the directors are more comfortable to use mono tones to enhance the mood of the movie. Even the senior directors had to shed the apprehension and adapt to the fashion of the day. Here, in Theevram, more of grey shades were used to portray bad times and the vivid tones to show the better times. I loved that but I wouldn’t say it’s original because I have seen the same and even  better work in ‘Memento’.

Years ago when the fast paced Tamil & Hindi music crept into the Malayalam space, the music directors lamented the inability to make a fast Malayalam number. Malayalam had few ‘hard’ words in its vocabulary. In that circumstance, the ‘Malayalam Rock’ is quite a surprise. Kerala is a fertile soil of Rock music. The better reason being or never ending quench to be Americanized.  The movie has some violent beats in the tracks when the hero is out there to get his revenge.

Apart from all the good part, what surprises me is the way in which the film makers treat a serious social issue with such a casual approach. The bad guy rapes and kills the good girl. The bad guy is released years later from the jail on compassionate grounds. The hero skilfully plans and executes revenge. He leaves parts of body to mock the police system.

I am not in for serial killers or rapists. But as a society we wil have to do some serious thought process into the way in which we treat our sexual offenders.  The way in which the police office mocks the judicial system for pardoning a supposedly reformed criminal is alarming. When he learns of the criminal gruesomely murdered by the hero, the policeofficer exclaims:
‘It’s only Judas who was killed’
So bumping off the bad guys are the solution for a better society!!

Even the world’s greatest directors graphically portrayed  death, destruction- Clockwork Orange, Decalogue. But there was a sprout of creativity behind the art of destruction.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The symbol of manhood

Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Wordpress- name it and you’ll find a big bunch of unhappy people. They are pissed off with the system, corruption, Shiv Sena, NaMo, SG, RG, Malala, etc etc. We have a awefully huge list of ‘ Things to get pissed off at’. On the other hand I have realized people no longer care about what I think. The finance Minister is not going to roll back because Mr Jon said so. So i have decided to sit back, relax and smile a bit. And I’m going to walk back in time to relearn the art of smiling.

Very recently a former foreign diplomat cum MP cum minister’s son gave out an interview to an Indian daily. He’s claimed to be one of the well known writer on international affairs on a well known international daily. As a parting shot, he gave a swipe at Indian men wearing moustache which is unusual as per international standards.

Down here in southern parts of India, moustache used to be the ‘symbol of manhood’. During  my boys’ school days we shared tips and tricks on how to ensure thick and lusty growth of moustache. Moustache was for boys, what tits were for girls.

My family had a rich tradition of thick moustaches. My dad, uncles etc were symbols of manliness (in terms of moustache). I admired their well kept and thick moustaches. Keeping up with the genes I had the first wisp of hairy growth among my peers. I was looked upon with awe and admiration. Someone suggested shaving can trigger a thicker growth. I went and asked Dad for a razor. I don’t know what prompted Dad to go beserk & i never asked again.

All the superstar actors in Malayalam wore their mundu and twirled their moustaches on seeing the villains. I dreamt of a day when I will chase away the bad guys after twirling the moustache and delivering a few fiery dialogues. Besides the Indian cricket stars too spotted moustaches. Even though they lagged at bottom of the table and never won anything outside the country, they did whip up enough passion on TV screen.

 The fall back of studying at a boys school was we never knew what girls thought on our symbol of manliness. We believed they would swoon over us the moment they see us. The belief was dashed to smithereens on reading a Sushmita Sen interview. She was the hot girl back then. Someone asked her on the link up with Nagarjuna. She laughed it off and replied ‘ I can’t kiss a man with moustache. It makes you tickle!!’ That was something i never thought of.

Soon the Saurav Ganguly era started in Indian cricket. His stylish footwork and majestic off drives were a beauty to watch. Unlike the seniors he whipped up passion on and off the pitch. He never wore the thick moustaches. He preferred the thin, soft one. Soon I became a fan of it. It gave you a look of adolescence. I decided not to shave my moustache so as to stunt the thick growth. Meanwhile I fell in love with Roberto Baggio’s thin one and tried it out. Then came Veeru Mandi from Kamal Hassan & i wore it for sometime. I was a source of amusement but I loved it.

Slowly the Hindi film industry brought out a new change in the way men looked. Hrithik Roshan swept off half the country off the feet and left the other half burning with envy. Soon men started waxing their chest , shaved off their facial hair, wore skin tight jeans & tank tops. They hit the gym and sculpted up the body.

South India was the last foothold for the moustache loving men. But it didn’t take long to give way to clean shaven men. New heroes appeared on screen without any moustache. We all tried to dub them as too effeminate and flash in the pan. But it couldn’t keep the box office coffers from ringing.

Meanwhile Mohd Azharuddin was unceremoniously thrown out of the team. Soon Ganguly took over. He decided to give the team a new spirit and passion to win. Apparently as part of an image makeover, everyone shaved off their moustache. Yea imagine, Kumble too. To make it worse india became a team to beat.

One fine morning i woke up and looked at the mirror. The college days were over. I was still single and no girl had fallen for my external symbol of manhood. I would be joining an MNC in a couple of weeks. Besides I felt it’s taking awful lot of time to groom the moustache. So complying with international standards I took a razor and shaved it off.
Soon I was flooded with love letters ( Well that is a figment of my imagination. Sigh)

Afternote: One day we noticed Dad running around with a funny expression. To our utter horror, he shaved off his moustache. Mom went hysterical. Me and Bro had a great kaugh. He realized it was a mistake and sat at home for a week, until it started coming back. But today he wears it thin more as a stubble!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Extinction of Samosa

So I go to the juice shop next door early morning. It has been a practice for years. The sweet mango shake and spicy samosa- an odd combination with morning collection of newspapers. But today there seemed to be no samosa. I waited for sometime to see if it is going to arrive.
In the end I asked him, ‘Where’s the samosa , chetta?’

“ We can’t no longer afford it’. The same old story of cooking gas cylinder. My heart sank. Ever since the Indian government found out that the mango man is eating too much of cooked food local delicacies are disappearing from the shelves. No one can any longer afford them, it seems.

Still, we get to see all those junk stuff wrapped in attractive colours adorning the shelves. Not so long ago, say 12-13 years ago, we never considered biscuits as a snack.  It was an insult to serve the guests with biscuits. But today you get so many varieties of biscuits that are so attractive and delicious. Call it development? I don’t know. 

Similarly we have been taught to believe that bottled soda water is safer than wayside lemon juice shop. Over the years, they have disappeared of the shelves. At the height of thirst you’re forced to drink the colored soda water at horrible prices. 

Just the other day i was reading on how our food habits have changed dramatically. A food culture started off, glorifying local cuisines and posh hotels. Movies are made based on food. Cookery shows top the chart in TV shows. The result is we have more and more fancy , crowded eat-outs. The cooking habit totally disappeared. A few years ago it indicated serious dysfunctionality when you went out for a family dinner.

I remember grumbling about not having tasted ‘hamburger’. Over the years I did taste many hamburger, noodles, hot-dogs. But given a choice I would prefer a simple home cooked meal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Institutionalization of finer elements of life

Institutionalization of finer elements of life

If the word ‘institutionalization’ is synonymous with a movie it’s ‘Shawshank Redemption’ . The pitiful Tim Burton plotting methods to escape the gradual death, sentenced by the society standing on a higher moral ground.

We have a family tradition of meeting up for lunch during festival seasons. This Onam we had our luncheon get together at our uncle’s. They invited in their parish Vicar to grace the occasion. He was young, smart and witty. After the sumptuous lunch he sat down with a deep sigh and out of nowhere started a religious discourse. To me this sounded as a fee for the free lunch. He started with every Vicar’s favourite topic. The moral degradation of youth, lack of piety in the family, lowering attendance in churches. 

My dad being a fervent anti church  guy seized the occasion and blamed the entire evil on the bishops. He pointed out at the bishops being invited to inaugurate rich man’s textile shops, boutiques, jewellery. Is it a bishop’s duty? The Vicar being the soldier of the church had to defend his bosses. The vicar came up with an interesting observation. The bishop after the inauguration asks the owner to donate some money for the charitable organisation. The big hearted owner willingly does so. At the end of the day the rich man is happy, bishop is happy and some unfortunate being is also happy. What other example is needed for the ideal Christian harmony: The peaceful redistribution of wealth. 

Even with a highly literate population, Kerala is well known for the number of demi gods it creates. At the blink of an eye, they amass huge wealth and at the same time ‘untouchable’ status in media and power circles. Ofcourse, the favourite topic to thrive on is love and ‘the same God theory’. One such ‘Godess’ is Amrithananda Mai. Her orgins were very ordinary. Predictable she had some vision, got a few spirituality-starved Americans around and the rest was history. The prime time ritual is hugging and kissing everyone around. Then came Engineering colleges, Medical colleges and Nursing colleges along with vast acreage of land in European countries

She went on preaching and hugging for world peace and love, while a bunch of poor nurses were forced to do bonded labour without pay at her hospitals. When this was questioned goons were sent in to tame the rogue nurses. A few broken bones & a little prime time bad publicity  were the inevitable bitter wine. Soon she filled the hoarding. Apparently the country was getting ready to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of love incarnate. Everything seemed to be forgiven mutually and she was back to loving and hugging ritual.

The very institutions that are supposed to protect and preserve the precious traits of life like love, justice is getting itself busy in manipulating and exploiting them. Is it some form of religious corruption?
Right from 
our childhood we have been taught and programmed to believe that ‘A’, ‘B’ , ‘C’ are good qualities of life and life enhancing. While the ones like ‘D’, ‘E’ ,’F’ are abominable. Whoever exhibits d,e or f ought to be punished or castrated from daily walk of life. The real problem is we fail to see that the so called good qualities are defined so as to sustain the institutions. Hence the traits that ought to sustain human life simply becomes traits that sustains the privileged few.

I am not trying to single out any individual. But its a collection of individuals themselves who set up an institution and manipulate mindset of masses. And institutions are devoid of any race, religion or colour. So here are a few so called ‘good’ qualities that are subjected to subtle manipulation.

You are taught to ‘work hard’ for your success. So you slog your ass off believing that some day you will be able to earn just enough to overcome the hardships of life and save some money left over from the legal looting. As you are so meek and peace loving, you can never question the gross injustice you suffer. Besides you are taught that the almighty would take it upon himself to punish the wicked and justice is none of your business,  The good news is since corruption is being renamed as charity and donation, it will soon climb into good qualities of life category. The only corrupt left in the country would be auto-wallahs who charge you more.

So here’s a handful of institutions monopolising people’s ability to choose between right and wrong. Justice is served only to a few and in the way they choose. Even when a few swindle money, kill, loot and rape, they are untouchable as they stand on the other side of line. 

But i have hope on the swarming millions who stand on the wrong side. I hope they will stand up to question.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The shop next door

So government comes up with reforms atlast, which probably might be a face saver. The usually silent PM comes up with war cries like : ‘Strengthen my hands’, ’We will go down fighting’. Judging from the reaction, the ‘middle class’ is not much enthused this time.  At the end of the day, what good would the reforms do if it burns up your wallet. Anyway the Time magazine did a somersault and sang praises for our PM in the last edition. India Inc has also expressed their gratitude and may tip MMS as ideal Indian premier ahead of Modi.

The category called people were once upon a  time had the opinions shaped by India Inc, money market, GDP graphs and shit news from the media. But after many scams, allegations and movements like IAC,  people are not buying the growth story anymore. In the meantime PM has been playing bluff after bluff with his sage like silence, well timed emotional outbursts & scholarly use of language. 

When the reforms were announced, which rather wasn’t unexpected, the FB and Twitter crowds descended in hordes. The Voice of the Social Networks is another colossal change in Indian landscape. We have a wide and cheap means to exhibit our nonsense. The ‘revolution’ and ‘rebellion’ became a hip word. MMS and Sonia Gandhi became a darling for the sarcastic tweeples. And now the crowd started hunting for the poster boy for their movement. 

Years ago we had two kinds of villain typecasted for our TV sops and serials. One was the local money lender & other was the local shop owner. The shop owner wore a cap, glasses on the nose tip, had teeth sticking out of the mouth, he cheated with weights, cheated with the quality, he refused the widows credit and occasionally took advantage of the honour of poor village girls. 

One fine morning the huge, air conditioned and spacious shops come up with neatly dressed well mannered kids. The kinara shop owner runs out of business. Then as if from heaven above the Twitter activists find their martyr specimen in him.

We had a stationary shop in our street owned by one of our neighbours. The guy was rich, rode a sazzy bike and had a beautiful daughter. Although we smiled politely at him, we murmured about the insane profits he’s been making. The shop was run by a morose guy. Every evening office goers would pick up the day’s necessities. 

Then slowly he had to change. The shop was given a facelift, where people could actually walk in & pick goods. The morose boy had to laboriously paste a smile. Still he finds it tough to hold out, considering the discount the big players give.

In an age where the goods are measured based on the utility and services, is it worthwhile to wail about a system that has self extinguished itself. A few years ago, the vegetable vendor picked out the vegetables for us. He would try to slip in a few rotten ones. An argument would follow culminating in the mutually agreed at a price. 

Haven’t things changed? Why would people prefer to burn up money just for the sake of sentiments? What we need is a real set of thought process that goes before making a statement.

About Me

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Shakespeare,Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln never saw a movie,heard a radio or looked at TV. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. Thay were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.