Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pushpa Pandey of Pavit Pradesh would have termed it “haarmones.”* Well, it could well be the misequations and uncalibration among the supposedly defining factors called hormones that trigger off the inescapable swings between despondency and gay abandon in single women, who are on the other side of 30. On deeper speculation, is this a universal phenomenon like, er . . ., being menopausal?

On the surface Bridget Jones has everything going for her. A job (though with a pain-in-the-neck boss), a room of her own (which suffers an uncalled for bungling up), friends (as impervious to reason as herself) and parents (with their own set of problems). The only thing she lacks is a steady boyfriend, a relationship which would ultimately end in wedlock (but definitely not a Smug Married like her friend Magda).

In the two-book series Helen Fielding very effectively brings out the throes of a Single-in-the-City, who is buffeted by relationship issues. Even when she eventually hooks up with Mark Darcy, she is still not at ease, as now she has to deal with “commitment phobia” and, constant fears that a slimmer, prettier and longer Rebecca is out to steal Mark. When she has no men around she is depressed and ends up counting the minutes since she has had physical gratification !! It can’t be that bad, can it now?

Ironically, most of her problems are authored by Bridget herself. She is always late for work, which will blow the lid off of any boss. She is an utter failure in terms of diet regimens, as she is incapable of giving up alcohol, cigarettes and binge eating. So more than anything, what Bridget suffers from is want-to-keep-the-cake-and-eat-it-too syndrome!!

Bridget is a character at the beginning of the millennium. 11 years down the lane, things may or may not have changed in Britain and elsewhere. However, the pros and cons of singlehood remains a much-debated issue. Obviously women of today are more empowered and all that, but yeah, most of them still seem to hold matrimony as sacrosanct and as the ultimate end in life (pun unintended!). Self was shocked to read in newspaper about career-women giving up jobs and embracing motherhood with gusto. The recent Johnson Baby ad too seems to pitch "daily bonus” (motherhood) against “monthly salary.” To quote Bridget, Gaaaaaaaaah!!!!

Fine! Let it be; to each her own. But please don’t hegemonize it, and treat singles (read women) as weirdos and problematic! So what if a woman is not a wife and a mother? What happens then? The very fact that a there is no proper, polite, uninnuendoed term to refer to single women itself is proof that it is all a conspiracy. Coming to think of it, do “bachelors” have such issues? Because, in fiction as well as in factual life, men seem to have it easy; do they too keep tabs on age, biological clock, and blah? Whatever.

Virginia Woolf once famously said that all a woman needs is a steady income and a room of her own, to be independent and free to what she wants. It continues to be true even today, more than ever. Perhaps, a steady, respectable job, and a place to call one’s own, are stuff that really matter.

Not all women have hormone-driven men-obsession and sexless frustration, do they? There are so many things to do in life, so many places to see, so many books to read. So matrimony and motherhood can’t be the only and ultimate sources of bliss under the sun. Now, if this ever happens to be read as an outpouring of a stubborn, unnecessarily unconventional mind, so be it, bothered ha !!!!!!

* Courtesy: Battle for Bittora -- Anuja Chauhan

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Traffic of Life

Cocktail probably set the road straight for the so-called new-age movies that employ themes and characters that blur the distinction between the reel and the real -- extremely happenable situations and believable characters. The trend has caught on so fast that soon the screen could be synonymised with a window into another life, just like the neighbour's next door.
Traffic covers 12 hours of a day -- a normal day for most, life-shaking for some others. And in the span of 12 hours there is a host of emotions and attitudes which most can relate to. Through the warp and woof of death and life, the movie hands out very subtle messages on complicated aspects of life such as love, lust, responsibility, priorities to mundane concerns like the importance of wearing helmets. It is also an expose of the glitter-less and unglamorous side of being a superstar -- a well-known fact rendered beautifully through one punchy dialogue. What the movie does is to underscore the "accidental" encounters that a life is all about, and absurdly simplifies the fact that life moves on no matter what or who or when.
And, next time there is huge traffic block, one might pause to think if it's an interim between life and death. In a nutshell, lessons Traffic teaches:
* both passengers on a two-wheeler must wear helmets
* unconditional loyal love is so totally out; lust rules
* sometimes it's good to take a risk -- "if you say no, nothing will happen, this day will pass as a usual day, but if you say yes, it could be history, an inspiration for many others to say 'yes'." -- a different view in the time of "learn to say 'no'" trend !
* life is all about perspectives -- one mother has to lose for another one's gain; in the end man is selfish.
* film magazines are just a bunch of beautified lies.
* perhaps, there is more to fans' associations than mere hooting and howling.
* finally, it's a story, a figment of imagination, but something one would want to believe in, because, such stories emphasize that life is not all that bad.

PS:- It's indeed a sad plight to see carcasses of unthinking dogs, cats and even crows dotting the highways. Are they victims of reckless driving or is it the reckless fate?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Genius named Agatha Christie

What Longinus said eons ago is after all true. Often 'tis much later that the true realization about a story strikes home. Though one has been badgered by theory, a really analytical, perspicacious understanding of a book has happened only now.
Agatha Christie always meant a truly gripping story which can't be put down till one reaches the final full stop. many a time one has wondered open-mouthed at the sheer brilliance with which the dame arranges the plot, the crime, the way Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot reaches the conclusions. recent reading of two her her murder mysteries -- The Murder on the Orient Express and The ABC Murders -- opened one's eyes to the subtle social criticism enmeshed in an intriguing plot. this particular social critique pertains to a certain sense of xenophobia that the English harbour. This is particularly felt in The Murder on the Orient Express where the train presents a host of people of different nationalities. The English characters seem to be apprehensive about the Americans and vice versa, almost bordering on mutual dislike. also, there is a mild satire on strong beliefs in stereotypes -- as in when Poirot's friend is quite certain that it is the Italian passenger who committed the muder 'coz only Italians stab ! However, as is usual with Christie, the story takes a rather unpredictable turn, which only Poirot could have guessed !
This xenophobia is more manifest in The ABC Murders, wherein the killer openly states his dislike for the Belgian Poirot. However, the plot is more gruesome given the fact that the crime was prompted by personal grudge. Again, true to her style, Christie works up a series of murders, alibis and an almost graphical representation of how Poirot thinks up his unmatchably brilliant conclusions.
Self also happened upon two non-crime fiction by Christie -- The Harlequin Tea set and Other Stories & The Rose and the Yew Tree. the former is an excellent collection of short stories with the characteristic unpredictability and as unputdownable as the crime mysteries, and proves that 'tis not crime alone that can thrill the reader. If the short stories were supremely interesting, the latter one is a romance which is not all that great an entertainment. Self picked up the book sans perusing the blurb and thought 'tis gonna be another thriller. At every turn of page self kept thinking somebody will get murdered now, but was sorely disappointed to know that the story is all about a wounded soldier who falls in and out of love, and always finds himself in company of either too fussy or too calm women. There is a death of course, but there is no wild guesses to be made, in other words, no unpredictability: the lady merely puts herself in front of bullets to save her lover. No wonder Christie wrote it as Mary Westmacott; most people won't expect that story from the name Agatha Christie. Now, that is one stereotype nobody would want to break !
Well, such analysis of Christie's cultural perception might be stale; self understood it only now though. So time for yet another mystery . . . here self goes . . . .

** coming up next -- two books that assure one that being single is not such a bad idea :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Self-appraisal for self-assurance

In life, there will be many occasions when one is faced with the prospect of crossroads and then one wonders as to which direction to choose. Because the direction touted by practicality, common sense, will not be the one the heart wants. That is when one most needs a strong punch of reassurance. Choices, decisions are never easy to make; because every choice/decision will have some consequences which could be both beneficial or otherwise. But when the choice/decision is finally made, one need to stick to it and never try to apportion blame to others.
I took a decision, on what some might have called a turning point in life, and chose to listen to my heart. 9 out of 10 people would judge my decision as the worst, especially given the circumstances. It could lead to disastrous results, but there is an equal chance that it could turn out well for me, don't know . . . . So, the fact remains that i chose and i firmly stand by it. If anything goes wrong, i'm solely to blame, and no one else, and i'm extremely sorry for having caused even the smallest bit of pain to those close to me.
I want certain things in my life, but there are no neon signs to indicate whether those things will be good or not. But i'm certain it is not atyagraham or ahangaram. Still, the uncontrollable mind desires and imagines as if constant mental visualizations would make things real.
As the saying goes in Hindi ... sabr ka fal meetha hota hai and i wait and i wait. . . . and there is strange sort of calmness in me
After all, there is One up above Who is witness to all this, and Who definitely knows how things will turn . . . . So dekhte hain kya hota hai . . . .

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The ever lovable, paavam Pranchiyettan :)

All Cherammel Eenasu Francis a.k.a Pranchiyettan a.k.a Aripranchi wants in his life is a good name and a certain sense of reputation in the society, and to this end, he is willing to drain his coffers to any extent. He strongly believes (almost in a sense of rural innocence), that money can buy anything, from commodities to even national recognition. In his relentless effort to gain this recognition he is staunchly supported by a bunch of friends, and the money he has minted from his supremely successful business ventures.
Ranjith has scripted a beautiful and touching story about a millionaire, who laments that despite being so rich, he doesn't have a significant and dignifying social presence, and hates being tagged "aripranchi" -- a name that stuck because of his ancestral rice business. Pranchiyettan is lucky, and has struck gold wherever he has ventured, and has been branching out his business. He unveils his life story before his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who eventually tells him, whatever has happened in his life, has been for good, and offers a glimpse of what is in store for him in the future.
The movie is an out-and-out entertainer, and a subtle but humorous critique of contemporary society and its crooked ways. The casting is perfect, though the movie is made to be a one-man show. Mamootty occupies so much of screen space that the supporting cast, including, Siddique, Innocent, Khusboo and Priyamani, seem as guest appearances. However, Mammooty has excelled in his role as a poor rich man, and his innocent expressions are reminiscent of his wonderful performance in Loudspeaker; one can't help but feel sorry for Pranchiyettan and his simple yet complicated wishes :) Even with minimal settings and songs, the movie reaches the heart, and it deserves to be mentioned as one of the best movies of the period. (The script-- almost wholly in the famous Thrissur accent-- is noted for the absence of gendered innuendos that are found in most of Ranjith's creations).
Movies that portray this kind of inanity, faith, optimism and hope are indeed rare these days, and when such a one comes along, there will be a lot of people to welcome it wholeheartedly (the theatre atmosphere was full, vibrant, with intermittent loud applause).
As the credits roll up, along with Pranchiyettan the audience also realize that hope and faith ( in God and humans) can do wonders, and what matters is not social recognition but kindness and consideration for one's fellow beings. And, that every single person who is there in one's life, is there for a purpose; their significance -- good or bad -- may be realized only later.
A "Ranjith cinema" rarely disappoints and Pranchiyettan truly rocks !!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Tryst with North Kerala

A sketch on the wall of a vegetarian restaurant (one of the very very few in the area), proudly proclaims that Thalassery is the "town of three 'C's -- Cricket, Circus and Cakes." The taxi driver who took us around also seemed to be very proud of the posh cricket ground, inaugurated by Sourav Ganguly. But of circus and cakes, we didn't see or taste much (buddy definitely got to taste the famed Thalassery Biriyani, which she was eagerly looking forward to !). But the vegetarian fare was a bit difficult to stomach. Mom was way too glad to have south Kerala sambhar !!!
Apart from food, everything was simply superb in this town with oodles of old world charm, not to be felt anywhere in this part of the state, except perhaps in the narrow gullies at Mattanchery. Thalassery is so green one wonders why people are complaining about diminishing forest covers ! But buddy promptly told me this rare patches of green is not enough to save the poor environment. It is probably this green that cools the atmosphere of this town with its narrow, moss-walled idavazhikal. Everywhere one turns there are level crossing gates, thick bushes and intermittent views of water bodies with vast patches of marine vegetation like mangroves. The Dharmadom Bridge offers an awesome and perhaps the lengthiest view of the azimuth, where the lake meets the sea. The Muzhuppilangad Beach -- apparently the only drive-in beach in the state -- is truly a heaven-on-earth. The road leads into the beach, to the pleasantly cool and peacefully calm waves. The beach also boasts of a wonderful array of really beautiful, and mostly unbroken shells ! the once-inhabited island in the middle of the ocean is an incredibly beautiful sight, and we almost reached the conjecture the famous island song from Kaho na Pyar Hain was shot there !
The historical Tippu's Fort too has its own charm, with a pan-view of the sea, which is broken at intervals by churches and other buildings around. The remnants of a cannon-carrier,a dysfunctional light house and sentry posts in desuetude -- all enhance the ancientness and historicity of the place. The erstwhile escape-route caves that lead to Kannur and Kozhikode are truly intimidating with its rather narrow path and dark interiors.
Perhaps what makes this town so cozy are its people, known for their hospitality and friendliness. The taxi driver took particular care in showing us around and seemed sad that we weren't staying long to see more. The Thiruvangad Srirama Temple is austere in its grandeur which is enhanced by the vast ground that surrounds the temple complex. Dad had an interesting story about the Siva Temple. Years ago, there was a farmland, right opposite the Siva Temple on the north side, which never used to give a good harvest. Later on people found out that the farm was bang on the path of Lord Siva's Third Eye, so naturally the farm was to suffer. To tone down the grave effects of the lord's Eye, a second Temple was built on the south side, and things became alright ever since. The Temple pond is really big and the facade of the main Srirama Temple is kept intact; it is built with vettukallu ( a rather grainy version of the normal chudukal) and might be a lot of years old. The Jagannadh Temple too has a huge compound, with an approach way like that of an airport !
But for Govt. Brennan College and its English Department, all this visual pleasure would not have been possible. The famed Thalassery hospitality was quite evident in the staff and students of the institution who took special care to make their guests comfortable. The College itself is an interesting site, situated in the middle of a lot of mini forests with huge trees and winding paths and broken stone steps !
Altogether it was an enjoyable and unforgettable trip both mentally, physically and academically, and a much deserved break for my mom, from the routine travails of a banker.
As the many papers at the seminar asked -- where are we headed to next?

God's Own Landlords

A scenic backwater village, farmers, a corrupt, land-crazy Panchayat President and his equally corrupt family, a duty-conscious Secretary -- form the crux of Pramani. B. Unnikrishnan rather successfully converges global geopolitics to a small farming village in God's Own Country. The aptly named hero -- Viswanathan Panicker a.k.a America/George Bush, (nicknamed so for his propensity to interfere in every single issue in his Panchayat, and reap benefits from it), is an out-and-out corrupt local head, who grabs his citizens' land in return for solving their issues. Hence, Viswanathan is a literal 'pramani', because he holds lots of 'pramanams' (land deeds).
The two neighbouring panchayats of Chittetukara and Tahzhekeezhpadam are at loggerheads, with the latter headed by Viswanathan refusing to co-operate with the former under the headship of Castro Vareeth (a staunch communist that he is; played effectively by Janardhanan). The nick names of the heads and the geopolitical disagreements between their localities rather clearly drives home the parallels in the global scene. Also, there is mock Mao (Suarj Venjaramood who got the tag, not because of his revolutionary idealism, but due to his job of making arimavu); his gimmicks of guerilla warfare to kill Viswanathan make up the comic part of the movie.
The movie addresses issues that have been dealt with in many others, but the treatment is slightly novel in that the hero is a corrupt local head who has no qualms in cheating his citizens, even when it comes to selling their farmland to big IT company that comes with the usual promises of jobs and development, with the boss voicing the opinion that farming is no longer profitable. The issue of depleting farmland finds mention in Anthikad's Bhagyadevata also. When Benny (Jayaram) attempts to convert his paddy field to plant coconuts, the local partywallahs make a hue and cry about the loss of farming lands due to bourgeois practices. B. Unnikrishnan tries to make a strong statement against proliferating cyberparks through Viswanathan's conscience prick, and his transformation that entails. After all, no one can eat computers and optical fibre cables, can they?
Though the female characters -- Sneha (Panchayat Secretary Janaki), Lakshmi (Rosy Teacher) -- are rather subdued, they in fact function as catalysts for Viswanathan's volte face -- a transition further enhanced by the social commitment of Bobby, the teacher's grandson. In spite of tricks and traps laid by his estranged cousin, Somasekharan (Siddique), Viswanathan emerges triumphant, holding aloft the values and ideals of his mentor Varkey ( Prabhu), the late son of Rosy Teacher.
Pramani thus can be classified as a social entertainer. Though the issues raised herein are not new, and the movie does not provide any path-breaking solutions, it serves in highlighting the current social scenario in the state and thereby serves in reminding the audience the fact that outside the theatre, life is not all rosy, that there are serious resentments seething under the garb of normalcy that the state donns. How many such movies would bring the required change, only time will tell. But till then, movies continue to be entertainers and a significant source of consciousness raising.