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.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ividam Swargamano???

Literature, cinema et al are often regarded as a mirror to society, as a forum where issues and trends are depicted, in a supposedly imaginary set up, so that it rightly becomes infotainment. However, not all movie makers embed social issues in their stories, but the few who do so, do it rather effectively -- Sathyan Anthikad being one among them, now joined by Rosshan Andrews with his Ividam Swargamanu.
If in his debut venture Notebook, Andrews dealt with confused teenage, ambitions and relationships, Udayananu Tharam was a meta-cinema that gave a glimpse into the machinery called cinema, the people who work it,their egos and struggles, failures and successes. In Ividam Swargamanu, he addresses a cause that is at once very serious but widely prevalent in God's own country. He makes a strong statement against the rampant trend of converting arable lands to make way for high rises. The movie also seeks to emphasize the fact that crass consumerism that is slowly seeping into the countryside has led to drastic erosions not only in the relationship between man and man, but also between man and land.
Set in the sylvan Kodanadu, Mathews's farm is unanimously declared a "Swargam" by the villagers, the parish priest and the media crew of a news channel who come to do a feature on a poetess'teaching career, (Mathews happens to be the said teacher's student, who was once scolded by the same teacher because he wanted to be a farmer). Apparently he took up farming to save his father from debts and to recover land area that the finance company took away. Things go pretty smooth till a land grabber, Aluva Chandy sets his eyes on this heavenly piece of land, for someone to build a private resort at the riverside. What follows next is the epic battle between a common man and the entire government system, a battle that exposes a whole different sub-system driven by greed and a vast network of government servants willing to do anything at the mention of "Gandhi" (though not in a strictly patriotic sense, but used as a synonym for corruption loot), in which the former triumphs rather emphatically.
Mathews could reach his fight to a successful conclusion only because he had the resources and right kind of contacts to see him through. Such a possibility is out of bounds for the poor farmer of Kerala or the illiterate tribal, who can only resort to suicide in the face of utter indifference from those who are supposed to protect their rights. Andrews, however, seems to convey the idea that, no matter how malignant the system is, the judiciary continues to mete out justice. But then, as a lawyer says in another movie, there is only one law, with which, sometimes, the accused is saved and the defended is convicted !
Another aspect of the society that Andrews brings into his frame is that of the changing attitudes of the rustic community. Nattinpuram no longer seems to be nanmakalal samrudham. The Kodanadu folks seem to belie the much celebrated rustic unity and co-operative camaraderie, rarely seen among city-zens. The prospect of a township and the resultant job and business opportunities lure them away from the plight of a farmer who is merely trying to keep what legally belongs to him. At the same time, the stereotypical ignorance of the villagers is reinforced through the fact that the excitement about a five-star hotel and shopping mall seem to cloud their rationality so much so that they don't bother to enquire further into the township promises made by the infamous land-grabber.
As the credits roll up, one feels the satisfaction of having watched a good film. Andrews proves that entertainment lies not in songs and dances, but can be found in touching scenes, dialogues and even in a good location. Mohanlal excells as always in the role of a common man; Thilakan, Sreenivasan, Lakshmi Rai, Priyanka, Lakshmi Gopalaswami all perfectly fit into the plot that James Albert has woven with ease. Lalu Alex is par excellence as Aluva Chandy (and probably the name will stick, like Dimdi Mathai)!
Mathews's problem might have come to a happy conclusion -- sadly, it happens only in cinema ! Things are seldom so easy for the common man who leaves the theater feeling happy in one man's victory over the system; his problems remain the same, and he will often be forced to give bribes to get things done. Rarely can one make things happen like Mathews could. After all, cinema is a kind of willing suspension of disbelief !
Kerala, tourist destination that it is, might have retained the tag of being God's Own Country; pakshe ividam sarikum swargamano???

Friday, July 30, 2010

Of Haunted Houses . . .

Malayalam cinema, over the decades have had a good share of horror stories, or rather pretha kathas -- from gems like Bhargavinilayam, Kottaram Vilkanundu of yesteryear to slightly comic ones like Aakashaganga or revenge tragedies like Vellinakshtram and most recent Yakshiyum Njanum. Of late, there seems to have been a revival of interest in spooky stories, probably because of a serious dearth of good stories, or because all sequel-able movies have been sequelized. It is then only natural that film makers turn to horror stories -- an all time favourite genre cutting across age, gender et al. Deepu's Winter, and Shaji Kailas's Dhrona 2010, though different in terms of plot, are thematically similar -- haunted mansions.
Winter tells the story of Dr. Ramdas and his family, who move in to a bigger house to facilitate a larger space and an open area for their elder daughter who suffers from clinical depression. However, things go horribly wrong with the house being supposedly haunted by the ghost of a maniac who went around killing small girls. Seemingly inexplicable things happen in the house, which go against Dr. Ramdas's refined scientific sensibilities. he eventually gets convinced that here is something wrong with the house and relents to his wife's insistence on a Vaasthu consultation. The movie winds up to the conclusion that there is indeed another maniac on the prowl (supposedly inspired by his predecessor), who finally gets captured. Dr. Ramdas and family drops their plan of moving out and look forward to a happy stay in their newly-cleansed-of-all-hauntings; but, a shadow lurks as the night falls.
The movie is shot well, in dark hues, and the few sudden scene shifts produce the spooky effects quite successfully.While the plot seems solid, the story is rather shaky, and at times it feels like the script was improvised on the spot. At best the movie gives a crash course on the basics of vasstu shashtra !

Shaji Kailas's Dhrona 2010 is nothing but a rather unconvincing story about a haunted mansion, with a smattering of intellectually-driven, woman-led, family feud, which leads to the said mansion being wasted away. Located in the scenic village of Chembra, the movie relates the story of a woman, whose exceptional intelligence becomes her undoing, and gets her thrown out of her house. After her death, she comes to haunt the opposition family's mansion, killing all heirs. Only a celebrated Vaasthu master from a renowned family can rid the house of its hostile presence. But he gets killed in the process of de-haunting, and years later, it falls on his elder son to make things right.
Shaji Kailas does not seem to hold his fort, when there are no power-packed verbal bullets, stunts, police and politics. Though it begins well, the ending fizzles out to a brother avenging his sibling's death and restoring a house to its only surviving heir. At one point of time, one almost expects Mammooty to echo a certain Dr. Sunny who elaborates about " psychosisil ninnu thudangi neurosisil vannu nilkkunna ory tharam manasika vibhranthi ...." !

Both Winter and Dhrona advocate the significance of Vaastu in the planning of houses and, how it can act to the advantage and disadvantage of the inmates. Both the films seem to proclaim that what is usually termed badha is actually miscalculations in the vaastu of a building, and that all supposedly supernatural events (like burning curtains, howling sounds,breaking window glasses etc) have a scientific reason / cause behind them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Snippet reviews

Tresspassing -- Uzma Aslam Khan
A rather different picture of Pakistan.The book throws some light on certain internal issues which do not often find place in international media -- a fact that Daanish, in a different context, feels. Also, the book brings together a bunch of women very different from the usual pardadhari, conservative women that one associates with a Muslim country. Riffat, Annam, Sumbul,Dia,and to some extent Nissrine, are strong women who have an identity of their own in spite of family/relationship turmoils. In short, a very good read about enterprising women with snippets on sericulture.

Anastasia Syndrome and Other Stories -- MAry Higgins Clark
A very gripping tale, "Anastasia Syndrome" is a psychological thriller, wherein past comes to haunt the present. Judith Chase, an innocent writer engrossed in writing her historical novel on English civil War little expects to be literally dragged into her own story, and the consequences are unexpected and fatal.
The short stories that follow are promising as well, especially "Terror Stalks high school Reunion" and "Lucky Day". the other two stories are a bit of a showdown. however, the book is sure to inspire one to read more of the author.

The Inscruatble Americans -- Anurag Mathur
East is east, west is west, and the twain shall never meet --- Mathur's story is yet another illustration of this dictum. culture shock, inaccessibility of brahmin-cooked vegetarian food, racism, repressed sexuality -- all are stumbling blocks to Gopal's attempts to reconcile the Indian and the American in him, and seeks succor in Coke, and later beer. However, he does not leave the place disillusioned. During his year-long stay in US of A, he manages to give this hep and happening country a feel of his indianness (as when he successfully haggles in a mall, and impresses his professors by his natural intellectual abilities) and in return absorbs the sense of freedom exuded by the country (towards the end home (India)stands for the drudgery of hair oil factory, arranged marriage, and other responsibilities.

Zoya Factor -- Anuja Chauhan
Cool, fast, interesting,exciting, and extremely funny -- that's this book in a nutshell. written in simple,pacy prose, it gives a funny kind of insight into the innards of the ad world, so also of what happens while Team India tours abroad -- in a heady concoction of fact and fiction (less of the former probably). while the backdrop is real enough, the novel does not presume to be a conventional roman a clef, as the protagonists cannot really be referred back to factual figures. in short, technically as well as in terms of plot, anuja chauhan has come up with a wonderful piece of entertainment.

The French Lieutenant's Woman -- John Fowles
Self-reflexive and historical, Fowles's work is a comprehensive glimpse into 1850s Victorian England. Sarah Woodruff, chronic melancholist, fancies Charles Smithson who is betrothed to Ernestina Freeman. Charles, wounded by the prospect of a disinherited future (with his elderly uncle suddenly deciding to marry) finds himself in even hotter soup with conflicting emotions regarding his fiancée, and a repressed attachment for Sarah, an expression of which finally lands him in a total emotional loss.
Good for its technical complexity and record of Victorian culture & society, but slightly boring storyboard (subjective view, of course)-- a triangular love story between a rather indecisive man, a cunning woman and a fragile, jealous woman -- in short.

Mansfield Park -- Jane Austen
This wonderful story of Fanny Price is quite engaging and makes an interesting read. It traces Fanny's growth from a poor relation of the Bertrams to becoming a part of their family. in this sense, it is a coming-of-age novel, as Fanny goes through a riot of emotions and opinions regarding the people around her, especially Edmund, whom she finally marries. Jane Austen, true to her character, depicts the English aristocracy in their splendorous country-side villas. Irritating and demanding relatives, extravagant cousins, pretentious friends -- all make Fanny's life (and the story) a real emotional adventure. Beneath this seemingly innocuous social canvas, one can also espy English imperialism at its peak (in mentions of Sir Bertram's expeditions to Antigua), that funds the aristocratic leisures.

Goodnight and God Bless -- Anita Nair
A very interesting and fast read that gives a glimpse into the writer's musings on life and literature in general. She even gives a list of suggested reading at the end. Also, there are footnotes comprising quotes and anecdotes. Somewhere the book gives a much better idea of the writer much more than her novels does, (so much so that one is prompted to pick up a novel by her!)A voracious reader herself, she triggers the reading bug, as one goes through the small pages of this pretty little book.

Six Suspects -- Vikas Swarup
Much better than Q&A in terms of characterisation, plot and narration....has a pulse for pulp fiction.the book is easy to read and does not need too much of brain..interesting part is that one man links all the characters and brings them together. But Swarup has to get out of being in Hindi Movie mode as it all gets very very been there seen that after you read around 50 pages. good part of the novel is the cross section of India without the usual spouting of nation, identity and thirst for the self. the book is terrible as the narrative design is rather bland...not worth buying take it from a library people. and yeah certainly wont be made into a movie..Swarupji please jazz up the writing with some more intelligence. dont underestimate your readers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Raavan -- The Post Show Ruminations

Lush green and wet landscapes, scary waterfalls, slippery rocks, dry forests, Vikram, Karthik, Prabhu, Priyamani -- this is what Ravanan has to offer. Apart from this the movie is just about rescuing a female from a goonda, to put it simply and crudely. Prithviraj is bearable (maintaining a static expression he cultivated for Puthiya Mugham and Robinnhood) while Aishwarya fails to register any kind of impression, either in acting or in dancing. Also,the pair seems to have little chemistry, with Prithviraj most of the time looking bored with Aishwarya prancing around. Priyamani,for the few seconds that she appears, leaves a strong impact (wouldn't she have been a better Ragini?) Even songs are a bit of a dampener, except for the title track -- Veera. The ARR magic has long been lost, and every time a supposed ARR song is released one is left craving for the bygone 'rosier' days.
In spite of all these glitches, the movie must be seen for Vikram, and the wonderful play of emotions enlivened on his face. Terror, camaraderie, love, desire --- all find adequate and effective expression in Vikram, and proves his calibre as an actor, rather than a star. Reports claim that he is equally good as S.P.Dev in the Hindi edition. However,it is doubtful whether AB junior could do proportionate justice to the role -- the difference is felt even in the posters !
Verdict -- 3 stars out of 5. No regrets in having missed is at cinemax. And Vikram ..... veera veera veera veera .... :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back again with a bang !

Team Harihar Nagar seems to get better with every sequel, and as always leaves the audience in stitches. In Ghost House Inn is hundred times better and more hilarious than its predecessor. Though the storyline draws more than inspiration from some Hollywood flicks, there is something strikingly original and fresh in the execution of Ghost House Inn.
The coolsome foursome get together again, this time to make good use of the treasure they had acquired or rather preserved from the evil clutches of John Honai. Thomaskutti, who is now the sole possesor of this wealth plans to invest it in a mansion which he wishes to convert into a resort;and his buddies are only willing to chip in. After some initial glitches, with a resolute denial of any kind of superstitious intereferences, Mahadevan and gang (with family) set out to de-haunt the mansion off the ghosts of two lovers eliminated by the vengeful Dorothy madama. Things don't start well for the friends and finally they have to seek the help of Father Dominique who had already warned them of dire consequences, if they prolonged their stay in the cursed mansion. The denouement is loaded with surprises and the events are at times a bit spooky and equally hilarious.
The star cast is more or less the same from Part 2, with Nedumudi Venu (no Honais this time; though Lakshmi Rai appears for a song with some groovy moves !) and a few others like Harisree Asokan joining the bandwagon. Jagadish is at his comic best, and adds a new, all encompassing word to the dictionary, that can be used in any context -- "vithrumbichirkkuka". Sparkling dialogues, a few picteresque locales, heavy beat songs, and side-splitting comedy prove to be ample compensation for whatever flaws the plot might have.
The movie ends on a happy note, with Thomaskutty's anxieties about future finally at rest and the friends taking a pleasure break,till another mystery or adventure comes calling. In short, Lal, as always, provides a wonderful, clean, stress-free movie that makes one laugh one's heart out. Hats off to Lal and the whole crew, with the hope that there will soon be another Nagar or Inn, as the case may be ! Till the next instalment, let's go ... "o ramborambo .... !

Friday, May 7, 2010

katha thudarunnu. . .

If Innathe Chintavishayam was urban and upper class,and Bhagyadevata was refreshing,the latest offering from the family-movie man Satyan Anthikad -- Katha Thudarunnu -- is a bit of a disappointment. In other words, the movie lacks the essential Anthikad touch, and therefore fails to impress. Even the songs by Ilayaraja do not seem to work the magic. And, there are no serene locales (except in a song) that usually form such an important part of Anthikad flicks. The only relieving factor is the supporting cast, comprising the bunch of Anthikad regulars --- Innocent, Mamu Koya,KPAC Lalita, Lakshmipriya (Jayaram's lovestruck sister in Bhagyadevata)and so on, among whom,his regular stills man Mohan's(Momi has been doing bit parts in all Anthikad movies) absence is rather conspicuous.
The plot revolves around Vidya Nambiar (Mamta Mohandas) who marries musician Shah Navas (Asif Ali), much to the consternation of both their families and the respective communities. the rest of the movie deals with what happens to her after her husband's death, and how she is eventually redeemed by an auto driver Prem (Jayaram) and his colony friends.
Mamta's character is given so much focus that she at times overshadows even Jayaram; and mostly situations and characters are made for her sake, to move her story forward. Also, there are a number of loop holes here and there that prompt some obvious questions regarding the turn of events that take Vidya on a steady downhill ride till she meets Prem. Though the movie ends on a note of hope, it lacks a sense of completion and at the end of about two and a half hours, one does not get out with the satisfaction of having experienced a Sathyan Anthikad story.
Nevertheless, Anthikad's penchant for social satire, and a firm belief in the essential goodness of man show through in the characters of the colonywallahs who share a warm camaraderie and willingly come forward to help not only each other, but even someone who comes into their midst, even if temporarily. That's where Anthikad has probably left his signature -- in celebrating companionship, in preserving hope, reiterating that there is still goodness in this world so long as there are samaritans, so long as there is faith (in each other and in God).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

an early summer day's rememberances

Though it is physically exhausting, this sweltering heat nevertheless triggers pleasent memories of bygone vacations. the scent of the earth, of fallen leaves, of ripening jackfruit -- all reminiscent of the bright mornings, when, alone at home, one sat engrossed in an Earl Stanley Gardner or Enid Blyton.... Strangely enough this time of the year also brings to mind the very serious perusal prior to the examination,of British History, or rather the History of English Literature, one's most favourite subject !!! Also, the burning heat is a sign of the approaching monsoon, steadily taking shape somewhere in the West, to lash out in June, signalling the end of vacations and beginning of a fresh academic year.... A decade down the lane, things have sadly changed. there are no more vacations; chances of summer rains dwindling by the year; monsoons no longer lashing.... But, the scent of the earth, leaves and the jackfruit still remain inspiring nostalgia; and one feels -- isn't nostalgia rather painful? Because when the westerlies blow away the heat in the evenings, though it brings a smile, it also sadly reminds one that none of those days can be retrived....
I miss vacations, i miss the summer rains, i miss the benign thunderstorms, but most of all, i terribly miss my college -- a real beauty in the few minutes leading up to rain, with rows of tall casurina trees, stone benche -- the place which made me what i am today....