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Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar" journal:

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September 10th, 2017
09:51 pm

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"Communist Films"
After the Left Front came into power in Kerala state last year, there have been at least three mainstream pro-communist films that came out in Malayalam. Such an open support for the communist party has rarely been seen in mainstream cinema since the 1980s - except for a Lal Salam or Rakthasakshikal Zindabad probably, I think most of the pro-communist films were from the "parallel cinema" category, made by and for the "intellectuals". But these three films have all "new generation look and feel", and have the communist party followers presented in all color and glamor, with the accompaniment of a liberal dose of slow-motion photography - It appears like communism has now caught the fancy of commercial cinema.

I did not particularly like any of these films, but I felt that Oru Mexican Aparatha was the most pathetic among them. The films portrays the rivalry between the two political parties in a college campus - The KSQ and SFY (I don't know why the director did not use the actual names of students unions, KSU and SFI, which represent the Right and Left wings. I am also curious to know what the director had in mind when he chose Q and Y in the abbreviations). The pointless film has nothing much to say other than iteratively focusing on how "good" the SFY party is when compared to KSQ, over a series of slow-motion sequences and some violent images, which left me wondering what the director was trying to convey regarding the differences between these two students parties. The only notable thing I found in the movie is the freshness in the performance of Roopesh Peethambaran in the role of a cunning politician. And of course, Hareesh Peradi, who seems to be the default choice these days for playing the role of a communist leader.

Sakhavu, starring Nivin Pauly, goes back and forth between the Present and the Past, to show how different today's politicians are from those of older days. Though the basic theme looks promising, the end product looks a bit confusing between those lousy comedy scenes of the Present and those sleep inducing and boring scenes of the Past which look like taken from a school drama performance.

Comrade In America too starts from a Kerala college campus, and we see the communist hero (Dulquer Salmaan) who looks educated, well qualified and stylish, but is so naive that he doesn't know it requires a visa to travel to the USA. He directly goes to the travel agent to book a ticket, and only then he comes to know of the visa requirement! But later in the movie, we see him landing in Nicaragua and coolly walking around like a world traveler, traversing his route through multiple North American countries, using a machine gun and what not. However, in spite of all these funny points, I found Comrade In America to be the most watchable among these three films. Unlike the other two, this one doesn't do much romanticization of communism, and the political activism of the hero is used mostly as a backdrop and for some comic relief in a few scenes.

I think the communist ideologies and its leaders of the pre-1980 era played a major role in bringing a kind of social awareness and feeling of justice in Kerala, radically changing the mindset of people. I felt that a little amateur film like Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil was a better tribute to the old communist leaders than these heroic pro-communist films.

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September 3rd, 2017
01:41 pm

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Mukti Bhawan
Watched Mukti Bhawan, a brilliant debut film by director Shubhashish Bhutiani.

Adil Hussain plays the role of Rajiv, who works as an insurance agent (or something of that sort), and is constantly under pressure related to work. His aging father one fine day declares that he has got a feeling that his days are close to an end, and he wants to go to Varanasi and stay at Mukti Bhawan, where people come and stay "hoping" to die at the holy city and attain salvation. Rajiv accompanies his father, to live with him at the gloomy lodge, where the manager would provide accommodation for 15 days. The expectation is that the inmate would die within 15 days, and if not, the manager may extend accommodation for more time, allowing the mukti-aspirant to assume a different name.

The premises of Mukti Bhawan appear to be grim, but the director, with a touch of gentle humor, focuses more on the relationships between Rajiv, his father and his daughter. Rajiv's father appears rather philosophical, perhaps because of his old age, while Rajiv is still a man of the material world, fearing of ghosts in the dark corners of the "Hotel Salvation". They may look very different, but over a period of time we see how certain patterns in the character and relationships repeat over generations, and how certain perceptions change by age. Rajiv recollects how his ambitions on writing poetry during childhood were shot down by his father, while he himself seems to have similar disciplinarian tendencies as his father, during his interactions with his daughter. However, things have a gradual softening effect after every generation.

Performances in the film are brilliant, and I think Mukti Bhawan is one of the best Indian films I watched in recent times.

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September 2nd, 2017
06:12 pm

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Pelicans in Haralur Lake
After two weeks of continuous rains in Bangalore, most of the lakes are filled with rainwater and sewage.

It was interesting, but at the same time pitiable, to spot pelicans in the Haralur lake, which has started frothing because of sewage contamination. It was sad to see the birds trying to find some food from the lake, where fishes lay dead and floating because of pollution.

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August 20th, 2017
08:14 pm

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Vikram Vedha
Though Tamil film Vikram Vedha tells a typical story about Police Vs Gangster fights, corruption in police force, etc., I found it to be a very interesting film, thanks to the energetic performances by Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi, and the narrative style by directors Pushkar and Gayathri who dramatize the blurring lines between the "Good and Bad" in an engaging way.

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August 7th, 2017
06:39 pm

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Olappeeppi
Watched Olappeeppi, Malayalam film directed by Krish Kymal. Biju Menon plays the role of Unni, an NRI, who visits the Kerala village where he had spent his childhood during the 1970s. The film goes back and forth between the scenes from the past and present times. In the flashback scenes, we can see a 10-year old Unni living with his grandmother in their ancestral home. The feudal system had collapsed after the land reforms in Kerala, and Unni's grandmother, who was one of the landlords of the area, is finds it hard to earn enough to make both ends meet. The film follows various events in Unni's childhood in the flashback scenes, while in the scenes of Today, we see Unni trying to reconnect with some of his friends and relatives.

Though at places it appeared to me that the director was trying a bit too hard to develop the elements of pathos in the flashback scenes, I felt that he presented the story without falling into much of melodrama. There were a few scenes which I found touching, and the actress Punnassery Kanchana in the role of the grandmother who always brings out feelings of optimism to Unni's life even in grim times, seemed to be almost living in that role. Overall, Olappeeppi gives the feeling of watching some of those good tele-films of old Doordarshan era.

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July 18th, 2017
06:08 pm

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A Motivating Speech
"We have a number of exciting projects lined up for the coming year. We will ensure that you will have minimal sleep for the next one year at least. Please make sure that you don't make any personal commitments for this period! But we will make sure that we will do the whole thing as a fun exercise as much as possible...", so on goes speech by a manager at my workplace. This speech was intended to motivate the employees to work towards the bright future ahead of them, and the projected workload and potential demands for unpaid service I guess was supposed to be a light hearted exaggeration (though it is a sort of reality for most of the Worker Class IT employees these days).

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July 13th, 2017
06:31 pm

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A Death in the Gunj
Watched A Death in the Gunj, a brilliant directorial debut by actress Konkona Sen Sharma.

Set in 1979 at the village of McCluskieganj, the film narrates the events associated with a family/friends visit and get-together at the village home. Shutu, the key character, is in his early 20s - a shy, introvert, sensitive and somewhat timid youngster who seems to be suffering from depression as well. The film shows how the behavior of people around him affects Shutu's life during that short visit to the village.

Konkona's characterizations are brilliant, and the performances (especially by Vikrant Massey in the main role) are excellent.

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July 9th, 2017
05:28 pm

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Catch Me If You Can
I got a chance to watch the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can directed by Steven Spielberg today. The film is based on the real life story of Frank Abagnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who had done various forgeries related to bank checks when he was a youngster. After getting caught, Abagnale spent some time in jail, and later became a consultant for FBI.

The film was a very engaging watch.

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July 4th, 2017
09:53 am

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Tax Reforms
I read the news that the Government is going to revisit the implementation of Direct Tax Code, and the news looked scary to me.

If we have to go by prior experience, any attempts at "revision" or "restructuring" of Income Tax laws in India, would eventually end up squeezing the the salaried class, extracting some percentage from their various investments and savings, irrespective of the political party holding power in the center.

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July 2nd, 2017
06:23 pm

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GST
Though the GST is supposed to simply the taxes and probably reduce the tax burden on consumers for majority of their purchases, the general impression created by the merchants has been somewhat opposite. Multiple weeks of pre-GST sale melas preceding July 1st made all feel as if the GST is going to bring doom on the consumers. And during this weekend, whichever shop I visited, the people in the cash counters were explaining me that the bill amount would be more because of increased GST, etc.

It appears like there is no direction on passing the benefits of "input tax credit" that the merchants receive to end consumers. So, wherever the tax rate has gone up, the consumers have to take up the burden for the extra tax, and if I understand it correctly, the merchants can now effectively pocket a part of that tax, equivalent to the input tax credit they receive, mapping to the item sold.

I wish there was a mechanism for the end consumers also to receive some sort of "tax credit" for the GST amount which the merchant has levied from them, so that they can adjust it against their regular income tax, and avoid double taxation? Perhaps this can be easily done for non-cash transactions, since the credit cards, debit cards etc. are linked to the PAN of the consumer? This would be a good encouragement for all consumers to go "cashless". Without such a mechanism, I am not too sure if GST will bring much changes in the lives of ordinary people.

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