Discovering Bengaluru

Discovering Bengaluru by Meera Iyer is a beautifully designed book that is presented as a walking guide for some of the areas of Bangalore - Chickpet, KR Market, Basavanagudi, Malleshwaram, Ulsoor, Bangalore Cantonment and surrounding areas, MG Road, Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, Sampangirama Nagar and Whitefield. However, it is much more than a guide book - It goes into the history of many of the old buildings and people associated with Bangalore, roads, parks, lakes and private homes to lovingly narrate the colorful story of the city in an engaging way. The book is accompanied with several photographs (though I wished there were more), old maps, copies of old letters and so on, and also many amusing tidbits of information, like the relationship between Tipu Sultan and the national anthem of USA, for example.

Being a fan of Bangalore's numerous old restaurants, what I felt as lacking in this book was a history of those restaurants. Though there are a few passing references to Vidyarthi Bhavan, MTR, CTR and a few bakeries, I felt that there could have been more detailed stories of these places (with some food photographs, of course!).

8 1/2 Intercuts

Watched 8 1/2 Intercuts, a documentary film directed by Lijin Jose on the life and films of veteran director, KG George. "8 1/2" on the title is a reference to Fellini's film, which is one of George's favorites. We can see a few scenes from this film very aptly interspersed along with the narrative of the documentary.

The documentary shows scenes from ten important films by KG George - Swapnadanam, Ulkkadal, Mela, Kolangal, Yavanika, Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flashback, Adaminte Variyellu, Panchavadippalam, Irakal and Mattoral, with comments on these films and George's film making in general by prominent personalities from the field of Cinema and Literature. Many of these people like Mammootty, Nedumudi Venu and Ramachandrababu had associated with George in his films, and they share some of their personal experiences too. In between each of these, we see George himself speaking about his films, his life, and so on. Selma George, KG George's wife (who is a playback singer, and had sung the beautiful song "sharadindu malar deepa naalam neetti.." from Ulkkadal) also shares her thoughts on George as a person and as a filmmaker.

I was touched by the frankness of George in his speeches. His wife comments on him that he is a very unemotional person in real life even though while watching films he empathizes with the characters and even cries during some of the sentimental scenes. George sits there with a smile listening to these comments, and then says that that is the way he is, and confirms that he is not at all a "dependable" person and has no sentimental attachment to anyone or anything. That being said, he still recollects the last time he had seen his lover of schooldays, some 50 years back, and he expresses his hope that her face would be in his mind on the moments of his death!

This documentary is a fitting tribute to the great director.

Love in the Time of Cholera

Watched the 2007 film adaptation of Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, directed by Mike Newell. Whether the director was able to capture the nuances of the original novel or not is very much questionable; but I was spellbound by the beauty of the visuals and sets made for the film. The ships sailing through the river with huge wooden propellers, was especially a sight to behold.

Ruins

Peter Kuper's graphic novel Ruins tells the story of a couple - George and Samantha who are US citizens on a sabbatical to Oaxaca, Mexico for an year. Samantha hopes to write her book during this time, which is a mix of her own memoirs and the history of Mexico. She also plans to revisit some of the places she had visited during her trip to Mexico two decades back. George on the other hand doesn't have any particular thing in his mind; he just floats around, photographing and drawing pictures of insects, painting and trying to digest the Life in Mexico. The couple also witness some political events going in Oaxaca town. There is another thread going in in parallel with their story - that is the story of migration of Monarch butterfly from US to Mexico, and Peter Kuper draws parallels between the butterfly's migration and the story of George and Samantha.

Ruins is a very interesting book, and the illustrations are very colorful and apt in capturing the atmosphere of the story.

Mango Ginger

I was talking to my son day before yesterday about a peculiar sort of pickle that we used to get in hostel mess during my college days. I didn't know what it was made of, but I vaguely remember someone telling me that the cook used to prepare it using some wild roots growing in the forest area surrounding the hostels! I haven't tasted anything like that anywhere else after my college days, but whenever I think about my stay in the hostel, the taste of that pickle is one of the things that comes into my mind.

Quite coincidentally, today I discovered that the pickle is made of something called as "mango ginger" as I got a piece of this root vegetable which looks a bit like a fatter version of ginger. It was pleasantly surprising.

Daytripper

"We should look for moments in life that we will never forget - those that we will carry with us after all others fade -- the ones that will make all others worthwhile" - Bras, the protagonist in the graphic novel Daytripper is given this advice by his father, who is a famous Brazilian writer. Bras, though he is an aspiring writer himself, ends up spending quite a lot of his early career working for a newspaper, specializing in writing obituaries.

The graphic novel, written by twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá is divided into different chapters with titles as numbers, like 32, 21, 28 and so on, each number indicating the age of Bras as portrayed in that chapter. Through these non-chronological narrative, the life story of Bras, his relationships, failures and successes is told. Some of the chapters have some key turning points in his life, while a few have some of those "unforgettable moments", but all chapters end with Bras's death at that age - throwing up various possibilities for his life story.

Though the idea of ending each chapter with the main character's death initially sounded like a gimmickry to me, I enjoyed reading Bras's story, which is told in a very intriguing way with many memorable situations, dialogues and great illustrations. The coloring works of the artworks also play a key role in making this book look gorgeous.

President

Watched the film President directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The film portrays the events happening in an "unknown fictitious country" (the film was actually picturized in Georgia) after the dictator in the country is overthrown by a revolution. "His Majesty", as the dictator is simply called in the film, and his grandson are unable to escape from the country and are now trapped. They have to find ways to not get caught by the revolutionaries who are trying to capture them.

It appeared to me that the initial scenes of the film had a slightly soft approach towards the dictator, even though there is a lot of satirical elements used to convey his authoritarian nature. Perhaps the scenes involving his interactions with his cute little grandson is what made me feel so. However, we get to know more about the brutalities of his regime and its impact on common people as the film progresses, through the words of a set of prisoners who were just released and are on their way back home. Also, the way the dictator treats a barber and his son would also give a glimpse of his attitude towards people. However, Makhmalbaf gives a balanced outlook via scenes showing the crimes committed by the soldiers who are now representing the revolution. The film ends with a positive note - that probably indicates what Makhmalbaf has to suggest on the ways to punish such dictators.

The most outstanding things in the film I felt were Mohsen Makhmalbaf's direction, and the amazing performance by child actor Dachi Orvelashvili who plays as the grandson. Mohsen Makhmalbaf's narrative style mixes realistic scenes occasionally with frames bordering on surrealism to create a very unique viewing experience, and this was seen in films like The Day I Became a Woman, which he had co-written and was directed by Marzieh Makhmalbaf. Overall, President was a brilliant watch.

Rolling Blackouts

Rolling Blackouts - Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq is a graphic novel by Sarah Glidden in which she narrates her experiences while accompanying her friends Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill, journalists from The Seattle Globalist, as they visit Iraq and Syria to study and report on the refugee situation there in late 2010 in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Dan, an Iraq War veteran and a childhood friend of Sarah Stuteville, also accompanies them. As part of their visits, Sarah also plans to capture the thoughts and reactions of Dan through a series of interviews.

Rolling Blackouts is not a typical travelogue graphic novel with full-page detailed landscape drawings, etc. Though there are a few panels depicting the local viewpoints from Damascus and Sulaymaniyah, one of the main themes in the book is to explore the meaning and purpose of Journalism itself, and another theme is to point on the utter pointlessness and horrible consequences of the War. These topics are addressed through a series of conversations scattered in the book. The hardships and sufferings of millions of people whose Life was completely destroyed as a result of the Iraq War is also depicted with a balanced and humanitarian outlook in the book.

Joji

Director Dileesh Pothan has been raising his bar always in his movies. After Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, here comes Joji, which is yet another brilliant viewing experience.

Joji starts with showing a courier delivery man traversing the winding pathways through lush greenery and plantations of a Kerala village (somewhere in Kottayam district?). He is going to deliver an online order, which is going to play a vital role in the film later. The wealthy Panachel family in the village is dominated by the aging but still physically and mentally powerful Kuttapan, whom everyone in the family are afraid of. The film shows various incidents happening in the family over next few weeks.

Be it the natural flow of the narration, crisp dialogues, outstanding performances and the way everything is brilliantly captured in the camera, Joji reaches the level of a masterpiece. I think the movie would demand multiple viewings, as it never goes into a linear explanatory mode when describing its characters, and throws some hints here and there. So, a second viewing would help to absorb all the nuances in the characterizations and watch it from a new perspective.

The Postman

Italian film The Postman (1994) has actor Massimo Troisi playing the role of Mario, simpleton villager in a little Italian Island of early 1950s. He is offered part time employment as a postal delivery man at local post office. The area he is assigned to has just one recipient, but he seems to get too many letters and parcels everyday, and the person is none other than poet Pablo Neruda, who is now exiled from his homeland of Chile.

Mario knows to read and write, but he doesn't know much about Pablo Neruda in the beginning, except that he has several female admirers. But he gets a chance to have short interactions with Neruda over his daily mail services, and he is all at awe looking at the way Neruda is able to talk about the waves of the ocean in a poetic way that makes him feel as if he is getting tossed on the waves of the ocean himself. He approaches Neruda with questions on how to become a poet, and what a "metaphor" is, and also with requests on some tips regarding how to woe a girl with whom he has fallen in love with in the village.

Actor Massimo Troisi was sick during the making of this film, but he postponed his treatment in order to keep the film schedule undisturbed. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few hours after completing the shooting. That fact would keep the viewers feel sad looking at his performance in the film. The Postman has a few heart-warming scenes showing the relationship between the poet and Mario.