Bharathan - Jeevitham, Cinema, Orma

The book Bharathan - Jeevitham, Cinema, Orma is a collection of short writeups about veteran Malayalam filmmaker Bharathan, published by Olive in 2013, 15 years after his death. Actors, directors, script-writers, poets and many other people associated with Cinema recount their personal experiences in these articles. The book also contains a few old interviews with Bharathan. Biju Bernad has edited this book, and I felt that this is a nice tribute to Bharathan.

There were a couple of articles that just abruptly ended in the book. This looked like some issue related to printing.

Ha Ha Hu Hu

Ha Ha Hu Hu is a collection of two novelettes by veteran Telugu writer Viswanadha Satyanarayana, translated to English by Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Viswanadha Satyanarayana was the first Telugu writer to win the Jnanpith award, in 1971.

The first novelette, Ha Ha Hu Hu - A Horse-Headed God in Trafalgar Square, is a humor-philosophy-fantasy work which tells the story of a horse-headed Gandharva landing in London and capturing the attention of common people as well as scientists and linguists in entire Europe. I couldn't see the time line of this work mentioned in the book, but I am guessing that it is likely that it was written soon after India's Independence. I found this to be quite an interesting read.

The second novelette, Vishnu Sharma Learns English is yet another humor-filled fantasy, in which the author is visited in dreams by Vishnu Sharma, author of Panchathanthra, and Tikanna, 13 century Telugu poet. I guess it requires some understanding of Telugu literature and its nuances to appreciate many of the conversations in this story completely. I had to just quickly browse over some parts of this novelette, and could not enjoy it much.

Who's Singin' Over There?

Serbian film Who's Singin' Over There? (1980) shows a group of people traveling from a Serbian village to Belgrade on 5 April, 1941. These travelers, the bus owner and his son who is driving the bus are all colorful characters. The dilapidated and smoky bus travels through muddy roads over ups and downs of the countryside, making (or are forced to make because of various circumstances) occasional stops here and there. The film shows this crazy journey and various incidents on the way.

The narrative is laced with dark humor and this film was an engaging watch.

Factory Summers

In his latest graphic novel named Factory Summers, Guy Delisle narrates the days he had spent in a paper mill at Quebec City during his high school days, taking up summer jobs in three consecutive seasons. He also enrolled for a course in animation during these days, and the summer jobs helped him to arrange for the finances.

Being a great fan of Guy's travel based graphic novels on Burma, North Korea and Jerusalem, I was a bit disappointed with this latest work by the author. The humor elements are relatively lesser in this book and the only time I had some good laugh while reading the book was in some pages near the end of the book. However, the book still captures the moving scenes of different employees in the paper mill in the background of routine work, and it creates some poignant sensation in some parts.

Ghachar Ghochar

Members of a middle-class family in Bangalore, living on the salary income of the family-head, suddenly find themselves under the control of Money, when a business venture started by them succeeds and they become "rich" too quickly, beyond their wildest dreams. Kannada novel Ghachar Ghochar written by Vivek Shanbhag tells this story as narrated from the perspective of son of the family, who is not named in the novel. The happenings of present time, where the narrator is a married man, are interleaved with memories from the past, to give the full picture.

I found Ghachar Ghochar to be a masterpiece of sort. This novel is just 100+ pages long, but it is amazing to see the author packing so much of depth in characterizations and psychology in this short novel in a very memorable way. I could very well relate to the various aspects of Indian Middle Class Life that is portrayed in the novel with attention to even minor details - like the way mattresses are stacked in a rented home, the smell from an oil lamp after it goes off, debates over installation of gas cooker, battles with ants, monthly ration of masala dosa from a restaurant, the "eagerly anticipated" yearly gifts from employer, the process of moving out from a house and the way the remnants of days lived in the old house give a strange feeling when observed under the extra light coming from windows that were rarely opened before - there are so many similar things I have personally experienced myself. The later transformation of the protagonist to an existence marked by laziness, aimlessness and procrastination is also written with great sensitivity. Though the entire story is told with liberal touches of humor and satirical elements, the underlying tragedy becomes apparent in a touching way in several moments in the story - like when the protagonist goes to see off his wife in the railway station and waves his hand just to satisfy himself.

The novel is brilliantly translated to English by Srinath Perur.

Ludo

Liked the Hindi film Ludo, which has four stories running in parallel, all connected together in various ways, but primarily via the pivotal character of a Goon (brilliantly played by Pankaj Tripathi in his trademark style). It has some funny scenes and dark humor which I found to be interesting.

Soja Rajakumari

Soja Rajakumari is a Malayalam book about legendary personalities of Bollywood Music, written by Ravi Menon. There are articles on Saigal, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Talat Mahmood, Suraiya, Salil Chowdhury, Naushad and many others. The articles are not exactly biographical in nature, but contain a collection of various tidbits of information regarding these artists. There are some notes on singers and composers from Malayalam Cinema too in this book.

This book is an easy read.

Chathurmukham

Malayalam film Chathurmukham narrates an engaging horror story (apparently, most of the Malayalam movies I watched recently had horror elements - The Priest, Nizhal, Cold Case). Performance by Manju Warrier was the pillar of the movie, but I felt that the other supporting actors could have done better.

Illegal

Read the graphic novel Illegal written by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano. The book narrates a fictitious (though based on various real events and stories from immigrants) story of a twelve year old boy's travel from Africa to Europe, looking for a "better life". Initially for him it is a search for his elder brother, who had left his village (somewhere in Ghana?) to Agadez in Niger, hoping to find a way to travel to Europe from there. The younger one also travels to Agadez and finds his brother there. They together travel to Tripoli, crossing the Sahara desert, and from there they attempt crossing the Mediterranean over a small dinghy along with a few other people. The book portrays the terrors and hardships of this voyage, along with presenting generic questions about the concepts of "illegality" in migration from a humanitarian perspective in a subtle way.

The illustrations of the graphic novel are brilliant, and they are greatly colored too.

These Savage Shores

Read a graphic novel called These Savage Shores, from the team of Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone and Aditya Bidikar. The fantasy story involving vampires and raakshasas is mainly set in the late 18th century Kozhikode and other parts of South India, and a few incidents happen in London too. Historical characters like Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan too feature in the story!

The illustrations and coloring of the book are good, and give the experience of watching a typical action packed fantasy film.