Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal
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In the Tamil film Thupparivaalan directed by Mysskin, the lead character, a detective played by Vishal, is a super-hero - He is intelligent and knowledgeable like Sherlock Holmes that he can tell all about a case and its most possible solution just by observing his client casually, and he can examine the mark on a dust-covered desk to predict on the possible material that was placed on it - a book for instance, and even make a guess on the title of the book. He is not just a man of "grey cells" - he is also a veteran in different forms of martial arts, fighting with ten people at the same time in an elaborate sequence reminding of Kill Bill.
This characterization of a superhuman hero is not usually seen in Mysskin's films, and one may even suspect that the hero of his latest film is a parody on the typical heroes of commercial cinema. In spite of this, Thupparivaalan comes out as a very interesting and engaging film from start to finish, and the full credit goes to Mysskin's directorial prowess and the subtle touches he adds to the narrative throughout the film.
Near Ecospace building in Bellandur, in between the outer ring road and the service road, there is this odd but curious looking structure in the shape of some 10-meter long ship, that is painted in red and yellow, representing the "Karnataka flag", with the words "Kannada Ship Sailing In The Midst Of Traffic Ocean" written on it. Though the outer ring road section in front of Ecospace is where the road probably attains its maximum width (some 10 lanes including the service lanes I guess), this part is constantly under traffic jam that the traffic jam itself has become a landmark for people passing through the road. For example, while commuting to and from office, if I get a call and I have to indicate our whereabouts, I just tell that I am at "The Ecospace Jam"! In the middle of this jam, the Kannada Ship indeed looks like always sailing in "traffic ocean".
For a change, the Ecospace gate has become a mini-lake now, as an adjacent lake, filled with rainwater and sewage, has started overflowing. The water has no place to go, as many of the drain channels are blocked. So, it looks like the Kannada Ship is now finally having an opportunity to sail in the middle of a water-body, thanks to the great and thoughtful ways our city infrastructure is being planned and maintained.
Watched the film Lion yesterday, which is based on a true story of a little boy named Saroo from an Indian village getting lost and landing up on a train that takes him to Kolkata a thousand miles away. A few years later, Saroo is adopted by a couple in Australia. After 25 years, he starts searching for his origins, trying to locate his home with the help of Google Earth, based on scattered memories from his childhood.
The well-executed and interesting film has some scenes which are touching, and Sunny Pawar who played as little Saroo was especially wonderful in his performance.
I watched the Malayalam film Chicken Kokkachi yesterday with zero expectations, as I had never heard of it before. I was pleasantly surprised to have a good time-pass of two hours with this full length slapstick comedy. I don't think such an attempt has been made in Malayalam before.
The film, directed by Anuranjan Premji, tells the story of a youngster who leaves his home in the village because of various reasons, and comes to work in a bakery at Thrissur town for earning some money. The film is not much about its story, but the whole purpose of it seems to be to create some situational humor where we see people falling down stepping on oil, throwing things on each other, etc. The director has choreographed the scenes well to create an overall experience reminding of Chaplin films.
Trip to Bhutan|
We had a nice week long trip to Bhutan. The highlight of the trip was a trek to Taktsang Monastery, perched on the edge of a cliff, on top of a hill near Paro town. The trek is a bit tiring, especially the steeply descending steps followed by ascending ones that lead us to the entrance of the temple. But the effort is worth for the breathtaking views of the colorful monastery as it is seen from various levels and angles. Another wonderful experience was the view of Punakha Dzong, as we approach this fortress at Punakha, while coming down through river Mo Chhu.
Taktsang Monastery, One of the Icons of Bhutan Punakha Dzong
I enjoyed the views of pristine forests almost everywhere we visited, the good roads and peaceful drives (no honking anywhere) and the clean and well organized vegetable market at Thimphu with friendly shop owners. The weather was neither too cold nor too warm, somewhat similar to the Bangalore weather conditions during the older days. I tried some of the local vegetable dishes, and enjoyed Ema Datshi,
made of long red and green chili peppers and cheese, and another dish made of stir-fried "fiddlehead" fern.
Bhutan Takin, at a small zoo dedicated to this endangered animal At a Buddhist Nunnery Bark of Trees Getting Soaked at a Hand-made Paper Mill at Thimphu Clay Modeling at School of Arts and Crafts, Thimphu Wood Carving at School of Arts and Crafts, Thimphu
We stayed for a few days at Kolkata on the way back home. It was my first visit to Bengal, though I have always felt like being very close to the place, thanks to the Literature and Cinema of Bengal. However, I found Kolkata to be like any other city in India - congested, noisy and polluted. In addition, most of the people walk on the footpaths and streets with cigarettes in their hands, giving us the impression of walking in the middle of smoky automobiles. I have not seen so many smokers in any other place in India.
There was also the extra crowd and traffic jams due to Durga Puja festivals, but this gave us an opportunity to see the colorful pandal
s made at various streets hosting idols of Durga. It was also interesting to note that unlike Bangalore, many of the old residential buildings are still preserved and are being used in Kolkata, even though they look dilapidated, with peepal and banyan trees growing on their roofs and walls. Just behind the place where I stayed, I noticed an old pale cream painted three story house, the terrace of which reminded me of Apu's small home in Apur Sansar
. It looks like time is frozen in such buildings, the only upgrades being the various cables which connect them to the modern world, and the air-conditioners that are installed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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