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Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal Below are 10 entries, after skipping 20 most recent ones in the "Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar" journal:

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October 31st, 2017
07:41 pm


Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum
Maheshinte Prathikaram was a light-hearted, feel-good movie without any typical feel-good ingredients of commercial cinema, narrated in a realistic way with very natural blends of humor. With Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, director Dileesh Pothan once again proves that he is a director to look forward to, and someone with a signature narrative style.

The film starts with a beautiful song in a similar way as Maheshinte Prathikaram, and the song develops over scenes showing the budding love affair between two main characters (played by Suraj Venjaramoodu and Nimisha Sajayan). The film soon cuts to incidents that happen a few months later - The lovers are married now and as they struggle to settle with some farming experiments in a village of Northern Kerala, the golden chain of the girl gets stolen during a bus journey. The thief (played by Fahadh Faasil) was sitting just behind her in the bus, and he coolly swallows the chain when caught. Rest of the film mostly is set in the premises of a police station, and we see how the couple hope and wait for retrieving their precious possession.

I enjoyed the gentle touches of humor that is there throughout the narrative, and the way Dileesh brings out those touches in a very natural way. Like his earlier movie, he has cast newcomers in all the roles (mostly those of police officers) except for the key roles done by Suraj, Fahadh and Alencier, and they all perform without even a trace of amateurism, making us feel like being in that police station for the duration of the movie. Nimisha Sajayan is expressive, and I think she is a great find by the director like Aparna Balamurali of Maheshinte Prathikaram.

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October 30th, 2017
10:46 pm


First They Killed My Father
Read the book First They Killed My Father, a touching memoir by Loung Ung, who had spent her childhood at Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime. Loung was a girl of five, living a comfortable life with her parents and six siblings at Phnom Penh in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took over control of the country. The book is written mostly from the perspective of the child, and shows how the family members supported each other in their struggle during the next five years (apparently, we don't see many references of helping hands from non-family members - probably it is an indication of how the grim times in the country had disintegrated the entire social system and people were mostly on their own in their struggle for survival). Not all of Loung's family managed to make it; but Loung and her eldest brother finally get to reach a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980, and from there immigrate to the USA.

In many ways, the book reminded me of the graphic novel The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (written more recently), which narrates the struggles of a Vietnamese family during the 1960s and 70s. However, Loung Ung's book has a very straight-forward narrative, unlike the graphic novel which uses a bit of dramatization and gives a lot of focus on the character study of the key people noted in the memoir.

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October 28th, 2017
06:54 pm


Malayalam film Clint directed by Harikumar, is based on the life story of Edmund Thomas Clint.

Director Harikumar's main focus seemed to be make a typical emotional drama based on the boy's life; So, we have sequences showing the "happy days" (including a couple of songs) followed by many scenes showing the boy's battle with illness, and his last days when he talks to his parents about his impending death. These scenes, especially the climax scenes, are extremely touching, and would make the viewers feel for the child prodigy. However, I wished that the director had attempted to make a film that went beyond the tragic aspects of Clint's life and tried something different than the straight-forward, TV-serial sort of narrative style used in the film. Nevertheless, the film is touching for its content, and Master Alok, who acts in the role of Clint, has given a very natural performance in the role.

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October 22nd, 2017
06:31 pm


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.

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October 16th, 2017
11:51 am


Kannada Ship
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.

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October 15th, 2017
09:04 am


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.

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October 6th, 2017
06:36 pm


Chicken Kokkachi
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.

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September 29th, 2017
03:30 pm


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 pandals 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.

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September 10th, 2017
09:51 pm


"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


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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