Sunday, June 22, 2008

Awards too many - Adayalangal

As usual a lot of hullabaloo about the awards.

An award or two for M G Sasi's film was understandable if one is to go by the precedents set by the Awards Committees whenever a LDF Govt was in power - it was pleasing as many as possible and giving away a lot of awards to one film. Remember Sarath's Sayahnam. It did the same thing. Many more awards than what it deserved came its way.

As far as Adayalangal goes some have expressed the opinion that it would be good as a'Debut' film but to get 4/5 State Awards was a bit too much!

Amateur, cliche`filled, a lot of documentary touch , all in all the film disappointed.

M G Sasi had said in an interview that he had been carrying the idea of a film on Nanthanar and his works for the past fifteen years, but surely this film reflected none of the intense planning that went into it. Geeta Joseph was good. Jyotirmayee, was wasted and many of her scenes were too cliche` ridden to be retained in memory. The sarpapattu, the fantasy and the instant chemistry she strikes with the protagonist, all these have really tired the viewer no end over the years, in film after film.

Every year the State Awards kick up a row either from a disgruntled director/actor /singer. Why have such a system if so much manipulation goes on behind the scenes. A respeced director like Jahnu Barua as Chairman comes with some credibility, then why is there need for going through such devious methods to give recognition to a good film /director or other talent.

Heard Panniyan Ravindran our M P say that film awards need to be decided democratically y the people and not by a Jury, closeted from the common man's opinion. Well, that would bring film awards to a more mundane level and little short of SMS-style voting, we'' have 'voted Bet Film" of the year. With everything going 'janakeeyam' film will be one more target, or better still 'the next prey/victim!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shyamaprasad's Ore Kadal

In the early days after the release of the film, the Media both print and electronic had carried reviews, reports, interviews of the filmmaker and the cast. It was when I heard a lot of conflicting remarks about the film that I decided to go for it. Not that I wouldn't have gone for it otherwise; just that I felt it may move out one of these days and I'd have to wait for a Festival to watch the film.

Did I enjoy the film? Where do I place it on my list of films? Did my response to the film match those of the friends and acquaintances who said, "This is no way to portray a woman", "I don't know whether it is a good film, but it is a film one must see"

My opinion of the film is closer to the second. Moreover, there is no need to get disturbed on another's take on the woman just because it does not match your own attitude.

Now to the film. Meera Jasmine as Deepti has done her role exceedingly well. Her small world is thrown out of gear by a series of events, the major one being her walking into Dr Nathan's house asking for help. Whether Mammooty was the right choice is something that can be debated. He may have given his best, but till the end, we were conscious of the fact that it was Mammooty acting as Dr Nathan. Malayalam Cinema has good actors but the inability to exploit their talent in a variety of roles reflects the near-absence of range in the characters they normally portray on screen. Maybe a Naseeruddin Shah or a Farookh Shaikh would have done a good job by getting under the skin of the character. We do have films like Sparsh, Ek Pal, where these actors displayed their acting acumen.

Have often heard it said that when we judge a film what you have to look out for is, whether the director has succeeded in communicating what he had in mind. Going by that criterion, "Yes, the film communicates". All the other aspects of portrayal of the woman, dynamics of the man-woman relationship, infidelity etc are issues we as viewers have. To expect the filmmaker/characters to mouth our point of view, that isn't fair.

A review of Ore Kadal in a vernacular magazine defines it as an exemplary portrayal of "Pranayam". Maybe "Yes" and "No". Because nowhere does the heroine take up cudgels for the Social scientist, nor does she deride or compare her husband and the 'other man'(except towards the end of the film when she tells Nathan). What was interesting was the manner in which he (filmmaker) had etched the two characters. He was sure of how it should shape up and never did it slip from his control. A good script probably helped, did not notice the name of the scriptwriter. Usually such themes get mauled because there is a constant attempt to please the audience, or pander to what they are likely to appreciate. Even as I feel this very strongly, I think the conclusion showing the children climb up all the floors to be with the mother was something that made one think, "Oh no, why this scene?"

The restraint exercised in portraying the intimacy between the two has to be appreciated. As individuals, Deepti, her husband and Dr Nathan display no characteristics which can be called out of this world. Naren using his wife to go upto a near-stranger and ask for a loan or Nathan who can think of a woman not as a person, but only as a mere object of his desire, or Deepti who is not educated, would like to study but is caught up in the web of running a family all quite close to the real. The songs were uncalled for I thought,it did not in any way do any value-add to the final product.

Not having read "Hirak Deepti" by Sunil Gangopadhyay, I cannot fathom how much the filmmaker has taken from the original. Or,is he getting into the habit of using works of fiction as crutches and USPs?

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter steals the limelight

Media hype can make all the difference.

Pottermania struck hard with the release of the latest book " Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". You had visuals of the look alikes of Harry and his team waiting outside bookshops to get the copies when the 'clock struck twelve'. Thanks to the J K Rowling for having taken the young and the old alike, back to the joys of reading.
At least some of them may have been successfully weaned from the idiot box and computer games.

BUT, what did it mean to the 'aam aadmi' in India. Harry Potter took more space in the newspapers, of air time than the Presidential election in the country. Of course, who did not know that it would be a woman in the Chair. The headline space of the Sunday newspapers, particularly the English dailies with a national presence had the incoming President Pratibha Patil and Potter face-to-face.

No doubt Presidential elections in the country never raise the kind of dust that a General Election does. This time the results were as much a foregone conclusion as any of the earlier ones. The only fear may have been fear of heavy cross-voting which would tilt the balance in favour of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Will Dr APJ Abdul Kalam be the last of the greats who will occupy the highest office in our country? The demand for a politician in the post has been heard very often in the period of indeciveness displayed by all the political parties in the country regarding the presidential candidate.

In the Presidential polls of the future the 'aam aadmi' can be ready to receive people of the calibre of Sitaram Kesari, Gyani Zail Singh and not a single one that hold a candle to the likes of Dr Rajendra Prasad, DR S Radhakrishnan, Dr Zakir Hussain,who knew their worth but wore it lightly.

Would it be naive to say that the rules of the game need to be re-written? People have stopped reacting and responding in an effective manner, interventions are all politically motivated and engineered. Sit and enjoy the roller-coaster ride offered by our netas till our Electoral Laws undergo change. And that will need some WILL POWER.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pratibhatai in Rashtrapati Bhawan

The Congress has pulled out yet another of those rabbits from the hat – an unsuspecting Pratibha Patil finds herself catapulted into those rarefied spaces. What has the Sonia camp achieved in that long distance sprint for the next General elections?

Maharastra as a state, has all along felt it has not got the importance it deserves in Cabinet posts (but, that is a grouse which most of the States that do not fall in the ‘Cow belt’ or the BIMARU category always carry) therefore to have their person in the Rashtrapati Bhawan assures the Congress of a swing in their favour.

Najma Heptullah and Justice Fatima Beevi are names being bandied aboutby the Opposition. The latter’s inglorious exit from the gubernatorial post in Tamilnadu seems have gone to the ‘Trash Can’of public memory. None seems to remember that ignominous chapter in the life of a Chief Justice.

Now coming to the question of a woman as Head of State. The Asian nations have a history of woman Presidents: Sirimavo Bandarnaike - Sri Lanka, Benazir Bhutto-Pakistan, Begum(s) Hasina Wajid and Begum Khaleeda Zia in Bangladesh have led their countries through turbulence. So, a more seasoned democratic system like India should not really have a prolem with a Woman as Head of the State.

What one is left wondering is, whether Pratibhatai’s term as President would really translate into a meaningful and genuine step towards women’s empowerment. She comes with long years of experience working for women’s causes in Maharashtra but being a Congress worker and being the President of India are as different as chalk and cheese.

President Abdul Kalam has given a new face to the President, in a similar manner Pratibha Patil too can play a constructive role, but to say that things will start improving for the lot of women in the country because of the new incumbent is giving too simplistic an explanation for a rather complex issue.
One can’t help using the word used by Rajdeep Sardesai “Tokenism”, and nothing much would be achieved.

Pulling the wind out of the sails, in the case of the Presidential election has surely been achieved by the UPA (Or, Sonia Gandhi ?). Pratibha Patil is a staunch Congress woman, she has worked at various levels, is from Maharshtra a politically and economically important state for the country and she is a woman. The last acquires importance in a country where the Woman’s Reservation Bill has been continuously mired in controversies.

After the new President is firmly ensconced in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, we’ll have the stories that will dwell on ‘How Pratibha Patil became the UPA nominee?’ Till then we’ll have to take it as yet another Sonia stroke to get a puppet installed in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Coming of Indira Gandhi II - Mayawati

In 1989 Kanshi Ram was in Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram as part of his election tour after launching his new party for the Dalits. A statement he made rings in the ears. “We will come to power. This election we will open our account.” Things may not have happened so fast but the course of events in UP only prove that the BSP juggernaut had started rolling. In the election after this one mentioned he opined his account. Now the “Mayawati Tsunami” will only come to a grinding halt after securing the PM’s berth in the coming elections.

If the results of the recently concluded elections in UP are an indicator Mayawati will be able to achieve that coup. The call for Dalit unity across the country can be the clarion call that will cement the Dalits across the country transcending geographical, linguistic differences.

What is it that gave her this giant leap in a state where Mulayam Singh, Amar Singh, the first family of India’s past glory, the Nehru-Gandhi , the minority politics, the Brahmin lobby, all were unable to halt her progress. After results started pouring in channel after channel reminded the viewer-she doesn’t deign to speak to the media, she did not turn up at many of the venues where large crowds gathered to hear her speak, during her whirlwind tours of UP, electioneering. Yet, the people voted.

Mayawati is no ‘Clean’ politician, nor is she does stop to think about propriety in administration. When in power the state is her ‘fiefdom’. Nothing short of the Bourbon Louis XIV who said, “L’etat c’est moi’- "I am the state.” Surely there was a large section in the population that knew that she was as corrupt as any other politician so things would not improve on that count. It isn’t as if the Brahmin lobby which she won over does not know of her strong “Dalit” leaning, yet, they voted.

Was it the, “Let us giver her a chance” attitude or that once in politics none can be above board so why blame Mayawati approach that worked?

All this does not however explain why she is called “Indira Gandhi II’ in the title of this piece. Look at her career graph - a product of the Delhi of the Seventies, she has formed her own idea of the dynamics that work in the “musical chairs” game for power, she may not be a follower of Mrs Gandhi I but would have identified features in her manner of wielding power over the Congressmen and the ruthless manner in which she bent rules, violated established norms and yet stomped home with the Nation’s support at the hustings. Even if Mrs Indira Gandhi was disliked by many yet hers was a personality that impacted that generation in a Love her-or hate her, but you cannot ignore her” manner, and Mayawati in Kalindi College and later as a student of Law is very much the product of the Delhi of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

In her earlier terms as CM one can definitely locate similarity in the manner of governance of the two. Public have short memories, promise to deliver, execution is rarely monitored, but establish a rapport directly with the people and you will be able to sway the numbers to your side, is what she has learnt. Decisiveness, no soft pedaling, shock the media and the people with your decisions, do not stop to explain, you have the recipe for staying on in power.

The ‘petticoat cabinet’ of Indira Gandhi’s days may come back because a look at the running of a Ministry by Mayawati often shows her in the News and none of her minions or Ministers in the Cabinet find space. There again she comes through as Mrs Gandhi did, of course nearly four decades ago the country did not face such an acute leadership crisis, so we did have men who had quality but were kept under the thumb by Mrs Gandhi’s super planning.

Now we have pygmies for leaders so for Mayawati it will be a clean sweep if she plays her cards well and has some crumbs to offer for Dalit welfare, Muslim voters, agriculture, pamper the criminals and goons that people her party(all parties have this ingredient, so it is no more a black mark) and she will have a long reign in Lucknow, sorry New Delhi!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


When Jhumpa Lahiri’s work THE NAMESAKE became a film it raised interest among Indian audiences because a book by an immigrant Indian author being made into a film by another immigrant Indian, Mira Nair. Questions were many - “Will it be loyal to the book?” “Was the book suited for adaptation to celluloid?” “How close can one portray on celluloid the immigrant’s reality?”

Well, to say that Mira Nair has achieved great degree of success in this “Immigrant’s Tale” will make the film sound one for the Indian immigrant. But watch the film and you’ll know that it’s the searing pain that every immigrant undergoes be it the Middle East,the Continent, the US or even your own neighbouring state.

It has been said of the film that it is an American tale for the Indian and an Indian tale for the American. Well labels do not matter, what matters is that the film has touched us. Mira Nair’s has been a casting coup, I believe. Irfan Khan as Ashoke Ganguly and Tabu as Ashima his wife have done a splendid job. So has Karl Penn as the son Gogol.

The diasporic existence comes through. For the first generation the land is one of opportunities but ultimately he must get back home. The second generation cannot think of any place else other than the land where his parents held ’immigrant’ status as home, b’cos he is born here and has lived there.

But is it the name, is it the colour, that they find assimilation is never complete. “I feel my children are strangers,” says the mother, because they live the American life, or the son does not understand why ‘Gogol’ is important to his father. “Don’t call us ‘guys’, we are your parents. Understood.”

Mira Nair’s THE NAMESAKE is a well executed film. Some may accuse her of having made it for an international audience but she is a filmmaker who enjoys that status. One cannot ignore the fact that the NRI population is a major part of her audience. To say that she should not have any audience in mind when making the film would be unfair. The film must communicate and for that her audiences have to be reckoned with.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007


Haven’t we all heard of the “apartheid” practiced by our Indian brethren. Was told that Indians do not step into restaurants where the dark races serve them, in South Africa!! That is apartheid M,

What made this thought cross my mind? No, it wasn’t the Munnabhai hangover. Instead, it has to do with Shilpa Shetty’s media attention drawing antics. First it had to do with her ‘hurt’ at the Reality Show, (“All Indians are my brothers and sisters” – so all siblings were hurt! The Nation was hurt!) and now she’sbending backwards to say that Richard Gere smothered her on stage to create awareness regarding AIDS. Shilpa knows where her Sterlings are going to come from, so she backs to the hilt the actor who seems to take keen interest creating awareness on AIDS in the sub continent.

When we thought the matter was nearly closed, the hero has deigned to apologise, if there is a demand for it. Was he not reading the newspapers or watching TV to gauge the reaction of the Media to that smooch… They kept asking Ms Shetty the 'Whys and the Wherefors' and she kept repeating, “Please don’t act immature. Richard had already told me that he would plant a few kisses on stage” for effect. Pleeeeze, I’m not a kid, I can understand”.

One of course could understand her reaction but Ma’m would she be as forgiving if one of our desi heroes did the same thing for the noble cause – AIDS Awareness. “No Kissing Please” We are Indians. We-are-like-that only-syndrome.

Now you know why I mentioned brown ‘apartheid’.