Monday, September 27, 2010

Sufi Paranja Katha Directed by Priyanandanan

The theme of Hindu girl falling in love with a Muslim man and converting to Islam has been explored in so many Indian movies. However, this is the first movie directed by the National Award winning director Priyanandanan that I watched and it is called Sufi Paranja Katha (The Story Told by a Sufi). The story revolves around a beautiful girl called Karythiyani (starring Sharbani Mukherji), who is the heiress of a reigning, upper caste Hindu family.

Right from the beginning, her beauty is intoxicating, to the extent that even her maternal uncle, who sees her as a daughter, feels disturbed and uneasy in her presence because she is so seductive and innocent. She falls in love with a Muslim trader called Maamooty (starring Prakash Bare) and she runs away with him. This is where the story really begins because it captures her journey into his life, and more importantly, his religion and society.

Despite being a staunch Muslim who is loved and respected in the community, Mamooty receives a cold, indifferent welcome when he brings home Karthiyayani. He persuades her very easily to convert to Islam and she agrees. He tells her, "You will have to change your religion, your name, your dressing style, ...in short, you will have to change everything completely."

Karthi converts to Islam and follows the religion with respect. Whatever she does is looked at first with doubt and then with grudging disapproval by the society she has now become a part of. She finds in the premises of her husband's home an idol of "Bhagawathy," (Goddess) and persuades him to build a temple for the statue. She tells him that she wants to "remember the past" and that it is not to pray. He feels there is nothing wrong in remembering the past and builds the temple but she is unable to let go of the beliefs she grew up with and she worships the deity with the rituals she had grown up believing in.

Following this, the Muslim leaders decide to warn her husband that if he does not make an attempt to save the religion's beliefs, they will have to take it into their own hands. in a ritualistic manner. The emotional upheavals that follow the couple affect their relationship and erodes the trust and respect they had for each other.

The director, Priyanandanan succeeds in keeping the viewers glued to the story, without making any judgments about what is right or wrong. He portrays how people in society are forced to make choices because religion plays a very important role in human life and society.

This movie is disturbing as well as thought provoking. It is not suitable for kids.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Elsamma Enna Oru Aankutty - A Review of Lal Jose Movie

When my parents and I opted to watch Lal Jose's 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty,' we never expected that Padma theater in Ernakulam would be packed with college students, families and batches of girls. We just wanted to watch a movie that seemed to hint comedy and entertainment, with stars like Kunchako Boban and Indrajit. Of course, I must confess here that I've always liked Kunchako Boban's movies and I see them again whenever shown on TV.

This movie is beautifully shot in the hilly ranges of a village near Idukki. I am not a photography expert but the landscape's scenic beauty is truly breathtakingly remarkable.

The protagonist is a young girl called Elsamma (starring Ann Augustine), who dons various hats in her struggle to make an honest living to support her three sisters and helpless mother. She works as the village's newspaper girl and her close friend is Palunni (Kunchacko Boban), the milk delivery boy.

Right from the start, their conversations are typical of two young people who know and respect each other but nothing more is said to make us wonder deeper. The chemistry is good and it sets the tone of the movie.Both of them have a local godfather called Paapan (starring Nedumudi Venu) who is wealthy and lonely as his only son is settled in the US and rarely visits him. Besides walking around like a boy in a shapeless shirt and lungi, Elsamma is a responsible citizen. She takes on local politicians, works with the police to expose liquor baron and other illegal activities in the village. Without being too much of a tomboy, she does everything that with conviction and boldness, due to which she is called 'Elsamma enna aankutty.'

When Ebymon, the rich brat and grandson of Paapan appears in the village (starring Indrajit), the story takes a predictable turn. He flirts with her and her sisters, calls his city friends to solicit them and so on. He does every cheap trick in the book to impress the tough and sensible Elsamma, who see through it all with a stoic smile and witty lines but uses it to make Paalunni jealous.

The protagonist, Elsamma, reminds viewers of other strong protagonists we have seen in Malayalam movies like Samyukta Varma in "Veendum Chilla Veetukaryangal, Meera Jasmine in 'Kasthuriman' and Manju Warrier in 'Ee Puzhayum Kadannu'. However, the movie does not break the mould because it follows a predictable triangle plot.

When the film ended, the viewers were smiling and recollecting memorable moments from several scenes. Sure, this is a family entertainer and one that is going to draw in families and college students in big numbers. It comes with a strong social message about taking responsibility in life seriously at a young age.

When Abymon proposes to Elsamma, she tells him, sweetly, "What you feel for me is not love but something else. It is a disease that affects you and not me because I have lots of work to do in my life and you don't."

I really liked this message and the movie. What about you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Simple Dental Tips From Reader's Digest September 2010

Readers Digest (September 2010) gives us simple tips to take care of our teeth and I am sharing some of these tips because it is useful to all of us:

1. If you are a parent, it is essential to take your kid regularly for dental check ups to a qualified and well experienced pedodontist. Ask the pedodontist to show you how to make your child brush his/her teeth properly. Ask tips on how to choose the paste and brush for your kid. Those are little details but important, nevertheless.

2. Use floride toothpaste and brush twice a day. Ideally, you must spend at least 3 minutes brushing your teeth and ensuring that all the nooks and corners of your teeth are brushed properly.

3. Avoid consuming or giving candies and soft drinks to others because it exposes the teeth to sugar, leads to acid formation and dental caries. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after drinking colas because it can damage the teeth enamel due to etching.

4. If you eat anything that is sticky and tends to cling around your teeth, brush your teeth half an hour later.

5. Fruits, nuts and raw vegetables are good for the teeth.

6. Drinking tea or coffee frequently is bad for the teeth. It increases the risk of tooth decay.

Dentists advise that toxins in the mouth can lead to dangerous diseases that affect the body as well. When you opt for regular dental check ups, you can know whether this is the case but if left unaddressed, it can affect your heart and other vital organs of the body.

Be conscious of your teeth, do the little things that help it to shine and sparkle and keep smiling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kerala: An Enchanting Temptress

To me, Kerala is an enchanting temptress, a palette of different cultural and regional experiences. The cosmopolitan culture of Kochi is totally different from the traditional, time honored traditions of Palaghat or the warm hospitality of Malabar or high business, commercial and political melodrama that is a part of Kottayam with its mostly Christian influence or the slighly rigid, no frills life that derived its sustenance from the government based structure and culture of organized life in Thiruvananthapuram. Each place has its own beliefs and cuisine that are distinct and ethnic and different from other parts of Kerala.

My friends and cousins in each different city of Kerala teach me something interesting and sometimes disagreeable about the place and its people. It would be wrong to say that every city in Kerala is perfect. That is not true at all but each and every place in Kerala offers a distinct cultural experience. Of course, it could be true of all cities and places in India but Kerala occupies a very special place in my life as that is where my story begins.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Freedom is a Priceless Gift, So is Personal Space

There are some little things in life that we can change. My parents, from their conduct, taught me this. I want to share it here because I see the lack of it affecting the sanctity of relationships across families and friendships.

Give Personal Space, Don't Give Advice

Lets face it. We are educated, grown ups and we don't need people telling us how to do things. We have a fairly good idea of how to manage our private spaces and there are people who can step in to help us when things go wrong or when we ask them for their advice. Too many relationships are spoiled by imposing one's own perceptions on others, whether it is in family, friendships or even at work places. The simplest and most effective solution is to give each person his/her personal space, respect that space and don't give advice unless it is requested. Sometimes, your intuition can tell you to break that rule but giving inputs all the time and giving advice all the time are two different things that require a delicate balance.

The best way to test if your advice is likely to be appreciated is to weigh the following factors:

1. The depth of your emotional closeness and proximity with the person you want to give advice to.

2. The urgency of the situation that requires such advice.

3. The probable 'value add' that can make your advice invaluable to the recipient's quality of life and to your own relationship with the recipient too.

I've never given advice to anybody for two simple reasons. One, I am not qualified to advice people about how they should lead their lives when I know very little about who they are or what their real feelings and lives are like. Two, I don't accept anybody's advice except that of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba whom I revere as my God and I don't give advice to anybody. That is my policy.

I must confess here, that while my parents have influenced me the most, they have never imposed their wishes or beliefs on me. They have always given me absolute freedom to decide what I want from my life. Yes, they have approved of somethings and disapproved of other things but my father always taught me one important thing,
"Always make your decisions by asking God and yourself if this is the right thing to do. Never let anything else deter you, especially your ego. If there is a conflict between what God says and what your conscience says, listen to the conscience. That is your inner charioteer, that is the voice of God speaking to you. " And he said, "If you disagree with this, you have the freedom to say so too."

I respect and believe in all religions but I don't let religion dictate every minute aspect of my life as if it were a lifetime punishment. Suppose the Bible, the Gita or the Koran say, "don't do X, Y and Z", the important thing is to ask your conscience what is right for you in your unique or peculiar set of circumstances. It has always worked for me to listen to my inner conscience but it differs from one person to the others.

This freedom that my father gave me helped me to be more responsible towards my own growth in a positive way. That is exactly the gift I will pass to my son.

We are Family!

Last week, we went to watch the KJo movie 'We are Family.' The movie is a remake of the popular Hollywood flick, Step Mom. We knew what to expect in the movie so it wasn't something so great to write home about but it was a good film to watch.

My four year old loved the movie. From start to finish, he was so engrossed in the family drama. That night, Adi hugged me tight and said, "Amma, please don't die, please don't. I have no body to look after me or love me if you die. Please dont have an operation."

That night, he kept saying in his sleep, "Please don't die, Amma. Please don't die."

It struck me then how this film can impact the emotions and vulnerable side of kids, something the movie makers never even hint about because the trailers show the happy, fun side of being a family. In India, most families go to watch movies with their kids, so shouldn't the film makers have either suggested an age limit for kids or something? For profit, people in the entertainment business have a right to showcase the best highlights of their product but there should be an ethics to this, especially if you are showing a movie to be about families and kids and the movie can impact smaller kids in a tumultous way.

Of course, Adi came out of the phase in a day. Whenever I look weak, he fusses more over me because he worries that I will die.

Yesterday, the little guy tells me, matter of factly, "We are a good family so please don't get sick like the mom in that movie. If you get sick, I will have to go and get myself a new mother. I don't want to do that, Amma."

LOL! Talk about emotional threats.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Agnidevan Directed by Venu Nagavally

This movie is one of my all time favorites. The story is gripping, intense and involves a family drama and the conflict between two brothers who share the legacy of "Ezhuthupura" or the writer's workshop, that is a family tradition and their role as the main writers and publisher of a daily newspaper come to the forefront of their rivalry with each other. While one brother (starring Devan) has a clinical, business oriented attitude to growing the newspaper industry that he heads, the younger brother (starring Mohanlal)feels very emotional and passionate about the craft of writing and reporting. He gives everything to enriching his relationships and cannot understand how to approach it with business goals because writing, in itself, marks tradition, legacy and so much more in their family of distinguished writers.

Perhaps no film has captured the conflicts facing the writing industry in Kerala, which has some of the best writers and reporters but a clear history of forcing them out of the system to pave the way for growth oriented corporate style functioning. The movie has a socialist approach, an element that threads most movies directed by Venu Nagavally. The song that I love the most "Neelavintey Neelabhasma kuri aninjavaley" composed by the late M.G.Radhakrishnan and sung by his brother, M.G.Sree Kumar is every Malayali's favorite romantic melody.

The best moments in the movie make fun of rich people and their ways. It gives shocking insights into how social respectability and keeping up with the Joneses has become more important to the society than values such as love, simplicity and family honor. The girl cousin, who is a brilliant writer and independent thinker, is beautifully portrayed by Revathy. The Lal - Revathy moments in this movie are so subtly and remarkably portrayed, revealing how we fail to become strong for ourselves when family honor is at stake.

There is so much more I could go on to write about the other amazing characters in this movie but I don't want to bore my readers with my likes and dislikes. Maybe this post can remain what it is - a tribute to my favorite director, the late Venu S Nagavally.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Aye Auto Directed by Venu Nagavally

Another super hit movie that Venu Nagavally is famous for is, Aye Auto, the first commercial entertaining movie of its kind that delved into the lives, conversations and relationships of auto rickshaw drivers in Kerala.

Once again, it is Mohan Lal’s exceptional acting abilities coupled with humorous dialogues that made the movie so popular in Kerala. The story is about a poor auto rickshaw driver who meets a girl called Meenakshi from a rich, well known family and begins to fall in love with her. She teaches him English and dreams of seeing him as someone who can speak the language with confidence while he dreams of her as someone as beautiful and priceless to his life just like the auto that he calls ‘Sundari.’

There is no ‘sugar coated romance’ as such but from the way they look at each other and care so deeply about each other, you can guess how deeply they are in love and yet fighting the conflict within to not acknowledge it because the divide is too great.

Also, no director had ever bothered to delve into the pressures, working conditions and lives of autorickshaw drivers before. Even the little details about how they are treated badly in a status conscious society are dealt with in such a heartrending way through scenes that are so often snippets of what we really see around us in real life. A rich guest is treated with greater respect and hospitality by the host while a poor guest, who has no social status as such, is treated with contempt and indifference. Not all do it but yes, it is a fast growing norm and inevitable crisis that we are learning to struggle with. The movie subtly questioned the society’s upper crust and their rules that they alone can dictate the terms of how to treat others.

The goodness, the warmth of characters and the dose of reality combine all the essential attributes of a successful entertainer, which is finally, what this movie is all about. Other directors made similar attempts to make movies around the lives of auto rickshaw drivers but came up with sloppy rendering and slapstick comedy. The mark of a good director, after all, is not something every Tom, Dick and Harry can imitate.

And that’s exactly the legend Venu Nagavally was.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sukhamo Devi: Directed by Venu Nagavally

Not just as a fan of Venu Nagavally but as an avid movie watcher, I have to admit that Sukhamo Devi is a path breaking Malayalam movie that influenced many youths in Kerala. By his own admission, Venu Nagavally called it a true portrayal of his own tragic love story.

The campus movie paved the way for a great shift in the realm of story telling, scripting, music and even the characterization of the protagonists. The way this movie reached out to touch and influence young minds cannot be expressed sufficiently in words. It changed our perceptions about campus romance, friendships, relationships and even the intimacy of our experiences in campus once we have come of the mould and learned to separate ourselves from those whom we once considered central to our happiness in life. The musical maestro of Malayalam cinema, the late Raveendran Master, gave such a deep treatment and feel to the songs in this movie, doing complete justice to the brilliantly creative lyrics penned by the O.N.V.Kurup. The songs from this movie are evergreen hits that every Malayali hums, enjoys and listens to, as if each time, a new meaning and sentiment is evoked just by listening.

This is also one of Mohan Lal’s best films, bringing out layers of acting skills as he became transformed into the happy-go-lucky, careless campus hero.

A Humble Tribute to My Favorite Director - Venu Nagavally

This morning, the news of Venu Nagavally’s demise stunned and devastated me, though my only connection with him was through his brilliant Malayalam films. Though an actor, it is the director and script writing abilities of this great artist that made me his staunch fan. Being the son of a noted writer, Nagavally S Kurup, it is perhaps a priceless genetic inheritance that endowed Venu Nagavally with the unique insights of a fine writer, impeccable film making style and attention to making entertaining movies that did not lose compassion and human values in a very touching way.

It is from Twitter that I got to know about his demise and the tweets were filled with sadness from Malayalis across the world, who recalled some of his finest movies that are still so popular, such as Sukhamo Devi, his first directorial venture.

There are many movies of Venu Nagavally that I admire and love to watch several times over. I am sure most Malayalis feel the same about his films. I want to touch upon a few movies directed by this great man, that have deeply entertained and influenced many of us who enjoy Malayalam cinema. However, that will be something I would do separately and not in this post.

No doubt, Venu Nagavally will live through the films that he created for us and the messages that he wanted to resonate in the society. I believe that no artist, whether a writer, director, or singer, really dies, because their works live on and through those works, these artists continue to breathe and resonate with us.

My humble prayers and salutations to this great artist, writer and director. May the soul of this great artist rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How Time Flies (A Poem)

Out of the blue, these lines popped into my mind. I don't even know what prompted it but it just flowed into my mind and I jotted it down and read it again, hoping t change or make it read better. Somehow, I didn't find anything to change so here it is, I am presenting a short poem after many years:

Time flies,
You don't realize,
you've grown up,
out of beliefs that once warmed,
then taught you there's no going back, ever,
like the gush of blood,
against your skin,
touching,
flowing,
searing,
all that you held pure.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In our Eyes, Our Children are Perfect

I love Jodi Picoult's novels because I admire the way she writes and brings her characters to life, not missing even the tiniest details about the characters. Her writing and storyline is brilliant and perfectly researched and yes, she keeps you guessing till the end.

However, when I read The Tenth Circle, I was so disturbed. It is about a father called Daniel, a cartoonist by profession. He is the perfect father and husband and his world revolves around his daughter Trixie. The story revolves around Trixie who is a typical teenager till she comes home one night, alleging that her boyfriend had raped her.

From the time she entered her teens, her father senses that for the first time, he has lost her because she is in a world he cannot enter - the violent, sexual world of teenagers. What makes it worse is that she is keeping a distance from her father, not because she doesn't love him anymore but because the secrets she has to guard are the very things no father wants to hear about his daughter.

The investigation into the rape shocks Daniel and his wife because they realize the daughter they had believed they raised was a completely different person when she was with her friends. She had done the most unbelievable and unacceptable things because she wanted to be popular in college. This didn't bring her the happiness that she thought it would because in campus life, a girl's ratings change every minute, in a very cruel way.

The reason I mentioned this book here is that though I was very emotionally disturbed by what i had read, I felt a million times worse when I picked up the newspaper today and read about 9 DPS students who were suspended from school because they had been found indulging in 'objectionable behavior' by the students. Six boys and one girl were caught in a compromising situation in the school bathroom while three girl students, during a picnic, had ventured off to indulge in similar activities and they were caught by a teacher. The news report stated that their parents are so outraged and they don't believe a word against their children and complained bitterly against the school.

Whether we like it or not, sexual encounters in Indian schools are more shocking and hushed than we can imagine. Students are feeling forced to do things that they are not meant to do at such an early age because it is all about keeping scores with the rest of the kids. They don't want to risk being labeled as 'virtuous,' a tag that is considered the ultimate dishonor in campus life today. Another fact is that we are all becoming uber cool parents who don't want to sermonise to our kids and in the process of being liberal, we fail, at some level, to give them the timely guidance they need at that vulnerable stage. We recognize them as our children and therefore, we dont want to believe they are capable of doing forbidden things that can harm everything we are striving for their future to become. Lets face it, we have a responsibility to their welfare. Yes, we dont want to suffocate them with archaic rules, regulations or caning, but where is the perfect moment to step in and say, "No, this is not acceptable because it will ruin your future and your growth."

I don't know when that perfect moment will materialize because most of us believe our kids are perfect. In our eyes, they are.

I feel strange and disturbed about this. I worry about how worse the peer pressure and these encounters are going to be for my son. I believe that the destruction of a child's innocence is much more than just a physical transition.

Dear God, help us to take parenting more responsibly and keep our kids sane and safe. I pray this every day because I am a mother and selfish as this sounds, I don't want to lose my only child because at some level, I failed to seize that perfect moment.

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