Thursday, September 19, 2013

Childhood Memories: Of playing 'Yes Boss', Yummy Nugget Frying Moments & lots more

Most of our childhood is stored not in photos but in certain biscuits, lights of day, smells, textures of carpet. - Alain de Botton


One of the most beautiful aspects about being a mother is that you are blessed with an opportunity to make your child's growing up years truly memorable. When my son looks back to his childhood days, I truly hope that these are some of the things that he will remember fondly and perhaps share as part of the 'Down Memory Lane' conversations as an adult:

Childhood Memories: With a Mom who turns the tables on 'Son is King' syndrome

Fun times with an easy going mother, who despite struggling with 24X7 work related tasks, kitchen chores and other odd jobs, makes sure that she raises a confident, down-to-earth and positive thinking kid who often tries his hand at being a brat. This mom doesn't give him the 'Son is King and never at fault' routine and she grills him whenever it is required, asks him to pitch in to go buy groceries, keep his plate back in the kitchen after eating, tidy up and sort the laundry and clean up his small toy areas that he is prone to dumping toys onto. 

How many kids get their moms to acknowledge them as 'BOSS' once a month? Just for the fun of it, here's a slightly eccentric mom who insists that her kid plays the Boss at least once a month wherein he gets to choose everything that he wants his mother to do for him. It could be eating a pizza, letting him watch cartoons for half a day or munch packet crisps that he loves to indulge in. And every time he gives an order, Mom says "Yes, Boss. Your wish is my command." And then the two of them giggle together. But Mom tells him firmly, "In the real world, bosses and employees don't work like this. No one really orders another to do something. Every task has a milestone and a reason to get done. Work is shared and it helps both people to grow and learn from each other gradually towards a point of friendship and mentoring that is valued with trust. This is just a chilled out game, so don't ever think you can boss anyone like this in real life."

Childhood Memories: Sleepless during Singing Time
Sleep time is our best 'bonding' time together right from baby days. It is when a child is most open yet vulnerable and the need to feel secure and loved is more than words can express. It's the time when I sing songs ranging from famous melodies like Dakshinamurthy's "Paatu paadi urakaam njaan" which instantly puts Adi to sleep or a hymn that is a family favorite 'Away in a Manger". Sometimes the roles get reversed and Mom asks son to sing a lullaby for her. Result: Both end up singing together instead of getting some sleep. Adi's best songs are "God's love, its so Wonderful" and "Que Sera Sera" - which always brings a smile all around.

Childhood Memories: Nugget Frying Moments
Delicious nugget frying moments when we seem to shout numbers at each other like "How many?" or "3 or 4?" and so on. Experimental moments when Mom tries hard to market her dish to the fussy food eater. Some 'best selling' experiments in the kitchen include Grated Potato and Cheese omelets, Macaroni Cheese and Creamy Garlic Potatoes. 

Childhood Memories: Emotional, tear-jerker moments
Emotional, tear-jerker moments when Mom and Son hug each other and cry as if it's the end of the world over little secrets they share only between themselves and promise each other never to reveal to anybodyelse!

Like Adi loves to sing "Que Sera, Sera" - "What will be, will be."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Power of Love

Love without a price tag, conditions attached or the fine print of debt 



Before you start reading, let me confess that I was inspired by this post http://popchassid.com/didnt-love-wife/ to write this:

I was five years old when I decided that I would never opt for an arranged marriage. I told my Father about this. As always, he smiled - that calm, wise smile and said, "If that's what you truly want."

A part of me was disappointed. From all the Malayalam movies I had seen till then, this would have been the moment I was thrown out of the family for bringing dishonor. But my father didn't seem to care.

Then the thought struck me....I must be an adopted child. That's why my father isn't angry or livid or upset or wanting to throw me out of the house.

So, when an occasion came up, I ask my dad  " Tell me the truth please. Ami an adopted child?" I realize now that adopted children are loved as much as natural children in Indian families now but back then, I relied on movies to convey social truths.

I braced for the earth to shake, the heavens to fall...nothing of the sort happened. 

My father looked at me with amusement and says, "Which movie have you been watching recently?"

Then I felt really cross. This is a matter of my life and my identity. My dad isn't angry or serious about my destiny. Shouldn't he be threatening not to send me to school ever again? That's what loving dads are supposed to do in the movies!

As time passed, my priorities changed drastically mainly because of what I read and later experienced. When I turned 14, I had decided to practice spirituality very seriously.

I told my parents that I want to work towards Sanyasa. They were not surprised or taken aback. It was as though they were expecting it.

This is what my father said, "I won't say you are too young to take a decision like this. There is no greater truth than God or pursuing the path towards God. Your parents will never stand in your way. But wait till you have completed your education and then lets have this conversation again."

At sixteen, I went to the Kodaikanal ashram of my Guru. It was the month of April. The flowers seemed to bloom everywhere. The sun seemed more golden and I basked in the knowledge of my destiny. Or so, I thought as I prayed the same prayer that I should be accepted into the fold.

For the first time, a shadow of disapproval came across from my Guru and Master. His reply to my prayer was: "Do you know what it takes to be My disciple? Do you have any idea? You are not even remotely eligible to undertake Sanyasa."

I was crushed. I began to cry then and there. You can ask anyone in my family. It is very rarely they would have seen me cry unless its a tear jerker Padmarajan film like 'Njaan Gandharvan' or 'MunaamPakam.'

Then, with a lot of love, He said, "The words were harsh but had to be conveyed. You are my Daughter, nothing changes my love for you. You are always in my protection. I will always protect you as the eyelids protect the eyes. I am always with you. Isn't that enough? Go out into the world, experience what life has to offer, find your path when you are ready. All this talk of Sanyasa is not for you. In this lifetime, your chance to serve will come but not for many many years. When that chance comes, I will call you. Even then, it will not be Sanyasa for you."

I asked, "Are you punishing me with this rejection?"

His reply was "No, I am giving you an opportunity to fly away into a world that will fascinate your curiosity and you will learn to discover the path of spirituality on your own terms. If I accept you today, you will regret this moment years later. I know what is best for you. Forget Sanyasa, it is not for you."

Swami was right. Because at eighteen, I fell deeply in love. It took my life in a completely different direction. The years that followed were of passion and turbulence. Not exactly a recipe for 'Sanyasa' material. But I wouldn't have known that when I first considered myself to be the right material for Sanyasa.

Looking back to that exact moment of rejection, I realize one inexplicable Truth: My Guru knows me and loves me more than I knew. That one choice He made for me was out of absolute pure love and gave me the absolute freedom to live my life on my own terms, just as He wanted.

As a mother, I know the value of this love He has shown me. When you love your child deeply and truly, you put your child's happiness and destiny above everything else. 

In the end, that's all that matters: Love without a price tag, conditions attached or the fine print of debt.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Anju Sundarikal Malayalam Movie Review: Dulquar Salman in full throttle, Fahadh Faasil disappoints

Anju Sundarikal, as the title suggests 'Five Beautiful Women,' is a poignant anthology of five short films that celebrate five female protagonists and their tumultous lives. These five films play on different themes and emotions, and on the whole, it is an interesting anthology.


Anju Sundarikal - Sethulakshmi
The first film, Sethulakshmi, is a heart-wrenching portrayal of sexual abuse of a small girl whose hobby is to collect newspaper clippings of newly wed couples from newspapers and she embarks on getting a similar photograph taken of herself with her best buddy from school. What appears as an innocent wish is the honeytrap that leads the little girl to understand the meaning of fear. 

Each scene in Sethulakshmi  seemed to tear into my heart, particularly in a scene where the photographer's hands and glance linger a tad too obscenely on the innocent, unsuspecting girl whose eyes are filled with fear. There is another scene where she is so frightened that she curls up at the feet of her parents - these nuances where words remain unspoken in a frightened little girl's mind and her feelings spill over into trembling actions. These symbolic emotional vignettes are striking and leave you feeling as naked as the girl was forced to be. It's a true masterpiece short film. You will have tears in your eyes despite the fact that the nuances are powerfully layered with non-verbal meaning.

Kudos to the Cinematographer-turned-Director Shyju Khalid who makes his debut as a director with Sethulakshmi. 


Anju Sundarikal - Esha
Esha, starring Isha Sharvani and Nivin Pauly, portrays two good-looking young people who meet on New Year's day in a beautiful home. The first scene itself is a hint: of a girl whose feet look beautiful as she pirouettes and practices her graceful dancing and acrobatic skills. But we may not realize that this subtle shot has a deeper meaning till we watch the entire film. Nivin Pauly impresses more than one would expect and matches Isha Sharvani in confidence, body language and overall they bring on screen a sizzling chemistry.

Sameer Thahir directs this light, romantic film. However, the film is like an icing on the cake and the cake simply does not fit in with the other films in this anthology.


Anju Sundarikal - Gowri

In the backdrop of a hill station surrounded by a vast expanse of forest area, a married couple live (starring Kavya Madhavan and Biju Menon). Their lives seem to have a set routine that they are not keen to break. A scene that I particularly liked was where Gowri is explaining to her dance students that the essence of the Nataraja pose is that in creation, there also lies the act of destruction. This dialogue captures the overall theme of the movie as it progresses forward. 

On the eve of their wedding anniversary, a visit by their friends (starring Rimi Tomi and Tini Tom) somehow changes the plateau-like stance of their marital relationship. A tragedy strikes and leaves Gowri emotionally shattered. 

Somehow, I was most disappointed by Gowri. I could not connect to Gowri, Jo or their complicated relationship that hinges on melodramatic, gloomy sense of self-centredness. The characterization baffles me as much as the story itself.   

This rare couple combination of two fine actors with a very versatile body of work raised my expectations. Doubling my expectations was the fact that Aashiq Abu is the director. But after watching Gowri, it was a most insipid experience, like drinking soda without fizz. 

Anju Sundarikal - Kullantey Bharya

Kullantey Bharya, directed by Amal Neerad,is the best story that I liked in this anthology.This short film is about a dwarf, his intense love relationship with his tall and lovely looking wife. Their love story is set against the backdrop of a hostile society, with its hawk-like stance. Does the short film taunt at the hypocrisy of the middle class Malayalis, particularly, the women? 

It shows how women are jealous, cruel and bitchy because of something missing in their own lives that they look at a happy woman with suspicion of the worst kind, anger and hatred while men look at her with longing and lust. It drives home a question - is the 'new generation' Malayali a supremely judgmental animal who no longer embraces the once-intellectual approach of sharing the happiness or the beauty of others' lives into his/her own life? 

Are we, so-called 'educated' Malayalis, losing our sense of humanity? That is crux of this story that taunts the emergence of the moral police in 'God's own country.'

I loved the presentation of Kullantey Bharya - the emotional quotient that is reflective in its characterization, the pace, the plot, the falling rain, the body movements of all those who acted in this short film. Playing the role of a professional photographer who is stuck in the wheelchair for some months, Dulquar Salman impresses yet again and brings us a most moving performance even though the character is limited in the range of physical movements. His voice-over effect is excellent and packs in the right melange of emotions and balances well with logical observations that emerge from a young, curious mind. This is the best short film in Anchu Sundarikal and a must-watch.


Anju Sundarikal - Aami

Directed by Anwar Rasheed, Aami is about a man (starring Fahadh Faasil) who is constantly driving and on the move and on the roads, past midnight hours, seeking and sealing deals that are important to him. The way he does it is as unconventional as the person that he is. Nothing is good or bad in his way of getting things done. He wants it done, period. That his wife's innocence fascinates and grates on his nerves is what makes this an interesting story. But the pace of the plot loses steam way too often as too many characters are cramped into the short length of this movie including a cheesy fling with an old flame.  

What I liked in particular was the way his wife would call him every few minutes with a Malayalam riddle and ask him to solve it. One would naturally wonder why she keeps doing this and towards the end, it is clear - if she didn't, he'd probably have fallen asleep and had an accident - small or fatal. That she is innocent is one aspect of her personality. That she is protecting her husband by staying awake and entertaining him with riddle solving is a deeper and more poignant facet of a woman's personality. 

Portraying emotions such as anger, temptation to have a fling all over again, trying hard to be a dutiful husband - these are the conflicts that Fahadh Faasil tries to portray but, however, disappoints.

Yes, 5 Sundarikal is a mixed bag of emotional vignettes. I can tell you one thing for sure. Dulquar Salman takes the cake and eats it too. He's brilliant and effortlessly so.


♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all Malayalam movie goers who enjoy good cinema. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who enjoy and support the growth of the Malayalam film industry. ♥♥

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