Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hitchcock Effect

Watched Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" last night. One of his lighter films. Still it managed to kill my sleep (could be the beer). Had this strange dream that I was trying to cover up some murder that someone else committed on a train (Mangala Express), I get some money for it.. Police is after me but I have left no evidence.. I'm walking on a hill carrying that money (in a huge cover, trying to hide it under my shirt) and I'm afraid someone would notice..

Last week I had watched "Vertigo", which was a different genre altogether. It was very intense, the suspence element was much more, had a lot of tense sequences, in short watching it was strenuous (and it's in colour, made 7 years later in 1958). But there wasn't any hang-over like this. Perhaps it haunted me enough while watching it. Have to watch it again, at least two-three times more.

I don't think there's anything left to be written about Vertigo, so I'll only reproduce one of the film's posters [source: filmsite.org].

Hope to watch "Psycho" sometime next week.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Boy, get up, there's no dinner for you!

Talking of bad experiences, it's hard to miss this one. In Malayalam there's one phrase, "to wake one up and tell there's no dinner". I had a chance to figure out how bad it is, thanks to Al Italia.

It was about three years back, about an hour past midnight. Flight for Milan took off from Mumbai airport. I had not had dinner that night and was hungry, but more than that I was tired and sleepy, so I fell asleep even before the flight took off.

The the air hostess woke me up and said it's dinner, I was irritated that it disturbed my sleep but was happy I was getting to eat something. After about five minutes, she came and told me sorry sir, we have run out of dinner. Presumably everyone else in the flight got their meals. Including my friend who was traveling with me. We were on the last seat, we were students and we did look like students.

The Milan-Mumbai flight experience was even worse. It was afternoon, and I was served vegetarian meals. When I asked for non-vegetarian meals, they first told me they ran out of non-veg meals. When I told them I just saw someone else (who look white) asking for a non-vegetarian meal and she got it, the air hostess started arguing with me, then she asked me for my boarding pass to confirm I had indeed opted for non-vegetarian meals. And then they got me the non-veg meal.

The difference in the manner in which they treated similar requests from me and the foreign lady suggested that I was at the wrong place. I did not expect that on an international flight. That, along with the previous experience, convinced me that I shouldn't travel Al Italia again if I'm given a choice. [I didn't bother to file a complaint, as I didn't feel it was worth it.]

"Lights on" Rocks!!

Have you ever experienced the "lights on" tremors at Satyam Cinemas, Chennai? I am new to the city and have been to just two lights on shows, one a screening of "36 Chowringee lane" followed by a conversation with Aparna Sen, and the second one "Hangman" followed by Om Puri. Both were held at Sree.

Both the screenings sent shivers down one's spines, literally. Throughout the show, the hall was vibrating to an extent that on the first day, I thought it was a mild earth-quake shaking the city. (Okay-- first I thought it was my mobile but then I confirmed it was switched off. Then I thought it could be "Krrish" or some such loud film "rocking" the hall below, but it didn't seem to stop. I checked with my friends later to make sure I wasn't the only one who felt it.)

The second time I was more prepared for it, but it is certainly not good news that this is a regular feature at Sree (or is it only for the lights on screenings?) Some special effect that you did not ask for?

[Appendage: I was watching 36 Chowringee lane for the first time and Aparna Sen was an added attraction, so I did not consider leaving the hall on the first day.

Hangman
was boring and cliched, and even worse, the illiterate characters of some interior Maharashtra village spoke English-- this happens when one makes films exclusively for festivals. Hariharan cleverly avoided talking about the film, and instead talked about the new wave films that Om Puri was a part of.

The sound during the interaction session was bad both the times, so much that Aparna Sen and Dhritiman Chatterjee decided to go without mics for the entire conversation.

Another bad experience I've had at the Satyam cinemas was the Subham that is "undergoing renovation", where my eardrums suffered badly. Someone has written about it here.]

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who is Grisha Perelman?

I first heard this name about a week back. I got a mail which carried a Newyork Times article dated August 15, that started with a question "Grisha Perelman, where are you?"

I didn't know who he was, but the first few lines caught my attention so I didn't delete it. It went thus:

"Three years ago, a Russian mathematician by the name of Grigory Perelman, a k a Grisha, in St. Petersburg, announced that he had solved a famous and intractable mathematical problem, known as the Poincaré conjecture, about the nature of space.

After posting a few short papers on the Internet and making a whirlwind lecture tour of the United States, Dr. Perelman disappeared back into the Russian woods in the spring of 2003, leaving the world's mathematicians to pick up the pieces and decide if he was right.."

The article goes on:

"Now they say they have finished his work, and the evidence is circulating among scholars in the form of three book-length papers with about 1,000 pages of dense mathematics and prose between them.

As a result there is a growing feeling, a cautious optimism that they have finally achieved a landmark not just of mathematics, but of human thought.."

....

"But at the moment of his putative triumph, Dr. Perelman is nowhere in sight. He is an odds-on favorite to win a Fields Medal, math's version of the Nobel Prize, when the International Mathematics Union convenes in Madrid next Tuesday. But there is no indication whether he will show up.

Also left hanging, for now, is $1 million offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., for the first published proof of the conjecture, one of seven outstanding questions for which they offered a ransom back at the beginning of the millennium.."

The Fields Medal (it is awarded once in four years to mathematicians under 40, see Mathworld and wikipedia entries) was announced day before, and Perelman did win it. As expected, he declined to accept the award or appear at the congress (International Congress of the International Mathematical Union, where the award ceremony is held).

It seems to have become an added motivation for the "investigative" journos to come up with more masala and more drama. Latest gossip that is making rounds is that the guy was fired from the Institute he was working at, and he now lives with his mother's pension money, and also that he does not want to talk about Mathematics. (Could be true.)

All this would have made mathematitians happy. It is not every day that mathematics is in news! [Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigori_Perelman].

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

About Not vaccinating Aadil

We haven't vaccinated Aadil.

I don't know how you would react to it. Many of our friends didn't know how to react either, and some have reacted vehemently. We are putting the child at risk is their argument, by opting for vaccination one is supposed to be playing it safe.

As one of our friends said,
"Vaccinating a baby is something I by default consider to be a logical step. This impression mainly due to my prior readings and oral interaction with various people."

In our everyday life we do buy many illogicalities as "logical" without realizing it, because we usually get to see only one side of it. I don't know whether vaccinations are really useful or not, but after getting to read some material that suggested that vaccinations could have an adverse effect on one's health, and after listening to a few parents who chose not to vaccinate their children (they seemed as healthy as other children if not healthier), we decided to save our child of the risk of vaccination.

I also grew up learning how the advent of vaccinations was a turning point in the history of modern medical science, and it was this compilation of "Vaccination Myths" by Alan Phillips that got me to shake it off for the first time. [Many people have come up with counter-arguments to the points that the authour makes here, but I think it is still worth going through once as a starter].

In the last 5-6 years there has been many campaigns against the pulse polio programme in our country, and I am planning to do a documentation of the material that the activists have used against this programme. Watch this space.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Moonnamathoral and Bhargavacharitham Moonnam Khandam: Good work

Moonnamathoral poster

In general the Malayalam movie posters are going from bad to worse-- is it that the producers find it a waste spending money on good-looking posters or even having attractive fonts for the title? Most of the posters don't call for a second look, and the designers are at best finding some new words like "monsoon hit" "elephant hit" and "muttan megahit", but some recent designs by rahmandesign are exceptions. Especially "Moonnamathoral" and "Bhargavacharitham Moonnam Khandam" posters.

[Somewhat off-topic: While talking about Malayalam film industry's unwillingness to experiement, I missed mentioning V K Prakash who dared to make different films like "Mullavalliyum Thenmavum", "Police" and now "Moonnamathoral". "Mullavalliyum Thenmavum" and "Police" weren't big hits, but they stayed in the mainstream commercial league, as does "Moonnamathoral". I didn't get to see the earlier films, I think I should catch this one. Link: film site]

Chokher Bali: Uncontrollable feelings of a widow

Now, how would that title look on a poster? With some sleaze pictures of Aishwarya? If that is not enough, add this: "First glamour film of Aishwarya".

Rituparna Ghosh has given his consent or not, the Malayalam posters of the Tamil dubbed version of "Chokher Bali" reads "Perazhaki: Uncontrollable feelings of a widow". Some posters even claim that this film was banned in Northern India, while some others ask, "why was this beauty denied to the North Indian audience"? I am not aware of such a ban, I saw Chokher Bali about two years back in Bombay, and I know people who saw it in Rajasthan around the same time. Is it that anything goes when it comes to advertising?

The Tamil name of the film was "Aishwarya Rai oru Perazhagi", and that adopted similar marketing techniques in T.N., though the "banned in North India" thing wasn't there. Another difference is that in Kerala the film is running in A class centres (in Thrissur it is playing at the State Film Development Corporation-owned Sree) whereas it was mostly at B or C centres in Chennai.

[ Aishwarya Rai oru Perazhagi: 1 2 3 ]

KANK: Best film, Bad film

My friend says about Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehnaa (KANK): It is the best Karan Johar film, but still a bad film. That says a lot:)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cola and Pesticides: Skirting real issues?

Centre for Science and Environment has (again) found out that the levels of pesticides in bottled softdrinks are high. Kerala and Karnataka Governments have already banned the drinks. Many environmental and social activists seem to be welcoming the ban.

I smell a rat. Now what has happened is that the main issue is that the Colas have pestisides in them! And both the times, these "findings" appeared when the people's struggle against the exploitation of ground water was beginning to gain attention. There is enough reason to believe that all this is happening as a big game to skirt the real issues and divert people's attention.

[see
INDIA: Coca-Cola swallows villagers' fresh water

Communities Protest Coca-Cola in Tamil Nadu
The people in Sivganga in Tamil Nadu are agitating against a soft drink maker's plans to exploit large amounts of water from the region, which is already facing water scarcity.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3096893.stm
Waste product from a Coca-Cola plant in India which the company provides as fertiliser for local farmers contains toxic chemicals, a BBC study has found.]

Last year, the Edinburgh Students Association at University of Edinburgh brought a motion of boycott of coke. The reason given was the exploitation of ground water in Kerala and ill treatment of workers in Columbia. This motion was not passed, but I feel it was more genuine than the CSE's findings and the bans that followed.

Not the least, these findings also hide the real cause for concern regarding these pesticide levels-- the extent to which the continued use of pesticides have been contaminated. [see this Hindu article: They told me they were safe..]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Thiruttu Payale



Thiruttu Payale was the first movie I watched in Chennai. It had all the ingredients of a Masala potboiler and yet it was fresh and different. With enough twists and turns to keep your interest intact. I'd even call it a sensitive film though I think the gore was on the higher side.

It made me wonder why Malayalam film industry prefers remaining so stale. In terms of themes as well as presentation (and even actors). Even in Hindi mainstream there are experiments happening, even if most of it is inspired by some Hollywood films. We've seen it in some of the FACTORY products, and more recently in films like Munnabhai MBBS, Bluffmaster, Taxi No 9211, Omkara and Anthony Kaun Hai.

We (Malayalees) talk high about our intellectual supremacy and often make fun of Tamil moviegoers that they can't accept Rajni dying in a film. So what-- the Tamils have not got stuck on a Rajni or a Kamal. New heroes keep making their presence felt, and many of them actually go beyond being a one film wonder. And you know what, at least some of these films even have women characters who have a character. (RGV deserves special mention in this category. I think one of the weakest points in an otherwise interesting Bluffmaster was Priyanka's character). Thiruttu Payale in particular has two striking female leads.

Whereas Malayalam cinema appears to be stuck on same old stories, same old narratives.. Only expections I can think of (among recent mainstream films) are Udayananu Thaaram and Rajamanikyam, and to a much lesser extent Thanmathra. Even those films fell back on the same ancient heroes. Is there any reason for hope? I'm eagerly awaiting Rosshan's Notebook.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I like you as a friend!

One my friend is having a tough time phrasing a reject.

"I like you as a friend" and "I can not see you like that" are sure flops, and tying a Rakhi on the Raksha Bandhan day would be worse. If you think you're imaginative and you could help her, please give your ideas in the comments section below.

* * *

Talking of Raksha Bandhan, my friend read out this sms he got from some mobile number.

"Mere pyare bhaiyya,
Mera mobile kharab ho gaya hai isiliye mein inke phone se message bhej rahi hun. Aapko Raksha Bandhan ke shubhkamnayein."

I almost started wondering why he had to read this out to me, and he read the rest of the message, "Aapki pyari behen, Mallika Sherawat".:-)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A mail comparing Israel and India

I had got this comparison between Israel and India by e-mail. Later a friend of mine showed it to me on his screen. I said I saw it before.

ISRAEL

POPULATION: 7 million (less than half of Mumbai)
SIZE: Less than that of Kerala
ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST IT: 2 soldiers kidnapped by Hezbolla, 1 by Hamas
RETALIATORY ACTION: war on Lebanon and Gaza

INDIA

POPULATION: 1 billion+
SIZE: 6th largest in the world
ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST IT: 200+ dead in Mumbai blast, 8 in Kashmir
RETALIATORY ACTION: a speech by PM

So is the mail (and those who called my attention to the same) trying to say that we should feel happy we aren't killing innocent people in retaliation? ("More than 54 civilians, at least 34 of them children, have been killed in a town in south Lebanon in the deadliest Israeli strike of the conflict so far", says BBC, July 30).

And some people seem to be busy pointing out that the smoke wasn't as thick. Or did they mean that Israel was dropping food packets for the poor Lebanese and the stories of air-strikes on civilians was propaganda made up by some Reuters and BBC journos who had vested interests?

[I recall meeting an Israeli friend who said he would have probably turned a militant too had he been born a Palestinian. I had written about it here.]

* * *

May be I'll get the mail again in a few days, or may be by now people are more comfortable not mouthing words like Lebanon (Lebanon is the homeland of artist, poet and thinker Kahlil Gibran).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Akale Snehathil Ninnum

My friend sends me this..

All You who Sleep Tonight
by Vikram seth

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above -

Know that you aren't alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

-Version in Malayalam-

akale snehathil ninnum
ethra ethra akaleyanu ningal.
arikukalil thangukalillathe,
mukalil anantha soonyatha.

ekammallennu mathram
ariyuka. lokam muzhuvan
ee kanneril cherunnu-
chilar onno rando
dinasandhyakal mathram.
mattu chilar kanneerinte
varshangalil eppozhum ennekkum.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What If..?

Yun Hota To Kya Hota poster: American Dreams

I feel bad that the film didn't get the kind of release it deserved, and that it was released like some "crossover" or "arty" film, with single shows at the multiplexes and almost none in other cinemas. Can't blame it completely on the film having no stars in it, because as Naseeruddin Shah said, Paresh Raval is a star now. And Malamaal Weekly got to a much bigger audience. May be thats one of the disadvantages of being Naseeruddin Shah:-)

I also feel bad for those who did not go for ``Yun Hota To Kya Hota'' because Rediff gave a bad review (I know at least a couple of them).

However, those who came to watch it seemed so involved in the film that they shared every bit of fun and frustration that the characters had. And the hall, though somewhat smaller than the regular ones, was packed for a late night show. I haven't had a more engaging and entertaining movie experience for a long time. ( Bluffmaster was close, and then I can remember Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi).

Unlike many moviemakers who are happy doing plays on the big screen, Naseer seems to be more interested in doing things that he couldn't have done in theatre.

The film could do with better posters. The one in picture looks better than most others which gave an impression of a dark film.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Excitement

I am all excited to receive a mail from a friend of mine. The mail shares the hardships and excitements involved in trying to set up a women's space (and place) in Kerala. About the patriarchy and crap that are up against them. (You would know if you have ever tried something similar in Kerala). And about the energy she derives from the work. And how she is looking colourful and cute again, after a grey and weary season that went by.

In her own words, it is ``an art gallery / eco-shop / 'lunar shop' and a 'solar cafe' in a city in Kerala". The address is

draavidia gallery
fort cochin
ernakulam district
kerala
india


And I hope she's still there when you reach:)