Saturday, April 28, 2007

Laurie Baker, the Builder

Laurie Baker. Born in Birmingham, England on March 2, 1917. Died on April 1, 2007 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. He had become a household name in Kerala synonymous to low-cost housing. The Times of India article (that triggered this attribution issue) says he is "relevant for a world that is threatened by global warming".

Apparently after completing his architecture course, he became an ambulance driver in the Second War in Burma and China. On his way back (to England) through (then) Bombay in 1945, he met Gandhi who told him there was much useful work to be done by architects in rural India. Baker lived 13 years in Uttar Pradesh (where he got married to a local doctor) before he moved to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala in 1963.

Some of my friends are now camping at a house built by him, at Vagamon in Kottayam district of Kerala (see Inspiration: For Nature-friendly built Environment) for a Pattu Kalari (Music workshop).

I have memories of a cartoon strip "Malayaliyude Mundu" (Mundu of Malayalees, a piece of cloth that is worn like a wrap-around) by him in one leading Malayalam periodical.

A few links for those who are interested in knowing more about him and his philosphy of life: MUD: An article by Laurie Baker (pdf), Of Architectural Truths and Lies: another article by him in The Hindu, An interview: Architecture for the people, and an article on the builder: The cost of Living, by London-based architect Ayyub Malik (pdf) .

[Image from Inspiration page]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Times of India to republish photograph

It seems people at Times Of India have agreed to republish the photo with credit. See Seema's blog for details.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Taking Sides (Seema vs ToI this time)

The Original..

..and The clone.

In the pic is a building at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. Photo by Seema. I wish ToI carried those three words.

Seema has posted on her blog a letter to ToI for which she hasn't got a reply.

"I'm happy to see that my photo of a building by Padamashree Laurie Baker being published in you esteemed new paper, that too in editorial page. Same time it is really saddening to see that I am not attributed for the work I've done..

The picture you have given in this editorial is taken by me here in Trivandrum. you can find this picture here in this link. If you look into the copyright agreement section of the site you can see that I used Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 (Creative Commons) license for my work. I do want people to use my work with their creative work.."

* * *

Krishnakumar writes in a comment to the post on Ore Kadal: "There is always another side to every story. Why not wait and see?"

We have heard the "both sides" stories for a long time. In my experience that kind of a desparate attempt to "balance out" is often the most cruel thing to do. Like Mani Ratnam does in Bombay about the Bombay riots.

I know Times of India will sure have their side of this story.

I'd rather go by someone I know I can trust. Like Subhash or my friend Seema.

[Title courtesy: Taking Sides is the title of a 2001 film by Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó].

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mithunda's take on Singur/Nandigram

"The film begins with the customary disclaimer.. But Mithunda's latest box-office wonder is about land acquisition in a burning Bengal", goes the review of Bong film Tulkalam in The Telegraph by Chandrima S. Bhattacharya (could not find it on the web edition).

Hindustan Times has a special story by Drimi Chowdhuri titled Bengali cinema raises issue of land acquisition. "Filmmaker Haranath Chakroborty’s "Tulkalam" starring Mithun Chakraborty and Rachana Banerjee has struck a chord with viewers. The movie is running to packed houses in Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar which are mostly haunted by Bengali cine-goers looking for something more than the regular commercial fare.."

"The city’s commercial theatre district, Chitpore, that has always shown a penchant for recent happenings, is also tapping in on the issue. All the theatre companies involved with production seem to be changing their storyline, even though their titles prominently feature Nandigram.."

The Telegraph review can't conclude without a reference to the "Left intellectuals":

"Such direct political reference is not usual in a mainstream Bengali movie. The issue must be so hot that it can't be swept under the carpet any more. Neither by Left intellectuals nor by Mithunda. The carpet will catch fire.."

Funny. The carpets of The Telegraphs and The Indian Expresses and Anand Bazar Patrikas seem to be catching fire. All these "development-mongers" vehemently supported the WB Govt on the land acquisitions and kept quiet about the first round of violent turn of events in Nandigram this January (that led to the March 14 firing).

["Villagers have become extremely wary of journalists, they turn back some of them, and claim that at least the biggest newspaper group, ABP, has sold itself to the state government. The variations are whether the buying party is the state government, the CPI(M), or the chief minister..", wrote Aloke Thakore in The Hoot].

So now, they are all busy taking digs at Left Intellectualism (IE article on "Why left intellectualism is so damaging", refering to some statement by some CPM intellectuals who are not sure where to stand.) Understandably turning a blind eye to most other left intellectuals who stood firm against the WB Govt's development policies even before the March 14 firings at Nandigram. In a desparate attempt to make sure everything goes "right", the way WB Govt and CPM has been moving. So that any voice against them, intellectual or not, are not taken seriously by anyone.

But no matter how muchever they try, the fire is very much here. Unlike what they would like to believe ("Unfortunately, real rural Bengal does not have a Mithun", says Ms Bhattacharya), the people are standing up for their rights and won't give in without a fight. And they are aware who are trying to take them for granted and who are benefitting from it.

* * *

Tailpiece: It seems March 15 and March 16 issues of Ananda Bazar Patrika went missing from their web archives!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


It was like meeting a long-lost childhood friend.

Each time it happens, it feels like a first time.

This time, I sat down to write a paper-and-ink letter. Put it in a red letterbox in front of a post office.

I know it's going to take many days to reach my friend. But I find it worth.

I can feel the high I am on. I can also remember the times when I have felt such highs before. I remember my friends with gratitude. They make this life worth living.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Finding someone who does not like Namesake

Yesterday when I called a friend she said: "Sick it is.. Isse achcha to Namaste London jaise pictures banana hai.. Ye jyada jhoota lagta hai.." (It's better to make films like "Namaste London".. This looks more pretentious). She felt the film just repeated the irritating preachings of how you find "real" love and values only inside the family. "And after every 4-5 scenes there has to be an intimate love scene, it has become so predictable in Mira Nair's films.." "Monsoon Wedding also sold an image of India to the West but it at least tried talking about a real issue that is not discussed much.."

Thus I finally found someone who didn't like The Namesake.

I haven't seen the film. From whatever I read about it (though all of it was praise for the film and its director) I wondered why each and every one was raving about it. It disappointed me that talented filmmakers like Mira Nair have settled for such "safe" films. It didn't come to my town.

Yestreday itself, another friend (who hasn't seen the film) told me about one more person who did not like the film.

I was relieved. It's not the end of the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Happy new years!

Happy Bihu
Happy Vishu
Happy Tamil New Year
Happy Baishakhi
Happy Boishakh ..

Happy New Year!

Please fill in if I have left out any. Ugadi and Gudi Padwa also happen around same time, but I guess that's a week or two earlier.

[image courtesy:]

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ore Kadal -- Subhashinte, Shyamaprasadinte..

Randum Ore Kadal!

Short story writer Subhash Chandran writes in Mathrubhumi Azhchappathippu on how director Shyamaprasad made him write the script for Ore Kadal and then dumped him. I first read about it on Orkut. To quote the post, "This is how 'genius' directors survive in malayalam...sad!"

Sad indeed. Especially when it comes from someone we all loved for his Agnisaakshi and some very good telefilms (Vishwavikhyathamaya Mookku, Peruvazhiyile Kariyilakal, Ullurukkam..) Shyamaprasad takes the credit for Ore Kadal script. I don't understand what's wrong with him -- it will only remain a big blot in his career graph.

Subhash, we love you for your stories, now we will love you for your script. No matter what the credit scrolls say.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Little Prince

"Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves and it is rather tedious for children to have to explain things to them time and again.."

"..So the astronomer repeated his demonstration in 1920, dressed in an elegant suit. And this time everybody was convinced.."

After a long time I'm reading a book till the end..

Or so I thought when I started reading it.

Because The Little Prince started out interesting enough, it tried to avoid the kind of language that only the grown-ups understand, the words used did not demand having a dictionary by my side, and the book was so small.. I thought this time I'm surely going to finish it, for a change.

But that was not to be. After four or five chapters it got monotonous, and by the time it got to the flower and the King, it saturated; the words remained simple but the language became more of that of the grown-ups.. and (The Little Prince fans, forgive me) I could not move further. I gave up.

Still I think it was worth knowing that such a book existed. And it has been in existence for more than sixty years now. (Incidentally, one of these days I also found an advertisement of a version in Malayalam, as a series in Balabhumi.)

I'm still waiting.. to find a book that can hold me till the end!

[Image source: Wikipedia]

Sunday, April 08, 2007

happy easter (and a nostalgic Bangla win)

Wish you a happy easter!

Watching yesterday's World Cup cricket match between Bangladesh and South Africa was like watching cricket fifteen years back.

When I had only started watching cricket, and was able to sit in front of the TV for an entire match (I can't even imagine that now, how much stress it would have been on my eyes).

When the openers just made sure they didn't lose wickets in the first few overs,
when the matches never went into the three hundreds,
when an individual hundred was an exception, and an 80 was a big score..

I watched only the Bangla innings, and it really took me back in time. Seeing Mohammed Ashraful cut loose after his fifty completed the feeling of deja vu. (Needless to say, I was happy to know they won the match).

And I realize how much the game has changed over years. It is not about one of them being better than the other. It is like getting to watch a newsreel on Darwin's theory. Where you get a close look of the contrast.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Responsibility of Deaths

On Feb 28 I learn about the demise of Ronald Rebello. He was 25. I am shocked. I, like many others, remember him largely through his letters to the editors ("I am a Human Rights Activist and a regular Letter Writer with special interest in Adivasi struggles and Justice issues..", he introduces himself in his blog). I also remember a mailing list that remained active because of him. RIP Ronald, and RIP manavbachao!

My mother A V Pushparjini is taken to the ICU of Elite Mission Hospital, Thrissur on March 3, where she is declared dead on March 6 evening. That death has made me older. It makes me reflect on a variety of things, and puts some responsibilities on me. (Sreejitha says she feels the same.) I also feel her closer to me than ever before. Sans the barriers of this world, sans the social and familial pressures.. now I can love her as much as I want. So can Sreejitha.

March 14
: Police open fire at local people at Nandigram, West Bengal. (I read about it in the newspapers the next day morning. I feel numb). Official statement by the WB Government says 14 died in the firing. The reports coming in from Nandigram puts the death toll above 50.

On March 19 newspapers carry the news of Pak Cricket Coach Bob Woolmer found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica. It disturbs me.

A mail from a friend dated March 20 says,

"Com M Iqbal, a former leader of SBI employees, former councilor of Kochi Corporation, a well known writer and theoretician on music, grand son of the first malayalam gazal singer Sara Gul Muhammed passed away this morning due to a heart attack. his body will be cremated tomorrow morning 11 AM at Mattanchery.."

The mail gives links to Iqbal's orkut profile and homepage. In his orkut profile he says,
"about me: love music, art and literature. feel all human are one."

His sons have put up a note on his profile now.

[On googling I find an older obituary: "Multi-lingual singer of yesteryears, Sara Gul Mohammed, (83), died here on Monday (Feb 23, 1998). A childhood friend of the legendary singer, M S Subbulakshmi, Sara, who began singing at the age of nine, is stated to have had the distinction of being the first woman to have her songs recorded on gramophone. Her talent was first spotted by her mentor Gul Mohammed, whom she married later.."]

By the time I got back to the world of internet and the world of friends everywhere, I am caught in a web of deaths.

And I learn that every death puts some responsibility on me. On Sreejitha. And on each of us.

[This post was inspired by a poem that Sreejitha wrote, in Malayalam]

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The World Cup is not over, boss!

The World Cup Madness in our media seems to have ended. That is a relief. Thanks to the Bangladesh and Sri Lankan teams who showed us where our "Blue Army" belongs.

The ads with our "heroes" are off air, there's no more "Ooh Aah India" (sounds like some porn scene) and all that crap. Yes, there's still some post-mortem going on to find out who are the real culprits (like this one), who all will lose job, who will be new captain, who will be new coach and all that. And there is a Bob Woolmer mystery for the Poirot fans. [He gave his life to Cricket - cricket world pays tribute]

All that is fine, but would that mean we stop covering the world cup matches?

Do our newspaper biggies feel that we are only supposed to follow the world cup only as long as Indian team stayed in the race?

Don't know if this lack of enthusiasm has anything to do with the loss of advertising revenues on ads that featured Indian players. Whatever the reason be, we have stopped getting updates about the previous day's scores. (I get The Telegraph at home, a city edition). One has to be content with two days old match reports and score cards. And of course, the coach-captain-senior players drama.

Is all the fizz over at this world cup? It's far from it. Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa are all playing good cricket. England is also very much in the race. To see how they tackle in-form Sri Lankans in today's match would be interesting. Even the West Indies is not out of the World Cup yet.

May be we will get a better coverage as the super eight stage nears an end. Thats all we can hope for now!

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Mayavi poster designed by a Mayavi fan

Shafi's Mayavi (Myayavi, as Salim Kumar's character Kannan Sraank prefers it) is one Malayalam film I really enjoyed watching. One can count them on one hand -- Pandippada (by Rafi-Mecartin), Rajamanikyam (by Anwar Rasheed) and Udayanaanu Thaaram (by Rosshan Andrews) is all I can think of in, say, last three or four years. (Classmates came close).

Looks like everyone else is also enjoying it, going by the near-full house in the sixth or seventh week of its release. Kannan Sraank is one major factor in the film's success (I am becoming more and more a fan of Salim Kumar with every movie of his), as is Gopika's character (and the scene in which she buys the hero a lemon drink). The scriptwriters Rafi and Mecartin also deserve mention for coming up with crazier ideas every time. `Namovakam' to the entire team! [The poster above is not an "official" one. It's designed by a well-wisher of Mayavi and is available on the web at]

[Malayalam film buffs are known for their dislike for newer faces when it comes to heroes but thankfully, they don't seem to have such a reservation against new directors. The "experienced" lot has been biting dust time and again, while it's the fresh lot that's coming up with big commercial successes. Be it Jayasurya of Speed Track, Ravi of Keerthichakra, Johnny Antony of CID Moosa, Shafi, Anwar Rasheed, Rosshan Andrews.. These directors have had some freshness in their themes and treatments. If this is any sign of things to come in Malayalam cinema, I count it as a good sign.

I am looking forward to Chota Mumbai. I hope Anwar does not disappoint like Johnny Antony and Rosshan Andrews did after promising first films. One has to give credits to Shafi for not following that path. He seems to be getting better.