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Preview: Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal

Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal

Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal -

Last Build Date: Tue, 18 Oct 2016 03:42:10 GMT


The Arrival

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 03:42:10 GMT

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, is a "silent" graphic novel - one without any dialogues or text. The novel attempts to generalize the "migrant experience" in pictures. A man bids farewell to his wife and daughter and goes to an unknown, distant place in search for employment. The new place is drawn as one from a fairy tale world with bizarre landscapes, animals and vegetables, but the human beings are just the same as in the normal world. After he settles down in the new place, the man brings his family there, and they are happily re-united.

The book has wonderful and detailed illustrations (many of them resembling photographs) colored and arranged in a stylish and imaginative way.


Mon, 17 Oct 2016 09:04:08 GMT

Court, National Award winning Marathi film directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, is a unique satire on the Indian Judicial System. An aging folk singer, who conducts his shows on the streets, is arrested with charges of incitement for suicide committed by a person who cleans the sewage channels. It is apparent that the charge sheet was filed as part of some political agenda, to suppress the singer who has been a social activist. The case goes on and on for days and months, and the film follows the scenes in the courtroom, interleaved with the scenes showing the happenings in the lives of the lawyers and the judge.

The narrative of Court moves at a very very slow pace. I am guessing that this movie might be having the most realistic portrayals of court room proceedings in Indian Cinema: Everything has a clear tone of lack of urgency here - We see a lawyer quoting the complete text of a rule from a book for more than a minute, for example. In many of the scenes, the camera stays static for several seconds even after the main happenings in the scene have concluded, and there are no "dramatic transition effects" anywhere. And there is absolutely no background music in the entire movie. All this seems to be deliberately done to enhance the sense of procrastination in the matter of investigation and the court case being depicted. To add to the feel, we get to see the lawyers and judges mostly relaxing in their daily life and mundane discussions after their respective work schedules.

It requires patience to sit through Court, but I felt it was a rewarding experience watching it.


Sat, 15 Oct 2016 12:27:59 GMT

Read Craig Russell's graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline - yet another fantasy story involving ghosts, similar to The Graveyard Book. Craig Russell's artworks for the book are beautiful.

Thanga Meenkal

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 13:27:40 GMT

With great expectations I watched Thanga Meenkal (2013), an award winning Tamil movie, but was disappointed to watch the melodramatic traits in it. The film narrates the close relationship between a father named Kalyani (played by the director Ram himself) and his daughter Chellamma. Kalyani was a dropout from school, and he doesn't have a permanent job to support his family. He lives with his aging parents, and his father constantly criticizes him for his failures. Chellamma is a playful girl and there is a special bonding between her and her father. She is curious and enthusiastic, but is regarded as a dull child by her school teachers as far as academics are concerned. Kalyani's egos are hurt after a heated argument with his father regarding the payment of school fees for Chellamma. He leaves the place and goes to Kerala, searching for an employment which could help him stand on his own feet.

The film starts well, but it soon becomes evident that the main intention of the director is to forcefully extract some emotions out of the audience. So, there are multiple scenes displaying the "cuteness factor" of the girl followed by scenes that try to make the viewers empathize with her and her father. In the second half of the film, the drama intensifies, and we see the father literally climbing mountains, making narrow escapes at steep rocky terrains, etc., all for earning money to buy an expensive dog which his daughter had asked for!!

Kuttram Kadithal

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 15:40:15 GMT

Watched Tamil film Kuttram Kadithal, an excellent debut from director Bramma. The film narrates a series of happenings of a couple of days, all triggered by a school teacher giving a mild slap to a student for a behavior which she finds mischievous. The boy collapses after receiving the slap, and is admitted to the hospital. The teacher is advised by her colleagues to stay away from the town for a few days, fearing public reactions against her, while the media jumps into their job of sensationalizing the matter, and organizing talk shows, etc.

While the film touches on different social issues, the director manages to keep the main thread mostly away from any direct preaching, criticisms or statements. The focus is given to the characters, their emotions and dilemmas as they address various situations, which is portrayed without any melodramatic elements.

The Hidden Life of Trees

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 15:36:06 GMT

The Hidden Life of Trees, written by German forester Peter Wohlleben, is a fascinating book in multiple ways. The book lovingly presents several advances in research related to the life of trees that have come out in last two decades - for e.g., how the trees interconnect with other trees through underground networks of roots and fungi that attach to them, and how they exchange information, like warning signals, through scents. This information is supplemented with various observations on the behavior of trees (as well as other plants, insects and animals that are part of the ecosystem), all written in a very engaging way.

I think anyone reading this book would look at trees (or any small insect seen in the mud, for that matter) from a new perspective when they see one next time. And we would also be left with great feelings of admiration towards the processes involved by which the entire system of undisturbed forests emerge and take care of themselves.

A Few Promising Debut Movies

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 15:56:18 GMT

Most of the Malayalam movies releasing these days are from new directors. It is good to see the refreshing feel they are bringing to Malayalam Cinema through these engaging films.

John Paul George comes first in the list with Guppy. The central character is a boy of around 14 years, who works in a teashop in a village. As a part-time business, he grows Guppy fishes in an encroached portion of storm water drain, and sells them for a price. His father had died when he was a kid, his mother is paralyzed, and they live in a kind of slum area which has a bathroom "arrangement" that overlooks a beautiful beach and pristine blue seawaters. To add to these surroundings that are slightly unfamiliar for a Malayalam Cinema, an engineer comes to the village to construct a railway over-bridge; And what starts as some minor teasing and pranks played by the boy on the engineer, soon grows into full-blown rivalry. The film ends with some twists that look a bit "forced", but it still has several scenes with the marks of a brilliant director, and I am looking forward to see more movies from John Paul George. The performances by Chethanlal and Tovino Thomas deserve special mention too.

Kismath, directed by Shanavas K Bavakkutty, revolves mostly around the happenings in a police station, where a Muslim youngster and his scheduled-caste lover (who is 5 years elder to him) have come, expecting to get "police protection" from relatives who are against their marriage. The film has a realistic narrative style and we will never feel that it is the first work of a director, but what I liked most in the movie was the character of the rude and practical SI of the police station, brilliantly played by Vinay Forrt, who is a stark contrast to the heroic policeman of Action Hero Biju.

Anuraga Karikkin Vellam is a feel-good romantic comedy from director Khalid Rahman. Though the director attempts only the tried-and-tested ways of narratives for this genre, the film is executed well and it didn't bore me - and it is much better than any of the films directed by veteran directors of Malayalam in recent times. Biju Menon is one of the finest actors of Malayalam Cinema today, and he does a good job in this film too.

In the film Oru Murai Vanthu Pathaya, director Sajan K Mathew tells a story that is a mix of horror, mystery and romance - all packaged inside a thick wrap of mindless comedy. I liked it for the colorful premises of the village that the film presents (the director receives great support from cinematographer Dhanesh Raveendranath here) and a few songs that are good to hear. While Unni Mukundan is adequate in making his character likeable with the right mix of innocence and confused expressions, newcomer Prayaga Martin stands out with some unique dialogue delivery style and expressions that made her character believable.

Hyderabad - A Graphic Novel

Sat, 01 Oct 2016 13:07:55 GMT

The graphic novel Hyderabad is scripted by Jai Undurti and illustrated by Harsho Mohan Chattoraj. The description of the book states that it is "a unique city-centric storytelling initiative", and I expected it to contain a mix of legend and history associated with the city of Hyderabad; But after reading the book I could not figure out what exactly was the intention of the scriptwriter and why the book was titled "Hyderabad".

The book starts in an intriguing way with a fantasy tale of a researcher traveling by time machine to 15th century Hyderabad in search of a poet, but then, without any particular reason that I could figure out, it jumps to narrate the making of Chandigarh city. The script then goes on in a convoluted style, which looked very pretentious to me. It has nothing about the city of Hyderabad, and eventually it ends in a confusing way. The only thing worth mentioning in this boring book is the artwork by Chattoraj.

Three Men in a Boat

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 02:18:32 GMT

I remember reading some extracts from Jerome K Jerome's 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat in my English reader text book during schooldays. I have never got a chance to read this book fully, but I read a graphic novel adaptation yesterday, published in the Campfire Classics series.

The book, which is based on real life incidents, narrates the adventures of three friends and their dog, as they go through a two week boat trip on the Thames. Many of the humorous situations narrated in this novel have later been adapted in many other books and movies and hence would look familiar, but the book still remains a very engaging read, and it would make us also wish for being part of the boat trip with these very funny characters. The illustrations by KL Jones are very apt for the book.

The Graveyard Book

Sun, 25 Sep 2016 11:58:23 GMT

During this weekend, I read the 2-volume graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel The Graveyard Book, which had won both the Newbery Medal and Carnegie Medal awarded for literature for children and young adults. The book narrates a fantasy story of a baby who escapes from being murdered, and is then onwards raised by many types of "ghostly beings" living in a graveyard. Different chapters of the book are illustrated by different artists.

I liked the illustrations by Craig Russell for one of the chapters. They reminded me of the beautiful and stylish illustrations done for world classics in the Pendulum Illustrated Series, which Paico used to translate and publish in Malayalam a while back.


Sat, 17 Sep 2016 15:50:54 GMT

Watched Sairat, a popular Marathi film of this year. The film is based on a simple story - A boy and girl of different castes and financial backgrounds falling in love with each other, eloping from their native place and establishing a living in another city. Though this is a recurring theme in Indian cinema, Sairat has a refreshing feel to it, thanks to an honest narration style and good performances - especially the lead actress Rinku Rajguru was outstanding in bringing out multitudes of expressions. After the gradual progress of the tone of the movie from that of a light hearted sweet romance to a sort of thriller to a non-melodramatic portrayal of the hardships of the lovers in an distant town, the final scenes of the movie and the climax come out as shocking and touching.

Rearming Hinduism

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 12:50:26 GMT

In our academic circles, criticizing "Hindu Fundamentalism" often crosses the border and transforms into criticism and mockery of Hinduism itself (I have read many articles of that kind published on Left Wing Malayalam periodicals like Deshabhimani). This is a special liberty taken on Hinduism alone, and such acts of blasting of Hindu religion and undermining of Hindu beliefs, scriptures, value systems and contributions is in general regarded as model secularist behavior in the media. In his book Rearming Hinduism, author Vamsee Juluri addresses this topic.

The first part of the book analyzes "Hinduphobic" academic studies of Hinduism, giving specific focus on reviews of the book The Hindus: An Alternative History written by Wendy Doniger, while in the second part, the author gives some of the concepts of Hinduism, like being close to nature and the ways Hindus identify with God, etc. The books seems to have been written shortly after the 2014 General Elections, and the author alludes to the victory of BJP in the elections at a few places in the book. I don't know why the author, while talking about a thousands of years old religion and belief system, wanted to present a mere election victory of a political party as if it was some major milestone. I am not sure what were the sort of dramatic changes that the author was anticipating post 2014, and whether/how he was expecting that 2014 could prove as a "turning point" of sort. I felt that such hints at giving any political color to the subject should have been avoided; It diluted the discussion in this book, which otherwise seems to be well-intentioned and is well-written.


Thu, 15 Sep 2016 15:41:44 GMT

Watched Tamil film Visaranai directed by Vetrimaaran, a brilliant movie portraying the corruption, brutality and violation of human rights imposed by the Police system. The story is narrated without any elements of melodrama, and the performances are very realistic - Overall, a very powerful film.

The Bitter Sweetness of Bandh

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 07:26:32 GMT

After moving to Bangalore, I have been missing the tradition of "Bandh", which used to be such an integral part of life in Kerala. I still remember the anticipation of a free holiday, and the associated feelings of pleasure and excitement, as the announcement of Bandh used to come on newspapers during my schooldays. I know many people will have very valid reasons to protest against various things through the display of Bandh, and there may be reasons for others to empathize with it. I also know that there would be many people who would be inconvenienced a lot because of the Bandh. However, for people who don't belong to either of these categories, Bandh is essentially an unexpected day of leisure when you have valid excuses to just sit and relax at home. It would be hypocritical to deny the fact that we don't welcome such occasions.

It is good to see that Karnataka is also catching up now on this tradition. Two Bandh days in two weeks! It reminds me of good old days in Kerala.

India at Olympics

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 07:58:58 GMT

One more Olympics has concluded, and India is back with a silver and a bronze. While those who got the two medals certainly need to be appreciated, it is sad to see such dismal performance from the country overall in such games. A nation of 1.2 billion people, support from the Government and Media in multiple ways, and showers of rewards waiting for any winner when he is back home - and still as a team we barely manage to make it to the medal table, while countries much smaller in terms of size and resources consistently win more medals than us.

Come and See

Sun, 21 Aug 2016 14:16:54 GMT

Russian film Come and See (1985) portrays the atrocities committed by the German soldiers during World War 2 at a Belorussian village, seen through the eyes of a boy who was enrolled into the Soviet army forcefully (though the boy is initially thrilled and excited about being a soldier). The detailed picturization of the war crimes, burning of villagers live after sealing them inside buildings, etc. were very shocking to watch, and this was one of the most disturbing war films I have ever watched, Kajaki being the other one.

The Man Who Knew Infinity

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 14:44:38 GMT

The Man Who Knew Infinity tells the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan's life, mainly focusing on his stay in England. The film seems to have fictionalized some of the aspects of Ramanujan's personal life, in the thread that portrays his relationship with his wife and mother.

Though the film is a good effort, I was disappointed with actor Dev Patel's portrayal of the central character. Somehow, he didn't match the personality I had in my mind of the enigmatic mathematician, an introvert youngster from the village who had numbers for his friends. And the fact that the entire film is in English, makes the matters worse. However, I liked the performance by Jeremy Irons in the role of GH Hardy.


Wed, 17 Aug 2016 16:28:42 GMT

Malayalam film Kammattippaadam tells the story of an area of old Kochi where there used to be slums surrounded by fields till the 1970s, over which many of the posh localities of the current city are built. The story revolves primarily around two brothers Balan and Ganga (played by Manikandan and Vinayakan) and their friend Krishnan (Dulquer Salman) living in Kammattippaadam, who enjoy their friendship, drinks and adventures that are mostly illegal and reckless in nature. They help the real estate mafia by threatening and displacing many of the poor families living in the area, and indirectly cause the complete transformation of the very place where they have been residing.

Kammattippaadam is a well made film, and it further underlines the skills of director Rajeev Ravi, who had earlier directed Annayum Rasoolum and Njan Steve Lopez, and the film has his signature style of narration. However, I felt that the theme had the potentials for making a masterpiece out of it, if Rajeev had given complete focus on the destruction of the cultural aspects during such "forced" relocations happening as part of real estate developments (which is not something that is specific to Kochi), and the moral dilemmas of the characters in a generalized way, instead of spending much time on the specifics of a particular crime and scenes of heroism.

Performances by Manikandan and Vinayakan stand out in the film, and they look like literally living in their roles. Dulquer Salmaan gives a sincere performance which can be termed as his best so far, though there are scenes in which his sophistication, refined behavior and dialogue delivery come in contrast with that of his friends even though they share similar backgrounds as per the narrative.

CR No:89

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 06:30:54 GMT

Two people traveling in an old jeep, evidently with some secret and illegal mission, are asked to take a diversion from the main road by their boss. The jeep breaks down in a rural area, and they are stranded there for night. In the morning, they manage to find a mechanic from a nearby village, but he is very curious to know the whereabouts of the two, and about the "load" in the jeep. He is not naive, and when he gets to know more details, he refuses to repair the jeep. And he wouldn't budge from his decision even after receiving some severe beating. He stands against the two sternly, but without any acts of violence. CR No:89, a brilliant Malayalam film directed by Sudevan, narrates these events.

I liked the film for its original narrative style. The film just portrays the situation without delving into the backgrounds of each individual character, leaving many things open-ended, reminding of some of the Iranian films by Abbas Kiarostami. At the same time, the film captures the situation itself in detail, with a series of close shots of the characters and their expressions, creating an engaging atmosphere for the film.

Greatest Bengali Stories

Wed, 10 Aug 2016 16:34:20 GMT

I read stories from the book The Greatest Bengali Stories Ever Told, selected and translated by Arunava Sinha. This book includes 21 short stories, including those by Tagore, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Banaphool, Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Ashapurna Debi and Mahasweta Debi.

Arunava Sinha says that he selected these stories based on how he was able to personally relate and "romance" with them. So, in a way, this book should have been named as "My Favorite Bengali Stories" - The readers need not necessarily feel that each and every one of these stories are among the "greatest Bengali stories". Personally, I found most of the stories in the book to be interesting, while there were a few which I could not appreciate much.

BBMP Demolition Drive

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 13:57:14 GMT

After the recent "flash floods" in Bangalore, BBMP has suddenly woken up and started a drive to demolish the constructions on areas that encroach lakes and storm water drains. Certainly it is a good initiative in theory; but in practice, the implementation of this plan shows such levels of sadism that one would wonder if we are living under the Taliban regime or something.

Instead of starting with identifying and penalizing the land developers and builders who have done the encroachment and those corrupt government officials who have facilitated and co-ordinated the encroachment activities, BBMP is now busy demolishing some of the independent houses that were built on such allegedly encroached areas, leaving the innocent end users (who are termed as "encroachers" by BBMP) homeless even though they possess all valid approvals and documentation from government, and have been living there for decades. The identification of encroached areas surrounding lakes and storm water drains is done based on some old village maps which are either not published anywhere with the desired level of accuracy, or are not easily accessible for common people, thereby leaving the details open to interpretation, and the doors open for further corruption. Further, the demolition activities are carried out with such a stealth manner as if they are targeting to catch some underworld elements. Ironically, while all this is going on, we could also see new constructions being approved and huge apartment complexes coming up all over Bangalore which do a complete mockery of the building laws or the guidelines on protection of environment, pointing to a completely collapse of the state machinery.

Would it be too pessimistic in saying that we don't have much to hope for the future of this urban slum of Bangalore which we call as a "city"?

"Government Approved" Terrorists

Sat, 30 Jul 2016 05:54:27 GMT

An overnight rain, and many parts in Bangalore are flooded. Roads looks like rivers and people are trying to traverse through those roads, putting their lives at great risk because there could be uncovered manholes and drains at random places that are covered with muddy water. Lakes filled with sewage and filth are overflowing and get mixed with piles of garbage that are now an integral part of Bangalore landscape, posing health hazards everywhere. Ironically, even though rains have given us so much water, there are hundreds of water tankers seen on road that contribute greatly to the traffic jams. All this is because of unplanned development, land encroachment, corruption and greed, and now the pathetic Karnataka Government is busy amending the KUDA bill to officially allow reduction in open spaces in the cities (as if the current allocation of open spaces has been strictly enforced and people have been always going by the rules).

The nexus of politicians, land grabbers, builders and corrupt government officials is a greater threat to our society now than all the terrorist organizations put together.


Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:45:03 GMT

Marathi film Natsamrat, directed by Mahesh Manjrekar tells the story of a veteran theater actor post his retirement. Some of the basic thematic elements of the film are frequently recurring ones in Indian family drama films and television serials - generation gap, misunderstandings and clashes between aging parents and daughter-in-law, a misplaced bundle of cash and false allegations, and so on. But what makes the film different and memorable is the brilliant performance by Nana Patekar in the lead role and some of the scenes in which the director presents the outbursts of the character, who tries to identify himself with the various roles he pad played on stage. Equally good are the supporting performances by Medha Manjrekar in the role of the actor's wife, and Vikram Gokhale in the role of his friend.

Three Films by Hirokazu Koreeda

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:45:05 GMT

I watched three more films directed by Hirokazu Koreeda recently, and was greatly impressed with them.

Nobody Knows is a film based on a real incident, in which four "unregistered" children are left alone in an apartment in Tokyo by their mother. The eldest child, Akira was given some money by the mother before leaving, and the film shows the plight of the children for next few months.

In Like Father, Like Son, we see Ryota, a rich, ambitions and career oriented man and a strict, disciplinarian father, suddenly realizing that his 6 year old son is not really his own, as there was a mistake done at the hospital during his delivery and the baby was switched with another one. His real son's parents are of middle class background, but they have a much warmer bonding with their kids. The film focuses on the dilemmas of both the parents, and shows how each of them look at the situation in very different ways.

Our Little Sister is about three sisters who live on their own. Their father had married some other woman several years back, and the mother had also followed suit. When they come to know of their father's death, they reluctantly decide to attend his funeral, and there they meet their 13 year old step-sister, Suzu. Suzu's mother had passed away, and her father had married a third time. The three sisters invite Suzu to live with them, and the rest of the film shows the relationship between the four girls.

Hirokazu Koreeda handles stories involving complex human emotions with warmth, and all these films are wonderful viewing experiences.

Run Lola Run

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 13:37:46 GMT

German film Run Lola Run (1998) tells the story of twenty minutes in which a girl, Lola, has to manage to gather a large sum of money to save her boyfriend's life within a short span of time. There are three different narratives of these twenty minutes presented in the film, each involving some changes in the events, time lines and Lola's interactions with other people, which are inter-related, and result in drastically different results and change the course of the story. This stylish and innovative film is a very interesting watch.