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Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal



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Last Build Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2017 11:09:16 GMT

 



The Red Turtle

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 11:09:16 GMT

The Red Turtle, a dialogue-less animation film from Studio Ghibli, tells the story of a castaway man in an island.

I liked the film for its brilliant images - The way the film portrays the storms in an ocean, approaching rains in a bamboo forest, a group of young turtles entering the sea in batches - there are many scenes that are remarkable for their brilliantly painted frames and accompanying background music. Apart from the images, the narrative of the film, showing the relationship between the man and a "turtle-woman", as he passes the rest of his life in the island, has elements that would make us ponder over Life in general.



Kendasampige

Sun, 12 Feb 2017 14:45:10 GMT

Watched the Kannada film Kendasampige, and liked it. Narrating the adventures of two lovers as they are trapped in a fabricated police case, the road thriller is an engaging watch.



Panchavadippalam

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 07:56:52 GMT

It looks natural that in the Indian state in which Politics and Cinema have been the most inseparable fields for decades, the political events are unraveling as a comedy thriller.

The updates from Tamil Nadu show the rotten and pathetic state to which Indian Politics has fallen. The level of sycophancy, corruption and hypocrisy have come out all in open without any camouflage.

Jayalalithaa "ruled" the state for years, theoretically standing within the framework of constitution and democratic processes, but at the same time having all the "look and feel" of an empress from 19th century. The moment she dies, the same people who used to prostrate in front of her whenever they got a chance and were ready to openly state that they are her "slaves", jump in to grab her seat and properties, and define newer and newer levels of depths.



Luciya

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 03:20:54 GMT

Recently only I got a chance to watch the critically acclaimed "crowd-funded" Kannada film, Lucyia (2013).

The non-linear narrative of the film takes us through the life of a youngster named Nikki, who is working in an old cinema theater. He gets a bottle of "dream pills" in his hand, called Luciya, which will help him have beautiful dreams. In his dreams, Nikki is a successful film actor named Nikhil, and the characters in his real life make an appearance in his dream life too. Soon, it becomes unclear whether the real life that is shown is really his dream or not.

I think the film has an interesting concept. The editing works are good, and overall it was a good watch.



Two Hindi movies

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 03:59:31 GMT

Watched two interesting Hindi movies this week.

I liked Pink, an engaging court room drama that addresses some very relevant questions regarding the ways women are perceived in the society. It has got some excellent performances by all the actors.

Dear Zindagi, set in colorful locales and beautifully picturized, is about how a girl named Kaira (Alia Bhatt) finds it difficult to have longstanding relationships with her boyfriends, and how a psychologist (Shah Rukh Khan) helps her to root-cause her problems to the feelings of being abandoned by her parents during childhood. The film is well-intentioned and is filled with "one liner wisdoms" which one can expect from such feel-good category of Bollywood films. It was also good to see Shah Rukh Khan acting normally, without his usual shivering and eye-brow gimmicks. However, the failure of the film was in the portrayal of the main character, Kaira, as a completely spoiled girl - in fact Alia Bhatt plays the role in the same way she had played her earlier roles in films like Highway and Kapoor & Sons. It was difficult for me to feel any sympathy for her character in the movie, though overall it was still a watchable film.



MS Dhoni - The Untold Story

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 14:41:07 GMT

Watched MS Dhoni - The Untold Story, biopic on MS Dhoni directed by Neeraj Pandey.

MS Dhoni came from a middle class background, and grew up to become one of the most successful and respected captains of the Indian cricket team. Indeed, his life story might be having potentials to make an inspiring film, but I found Neeraj Pandey's work to be strictly mediocre, one that at times looks to be dull and directionless - a biopic made just for the sake of it.

The first hour of the film is relatively better, as it shows Dhoni's schooldays and early cricketing career. We see Dhoni's skeptical father preferring his son to focus on his studies and earn a "secure Government job", but reluctantly agreeing to him pursuing interests in sports, Dhoni getting encouragement from his coaches and group of friends, finishing school exams faster to reach his cricket coaching classes, his friends struggling to drive him to the airport so that he can reach for a match on time, etc. Indeed, there is nothing that would make the viewers feel as "really extraordinary" in these "struggles", and Dhoni's dilemmas in choosing between his work and passion, are also something that most of the people might have experienced at varying degrees, some point of time in their lives. Nevertheless, the narration of these parts is done reasonably well by the director.

The film looses focus slowly. We see Dhoni's romantic experiences, which are narrated not very differently from typical Bollywood films, and a few scenes in which Dhoni meets his old friends and well-wishers after becoming successful. Indeed, there are scenes of cricket - Dhoni's batting displays, followed by series of closeup expressions of his parents, relatives and friends who watch the matches on television; but I could never feel that there was anything "Untold" in this story, or if it was worth telling this story at all.



Organic Manure

Sun, 01 Jan 2017 14:51:27 GMT

Last week I had bought some "organic manure" from a temple at Jayanagar, which they said was made out of kitchen waste and dry leaves in the temple premises. While applying the manure to plants, I noticed that there are numerous tiny shreds of plastic in the manure - like pieces of a biscuit packet, bubble wrap, a small chunk of thermocol, and so on. I thought of various methods to get rid of these, like pouring water over the manure kept in a bucket, etc., but could not find anything that is foolproof and easy.

A few weeks back, I had attended a small workshop at Bhoomi College, where I observed them making manure in a large scale. Dry leaves are a key ingredients for this process. They get these leaves from their campus itself, or from other places. And if we look into the piles of leaves they have accumulated there, we can always see several plastic things - chips packets, toffee-wrappers, etc. - It is not unexpected, but it is such a tedious job to remove these things before adding the leaves to the compost system. And we can never be 100% sure of making the compost plastic-free.

At our home, we make compost out of our kitchen waste. Not more than a small bucket of waste is generated each day, so it is not so difficult for me to take some extra care to remove all sort of plastic or non-decomposable things from the waste before dumping it in the composter; But after a few months when we take out the mature compost for gardening, I always end up seeing something or the other which had escaped me - like a sticker on the apple skin, for example.

It is scary to see plastic becoming such an integral and unavoidable part of our lives, even at a micro level.



Reaping the Fruits!

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 15:07:21 GMT

"I have worked really hard to make this party, what was their role in this? I work hard and they reap the fruits?"

After expelling his son from party, it seems Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav made such a comment, and it looked amusing to me. It is good to see a supposedly "national leader", who was being projected as a "PM candidate" at one point of time, openly stating that Politics is all about working hard and reaping the "fruits" for ourselves.



Vacation

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 13:55:28 GMT

We had a short vacation in Kerala. One day was spent on visit to Guruvayoor temple, where I was going after a long time. We had to spend around 6 hours in the queue for darshanam! Thankfully the people were all very patient and there was no pushing or anything in the queue.

Watched two movies during the trip. Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan, directed by Nadirshah, was an enjoyable time-pass comedy film with some humorous performances by Dharmajan and Vishnu (who has scripted the film as well), and I liked the clever use of film music from old Malayalam movies as background for some scenes (like the way the Pramadavanam song was used in the scene of a school examination).

Dangal is one of the finest Bollywood films I watched in recent times, and I think it would be the finest from Aamir Khan so far. The first half of the film focuses on the way the the aging wrestler (Aamir Khan) tries to fulfill his dreams through his daughters, by training them as wrestlers from a young age, and the narrative has a touch of humor. The second half is a concoction of patriotism, father-daughter relationships, generation gaps, a villainous coach, etc. which can create a déjà vu feeling at times, but the film remains engaging thanks to the sincerity in presentation, and those brilliantly executed sequences of wrestling. Aamir Khan gives an excellent performance, and the four girls who played his daughters at different periods of time were also equally good. I especially liked the transformation shown by Zaira Wasim in the role of young Geeta, as she grows from a very reluctant student who is just drawn towards the sport by her father, to a very proud, confident and ambitious wrestler as she starts winning matches.



Queue for Cash

Sat, 17 Dec 2016 14:45:34 GMT

Half of today was spent on the process of getting some money from my bank account. I had withdrawn some amount a month back, soon after the demonetization, but that time I had thought that the "demonetization effect" and long queues for cash would come down by the time I run out of cash again. I never thought that even after one month, the situation would continue to remain the same, and I would have to waste my time once again on the queue.

While so many people are patiently waiting in queues for the limited withdrawal amount allowed for them, in the newspaper we daily see updates about crores worth of new currency being caught from various places as part of "raids". What is not caught, could obviously be much higher than that, indicating that the "rich and powerful" are not at all impacted and they continue to get support from the corruption infrastructure. I sincerely hope that the officials who are part of these rackets are caught, and they should not just be suspended - They should be dismissed, debarred from any form of employment for a few years, prosecuted through a fast-track court and put in jail immediately. In the absence of determined, swift and stern actions on corrupt officials and politicians, the entire demonetization exercise would just look like a punishment imposed on the common people.



Asha Jaoar Majhe

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 07:16:38 GMT

Asha Jaoar Majhe, Bengali film directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta, tells the story of a husband and wife (who are not named) living in Calcutta. The husband works at a printing press on night shifts while the wife works during daytime at a bag company, so the time they get to spend together is very limited. The dialog-less film patiently follows the routine of the couple, and the only instance when they are at least hinted to be seeing each other is near the end of the film, which follows a beautifully picturized "dream sequence" for a few minutes.

The 1.5 hour long film would look like much longer than that, because of the slow and detailed picturization of routine and monotonous activities and events, which create a unique atmosphere for the film. So, we see sun setting over the buildings in the city in a scene that is nearly two minutes long, which is accompanied with the usual evening-sounds of the city. In another scene, we see the face of the husband as a series of static images, seen through the moving parts of the press. Later, we get to see closeup scenes of various provisions - rice, pulses, etc. being transfered to containers, and get to know the variations in sound that they make during the process.

Asha Jaoar Majhe gives an extreme account of people who spend most of their time on their work and routine (some, to make both ends meet, while others just for the sake of it), getting that rare glimpse of Life probably once in a blue moon.



Earthquake is Going to Come!!

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:05:09 GMT

Rahul Gandhi warns that earthquake is going to come if he speaks in the parliament!!

I think as long as Rahul Gandhi is there in the field of politics, we will have a constant source of entertainment in the form of statements like this.



Chander Pahar

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 13:52:05 GMT

I watched Bengali-English film Chander Pahar, adaptation of a Bengali novel with the same by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. The novel, an odd one among the author's novels which in general portray life in rural Bengal, is all about adventures of a Bengali youngster in the wilderness of 1909 Africa.

I cant say the movie matched the experience of reading the novel, but I felt it was an earnest effort. In spite of the obvious limitations the makers would have faced while making an Indian regional language movie in such a large canvas set in a foreign country, they have succeeded in making a very engaging film that does justice to the original novel.



Dhanak

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 15:05:09 GMT

Set in Rajasthan, Hindi film Dhanak directed by Nagesh Kukunoor tells the story of two children - a brother and sister. The brother had lost his eyesight when he was four years old, and the sister wishes to make him see again during his ninth birthday, which is just a few days away. After sees a poster featuring Shah Rukh Khan, the sister gets the idea that the star would personally help them if they meet him. One night, she secretly leaves home with her brother, and starts a journey hoping to meet Shah Rukh Khan at a shooting location near Jailsalmer.

The narrative of Dhanak begins in a realistic way, but it slowly evolves to some sort of a feel-good fairy tale. The most notable things in this interesting film are the performances by the two child artists who play the lead roles.



Sauptik

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 07:57:58 GMT

Amruta Patil's graphic novel Sauptik is the second book in her Mahabharata series, after Adi Parva. Ashwatthama takes over the role of the narrator after Ganga, and continues the story of Mahabharata from the arrival of Pandavas in Hasthinapura after the death of Pandu, till the conclusion of the War of Kurukshetra and Ashwatthama's revenge.

Just like Adi Parva, Sauptik too doesn't plan on giving a continuous and complete narrative of the epic, but instead gives short accounts of some of the major events in the story with comments given from the perspective of Ashwatthama, and it is amazing to see the author capturing the essence of multiple subtle aspects of the epic with just a few hundred pages of text and illustrations. With insightful observations and beautiful, stylish artworks, Sauptik is one more brilliant work from the author.



The Return of the 100-Rupee Note

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 06:30:00 GMT

I think it was a bold and brilliant move by the Government to withdraw the 500 and 1000 rupee notes overnight - a step taken with the right intentions, and I think it is in the right direction towards controlling the accumulation of black money as well as curbing of fake currency.



Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil

Mon, 07 Nov 2016 16:55:17 GMT

There is a saying that Swami Vivekananda had called Kerala as a "lunatic asylum" during his visit to the state in 1892, observing the injustice associated with the caste system. Though his comments were indeed justifiable, I wonder whether the situation was really very specific to Kerala or not, in those days. Anyways, a century later, I believe Kerala would top among the Indian states where caste related prejudice and injustice in society have been reduced by the largest extent. The credit for this should mostly go to the Communist Movements of the 1950-70s - the impact of those on the fields of art and culture, and the creation of awareness among people. The party in today's context has reduced to a yet-another political organization engaged in contests for power, but the role it had played in socio-cultural awakenings in Kerala can never be forgotten.

Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil is a film that pays tribute to the Communist Movements of Kerala of the 1950-70 period. Though the film has traces of clichés and amateurism, I felt that it was successful in making the viewers wait for a moment and think about the sacrifices made by several unknown leaders and activists of those days. And thankfully, the film does not refer to the Communist party of today - which would have made it look like a propaganda.



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.



Court

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.



Coraline

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.