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Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal

Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal -

Last Build Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2017 06:21:12 GMT


Kannada Ship

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 06:21:12 GMT

Near Ecospace building in Bellandur, in between the outer ring road and the service road, there is this odd but curious looking structure in the shape of some 10-meter long ship, that is painted in red and yellow, representing the "Karnataka flag", with the words "Kannada Ship Sailing In The Midst Of Traffic Ocean" written on it. Though the outer ring road section in front of Ecospace is where the road probably attains its maximum width (some 10 lanes including the service lanes I guess), this part is constantly under traffic jam that the traffic jam itself has become a landmark for people passing through the road. For example, while commuting to and from office, if I get a call and I have to indicate our whereabouts, I just tell that I am at "The Ecospace Jam"! In the middle of this jam, the Kannada Ship indeed looks like always sailing in "traffic ocean".

For a change, the Ecospace gate has become a mini-lake now, as an adjacent lake, filled with rainwater and sewage, has started overflowing. The water has no place to go, as many of the drain channels are blocked. So, it looks like the Kannada Ship is now finally having an opportunity to sail in the middle of a water-body, thanks to the great and thoughtful ways our city infrastructure is being planned and maintained.


Mon, 16 Oct 2017 05:36:22 GMT

Watched the film Lion yesterday, which is based on a true story of a little boy named Saroo from an Indian village getting lost and landing up on a train that takes him to Kolkata a thousand miles away. A few years later, Saroo is adopted by a couple in Australia. After 25 years, he starts searching for his origins, trying to locate his home with the help of Google Earth, based on scattered memories from his childhood.

The well-executed and interesting film has some scenes which are touching, and Sunny Pawar who played as little Saroo was especially wonderful in his performance.

Chicken Kokkachi

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 13:06:31 GMT

I watched the Malayalam film Chicken Kokkachi yesterday with zero expectations, as I had never heard of it before. I was pleasantly surprised to have a good time-pass of two hours with this full length slapstick comedy. I don't think such an attempt has been made in Malayalam before.

The film, directed by Anuranjan Premji, tells the story of a youngster who leaves his home in the village because of various reasons, and comes to work in a bakery at Thrissur town for earning some money. The film is not much about its story, but the whole purpose of it seems to be to create some situational humor where we see people falling down stepping on oil, throwing things on each other, etc. The director has choreographed the scenes well to create an overall experience reminding of Chaplin films.

Trip to Bhutan

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 10:01:01 GMT

We had a nice week long trip to Bhutan. The highlight of the trip was a trek to Taktsang Monastery, perched on the edge of a cliff, on top of a hill near Paro town. The trek is a bit tiring, especially the steeply descending steps followed by ascending ones that lead us to the entrance of the temple. But the effort is worth for the breathtaking views of the colorful monastery as it is seen from various levels and angles. Another wonderful experience was the view of Punakha Dzong, as we approach this fortress at Punakha, while coming down through river Mo Chhu.

Taktsang Monastery, One of the Icons of Bhutan

Punakha Dzong

I enjoyed the views of pristine forests almost everywhere we visited, the good roads and peaceful drives (no honking anywhere) and the clean and well organized vegetable market at Thimphu with friendly shop owners. The weather was neither too cold nor too warm, somewhat similar to the Bangalore weather conditions during the older days. I tried some of the local vegetable dishes, and enjoyed Ema Datshi, made of long red and green chili peppers and cheese, and another dish made of stir-fried "fiddlehead" fern.

Bhutan Takin, at a small zoo dedicated to this endangered animal

At a Buddhist Nunnery

Bark of Trees Getting Soaked at a Hand-made Paper Mill at Thimphu

Clay Modeling at School of Arts and Crafts, Thimphu

Wood Carving at School of Arts and Crafts, Thimphu

We stayed for a few days at Kolkata on the way back home. It was my first visit to Bengal, though I have always felt like being very close to the place, thanks to the Literature and Cinema of Bengal. However, I found Kolkata to be like any other city in India - congested, noisy and polluted. In addition, most of the people walk on the footpaths and streets with cigarettes in their hands, giving us the impression of walking in the middle of smoky automobiles. I have not seen so many smokers in any other place in India.

There was also the extra crowd and traffic jams due to Durga Puja festivals, but this gave us an opportunity to see the colorful pandals made at various streets hosting idols of Durga. It was also interesting to note that unlike Bangalore, many of the old residential buildings are still preserved and are being used in Kolkata, even though they look dilapidated, with peepal and banyan trees growing on their roofs and walls. Just behind the place where I stayed, I noticed an old pale cream painted three story house, the terrace of which reminded me of Apu's small home in Apur Sansar. It looks like time is frozen in such buildings, the only upgrades being the various cables which connect them to the modern world, and the air-conditioners that are installed.

"Communist Films"

Sun, 10 Sep 2017 16:21:52 GMT

After the Left Front came into power in Kerala state last year, there have been at least three mainstream pro-communist films that came out in Malayalam. Such an open support for the communist party has rarely been seen in mainstream cinema since the 1980s - except for a Lal Salam or Rakthasakshikal Zindabad probably, I think most of the pro-communist films were from the "parallel cinema" category, made by and for the "intellectuals". But these three films have all "new generation look and feel", and have the communist party followers presented in all color and glamor, with the accompaniment of a liberal dose of slow-motion photography - It appears like communism has now caught the fancy of commercial cinema.

I did not particularly like any of these films, but I felt that Oru Mexican Aparatha was the most pathetic among them. The films portrays the rivalry between the two political parties in a college campus - The KSQ and SFY (I don't know why the director did not use the actual names of students unions, KSU and SFI, which represent the Right and Left wings. I am also curious to know what the director had in mind when he chose Q and Y in the abbreviations). The pointless film has nothing much to say other than iteratively focusing on how "good" the SFY party is when compared to KSQ, over a series of slow-motion sequences and some violent images, which left me wondering what the director was trying to convey regarding the differences between these two students parties. The only notable thing I found in the movie is the freshness in the performance of Roopesh Peethambaran in the role of a cunning politician. And of course, Hareesh Peradi, who seems to be the default choice these days for playing the role of a communist leader.

Sakhavu, starring Nivin Pauly, goes back and forth between the Present and the Past, to show how different today's politicians are from those of older days. Though the basic theme looks promising, the end product looks a bit confusing between those lousy comedy scenes of the Present and those sleep inducing and boring scenes of the Past which look like taken from a school drama performance.

Comrade In America too starts from a Kerala college campus, and we see the communist hero (Dulquer Salmaan) who looks educated, well qualified and stylish, but is so naive that he doesn't know it requires a visa to travel to the USA. He directly goes to the travel agent to book a ticket, and only then he comes to know of the visa requirement! But later in the movie, we see him landing in Nicaragua and coolly walking around like a world traveler, traversing his route through multiple North American countries, using a machine gun and what not. However, in spite of all these funny points, I found Comrade In America to be the most watchable among these three films. Unlike the other two, this one doesn't do much romanticization of communism, and the political activism of the hero is used mostly as a backdrop and for some comic relief in a few scenes.

I think the communist ideologies and its leaders of the pre-1980 era played a major role in bringing a kind of social awareness and feeling of justice in Kerala, radically changing the mindset of people. I felt that a little amateur film like Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil was a better tribute to the old communist leaders than these heroic pro-communist films.

Mukti Bhawan

Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:11:53 GMT

Watched Mukti Bhawan, a brilliant debut film by director Shubhashish Bhutiani.

Adil Hussain plays the role of Rajiv, who works as an insurance agent (or something of that sort), and is constantly under pressure related to work. His aging father one fine day declares that he has got a feeling that his days are close to an end, and he wants to go to Varanasi and stay at Mukti Bhawan, where people come and stay "hoping" to die at the holy city and attain salvation. Rajiv accompanies his father, to live with him at the gloomy lodge, where the manager would provide accommodation for 15 days. The expectation is that the inmate would die within 15 days, and if not, the manager may extend accommodation for more time, allowing the mukti-aspirant to assume a different name.

The premises of Mukti Bhawan appear to be grim, but the director, with a touch of gentle humor, focuses more on the relationships between Rajiv, his father and his daughter. Rajiv's father appears rather philosophical, perhaps because of his old age, while Rajiv is still a man of the material world, fearing of ghosts in the dark corners of the "Hotel Salvation". They may look very different, but over a period of time we see how certain patterns in the character and relationships repeat over generations, and how certain perceptions change by age. Rajiv recollects how his ambitions on writing poetry during childhood were shot down by his father, while he himself seems to have similar disciplinarian tendencies as his father, during his interactions with his daughter. However, things have a gradual softening effect after every generation.

Performances in the film are brilliant, and I think Mukti Bhawan is one of the best Indian films I watched in recent times.

Pelicans in Haralur Lake

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 12:42:15 GMT

After two weeks of continuous rains in Bangalore, most of the lakes are filled with rainwater and sewage.

It was interesting, but at the same time pitiable, to spot pelicans in the Haralur lake, which has started frothing because of sewage contamination. It was sad to see the birds trying to find some food from the lake, where fishes lay dead and floating because of pollution.

Vikram Vedha

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 14:44:51 GMT

Though Tamil film Vikram Vedha tells a typical story about Police Vs Gangster fights, corruption in police force, etc., I found it to be a very interesting film, thanks to the energetic performances by Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi, and the narrative style by directors Pushkar and Gayathri who dramatize the blurring lines between the "Good and Bad" in an engaging way.


Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:09:38 GMT

Watched Olappeeppi, Malayalam film directed by Krish Kymal. Biju Menon plays the role of Unni, an NRI, who visits the Kerala village where he had spent his childhood during the 1970s. The film goes back and forth between the scenes from the past and present times. In the flashback scenes, we can see a 10-year old Unni living with his grandmother in their ancestral home. The feudal system had collapsed after the land reforms in Kerala, and Unni's grandmother, who was one of the landlords of the area, is finds it hard to earn enough to make both ends meet. The film follows various events in Unni's childhood in the flashback scenes, while in the scenes of Today, we see Unni trying to reconnect with some of his friends and relatives.

Though at places it appeared to me that the director was trying a bit too hard to develop the elements of pathos in the flashback scenes, I felt that he presented the story without falling into much of melodrama. There were a few scenes which I found touching, and the actress Punnassery Kanchana in the role of the grandmother who always brings out feelings of optimism to Unni's life even in grim times, seemed to be almost living in that role. Overall, Olappeeppi gives the feeling of watching some of those good tele-films of old Doordarshan era.

A Motivating Speech

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 12:38:59 GMT

"We have a number of exciting projects lined up for the coming year. We will ensure that you will have minimal sleep for the next one year at least. Please make sure that you don't make any personal commitments for this period! But we will make sure that we will do the whole thing as a fun exercise as much as possible...", so on goes speech by a manager at my workplace. This speech was intended to motivate the employees to work towards the bright future ahead of them, and the projected workload and potential demands for unpaid service I guess was supposed to be a light hearted exaggeration (though it is a sort of reality for most of the Worker Class IT employees these days).

A Death in the Gunj

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 13:01:04 GMT

Watched A Death in the Gunj, a brilliant directorial debut by actress Konkona Sen Sharma.

Set in 1979 at the village of McCluskieganj, the film narrates the events associated with a family/friends visit and get-together at the village home. Shutu, the key character, is in his early 20s - a shy, introvert, sensitive and somewhat timid youngster who seems to be suffering from depression as well. The film shows how the behavior of people around him affects Shutu's life during that short visit to the village.

Konkona's characterizations are brilliant, and the performances (especially by Vikrant Massey in the main role) are excellent.

Catch Me If You Can

Sun, 09 Jul 2017 11:58:48 GMT

I got a chance to watch the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can directed by Steven Spielberg today. The film is based on the real life story of Frank Abagnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who had done various forgeries related to bank checks when he was a youngster. After getting caught, Abagnale spent some time in jail, and later became a consultant for FBI.

The film was a very engaging watch.

Tax Reforms

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 04:25:35 GMT

I read the news that the Government is going to revisit the implementation of Direct Tax Code, and the news looked scary to me.

If we have to go by prior experience, any attempts at "revision" or "restructuring" of Income Tax laws in India, would eventually end up squeezing the the salaried class, extracting some percentage from their various investments and savings, irrespective of the political party holding power in the center.


Sun, 02 Jul 2017 14:53:21 GMT

I have been using BSNL wired broadband service for last 2 years, and last 6+ months it has been becoming worse day by day. The connection is completely unreliable and the service has been pathetic. Technical complaints raised via their web interface are repeatedly closed promptly after 3 days, with absolutely no action taken on them and no update given to me. When I call their customer service center by phone, they direct to various officers and AGMs, and each of them in turn keep on redirecting to other people. Eventually, I need to follow their escalation chain all the way to the top to get a simple problem like cross-connection resolved.

As the technical complaints became more and more frequent, I decided to terminate the broadband connection altogether and raised a request for the same on their web interface last week. They closed the request within 3 days, but I was not sure if this is a genuine indication of any action taken or just the usual automated "case closing mechanism" used by the technicians. So, I called up BSNL once again and a very sleepy customer care person informed me that I need to personally visit the local BSNL office for closing the connection. When I visited the local BSNL office at HSR layout, I was redirected to their "Customer Service Center" at Koramangala, where I was asked to give an application on plain paper. I felt thankful that I was not redirected any further, and I hope that the request will be processed this time. It is funny that in today's Digital Era, an Internet service provider would insist its customers to go and meet the babus and give a paper application for a request. It is also puzzling why they are providing an option to initiate service closure on their website, when it is clear that they are not going to do anything on that request.


Sun, 02 Jul 2017 12:53:33 GMT

Though the GST is supposed to simply the taxes and probably reduce the tax burden on consumers for majority of their purchases, the general impression created by the merchants has been somewhat opposite. Multiple weeks of pre-GST sale melas preceding July 1st made all feel as if the GST is going to bring doom on the consumers. And during this weekend, whichever shop I visited, the people in the cash counters were explaining me that the bill amount would be more because of increased GST, etc.

It appears like there is no direction on passing the benefits of "input tax credit" that the merchants receive to end consumers. So, wherever the tax rate has gone up, the consumers have to take up the burden for the extra tax, and if I understand it correctly, the merchants can now effectively pocket a part of that tax, equivalent to the input tax credit they receive, mapping to the item sold.

I wish there was a mechanism for the end consumers also to receive some sort of "tax credit" for the GST amount which the merchant has levied from them, so that they can adjust it against their regular income tax, and avoid double taxation? Perhaps this can be easily done for non-cash transactions, since the credit cards, debit cards etc. are linked to the PAN of the consumer? This would be a good encouragement for all consumers to go "cashless". Without such a mechanism, I am not too sure if GST will bring much changes in the lives of ordinary people.


Tue, 27 Jun 2017 12:23:11 GMT

Hostage, a brilliant graphic novel by Guy Delisle, is based on the real life story of Christophe Andre, who was kidnapped by a Chechnyan gang in 1997, when he was working at an NGO located in Nazran, Ingushetia. He was kept in captivity in Chechnya for close to four months.

Most of the panels in this 432 page book include simple portrayals of the various places where Christie was kept - in a small room without furniture, handcuffed and attached to a radiator box most of the time, in a store room, in a closet, etc. The events shown are mostly repetitive in nature - like serving food (with the same menu of vegetable soup, tea and bread all the time), going to the toilet, etc. and the text mostly consists of monologues by Christophe. Through these pictures and text, we get a feeling of being with Christophe as a hostage through these 100+ days.

Caste based Discriminations

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 06:44:40 GMT

It is a shame to see such an open debate on caste even for identifying a candidate for the post of President of the country. The "opposition parties" are now trying to find a suitable "Dalit" for contesting against the candidate of NDA, and many of the constituent parties have declared that they will not support anyone other than a "Dalit". The caste of a person would be his foremost qualification which would play a key role in various political game plans.

The hypocritical nature of the Left Front (who claim to me the most progressive) is most evident in these kind of discussions, and they keep on proving again and again that they are one of the most communal and fascist political elements in the country.

Smart City!! Really?

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 06:42:05 GMT

Bangalore is now in the list of "Smart Cities" marked for development in India, and is going to get several hundreds of crores of rupees as funding from the Center as part of the project in coming years.

It sounds like a joke to me. An urban slum where the corrupt, clueless and inefficient Government officials, politicians, greedy landlords, builders and Water Mafia, etc. are busy inventing various schemes to extract the last bit of natural resources and converting to cash, and where an average citizen has pretty much nothing to hope for and feel optimistic about, is now going to be called as a Smart City!


Tue, 20 Jun 2017 04:02:54 GMT

The Malayalam film Sasneham (1990), directed by Sathyan Anthikkad during his vintage days in his typical family-sentiments-humor format, showed how the relatives of a married couple (played by Balachandra Menon and Shobhana) interfere in their lives and create a mess. Alamara, directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, picks up the same subject set in the present times. It shows how a simple thing like a Cupboard can play a pivotal role in married life.

It was a pleasure to watch this light-hearted comedy with likable characters (or rather caricatures), interesting dialogues and some gentle humor and satire.

The Best We Could Do

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 02:40:06 GMT

The Best We Could Do - An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui is yet another work that shows the power of Graphic Novels as a medium for narrating serious subjects autobiographical in nature, like Persepolis or Maus.

The author, in her forties now, living in America with her aging parents, reconstructs the story of her parents, grandparents and family (including herself as a small child) going through the political turmoil in Vietnam, and eventually "escaping" to a refugee camp in Malaysia in 1975 after The Fall of Saigon, and then finally immigrating to America. Along with the historical events of Vietnam War as seen from the perspective of her parents, Thi Bui also touches upon various other subjects like the kind of permanent scars that a War would leave on people, the combination of generation gap and cultural differences that the immigrant parents face during interactions with their growing children, and the general feelings related to parenthood. The illustrations are brilliant, and the book gives the experience of watching a feature film.


Mon, 19 Jun 2017 14:24:35 GMT

Watched Hindi film Haraamkhor, which tells the story of an affair between a school teacher (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and his student named Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi). In parallel runs another thread that shows the crush Sandhya's classmate has on her, and his various adventurous activities to win her attention, with enthusiastic support and advice from his best friend.

Haraamkhor is debut feature film by director Shlok Sharma, and he deserves appreciation for making an entertaining film with a touch of humor (the thread involving Sandhya's classmates mostly contributing to the humor element) based on a serious theme which is rather unconventional even for non-mainstream Hindi Cinema. The performances are all brilliant too.

Rice People

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 04:03:57 GMT

Khmer film Rice People (1994) narrates the tragic story of a farmer family in a Cambodian village, struggling to cultivate their paddy, adjusting with various elements of nature. Narrated in a very realistic way with no touches of melodrama, the entire film focuses on the lives of the family members, who seem to have pretty much nothing other than their paddy as the sole thing in life, about which they constantly think even in their dreams, or even when they are in their deathbed. The performances of all actors (including the child actors) are so natural that it would appear as if the camera captured some moments from their real lives.

In certain aspects, this film reminded me of the Japanese classic The Naked Island, but that one was not such a sad and depressive tale like Rice People.


Mon, 05 Jun 2017 17:05:24 GMT

Watched Maanagaram, a Tamil film that narrates events of a day in the life of a few people living in Chennai city. There are multiple story threads, and the actions of some people affect others in different threads, all of which finally converge in the climax. Though such narrative techniques have been used very often these days in many of the "new generation films", Maanagaram still looks interesting for its clever arrangements of various sequences, and an engaging plot.


Tue, 30 May 2017 02:59:30 GMT

I don't think there have been many true survival drama films made in India. I liked director Vikramaditya Motwane's recent film Trapped, which tells the story of a man (Rajkummar Rao) who gets trapped in a flat in one of the top floors of an unoccupied, tall apartment complex. The electricity supply gets cut, and water also gets over, and the film shows how he survives and finally escapes from the place. The narrative is gripping, and I think the director deserves credits for attempting a genre that is not often tried before in Indian Cinema.


Fri, 26 May 2017 08:36:13 GMT

Watched Thithi, a brilliant debut film by director Raam Reddy.

The film starts with showing the sudden death of Century Gowda, a 101 year old man living in a Karnataka village. Gowda's son Gaddappa is a fun-loving old man who likes to roam around and play games like "Lambs and Tigers" with children, and he has a kind of detached attitude towards materialistic things. Gaddappa's son Thammanna is an ambitions man, who wants to get his late grandfather's property transfered to his name quickly, so that he can sell it off and get some cash in hands. Thammanna's son is a youngster who likes to spend time playing cards with his friends or earning some quick money stealing timber from the forests, but his main focus during the length of the film is to woo a girl from a gypsy group settled in the village, who graze their sheep in the surrounding grasslands. The film shows Century Gowda's funeral, and the various drama unfolding in the lives of three generations of his successors during the next 11 days, till the ritual of "Thithi".

Thithi has all non-professional actors from villages, and it is amazing to see how naturally they perform, and almost live in their roles contributing to the realistic narrative of the film. There is absolutely no background music used, and there is no elaborate camera work or attempts to romanticize "village life" etc.; The film just follows the events in the village and presents in a kind of raw form. I think Thithi would be a masterpiece of Kannada Cinema, and one of the best Indian films of recent times.