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Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar's Journal



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Last Build Date: Sat, 09 Dec 2017 12:24:09 GMT

 



Dunkirk

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 12:24:09 GMT

Watched Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan's film based on World War II events. There is not much of a storyline or dialogues, but the film focuses on creating the atmosphere of the War with brilliant picturization of the situations (and there are no gory details as usually seen in other war films), cinematography and some haunting music.



Cats of Istanbul

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:25:06 GMT

"It is said that cats are aware of the existence of God, while the dogs are not. Dogs think that people are God, but the cats don't. Cats know that people act as middlemen to God's will. They are not ungrateful, they just know better..." , so on goes a speech by a cat-lover in the brilliant documentary film Kedi, which is about the cats living in Istanbul city. Being an ancient port, cats from different parts of the world had landed in Istanbul over centuries, making the city their home. Though the effects of urbanization are posing as a challenge for them now, they still get a lot of fans and patrons, and have their own ways to survive in the cityscapes.

Kedi shows a series of scenes from the lives of different cats, brilliantly photographed and accompanied with some varied background music, interspersed with comments from different people in the city. The dialogues are humorous, amusing and at times even philosophical. People talk about the "character of cats" and their behavioral patterns, and some people lovingly imitate the ways cats interact with them. There are a few who have some words on the ways cats changed their lives. The sequences are connected in an amazing way, and this film was a great viewing experience.



The Diary of a Nobody

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 16:08:18 GMT

The Diary of a Nobody is a book of fiction in the form of a diary, written by George Grossmith, with illustrations by Weedon Grossmith. First published in 1892, the book tells the story of a clerk living in London. Charles Pooter lives with his wife Carrie in a rented house, and is regularly visited by his friends Gowing and Cummings who live close by. He is a very loyal employee of his firm, and adores his manager, Perkupp like a God. Most of the diary narrates the day-to-day happenings in Pooter's life, over a period of an year. His son Lupin's arrival after his studies, his various "adventures" as seen from the perspective of Pooter, and the generation gap between the father and son, add some drama to the proceedings.

Though Pooter writes the diary in a straight-forward manner without intending to be funny, the various "accidents" in his life, and his commentaries on his thought process on various incidents make this book a very hilarious read.



Velipadinte Pusthakam

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 03:15:22 GMT

Directors Lal Jose and Renjith had made a few interesting films in the past, but their graphs have been consistently going down in the last few years, and I think now they have entered the tough field of competition for making the most boring Malayalam films, along with veterans like Sathyan Anthikkad, Joshi, et al.

Lal Jose's Velipadinte Pusthakam starts with some crude and vulgar "jokes" by the character of a college professor, played by Salim Kumar. The jokes seemed too poor for a Lal Jose film, who usually maintains some basic standard in terms of humor in his films. However, by the end of the film, I realized that this particular character was the only relief in this pathetic film.



Solo

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 13:24:50 GMT

Watched Solo, a supposedly "experimental movie" directed by Bejoy Nambiar. The film is an anthology containing four stories, which are said to be representing four different elements - Earth, Fire, Wind and Water - though I couldn't understand the exact connection.

While I was thoroughly bored with the first story, the second and third stories were interesting and the fourth was somewhat watchable. Though the narrative style indeed has some freshness in it, overall the film did not impress me much.



Ondu Motteya Kathe

Sun, 05 Nov 2017 12:05:48 GMT

Watched Ondu Motteya Kathe, an interesting Kannada film narrating a simple story with a touch of humor. Director Raj B Shetty acts in the main role as well, and he was good in that role.



Arjun Reddy

Sat, 04 Nov 2017 12:29:32 GMT

Out of the Indian regional language movies I watch - mostly Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi and occasionally those from Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Marathi - the most atrocious films are from Telugu. The musical classic Shankarabharanam(1979) is one film that I have watched several times, but I am yet to watch a mainstream Telugu film made in the last three decades which can be called as tolerable.

When I think of Telugu movies, what comes to my mind are some of those violent and barbaric fight scenes in them where the heroes stand covered with blood, wielding ancient weapons like sickles or machetes, and the way these scenes are interleaved with item songs, forming a pattern that is tirelessly used in these films. The pathetic way the female lead characters are consistently portrayed purely as an eye-candy material without any sort of personality attached to them, is also something that I have noted as a signature of the Telugu commercial movies. When I read articles by GP Ramachandran who critically analyzes Malayalam films to bring out the hints of male chauvinism in them, I would want him to go and watch Telugu commercial movies which would make people hunt for new terminologies to describe the extreme psychic forms of male chauvinism which are presented as very normal and model behavior in these films.

I happened to notice the posters of Arjun Reddy a few weeks back, which featured a man wearing cooling glass and smoking, and assumed that it may be some sort of gangster film possibly surrounding the real estate industry. Later I read several positive reviews about the film which praised it as some sort of cult masterpiece, so decided to watch it, with great hopes. But I could not figure out what was there to praise so much in this film. Certainly the narrative style of the film is better than the usual Telugu flicks which made it watchable to some extent; However I could not find much in it to feel so excited about. Also, we see the usual patterns here too - A hero who thinks that the world revolves around him, who unilaterally declares that a girl "belongs to him" the moment he sees her for the first time, and just goes ahead and kisses her in full public view, and a few sidekicks ("friends") who would do anything for him, etc., etc.



Asterix and the Chariot Race

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 12:27:28 GMT

I got the latest Asterix Album Asterix and the Chariot Race, and it was good to see Asterix albums slowly coming back to the old glory to certain extent, under writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Didier Conrad.

This is the third Asterix book coming from its new authors, and I think the overall quality of scripts have been consistently improving. There are funny dialogues, and plenty of interesting character names in this new book. And illustrations by Didier Conrad are brilliant that I couldn't find any difference in style from those by Uderzo.



Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:11:30 GMT

Maheshinte Prathikaram was a light-hearted, feel-good movie without any typical feel-good ingredients of commercial cinema, narrated in a realistic way with very natural blends of humor. With Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, director Dileesh Pothan once again proves that he is a director to look forward to, and someone with a signature narrative style.

The film starts with a beautiful song in a similar way as Maheshinte Prathikaram, and the song develops over scenes showing the budding love affair between two main characters (played by Suraj Venjaramoodu and Nimisha Sajayan). The film soon cuts to incidents that happen a few months later - The lovers are married now and as they struggle to settle with some farming experiments in a village of Northern Kerala, the golden chain of the girl gets stolen during a bus journey. The thief (played by Fahadh Faasil) was sitting just behind her in the bus, and he coolly swallows the chain when caught. Rest of the film mostly is set in the premises of a police station, and we see how the couple hope and wait for retrieving their precious possession.

I enjoyed the gentle touches of humor that is there throughout the narrative, and the way Dileesh brings out those touches in a very natural way. Like his earlier movie, he has cast newcomers in all the roles (mostly those of police officers) except for the key roles done by Suraj, Fahadh and Alencier, and they all perform without even a trace of amateurism, making us feel like being in that police station for the duration of the movie. Nimisha Sajayan is expressive, and I think she is a great find by the director like Aparna Balamurali of Maheshinte Prathikaram.



First They Killed My Father

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 17:16:47 GMT

Read the book First They Killed My Father, a touching memoir by Loung Ung, who had spent her childhood at Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime. Loung was a girl of five, living a comfortable life with her parents and six siblings at Phnom Penh in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took over control of the country. The book is written mostly from the perspective of the child, and shows how the family members supported each other in their struggle during the next five years (apparently, we don't see many references of helping hands from non-family members - probably it is an indication of how the grim times in the country had disintegrated the entire social system and people were mostly on their own in their struggle for survival). Not all of Loung's family managed to make it; but Loung and her eldest brother finally get to reach a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980, and from there immigrate to the USA.

In many ways, the book reminded me of the graphic novel The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (written more recently), which narrates the struggles of a Vietnamese family during the 1960s and 70s. However, Loung Ung's book has a very straight-forward narrative, unlike the graphic novel which uses a bit of dramatization and gives a lot of focus on the character study of the key people noted in the memoir.



Clint

Sat, 28 Oct 2017 13:24:40 GMT

Malayalam film Clint directed by Harikumar, is based on the life story of Edmund Thomas Clint.

Director Harikumar's main focus seemed to be make a typical emotional drama based on the boy's life; So, we have sequences showing the "happy days" (including a couple of songs) followed by many scenes showing the boy's battle with illness, and his last days when he talks to his parents about his impending death. These scenes, especially the climax scenes, are extremely touching, and would make the viewers feel for the child prodigy. However, I wished that the director had attempted to make a film that went beyond the tragic aspects of Clint's life and tried something different than the straight-forward, TV-serial sort of narrative style used in the film. Nevertheless, the film is touching for its content, and Master Alok, who acts in the role of Clint, has given a very natural performance in the role.



Thupparivaalan

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 13:01:45 GMT

In the Tamil film Thupparivaalan directed by Mysskin, the lead character, a detective played by Vishal, is a super-hero - He is intelligent and knowledgeable like Sherlock Holmes that he can tell all about a case and its most possible solution just by observing his client casually, and he can examine the mark on a dust-covered desk to predict on the possible material that was placed on it - a book for instance, and even make a guess on the title of the book. He is not just a man of "grey cells" - he is also a veteran in different forms of martial arts, fighting with ten people at the same time in an elaborate sequence reminding of Kill Bill.

This characterization of a superhuman hero is not usually seen in Mysskin's films, and one may even suspect that the hero of his latest film is a parody on the typical heroes of commercial cinema. In spite of this, Thupparivaalan comes out as a very interesting and engaging film from start to finish, and the full credit goes to Mysskin's directorial prowess and the subtle touches he adds to the narrative throughout the film.



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.



Lion

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 BhutanPunakha DzongI 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 NunneryBark of Trees Getting Soaked at a Hand-made Paper Mill at ThimphuClay Modeling at School of Arts and Crafts, ThimphuWood Carving at School of Arts and Crafts, ThimphuWe 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.



Olappeeppi

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.