Apr 7, 2015

Movie Reviews: Ennum Eppozhum, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and 200th post!

Numbers can be so paralyzing, can't they? Ever since I put up the last post and it came up as the 199th one, I'd been in a quandary... What should I write for my 200th? It's a big number, a milestone, so I should write something worthy of it! So I kept torturing myself with several options until the weeks passed by... And then I realized, my old perfection demon is at it AGAIN! Way back in 2010, I started this blog (click here if you would like to jump to my first post ) just to be able to fight it!!! Hie thee demon!

So here goes!


We started off celebrating the kids' summer break with Oru Vadakkan Selfie - Vineeth Sreenivasan is a blatant promoter of his home region Thalasseri and surroundings! If we weren't sure of where it is, he even uses online maps to point it out in the movie! :) 

Story in a nutshell: Umesh (Nivin) and his cronies are seriously aimless guys looking for the easiest ways to make it big. Finding his father's pressure to join the family business (the proverbial palacharakku peedika which every self-respecting Malayali boy hates!), he runs off to Chennai to make his mark in movies and lasts exactly for a loooooong SIX....days. He gets back home only to find that he is in a huge scrape!

The good: The first half is funny - to all non-parents. I often forgot to laugh to turn and look at my boys to agonize - gosh, please don't let my boys turn out like that!!! Did I detect a certain tension in DH's arm and eyes as he laughed too? Not sure! The song "Enne thallendammava" has become an anthem of sorts around Karthi now. It's not unfamiliar, since it used to be one of my Dad's favorite sayings to rebuke me whenever I refused to toe the line in my childhood :). I would like to hear the intro song once again - because I was so engrossed in all of Umesh's antics at college that I couldn't catch the song properly. The movie, ultimately has a good message - which I will leave you to discover. The anticlimactic climax was also a novelty to audiences who have been fed to the gills with twists at the end of the tale.

The bad: Nothing much really - except those nightmare visions of how boys could go bad! :)

Verdict: Worth watching. Also can be used as a spring board to launch lectures on ideal behavior to kids :)! Paisa vasool!!!




Ennum Eppozhum had been on the Karthi viewing wishlist since it was announced last year. Sathyan Anthikkad's latest makes for a good view initially. 

The nothing-given-away story in a nutshell:  Vineeth N. Pillai (Lalettan) is a senior correspondent of a leading women's magazine who is bored by routine. His seemingly unconscious slips of the pen make life mildly hazardous for him. The new management in his firm is intent on throwing him out, when he gets a lifeline. An opportunity to interview a lady lawyer Deepa (Manju Warrier) who has been making headlines as a gutsy lady.

The best: The song "Malarvaaka kombathu.." I practically swooned in my seat - the golden voice, the music and the lyrics... wow! Huge appreciation to Jayachandran, Rafeeque Ahmed and Vidyasagar!!! It's a great treat!

The good: The lead performances and as usual, the heartwarming good relationships of the "little people" who populate the Anthikkad world. In this movie it is Kariachan (Innocent) and his wife who fit that bill. 

The bad: Manju Warrier should really try to break from the mold of the suffering partner in dysfunctional marriages and go do something else. Also I didn't' like the way the movie showed her to be a super mom - A single busy lawyer finding time to clean a two-storeyed house to perfection, cook smiley-faced chapatis, work late into the night and then getting up at 4 am to practice classical dance! Really, what are the moviemakers trying to say? And Vineeth remaining single because he is blatantly trying to replace his dead mother with another just like her? Disturbing, to say the least. And to make it all worse, busy lawyer finds it easy to keep house, whereas the senior correspondent has to browbeat his freeloading roomie to do all the housekeeping jobs! Gender stereotyping at its worst.

It may be just me, but I found this blatant sexist agenda a huge turnoff. So what if the knight-in-a-white-Nano charges in and rescues the damsel in distress with panache? Yuck, another cliche!!!

Final word: Good in patches, don't take your critical mind along if you want to enjoy the movie!

Feb 27, 2015

Two months gone? Already??? with a movie review at the end!

Gosh, it feels like we celebrated New Year only yesterday! I opened my diary yesterday and found only two more pages for the month!

At Karthi, February came in like the usual lamb. How could it not, after all, whose birthday does it start with? Didn't get the hint??? Take a look at the pic below and don't forget to look at the birthday candles!!!


Things went well till DH decided to give me a cake cream facial - couldn't waste all that chocolatey, creamy goodness, could I? 


One of my best birthdays ever... I think this pic says it all!


The first half of the month went by in following the results of the 35th National Games. Way to go Kerala - ending up in second place behind Services! In fact if Services was split up statewise, we would have got at least 50% of their medals too because there were a lot of Malayali athletes in the Services team. 

Then the boys decided to make a Sabarimala pilgrimage. The rush to Kottayam, then to Sabarimala and back took their toll on DH who contracted a severe sinus infection which he is yet to recover from. Ani too missed a few days of class. Now I'm pumping the whole family with Ayurveda remedies and preventives enough to keep them healthy through the exams that start next week! Talk of the month going out like a lion!!!

Meanwhile there's nary a cloud on the horizon and there is an uncharacteristically harsh heat wave going around. I guess all the moisture went around the globe to make snow storms in the US. My whole garden droops in the heat, but I am stern and water the plants only once in two days. I upbraid them for being brats spoiled by the heavy monsoons of the year and adjure them to send roots deep into the soil to find what they can. 

My ongoing feud with the tree across the road is finally over - at least for this year.  Each morning this month, I woke up to find a ton of its leaves littering my yard - so spiteful of it to hurl all those leaves across the road into my driveway!!! Now I look up at it and laugh triumphantly because it has no more leaves to torment me! "I'll see you next Feb!" murmurs the sulky tree as it towers disdainfully over puny moi.

Just as the National Games ended, what should start but the ICC World Cup! We watched the Indian innings of the Ind vs. Pak match down to the last ball in my MIL's home at Kottayam before having to leave for the railway station. On the train, we were at the mercy of two networks on DH's phone and mine as we followed the ball-by-ball updates on Cricinfo and had to watch the frustrating  rotating circle most of the time. 

Finally my phone showed the winning ball and forgetting that we were on the train, Kunjunni and I let out a cheer, only to be shushed by DH into embarrassed silence. If cricket is India's religion, I guess we were the only believers in a whole compartment of atheists that day! 

My Kala Chaarutha workshop is littered with the remains of a lot of projects and experiments in new techniques which will soon make their way to the FB page.

The movie of the month was Picket 43 which we all loved. This one from Major Ravi is a short, sweet film with a good message and wonderful performances by Prithviraj, Javed Jaffrey and Renji Panicker. My only problem with it was that the scenes shot in Kerala were unnecessary and cliched. But without that, the movie would have been even shorter. A little stretching of the imagination too was required, but the message is good and it was moving. Definitely a good watch.

Bidding a fond farewell to a wonderful month and gearing up for a scorching March! See y'all next month!

Feb 6, 2015

National Games, here among us!!!

I have to admit that I am strictly a sports aficionado who refuses to stir from the sofa. Tennis was my first spectator sport. But once the likes of Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini left the court, I too lost interest. I have stuck to (of course, only watching) cricket for the rest of my life. 

The fact remains that I have yet to see a live cricket match. The closest I have got to a live one is when I called one of my relatives who had got the tickets to a match in Kochi ( he didn't even breathe a word to me till he was well-ensconced in the stadium!) and I called him while the match was going on hoping to absorb at least the crowd noise live through the phone. Of course I always held that "It's better to watch a match on TV - you get a better view and none of the hassles". No, please, don't say a word about the round green/dark purple fruit that grows aplenty in bunches on vines!!!

With all of this, DH did have to persuade me a LOT to go to the newly inaugurated (and yet unfinished) Greenfield Stadium that has risen in our neck of the woods to see the Opening Ceremony of the National Games 2015. He tried his best to get passes, but couldn't find any. But then the government announced that all those who made it to the stadium before seats were filled would be allowed to get in from 2pm onwards on the 31st of Jan.

So we swallowed a hasty lunch and left home at 1pm on DH's antiquarian motorbike. We adjured the kids and MIL to keep their eyes glued to the TV once the program started at 5pm. The old and trusted bike took us right up to the venue (so easy to park!!!). I was expecting long queues in the hot sun and was not sure of the refreshment opportunities. So in a tote I was carrying: 2 bottles of water = 4 liters, 1 kids' lunchbox full of masala peanuts (DH's speciality) and two caps. The lady policewoman at the checking area opened the peanut box and grinned up at me before waving us in!


There is DH in front of the stadium. To our delight, we were shown in to the lower bowl of the stadium itself. I went back to the security guy to check and make sure that we were not being shown into any of the reservation seats. After his repeated assurances, we chose our seats for the day and settled down. I loved the bright primary colors all around me...


The stands were mostly empty at the time since there was more than 3 hours to go before the scheduled program, but we didn't feel bored at all! There was a lot to see. We especially had these fellas to look at - they were in place even before we took our seats..



We took turns to explore the stadium. In the meanwhile as the stadium slowly filled, there appeared a guy right behind us, who was all prepared to get on national television. We caught him doing this:


Besides balancing skills, he also had a poster with him which he waved madly from time to time, but suffice to say, it was just not his day! Poor guy!

But soon enough, dusk fell fast, the lights of the stadium blinked on and the program started!!!Just take a look at those stands now??!!!


We were too far away to capture the salient events of the evening on film. But once Sachin, the brand ambassador of this edition of the Games appeared on the giant screens, we heartily joined the crowd in cheering him. The navy band played popular tunes in the time it took to get the formal programs going. Soon it was time for the Games torch to take a run around the stadium. As the giant lamp was ignited, a deafening roar went up from the crowd - and I belatedly realized that I was on my feet roaring as lustily as anybody else! 

As the teams march past came to an end, there was a slight lull as the evening switched gears into what they called "the arts protocol". A fantastic traditional solo percussion performance got the beat going followed by all the traditional orchestra performance of Kerala: the Thayambaka, the Panchavadyam etc. - I am not proficient enough to distinguish each. But I can tell you that it was completely mesmerizing. 

After percussion, came a theme play "War Cry" with the story of the triumph of Kunjali Marakkar over the Portuguese colonial force with the narration by Mohanlal on the big screens and the dance parts performed on the centre stage held the crowd's attention. But we didn't know that it was more a filler in preparation for something else as we were absorbed in the play.

When the stadium was lighted up again after the play, we were amazed to find the arena lined with torches and ceremonial umbrellas and a huge array of performing artistes representing almost all the known traditional performing art forms in Kerala...


That was the moment I really wished we had brought the kids along so that I could point out the art forms to them. I sincerely hoped they were watching it on TV.  In the midst of all this, we were treated to several bouts of fireworks that had us all going ooh and aah as the colors exploded above our heads and thundered in our hearts...


In all the hullaballoo, I found some quiet time of my own to try and capture the wonderful, shimmering haze that the crisscrossing beams of light were creating in the dark sky above us ...


I guess it's as near to the Northern Lights that I can get at this time! :)

Soon it was the turn of Mohanlal to make his mark on the night with the debut of his band Lalisom. But by then it was more than 9 hours since we had been in the stadium. So after tapping our heels to the third song that was an old favorite, "Meri Sapnon Ki Rani", DH and I called it a night, found our bike parked at the perimeter wall of the stadium and made it back home, bone tired, but thoroughly happy. 

So how was my first live stadium experience? In spite of the noise-induced headache, in spite of all the grit that scratched my face while I tried to wipe the sweat off, in spite of a throat excoriated by all the cheering and in spite of arms that ached for hours afterwards because of all that clapping ... I LOVED IT!!! So here's my recommendation to my readers: do not try to put off whoever invites you to a live program in a huge stadium. Go for it!!!

Jan 23, 2015

Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014: Part Two

Last week I left you with a Chinese painting, this week I shall start by throwing you into a vortex!


This was Anish Kapoor's Descension - a huge whirling mass of water that threatens to pull us in at any moment. The effect was quite mesmerizing and I kept my body tilted backwards and got a good grip on my camera before taking this pic!!!

Muhanned (sic) Cader's Galle Fort:: Fort Kochi was refreshing in that it took scenery pictures out from the usual rectangular boundaries they are usually confined to. Eg:


Doesn't the outline below remind you of the cartoon "Phineas and Ferb"


Then there was a series on the ever-familiar and inimitable Namboodiri's black and white drawings! Here is just one for you!


His drawings look deceptively simple and always lead me into delusions that I can be an artist too!! Alas!

Mithu Sen's video installation I have only one language; it's not mine is a disturbing video, mainly shot in a rehabilitation home for abused women and children in Kochi. By means of some editing process or filter that is beyond me, the artist has turned the video into red and white sketchy outlines. It just captures one and the unconnected, mumbled dialogue makes it even more surreal.

Hans Op de Beeck's black and white watercolor paintings are wonderful in their use of light and in the beautiful detail. A couple of examples:


a Kathakali scene:


Tell me what can you make out from this picture?


Someone scratched up the wall? Look a bit closer:


Manish Nai's untitled work is done on a specially prepared grey surface with the use of white and black "pixels". Although the final result is no great shakes, the technique is wonderful.

Biju Jose's Swastik Pocket Knife is a tongue-in-cheek depiction of our country's extremist tendencies. Have a look:


Punaloor Rajan's photos enshrined a veritable who's who of Kerala's literary and cultural scene. It definitely deserved a better exhibition stall than the poky shelves it was housed in. Just a glimpse of a young Madhavikkutty. Looks gorgeous, doesn't she?


Having finished the exhibits in the Aspinwall compound, we took an auto to the Pepper House. Here we saw Gigi Scaria's Chronicle of the Shores Foretold (remember Marquez's novel of a similar name?). It was in the form of a fountain spouting from a giant bell...


Then we encountered the elaborate and breathtaking work of art by Sumakshi Singh aptly named Between the Pages. We were puzzled by the instructions to leave our footwear outside.  Here are a few glimpses. Tell me if you can make out anything:






Completely confounded, aren'tya??? Ok, to put you out of your misery, I will show you the first screen we saw on entry:


These were the viewers who preceded us. See how the panels are so staggered and designed to make the viewers a part of the whole? There are also animated figures projected on to the panels: birds flying, etc, which adds even more layers of experience to the work. And here we are, "Between the Pages" ourselves!!!


Of course I have left out several artists and pictures in this post too. I hope you will be encouraged to see these works for yourself and see if you like any others even better! By the way, there is enough material left for a third post on the Biennale!  So see you next week!

Jan 16, 2015

Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014: Part One


What a way to begin a year! Last Sunday I made my pilgrimage to the altar of art that is the Kochi- Muziris Biennale 2014, the second edition of art extravaganza that is bigger and better than the last one. As usual, since our spouses are totally averse to the idea of tramping around looking at art and since kids would only be a distraction, it was another girls' day out for my dear friend Tessa and me. This time I worked my camera to bits: a whopping 400+ photos as opposed to the 100+ last time. This was because when I came back home last time and started to blog, I found that I could not remember the names of even half a dozen creators of the works that I loved the best. So this time, I took pictures of all the artist names and descriptions regardless of whether their work impressed me or not. At least I have a better record now!

The tickets to the Biennale are available at the second entrance of the Aspinwall venue. For adults it is Rs100/person. The first exhibit this time around was a video installation by Charles and Ray Eames (of the Eames chair fame). It was a short film called Powers of Ten and for all that it was made in 1977, it was no less wonderful an experience. Let me just say that it puts us humans in place! Really timeless as true art should be.

The next thing that really caught my attention was a series of 90 charcoal drawings of Madhusudanan, called the Logic of Disappearance. Here is just one of them:


Lenin, Stalin, Marx and a pig are recurring motifs in the drawings and they are disturbing and breathtaking in their artistry at the same time.


Yang Zhenzhong's video installation 922 Rice Corns reminded me of the old Sesame Street videos that teaches numbers to preschoolers. It shows two or three chickens pecking up grains of rice while someone counts the rice corns in the background in Chinese and the a few running counters show the number already pecked. Although the blurb said that it was a way to show the relentless and mindless consumption tendencies of humans, I just felt that it was a good way to learn to count to 922 in Chinese. But may be I do not have the artistic temperament!

I loved Santhamani Muddayya's Backbone that dominated the courtyard of Aspinwall House. Don't you?


It's raw and primordial and still playful, somehow. These are the feelings it evoked in me and I took pleasure in passing between the "bones".

Parvathi Nayar's drawings on wooden panels were also very good. An example:


Mark Formanek's Standard Time was a video installation that was every bit thrilling as a real movie. 


It shows a group of workers changing some numbers (another throwback to Sesame Street?), but then you realize: the numbers are a time display, it is the same time on your watch, the workers are hurrying to change the time within each minute!!! And then you feel anxious about whether they will accomplish the necessary changes within the minute and spend an agonizing time watching (in my case) the second hand of your watch! Really what better a way to show the tyranny of time??? I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I came out of that room, I can tell you!

Lavanya Mani's Traveller's Tales was another of my favorites:


Actually the architects of Aspinwall House should be mentioned among the artists. Who cannot but admire this?


Here I will skip over quite a few artists to get to my next favorite installation, a roomful of towering black, seemingly dripping outlines on white by Hew Locke called Sea Power:




It was only as I went up closer that I found out how it was done!


Yes, they are made with thick cord and strings of bead, attached with a glue gun to the walls. A man after my own heart, is Hew Locke!!!

Sahej Rahai had a huge hall full of sculptures made from clay and found objects, most of them were from the school of the macabre:



But the one not to miss is the video installation  at one end of this hall - that of an old sculpture that looks quite still and innocent until you see small furtive movements. The stone chest moves in an attempt to breathe, then it tries to stretch its back! By the time its damaged face moved as though desperately trying to speak, I fled!!! Brrr!!!

The one piece that truly surprised and confounded me was Xu Bing's Background Story: Endless Xishan Mountain Scenery. The placement of this artwork aids this confusion. Tessa who had already seen this piece hung back on purpose to let me have my first glance:


What do you see?  A frame of fluorescent tubes, a lot of torn paper, some dried vegetation, a few twigs, huh? I shook my head derisively at who ever had thought of this as "art" and went around where I stood and gaaaaaaaped.....


Tessa quite enjoyed my open-mouthed expression. All the junk at the back is artfully arranged so that the shadow is projected on to the canvas to create this wonderful painting. To look at a little detail... this is the view from behind...


and this is what it looks like from the front:


The original of this huge piece of art is displayed in a glass case nearby:


It was tough getting the huge piece in one shot:


So on that note of wonder, let me put an end to this episode of the Biennale. The exhibition goes on to the end of March (the last date is the 29th, I believe). If you can, do go and see these wonders for yourself! Enjoy!