Nov 20, 2014

Movie Review Digest: 9 movies at one go!!!

Due to a family wedding and subsequent activities, it's been a while since we got out to watch a film. But what is Karthi without movies? We decided to watch a few DVDs we have been holding on to for a while now. Here we go.

We do not watch many Hindi movies unless they are recommended to us by friends or family. That is how we got to see the following.

Highway: Wow, a fantastic cinematic experience in all senses of the word! Alia Bhatt was a revelation in this soul-scraping movie of an heiress who gets kidnapped on the eve of her wedding. She accurately portrays the angst of women who have to fear sexual exploitation from absolutely everyone - it's absolutely a miracle how all women do not turn out to be misanthropes! Great watch, definitely recommended. Also a road movie - which is another one of my likes!

Two States: Everyone I talk to either loves or hates Chetan Bhagat. I like a few of his books and would say "meh" to some others. Two States, I definitely liked. The movie adaptation is an almost verbatim copy of the novel except for understandably omitting the not-so-relevant parts. Although Alia would not have been my choice to play Ananya (completely lacks the doe-eyed look), she makes up for it by her peppiness. My picks of the cast are Amrita Singh and Ronit Roy as Krish's (Arjun Kapoor) parents. Great performances! Okay to watch.

Lunch Box: What is it with foodie movies and inducing hunger? Please make sure you have a full tummy before you watch this movie!!! I had just watched a documentary about the dabbawallahs of Mumbai on TLC when this movie came my way. The movie develops through a tiny error made by the dabbahwallas whose error margin is claimed to be one in 6 million (allegedly). But the mistake is savored by the receiver and cook between whom a relation slowly blooms helped on by the aromatic wafts coming from the green-bagged lunch box which is a central character of the movie! Lovely performances by Nimrat Kaur and Irfan Khan. And I had to search and find the recipe for Bhindi fry right after the movie: our younger one who refuses to eat okra was compelled to eat one. He did and thereafter was tough to stop. He said he would give me "hundred out of hundred" for the dish! 

Now to get to the Malayalam movies.

Mosayile Kuthirameenukal: We completed the first half of this movie, then remembered to watch it only after several weeks! But once it was completed, we felt bad for not having watched it earlier! :) By which I mean to say, the first half  is not very remarkable although it has a snappy narrative technique. It also takes an unconscionably long time for Sunny Wayne to be introduced, which to me is a huge flaw! :) But once we got into the second half of the movie shot in Lakshadweep, the movie took on an ethereal, lyrical quality which I think is owing to the exotic location as well. Wow! The music too changes and takes on the rhythm of the waves that lap those golden shores. I could go on and on in this vein - I will end on this note - the second half is a must watch - but you are welcome to watch the first part to be able to understand the second! :) DH has been looking up passage to Lakshadweep after watching the movie!! Hurrah!

Hi, I'm Tony: Watch this only if you have an affinity for I Know What You Did Last Summer. For the genre, it's an ok movie with adequate doses of creepiness, gore and pain. The last two twists were totally predictable. I dislike such movies on principle, but please do not let that prevent you from scaring yourself!

Praise the Lord: Years ago Zachariah penned the delighting little novella of the same name. It was the true  and funny picture of the thought process of a wealthy plantation owner in Pala.  PT Devarajan had the unenviable task of expanding and updating the novella to fit the movie format. He has done a good job, but the fact remains that there is too little matter in the novella to be spread over 2.5 hours. The attempts to inject humor are pathetic. And nowhere does Zachariah say that Samkutty talks in that singsong voice even though his phraseology is kind of preachy. I definitely like the book better. There is something to be said for brevity.

Vegam: "Meh". Resembles Nivin Pauly- Nazriya starrer Neram in several aspects. But nowhere near it. Definitely avoidable.

Avathaaram: Old-fashioned revenge story with the totally cliched murder of honest customs officer part. Of course, Dileep as Madhavan Mahadevan is the brother of the dead officer. In many ways, his character is a continuation of the character Vinod in Anthikkad's Vinodayatra, albeit in a lethal form. Only new things are the extensive use of the mobile phone and apps to apprehend the wrongdoers. Okay, if slightly too gory for my taste.

Ormayundo Ee Mukham?: Finally, one movie we WERE able to watch in a theater. Shouldn't have. I mean, if you have watched "Fifty First Dates" (openly acknowledged in the movie), no point in watching this one. And it's not anywhere as interesting as the original. Added to it is the characters who live in Kerala of some alternative universe - totally disconnected from reality. Humor injections pathetic in this movie too. Watchable only for the Sand art parts - which are truly breathtaking.

Nov 7, 2014

From my bookshelf - The Fault in Our Stars

It's been a while since a book moved me so much that I wanted to write about it. What with Kala Chaarutha happening, my reading is limited to what I can snatch at bedtime before I drop off to sleep. Even so, I managed to somehow finish John Green's The Fault in Our Stars in just a couple of sittings. 

I had had my doubts about reading this book despite some rave reviews I've been reading for some time. When the protagonists are both cancer patients, it wouldn't certainly be a happy story, I was sure. And after the mind-numbing shallowness of Stephanie Meyer's vampire series, I was not sure I wanted to try a "teenage" romance again. It was probably the small size of the book and the promise of absolutely no sequels that made me go for it :).

And was I surprised. Yes, the story is unutterably sad. Yes, it is tragic. Yes, it made me cry.  But they were cleansing tears - the good kind. I will not set out the plot here or the points that made me love the book because I hope you will go ahead and read it and feel as moved as I did. Let me just say that I was awed by the quiet bravery that human beings can achieve in the face of the greatest pain.

In many ways it reminded me of another of my all-time favorite love stories: Erich Segal's Love Story. Which of course, is another tragedy. It has the same type of snappy dialogue, the same brevity of expression and the same intensity of feelings, not to mention cancer playing spoilsport. 

All in all, a must-read for people who like love stories and don't mind if they don't have happy endings!

Oct 17, 2014

Is it worth it?

Yesterday I was chatting to one of my neighbors while we were waiting at the bus stop. Our chat meandered among a few topics when we fell into chatting about a recent gold-chain snatching incident just 2 km away from our home. 

Ever since gold prices have been going up, Kerala has seen a steep rise in chain-snatching incidents. The snatchers almost always travel by motorbike, snatch the chain and disappear. Not content with just pedestrians, a daring few have knocked women riding on two-wheelers to the side of the road to snatch the chain in peace. 

In the land of Unniyarcha, some modern Unniyarchas refused to be cowed by the snatchers and grimly held on to their end of the chain or fought the robbers off. So the current trend is to bash the woman's head in with a stone or bottle from behind before snatching the chain. 

As I walked to the bus stop today, I was wondering what would be the best method to deter such robbers. Obviously everyone cannot drive around in cars all the time (even then a gang tricked a newly-wed couple and hijacked their car to rob them!) So I was mentally designing an unbreakable plexi shield sort of thing that will cover a woman's chest and go around her neck with a huge padlock behind that will deter the most determined of robbers and still will allow the precious necklace to be shown off in all its glory. I started chuckling to myself drawing some strange looks from other people before I realized what I was doing!

My dear, enlightened women of Kerala - why, why, WHY do you continue to endanger your lives by insisting on wearing gold chains often weighing 5-8 sovereigns (worth more than 1 lakh) around your necks on a daily basis? Don't you value your lives? 

I feel that this "need" to wear gold on a daily basis is a result of cultural indoctrination. Girls are brought up to believe that they need to wear a gold ornaments on a daily basis - I have personally seen elderly women chide the daughters of the house saying "കഴുത്തും കാതും പറിച്ചിട്ട്‌ നടക്കുന്നു , അശ്രീകരം!" (meaning going about with bare neck and ear lobes is inauspicious) - and it was not enough to wear just anything, it had to be gold. Married women are compelled to wear a gold chain with the thali on it - and those who disobey are threatened with dire consequences.

Even today I see among my own relatives, grandmothers who insist on making their baby granddaughters wear gold ornaments even if the mother wishes it otherwise. 

Thankfully I have escaped this fate. My Dad and DH both value my life more than showing off their wealth or conforming to society in this issue. I am free to do as I please. I try to wear a small pair of gold studs when I'm at home - because gold studs have larger stems than costume jewelry ones and if I leave out gold studs for long, I can't get them into my ears again without shedding blood, sweat and tears! I have had several neighbors point out my bare neck to me when I go out - just making sure that my gold chain hadn't fallen off without my knowledge. They look at me oddly when I jauntily tell them that I have deliberately left it behind.

Please get this, I am not against wearing gold. Even when it's disgustingly ostentatious or totally in bad taste like in this wedding costume I saw recently...

I am not bothered about this because no lives are endangered in a wedding when the bride is surrounded by people - okay she may be at risk of a broken neck, still!

Even as the chain-snatchings continue, I have hope. Last week when I was riding a crowded bus to the library, I looked around at the accessories of the ladies and girls around me. Whether it's because of the prohibitive price of gold or out of love for their lives and limbs, a notable number of women were wearing costume jewelry. The percentage of such prudent women was substantially more than what was the case a mere 7 years ago when I first started living in our capital city.


Oct 8, 2014

Movie Review: Vellimoonga

 (Pic courtesy - Cinema Mangalam)

A teeny tiny whopper: that's the only way I can describe this movie. It came without any hype or hullaballoo, first pricked the curiosity with the unusual title, then drew us in with positive initial reviews. My own review would have come earlier had it been not for a combination of circumstances that led us to waste a whole weekend when we could have watched Vellimoonga and its antics. As luck would have it, the hot, hot sun in Kozhikode where we were on an exploratory weekend led us into the confines of the refurbished Apsara theater and we finally caught the "silver owl" in full flight!

The story is simple: Mammachan, the long-suffering son of a highly idealistic politician father decides at an early age to eschew his father's calling. But by a miracle of sorts, he comes to don the same "uniform" of his father, only Mammachan goes to the other extreme of embracing only "practical" politics. Whether the aspiring politician is as bad as he makes himself out to others and whether he is able to survive in the cut throat competition is the story.

Finally, after several years, Biju Menon takes a single-lead movie and leads with aplomb. It's been painful to watch this talented actor don just bread-and-butter roles (villain, comic sidekick, cameo) for so long. I hope this leads  to better roles for this actor who has proven again and again that he can deliver. Aju Varghese is hilarious as Menon's sidekick. The whole cast - comprising of some of the best character-artistes of Malayalam film industry and a couple of new faces - does an exemplary job. Asif Ali is suitably restrained in a story-turning cameo. 

The movie is hilarious from start to finish. Even the twists and turns of the plot are liberally sprinkled with laughs. There was not a boring moment. How could there be with the wily fox-like Mammachan scattering one-liners all over the place. I will have to buy a DVD of the movie in order to catch some of the dialogues that I missed while laughing about the previous joke.

All in all, a huge round of applause for debutante director Jibu Jacob and writer Joji Thomas who were willing to spend years in developing this project and had the staying power to see it through - the maturing time has definite dividends. And I've been humming "വെള്ളാരം കണ്ണുള്ള വെള്ളിമൂങ്ങ " incessantly since leaving the theater!

Verdict: Go and watch this movie in the full theaters and have some fun!

Sep 27, 2014

Back again!

Aha, it does feel good to be chatting again on my own blog. In the past two months, Karthi has been in an upheaval of sorts because the lady of the family decided to venture out into something new. And that something new meant a lot of things had to be put in order, a lot of things were to be learned in a short space of time, a lot of soul-searching and questioning was required... which left precious little time to attend to the affairs of the home and the family, let alone a blog!

But first let me show you a pic of serenity: an unexpected sight on a Sunday morning and just looking at it makes me want to indulge in a quiet and peaceful hour...

Two kids and a cat, just welcoming a Sunday morning on our front doorsteps. What better way to start the day..

So what have I been up to? I finally decided to take my love for craft to the next level. It all started with a jewelry making workshop conducted by a leading daily to promote one of their new books. I've always been interested in making jewelry and I got some supplies and made a few pieces back in 2004 in good old US of A. But once we were back in India, I couldn't find many supplies and any way I was taken up with baby and child care. 

It would have turned out like my usual craft activities: I would swamp myself with purchasing new material and then lose steam and just keep looking at my hoard and keep putting off things for later. But this time something happened. And it was probably the culminating point of a lot of subconscious processes going on, but it was actually a question from my irritated DH that did the final trick. When he saw me buying some pill-organizing boxes for bead and findings storage, he snapped, "What are you buying those for? Anyone would think you are taking it up professionally!" And I retorted, "That's exactly what I'm thinking of!"

And Kala Chaarutha happened, just like that! In this past two months, I have been climbing a humongous learning curve, the peak of which is nowhere in sight. There are so many ideas traipsing along in my head, so many images that I have to put down, so many techniques I want to try that will probably take me a very long time to learn - and I'm loving all of it! Friends and family have all chipped in with first orders and I have asked them to be merciless in their feedback. I have started off with paper jewelry to begin with, but I will soon branch out into more.

I did try to put up a different blog for the shop, but then I found I couldn't muster up more energy to start chatting on a new blog.  So notsoperfectkarthi will be housing Kala Chaarutha too from now on!

I thank all my readers for having supported me for the past four years and hope you will accompany me on this new journey too!

Aug 22, 2014

A trip down the Blue Hills - Part Two

So there we were, chugging through the tunnels on the mountain railway, with me having to push my fingers into my ear whenever the train approached a tunnel. I literally counted the seconds it took us to traverse each tunnel and had I written it down then, I could have told you how long each tunnel was along the journey. But the scenery made up for all the hullaballoo. Here was a meandering stream...

Sometimes the railway line hugged the serpentine road...

We caught glimpses of very orderly looking tea estates...

 And sometimes we were treated to craggy vistas...

Soon the sedate pace put some of us to sleep...

And then we drew into Hillgrove station where they began pumping more water into the engine. This my train enthusiasts HAD to see. Can you see the water pipe amongst the billowing steam clouds?

Our groggy sleeper had to get up because there was another side show going on involving some of our little cousins...and by "our" I mean all mankind's!!!

There was a horde of them enjoying little titbits thrown to them by our fellow travelers. Notice how his/her throat is stuffed with biscuit - possibly to share with family later? I am both fascinated and repulsed by this feature - though I can't deny it can have its uses - like at a buffet for example? :)

And here's our groggy guy taking a peek at all the drama at the station

Yup, not looking too pleased at being woken up! And here's a view of the other side of the train...

Just wanted to showcase the oval window of the door!

Soon enough our jackets came off as we came chugging down the mountain and entered the prosaic plains. The camera went into the bag, our kiddos nodded off again. All too soon the train had pulled into Mettupalayam station, the compartments were emptied and the mountain greens were carried off to grace a florist's creations for the next day, no doubt...

And that was the end of our Nilgiri Toy Train ride. We were lucky to have had the chance to do it, because at the Ooty railway station we had got to know that the morning up train had been cancelled that day. DH's foresight and Lady Luck combined to make it happen and it was definitely worth all the preparations that went into it.

So if any of you want to take the same trip, do plan for it at least three months ahead and be ready with your computer turned on and logged in at 8 am on the day the booking opens on IRCTC's website. Remember that the up train journey is in the early morning at takes more than 5 hours - but it must be more romantic to see the misty Nilgiris in the morning light. The up train would be a better option if you don't have kids who could get restive on a long journey and you won't be disturbed in your contemplation of the mystic mountains with questions of "Are we there yet?" and constant demands for snacks and the window seat. If you have kids with you, the down train is the best option. You can have your lunch at Ooty and be in time for a good masala dosa in Mettupalayam.

Hope you get a chance to enjoy this journey!

Aug 6, 2014

A trip down the blue hills... Part One

Ideally a travelogue should be written immediately after a journey, when the impressions are fresh and memories are still crystal clear. So why am I writing about a journey we undertook in the month of May? A bit of perversity on my part, that's all. When the weather is hot, I like remembering green, green fields. So now when Thiruvananthapuram has finally decided that it should get its fair share of this year's monsoon, I am thinking of cloudless skies and a cool and dry clime! :)

You've all probably heard of the Nilgiri "Toy" train that runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty. DH set his sights on riding this train very early this year. And the foresight proved extremely essential because it is a very coveted ticket and we couldn't grab first class tickets (waitlisted) and barely got the second class ones. There are only 3 reserved compartments and a single unreserved one, so you can guess the competition! We opted to hire a car to go up as the up-train takes more than 5 hours to reach Ooty while the down-train takes 3.5 hours.

 So there we were, tired after the long walks in the Botanical Garden, waiting in the picturesquely old-fashioned train station for the train to start at 2 pm...

...when the train pulled in. The journey from Ooty to Coonoor is accomplished by a prosaic diesel engine...

Here you can see for yourself why we were fortunate to have reservations, look at the jam in front of the last (unreserved) compartment!

We soon forgot the general squalor that Ooty town has become and set off along one side of the artificial lake and had wonderful views to look at...

The slow chugging was ideal to take pics of the train as it took the curves...

Believe me, that is just one of the scores of turning pics that DH took from his side of the train and each time the train took a left curve, he made ME take a pic from the other side! 

At first the kids were jumping from one side to the other to see everything. Then they settled down to enjoy things in a relaxed manner.

Yeah, nothing like a lolly to calm people down! :)

We passed four or five stations, including Lovedale and Wellington before reaching Coonoor, where the real star of the show arrived, here she is....!



...thar' she blows!!!!

Really, what's it with men and vehicles? I thought that Ani would be the one excited about steam engines because he is a huge Thomas the Engine fan and draws them all the time. Nope, turns out his brother and father were equally excited and jumped out to watch the engine being attached to the train while I sat stolidly in my seat, blowing on my hot tea and musing about mere men. :) This next picture is for all mechanically minded people among my readers!

Yes, for some reason best known to experts, the front end of the engine was connected to the train, which means the engine went down the incline backwards. From Coonoor the train gained a new gait. The rack and pinion system made itself evident in the jerking motion the train acquired thence. So we waved bye-bye to the clock-tower in Coonoor and went on our merry, jerking way.

From Coonoor, the landscape too changed. Till then it had been mostly tea estates, buildings and orderly eucalyptus plantations. But now the carefully manicured plantations appeared more infrequently, the vegetation ran wild...

I really enjoyed this part of the journey because wild flowers were rampant at the sides of the track and I wish we could have stopped to take pictures - most of what I have are only blurs...

I got the picture above because I belatedly got the idea of trying to take pics of the flowers turning backwards in my seat! If only...(sigh)!

And quite inexplicably, some time later, the lights in the compartment were turned on!

Oh oh, this I didn't foresee!

What, I didn't foresee tunnels in a hill track? No, I simply did not foresee that a lot of shrieking and howling wild animals would erupt in the train once it reached the tunnel! 

It looked like the above in the train while the most horrendous high-pitched screaming and shouting was going on. I had to close my ears and try (ineffectively) to shush two of our own family members who seemed to have morphed into wolves all of a sudden!

I think I'll leave you all to enjoy my discomfiture (through all 16 tunnels) today. The second leg of the journey needs another post altogether!