Jun 24, 2011

Movie Review - Manikyakkallu

M. Mohanan's Katha Parayumbol was an unexpected and runaway hit. We had gone for the movie not knowing what to expect and came out pleased. This time we went to watch Manikyakkallu with great expectations and came out with the feeling that something was missing...

The story is simple: a moribund government higher secondary school in a remote village is revived by the arrival of an energetic and upright young teacher. The premise is good, the situations are believable, but why does it feel too much like a documentary? Or is the final "all A+" SSLC result that is difficult to swallow? Or is it the early breaking of suspense regarding the maash's mission just so that he can have a dalliance (and a wonderful song) with his childhood sweetheart? There are some tear-jerking scenes - but there's absolutely no subtlety about the way they are introduced. 

The actors have done a good job, Samvrutha gets a slightly better role than even Prithvi with her portrayal of a girl who doesn't mind some jibes about being over-smart and miserly in trying to build up a life on one's own. Salim Kumar, Nedumudi, Jagathy, KPAC Lalitha - all perform their roles with the ease of veterans. Was that the songwriter Anil Panachooran in a cameo as the "sthiram kutti" in Indrans's teashop?

Message-wise, the movie is good - craftwise, it fails miserably. But it was a freshening experience altogether after having had to watch the likes of "Christian Brothers"!

Jun 10, 2011

From my bookshelf - 5

It's been long enough since I last wrote about a book that caught my fancy. It's not that I have not been reading any books in the interim, rather I've been reading so many that I just haven't had the time to write about any of them.

The latest book that I've read is Chithra Banerjee Divakaruni's Palace of Illusions, subtitled Draupadi's Mahabharata. Yes, it's another retelling of the great epic. We have had several versions of it including Bheema's version in Randamoozham. This is from Draupadi's point of view. Isn't it a miracle in itself that such an ancient literary work still manages to inspire scores of creative minds and the public imagination after all these ages!

The Palace of Illusions starts with the moment she stepped out of the sacrificial fire after her much-awaited brother - as an unexpected and unwelcome addition. Unlike in the original where she steps out of the fire as an adult, here she comes as a 5-year-old and grows up in her father's austere palace thoroughly confused about her destiny and how to reconcile herself to others' expectations about it. She has prior warning about the "mistakes" that she will make which will turn the history of her nation, but this foreknowledge does not come to her aid at the crucial moments when far stronger emotions take precedence.

The author has taken liberties with the story line to give Draupadi omniscient vision like that of Sanjaya so that she sees all the crucial Kurukshetra battles with her own eyes and can later point out to her family where each hero's body lies. There are enough surprises and twists to pique one's interest in this age-old storyline.

When you consider it, Draupadi was the lynch pin of the Kurukshetra war - if she had had a forgiving temperament, her husbands would have calmly forgiven their cousin and spent the rest of their lives at some accommodating royal relative's place after their vanvaas. Instead, they had this shrew in their midst who never forgot to remind them of the insult she underwent in the Kuru court and worse, had to see her uncombed, unfastened and tangled hair (of which she had plenty) everyday. Just imagine living with a person like that for 13 years (above all, having her cook your food)! I wonder how Sudeshna employed Draupadi as a hairdresser when her own hair was in such a state!

Divakaruni's interpretation of Draupadi can be summed up thus: the story of a girl who wanted to be ordinary, but couldn't help being extraordinary. A totally readable book and a heroine with whom women can empathize. Look out for description of the palace and gardens that Mayasura created for the Pandavas.


Jun 9, 2011

How to Work Qs

I think I've discovered the best way to work queues in government offices! Y'know, the ones in which you reach the head of one queue only to discover that you have to then get to the end of another one, etc. Here's my secret....

Hunt in pairs!!!

For example, let's say A and B are at a government office bright and early (before the doors open) and find their place in a queue. Even before the doors open, B can stand in the queue while A rushes off to get a forgotten document from the car/ take a Xerox of something etc. Once the doors open, probably half the queue will rush away causing confusion in the minds of those remaining whether they are supposed to be standing in the queue or stampeding behind the ones who broke away. In this case, B can run off with the crowd to satisfy his curiosity while A holds place in the Q waiting for B to get back from his probably useless mission - and it will be a windfall in case the stampede was worthwhile. Now, suppose the officer at the window says, "Go to the next window and get a form for 5 bucks, fill it and get it back to me." Aha, here A can go join the Q to get the form while B walks back to the end of the first Q and inches forward again to the same window while wondering who will reach the their respective windows first and worrying whether A will come on time.

More activities to do while in the Q would be:
1. Counting the number of vehicles in the office compound
2. Fashion critiique - not much scope for it in front of a govt. office
3. Dispensing thoroughly useless information among fellow-queuees
4. Calling down curses upon the heads of all the employees in the building - can be a group activity if fellow queuees are agreeable
5. Counting the tiles on the roof of the office building - caution: might cause a crick in the neck. Not very pleasant

If you are fortunate, A might get the form before B reaches the window and then A can take position in the Q while B goes off to the side to fill in the form in record speed while consulting A on doubtful points. This tandem work can go on until you reach a point where there is no Q any more, but just a general crowd around an officer's desk. Here the combined bulk of A and B can be used effectively to work their way to the front of the crowd. One can elbow his way in while the other can smile apologetically at the elbowed (former queuees) and avoid an instant lynching. Then, while A explains to the concerned official, B can alternatively simper and sigh until the said official is intimidated / just simply crowded into doing the essential just to avoid AB hanging over her desk.

Everything done in half the time! Howzzat!!!

Discalimer: This may or may not be a partially true account of a personal experience!!! Follow on strictly your own responsibility.

On a more serious note: I was wondering about the poor officials who work in those hell holes that are called government offices. The buiding was at least 200+ years old, the fans might have been prototypes of the first ceiling fan, The gerneral dinginess and stuffiness due to the open records storage were positively unbearable. Cramped workspaces, and the prospect of nothing better even if you are transferred to other places. Believe me, since we decided to build a home, I've been to several govt. offices and it is the same everywhere. Is it any wonder that some times they look so sour and behave as though they are doing some charitable deed for you. In fact, isn't it just miraculous and ample proof of human fortitude that most of them discharge their duties promptly and cheerfully! People working in swank corporate offices, rejoice and be thankful!!!!

Jun 2, 2011

Winding up the summer

Last Sunday we took the time to say a proper goodbye to the season with a trip to Happy Land, which happily is just 14 km away from our home. For some reason I have totally lost now, I decided not to indulge in any water ride and didn't even take along a change of dress. The result was that I was the bagkeeper and picture-taker keenly regretting her bullheadedness while my family took full advantage of the park's water slides.



I also tried out new hairstyles for our younger one



And used my stopwatch to see how often the bronze fish deluged the revellers - mostly it took three and a half minutes!



After lunch, we let the kids takeover the "dry" play area while we relaxed in the shade. And this is what we mostly saw... UP



and DOWN, ad infinitum



Then we went on for the nausea-inducing big rides


while he did this



Finally we each had several turns on bumper cars laughing ourselves silly. We returned wholly exhausted, but happy!

Oh you want a review of Happy Land? Compared to Veegaland, the number of rides are limited - only six water features including the wave pool. But the water was good, the whole place has lots of shade to rest up in, the park is well-maintained and at 350 bucks per head - free for two-year-olds, it was good value for money. Food at the restaurant was not bad either. Did not have the opportunity to check out the toilet facilities. We were totally satisfied. Feeling ready to tackle the new academic year!

How to bring back the green...

Back in 2007, when we bought the land for Karthi, it looked like this... There were coconut trees that looked tired, a few jack fr...