May 27, 2012

Movie Review: Mallu Singh

We at Karthi are all for variety when it comes to movie fare: be it action, tame "family" fare, romance, suspense thrillers - we are ready for anything and everything except for some absolute mishmash like "De Ingottu Nokkiye" (our horrible movie "gold" standard of all time). So when we had some friends over this weekend, we chose "Mallu Singh" knowing very well that it was not critically acclaimed.

Keeping in mind that being story-less is the new story, this is what ensues: Ani (Kunchacko Boban) leaves his ancestral village for Patiala, Punjab in search of a long-lost cousin Hari (Unni Mukundan). He does find a Harinder Singh there, but as the integral part of a Sikh family with four beautiful sisters to boot. Ani's mission is then to find the mystery behind Harinder Singh's amnesia which has made him forget even his fiance who happens to be Ani's sister Achu (Samvrutha Sunil).

In keeping with the movie's location which is the lush land of five rivers, the movie is filled with fast songs and dance with the typical Punjabi tang - lot of balle balles going on all the time. In fact, the camera work is so good that I think it's the best shot Punjab movie since DDLJ (remember Simran in the yellow-flowered fields?). Mallu Singh definitely goes one better. I think I could watch the movie again and again just to see the flower-filled fields that are lavishly displayed in several scenes. Comedy-wise the actors have not much to work with, but they have done their best - the kiddos got to laugh a lot. Kunchacko gets the worst comic part, but as usual makes up for it in the dancing department. What does that guy have instead of joints - rubber? Just watching the man dance gave me knee and back ache! Biju Menon, Manoj K. Jayan and Suraj Venjarammoodu make up a solely comic team with Suraj easily coming up the topper - he was the only one who made me laugh out loud in one scene.

Let me save the best for the last: Unni Mukundan. Yes, this is the first movie of his that I have watched and I must say, I am a fan from now on. I think it would be the best proper hero debut that Malayalam cinema world has seen in years. I am not forgetting that Unni has had his debut earlier, but this will be his most notable part and am sure that he will be evaluated on this performance for years to come. I am also not forgetting Prithviraj here - but Prithvi has been around for 10 years now and has evolved much beyond the level of just a "hero". But I am talking about the way that Unni stands out from the general mold of androgynous/ metrosexual / heroes who are the norm right now. In this movie he is in an unabashedly  testosterone driven avatar and it was totally refreshing to see believable action without an aging or fragile (ahem, ahem) 'hero' bashing up people twice their size. In fact, the action scenes were so superb that I felt like rushing home and pumping some iron (even if it's a puny pair of dumbbells of 1.5 kg each!) Unni Mukundan, welcome! You look good and solid enough to be a Punjabi boy and did pretty well in the acting department too. We have high hopes of you!

In short: Mallu Singh worth watching for the superb scenery and Unni Mukundan. :-)

May 17, 2012

Anjengo/Anchuthengu and Varkala beach...

...or how even a poorly planned outing can turn out all right in the end!!

In a rare weekend that DH was absolutely free of work, we set off shortly after sunrise for a coastal drive to a historic fort and to have some fun on the beach. As usual, I was the navigator and set the course for Anchuthengu fort - better known to us as the site of the first native resistance against the British in Kerala. I took the help of my Google Maps app to make a beeline to the sea coast from our place and then to proceed north along the coast. Accordingly, we reached the road and "coasted" at a leisurely pace, breathing in the sea air, glancing almost into the fresh fish baskets and enjoying it all when all of a sudden, we came to this:

Yeppppp, Google Maps omitted to tell me that a bridge is still undergoing construction. I got out of the car and headed towards the sand bank to see if there was another way to get across and discovered that we could - IF our car could transform into a hydroplane, that is. So I enjoyed the sea breeze for a little while more - while DH did a little fuming and venting in the car - and got back to my fallible Google Maps app again to find the shortest route to our destination. Thankfully, this time the app held up a good route without taking us all the way back to the NH by which way we should have gone at first. The roads were mostly narrow and charmingly rural with a couple of railway crossings thrown in, but it took us to Chirayinkeezhu and then on to Anchuthengu all right.

Once we got to the fort, we got to know that like all government-run tourist places, the fort too would open only at 10. Ahh, more time on the beach for us, went the kids. So we parked the car in front of a picturesque church and went to the golden-sanded beach - only to be told by a bunch of kids who were playing there that no one bathed there because it was very deep at the spot and the waves were pretty savage!!! Our kids were devastated and DH and I were discussing alternatives when I started noticing the helpful kids. They were thrusting their hands into holes in the sand and were coming up with the likes of these:

DH asked how much they got for such huge crabs. "Oh no, we sell only the crabs that are caught from the sea, these are for playing with" came the charming reply. Ok, I guess that even kids who don't have umpteen toys manage to find playthings of their own. I couldn't resist snapping a few pics and the boys were more than willing to pose.

Our kids were curious to see what pictures I was taking, so they came up. One look at the crabs and our elder son quietly moved away a few paces as befitted a brave 7-year-old. Our younger one had no such qualms and ran away screaming lustily in a high-pitched voice. (I won't say "like a girl" because THIS girl did not flinch when the kids with the crabs came behind me to see their pictures on our camera and the huge pincers waved menacingly a couple of inches away from my neck!!!) We watched eagerly as they peeked into holes and put their hands in to catch big crabs. We certainly declined their polite invitations to try our hand at catching the crabs! 

The kids were very friendly and invited us to come over at Christmas and New Year when "lots of people gather on the shore and have fun."

When the kids left, we decided to go an additional 13 kms to the beach at Varkala. This time we hugged the coast again and had a marvelous coastal drive that opened up lovely views everywhere and finally the boys had their much awaited dip.

What amazed me is the intrepidity our younger one showed in lying like that for the waves to lap him up. At 6 months of age, he used to cry just watching the waves roll over the beach. Even last October, during our visit to Kanyakumari, he came away soon after just tasting the salt water on two occasions. This was certainly a first. After an hour and a half of being rolled about by the waves, he came away all scratched and bleeding, but still not having had enough!

We took the same scenic route back to Anchuthengu and at last got inside the fort - not much to see except  a square of beautiful landscape
We would have liked to catch the view from the top of the lighthouse right next to the fort...

But that is open to visitors only after 3 pm. Anyway, we had had a lovely time at the beach AND visited a place of historical significance and were content. This time, we went back home the CORRECT way!

Wanted to leave you with this picture that I took on Varkala beach. I had fun chasing a few crabs. This one is actually very tiny, only about 3 inches or so across and obviously thought that it blended in well with its background (which it actually did). I have cropped the picture so that you can view the details.

Do get past the creepy, red-pupil eyes (Crabs can look backwards too!?!?!)! Is it just me or can you too see a fantastic face on the shell???

Movie Review: Grandmaster

You can't go wrong with this one. After a series of so-so's, we are on the third in a winning streak with Ordinary, 22 Female Kottayam and now Grandmaster!

B. Unnikrishnan's latest may be based on a Hercule Poirot novel (wanna know which one? :-)), but has a lot of changes and embellishments to keep it fresh and full of suspense till the end. Mohanlal plays a reluctant policeman thrown into a fledgling task force that must gain a name for itself or perish. That is when a criminal mastermind invites him to play a deadly game of chess with him. He cannot but accept the challenge, especially when the lives of his dear ones are at stake...

The cast including the newcomers have done a beautiful job. It was a wrench to watch Seetha and Roma in uncharacteristic roles, but they have done very well too. 

Although the movie has slightly more drama than a good detective movie ought to have (but hey, I am a fan of Castle and cannot complain!!!), altogether, it is well-paced, has lot more red herrings than an Agatha Christie novel and - this is the crucial part - the final culprit can't guessed! Do go and see before I reveal more than I should!!!

My DH did a comparison study between a successful and a dud "adapted story movie". He compared Grandmaster and Masters. Masters is not a bad movie at all - but the real culprit was totally guessable (even if you didn't recognize the inspiration) and after the sticky end, we were left wondering what the title signified - the protagonists certainly did not turn out to be "Masters". By comparison, we went in knowing fully well the original story and still were surprised by the ending of Grandmaster. 

It doesn't hurt to have good music in a detective movie too. Have you got a chance to hear "Akaleyo,.."? - very easy on the ears.

May 11, 2012

Movie Review: 22, Female, Kottayam

What is it with two Kottayam movies coming to theaters almost together? There was Kottayam Brothers aka Kobra and Aashiq Abu's latest of the name given above - makes a native of Kottayam viz., yours truly pretty happy.

There was a sizable crowd at our neighborhood second-string theater for the matinee show. Warned about the content, we had left the kiddos at home and were accompanied by my MIL. She bemoaned the fact that we had left the kids at home, but only a little into the movie, she was totally silenced. Yes, it's not a movie to take one's kids to. It's dark, it's disturbing. It's totally true. In fact, it should rather be named "10-60, any female, India" which would have been more apt.

This it the premise - A young Malayali nurse Tessa (Reema Kallingal) meets a young travel agent Cyril (Fahad) and agrees to shack up with him till it's time for her to leave for Canada. Little does she know that she has let herself in for some horrendous experiences that culminate in a prison sentence.How she turns the tables on her enemies is the latter half of the movie.

The movie is very well-written, full of verve and bite. Prathap Pothen has done wonders with his role. Even Sathar's cameo as an aged Lothario with only the best intentions at heart (!) is really good. Perhaps the only part of the movie that seemed a tad cliched is the prison part. Undoubtedly the best characterization of the lot is that of Cyril Mathews - the unabashed and totally unrepentant seducer of females who feels at the end that even the loss of a very important body part (ahem!) is not enough to disrupt his career. His character is totally ambiguous - one cannot determine whether his character deserves any iota of sympathy due to a soft corner he might have had for Tessa. He retains his menace to the very end - one has to say "Wah, wah" for both the writer and the actor. 

The movie challenges each viewer, I think. For men, it may (or not!) make them rethink their attitude towards women. For me, I had to tell myself over and over again that not all men are insidious creatures like the ones in the movie and that most men I encounter in my daily life are proof of the fact (thank God for that!). And despite what the movie shows, I think that at least 90% of young Malayali nurses would not jump into a live-in relationship. In fact there was an atavistic, Victorian part of me that said that Tessa probably deserved her fate, seeing that she did live-in with Cyril purely voluntarily.  But I know that is totally hypocritical of me - it is ultimately the woman's choice that matters. 

I wouldn't want to watch the movie again - just thinking about it makes my flesh crawl. But if you are looking for a movie that will give you a paradigm shift - go and watch 22, Female, Kottayam. The song "Chillaney" by itself is worth watching and listening to.

May 10, 2012

Living up to the name

Yep, gonna live up to the blog's name.

Yesterday night, I was sitting peacefully having finished most of the day's chores when I heard an intermittent soft plopping sound. Rising reluctantly, I checked the bathrooms for open taps, but was puzzled when I couldn't find any. The plopping sounds came about once in every 10 seconds and I kept looking around for the source till I reached my kitchen...

My wet grinder was going on merrily in the kitchen. It had evidently decided that Christmas had come early this year. So it was decorating a circle 3 feet around with artistic blobs of white dosa batter that looked uncannily like snow. One side of my red fridge was looking very pretty with the pretty white splotches.  The Empire State Building magnet looked like it was actually in mid-winter Manhattan. The floor was still being bespattered in beautiful random patches. The contrast of my black granite counter tops and the white blobs was breathtakingly beautiful. I called my family to witness the scene and we laughed a lot. Only my DH voiced the concern that we might have to turn off the new decorator before all our breakfast ended up on the floor (he's VERY particular about his breakfast, my DH!)

And all this because of what??? Because I added slightly more urad dal and rice to our usual quantity so that it would stretch for another day. Learned my lesson! BTW, come next Xmas and you don't have any snow to decorate your tree with, try some thick dosa batter - looks more realistic than cotton wool. Be sure to freshen it up each day!!! :-)

Now for something that did turn out perfectly after a botched attempt. Remember when we had put out our coconuts for drying? The previous time, we had broken our coconuts in the evening and the delay in getting a tarpaulin to spread the coconut in the sun and the lack of sunlight after we got the tarpaulin, all contributed to our coconut getting spoiled and the resulting dark oil was fit only for lighting lamps (though it did smell great). This time everything went well and what copra we could save after the ants and our enthusiastic helpers foraged regularly, gave us almost 9 liters of pure, sweet coconut oil. Aah, the benefits of living in the country!!!

So we at Karthi provide these guidelines for novice coconut oil makers:

  1. Check the weather forecast for a week ahead and make sure you have a sunny stretch coming up.
  2. Dehusk and break open the coconuts before 11 am so that they get the best of the sun the first day.
  3. Get out the copra out of the shells by the second day and cut them into small pieces immediately (the longer they stay in the sun the tougher they get. Ask me how I know!)
  4. Put them out on the tarpaulin every day in the sun for a week.
  5. When you break a piece, if it snaps crisply and you see the oil oozing out, take the copra to the mill and get the oil extracted promptly.
  6. Enjoy your home made coconut oil!!!

Spring/Summer Projects

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