Oct 30, 2015

Thamarasseri Churam - yethu!

All our Kochi friends always have this complaint about our capital city - Thiruvananthapuram doesn't have many signature restaurants... and then they go on to enumerate their hometown's signature restaurants like Kayees, Dhe Puttu etc., leaving us all with enough water in the mouth among us to float an armada if need be. Of course you can get decent meals at many restaurants and there is a veritable smorgasbord (pun intended!) of all-you-can-eat buffets all over the city, but very few places where eating is actually fun and you can remember a few dishes as your favorites.

Well, I for one think that this scenario is changing, slowly but surely - perhaps due to the influx of North Malayalis in great numbers who all must be complaining about the same. No doubt stodgy Thiruvananthapuram people are also reveling in this welcome change.

In the months of April and May this year, our regular FM stations were airing the ads of a very curiously named restaurant serving Malabari dishes. "Thamarassery Churam". This, as any Malayalam movie buff knows, is the phrase immortalized by the road-roller mechanic played by Pappu in Vellanakalude Naadu. Would that pique the interest of the denizens of Karthi? You bet!!

So we drove there one day in time for lunch, with my vegetarian DH who doesn't take well to biriyani either griping all the way about whether he would get a decent veggie meal. (You should know that this is the guy who went to visit several cities in the US - ONLY after checking and marking the nearest Indian restaurants in the area. As a family, we are very gastronomically handicapped!) Whether the food would be good or not, we were sure of some entertainment as soon as we saw this sign above the restaurant door...


And then came the menu...


I won't include the whole menu here, why endanger your keyboard with floods? And while we were waiting for our orders to arrive, we had this to look at...


No, not the couple... the wall behind them! We had a lot of fun guessing and arguing about the movies the quotes came from. And of course, DH got every one of them right as usual - and I really hoped the fun we were having would put him in a good mood when the food arrived! I will not put the whole wall pic here because you would like to try your hand at guessing them if you ever go there.

Soon our food arrived and the dark color itself was enticing to say the least...


At Karthi, we like our food really hot and spicy... so when we see pale curries, half the fun goes away. Ani who complains a lot when I make a spicy veggie dish was asking for more lamb curry even as he was gasping from its fiery taste. And - this happens very rarely - DH gave his seal of approval for the vegetarian meal! Yaay, that's all ticks in our book!

And if we got bored with the quote selection on the wall, there were cryptic puzzles elsewhere, like this...


And when it was time to pay...


As I understand, the spiciness factor can be varied according to taste. The service was prompt and courteous and the restaurant was spick n' span. All in all, we had fun. We've already marked down what dishes we would like to try the next time. And the kids go, "When are we going back to Thamarasseri Churam?" Such demand for a non-fast food place? We are happy!

For those who would like to try this restaurant for themselves, click on  the directions.

Disclaimer: This review is not sponsored by the restaurant and is based on just one lunch with a limited number of dishes... so please don't hold me responsible for something you don't like there! :D

Oct 16, 2015

Movie Review: Ennu Ninte Moitheen

'Tis the year for romantic movies... Premam is still making itself felt in good ways and bad. Malar/ Sai Pallavi has lost her freshness after being over-exposed on the media. Malayali campuses (both school and college) have had a surfeit of black shirts and white mundus. And when a jeepful of Premam-uniformed people struck down a student and killed her, at least some people blamed the movie for lionizing the bad student who boozes and swaggers away his formative years. Coming from a culture that exhorts its students to follow the crow, the crane and the dog in the matters of deep study, concentration and sleep respectively as well as to be moderate in food and stay away from the comforts of the home, this reaction was not surprising.

Anyway, all has given way to Moitheen and Kanchanamaala. Although all love is beautiful, Ennu Ninte Moitheen has to be the antithesis of Premam. By now all Malayalis must be familiar with the real story that happened in Mukkom, a tiny, river-bound village in Kozhikode and the still-living  heroine of the tragic story, Kanchanamaala. I certainly wish that I had seen the original documentary Jalam Kondu Murivettaval (click on name to view the movie) before watching the mainstream version.

Why do I think so? Because after watching the movie version, in which a lot of the actual story has been edited out, the real beauty and tragedy do not come through... Either a movie is riveting or it is not. May be it is a subjective experience, may be I had not been in the right frame of mind to really absorb it. But all through the movie my mind was going, "Wow! great cinematography" "Did the actors catch colds after being drenched almost all through the movie?" "Was it never summer in Mukkom?" "Great song, ordinary picturisation" "Uh oh, not again, Prithvi forgot his colored contact lenses in this scene too..." Only, only at the end, when Kanchana (Parvathy's best role - she is above all reproach) stands on the threshold of Moitheen's home, preparing to live as his unwed widow did I feel any emotional response to the movie. 

So I feel, that if you want to really get the flavor of the movie that all the cast and crew fell in love with and worked so hard for, do watch  Jalam Kondu Murivettaval before going to watch Ennu Ninte Moitheen. Only then can you find the real heart of the movie and feel the strength of a love that bore 25 years of separation, twenty-five years of house arrest and being treated worse than a  mangy dog (Kanchana's own words in a television interview) and the ruining of two bright lives come through. I strongly feel that the movie should not have ended where it did, but should have continued to the present age - only by knowing and showing that Kanchana keeps that flame of love alight even to this day can people appreciate the strength of their love and sacrifice. A moviegoer who is ignorant of the real story  might scoff: "Hah, another variation of Romeo and Juliet - only this time Romeo died aged 44 and Juliet didn't do away with herself." Yes, Mukkom Bhasi does mention the rest of the story at the end, but it was not enough...

Revelation: Tovino. This actor gets noticed in spurned lover's roles, but he is a treat to watch. Hope he gets better roles as he goes along. Karamana Sudheer really stole the show in drag! Sai and Lena are wonderful as Moitheen's parents.I love what Prithvi has done in the movie, but I really wish Nivin had had the title role. If you watch the documentary, you can see for yourself that he bears an uncanny resemblance to B.P. Moitheen - ah well! 



Another thing that I loved about the movie was how flawlessly it took us back into Kerala of the 1960s - the jewelry designs, the costumes, the way everyone unscrewed the top off an ink pen when they had anything to write (which I still enjoy doing), the funny-shaped bus... Ok, I was not around at that time, but I can imagine can't I? 

Songs: Love, love, love the songs. DH has banned any rendition of "Kannondu chollanu" at Karthi till further notice because he is sick and tired of all his family members warbling the same all the time at home. "Ente qithabile penne" seems set to be the second "Malare..." Bet it is going to be all the rage in campus autograph books this year.

Verdict: Do go and watch a wonderfully made movie, but bear in mind that the real thing is much more magnificent and mind-blowing than its celluloid copy...

Oct 14, 2015

Limbo...

You don't have to leave this world to be in limbo...which is where I've been for the past few months. Life goes on, yes seasons change, festivals come and go.. But when there is something tugging at the heart all the time, everything loses color and the joys are all the more transient and ephemeral...

My mother's cancer is back. She has been in poor health since the beginning of May. She had been so diligent about post surgical checkups and taking medication for the past two years that when she started having one health problem after another, we never connected it to cancer. But five months into the ordeal with one hospitalization after the other, we were at the end of our tether. Then we were advised to take these problems to the cancer hospital. The verdict came quickly. The dreaded disease is back and since it had already been in Stage IV when detected first, it's far worse this time.

Meanwhile within the space of a mere 6 days this last fortnight, Ma heard the wings of the angel of death pass by her twice. Once it was due to extreme hypoglycemia from which we managed to revive her. The next was an hour after a chest tube was inserted to drain the malignant pleural effusion that was cutting off her air supply. She went into convulsions and stopped breathing. Somehow the doctors brought her around and she had to spend three days on a ventilator thereafter. 

The cancer hospital has deemed Ma too weak for any further aggressive treatments. Hence we are about to start homeopathic treatment, hoping that the umpteen discomforts she is feeling will be soothed. 

Trying to keep a level head in this turmoil has been hard. I've observed denial, confusion, resigned acceptance, anger and pain in our family at different stages and intensities during this sorry saga which is by no means over. Our relatives, friends and neighbors continue to give us their valuable support. They are the silver lining in this story... they, and the fact that Ma is still indomitable and not given to despair. Even in all this, she continues to domineer over us when she can and always has a smile to share whenever she is normal. The disease, the hospitalizations and the near-death experiences may have played havoc with her mind and body, but she is still here. She needs our help and she needs our laughter.

So, it's time to come out of limbo!

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...