The Universe Conspires…

Many of us have quoted “when you want something ….” in places known and unknown to make points, further arguments, to silence another discussant, to inspire a friend in a dire situation, for self motivation… I’m also guilty of having used it many times, what is there, it is very inspiring quote, it only helps. Kochavva also found Paulo Coelho interesting for some reason, and quoted his “the universe conspires …” theory to everyone and everywhere he went in the remotest parts of his village. But Appu took it to heart. He began to believe that the entire universe would conspire to make his dream of boarding a flight come true. Appu is boy of 8 years old who always wanted to take a flight to somewhere. Kochavva and Appu are characters in Kochavva Palo Ayyappa Coelho a Malayalam film released last year. But that brings me to this.. C9Wh4CMV0AE7K8y.jpg

That said, have you had any intense deep seated desires like this little boy Appu?

I started to write this post while the film was being telecast on tv this morning an hour ago, was waylaid elsewhere and then I found this picture quote that coincided with what I was writing. It said what I said in the exact way I wanted it to be. Is this the universe conspiring?

Cheers…

Of Grandmothers

oru-muthassi-gadha-posterI enjoyed watching Oru Muthassi Gadha, a Malayalam film released over Onam last year.

When translated the title means A/one Grandmother’s Mace. It is a Jude Antony Joseph film, a director who has made a reputation with his maiden film, Om Shaanti Oshana (check Hotstar to watch the film). I like him for his quirkiness, like the way he came up with the cigarette smoking is injurious to health mandatory ad for his first film casting Nivin Pauly and Aju Varghese. In this film, he has made his characters speak out the names of the behind the scene crew of the film during the title credits, bits of information which many of us usually don’t bother to read as it scrolls in and out. Jaya Bachchan had done something similar for Pa. Farah Khan films usually show all its cast and crew in person.

This film’s title suggests the story is about a Muthassi. Muthassi is one of the words used to refer to a grandmother in Malayalam. (I call my two women Ammachi and Ammamma.) Gadha is a club or a mace, the same weapon seen in pictures of Bhima and Hanuman. And I think that use of the word gada makes this film’s story different from the regular tales around a nuclear family with a grandmother in an urban space. Have you seen a grandmother with a club before? Flintstones did 😛 our Muthassi is a little primitive in her behaviour and crude to say the least.

This Muthassi is what we call in Malayalam a “mooshaatta” grandmother. (In the film she is nicknamed as Rowdy) Now, mooshaatta can mean grumpy, to give you an example, Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant is also a mooshaatta intially before he changes over into happy one. If a little girl was the reason of his transformation, here, it is a woman. This other woman is the mother of our mooshaatta grandmother’s daughter-in-law. They are grandmothers to the same set of kids, Alice and Allen. But in the beginning of the film, the kids love their maternal, more modern grandmother, and hate our paternal mooshatta, for obvious reasons.

The film’s plot goes into certain details and reasons as to our grandmother’s uncouth behaviour in public and at home. It is a kind of Fred Flinstone entering The Jetsons home and feeling unconfrotable. 

The film also tries to talk about how  different generations of parents and children need to bridge the gap between them, put in an effort to understand, make time and not just simply let anyone be. If both sides could meet half way then life becomes less grumpier, and more happier (grammatically incorrect, but that’s the essence)

However, there were a few moments in the film when I did feel the producer had taken money from Whatsapp and Facebook as a means of promoting their services and products to a prospective Malayalee audience 😂😂  Because if you don’t know what whatsapp or Facebook is, you can get a visual guide to how to install, use and create an account through the film 😛 the point is not about being tech savvy or any such, the point the movie makes is make time for each, have a little patience with each other and life becomes… Less grumpier and more happier 😂😂

Predictable ending! By the end of the film our mooshatta muthassi is tech savy, gadget friendly and has got herself sorted.  

You can read about the plot and detailed storyline online. The film has borrowed heavily from the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholason film The Bucketlist. And it is through the items on the bucketlist that our mooshataa becomes a non mooshatta grandmother towards the end.

ps: I wouldn’t have watched the film this soon if not for a conversation I had with Aneesh at the comment section on films in general.

 

 

I look forth .. Yes!

I’m not quite the Malayalam reader if you ask me. I have read my share, partly because my mother has a collection of regional literature back home, and the language classes in school, like I did with say, Hindi. But I’m not as fluent with it like I am with the English works.

These days, I find myself bumping into more than a few Malayalee bloggers and a handful of them express their thoughts in Malayalam. Surprisingly, I see myself waiting for two such to update their Mal posts.. 🙂 may be, just may be, it is the right time to get hold of some literature in Malayalam and restart my reading in the language! I’m thinking of starting with one of my favourites, Aithihyamala.. My parents used to read to me every night from this book, even now when I go home, I take the book off the shelf and ask MJ to read me a story 🙂

So, which is your language of choice to read.

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a typical Malayalee non vegetarian meal 🙂

Vishu again..

This post, “Thoughts around Vishu .. ” – http://wp.me/p3GmMH-1Fa I wrote two years ago is getting a lot of attention in this past week.

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http://archives.amritapuri.org/bharat/festival/vishu.php

Let me see what more I can write about Vishu.. Everybody in Kerala knows about the legends and the stories..let me begin with the yellow flower konnapoo or cassia fistula without which vishu cannot happen. Here is the story behind the flowers

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A Whatsapp share
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(A close up) google images

Nowadays, konnapoo blooms well before vishu..and stops blooming around vishu. The enterprising malayalee makes plastic immitaions of the flower for the purpose 🙂 what to do..!!

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Vettah (2016) – Rajesh Pillai’s Swan Song

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At the crux of it, Vettah is about an inhuman crime, the seeds of which begin a story of a vengeance.. a vengeance like that which washed over the Count of Monte Cristo.. With such an intense sense of retribution, the crime is also near perfect. Two police officers .. and a murder suspect .. take us through the plot of a kidnapping and murder and a conspiracy!

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Manju Warrier has finally risen above her personal life, her bygone fame and comeback to play the part of a police officer

She plays the role of Sreebala IPS, and full marks to her gait when she is in uniform.

2. Two back to back police stories at the box office… This one however falls in line with the older genre of a police officer and her team who set out to investigate a kidnapping and a possible murder..the difference is that the team is led by a female officer. After Vani Vishwanath there has been no female police officers so far until Asha Sharath in Drishyam. I would say Sharath had a meatier role at par with that of Mohanlal in the film. With Vettah, it is more subtle. The personal life of a police officer is intertwined in a vicariousness as the plot is a built up as a mind game!

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3. Our once upon a time chocolate boy hero Kunchacko Boban has come this far when his smirk hides the answers to all questions of the police. Rajesh Pillai is one among the many directors who has offered him roles to step out of his boyish romantic charm to portray more nuanced human emotions… He plays the pivotal Melvin Philip who moves the plot forward, one of his best so far in his comeback..

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4. Indrajith Sukumaran is turning into the likes of actors such as Siddique and Sai Kumar an actor who takes up any role so much so that the audience is kept guessing as to whether he plays the good cop or the bad, or a mixed shade.. He plays Xylax Abraham.. The name stands out and has a sharpness to it that rings the name villain out loud 😀

I wouldn’t say Vettah is an edge of the seat thriller but it captures our interest to know how deep the still waters run.

If I say anything more, I may have to say spoiler alert 🙂 let me just say this, it begins just like A Wednesday ..

A police officer shares a case file with us, her most challenging case to date.

Though the film begins with a spotlight on Manju Warrier, the film is shouldered equally by Kunchacko Boban and Indrajit Sukumaran.

And with Vettah, a day after its release Rajesh Pillai leaves us to make films elsewhere

©pins n ashes 2016

Nivin Pauly & Abrid Shine’s Action Hero Biju

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Action Hero Biju begins a new genre within the police story in Malayalam films. It has the same honest officer in the likes of roles played by Suresh Gopi, Mammootty and Mohanlal. However, the story does not revolve around a single case or “the verbal diahorrea”* scripted by Ranji Pannicker mouthed by our earlier superstars. Abrid Shine brings through Sub Inspector Biju Paulose the day today workings in a police station and their interaction with the common people who come to the station. First off, the police hierarchy is clearly defined. Secondly, the focus of the film is on different kinds of complaints they receive daily, the people who make those complaints and the police procedures of tackling them..

As a result, what is crime gets to be redefined in the context of Police stories in malayalam films .. While crime gets redefined, so does a victim and a villain.

Crime could be an employer not paying salary to an employee, somebody slapping another person on the road, a drunkard creating a traffic block, a theft in a house, over speeding, not wearing a helmet…. These many scenarios also give the director an oppotunity to bring in newer faces, there are about 15 or 18 newcomers who have brought in that kind of real feel to the complaints. This actor in the picture below is Suresh. He has written, composed and sung this song in this film. You need to watch the film to experience why seeing this man makes me lol 🙂
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There are some old faces too whom we have loved on screen before.. Devi Ajith, Rohini, Suraj, Jude Anthony, Meghanthan, Prashanth, Vinduja Menon…

Suraj takes the cake… If only this actor can find himself more roles like these so that he can transform from a comedy star into a character actor like Siddique & Sai Kumar.

Thirdly, the film ticks because of its very tight script that keeps all the episodes together.

Fourthly, the story of the film is free from the inspector’s personal life. But the romance between the inspector and his fiance is captured really well especially through the song composed by Jerry Amaldev, sung by Yesudas and Vani Jayaram through the streets of fort Cochin.

Nivin Pauly in a police uniform is as good as Kuttan and George of his earlier films. Some of his facial gimmicks are too good to miss. But since we have grown up watching suresh gopi and the rest, we may not feel that punch initially..

So if we are carrying that baggage it is better to leave it at the ticket counter when we decide to buy the ticket.

But that is exactly it.. The film is not about an action hero delivering such punches, it is about a sub inspector, his circle inspector and the commissioner who try to do their duty and maintain the peace and order in the city.. The foil and reminder of such earlier films is also done in an interesting way.. !

©pins n ashes 2016

Expressing love… The Malayalam film Ayalathe Adheham (1992)

I’ve enjoyed watching Ayalathe Adehham (1992) many times over for its situational humour. The film is about two families, neighbouring households, let’s say one red and one yellow for convenience… However, there is also third family, an older family in comparison to our younger red and yellow.. let’s call it blood red. They bring about the climax..

The problems begin when the wife from the red family starts to notice from her window the mush the yellow husband pours out to his wife daily for the littlest of things .. Even though, the yellow neighbour is her friend the red wife begins to envy her. All this yellow mush and her red disappointment increases every time she sees her red husband who is publicly inexpressive to the extent of being boorish.

Rajasenan, the director, goes on to discuss love between spouses, ways of expressing it and its expectations. Fed up with taunts of his wife…the red husband who dearly loves his wife decides on a yellow makeover becoming love expressive. Unfortunately, he is assumed to be mentally deranged…which shows a clean disconnect between their choice of the shade of yellow 😀 Nobody seems to understand the trouble that brews within the red husband burdened with these yellow expectations until the climax when he rips off the mask (helmet) of the yellow husband! Even he is stunned at the unexpected turn of events. All the red rage, frustration and disappointment is shown in the way this man chases and catches a thief who happens to be the yellow husband. A mask falls off.. The yellow family is shattered! So is the blood red family.

The film is a warning to all red husbands and those spouses who fail to express an affection to their spouses. What to do, people have different natures.. The red husband is an easy target to pin all the boorishness on because our society has stamped men unemotional, insensitive, forgetful masculine beings in domesticity…. (Poor them) …The climax clearly brings out a possible future life situation in this red family. It is bleak if things remain red!!! If the red wife still looks up to yellow mush and the red husband resists a change… If only the film had ended on a shade of orange.

Departing from the exaggeration depicted in the film into reality.. it need not be always a kiss or a hug, every relationship has a unique way of showing affection. I felt really sad for my aunt this one time, we were out for lunch. 5 of us. DJ, MJ & me, and my uncle and his wife. My mother was eating only fish that week, so when the menu card came, DJ who was sitting on the outer edge of the table ordered fish for MJ right away.. He ordered chicken for me with a loose gravy since I prefer it to fish.. That care and a knowhow of a food choice is also an expression of love.. But this is everyday for us.. If either MJ or I were sitting with the menu we would have also done the same without a second thought. The uncle ordered a thali* for himself..but in the midst of all this my aunt was ignored. She never said anything either when all of us ordered additions to the already ordered menu. Not that there wasn’t sufficient food on the table for all but .. The dishes were anyway going to be shared as they were not served in portion size .. Realizing this a little later, I nudged my uncle sitting next to me… In that moment, she would have wanted uncle to order for her more than anyone of us..(they are also a loving couple) this made her a teeny bit sad and it was evident… It was one of those times..(she may have kicked my uncle under the table..) I did scold DJ later for missing out the aunt.. He did not realize, either!

To give you another example, one of my friends is allergic to corn. Wherever we go out, whoever has the menu card involuntarily tells the waiter, this dish but without corn.. We are careful to order something in addition to popcorn even at the theater.. It is not a spousal relationship we share.. Still that is also love..

There is a hidden sense of a comparison in the name of the film itself because ‘Ayalathe’/അയലത്തെ means neighbour/neighbourhood.. Adheham/അദ്ദേഹം is a (respectful) way of referring to people, in this case husbands… it exudes this Hindi word ‘aap’ kind of respect..

*thali

Salt mango tree w/ prawn mango curry

Salt mango tree is an inside joke among Malayalees.. It was made popular in a 1980s Mohanlal film. Therefore, when a new film is released with such a title, a Malayalee will obviosuly guess the context. 🙂 🙂

There is indeed a 2015 film starring Biju Menon, Chandrapriya and Suhasini by that name. The film makes fun of talks about a middle class Malayalee family’s craze and disappointment in teaching their child English and enrolling him into an English medium as they think that it is the language of opportunity.

Salt Mango Tree is a literal translation of the breakfast dish Upma or upumavu in colloquial Malayalam..uppu – salt/ mavu – mango tree in Malayalam. Throughout the film the son is made to remember the English word for animals, things and phenomena as practice for his interview for junior kindergarten. For eg, he says mazhavillu and automatically spells out its English equivalent, rainbow. The film is different because it brings out a solution to train and prepare parents and their children for these (tough) school interviews. Certain truths can only be driven home through exaggeration. Suhasini’s character in the film is one such. I felt it is a little over the top just like her act in love 24×7 (2015)

Like salt mango tree, the new phrase that may be remembered from this film is elephant rock school, a literal translation of Aanapara. Aanapara is a name of a place in Kerala. (Aana – elephant, para -rock) School

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Now this dish in the picture is the very popular and yummilicious chemeenum manga from Kerala. When translated into English it becomes prawn mango curry. Chemeen (prawn)/manga (mango). It could be solely my quirky problem that I face when I stare at a menu which says prawn mango curry. I am never able to visualize that prawn mango as this light yellow semi liquid gravy made from ground coconut/coconut milk with the heat coming from long green chillies slit length wise. I can conjure up many many dishes with prawn and mango as the core ingredients, but when somebody says chemeenum manga this is what comes to mind 😛
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Blogathon’16 Day 26.
ChandraPriya is the same actor who played the role of Indrajith’s wife in Angels (2014).

pins n ashes

And one more bites the dust!

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Actor Kalpana died this morning. It comes as a very unexpected bit of news because I saw her onscreen last week in Charlie very much alive, in the best of her active acting form. But the character she plays dies in that film.

It is difficult to explain the initial shock the news has rippled off .. She was one of those actors who excelled in her comic timing and her serious roles. I don’t know how many of you have watched Bangalore Days. She plays the mother of Kuttans played by Nivin Pauly. When the film begins she is a mother-wife residing in the village/town going about her wifely and motherly duties of the home and household. After a certain point in the story, she comes to stay with her son in Bangalore. The way in which she has executed the role and transformation is superb.. At one level the transformation is very comical, but at another level, it calls out attention to a serious problem in the life of more than a few women. These women whose dreams about a life are forgotten after their wedding, adapts themselves to the present life but later when they get a chance lives the life they have always wanted with makeshift changes within the societal set up. The rest of the story of the film surrounding her character is about how her son reacts to such a transformation, his initial disbelief and later acceptance.. Which brings me to a related anecdote a friend shared. She said her teenage kids could not believe when she told them one day over lunch that she does not like to cook. It took a while she said for them to realize that their mother cooked because nobody else did at home and not because she loved it!

The clips are not available online to show you a glimpse..Watch the film.

Watch all those films she has made us laugh out in the moment and later thinking of it ..

Blogathon’16 Day 25
Pic courtesy: Google

pins n ashes

Charlie (2015) Martin Prakkat, Dulquer Salman, Parvathy

Charlie is a 2015 Malayalam film directed by Martin Prakkat with Dulquer Salman and Parvathy in the lead, supported by Aparna Gopinath, Nedumudi Venu, KPAC Lalita and Kalpana, Neeraj Madhav et al. The film is narrated through the journey of Tessa (Parvathy) who goes in search of the tenant, Charlie (DQ) who stayed in a room she rented before her. Among his things he left behind, she finds an unfinished graphic novel. With it begins a search for the rest of the story, the tenant who drew it and a direction for the plot.

The story of Charlie begins thus. It would have been an ordinary story if not for that room, its exquisite interiors with its crafty stairs, paper lanterns, tinted bottles, wind chimes created by the art director, Jayashree Lakshmi Narayan. We enter with Tessa into Charlie’s world through this house, through the caricatures he has drawn of the people he has met and observed.. And stories some of those people have to say about him… Like he says, “what if we are not real and somebody’s imagination”. Sameera Saneesh dresses Dulquer in some very uber cool colourful attire to bring a very touristy feel and a feeling of lying lazily on the beach .. It brings alive the carefree life Charlie leads .. Through Jomon T John’s lens spanning parts of cochin and munnar (i think) a little more of the ever so loving, sanguine and enigmatic nature of Martin Prakkat’s and Unni R’s Charlie is revealed.. Tessa falls in love with the stories she hears of Charlie and the image she has sketched of him.. And goes in search of him..

Between Charlie and Tessa, Charlie is brought up by his father who has given him the freedom to explore his potential. But Tessa turns out to be the rebellious daughter who runs away from home to pursue her music and animation career against her families plans for her. So, her every step is seen as an effrontery in the eyes of her family where as Charlie has such qualms, he is born, brought and lives like the free bird.. the film gives us two characters who almost at the face of it lead the same kind of life.. But, there is a big but.. Through the banner of Finding Cinema, a very apt banner, the producers have tried to explore cinema taking the art director and costume designer also into their confidence to see what happens if Charlie and Tessa are let loose. The film with its choice of props, locations, shots, aesthetics, narration and depiction make an ordinary love story magical and exciting..

All that said and done, Charlie would have been a better film if it had a stronger storyline. The film comes alive in its moments… These moments or episodes are scattered accounts of Charlie by different people. The supporting cast – Nedumudi Venu is a joy to watch, his interactions with Charlie are just spot on.. Kalpana, she is no more as of this morning has a poignant but small role which moves the plot forward.. Dulquer, he has carried off the role of this character well, an extension of his Aju in Bangalore Days except that here, he is backed by his father in his every endeavour. Parvathy as Tesa has given an excellent performance different from what her role and period demanded of her as Kanchana in Ennu Ninte Moideen. The transition in her is worth a watch ..

I felt the first half a tad bit slow, but the film picks up pace in the second half… For the rebellious.. this is their film, .. It revels in such quirkiness and rebellion, from the dress to scenery .. It upsets the stereotypes of the society and its expectations, but shows that benevolent souls exist.

One highlight of the film for me was nobody dies, ails or is diagnosed with those bigger illnesses like cancer or some such… Usually films that build up momentum towards a certain character brings about the climax with such a revelation. Even if Charlie’s character is built up to be this Good Samaritan, the rescue man and benevolent soul like other reviews have said… he is still active and living life, dreaming everything in double by the end of the film.. (like Bunny says in the climax of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani.) A feel good film.. A happy film..

Watch it for Dulquer, for Parvathy for the art director, costume designer and the cinematographer… A creative film where a lot of thought has gone into the prepping the look. Distributed by Mammooty’s PlayHouse, directed by Martin Prakkat and written by Unni R, all from Mammotty’s film camp.

Blogathon’16 Day 24