Pick This Flick 16:Bhramaram  

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After a long wait, I was lucky to catch the malayalam movie 'Bhramaram' Yesterday. I should say, it was worth the wait, but a wait of a different kind. The wait for the Mohanlal of yore to resurface. The Mohanlal whom we were familiar with in the 90s, the common man whom we could empathize with rather than sympathise. The Mohanlal whom we lost in the new millennium amidst movies that focussed on his moustache for one third of the time. For the last many years, all we got to see from him where flashes of brilliances here and there which were lost amidst the cacophony of crap roles. And it needed the brilliant writer in Blessy to bring out what we were all waiting for. Lal was a volcano waiting to erupt. Its not a matter of surprise that the last time it fully erupted was also due to Blessy, in 'Thanmaathra'. In the last many movies, he didn't have to act. He just had to pose and mouth some long winding dialogues. Blessy was also out of form with duds like 'Calcutta news'.

In Bhramaram, Lal plays the role of a mystery man who arrives at the doorstep of Unni, claiming to be his classmate in school. From that scene on, its a total one man show. There's him in every line of the script. The hallmark of Lal's character in this movie is its unpredictability. You see him smiling one minute and shouting with all vengeance in the next. It can be interpreted as psychotic or a common man's response to uncommon circumstances. Whatever it is, there are few actors in India other than Lal who could do this role so convincingly. We are left confused on whether to love or hate him. Infact, the movie itself shows this behaviour. It gives a sense of 'something big is round the corner' every other minute. The taut screenplay adds to the tension.

Marketed as a road movie, you won't see much of the roads in the first half. Then, in the second half the texture changes and we are made to travel with the characters to some breathtaking locations in the high ranges of Kerala around Idukki. The long shots of the hill ranges had the audience gasping, 'Where the bloody hell is this place?" Terming the journey 'eventful' would be an understatement. Lal's unpredictability is explored even further as he jumps more on to the wilder side. There are shades of the character's mysterious psychosis displayed in between. I am stopping myself from revealing anything more on the movie as a single statement can sometimes reveal the whole purpose of the movie. Although I did almost guess the climax once the roadtrip started, I was on the edge of the seat till the end. So tight was the writing that you would be left wanting for more.

The female leads were more of props than anything else. Suresh Menon who played Unni and the doctor provided ample support for this one man show. After a very long time, I was left happy after a Mohanlal movie. More than half of the thanks for that should go to Blessy. He proved that writer brings out the best in an actor. The actor needs to be challenged with words to get out of his comfort zone. Lal's been held captive in that zone by some lousy writers for a pretty long time. Now that he's freed, lets hope that he runs free and takes up more such meaningful roles. We are coming to the theatres not to see the action of your moustache. We would rather you did the acting, just as in the old days. Thanks to Blessy and Lal for this gem..

PS- There's a Michael Jackson tribute concert happening in Bangalore on Saturday. Venue-Mother Tekla Auditorium, Casa Birgitta, 10, Brunton Road. Artists-Lounge Piranha, Slain, Public Issue, Rusty Moe, E-Flat.
The RSJ Pub Rock fest is also happening at various pubs around the country. Skinny Alley is playing @ couch in Bangalore this saturday.

your crusader Praveen

Why write a book?  

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This is my 250th post in this blog..

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer - and if so, why?
Bennett Cerf, publisher and co-founder of Random House


Its been a long standing dream for me to write a book. And as many of you know, I even started out with one on a 200 page college notebook. The first chapter started dramatically through the eyes of a paralysed guy. He fills up the first chapter with descriptions of whats happening around him, in true literary style. But then the problem arose, what should I do with this guy? I been in that dilemma for almost 2 years now. Yeah, the guy is still waiting there for me to do something with his life. Hope one day he stirs up enough inspiration to get over his own paralysis and in that way help my own paralysed literary pen. Sorry for the digression, the intention of this post is something else. Why do people write books?

The most obvious reason is 'selfish interests'. No one can be blamed if he wants to leave a legacy in some 200 odd pages. Not that everyone who writes a book ends up being legends. In this era of blogging and web literature, people are still obsessed with seeing a book with their own name printed on it. Afterall, nothing can match the pleasure of bragging about the creative tussles inside your mind while writing the book to some uninterested unlucky listeners at some evening party. Its another matter that it was more of a tussle of getting some ideas out of your mud filled heads.

In the new millennium, there's a category of authors who outnumber all the other categories of writers combined. They are the 'cheap publicity seeking writers.' Well, these are the kind of guys who write a book and then do some intentional leaks to the press before the book release. The leaks are most often an intentionally controversial part of the book. So, how to get those controversial parts in your book? Just write a few remarks against a widely respected personality. Reveal some deep personal secret concerning you and the person. This can be a cooked up story too. Once the book is released, sales sky rocket and interviews are given galore, you can always deny the same controversial remarks that you wrote. Blame the media for creating a mountain out of a molehill. Also don't forget to drop in some lines on how you respect this same person and how you share such a great bond. The perfect example of men of this ilk are guys like the former Aussie coach John Buchanan. There are rumours that he failed in LKG 10 times because he found it hard to go beyond the 1st four alphabets. Thats what inspired him to come up with the 4 captain theory. Hope you might not have forgotten the controversy surrounding his book. Same thing with many other celebrities.

Another category is the 'I am different' kind of authors. This bunch is quiet interesting. They like to think differently from the masses. They find such a joy in writing something which questions the accepted beliefs. Its no problem even if their stand is wrong, what matters is you think differently from the normal mortals. Jaswant Singh's Jinnah glorification excercise is an example of this. Their target is to get lot of coverage in the international media. Arundathi Roy is an expert in this field by regularly writing articles bashing India in the foreign media. This inturn generates lot of publicity and hype for even some of her ill-written books. A difference in opinion from the masses doesn't mean you'll be isolated. There will always be the fashionable liberals who will sing hymns praising you in page 3 parties.

The 'spelling bees' are a confusing category. You can't read a book of this category without the latest edition of oxford or webster's near you. It will be so loaded with high sounding words that by the time you search up the meaning of everything, you will forget where you started the sentence. This type of books is recommended reading for GRE aspirants. Eventhough you won't understand head or tail of the content, you'll end up knowing a whole new set of words. Some candidates who failed in clearing GRE are known writers in this category. They wanted to use the words they painfully learned for the exams and they didn't find any better way than writing a book. Among this crowd, there are those sincere writers who does painstaking research and come out with gems. Lets leave those stalwarts out of this discussion.

So, why wait? Now that you know the bad category of writers, why not try to get a place in the good writers category? Get your pen and diary and pour your heart out. Don't write for money. Don't write for fame. Write what you are passionate about. Don't force yourself to write because thats the same as forcing someone to read what you wrote. And above all, enjoy writing. Never write for the sake of it, not even on your blog...

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
Cyril Connolly, an English intellectual, literary critic and writer.

image courtesy-www.business-opportunities.biz

your crusader Praveen

Deschooling:We don't need no education  

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We don't need no education

We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!

-from 'Another brick in the wall II' by Pink Floyd

When Roger Waters wrote these revolutionary lines way back in 1979, he wouldn't have thought that its going to be such an enduring classic, the words of which still ring true. Yesterday, I read an article on 'deschooling' in the exciting new magazine 'Open'. This is a wonderful concept which says that a child can develop better if he's kept away from the school environment. If any teachers are reading this, wait before you pounce on me. Think about it. What happens with the kids in school? They are all taught to behave in a certain way. They are all taught the same things. They all are made to do the same things. But, are all the kids the same? Will you make an engineer do the things that an artist is supposed to do?(Here, am not considering the case of an engineer who's also an artist). Each one of us has an aptitude for certain things right from our kindergarten days. But, many times it happens that a kid is made to do things which he's not supposed to do and as a result when he grows up he ends up where he's not supposed to be. Just think of that superb artist who sat beside you and was spanked mercilessly for letting his imagination fly during class hours.
Fight!!!!!Bruce Leeyaaya Namaha

What we get as output from most schools is an assembly line of products which think and act in the same way. Remember, the input was as diverse a mixture that you can ever get. Now, think of a child who is free from school. He doesn't have any set time tables. He wakes up, interacts with nature, meets people of all ages, plays till he gets tired. Then he starts thinking on how he can make his life more interesting. He explores various possibilities and more often than not he ends up with a possibility which matches his aptitude the most. He doesn't need to conform to those set standards. Maybe, am getting too idealistic here. I do accept the possibility of the kid going the wrong way of bad influences, antisocial behaviour and such things. But, if you observe closely most of the antisocials ended up so because of the societial pressures. You will lose count of the goondas who have the '10th standard failed' qualification. That 'qualification' was enough to make many of them social outcasts, which is a kind of pre requiste to be a goonda.
See, there's also an artistic side to me

Deschooling or unschooling looks like a small remedy for the 'engineering else medicine' syndrome thats prevalent in India right now. If this trend goes on, we'll have a dearth of teachers, artists, craftsmen etc. Am not saying that just by not sending a kid to school, he will select one of these careers. But chances are more that he will find himself a career path that suits him most. As we all know many of us became engineers not by choice, but just as a result of going with the accepted flow. This thought is arrived at by discarding the cynicist arguments. Unschooling has its negative effects too. The child maynot necessarily acquire the social skills to survive. He may become a 'pre historic' monster, far removed from all the changes happening in the world. The lazy ones won't bother exploring new avenues and may spend time sleeping and lazing around. The real unlucky ones may die without ever discovering what is 'sex'(I pity this category of deschoolers the most :P ). The sexually hyperactive may get AIDS. The foolishly adventurous ones may end up getting beaten up badly. The highly intelligent may invent things that will threaten his own existence. But still, atleast more than half of the unschoolers are sure to chart a path for themselves. And when you choose for yourselves, you do it with all earnestness. You won't feel like working. Maybe, thats a stepping stone to a society where everyone does what they like to do, where work is passion and break is just an avoidable distraction.

PS- I don't advocate banning of schools altogether. It would be great if we could mix the good elements of deschooling into the current education structure and let students give more breathing space. Remove all those conformist ideas and let the kids be themselves. Throw out set syllabus and lets have custom made syllabus for each of the kids. Let imagination soar...

About the snaps- This is Yashas, one hell of a naughty kid and my neighbour at Coorg. He's still not old enough to go to school. Restless and always trying out new things, he's the perfect cute problem child. Hope he doesn't have to conform to set standards and be another boring school product :)

your crusader Praveen

India, change, hope, future...  

Posted by Praveen in ,

There are times when we lose hope in our leaders. There are times when we think our country is doomed. There are times when we become such big cynics and see only the dark clouds. At those times, take a look at the young spirited kids around you. Think of yourself when you were young, like an unchained horse, so full of spirit and so full of passion that you could set the world on fire. Let that fire burn again. Be young again. Change is within that young kid you put to sleep inside yourself. Hope, if ever anything is left, is still burning inside you. Open up, let the kid out. Let the spirits soar. Chase your dreams. Let the tricolour fly. And let India race ahead...
Belated Independence day wishes to all...

I dare you to stand on my path!!!

Following the footsteps of our immortal legends

Stop clicking and join me!!


PS- Clicked during a school's independence day rally in coorg

your crusader Praveen

Nehru Trophy Vallom Kali: The boat fest  

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It was all normal till about thursday evening last week. Then, suddenly an idea came to my mind. Why not head to Alappuzha to watch the legendary Nehru trophy boat race on Saturday. I told guru vivek about this idea. He said he was doubtful of joining me. And, when my friends heard about it, the reactions ranged from 'are you crazy??' to 'u've gone outta control'. Anyway, I got all the tickets ready by Thursday night and on friday evening I set out all alone to the land of vanchipaattu(boat song)...
Chundan vallangal- longer than snakes..

The bus trip itself was an experience in the 2nd last seat of a rajahamsa with my adjacent seat seemingly a magnet for heavy drunkards. When it reached mysore, a man who was barely able to stand and who was smelling as if he had taken a bath in some local liquor, slumped into the seat and started mumbling. I somehow had to push him away saying that its already occupied. After 5 minutes came another one, the size of a sumo wrestler. This time I couldn't drive him away. He was so drunk that he couldn't keep back the money which he took from his underwear. And, he made the poor conductor dig deep inside his undies to keep back the money. I had to spend the rest of that night with the smell of liquor and bad breath blasting my nose. In the morning, as I stepped outside the Alappuzha bus station, my heart leapt with happiness. There was a line of 'thattukadas' with my favourite 'thattu dosas' pumping steam. This is one thing I been missing since I left Trivandrum for the job. After a delicious breakfast, I had 4 long hours left before my friend's friend was supposed to arrive with the special pass. As you all know, there's water everywhere in Alappuzha. There's a narrow river running along the side of the main bus stand road, with country boats and motorised boats doing regular service. These service boats even have boards like those we see in buses, displaying the 'boat stops'.

Chambakkulam- The winner

Orumayundengil olakka melum..Checkout the guys sitting on the tree

The whole atmosphere was festive with a steady stream of humanity arriving in this place for this mammoth event. Its held once in a year on the second saturday of august. Foreigners and people from all over India flock to this place year after year. As I walked along the river, many small groups were heading towards the punnamada kaayal(venue of the race), singing songs loudly. Some of those groups asked me to take a snap of them, probably thinking that I had something better than this crap blog to publish their snaps. And some ticket agents spoke in english-'saar, where are you from? we have tickets at cheap rate and there is boat ride too." There's nothing more embarrasing and frustrating than being talked to like that in your own land. And so, I impolitely replied, "nammalodu veno chetta ee english?"(Is there any need to talk english with people like me?). Lots of boats carrying policemen, the officials and tourists were moving along the river to punnamada. And then it was time for lunch when my eyes fell on those street side vendors selling 'Kappa & kakka irachi'(Tapioca & sea shell meat), another of my all time favourite food items. I sat there at the river bank and happily munched on.

Neck to neck

United we row...

Close to 2 O clock, the friend arrived with the pass and helped me cross the river in a country boat. I reached the venue and much to my disappointment, the police had closed entry to the stand in which I was supposed to sit. I walked along looking for a loophole for infiltration when I saw the crowd behind one of the press boxes. I ran to the last row and politely asked one of the guys there if he would let me go forward so that I can take snaps. I kept doing this excercise until I was just behind the TV cameras and the select group of foreigners sitting there. By then, there was heavy pushing from the back and the people in the box were scared thinking that they'll fall in the water. The police came and there were violent scenes as most of them were pushed to the ground. I was thankfully saved because of my camera which made them think that I was one of the press guys. Anyway, by this time I was inside the box and sitting at the edge, almost falling into water. The whole place was in high spirits with big crowds all around chanting and singing.
Its never over until we cross the line...Row Hard!!!

The inaugural function was attended by Sonia gandhi, shashi tharoor and some other ministers and cultural leaders. The navy did a short stunt display with a guy hanging from a helicopter. Then, it was time for the real show. The boats comes in a vareity of classes just like our F1, F2 and F3 racing cars- Chundan vallam, odi vallam, churulan vallam, iruttukuthy vallam etc. The small vallams looked almost submerged in water and it was a treat to watch this mini racers moving along the water. But the real heroes indeed were the chundan vallams(snake boats). These monsters does really look like one of those king cobras standing majestically with its hood raised. Its a sight to behold with almost 70 rowers on either side pushing it forward with all their strength. In the middle stands, the musicians. There were about 6 of them holding 'olakka'(a heavy wooden rod used to pulverize rice) and beating it on the boat's floor to provide a steady rhythmic beat. Those beats which can be heard from a distance makes you think that its a big army marching in. One guy stands with a whistle to add tune to the beats. And the rowers makes all kinds of group noises to spread the spirit.
Who said women can't row!!Checkout the foreign ladies in the middle
Red warriors are coming for u!
Amidst all this, can the crowd stand still? Never! They added all the flavour singing a vareity of Vanchipattu. Some were seen watching it all from tree tops. There was one particularly awesome sight of a long coconut tree bend forward over the water with 5-6 guys sitting on it and the boats passing underneath it. Many among the crowd were seen diving into the water at regular intervals. The police had a tough time keeping them away from the tracks. In the meantime, the policement gave a headache to the media cameramen by suddenly appearing out of nowhere and spoiling many superb shots. Many of the media men were seen fuming and biting their teeth. 'chendamelam' was heard from some galleries. There was a race for the ladies too. Some foreign ladies were also seen rowing along with the locals in these races. The ladies matched the men in the spirit with which they rowed. The commentators added to the flavour by their non stop flow of small talk, vanchipattu and realtime race updates. They managed to keep the crowd in all spirits for the 3 hour duration. There was one team 'Kaarichal', led by the malayalam actor kalabhavan Mani. This team seemed to have all the ground support mainly because of his popularity. But they could reach only till the loser's finals. The race of the chundans was won by 'Chambakkulam', whose name reminded me of that old malayalam movie starring the brilliant actor Murali, who passed away last week. Maybe, this win was sort of a tribute to the man who played the role of a famous boat maker in the movie. The winners were presented with the 'Nehru trophy', personally signed by Nehru himself.
'Vallam orchestra'- The whistlers and the guys with 'olakka'

Can you sit as comfortable as this on a couch?

adi kittum!Kerala police ki Jai :)

In the end, I don't regret the decision of going alone all this distance just for this race. Somethings are better watched live than in an idiot box, and this is one of those. I was left with a feeling similar to the one after a rock concert. Given a chance, I would like to watch this true spectacle again..and I would recommend you all to do the same, even if its alone...So, make sure you sing 'Kuttanaadan punchayile' from the banks of Punnamada...'Thithithaaro thithithei..Thithei thaka thei thei thom'...

your crusader Praveen

The legendary Petty Kada  

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Petty Kada(Petty shop), the microshops selling anything ranging from beedi to the latest edition of Time magazine. These shops which first mushroomed in the villages are still going strong. Almost everyone in the village depends on these shops. The young sneak in for a taste of pan masala, the ladies come in to buy the lemon, the oldies stroll in for the newspaper and tobacco and the college kid to take a look at the latest issue of 'Fire', the anti-crime magazine which is more of a porn magazine itself. It has something for everyone in that little space. There are no franchisees for them. Each petty shop is independent from the next one.

It is so small that there's hardly any space left after the shopkeeper sits inside. The unmissable item of the petty shop during school days was the soda. Its not your usual branded soda. This comes in thick green bottles with the pressure kept intact using a goli(marble). And it has got more fizz than the modern sodas. Alongwith soda bottles are the long line of 'Rooh afza' bottles in all imaginable colours, lighting up the shop. Another major attraction was the 'naaranga mittayi'(lemon candy) which also comes in a vareity of colours. Its crescent shaped and tasty to the core. Then, there's the eternal favourite 'ruby' orange candy, costing 25 ps apiece with its addictive taste. Speaking about Petty kada, its not fair to ignore a member of its family, the legendary 'thattukada', which serves such delicacies as dosas, rasa vadas and omlettes. From my experience, these ultra economic shops serve better food than many of those famous star hotels. Ironic that, we also have 5-star thattukadas in Kerala.

Even now in cities, amidst all those glitzy shopping malls and high rise glass and steel structures, there are these tiny box like structures which dot the city landscape. The items that are available hasn't changed much with the changing times. Maybe, this is one of those examples of 'some things remain just the same'. Yes, some things have to remain the same to remind us of those golden olden days.

On the snap- Took this during the Palakkad trip. After seeing 1000s of petty shops, this was the only one that I've seen which has put the name 'petty shop' proudly on the board.

PS- Thanks a ton to all those who showered in sweet wishes on my and my blog's birthdays.

your crusader Praveen