A tribute to M K Kamalam, who passed away recently…
Let me begin with apologies to my colleague Usha, who used to remind me, when I started writing for this site, that I am writing mostly about movies. Well Usha, this is my second movie-related post in a week’s time. But I can’t help it. I have to do this. Or rather, I owe it, being someone who has always loved films. In fact we all owe it, since I am going to write about someone whom we should never forget, though ironically we rarely remember her.
It’s with the deepest of regret that I now remember how I had missed or rather lost for ever a golden opportunity of meeting M.K.Kamalam and interacting with her. Of course I have met, and interviewed most of the popular stars of Malayalam Cinema. But the interviews that I cherish having done are of course different ones.
I feel proud of myself when I think I had the chance to meet and interview someone like P.N.Menon, not just once, but thrice. (Filmmaker P.N.Menon, who passed away about a year back, had changed the face of Malayalam Cinema itself). I had enjoyed walking kilometres around the famous Udaya Studios, searching people who were associated with Udaya in the early days and had also liked talking to Sharangapaani, the man who scripted many of Udaya’s hit movies.
I was amazed when I found P.Bhaskaran, eminent poet-lyricist-filmmaker (the maker of the landmark film ‘Neelakuyil’), who was suffering from memory loss (he is no more now) singing, out of a book that I handed him, to perfection a song that he had penned years back for ‘Neelakuyil’, that too when he was hardly remembering what all was going on around him.
I had found myself enriched interacting with people like Sreekumaran Thampy, Sukumari, Jagathy Sreekumar, Bharat Gopi, Murali etc. These are people who utter words that are no less than pearls of wisdom. Some of these are people who made Malayalam Cinema what it is today.
It is in this context that I remember the golden opportunity that I had missed. That happened a few years back. I was scripting a television series based on the history of Malayalam Cinema. We were interviewing M.K.Kamalam that day for the show, which was anchored by veteran actress Sukumari. The whole team was travelling to Kottayam, to seek her out and interview her. But unfortunately, I couldn’t make it. I had to go scouting the Udaya Studio neighbourhoods as part of my research for the same show. The director of the show, a friend of mine, later related how they had sought out the actress, who was leading a rather miserable life. I felt sorry I missed the chance to go meet the actress, who was part of a film that’s for ever etched in history. I told myself I will go meet her later and write on her. But sadly enough, that didn’t happen, and would never ever happen. For M.K.Kamalam breathed her last more than a week ago and bid adieu to this world, which didn’t give her the recognition that she deserved.
M.K.Kamalam, who began with acting and singing on the stage and doing Kathaprasangam (a folk art of Kerala wherein the exponent presents a story, interspersed with verses, references from current life and politics etc), was chosen to be the lead actress in ‘Balan’, the first talkie in Malayalam, released in 1938. It should be remembered that Kamalam had taken to the stage at a time when women didn’t usually act in plays. Hence, when the invitation to act in ‘Balan’ came, her mother was at first reluctant. She was in fact shocked out of her wits when it was told that her daughter was to act in a film that will be made at the Modern Theatres, Salem (another landmark in the history of Cinema in South India). But later she yeilded and it was thus that Kamalam acted and even sang in ‘Balan’. It won’t be proper to say that ‘Balan’ did her no good. Her career on the stage took a new turn and she was a sought after actress, being popular as the actress who had done ‘Balan’. But films didn’t come her way at that time; and when film offers started coming up, she couldn’t act as she was busy with her plays. Of course she later did one more film, ‘Bhootharayar’, which remained unreleased.
After retiring from acting, Kamalam had led a rather miserable life, struggling to make both ends meet. There were instances when she was helped out, but there was nothing considerable that was done. Even AMMA (the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists) paid her 2500 rupees per month. It should be remembered that this amount, which is in fact a pittance, comes from an institution that owes it existence to an extent to a film of which M.K.Kamalam too was a part. The actress had to struggle a lot and at a time when our actors and actresses are getting paid in Lakhs and Crores (Kamalam was paid Rs 350 for her work in ‘Balan’), the heroine of our first talkie was leading a life of penury and sufferings.
But when we take into account the fact that even J.C.Daniel (known as the Father of Malayalam Cinema) had to lead a miserable existence in his late years and that prints of landmark films like ‘Vigathakumaran’ (the first movie made in Kerala) and ‘Balan’ no longer even exist, it was but natural for M.K.Kamalam to be neglected, forgotten and even left unmourned by many who should have been there to pay her their last respects.
Adieu, M.K.Kamalam! Whether they recognise or not, you are one of those people who made Malayalam Cinema. We, at Karmakerala pray that your soul may rest in peace.
It is heartening to note that tourism in Kerala, registering a steady growth in the last decade has emerged to be one of the main sources of revenue. This tiny southern state of Kerala has become one of the most sought after destinations in India, ahead of Rajasthan and even the Taj Mahal of Agra, which is a matter of pride for all. At present Kerala tourism revenue is pegged at Rs.13000 Crore and has created many direct and indirect employment opportunities for the local populace. The annual tourists footfall of Kerala is around 83.5 lakhs out of which 5.5 lakh tourists are from foreign countries.
Gone are the days when Kerala tourism just revolved around Kovalam , Munnar, Thekkadi and Fort Kochi. These days many new interesting leisure options including house boat cruises and adventure tourism are on the offer in Kerala, much to the delight of the tourists. There are convenient packages that bring out the quintessential charm of Kerala and that suit every budget. The sheer multitude of leisure activities ranging from beach fun, adventure, backwater leisure activities and nature trails and wild life is what makes Kerala, a highly popular destination among tourists.
With the focus being shifted to the less explored spots like Malabar, Wayanad and Palakkad, tourism in Kerala is well poised for a big leap in the coming years. With many prestigious international hotel chains including US-based MGM Mirage Hospitality and Amari from Thailand among others are starting their operations soon in Kerala, the discerning travelers can expect a really high notch experience in Kerala.
Now the other side of Kerala economy: It is baffling to note that the other major source of revenue for Kerala comes through the sales of liquor, which is something not very commendable! It is paradoxical that Kerala also tops the list of the highest per capita liquor consumption in India where the state-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation Ltd, serves as the sole distributor of IMFL ( Indian Made Foreign Liquor). The tippler sales records an all time high during Onam, Christmas and New Year. Even on ordinary days you can see winding queues in front of the beverages corporation outlets. Kerala, indeed is a land of paradoxes, which excites , baffles and exhilarates you at the same time! Make the most of it
Saluting the spirit of the ‘Great Indian Hartal’
It seems my colleague Jisha has no sense at all. Her post on hartals is nonsense, utter nonsense. (Hope Jisha doesn’t read mine and also that she remains a friend! I hate foes! Don’t you?)
Hartals, it must be remembered represent democracy in its highest form. Democracy allows or rather grants us the right to protest and raise our voice whenever some injustice is done. I think I read about these rights in my textbooks at school. (Fundamental duties? I think Jisha would like to point this out. But Jisha, the teachers forget or rather skip that portion. They no longer believe in what’s called ‘duties’. It’s ‘rights’ that’s sacrosanct. Duties, who cares?!!)
So, back to it. Rights. Yes, rights. Hartals happen to be part of our fundamental rights. Right is right; there is nothing wrong in it.
Hey just remembered a portion of Dr.Abdul Kalam’s famous speech, “YOU say that our government is inefficient. YOU say that our laws are too old. YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage. YOU say that the phones don’t work, the railways are a joke, The airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits. YOU say, say and say. What do YOU do about it?”
OK, granted that he said these words, words of wisdom. But for us here in India, all these words uttered by eminent men are mere words and never make it to our hearts. The eminent persons too remain mere names etched in the annals of history. Why bother the historians who are contented with that? Why bother the teachers who teach history without ever trying to explain or themselves bother to understand what it all means to each of us? Why bother the students who simply mug it all up and earn marks (and ranks too)? Why bother at all? Kalam is for many Indians a thing of the past.
So Jisha, let me count you the benefits of having a hartal once in a while:
- The results are immediate. (Yesterday’s hartal was against price-rise. It will have an effect. Very soon you will see prices going up, if not down. Something happening is better than something not happening).
- ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop’, goes the adage. Hartals give us Keralites, who have a penchant for doing nothing and prefer making it big in life by doing nothing, the chance to show that we can do lots of ‘great’ things. We can disrupt life in all ways possible. We strain ourselves picking big bolsters and putting them on the roads to halt the traffic. We barge into offices, banks, private establishments, thrash up people who ‘dare’ to work on hartal day and force them to down the shutters. We sit on the tracks and stop trains from running. (The railways won’t let that go that easily; they would issue warrants to regular train goers based on the addresses that they provide for acquiring season tickets and make up for that loss by way of fines.) We can do lots of things on a hartal day to give vent to our pent-up energy.
- Vandalism and hooliganism, combined with philistinism, is given free reins on hartal days. (Don’t think they bother on other days!!) Vandalism, which is creative too, is exhibited in the large scale destruction of public property and other things. You are given the right to throw stones at glass windows and burn buses. You can pelt stones on anyone and anything. You can do irrpairable damage to public property and even historical monuments. You can do all those things that your imagination lets you do. And if at all anyone is going to get punished, it won’t be you; it would be someone who has no one to protect him or speak up for him. Imaginative and creative too, isn’t it?
- For those who are Keraliites in the fullest sense, hartals give them the chance to do what they specialise in doing; and that is doing nothing. They can stay back home, sleep and sleep and sleep.
- For government employees, it’s a golden opportunity to get paid sitting at home, doing nothing. (Don’t ask me Jisha, what they do on other days. I can’t. I won’t. Because if I open my mouth, they will see to it that I am ‘rewarded’ for my words!)
- For those many who work from morn till night to earn their daily bread, on daily basis, it’s indeed a relief from their daily toil. Who cares whether their monthly expenditure and even day-to-day living expense is upset. (I myself have seen the apple cart of my day-to-day life upset frequently by hartals and strikes, at a time when I used to earn my daily bread by teaching).
So see Jisha, Hartals are absolutely necessary in our scheme of things. Now don’t you feel that you ought to expel yourself from this country and go live elsewhere. All the best Jisha!!
Postscript: At a time when caste, religion and umpteen other things divide and cause discrimination among us, its hartals that bring us together. We are one because of hartals. Hartal, Jai Ho, it’s hartals that bring us together. We are one, because of hartals. Hartal, Jai ho…!!!
India’s environment ministry has ordered local states to wind down tourism in the core areas of India’s Tiger reserves as fears that the noise and disruption of tiger tourism is undermining the health and long term survival. With numbers of Tigers in India ranging from 1500 to 800 in the wild, it is clear that the wild cat will stay wild no longer unless it is given some break from the constant tramp of 4x4s and elephants following them around.
In Kerala, only the Periyar Tiger Reserve will be effected and it is not even clear whether there are any tigers in the reserve any more. In Northern India, the big hotel groups with their fancy safari lodges are going to really suffer.
Another day of hartal has passed, as usual hitting the normal life of the Indian Citizens especially the people of Kerala. It was a dawn to dusk hartal called by the Left parties and its allies against the Centre’s economic policies. This time the hartal activists turned out to block trains at major places of Kerala, which badly hit the rail traffic adding more disruption to the normal life. Here the Court orders and rules has no value and, the Kerala Govt. which supported the Hartal gained nothing from it. It is only the people of the state who suffered and who will continue to suffer if the hartal activists continue to be like this.
It was in 2004 may 29th, The High Court full bench ordered the Govt to make sure that Hartals should not hit the normal life and, if necessary the Govt. can seek the assistance of army to ensure this. What people saw yesterday was a complete negligence of these orders. The hartal activists stopped private vehicles, stoned a few and attacked even Ambulances and people who came to work at banks and post offices. This time hartal activists concentrated more at stopping rail traffic, and they supplied food for the supporters in front of the travellers who were hungry and thirsty inside the blocked trains.
At the same time there were single protests against hartal saying the hartals creates bad reputation to the country. For the past years the hartals did nothing good to the people of country, but helped the vested interests of the major political parties and they gained nothing for the people if they say it is all for people.
Have your say about hartals. Do hartals do any good to the people?
Photo Courtesy: The Hindu
Hey no, it’s not going to be a straight battle. By the time Pokkiri Raja makes his entry, along with his brother Pokkiri Surya, poor T.D.Dasan might have beaten an unceremonious retreat. Hence there’s no question of a fight happening. It’s no doubt going to be a one-sided win.
‘Pokkiri Raja’, a big-budget film with an impressive star-cast is all set to hit screens, most probably on the 30th if this month. Mammootty, one of the superstars of Malayalam Cinema and Prithviraj, the young dashing star who is making his presence in Malayalam as well as Tamil come together in equally important roles. Shriya Saran, the immensely popular actress from Tamil, who has acted in high-profile films like ‘Sivaji’ and ‘Kanthasamy’ and who has also made her presence felt in Hindi films (though she is yet to prove herself a good actress), makes her debut in Malayalam with the film. ‘Pokkiri Raja’ is expected to be an entertainer, with all the ingredients intact. There would be action, drama, sentiments, humour, songs, dances, romance et al. Well, personally speaking I have nothing against entertainers. I have watched and enjoyed all kinds of ‘masala’ entertainers, in all languages. Moreover, the director of ‘Pokkiri Raja’, debutant Vyshakh, is personally known to me too. I have nothing against him and his film and I just hope that youngsters like him get to make their presence felt, for the sake of Malayalam Cinema.
But, thinking of the film ‘T.D.Dasan Standard VI B’, I am rather disheartened and disillusioned. I happened to see the film, directed by yet another debutant Mohan Raghavan’ last week. In fact, I was simply bowled over by the film. Though I am a real movie buff, never willing to let go any kind of movie, I should say that it was the reviews that made me choose to see the film first. The film seemed to me, to say using clichéd phrase, “ a whiff of fresh air”, one that betrays a rare kind of optimism, at a time when the whole world seem to be tending towards pessimistic and rather negative tendencies. The film made reminded me of the simple works of Iranian filmmakers like Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Majid Majidi. I wanted the film to be seen by more and more people, which of course was not going to be. Being someone who has been following the nuances of the box office in Kerala with an analytical mind, I was almost sure that the film won’t do good on that count. A cousin of mine, who is himself a movie buff like me, wanted to go see the film at my home town, but knew that he’d have to return disappointed as the film won’t be shown owing to poor audience response. He was right. A journalist-friend of mine, who incidentally happens to be a close friend of the director of ‘Pokkiri Raja’, tried his luck twice at the same theatre and had to return disappointed. He later caught up with the film at Kozhikode. This happens, always, in Kerala with films that don’t have popular stars in the lead or don’t follow a pattern that syncs with the box office diktats. This happens, always, in Kerala, a state that pretends to be happy when Malayalam Cinema bags awards on the national level (Hey, is that a thing of the past?!) and at the same time refuses to see the very same films at theatres.
Today, I was happy to see reports in newspapers saying that an eminent director who has in the past given us memorable films has tendered his support to ‘T.D.Dasan Standard VI B’ and its makers. But would that help? I don’t know. I don’t think so. This filmmaker was requesting moviegoers and the media to support such inspiring films. So would they come forward to do this? The moviegoers? Not at all. The media. Pooh! They would instead write tomes praising some trash commercial venture and make it seem like new age Malayalam Cinema. Yes, I was indeed irked by the very same newspaper report that said that Biju Menon and Shwetha Menon were playing the lead roles and that Jagathy Sreekumar, Jagadeesh, Mala Aravindan, Suresh Krishna, Swetha Menon, and Valsala Menon were in the cast. Of course Biju Menon, Shwethe Menon and some others play key roles, but why did the guy forget to mention the boy who played the title role, that of T.D.Dasan. Master Alexander, who makes his debut, has given an impressive performance playing T.D.Dasan while it’s Tina Rose, another debutante child artist who does an equally important role, that too impressively. I guess the guy who wrote the report hadn’t thought on this aspect, let alone go see the movie.
Well, that brings me to another important question. How many of those guys who write profusely about Cinema in Kerala watch and follow films? I was shocked when a ‘film reporter’ (if at all he is one) representing a leading Malayalam daily asked me who Bala (the director who won the national award for the Tamil film ‘Naan Kadavul’) is and which films were directed by him? I have been surprised at the amount of stupidity that our film journos write in the name of reporting and reviewing.
Well, I’d just wish that T.D.Dasan and Pokkiri Raja both emerge winners, which I know is not going to be. Poor Dasan!!
Koolimadu in the Chathamangalam grama panchayat in Kozhikode is a small village with over 150 houses and over 500 voters. Life goes by in a laid back pace with people going about their daily business. It is a prototype of a typical Kerala village but the startling difference that sets it apart from the rest of Kerala is that it holds the rare credit of being a village that dares to show a thumbs down for hartals.
Koolimadu has not just defied hartals but many other social evils like smoking and has always been a pioneer in promoting social causes. It is the first tobacco-free village in India where smoking is completely banned since 1996. While Keralites are infamous for flouting the rules and breaking the bans this tiny village has set up a perfect example where people run the risk of being excommunicated for a day if they dare to break the smoking ban!
Kerala will grind to a halt yet again on April 27th when the left front sponsored strike against price rise gets underway at dawn. This time too , this nondescript village has chosen to defy the strike call and the interesting thing is that no political party has dared to impose their strike call in this tiny village all these years! Though people love to discuss politics and social and contemporary issues at their free time, they feel that shunning their daily business is not the right way to express their solidarity to any cause!
Koolimadu ticks along even as the next junction of Cheruvadi, which is only an earshot away comes to a stand still on hartal days. There are only a few shops in Koolimadu village including a sawmill, a barber shop and a library, which will remain open all day without the fear of stone pelting political workers while the villagers drive along the village roads without any fear for their life or limb. The older generation doesn’t remember a hartal being observed in the last three decades.
Three cheers to this tiny village that has shown the grit to defy the call to strike work at the drop of the hat. As we have lost the count of the loss of man hours due to hartals, this tiny hamlet has come out a a true champion. If we have the perseverance to repeat this story elsewhere, Kerala would be a better place to live!
As we are observing the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a slew of programs to fight climate change and build a green economy is being planned. Apart from the nature trails, marathons and candle lighting ceremonies, we all should make sure that we take the theme seriously and do our level best in incorporating eco friendly tips in our daily lives.
Kerala has always been a trail blazer in many developmental schemes and in saving the earth campaign too we can be the first to hit the list. It is never too late to protect the earth from being an inhospitable cauldron of molten gases. Check out a few simple steps to save the world from extinction
- Replace ordinary light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs: It saves 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide and a few thousand rupees per year. The best part is that a CFL lamp comes cheaper than your favorite Pizza!
- Use public transport: Whenever possible switch to Public transport. It saves your money and the environment too. Bicycle or battery driven two wheelers and hybrid cars are the next best options. While driving make sure to keep the the tyres adequately inflated and to maintain the optimum speed limits. It can Save 250 lbs. of carbon dioxide and 37300 Rupees per year!.
- Use Recycled Paper : It helps to protect the forests and the green cover. Take print outs only when it is absolutely necessary.
- Plant more trees: Trees are the most effective natural barriers against global warming as they can absorb carbon dioxide. Plants like Ocimum sanctum, vetiver and Ficus , which are native plants of Kerala have excellent air purifying properties.
- Reduce, recycle and reuse to ease the pressure on earth and to keep it free from garbage. Try to use clothes, bottles and tins to the maximum and when they outlive their utility make sure to give these for recycling instead of trashing it!
Just take a look around and you can spot many more ares , where you can employ ‘green tips’. As they say, if there is a will, there is a way and it is the right time for all of us to demonstrate that we care for earth!
The Kerala State capital, Thiruvananthapuram was listed 4th in the list of India’s 10 most popular IT destinations in a study conducted by Rediff. The report suggests that the economy of the city is benefited by contributions from professionals in the field of IT, medical and bio-technology and this city takes credit to over 80% of software exports from Kerala. From once being an NGO city with over 60% of the people depending on government services, things have changed drastically for Trivandrum since the last decade or so. The inception of Technopark, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), has added fillip to the IT development in this city.
State Information Technology Principal Secretary Ajay Kumar told Express on Saturday that the achievement of the State would attract more national and international IT companies to the State. “The report is an encouragement for the IT activities of the State Government. At present, over 27,000 IT professionals are working in Technopark while over 9,000 professionals are working in Infopark (Kochi),” he said.
In the list of the most sought after destinations in IT and ITeS segment,Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi have been selected as ‘challenge cities’,” in a study conducted by Nasscom in association with global management consulting firm the AT Kearney. Bangalore, as expected came first in the list. Home to many software giants like Infosys and Wipro, this city takes credit to over almost 34 percent of India’s total IT exports and has the largest number of households with an annual income of Rs 10 lakh or more. May be Trivandrum and Kochi can catch up with the ‘Silicon valley’ in the near future with some meticulous planning and ground work.
Famously known for its beaches, backwaters and wild sanctuaries, Kerala is all set to kick-off a new trend of wooing more tourists by means of an international kite festival that will be hosted starting May 1 at Kappad beach in Kozhikode district.
Apart from India, kite flyers from top 10 countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Kuwait, China, France, UAE and Britain will be seen displaying their talents for three consecutive days that will attract several thousands of tourists from all over Kerala.
Quite popular in Gujarat, Kerala is the second state to host kite festival along with a seafood festival and a cultural fest that will showcase the local art and culture of the state.
Kapad beach, in Kozhikode is the venue chosen for the kite festival, an extremely favorable seashore for flying kites, the beach is known for its history when Vasco da Gama the Portuguese navigator landed here in 1498. This unique kite festival will attract larger crowds and would enhance the Kerala tourism, which had a dull season few months back.
The kites to be in various shapes and sizes, some even huge as two storey building will cost anything from INR 25,000 upwards, the materials for making them would be supplied to those who want it at free of cost.
A classroom session will also be conducted for those who are interested to know more about kite flying and learn about it.
Related post: Get set to fly high!