Come December 16th, Kochi the emerging financial capital of Kerala will be hosting the much acclaimed International Film Festival at five different venues in the city. The first edition of this film festival will stand out for many reasons. Apart from featuring a panorama of world class films from all over the world, the organisers have roped in a young German film researcher, Alexandra Schott to curate and organise the panel discussions for the festival.
Alexandra is well experienced in organising panel discussions and has been associated with a majority of Indian International Film Festivals held overseas. The team will be engaged in curating discussions on contemporary films and potential solution on socio-political and environmental issues with an underlying theme of ‘Discover India through films.’
The session will be paying tribute to the centenary year of Indian cinema with special focus on Malayalam, which will be represented by some of the stalwarts of Malayalam film industry. The interactive sessions will make the film aspirants aware of the latest film making technologies and the changing trends in world cinema and the evolution of universally accepted themes and treatments.
Alexandra opined that even today there are many independent film makers who are still not aware of the international film festivals where they can showcase their films. Film festivals like the one to be held in Kochi not only will help to bring good cinema to the audience but will also provide the much needed platform for the aspiring film makers to screen their creations to a creative audience.
With more than 100 movies to be screened including the well rated movies like Holy Motors, Love, Me and You, Sister , the film festival will be a unique event to the movie lovers of the State. Organized by Cochin Gateway Entertainment and Management Society. This film fest will bring some of the best movies from world cinema before the curtains are drawn on 23rd December .
Malayalam movie makers often choose overseas locales and foreign actors in the plot to retain the interest of the discerning audience. There have been many local language movies that feature foreigners as props. For the foreign backpackers who choose to act in these films, it is not just easy money but also a rare chance to mix business with pleasure and to hog the limelight on their Kerala holidays.
On a rough estimate, around 5,000 foreigners are selected every year to act in Malayalam movies that are shot in various places. Cochin is fast becoming the hub of this so called ‘Cinema Tourism’. The city alone has eight coordinators who provide foreigners for films and any director who wishes to cast foreign faces in their movies need only to get in touch with a coordinator. The director will provide the essential details like age and appearance of the prospective actor. Now it is the turn of the coordinator to honeycomb the various home stays (which are the popular accommodation options of backpackers) in and around Fort Kochi and Mattancherry to find someone suitable. Most of them will be wonder struck at first, but will give a try once the idea sinks into them, while some others reject the offers outright.
Once chosen, the foreigners can enjoy an extended holiday in some of the most picturesque spots in Kerala and neighbouring states like Munnar, Kovalam, Coimbatore or Ooty being part of the film crew. Recently a group of 15 foreign tourists donned the paint during the shooting of Neeko Njancha in Cherai beach. The foreigners will be paid at a rate of 2000 to 4000 INR per day apart from perks and accommodation options for outstation locations. If the tourists have to re draw their tour plan, they are also compensated with train or flight tickets to their next destination.
The trend of casting foreigners is not something new and it has been going on for many years now in Hindi and other Indian languages. Giselli Monteiro, Barbara Mori, Amy Jackson- the list of beauties from foreign shores that are playing key roles in Bollywood films is impressive indeed. However, some actors have come out against the obsession for Caucasian beauties of the film makers and the audience alike, which they feel will be detrimental to the local talents.
As the debate goes on, the movie crazy Kerala populace gets ready to endorse yet another thrilling movie featuring foreigners. Now, it will indeed be a special Kerala holiday for many of these foreigners as well for the arc lights and celebrity tag that go with it!
It was some years back that an actor from Kerala, M.R.Gopakumar, was chosen to play a key role in Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Lost World’. But the actor, who had proved his calibre with Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Vidheyan‘ couldn’t make it and join Spielberg’s unit in Los Angeles as the American Consulate in Chennai denied him a ‘work visa’. The reason quoted was that Gopakumar had no documents to prove that Spielberg had actually hired him. For the actor, who is definitely a real talented person (‘Vidheyan’ alone is proof enough), this was big loss indeed. (Gopakumar continues to act, but in totally unexceptional kind of roles and television soaps, thus being one of the most under-utilised actors in a star-oriented film industry).
M.R.Gopakumar is just an example of how visa rejection could cause irreparable loss to people. People from all walks of life have had to face this at all times. The world of visa rejection is indeed a lost world, wherein you suffer the losses and the authorities in question too can’t help it maybe. There are complexities, official and diplomatic ones. The reasons may sound just and you can’t blame the blatant indifference shown by authorities at an embassy or consulate. But there are instances where this could be avoided, perhaps. One such instance, where it can be and should be overcome relates to the forthcoming Formula One Indian Grand Prix, slated to take place on October 30th at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, so near our National Capital. Visa related issues are causing much trouble for drivers, journalists and others who plan to make it to Delhi for the grand event, as per recent reports.
Sharaz, our php programmer, is one of those guys with whom I like going for movies. The most important reason being that he sees movies sans presumptions and is tolerant enough to like almost all kinds of films.
Yesterday he and I went for a movie, ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’, which I bet many of our colleagues here at Karmakerala wouldn’t even have heard of. The film is directed by Amol Gupte, who has put in a good performance in the recently-released Malayalam film ‘Urumi’ too. Amol Gupte is not a popular Bollywood actor, but he is an actor worth reckoning. He was the Creative Director for Aamir Khan’s ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and had given a notable performance in ‘Kaminey’. So now, it was time for us to relish Amol Gupte’s directorial venture.
We had Dosa and Omelette at MK Bakers, guys who keep us going at Karmakerala by bringing us tea and snacks on sleepy afternoons (Hope our bosses are not reading this!) (an it was drizzling as Sharaz rode us to the Oberon Cinemax Multiplex. We were on time; got in and seated just as the titles were coming to an end.
What followed for the next two hours was magic, magic on screen. It is the story of a boy called Stanley (played by Amol’s son Partho) who comes to school daily without his ‘Dabba’ (lunch box). There are some other characters who seemed to be taken right out of life and planted there, on the screen. Most notable one among these is the Hindi teacher, Babubhai Verma (played by Amol Gupte himself), a guy who is crazy after food and always goes after students to share their meals. There is also the Science teacher Mrs.Iyer (Divya Jagdale) and the English teacher Ms. Rosy (Divya Dutta) who stand out. The story, simple and straight, moves on to a climax that I won’t like to speak about here; if at all you are rendered curious, go and watch the movie and find out. We need to watch and encourage such movies.
The movie reminded me, to a great extent, of New Wave Iranian movies, those by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi etc. I was wondering yesterday why such movies were not happening here in Kerala; but then I remembered having seen one such movie last year in Malayalam- ‘T.D.Dasan Std VI B’, a film that reminded me of those simple, straight-from-the-heart Iranian movies. But when these films get released, people just turn their backs on them. Hey, striking indeed, that even those who circulate pirated cds of movies here in Kerala (they are very much there, in Kerala, pirated cds of the latest movies, contributing greatly to dealing deadly blows to the film industry) turn their backs on such movies. We still go after the usual star oriented, predictable and mostly mundane kind of film that cinema elsewhere seem to be growing out of. There are so many innovatively different movies coming up in Hindi and Tamil; Sharaz and I were thrilled on seeing ‘Chalo Dilli’ (Hindi) and liked ‘Vaanam’ (Tamil). Hope things will change for Malayalam Cinema too; there are some signs of this happening here too. Let’s hope for the best…
Two things that I’d like to add as sort of post-script here…
- This is what Sharaz had to say after seeing the movie- “I had always wanted to do something in films. But my thoughts were always high-flying, like making a movie with all kinds of special effects, something like ‘Matrix’ or something that would leave people spellbound. I’d think of the kind of films that Shah Rukh Khan, my favourite star, does. But ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’ is the kind of film that never featured in my imaginations. The film made me realise that we need not think big and go for big things to make movies; we can take things from our lives, from our experiences and make wonderfully different movies. I have come to realise that even small, ordinary things from day-to-day life can contribute towards making films that are really ‘big’. I was able to identify with Stanley and what all was happening there, in the school. I was touched by the message the film conveys in the end. I also have come to understand that if creative artists strive to narrate personal experiences in their personal style, it would be the best of things that can happen to art and cinema”.
- Our boss Sholto was narrating a story, an interesting story yesterday. He’d love to see it made into a cinema. He was commenting that Indian Cinema is still centered around the stars, the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and Mammootty and Mohanlal. Well I do agree to that; but at the same time, I am happy that films like ‘Stanley Ka Dabba‘ are happening… Great indeed!
Awards don’t interest me nowadays. To be honest, I haven’t gone through the list of the National Film Award winners this time, I didn’t feel inclined to. But the fact that Salim Kumar got the National Award for the best actor did impress me. I have always seen him as a sensible actor, someone who could rise above crass comedy and deliver intelligent, sensible humour and also do serious acting, as he had earlier done in ‘Achanurangatha Veedu‘ and ‘Perumazhakaalam‘. Of course there are controversies shrouding this year’s National Awards, as usual. There’s Dileep saying the awards came seeking Malayalam Cinema only since there were no Malayalees in the Jury. I don’t know whether he made that comment in earnest or just in jest. There’s Ranjith being unhappy that he and his ‘Pranchiyettan and the Saint’, a very intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable satire, were neglected at the National Awards. There’s Salim Kumar lashing out against Ranjith. Much more is likely to come, as always.
A friend of mine, who is an internationally acclaimed director as well, was telling me yesterday that it’s good that people like Salim Kumar and Salim Ahmed (the director of ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’) are getting awards. He was saying that those who have been winning awards should in fact be kept out. I pointed out that it doesn’t make sense as the criterion for giving awards is always based on performance and has to be that. I know what he said is right, people who are internationally and nationally acclaimed and who win awards all the time don’t need awards. They are above and beyond awards. But still, how can you not give a good actor an award on the grounds that he has won it many times already, especially if his performance is good. If you were him, won’t you feel bad if you were denied an award simply on such grounds? But what my friend said, isn’t that right too? So, what’s to be done? Consensus solution needed.
As for me, I don’t care about awards, simply because I am not a director or an actor. I am just a lover of movies. I like seeing the movies that make me feel good, that enrich me and entertain me and enlighten me. Now, don’t ask me what kind of movies, the mainstream ones or the arty ones, are the real good ones. To be honest, I won’t want to comment. My boss Sholto would then post a comment asking me about ‘The Bicycle Thieves’, which I know is a gem of a movie, one that makes you look at the medium of cinema with awe. My friends would call me ‘insensible’ as I haven’t yet seen ‘Pazhassi Raja’ or ‘Avatar’ or ‘Anaconda’.I just want to keep watching movies, all kinds of movies. As for awards and award related controversies, let it all go on…such things fuel film-making maybe.
Long Live films and film-making!!
Like all cultures Kerala too has had great love stories like Changampuzha’s ‘Ramanan’ or Basheer’s tales or Madhavikutty’s novels which have all idealized love. But, if the same love is spurned it can be a tragedy, and even lead to a suicide out of deep sorrow. However, recently love turned villainous with a shocking incident that happened in Chengannur. A crime, a murder most foul, happened in broad daylight in all its audacity shocking the whole state.
All this just because the girl denied the love of the man with whom she had a brief affair. Rejection turned into fury for the scorned lover. The fury turned into revenge. He stabbed her thrice and knifed her father to death at Mazhukeer, near Chengannur.
The Incident in brief…
According to the police, Rahul, a final year engineering student at Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, was in love with Varsha, an MBA student of Mar Athanasius College for Advanced Studies, Tiruvalla. However, Varsha jilted Rahul for another man. Unable to bear Rahul’s repeated advances, Varsha’s father had lodged a complaint with the Chengannur CI who had warned Rahul that he would be arrested if he disturbed Varsha again. Rahul, who was livid with rage at Varsha for continuing her affair, knocked down the motorcycle on which she and her father were travelling around 6 am on Tuesday and stabbed Varsha in the back three times. Father, who came to the aid of his daughter, was stabbed twice. Varsha is still battling for life in a private hospital at Thiruvalla. Rahul is now under police custody.
What has happened to this love? I have heard that love makes one go mad, is this incident so? No, love is still the same feeling as it was. What happened is that, the people who were in love have changed the way they see love. Love can’t be grabbed and this is something that most lovers realise once they don’t feel the love is being reciprocated.
Kerala is a state rich with many films, poems and stories of love and love failures. Most films show that the hero and the heroine staying strong till the end for love despite all barriers and difficulties. The love, this boy felt towards this girl is not something wrong. But it was a one-way love. Without realising this fact, the love blinded him to do such a brutal act. What did he gain?
Is it our education system or lifestyle or is it the family atmosphere that has gone wrong? What one learns and receives from the home is what makes one good or bad. The media has influenced our family atmosphere so strongly and so has cinema. The morals that old movies gave out is no more existing in these new generation movies. The Chengannur incident is one good example of how wrong thinking affects the generation of today. Where is our world leading us to? Has love, the emotion, lost its meaning, has the same emotions that poets of Kerala sang couplets about gone?
Few questions: Will crimes of passion, revenge and murder happen more in Kerala now? What do you think? Are you worried the youth of the state will make such drastic steps so openly?
Yet another year gone by when Malayalees lament the demise of, the master storyteller that was, P Padmarajan. Twenty long years and yet Malayalam cinema still awaits a director of that calibre who could reach out to the masses at all levels with his story, direction, sense of music, romance and even sexuality of the Malayalee with finesse.
Connecting with all kinds of people with films on themes like love (Innale), incest in (Nammukku paarkkaan muthiri thoppukal), lesbian love and friendship (Deshaadanakili karayarilla), life in a brothel and with (Arappettakettiya gramathil), man in love with two women (Thoovaanathumbikal) was done with a style that appealed to both the young and old.
Music has always worked for each and every Padmarajan movie and his last movie Njan Gandharavan was no different in this either. Finding unusual themes, unexpected endings were also his forte and what elevated his films onto different strata to the viewer.
So was he a better storyteller or a director; and does it matter… for his films took mainstream Malayalam cinema onto new heights and its not often that a writer comes along who has film-making capabilities to picturise the story he unravells with the same effect on celluloid.
Here is an excerpt from the personal post on Padmarajan Unni R Nair did last year in this blog…
For me, Padmarajan is simply one of the best that we have had in Malayalam Cinema, a man who went beyond the classifications of art-house and commercial cinema and who successfully merged all these different strands of cinema and who gave a well edited action flick too in ‘Season’, a film that can teach many a lesson to those who still stumble at making action films.
Well, I’d love to spend a few moments relishing memories of the many Padmarajan movies that had made me so passionate about films. The late KPAC Azeez jumping out of the boat all determined to take revenge on the man who had been a witness to his crimes (‘Peruvazhiyambalam‘), the poor desperate grandfather (played by Thilakan) who is all shattered after his young grandson had gone missing in the sea (‘Moonnaam Pakkam‘), the young Jayaram in ‘Innale‘ who wishes and prays earnestly that his new-found lover (played by Shobhana), who has been suffering from Amnesia, doesn’t get back her memories and recognise her husband (played by Suresh Gopi), the village wrestler (played by Rasheed) who is rather indifferent towards his wife and her needs (‘Oridathoru Phayalwan‘) – these and many other scenes from Padmarajan films just scroll on and on in my memory while I hear my heart sob and pay heartfelt tributes to the ‘Gandharvan’ who left us nineteen years ago, an untimely death that shattered us all to a great extent. I know that some of our scribes will be getting ready with write-ups and memoirs for tomorrow and some of our papers may devote some space for the versatile writer-filmmaker.
Well, this is my personal tribute to Padmarajan, the man who made me love films, the man who made me love myself and have a passion for life.
Here I am again remembering P Padmarajan on his 20th death anniversary giving voice to a large number of people who took to Malayalam cinema thanks to the master storyteller.
The 15th IFFK, the International Film Festival of Kerala, was held at Thiruvananthapuram from the 10th of December to the 17th of December. Film lovers from all over thronged the venues and watched films that were brought together at the fest. They also took part in discussions, face-to-face talks with film personalities, debates etc and went back, only to wait for the next edition of the fest, to be held in the second week of December next year.
The 15th IFFK was hosted by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy in association with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, government of Kerala and was held in over 10 theatres in Thiruvananthapuram. There were five shows in each theatre and the festival showcased 207 films from 83 countries. Over 120 film personalities from different countries took part in the fest, which rolled off with the screening of the Iranian film ‘Please Don’t Disturb’, directed by Mohsin Abdul Wahab at the Nishagandhi open air auditorium.
Here we go, on a pictorial tour of the fest….
Kerala has many firsts to its credits in tourism, literary and cultural scenario. From being one of the must see destinations in the world,featured in prestigious tourist magazines and National Geographic Channel Kerala is evolving to be a tourist destination that will be intellectually exhilarating to visitors from all over the world.
Kerala has been playing host to many literary festivals like the recently held Hay Festival of Literature and Arts in the State capital, Thiruvananthapuram, which was attended by many national and international literary figures and writers including Vikram Seth, William Dalrymple, Sebastian Faulks, rock stars Sting and Bob Geldof and the stalwart of Malayalam film Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
The travelers who look for a satisfying experiencing to satiate their interests in arts and literature would find Kerala a best choice. The film and theatre festivals that form part of the Kerala mythic that is well complimented by a culturally inclined audience has played a major role in enhancing its intellectual ratings. With various International theater festivals and arts exhibitions lined up to be hosted, Kerala is all set to position itself as an intellectual destination for the discerning and sophisticated traveller in search of an extra ordinary experience .
A review of the Malayalam movie ‘Athmakatha’
‘Athmakatha’, directed by debutant Premlal, revives your faith- in life as well as in good cinema. The movie, which of course failed to get the minimum number of audience to keep the shows going at many places on day one itself, makes you fall in love once again with life. It tells you how life is to be lived, despite all odds. At the same time, the film reassures you that good cinema is still there, in Malayalam.
With Sreenivasan and Shafna doing the key roles, that of a blind father and his young daughter, the film ‘Athmakatha’ tells a very interesting, touching story. Kochubaby (Sreenivasan), called by everyone as ‘Kochu’, is blind and works in a candle manufacturing unit run under the auspices of the local church. The parish priest Father Punnoose (Jagathy Sreekumar) is all praise for Kochu who, in the words of Father Punnoose and of everyone who knows him, “sees things much better than those with eyes”. It was at the age of 13 that Kochu had turned blind. His mother taught him to cope with the darkness that had shrouded his very existence. Thus he learnt to see, despite his blindness, the colours of life and relished life in his own way.
It’s quite coincidentally that Mary (Sharbani Mukherjee), who is also blind, comes into Kochu’s life. They fall in love and get married, with blessings from all. Days pass happily, a child is born to them and they are happy to find that their daughter is not blind like them. Kochu, who had never had the need to light up his home, gets electricity connection to make sure that his daughter gets to see all those things that he and Mary cannot.
Kochu’s life gets a big jolt when Mary is killed in a road accident, knocked down by a truck as she is crossing the road. He brings up his daughter Lilly. Lilly (Shafna) shines in her studies, tops the school and is a favourite of her teachers too. Kochu finds happiness in her happiness and the father-daughter duo pass their days, with love that’s shared in abundance and with happiness that they share with others too. But Fate has something else in store for them. The day it’s revealed that Lilly would lose her eyesight due to an incurable ailment, it seems as if the world would turn upside down for them. Kochu, though shocked and dejected, gets ready to teach his daughter how to cope with life after she turns blind. But for Lilly, it’s beyond the wildest of her imagination. She doesn’t even dare sleep as she fears that she may wake up blind. Things become intolerable for her and finally she decides to end it all, by putting an end to her miserable existence.
The thing that touches you the most of course is not the touching story of Kochu and his family. What touches you is the element of positivism and optimism that pervades the whole fabric of the movie. The director, who pens the script too, presents each and every scene in such a way that you see it all in the natural pace of life. It’s not cinema, it’s life that’s unfurled before you, scene after scene.
Performance wise, it’s Sreenivasan who deserves mention in the first place. Though I had always enjoyed watching Sreenivasan films, I had had the opinion that he was an actor who remained trapped in his stock mannerisms and his trademark kind of dialogue delivery and perhaps had no escape from that. The first half hour of ‘Athmakatha’ seemed to re-affirm that notion of mine. But no, I was to be proved wrong. In the post-interval section, the actor simply metamorphosed into something that I had never before seen happening with him. The scene where he blocks all doors and sits on a chair blocking another existence, lest his daughter should venture out without his knowledge and put an end to her life presented for me a totally new Sreenivasan. Hats off to Sreenivasan for doing this wonderful movie.
Young Shafna, as Lilly, excels in her role. Sharbani Mukherjee, who was last seen in Malayalam in ‘Sufi Paranja Katha’, is good. Jagathy Sreekumar as the priest and all the others in the cast fit into their respective roles perfectly well.
The technical aspects are all in sync with the mood, the tempo of the film. The songs too are good. A highlight of ‘Athmakatha’ is the background score, by Mohan Sithara, which retains the mood effectively and enhances the tempo whenever needed. Of course you feel that at certain places the background score could have been a bit less loud and more subtle. Yet, it’s good.
‘Athmakatha’ may have its flaws, it may resemble movies that you have seen, it may remind you of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Rajesh Khanna starrer ‘Anand’ for the positivism it conveys and Gulzar’s Sanjeev Kumar- Jaya Badhuri starrer ‘Koshish’ when it comes to the scene where the blind parents are worried that their daughter too would be blind, but despite it all, it’s a movie worth watching. I feel pity for all those people who flock to see all those trash that’s churned out in the name of cinema in Malayalam these days and not caring a whit for good films like ‘Athmakatha’ and ‘T.D.Dasan Standard VI A’ (which was released a few months back), films by debutantes which seem to convey the message that it’s not all over with Malayalam Cinema.
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