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Saturday, December 15, 2018

IFFK 2018

The Twenty-third. My third. The one sans government aid. The one with the hiked delegate fee. Fortunately, our passion was superior to the sense of financial security.

Cometh the second week of December. The most memorable days of my Thiruvananthapuram phase.

Dec 7 (Friday) : Opening Function - Skipped the function for the first time, as we (the movie crazy lot from work) were exhausted after the team outing. Made plans for an early watch the next day.

Dec 8 (Saturday)

9 AM - Kairali - Manta Ray - we (Sreeram, Deepa, John, Anu, Anoop, Vinnie, Albince, Jijo, Chithira, Sajjad) watched our first movie together. A disappointment. And it was long.
Went out right after it ended and had tea. Took coupons for the next movie (Border). Coupons were a new thing. As the case of things new and unknown, I feared it.

12 noon - Tagore - The Debt - canceled Border since Pramitha (who I was meeting for the first time after years of occasional correspondence on Facebook) couldn’t get coupons. Took a rickshaw to Tagore. Reached just in time. Joined the queue without coupons. The volunteers said they can’t let us in. I would have called it fate and gave up, if not for the fighter girl with me. She said we were going in no matter what. And the volunteers had no say. Decent movie.

Over-priced lunch at the Sagara. Met the cynical Mathew, another Facebook friend of Pramitha. ‘I do not approve of ads.’ ‘I reject the materialistic world’, says he.

3 PM - SPI Kripa - Bhonsle - a good movie about the whole Maratha - Non Maratha divisive politics.

5 45 PM - New - Pity - The plan was to watch 'The Transit' but the coupons were sold out and I had not reserved. Opted for 'Pity' as there were seats. It was for good as 'Pity' was a very interesting watch.

8 45 PM - Sree - A Tramway in Jerusalem - the one with the misleading synopsis. It said ‘situational comedy' but the joke was on me who fell for it. Left it midway and went home.

Dec 9 (Sunday)

9 AM - Kairali - The Bed - I love when the director and crew comes down for the premier. The lady spoke in Spanish about how episodes from her personal life inspired her to make the movie. The autobiographical angle gave the slow paced movie more depth.

11 45 AM - New - In The Aisles - big queue. Show started fifteen minutes late thanks to some scheduling mess-ups. Pramitha returns. Watched a movie with Adoor Gopalakrishnan sir in the very next row. A pretty simple, one directional story-line.

3 15 PM - Remya - Non Fiction - Loved it absolutely. One of those French movies where a lot of intellectual looking people converse. Plethora of ideas being conveyed so you need to pay close attention.

No more movies as Pramitha had to return to Bengaluru that night. She was visiting Thiruvananthapuram for the first time, so wanted to visit somewhere before going back. As a beach person, I suggested Kovalam. Great evening. Clicked a few pictures. Bought pineapples and mangoes. And waited while she window shopped almost every stalls out there. Ordered a grilled snapper and had it on our way back in the auto-rickshaw. Plus ice cream. One crazy ride. Saw her off at the bus depot.

Dec 10 (Monday)

9 15 AM - Sree - Paris Square - Went early to stand in line for the hyped ‘El Angel’. Went for this as I was too early. Okayish movie. The queue was serpentine by the time I came out. The house was full before I got in.

11 45 AM - Kalabhavan - The Day I Lost My Shadow - rushed to Kalabhavan as Kairali was full. Rewarding decision. Good movie. Ordered lunch from Kaffeehaus.

3 PM - New - Too Late to Die Young - another disappointment. I could not make any sense and walked out after seeing many others doing the same. This movie put me off so much that I needed a break. Headed to the Mi Service Center, Karamana to get the display of my phone fixed. Backfiring move, as I could not make in time for the apparently “must watch” Capernaum. Tried out the famed Good Morning Hotel. Turned out to be an average affair.

Dec 12 (Tuesday)

Hartal by BJP for I still don’t know what. Well, it was about not missing the movies and also about making a point. Boarded the train to reach the city. Met two other delegates en route.

12 noon - Dhanya - El Angel - took points from Monday and reached well in advance. Very entertaining watch.

3 PM - Sree Padmanabha - Sinjar - I had reserved ‘I do not Care if We Go Down in The History as Barbarians’, but went for this as others were. Something that I regretted, except for the fact that it gives me joy in visiting all the venues of the fest at least once.

6 PM - Nishagandhi - A Twelve Year Night - I had reserved ‘The Dark Room’, but went for this since it was recommended to me by someone I met on the train. And because ‘The Dark Room’ was available the next day too. Also, the visit to the open air theater meant I had covered all venues of the fest this year. Really gripping watch. The movie is available on Netflix if you are interested.

9 15 PM - Kalabhavan - Woman at War - long queue and we reached late. Seats were full by the time Hari and I got in. Went to the very front and watched it laying on our backs. Unprecedented experience. Amusing watch. Background Music is the USP.

Dec 13 (Wednesday)

I was wrapping it up today. My long desire of boarding the double-decker was realized.

9 30 AM - SPI Kripa - Summer Survivors - Beautiful watch. Touched my heart.

12 noon - SPI Kripa - Humans of Someone - wonderful concept. Would have been more effective if the dialogues were less pretentious and if they had gone for Malayalam instead of English.

2 45 PM - New - Capernaum - Finally! The most awaited watch. Full House. Directors Kamal and Sibi Malayil too joined. Expectations were sky high and that actually dampened our experience. The movie was good but the euphoria was missing.

6 PM - New - The Dark Room - My last watch of this fest. And probably the best. A sensitive issue and effective presentation. To my luck, the director was present. Could converse with him (via translators).

Went back with a contented mind. Voted for ‘The Dark Room’ which would win the ‘Suvarna Chakoram’ award for the best movie later. Th wait for December 2019 begins.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

ശബ്ദം നാമജപത്തിന് മാത്രം : ഭാഗം 3

(ആദ്യ ഭാഗങ്ങളും ഇതുമായി പ്രമേയത്തിലുള്ള സാമ്യമെ ഉളളൂ. വായിച്ചിട്ടില്ലെങ്കിൽ ലിങ്ക് താഴെ കുറിക്കുന്നു

ശബ്ദം നാമജപത്തിന് മാത്രം : ഭാഗം 1

ശബ്ദം നാമജപത്തിന് മാത്രം : ഭാഗം 2 )

കഴിഞ്ഞ കുറച്ച് നാളുകളായി വലത് കയ്യിലെ നടുവിരലിൽ ഒരു അരിമ്പാറ രൂപപ്പെട്ടിരിന്നു. തനിയെ പോകും എന്ന് കരുതി വെറുതെ ഇരുന്നിട്ടും ആള് ഒഴിഞ്ഞു പോയില്ല. വെളുത്തുള്ളി പ്രയോഗവും നടത്തി നോക്കി. നോ രക്ഷ. കൂടിയ ബാധ തന്നെ. ഒടുവിൽ ചെന്നെത്തിയത് പാറേട്ട് ഹോസ്പിറ്റലിൽ. ആഗ്രഹം അറിയിച്ചപ്പോൾ എടുത്തു കളയേണ്ടി വരുമെന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു. തൊട്ടടുത്ത ശനി (17 നവംബർ) 10 ഇനും മൂന്നരക്കും ഇടയിലുള്ള ശുഭ മുഹൂർത്തത്തിൽ പരിഹാരക്രിയ ചെയ്യാൻ തീരുമാനിച്ചു. ഇന്ന് രാവിലെ  ഹോസ്പിറ്റലിലേക്ക് ഇറങ്ങിയപ്പോൾ പുതുപ്പള്ളി ജംക്ഷനിൽ വെച്ച്‌ ചിലർ കാർ വളഞ്ഞു. അകാരണമായി ഏതോ ടീച്ചറെ പോലീസ് അറസ്റ് ചെയ്തതിനെതിരെ ഉള്ള പ്രതിഷേധ സൂചകമായ ഹർത്താൽ ആണത്രേ.

(ശിവ ശിവ! എങ്ങോട്ടാണീ നാടിന്റെ പോക്ക്!! മാതാ പിതാ ഗുരു ദൈവം എന്നൊന്നും ഇവർ കേട്ടിട്ടില്ല്യേ? )

അവർ (അത്യാവശ്യം വലിപ്പമുള്ള ഒരു ദണ്ഡ് ഒക്കെ പിടിച്ചുകൊണ്ട്): എങ്ങോട്ടാ എന്ന മട്ടിൽ ആംഗ്യം.

ഞങ്ങ: ഹോസ്പിറ്റലിലേക്ക്.

അവർ (കാറിന്റെ അകത്തേക്ക് ഒന്ന് ചൂഴ്ന്നു നോക്കിക്കൊണ്ട്): ഇതിൽ ആരാണാവോ പെഷ്യൻറ്?

ഞാൻ: കയ്യിലെ അരിമ്പാറ കാണിക്കാൻ വലത് കയ്യിലെ നടുവിരൽ ഉയർത്തിപ്പിടിച്ചു കൊണ്ട്: ഞാനാണ്.

വസ്തുത മനസ്സിലാക്കിയ അവർ പൊയ്ക്കോളാൻ പറഞ്ഞു. നല്ല മനുഷ്യർ.

പക്ഷെ ആശുപത്രിയിൽ എത്തിയപ്പോ ട്വിസ്റ്. ഡോക്ടർ ഇല്ല. ആഹ്! അയ്യപ്പ ശാപം ആയിരിക്കും.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


Do you believe in equality?
I asked Life.
Of course, yes! Life said.
You are lying! Said I.
For, if you truly did,
We would not have been so different.

Do you care for equality?
I asked the World.
Without a doubt! Was the reply.
You are lying! Said I.
For, if you truly did,
Our differences would not have been so stark.

Do you stand for equality?
It was Humanity’s turn.
I am all for it. Came the response.
You are lying! Said I.
For, if you truly did,
We would not be killing our own all the time.

Do you value equality?
God come next.
Why not! I love you all.
Stop lying! Said I.
For, if you truly did,
Bone cancer in infants would have just been a myth.

I do. Boomed loud and clear.
I turned to face the voice.
It was Death who had answered without being asked.
Do you? I had to make sure.
Good or bad; rich or poor; young or old;

When your time comes, I reach out.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Wake Up

Why us?

Wow. That’s too generic. Give me some context.

Why were we burdened with conscience? This dreary sense of existence is overwhelming.

Dreary, is it? I thought otherwise. I felt your lot loved the sense of being. Many of you are in eternal love with the pointless pursuit of the purpose of life.

You feel it’s pointless?

If you ask me, you would be better off living our life rather than pondering over its meaning.

Well, there lies the problem. You see, living the life is not as easy as it sounds. Thanks to the superior intelligence, we are in a state where we have to make informed decisions in every minute of our lives. Some decisions are easy. Most are not. We have to weigh the benefits against the damages and arrive at a trade-off.

And that’s the beauty of it. A decision you make has the power of transforming someone’s life entirely.

Which is why deciding is difficult. Birds have it easy. They just fly around all day, and go back to their nests when they are tired.

You feel birds have it easy?

At least they are free.

And you are not?

Free choice is a myth.

Could you elaborate?

I could write a poem on it.

No, thanks. Poetry is not my style. Anyway, consider this. Your free birds build their nests on trees, which you cut down to make frames for your windows or tissue papers to wipe yourself dry. One fine evening, the bird flies back only to find that the nest no longer exists. So much for their freedom. You talked about how you are a victim of your intelligence. Turns out that you have made good use of it. Cosy homes, super fast cars, smart devices, delicious cuisine...all this when the mighty lions lay naked in the cold nights and the majestic elephants still eat raw palm leaves. You undervalue what you possess. You are…

The predator and the prey?

In a way, yes.

But where have this intelligence taken us? We are fighting each other all the time. We keep coming up with newer things to fight over when we grow sick of the things over which we were fighting in the first place. We fight over land, over gold, over trade, oil, space, race, nuclear deals. You name it, we fight over it! Of all these, you are an all time favorite. W never grow tired of fighting over you. I have lost count of the number of names we have given you. How do you look at it?

I find it interesting. Here is what I did. I learnt all your languages - Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit, Greek, Roman, Tamil, Japanese - so that I could manifest myself in the different forms you have given me. It is funny, you know. No matter in what name I am invoked, the needs remain more or less the same. Happiness, love, money, health, peace - almost everyone asks for these. You might ask for love in English, and this other person would be asking for inner peace in Malayalam. I listen to all of you. Yet you accept me in the way you like, and reject the other forms of me.

I am the believer and the non believer?

Not just you. The whole lot. Yeah you get the idea.

If you are as powerful as you claim to be, why don’t you grant us the virtues we all ask for?

I do. All the happiness, health and peace you see around? They are all my doing.

Oh Really! What about the other side? Bone cancer in infants! What about it, eh? The volcanoes in Japan. Hurricanes in America. Earthquakes in Indonesia?

You know who to blame for that?


We do not speak that name around here.

Are you going to blame the Devil for all the miseries?

Speak of the Devil.

Why don’t you just destroy the Devil, then?

Devil is essential to my existence. We lay perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

Can I ask you something?

You have been asking a lot today.

Is the Devil for real? Or is it a simple lie you sold us to explain your ill doings?

My ill-doings! What do I have to gain by causing you pain?

I don’t know. Some  just want to watch the world burn.

Not arguing with that. So you assume there is no Devil. You mentioned nuclear wars, didn’t you? What about those? I don’t remember making any nuclear bombs. Oh wait - it was you.

What are you suggesting? That we are as much Devil as much as you are?

Maybe you and I are not so different.

Would you stop quoting movies?

Why? Movies are a reflection of the human minds. All art forms are. And it was you who came up with art. Music, dance, pictures, sculptures, books - all of it came from you. You composed melodies, and built worlds and characters just like I did. Tell me this. Would Krishna be complete without Kamsa? Judas had paved way for Jesus’ resurrection. Julius Caesar would have been just another ruler had not Brutus betrayed him. Ram and Ravan. Harry POtter and Lord Voldemort. The Batman and The Joker! All these are as epic as Laila Majnu, or Krishna Radha, or Romeo Juliet. Name one great piece of art that you made which is devoid of evil.

You see?

I do, indeed. You are me.

No! I am bigger than that.

You are a part of me. Or I am a part of you. Perhaps it's all inside my head.

Do you really feel so?

I am the Devil. I am the God.

That’s quite a statement.


(Fifty six year old Jagannath woke his wife, Bhoomi, up. The clock ticked past two.)

Bhoomi: What?

Jagannath: Do you hear that voice?

Bhoomi: What voice?

Jagannath: Listen. It’s from Adi’s room. I wonder who he is calling at this hour of the night.

Bhoomi: I do not really think that he is on the phone. I guess he is talking to himself.

Jagannath: Again! Should we take him to the counselor?

Bhoomi: Don’t bother. He might just be having a bad dream. I will ask him to pray before going to bed. The boy questions faith a lot these days.

Jagannath: God help our kid!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Why Sairat is a huge failure, and why it should never have been remade!

Well, now that I have got you triggered, let us talk. For the uninitiated, ‘Sairat’ is a Marathi movie that released in April 2016. Sairat has everything you would want in an Indian romantic drama - young lead pair in innocent love, soulful songs, opposition from family,  - and also, most importantly, BIG SPOILER COMING UP SO SKIP THIS LINE IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED BUT WOULD LIKE TO WATCH THE MOVIE - the lead pair gets killed in the climax in a cold blooded manner. The act is not shown on screen, but the gore creeps into your bones through the eyes of the little kid of the couple who escaped the brutality.

Killing over caste or religion or class has been recurring in India, despite all the tall claims of modernity and liberalism. The barbarity even got a term - Honor Killing. The name formed since the killings are mostly carried out to ‘protect’ the family's ‘honor’. But I believe that the more apt description is that the families kill their honor by even thinking of committing such a heinous crime. Just the other day a 23 year old man was hacked to death by his wife's family in broad daylight, right in front of his pregnant wife, as they were on their way back after a pre-natal check up. So much for honor.

Representational Image

Why is Sairat a failure?

Made on a modest budget of four crores, Sairat rocked the box office and ended up collecting a whopping 110 crores. The gripping climax sequence leaves the audience in a state of daze, long after the end credits rolled. Alas, the success of an artwork is not only defined by the number of tickets sold. A piece of art need not necessarily have a purpose or a message, however, the kind of picture that the makers of Sairat drew was hard to miss. It was a reflection of how horrific and bloody our pursuit for the “good name” in society can get. An extreme, shocking, yet very real instance of log kya kahenge.

Sairat came out in 2016, and in the same year Huffington Post reported that the number of instances of honor killings reported in India had rose by over 700% in an year. While we danced to the tunes of Zhingat,  we chose to not look at the bigger picture. In a way, it is not the movie but we who failed. If a piece of art fails in bringing a positive influence on the society’s conscience, the art too fails despite what the box office says.

Why Sairat should not have been remade?

I agree it is utopian to hope that a movie would change a nation overnight. It would not. Transformation or evolution is a painfully time consuming process. Art could only indicate the right path, it is the viewers who has to take the first step. And the second. And keep on walking in the right path and make sure they don’t turn back.

That said, I still believe Sairat should not have been remade. At least, not as Dhadak by Dharma Productions. I still have not mustered enough courage to watch what Karan Johar has come up with. From what I hear, Dhadak is everything that Sairat was - except that the makers chose to focus less on the caste issues - and there lies the entire problem.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


‘One hundred point four. Mercury says you got fever, Ammu.’

‘Ammu is sick’, said the little Prarthana touching her forehead with her left palm.

Tara looked at her seven-year-old daughter, dressed in the white shirt and blue skirt school uniform, and smiled.

‘You would have to take the day off. Rest today, and you would be fine. How unfortunate to fall sick on the day of your math test, isn’t it Ammu?’

‘Yes, Amma. Very sad.’ replied Prarthana, looking away.

‘Change your uniform, and go to bed. Amma would be back with you shortly.’

‘Where are you going? What if I need you here?’

‘Amma has a very important appointment today that I cannot miss. Take a nap, honey. I would be back by your side before you know it.’

Prarthana shrugged her shoulders. ‘A doctor has to save lives, I guess.’

There were no further dialogues. Prarthana went back to her room, changed her clothes, and blissfully embraced the comforting warmth the cozy bed offered.

Tara placed the thermometer in its case and picked up her phone.


‘Hi Gowri Ma’am! This is Tara Prakash. My daughter Prarthana is in your class.’

‘Aah..yes! Tell me, Tara.’

‘Prarthana is unwell, ma’am. She would have to take this day off.’

‘She too! I am sorry to hear that, Tara. A lot of kids are falling sick these days. Should be the weather.’


‘Don’t worry Tara. I would take care of this. Ask her to get enough rest.’

‘Thank You, ma’am.’

Tara hung up and checked the time. It was thirteen past nine. The appointment was scheduled to be at ten, and she wished to be there on time. Punctuality was one of the few traits that she earnestly adhered to. She got dressed hurriedly, picked up her white coat and stethoscope, and reached the garage.

The thermometer that was kept back in its case by Tara still showed the reading at hundred point four.

It was a fifteen minutes drive. Twenty, considering the traffic. She would reach with five minutes to spare. As she drove through the busy city lanes, her daughter’s words echoed in her mind atop Sukhwinder Singh’s rustic singing from the stereo.

‘A doctor has to save lives.’ Tara felt it ironical that she spoke those words today of all days. Her appointment for the day was very unorthodox, to say the least. The first of its kind in her four-year-old career as the Medical Officer at the Central Prison.

She was unsure if she saving lives is what she would be doing today.

The headlines that created a ruckus some ten years ago came back to her. She was in college then. One of the hot-headed young guns.

‘A man had raped and then murdered his own son. The police had found the man in a drunken stupor, his son’s yet warm corpse lying beside him. His eyes were staring at the ceiling as if he hated the sight of his father even in death.

The news had awoken the collective conscience of the entire nation. She remembered organizing a candlelight vigil for the fallen boy whose name was never made public. He had acquired a name from the masses though. Amar.

She no longer believed in candlelight vigils. Those were mere statements. She believed in actions. Today was one such day where her actions could mean something.

The face of the man who had killed Amar was also never publicized. Today, that man would have a face. She imagined looking into his eyes and asking him why. She wanted to know how he would justify himself. Tara knew that no matter how heinous an act was, a person would have to believe in it to commit it. The Holocaust had occurred because Hitler and his army believed in the Aryan supremacy.

She reached the prison premises well in time, and waited. The cops produced Govindan at ten. He walked alongside the uniformed men with the conviction of a man who knew his days were numbered. He was weak. He did not seem afraid.

Tara felt that the President would have faced enormous pressure in dismissing his mercy petition, despite the charges levied against him. The times were such that the society was increasingly becoming pro-life and the push to abolish the capital punishment was getting stronger by the day.

Govindan was seated in a chair next to the doctor’s desk. He was still handcuffed. Two armed cops waited at the door, ready to spring into action in case a need arose.

‘State your name’, Tara said, and added after a pause, ‘for the record’.

‘Govindan Das.’


‘Sixty Nine.’

‘How do you feel?’


‘Okay? Do you realize why this is being conducted?’


Tara checked his blood pressure. Normal. Temperature. A bit more than normal. She pressed the diaphragm of her stethoscope and asked him to breathe. He was having difficulty in inhaling. Dry coughs interrupted the silent air hanging in the room.

‘Your throat has an infection.’

‘It’s nothing. The beedis we get in the cells are not that great.’

‘Tell me your story.’

‘Don’t you know it, already?’

‘I have followed the media stories, yes. I am interested in your version.’

‘There is no my version.’

‘Why did you..?’

There was no reply. Tara prodded. ‘What was it? Drunken stupor? Were you high? I even read that his face resembled that of your dead wife's.’

‘It was me.’


‘Me. It was me. Not alcohol, or weed, or the face of my poor old wife who has been dead for the last seventeen years. I did it. You want to know why. I honestly don’t know what to say. It happened. I wish it hadn’t. Every single day reminds me of the monster that I had become.’

‘Save the speech. You had appealed to the President for mercy.’

‘I was tired of arguing to the Red Cross volunteers. They used to visit me and tell me why each life was sacred, and why it was wrong to take one’s life no matter what. I failed in explaining that it was disgusting to carry on knowing everyone around you hated you. I have failed in a lot of other things.’

‘You are sick. You show early symptoms of pneumonia. I believe you are aware of the laws. One has to be healthy...Well, what do you say?’

‘I no longer take a say on things. I let the world decide for me.’

Tara stared at his face. The face of the monster, that she always wanted to punch hard when the news had come out. The face looked like one of the many faces that she had come across in her life. The monstrosity could not be seen. She signaled the cops to take him away.

The jail superintendent was expecting Tara as she went inside his office. He gave her a questioning look. She handed him her report.

‘What about him?’

‘He is alright, sir.’

‘Unlucky guy!’, commented the officer, who then went on to laugh at his joke.

‘I heard that your daughter is sick. I am sorry you had to take the trouble.’

‘It is alright. She’d be fine.’