Saturday, 27 July 2013

An abode of indulgence

Saw the Malayalam movie ‘Trivandrum Lodge’ recently. Released in 2012, the movie is believed to have raked in more than 4 crores at the box office. It is directed by V K Prakash and written by Anoop Menon, who is the current favourite of the Malayalam movie industry.
The movie turned out to be a surprise in content and presentation as it defied (well…almost) the norms of a typical Malayalam movie. As the title suggests, the movie is about the inmates of an old, obscure lodge but located at Kochi. The lodge is owned by Ravi Shankar, a rich widower with a young son. Into this dishevelled corner, enters Dhwani, an educated and sophisticated writer-artist. She is young and divorced – enough reasons to make the men drool over her.

The movie cannot be termed a classic but can’t either be categorised as ordinary.  I liked the film for one main reason – it did not harp on a moral tale of rights and wrongs and instead chose to break away from clich├ęs. It allowed its characters to be the way they are and let them continue their life as they have till now. No reformation or change of heart here.

The ‘heroine’ of the film if you can call the leading lady thus, is not the usual demure, sari-clad and ‘lady like’ nayika. And yes, she also wears spectacles, yet seemed desirable to men. She also did not seem to be heart-broken or shattered at the thought of a divorce. Instead she longed to celebrate her divorce by ‘fornicating with abundance’. A new word for the average Malayali audience and a new step for Malayalam cinema!

The second female character is Kanyaka (irony at its best!), a sex worker. As the usual circumstance of most of such women, Kanyaka is from a poor family, with an ailing husband to fend for. Yet, she never once seems to be sorrowful or repenting but has a zest for life. She probably, knows, that the moral curtains that the society tends to put on her are all false and that the moralistic society is indulging in far bigger hatred crimes. She is after all, only spreading love and solace.

The third female character, Malavika, does not exist physically in the world but lives on in her husband Ravi Shankar’s memory. Ravi with his vast wealth and youth, has many options before him but he chooses to remain a celibate for he feels the high of being a ‘one woman-man’ is more than any other seduction or relationships.

The fourth female is Zarina, Dhwani’s friend. She is an educated woman and happily married to a fish trader, who is not much educated and speaks in the typical fishermen’s slang. She has no qualms in admitting that it was her decision to marry a man with less intellectual, for he won’t then be a big bother to her life. She declares that he is ‘good in bed’. Her husband too has no issues in sharing a drink with his wife.

The fifth character is a little girl, Amala, learning piano and with whom the young son of Ravi Shankar falls in love.

Male characters are many with varied traits. Abdu is an orphan and a dumb fellow, who looks at women sexually. He is addicted to the thought and is longing for a woman. Yet, he refuses to sleep with Kanyaka when he sees her bed-ridden husband at her home.

Then there is Shibu who writes for a small film publication. He lures wannabe female starlets by promising them roles in films. Then there is a senior citizen, who boasts of having slept with 999 women and is waiting for a very special woman to be the 1000th. Yet, when Dhwani asks him if she could be the 1000th, he is too shy to revert.

The film had many of its moments. Ravi Shankar’s father refuses to share the riches of his son because he believes his wife (Ravi’s mother) had earned it by her immoral activities. He calls her a prostitute but the son laughs it off saying that he would rather call her a female Casanova. Yet again, the film breaks a gender stereotype, where a mother is supposed to be goddess like. You see a son who is quite unaffected by the fact that his mother indeed had many lovers. He seems to accept that his mother too is human and has feelings and aspirations as any other. His father, who detests the wealth accumulated by his wife, does not show any inhibition to keep the original ownership papers of Trivandrum Lodge for he wants it as a last resort, if his son throws him out. That means he will hate his wife and will stick to his principles but only as per his convenience.

Overall, the film was a good watch and the characters do stay with you. You feel happy to see that the Malayalam Film industry is embracing new trends and outlook. You feel good for the characters who are not perfect – they lust, they seem to be useless at times, they tend to be selfish, they believe in love, and at the end of the day – they are all ordinary people, just like you and me. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Here is to you, my friend...

Rains – the integral part of writer’s imagination; that which has invoked romance in heart and words; that which has helped hide tears; that which has symbolised agony, joy, love, hope and more. Rains, you are an inspiration, a friend and an enigma.

It is amusing to observe how you have appeared to me in different stages of my life. When I was in school, rains meant beginning of a new academic year. I used to be so excited to go to school in my new uniform, new shoes and of course, a new bag, with new untouched books all wrapped in brown covers and name slips duly pasted on them. It was such a nice walk from home to school, holding my mother’s hand, wearing my new raincoat and splashing water. Now that she is ill and your onset causes her much trouble, those memories have become dearer.

As I grew up, you brought about a smile on my face. I started loving the rain songs in Hindi films and hoped one day, I too would dance and sing with my dream man, with you pouring love and dreams all over us. The poet in me sprang up every time I looked at you through my window panes. The sighting of greenery that you brought along filled my heart with glee. I noticed how the neighbouring tree that had looked so sad and lonely in summer suddenly looked fresh and happy now that you were pouring all over it. Haven’t you heard my ‘Thank you’ over and over then?

As adulthood and responsibilities ushered into my life, I admit I haven’t had that luxury of sitting and staring at you or even striking small conversations with you. And I should admit one more thing - I had even started disliking you at times and I still do. No, you were never at fault. Never! It is just that we, the people, have really made a mess of our surroundings and our poor planet. As soon as you come down, the poorly maintained roads crack up, the drains start overflowing and there is dirt everywhere, thus making walking a terrible experience. There is traffic jam during rains so riding or driving or travelling by bus becomes a nightmare. The local trains are delayed or even cancelled because you decided to pour heavily. Oh! Please don’t feel bad. I am not blaming you. It is not your fault. It is just that the authorities, who have to ensure that these things don’t happen when you come, do not bother to take any precautions thus resulting in myriad problems for lakhs of people like me during your onset time – the monsoons. How I wish the authorities could spend some time restoring beauty and cleanliness of my city so that I could enjoy you again, without complaining.

But let me tell you one thing though. Of late, I have stopped complaining and that has helped me connect with you again. I have started falling in love with your tickling drops once again! Though today, as I watch you falling onto the ground shouting with joy, somehow my heart is unable to catch up with you. Life has brought in many revelations before me, some too hard to digest. As realities and truth stand staring at me, I am not able to bring myself to enjoy being with you. Still, your presence does bring a solace to my heart. My tear drops find so many companions in yours. I now know why Charlie Chaplin said of you, “I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”

Today, as my life is nearing its dusk, I want to look back at those days spent in playing with you, not opening the umbrella to get soaked in your embrace, screaming at the sight of earthworms and laughing all the way with friends in your company. I want to say a big ‘Thank you’ for being with me in joy and sorrow just as a true partner would. Can I ask you, my dear friend, if tomorrow I decide to break free from all earthly bonds and set out all alone into this cruel world, would you hold me and take me in your embrace to your home and make me the source of one of your drops so that I can accompany you wherever you go?

Here, my friend, I come...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The olive lining through the cloudburst

Uttarakhand tragedy has hit the nation hard. The fury of nature did not spare anyone, locals, tourists or even animals. Such calamities can never be measured in terms of quantity; a life lost is a life lost. There can be no other terms to describe the loss. But what give us, humans, a hope is the hundreds of kind stories that evolve from such a devastating situation. Stories of people helping each other despite being helpless themselves are the ones that give you a hope about humanity. In the Uttarakhand calamity, what made all Indians smile and take pride in being Indian was the Indian Defence Personnel’s act of courage rescuing thousands stranded in different corners of Kedarnath.
These men in uniform were doing everything they could – being doctors, counsellors, teachers, sons, construction workers building roads and bridges and even a ‘bridge’ to help out.

We all crib about our jobs, our daily routine and even our life in general and here were these men who with a smile on their lips and determination written all over their face struggling day and night to see that the flood victims were evacuated to safety.  Were it not for the defence personnel, God alone would have known what would have happened to the rescue efforts. While the army, air force, IBTF men were leaving no stone unturned to rescue and evacuate victims, the politicians were as usual busy blaming each other and looking for publicity even in the face of such a catastrophe. It was rather annoying to see certain leaders taking an aerial survey of the situation seated inside a lavish aircraft. An irony that speaks of the two Indias that we often talk about! One that is covered in luxury, and the other seeking a miracle to survive yet another day.

The men in uniform, though, continued what best they could do – reach out – they were even in non accessible areas disregarding their own safety. Then tragedy struck them too in the form of a helicopter crash that took away precious lives of not just the victims but even the rescuers. Promising lives were lost forever. 

There were supporting voices for our men on social media, print and television. Then what? Their heroic and humane deeds will be forgotten and again life will turn to ‘normal’. These warriors will continue their ‘task’ somewhere else without any safety measures, without any additional perks or without anyone even noticing their valour. Shouldn’t we as a nation stand up to our defence forces? Shouldn’t these men and women get a far better life, both in the forces and outside? Shouldn’t they family be protected and looked after forever by the government? Corrupt politicians in India immersed in wealth and splendour hardly care about the welfare of anyone except themselves. What concern will they show to these men who are the real heroes? Though the defence forces do their best to take care of their personnel, we, as citizens, too should pitch in whatever way we can.  Respect these men and show the respect in constructive ways. Take a cue from their life and reach out to those who need help. Be good, responsible law abiding citizens and perhaps that will be our best tribute. Meanwhile, our boys will continue their task regardless of anyone being inspired by their act or not!