Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Yes, the title is a preemptive tactic against charges of me being only superficially informed and the subject not being properly researched. I write this before I read all those editorials in hard and soft media, on the quiet and peaceful dignity with which the people of Egypt drove out an autocratic ruler who had the backing of the mighty big brother and the small brother who piggy rides on him. It's an emotional response, i admit. But i would like to have it out before my feelings are tempered by common sense.
“Amazing, isn’t it Sunny, that for 18 long days such a huge movement should remain bloodless, that too after the efforts of pro Mubarak miscreants to trigger off violence?” I told my husband.
“I guess’, he said, “it has something to do with the fact that it is a very ancient civilization. The inherent strength is what we saw these past eighteen days.”
I thought he’d hit the nail on the head. Nonviolence is possible only if you are strong. That applies to an individual and a nation. I thought of how Gandhiji baffled the British, both in India and South Africa, with this weapon. It unnerves the opponent – particularly if the opponent has some redeeming human qualities unlike Hitler. Mubarak knew the game was up, particularly since he failed to incite the crowds into violence, which would have given him a reason for suppression.
Today’s newspapers carried pictures of the peopleof Egypt helping the army to clean the 18 days’ mess on the streets of Cairo!
These are a truly evolved people. Wasn’t Nonalignment Nasser’s idea? Was not Egypt the first Arab country to accept the reality called Israel? Anwar Sadat had the foresight to see that Israel had come to stay, and when you cannot avoid the inevitable, it is best to accept it. That’s the only road to peaceful co existence. He took this policy decision knowing fully well it would endanger his life. And it did. He succumbed to an assassin’s bullet like Gandhiji did. Like many champions of non violence, he too had a violent death, sacrificing his life to the idea of a nonviolent Middle-east of tomorrow.
Just a couple of days back, I had to, out of sheer courtesy, listen nonviolently:-) :-( to an Indian citizen cursing Gandhiji for accepting Muslims like brothers. I could have told her that Gandhi was being pragmatic (like Sadat when he went for a truce with Israel). I could have told her that civilizations once evolved through invasions, the violence which followed them and the eventual merging of races comprising the invader and invaded into composite cultures leading to the happy ending of peaceful coexistence . Owing to a historical phenomenon, lakhs of Muslims have become part of India. Gandhi knew that we cannot and should not wish or will our Muslim brothers away. They have as much right to the subcontinent as anyone else. So the best and the right thing to do was to see them as Indians and human beings. That’s the right way out - to make the best of a difficult situation.
But it takes strength born of an inherited inclusive philosophy to rise to such an occasion and address a crisis situation in a nonviolent way.
What happened in Egypt validates the Gandhian method of resistance. Violence strengthens the opponent. Nonviolence disarms them, in every sense of the word.
Today, India seems to have shelved Gandhi. Hence, it is heartening to see another nation following his footprints. The great man would not have lived and died in vain if the middle east became democratic in bloodless coups.
Nostrodamuses of the world have prophesied that the saviour of modern strife torn civilization would rise in the Middle East. Could this be the beginning? Would the fever for democracy that is spreading in the Middle East now result in dispensations that embrace nonviolence? Will Islamic nations which unfortunately had been stigmatized as the breeding ground for violence become the epicenter of a new political philosophy derived from the Gandhian principles of a spiritualised (not religious, please) politics, where ends do not justify means and truth will not be compromised?
One never knows - - - -
I hope the post Mubarak Egypt will not disappoint.
Monday, February 07, 2011
Some are born great, some achieve greatness. I’d always put Maohanlal in the 1st category – a born actor, a natural; and Mamootty in the 2nd. There was a time I would never have believed that hard work and commitment could over take natural talent.
But it can, and it has happened in the case of these two great Malayalam actors.
Mohanlal’s movies of the 80s & early 90s had convinced me that he’d easily be among 10 greatest actors in world cinema. Sanmanasullavarku samaadhanam, Nadodikaatu series, Bharatham, Kireedam, Kilukkam, Chitram, Lal salaam, Manichitrathazhu and, and and - - incredible and extremely sensitive performances from this nonpareil of thespians. A versatile actor, a power performer, a deeply sensitive artist who, with great ease, depicted the nuances of feelings. Watching those movies is an education in acting!
And then something happened. Mohanlal stopped growing, evolving as an actor. He allowed himself to be trapped in stereotyped roles. His mannerism in every frame became predictable, typical. Whether his roles, be they in Baletan or Aeram Tanburan, or narasimhan or Ravanaprabhu, it was Mohanlal all the time - he wouldn’t take that effort to get into the skin of the character. It seemed as though the clear stream of talent, which was on its way to the vast sea and should have been fed by tributaries to grow into a large river, lost its way and got diverted to a tiny little insignificant lake which rarely survived the summer drought.
Mohanlal became repetitious. There was no variety in the roles he played to facilitate the honing of his immense talent. His choice of roles betrayed the overconfidence of a man who felt that he had proved himself as an actor and needed to do nothing more as an artist. His fortes were over exploited to the point of irritating the audience. True, he’s an excellent dancer. But the aging overweight Mohanlal prancing around was no longer a feast to the eyes.
But with Mammooty, it is a different story. That he had huge talent became obvious (to me) in Yavanika. He grew from strength to strength, taking a variety of roles – even negative roles as in Vidhayan. His Thaniyavarhtanam, Ponthan mada, Mrigaya, Valsalyam, are some of the films which testify to the infinite variety that this artist is capable of. His unforgettable performance as Kottayam Kunjachan was strengthened by his phonetic skills to absorb regional dialects and convey them convincingly.
I would say that Mammooty is a better manager of his career. While taking up the roles that would provide him with opportunities to improve his acting skills, he took equal care to keep his box office hits ticking by doing his bit of dashing stereo typed roles as the tough cop, honest lawyer and the champion of the underdog.
His more recent movies like Kazhcha, Loudspeaker, Kaiyoppu, Paleri manikyam show this actor in roles very different from each other. He appears to be evolving with every movie. He performs superbly even in the commercial projects. In some of them he excels in comic roles and does delightful fun characters with his hilarious rendition of the Trivandrum or Trissur dialects. His sensitive performance in the movies of the past decade places him in the category of the best actors going in India.
Of him it can truly be said that age does not wither him or custom stale his infinite variety.
Friday, February 04, 2011
A renowned scriptwriter in Malayalam told me this story as we were traveling in the Parasuram Express chair car.
He (shall we call him Mahavir?) was an English movie buff. I guess scriptwriters are all movie buffs. That’s one source of inspiration for them.
Allow me to deviate for a minute before I continue with the story.
‘Have you read Tess of D’urbeville?”, Mahavir asked me after I introduced myself as a teacher of English Literature.
‘Pokkaan pattiya oru kathayaanelley?’!!!!!? Literally that meant, “It’s a story worth ‘lifting’, eh?”
I stared at him incredulously. Not that I thought all scripts were original; but this guy was so honest and open about it.
I took an instant liking to him, and he proved to be a pleasant unassuming gentleman and an excellent conversationalist during the course of the journey,
Now to come back this story.
He and his wife used to watch the VCR daily, and it invariably used to be English movies. Their little five-year-old son also was part of this little audience. This necessitated having to fast forward certain scenes.
One day, Mahavir and his wife got into a serious discussion of some family matter while watching an English movie on the VCR. A decision had to be taken and they were weighing the pros and cons of the situation. This activity distracted them from the movie and they turned sideways on the three seater settee to be able to look at each other. Their little son sat between them.
The issue got more and more complicated and they lost their bearings completely – till the little boy shouted shrilly, excited, at the top of his panic stricken voice: ‘Papa papa, quick, quick. Fast forward, fast forward. Quick”.
His shouts brought them down to earth and they looked at him pointing to the screen, which showed a steamy scene between two mega Hollywood stars. Mahavir grabbed the remote, but before he could fast forward it do it, the scene was over.
“Chey papa, it over. No point in fast-forwarding it now’, observed the five year old philosophically.
I met this scriptwriter recently, some twenty years later, at a twin theatre. His film was being premiered and he was there to promote it. He came to me when he saw me.
I smiled, impressed that he recognized me after all these years.
“I’ve come to see X movie”, I told him
“Oh, not Y?’ he asked, looking disappointed.
“What’s your interest in Y?’ I asked. I’m laid back on these things. Besides I have a terrible memory. I forget what I read even before I put down the paper.
‘Y is my movie. It’s my script’
‘Ok, shall see it tomorrow. I’ve already bought tickets for the other’.
‘Ok, fine’, he said, and turned away, looking for those who had come to see HIS movie.
“Do you know him?’ asked my friend with whom I’d gone to the theatre.
I told her the story of that train journey.
‘But he didn’t recognize you’, she said.
‘No?’ I asked disappointed. ‘Then why did he come to me smiling, as though he recognized me?’
‘That’s because your face brightened up when you saw him. He thought you recognised him to be the famous Mahavir, the person who had written the script for the movie you’d come to see. Besides, he wanted to promote his movie. After all, he wrote a script after a very long break’.
I knew she was right, and felt a little crestfallen.
Anyway, I told myself. Who do you think you are, Molly? You think you made a lasting impression on him with you showoffy lecture on Tess of D’urberville?
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Mukta was a wonderful person to have around. She was doing her Masters in economics and was my roommate’s classmate. She used to come to our room often and create an impact akin to a whirlwind sweeping through the room.
She had thick eyebrows. By thick i mean really really thick. They joined at the center quite unapologetically, and then took off on both sides really really boldly, straying occasionally like unpruned hedge.
‘Looking at your eyebrows, I’m reminded of a not a very long shot of an eagle in flight’, I told her once.
A banana skin landed on my face without any warning and she went into peals of laughter, thrilled at having hit the bull’s eye.
‘Listen you nut,’, I told her. I’m only trying to tell you that you should try to make some sense out of that overgrowth that you claim are your eyebrows’, I persisted.
‘No way’, she said. ’My boyfriend has no problem with them. So what’s yours?”
“What’s that play you were reading yesterday, Molly?’ that was my room mate Leela.
‘Hairy Ape?’ I asked innocently.
Mukta looked around for something to fling at Leela, and finding nothing, grabbed the chair. Leela pounced on her laughing, saying. “ Hey cool it Mukta. It’s your boyfriend I had in mind – he must be a hairy ape himself to like you like this’.
Mukta swung at her, missed and fell. Soon all three of us were laughing out hearts out.
Our taunting appeared to have had an impact, for, a week later, I found Mukta in our room, sitting with her head flung back and resting on the chair back and Sumi from the next room threading her eyebrows. Sumi finished and we looked at Mukta. The transformation was incredible. Looking into the mirror, Mukta herself declared, with her hands on her cheeks Sushmita Sen style, “Where was all this beauty hiding?”
A week later, as I was running down the step during the lunch break I ran into Mukta. I was flabbergasted at what I saw. I grabbed her shoulders and stared at her incredulously, with my mouth hanging open. She tried to shrug off my hands and asked unpleasantly, ‘What’s it? What do you want? Why you staring at me like that?’
‘Your eyebrows have grown back full steam. I just can’t believe this. Just in one week? It’s simply not possible!’
The students who were going up and down the stairs were looking at us amused. Muktha noticed this. Angrily, she knocked my hands off her shoulders and ran up the steps looking furious.
I stood there looking at her, totally bewildered, confused and what not. Can eyebrows grow back like that in a week’s time? It was as it was before she shaped it a week before! And Muktha’s behaviour! Most unlike her – she who I thought didn’t have an iota of unpleasantness in her personality. What the hell was wrong, I wondered as I looked at her disappearing back. She flung a vicious look at me before she disappeared at the landing to take the next flight of stairs.
To date I haven’t forgiven Muktha for not telling me she had an identical twin doing masters in Fine Arts in the same college. The Fine Arts Department was a separate block from the main college, and those students therefore had an insulated presence in the college.
Nor can I forgive my friend Leela for not warning me about Mukta’s twin - identical in appearance but, in nature and temperament, as different from Muktha as two people could possibly be.
The day after I cornered her sister, Mukta walked into our room grinning from ear to ear, and shaking both her index fingers at me while she chanted happily ‘Serves you right, serves you right, serves you right - - - ‘ with her head bobbing up and down with the rhythmic chant.