Saturday, June 25, 2005


A Satire on the Malayalam Film Industry

Whenever actor, writer Sreenivasan picks up the pen and writes a script, one expects the movie to turn out well. His stories are simple and more often than not, there are characters that one can identify with. Udayananu Tharam (UT), the latest film penned by Sreenivasan is no different. One of the very few good films to come out in Malayalam in recent times, Udayananu Tharam is a satire on the film industry.

The story is about a struggling assistant director Udayabhanu (Mohanlal), who has ambitions of directing a film himself. He writes a winning script and is just about ready for the venture. Sreenivasan plays Rajappan, a struggling actor, who steals and sells Udayan's script to a top producer on condition that he will play the hero. The film creates wonders at the box office and Rajappan becomes a movie icon. Udayabhanu in the meantime, nurtures his hatred against Rajappan and gets the opportunity to exact revenge when ironically he gets to make his first film with Rajappan as the hero, thanks to the kind hearted producer Baby Kutty (Mukesh) who has faith in the abilities of Udayabhanu. Rajappan becomes impossible to direct thanks to his superstar tantrums on the sets. Will Udayabhanu complete his dream film and will he succeed in doing so? These answers form the crux of the latter half of the film.

UT succeeds in showing the intricacies of movie making. It depicts the struggles and travails of the producer and director from the time they decide to get the right stars to work in the film, managing the film without it going over budget, keeping a regular check on the dates of the actors involved so as to finish all their shots before it is too late and a final race against time to complete the film and get the movie shown in the theatres on the promised date. UT also works showing the idiosyncrasies and the colossal egos of the stars and how they become difficult to manage. It attempts ample digs at the mallu film industry and succeeds because of the refreshing humor, which only Sreenivasan can so convincingly tell in his scripts.

Newcomer Rosshan Andrrews makes an impressive debut as a director. I particularly liked the way he handled the climax of the film that could easily have gone awry. The music of the film by Deepak Dev is hummable although UT lacks any one great track. A special mention for very good camera work by S Kumar.

Coming to the performances;Meena as the female lead is not half as convincing as the male leads but she does a fair job of looking the part. Mukesh is his usual pleasing self and shares a great on screen camaraderie with Mohanlal. Jagathy Sreekumar in the brief cameo is brilliant. Probably one of the best character actors in India today, Jagathy proves that it doesn’t always take a large role to leave an impression. Mohanlal in the title role is very convincing and brings back some of his old magic. Although the performance is not in the same league as some of his earlier films, I am thankful that he has come out of the “larger than life hero" image which was becoming impossible to bear with each passing film. Very rarely does a supporting actor steal the show from the lead actor and I think the movie belongs to Sreenivasan. As the obnoxious struggling star that steals the script to the superstar whom everybody loves to hate, Sreenivasan delivers as only he can. To call him brilliant would be an understatement. If as a scriptwriter, he is innovative, then he tops this with a superlative perfomance as an actor.

Don’t expect a masterpiece in UT; watch it just to convince yourself that good films are still being made in Malayalam although not with the same frequency as a few years back.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Sania - A Star in the Making

"Remember the name,We are going to hear a lot more about her.'' These were the words uttered by commentator John Barrett of BBC after Sania Mirza's match yesterday at Wimbledon. Though Sania lost, I think she made the tennis fans take notice of her talent.

I was watching Sania for the first time and was truly impressed. I think she has the potential to be among the best. She has incredible ground strokes, especially on the forehand side. She was unfazed by the occasion yesterday and showed amazing temperament for an 18 year old. As Vijay Amritraj commented, if she can improve her serve and volleying skills by some amount, she will be a force to reckon with. It's still early days for her and I definitely feel she can be a top-10 player. I do hope that over exposure to the print and electronic media does not damage her promising career.

She created history of sorts yesterday. Sania became the first Indian woman to play a singles match at Centre Court and also the first Indian (among both men and women) in two decades to play a singles match at the same court.

Friday, June 17, 2005


"Keep in Touch"

It’s been a little over five months since I bumped into an old friend of mine. We had lost track of each other at some point and were glad to find each other again. When we departed after exchanging contact details, I remember exactly what we mouthed to each other in unison: “Keep in Touch”. I haven’t heard from him since.

Then this other day, a colleague sent a goodbye mail. As usual, there were these three ostensibly ubiquitous words to finish off the mail with the link to the personal mail id.

“Keep in Touch” : these are words probably written or spoken at will in mails or when we have to part from friends or relatives. It seems to me so puerile that most of the time, we use it as a formality and never with any clear-cut intentions. It’s absurd that we use it at all and make it sound a big farce

I guess there’s always this initial inertia to keep in touch. It’s like the hesitation in taking that big first step towards achieving anything important. Or is it because of something that occurred to me just as I type this that we never actually “Keep in Touch”. I realize on dissecting these three words that the onus is on the other person to make the first move. I mean we never say, “I want to keep in touch”, do we? So the person who uses this sentence is not at fault, since it’s always up to the receiver to get into the act.

So the next time we part with someone or have to send a goodbye mail, it would be apt if we candidly put forth the condition along side. Something like “I want to keep in touch, but only if you would be so nice as to do the needful first” :)

Friday, June 10, 2005


Yesterday That Year

As I write this, I ponder if this space deserves mention of something that happened twenty-six years back on the ninth day in the month of June. But then, I think again and realize that who else but me will get away with touching upon this point :-). Well, so what is that something that I yearn to mention? Nothing really spectacular except that exactly twenty-six years back in a small town called Palghat in Kerala, I came into existence, or to use a more clichéd term, I was “BORN”.

So what is the spark or the driving force that makes me post this? Well, it was because of a phone call from a friend that I received yesterday morning. This friend has an uncanny knack of asking questions one least expects in moments like these. So along with the usual birthday wishes that accompany every such call, he asks me a question that makes me reflect and write this. The question was something like “What have you learnt from your life so far?”

The answer: I can think of umpteen “learnings” and the fact there are this many lessons learnt in life makes me realize that one never stops learning. Everyday, every moment that you live does teach you something. It’s really up to each of us whether to imbibe something from it or to ignore it completely. I also feel that age has nothing to do with your aptitude for learning. With age, I guess you grow more sagacious or you want to show others your sagacity and this impedes upon your learning prowess. A quote I read sometime back accurately sums up the point I am trying to make.

”Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.”

Saturday, June 04, 2005



I have observed people greet others in different ways. While I resort to a simple "hi" on most times, I have been forced to change my style of greeting depending on the situation. For instance, there is this guy whom I meet every morning and he says "Hi" just like I do but its barely audible and since you dont have to be much of a lip reader to decipher this, its ok.

Some of us are known to be of few words. Therefore, to actually get out a simple "Hi" or "Hello" is an ordeal. So this other chap does what he knows best. He raises his eyebrow as if to say "Here you are again" . This has become something of a habit, therefore i relent and I am now greeting him his way.

One guy whom I keep running into believes all this is a waste of time. For instance, this other day,I met him after a week and the moment he sees me he says without preamble, "Saw the match. Wow, at last a win, eh?". No "hi" "byes" for this fella.

Its incredible how when you encounter a myriad of people everyday that some linger on in memory more than some others do.One such character( I don’t remember his name) used to be at the place where I used to work.I did not meet him often, just two three times before he was sent on deputation elsewhere. His style of greeting was to shake hands. Well, that’s not odd at all but this guy never used to look at you when shaking hands but would look down at the handshake. It was almost as if he had no sense of contact and had to actually look down to make sure we were indeed shaking hands :).


Henin's Backhand

Whatever is the outcome of today' s French Open final, one thing that I can say with certitude is that Justine Henin-Hardenne has the most awe-inspiring backhand in the women's game. Ever since I first started watching her play, I have seen her win matches with that devastating backhand even when all other shots of hers weren't working. Now that the single handed backhand is a rarity in both the men and women's version of tennis, Henin's backhand is perhaps the best I have seen. I have often wondered if she can keep this going for long because of the pace at which she strikes the ball, but even after a year long hibernation from tennis, this is one aspect of her game that hasn't changed at all. I guess this is also in a way because she goes for the line every time and even when the opponent does manage to cover this shot, she has the open court to finish of the point.

She has also worked on her forehand side and although it's not as destructive, it's something which she has added to her armory. She is also not mentally fragile and is a good big match player.All this put together would make her a tough player to beat in the forthcoming matches.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Darrowby and The World of James Herriot

Readers, call it lacuna in my mind for lack of any new articles to post or a subterfuge to promote my favorite writer, I am re-writing this blog with a few changes. Hoping for a few comments this time around :-).

Being an avid reader, I am very often disappointed when some favorite writer of mine writes a real trashy book. I am unable to comprehend, why he/she would deteriorate to this level. I generally compare some of their earlier works to this one and try to analyse where they went wrong. I also conclude at times that the same writer could never have written this book.

The only exception to this is a writer who hasn't written a great deal. Each book of his( that I have read so far) is a gem. The first time I laid my hands on his book was some 10 years back when I had nothing else to read and this long neglected book( with its nearly tattered cover) was at my desk begging to be picked up. As I began reading the book I was transported into the beautiful world of Darrowby, its innumerable characters, be it animal or human stood out in this picturesque world so poignantly described. The book was "Vet in a Spin" and the writer James Herriot.

James Herriot, a pen name for one James Alfred Wight was a veterinary doctor who wrote of his exploits. His works are autobiographical and an absolute delight to read. What I find appealing in his books is the joy he seems to get in his job. This is very apparent in his writings. Probably thats the reason why he inspired many people to take up a veterinary career. His works also indicate that he was an acute observer and a great judge of character. Each chapter is a short story in itself, some really funny, some heart-rending especially when he has to put an animal to sleep since it carries a fatal disease and recovery is impossible. Stories of his end sometimes with a very signifcant one liner which stays with the reader for a long time. For instance, at the end of one chapter he says( not verbatim)- "This incident taught me one important thing, people are not how they seem to appear". Herriot was a big fan of the Yorkshire countryside- the description of the valleys and trees of Darrowby filled all his books, when he used to drive for miles in the worst weather to treat animals on farms.

Herriot's works are easy to identify with probably because he dosent portray himself as infallible. There were occasions when he hasnt been able to diagnose diseases because these maladies were unheard of during his time( iam talking of the 1940s and 1950s) and lack of quality medicines which are available now werent at hand then. On other occasions its the fear that accompanies every job( that of not being sure if its the right way to do it) that is so well described.

As I mentioned before, Herriot didnt write a great deal. His first book "All Creatures Great and Small" , brought him instant recognition. For all this fame, Herriot believed in living life without being exposed to the limelight of a bestseller author.He tried to protect his real identity for a long time without success. To all the reporters and people who finally tracked him down, he had one thing to say "If a farmer calls me to a sick animal, he couldn't care less if I were George Bernard Shaw."

Herriot died in 1995.

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