Sunday, 29 August 2010

Movie Review: Oru Pennum Randaanum

Adoor Gopalakrishnan's "Oru Pennum Randaanum" is a compilation of four separate short stories, written by prominent Malayali writer Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. The film has been set in the 1940s and it succeeds in taking the viewer to those times, which we all know about from the history books, old movies and of course, from the anecdotes of those who lived then.

The stories have been titled "Kallante Makan", "Niyavum Neethiyum", "Oru Koottukaran" and "Pankiyamma". The anguish of a young kid, who has to bear the brunt of living as the son of a robber (M.R. Gopakumar), is the theme of Kallante Makan. Niyamavum Neeyathium zooms in on an old police station where two corrupt constables (played by Nedumudi Venu and Jagannathan) finds some easy ways to solve certain cases.

"Oru Koottukaran" says the story of a lawyer (Jagadeesh) who is trying to help his friend (Sudheesh), a student to get rid of his secret lover's unwanted pregnancy. "Pankiyamma" narrates the story of a young, beautiful woman who has some men dancing to her tunes, fighting each other for her love. Her middle-aged husband (Ravi Vallathol), is besotted with the ample charms of Pankiyamma (Praveena) and she loves him as well. But at the same time, Pankiyamma has a secret lover (Manoj K. Jayan), who also believes that she loves him the most.

One of the highlights of Oru Pennum Randaanum is that Adoor narrates the stories, which handles complex emotions, in a simple way. It works perfectly well without the characteristic slow pace, silence or the overtone of philosophy. The actors have come up with fine some performances and the director has used mainstream actors including comedians in an intelligent manner.

Of all the performances, perhaps it is Praveena, who stands out with a stellar performance. She has performed the complex character of Pankiyamma with an amazing finesse and confidence. During these times when female characters are often limited to the kind where they have to look pretty and dance to the tunes of the hero, her character is remarkably strong.

M.J. Radhakrishnan's camera work has done wonders, while the music by Issac Thomas suits the mood of the film quite well. Adoor Gopalakrishnan has always been known to maintain high standards in technical aspects, like sounds and costumes for instance, which is very evident in the film.

The four stories are independent in nature and have only been related by its genre, crime. Oru Pennum Randaanum is certainly a genuine attempt that takes new-age Malayalam cinema to a different level. Watch it to appreciate the sincerity that has gone into its making! On the ratings scale, four out of five.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Sister's Day Out...

With Raksha Bandhan coming up, I thought the most natural topic for this week would be my young cousin sister Nikita Subramani! Nikita and I are seven years apart and though we don't live in the city we are perhaps even closer now that she is occupied with her studies and other things.

To begin with, we have never been very close since we meet each other annually. I'd like to believe that fate brought us closer. I remember as kids we used to fight over such silly and worthless issues like Bombay v/s Bangalore. Typically, we would meet whenever there were outings or family functions and I would make sure that I pampered and troubled her thoroughly and her group of friends!

Eventually, we started growing more and more distant but it was Nikita who first took the initiative of calling me up every weekend. She has always been a great sister and a huge support structure to fall back on. I have always been exacting and have high standards that I judge myself and it's Nikita who always steps in and told me to "just be". Her biggest complaint is that I'm too harsh on myself! Point accepted.

As kids, we were particularly fascinated with this song "So Ja Chanda" from Mission Kashmir. I was mainly fascinated by the singer and she because of the lullaby-like melodyIt still makes me smile with the innocence she used to come and ask me to play the song on the tape-recorder so that she could fall asleep as she was the younger one. I still remember the smile on her face which used to reflect on her face as a baby.

There are two passions we indulge together, the first love being our craze for samosas and chocolates. We both run like kids when it comes to samosas and chocolates whenever we get an opportunity. All things said and done, there's nothing as amazing as having a sister although we're not the best examples of siblings. I'm proud to have Nikita as my sister :).

P.S.: The girl in question is my cousin sister Nikita :)

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Be A Freedom Fighter

"It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you." Any person who has lived through the traumatic two years between 1975 and 1977, when the Indian Emergency was imposed by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi will mention this point.

Today, as we celebrate our sixty-third year of Independence, something occured to me. Most of us have no clue what it means to not be independent. We were born free and have always been fortunate enough to take it for granted. We don't know what it's like to live with tyranny and we've never felt the frustration and despair that comes attached with it.

In school and my junior college years, I had the opportunity to study history. I wasn't the topper or anything of the sort but I was pretty interested in the subject. I remember the way I used to feel when I read about the struggle for independence from the British Raj. The laws and taxes imposed by the British in our country were nothing short of discriminatory and insane. It was plain for all to see. All except the people who were in power. I'm sure you are aware that salt was taxed. Just imagine eating food without salt. It used to drive me into a tizzy just merely imagining about it, so, would you be able to imagine what it was like for the people who actually lived in that era? No wonder, the entire nation united as one and rebelled. They were pushed to the breaking point.

The entire country consisting of ordinary middle-class people like you and me, stood up and fought for their rights and even though we don't exactly how many of them actually contributed to the freedom struggle as no statues or monuments were built to honour them, they were ultimately freedom fighters. Each one is responsible for the freedom we enjoy today. These people fought and died for the chance to do something that we can do today: choose the candidates who will lead India by voting thus ensuring we will have a better tomorrow.

I'm afraid that we have forgotten the sacrifices made not so long ago. By our grandparents and our parents. We lived free for all our lives and have never had to defend our freedom from anyone. Thus, we have lost the value for it. It no longer seems like something that needs to be cherished or even maintained. But the truth is, it must be maintained.

We do have to stand up and take responsibility for the state of our country today and the state it will be in years from now. Whether you realize it or not, that power is divided equally amongst every single one of us. It's really up to you; are you going to continue sitting back and be content with what we have? Or will you uphold the tradition of those nameless freedom fighters who fought for something larger themselves: their country? On that note, here's wishing you: Happy Independence Day!!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Left, right or centre?

You are full of questions in a distant land. But one question that haunts you in the first few days in a new place is 'right or left?' No, it's not about your political leanings.

It is a simple question that a cabbie might ask you once he senses that you are new to the place and wants to test his instinct by asking if he needs to turn right or left to reach your destination. You would try and say, "take the shortest possible route", confirming the taxiwallahs doubts and making his day.

My sister made an interesting observation about how to tackle this question. "When a taxiwallah in Bombay asks 'left or right', always choose the left," she advised.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

You've Got To Find What You Love

Steven Paul Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computers, delivered this commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University, USA.

Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months before I really called it quits. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms. I returned Coke bottles for the 5 cents deposits to buy food with, and I would walk seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Here's one example: Reed College offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about what makes great typography great.

Ten years later, when we were designing the first Mackintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. If I had never dropped in on that course in college the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or for that matter even proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied Mac, it's likely no personal computer would have them. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very clear looking backwards 10 years later.

You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, your destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz (Steve Wozniak) and I started Apple when I was 20. In 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into $2 billion company. And then I got fired. It was devastating. But something slowly began to dawn on me--I still loved what I did. And so I decided to start over.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar is now the world's most successful animation studio. Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.

My third story is about death. About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is a doctor's code for "prepare to die". I had lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy. It turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I can get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you: Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma--which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalogue. In the final issue, on the back cover they put a photograph of an early morning country road. Beneath it were the words: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. It was their farewell message as they signed off. I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.