Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buckle up... you are worth a lot!

Why should I wear the seat belt? We are in the city, and you are not going to be driving fast....

Its so uncomfortable.. there is no cops around. Why should I pull that this over?

I'll hold it over.. there is no checking. 

These are among the few common statements that I get when people are asked to buckle up - wear their seatbelts. I've seen people getting irritated when asked to buckle up. At many points, I declare blunt - buckle up, else we ain't moving.

Wearing seat belt is often seen as an offensive by the so-called modern and literate society in India. Although there exists a law mandating all passengers to wear seat belts, it is at best implemented selectively. Only front seat passengers are forced to wear seatbelt - and in many cases people wear them only when entering city limits or police hotspots, and remove the moment they leave the zone - as if they are doing a favour to the police.

Please wear the seatbelt the moment you sit in a Car - irrespective of whether you are in the front seat or at the rear. Lives are very precious, and it isn't fair to leave them on road.

Seatbelts and Helmets are the most hated stuff by drivers in our country - its not uncommon to see guys wearing helmets on their hands, or better still leave it hanging on the mirror - afterall, the mirror is more precious than their head. The police have come up with an interesting phrase:

Omlet aakan njan ille, helmet itte odikkoo (Translation: I don't want to become an omlette. Will drive only with a helmet).

A very amusing sentence, but conveys a sad reality of what could happen to one's head in case of accident!

See this video to know how important Seat belts are:

I stop my post with the video above. (Video taken from YouTube: Copyright rests with the original creator)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

China Town.. No Warranty!

This year's Vishu set a battle between the two big M's of Malayalam Cinema. I had the mis-fortune of watching one of them - and have no energy left to watch the other.

How many times would have seen Suraj portraying a local goon, getting beaten by every tom-dick-and-harry in town, and finally getting thrown around? I have lost count of seeing him in such roles. Back in the 90s, Jagathy Sreekumar had specialised in such roles, and Suraj seems to take over the crown from Jagathy. (Jagathy is a classic actor, and he is beyond comparision with any other actor today in the industry).
China Town is an attempt by Rafi Mecartin, who are known for good Comedy-Suspense movies, to re-create their magic. The movie is yet another multi-starrer, featuring Mohanlal, Dileep and Jayaram. The movie falters right from scene 1, and is no where near the magic of Rafi-Mecartin Movies of the past. China Town follows an age-old thread of dad getting killed by don, and son getting out to revenge the don. The only difference here is that, three dads get killed, and their sons are on the prowl.

The movie starts off with a flashback scene - set in 1986 in a place called China Town in Goa. The dads run a casino is Goa (Goa is the only state in India, where Gambling is still legal), called Four Star. They get killed brutally by a don, Gowda (Pradeep Rawat, of Ghajini fame). There are four partners, of which three get killed. The Fourth partner, Gomez, returns years later (played by Captain Raju) and starts a new Casino. He finds out the sons of his lost partners, and bring them back to Goa. The sons, Mathukutty (Mohanlal), Zachariah (Jayaram) and Binoy (Dileep) then get on the prowl to take revenge on Gowda.
Mathukutty is a local goon, while Zachariah is a broke businessman. Binoy is a serial lover who goes behind any girl he sees. The introduction scene of Mohanlal is comical, and the actor has shown his dedication in most of the scenes. Dileep plays the same old comical lover in his introduction scenes. The heroines in the movie, Kavya Madhavan, Poonam Bajwa and Dipasha, do not have much to do, other than dance around with the heros. The first half of the movie is rollicking, with lots of slapstick comedy and the heros shouting out aloud at each other. Suraj plays the comic don yet again - getting beaten and thrown around by our heros! A good majority of the scenes in the movie seems to have been copied straight from a few older movies - especially the scene where Dileep plays a paralysed guy in front of a girl (Dipasha) only to get beaten by Mathukutty and Zachariah, and still act like nothing has happened.

The second half is outright confusing and abrupt. All the suspense, as they call it, happens in the second part. The second half has a lot of drunken brawls, confusion in every scene, and infighting. Suraj offers a white powder to the heros, which induces "dementia" to the hero and confusion ensues. Finally the movie ends abruptly, so abruptly and people were still gaping at the screen! Imagine seeing "Directed by blah blah" all of a sudden on the screen! But wait - there were more things happening even as the end credits start rolling - the background score seemed as if it was recorded at some  theatre, with lot of people shouting at each other!
Mohanlal has proved that he is one dedicated actor - the actor has performed dance sequences with utmost ease. Lalettan feels at home as he dances on screen. The heroines have been totally wasted in the movie. The movie shows a warning which reads "We do not support atrocities against women" (or something like that - the warning is apt, since the roles the ladies play in the movie is more of an atrocity! They have nothing to do, but play eye-candy! The two northies in the movie Pradeep Rawat and Bharat Dabholkar do exactly what bollywood actors do in Malayalam - they speak in malayalam to the characters in the movie, but they talk to each other in Hindi! And, the whole of Goa speaks Malayalam!! Quite of lot of the intro scenes were shot in a set - and that was obvious everywhere.

Last but not the least: Dileep has done a very decent role - he feels at home while playing that stupid romeo. There are quite a lot of humorous scenes, thanks to him. Suraj has portrayed that local goon character for the nth time, but he has done it decently. Overall the movie lacks any logic - but if you love Slapstick comedy, this is the movie for you. The story ends abrupt - perhaps the script writers did not find an apt ending, and had to meet the deadline.

Verdict: I'd rate it a 3 on 5 (7.5 on 10). Leave your brains at home, and laugh your stomach out! Go for it if you are looking at laughter riot.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Generosity from Kallada...

Some of you would have read about my misadventure on a Kallada bus to Madurai (for the uninitiated, read it here). After a tiring and sleepless journey to Madurai, I decided it was enough, and shot off a mail to Kallada Travels. I wasn't expecting any reply, but decided to go ahead to vent my frustration. After hitting the Send button, I went on with my work in Madurai. It had rained badly the previous night, and the city was horribly dirty.

In the evening, I headed straight to the Kallada office at Madurai, and asked if they could get me a refund. They said it was not possible, and I needed to contact their Cochin office. I had no other go, but resign to fate. I reached my room towards night, and opened my Gmail inbox - only to be surprised! The official at Kallada had replied! He apologised for the inconvenience, and offered a free ticket for my return journey!

A couple of days before my return journey, I headed to the travel agent (the sole selling agent for Kallada in Madurai) to process my freebie. I called up the contact at Kallada, and the agent spoke to him directly.  I was quickly issued a ticket for my journey - the "ticket" was a marking on the booking chart - there was no document.

On the day, er! Night, of journey - March 02, 2011, I checked out my room, had dinner and proceeded towards "Complex" bus station - situated near Periyar Bus Station. As I entered the bus station, I saw the Kallada bus (KL-45-E-4100) parked, all set to head to Madurai. The crew were no where to be seen. I walked towards the office. The agent asked me to wait. He called up the Kallada office in Ernakulam once again, and confirmed my seat - I was issued a boarding pass very quickly. The Boarding pass read my seat number as "12 (F/S)". Around 21:25, the agent sent a person to escort us to the bus.

By now, the bus was opened. I left my baggage in compartment below the passenger deck, and then got in to the bus. I remembered that I did not have water with me, and got off to get a bottle. I boarded the bus just as the driver switched on the engine - the bus was vibrating badly. I got in and settled at my  seat - just when I realised that there were no bottle holders! Had a tough time keeping the bottle. By now a recent Malayalam comedy flick was played on TV. There were all of 11 passengers in the 41 seater bus - Kallada is not doing great on the route for sure.

The clock ticked past 2145 - there was no sign of our bus moving. In the meantime, more passengers joined the bus. We started moving at around 2210 - 40 minutes behind schedule. But the driver was still sure of arriving Ernakulam by 6 AM. The bus ran through Arasaradi, and then through the "ring road", to finally enter the 4-Laned highway. Once on the highway, the driver started ripping off - but the speeds weren't very high. The bus was an 8-year old, and clearly showed signs of aging. The seats were in good shape - thankfully.

The ride got choppy after we exited the highway at Dindugal, and entered the road towards Pollachi. The road was in bad shape at many places - especially at Level crossings. I fell asleep soon after crossing Oddanchathiram. I woke up when the bus was running through Kuthiran - the road was too harsh here, and all the unevenness of the road was passed on to the passengers. I slept again - and woke up around 4 in the morning, when the bus stopped at Thrissur to unload parcels. I slept again, and woke up only when we reached Aluva. One passenger got off at Aluva. I got off at Edappally - the driver was co-operative enough to drop me exactly where I wanted. He parked the bus on the roadside, and got the luggage compartment opened. Walked a little, and got my car to head home!

Notes: The breakdown, and the helplessness of the crew was certainly a big black mark on their service. But, their complimentary ticket offer did go a long way in calming me down. The buses are not in very good shape - afterall, they've outlived most of their expected life. The buses rattle like nobody's business - the ride quality is badly compromised as well. However, the Kallada service is a God's gift to many people who travel from Ernakulam to Madurai and back, very frequently. Kallada certainly needs to improve their customer care badly - they no longer enjoy monopoly on any of their routes.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Urumi - a real masterpiece

This was a hatrick of rare sorts for me.. watching a movie every weekend for three weeks in a row. Another specialty was watching all the three movies that released over the past 20 days, watching all movies within 3-4 days of release. The first two weeks had very average movies, while this week takes the cake with a masterpiece. Yes - Am talking of Santosh Sivan's magnum opus, the second costliest movie in Malayalam, Prithviraj's own production - Urumi.
I must admit I purchased tickets for this movie with huge expectations - and I wasn't disappointed even a bit. The past two movies of Santosh Sivan - Ananthabhadram and Raavanan (he was the cinematographer for this one), were gripping. While Ananthabhadram literally scared the wits out of me, Raavanan had jaw-dropping visuals and was an excellent piece of cinematography. I watched the movie at the recently renovated Asoka A/C DTS hall in Kodungallur. I was amazed to see that the hall was full (packed to capacity) for a noon-show on a Sunday! All seats were sold - and patrons were in well before the show began.

The common talk about the movie is that this piece of work talks about a boy who wanted to kill Vasco-Da-Gama. Given this 'concept' one would expect this movie to be in the lines of Pazhassiraja (the MT Vasudevan classic, starring Mammootty). But, Santosh Sivan had something different in mind - Urumi is a fiction movie based on a few historical incidents. The script is very convincing, and has been presented in a very interesting and gripping way. The movie revolves around two easy-go youth, Krishnadas (played by Prithviraj) and his friend (played by Prabhudeva), who are in deep financial mess. A big corporate offers him a grand sum for his ancestral property. The story unfurls as a flashback, when Krishnadas goes to his native to sell off the property.

The main story is set in the 1500s, when Vasco da gama 'discovers' India. The movie portrays the cruelty unleashed by the Portuguese on the locals. The movie talks of some incidents that have not been heard of in the past. The central character in the movie is played by Prithviraj (playing Kelu Nayanar). He is ably supported by his child hood friend Prabhudeva (playing Vavvali). Prabhudeva plays a witty role, and his mannerisms were well appreciated by the audience. Kelu Nayanar is a brave hero, with the sole ambition of killing Vasco Da Gama (played by Robin Pratt). Kelu's father (Chirakkal Kothuwal, played by Arya) was brutally killed by Vasco Da Gama, which instills the fire in Kelu to kill Vasco. Kelu makes a golden Urumi (a double sided flexible sword made of metal) to kill Vasco. The movie revolves around Kelu's brave attempts to kill Vasco, and whether he succeeds in his aim is the suspense.

During the course of his ambition, Kelu comes across Chirakkal Ayesha (played by Genelia D'Souza). Genelia plays an unusual role, far from the regular bubbly roles that we are used to seeing from her. Genelia does an amazing job as well - traces of he bubbly character does surface once in a while, but she has taken efforts to portray the role with utmost seriousness. Amol Gupte plays an important role in the movie, as Chirakkal Thampuran who plays to the tunes of his minister Chenichery Kurup (Jagathy Sreekumar). Jagathy was performed excellently as a man with womanish body language. Tabu plays a cameo in the movie, appearing only in one song sequence. Vidya Balan plays Makkom who appears in a song - an item number of different sorts. Nithya Menon plays Chirakkal Bala who is impressed by Vavvali. She perfoms an amazing song flawlessly, and steals the show most of the time.

The cast is huge, with lot more characters coming in and going out often - the movie has actors from most states in India, and all of them have been brought under the umbrella very well by Santosh Sivan. The songs in the movie is done by Deepak Dev. There are 7 songs in the movie, interspersed between scenes in an excellent manner. The number of songs appears high for a movie dealing with a serious subject, but the songs have been used well to support the script. The re-recording is excellent - background music has been scored really well. I did feel some resemblance to a particular song from the movie Guru at many places - especially the song featuring Vidya Balan.
Dialogues are crisp - really crisp. There are quite some vulgar references - but all in chaste language. The dialogues impart natural humour - without the conventional slapstick methods. The dialogues surely had the hall blast off in laughter. The dialogues are written in the typical accent of Northern Malabar. Dubbing artists have perfomed excellently - lip syncing for the non-malayalee actors have been done excellently. Prabhudeva dubs himself for this role - which is a malayalam speaking tamilian character.

The movie is a masterpiece in all respects. At 170 minutes, the movie grips viewers to the edge of their seat through the movie. This movie is certainly not for people who are looking only to laugh through the movie - this one is a serious masterpiece. The movie has comedy, romance, thrills, suspense, all laced with in flavour of revenge. The movie has been made in an unconventional format - a period drama without too much emphasis on the minute historical details, made in an easy to comprehend format. There are no bombastic dialogues, no over reacting hero playing to the gallery every time or unwarranted cheap comedy. Actors have been cast very well - all characters have a well defined role to play, and have done a very justifiable job.
 The movie talks from an unseen point of view - talking from the point of the oppressed.The cinematography shows the seas from an unseen angle. The angles are swift, taken brilliantly. The cinematography has the Santosh Sivan stamp everywhere. So intro scenes resembled Ananthabhadram, while some other scenes resemble Raavanan. My only grouse about the movie is the choice of location.  The movie is shot in jaw dropping locales, but the surroundings hardly resemble Kerala. The greenery was so typical of rural Maharashtra, and terrain no where near that of Kerala. I hoped Santosh had considered the forest range around Chalakkudy for this movie - that would have effortlessly portrayed Kerala. Malshej Ghat (in Thane District of Maharashtra) is no doubt an excellent place!

Overall: Excellent Cinematography, jawdropping visuals, magical images, a first-rate script, deadly action, energy packed timeless story - one movie that people would love watch through.

Rating: 9 on 10 - strictly from a common viewer's point of view. I am not a movie critic by profession, and hence the review is from a viewer's point.