Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pope washes off centuries of narrow mindedness

The news of the new Pope washing the feet of women, that too one being Muslim, as part of the rituals has come as a surprising relief to me. I see this as a sign of more relaxation and inclusion from the other wise tight controlled and exclusion oriented policies of the Church.

It was always a pain to see the gap between the real preaching of Christ and what the Church in his name imposed on the believers all around the world.

Compared to Hinduism at least, Christianity was expected to be more humane and based on human conditions rather than rituals and rites. But then in its drive to conquer lands and people's support, they broke all these and went ahead to just bring people under the umbrella of Christianity. The ripple effect of such practices can be seen even to date with lots of mindless rules that excludes people of certain social strata from the Church's ability to improve standard of life.

There has been lots of efforts from many people and associates of the Church to rectify these. But not so much was forthcoming from the higher echelons of the Church. Now, with the new Pope starting off with simple robes and now breaking liturgical rules to reach out to more people,it seems promising and hopeful that more acts of forgiveness,charity and well being would be carried out by the supreme body of Christianity.

From the time I first laid my eyes and mind on the teachings of Christ and the way priests and nuns like Mother Theresa have laid out their entire lives for the well being of the downtrodden without caring much about the rites and rituals of the Church, I have great hope and respect for Christianity. Nurtured in the right way, its teaching could bring a lot of relief to the pain stricken world.

Amen. Wish you all a wonderful Easter season.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amen: a not-so-short review

i was asleep at 7.30pm when I roommate took my confirmation to watch the movie Amen, the show being at 9.45pm. I was hungry and tired, so I forcibly woke myself up at 8.15pm and went to find some food, which turned out to be not such an easy task owing to Holi.

Anyway I returned in half an hour, and then we had to rush as the theatre was 17kms away, and it would take a good half an hour in car to reach there. After lots of rushing and missing stuff, we had to return half way through and go in bikes. Not knowing the route and riding one bike alone, I checked up the route with another guy and managed to reach in time for the title song, in spite of the 50kmph constant speed.

It was at this point that I got to clearly know the name of the movie.

The title song itself was really colourful and full of interesting characters. Not like the usual special effects titles we see nowadays. This was more like a musical drama, with lots of animated characters moving across the screen, depicting the theme and the backdrop of the story itself.

The story is set in an island village, occupied by Christian families and the entire story surrounds these families, the Church, and the music band of this village(Gee Varghese Band). I don't fancy narrating the story in detail as part of the review, because it is quite boring to do so, and gives too many spoilers to people who just want to know whether the movie is good enough to spend their time and money.

So there is this band, which was quite famous and brought lots of laurels to the village. Even the village was known by the name of the band during those days But now, the band was past its glory days owing to a boat accident which killed many of its stalwarts. The son of one such clarinet player is Solomon(Fahad Fasil), the hero of the story. But he hasn't been able to bring out the skills in him into public view yet.

Then there is Sosanna(Swati Reddy) who looks absolutely charming and docile in her role. But looks can be deceiving and she displays the other sides of her character, and that too in quite unexpected fashions that make the audience gasp at the sheer audacity and creativity involved in depicting such scenes. Obviously, she is in love with our hero. Her role and expressions are quite hilarious in many scenes.

Then we have the band falling apart against stiff competition, church politics and local opposition. Everything is wagered against one final competition and then the usual stuff follows.

Another major character is father Vincent Vattoli(Indrajith). His role was really impressive and more colourful than any others, and quite comparable to Sosanna's. He dances, he preaches, he fights, he cracks jokes, and does some wonderful things. He drives the story actively, while all other characters play supporting roles for sometime. Then each character gets to drive the story for sometime. I was impressed by this round-robin fashion. There is no scope for hero worship here.

As with such stories there is the usual angry family, supportive family and local people involved in this story. They all serve no special purpose other than anchoring the story line to a very common one. In spite of that, these characters have been given lots of screen time and punch dialogues, making them more richer than usual supporting roles. It is like how real life usually is. How many of you can say that in your daily life there have been only a handful of characters involved deeply? Especially so with family stories set in rural backgrounds, where everything and anything is shared by a large number of people. I really relished that the supporting roles weren't too cliche.

That's not it, there are still more and more characters coming in , each holding out on there own with individual styles, performances and punch dialogues. The main priest with his villainous expressions, the kappiyar with his cunningness, Davis and Mariamma(with chatta-mundu-shades) from the other band who owns the arch-rival band, the toddy "chethukaaran" who delivers quite a lot of punch dialogues, Clara(Solomon's sister), the French girl Michelle who comes to Kerala to learn music and finds love instead,and so on.. Even Makarant Deshpande of "Yuh Hi Chala" fame pitches in with a very good character and performance.  Its a rain of punch dialogues, funny camera works, intelligent BGM and interesting roles. There is even a song sung for Michelle in broken Malayalam. I consider that to be the zenith of storytelling which departs from the traditional style where everyone gets their song sung by the best background singer, irrespective of how odd it sounds. After all each character has a life, a story and a song in their hearts, sung in their own imperfect ways.

Now that's what I found interesting. There is no better way to entertain and excite people other than deceiving their ability to guess each scene. Maybe the beginning and the end would still fall under the category of the easily guessable ones. But with all these rich characters putting in all this content, you would never be bored, unless of course you are preoccupied with trying to look beyond these. There were some forced jokes,but I felt it was acceptable, given the nature of characters and dialogues already going on in the movie. It is usually when characters move out of their roles and try to produce jokes, that they feel very artificial.


a) Awesome camera work. Though some might get mild headaches with the swaying and twisting shots. Quick movements and funny slow motions add a lot of punch into the scenes.
b) Good title song and climax music
c) Lots of awesome lighting effects
d) Characters are the highlight. Each one is fully developed and has their own effect on the story. Inclusion of  Swati Reddy,Makarant Deshpande and Natasha Sahgal(who is really a NatGeo writer..omg!!) helps to not limit the characters to just the usual cast.
e) Good selection of location and script
f) Hilarious punch dialogues
g) BGM was enchanting at times, fast paced and sometimes quite devotional and rhythmic

a) The attempt to make it a 'musical' comedy. It didn't work out well. The songs were mostly out of place, lengthy and not so inviting.
b) Some roles were not very well developed, and were meant for some jokes.That is actually not so bad either.
c) The devotional tones were over the edge at some points, though very limited.
d) The climax was questionable. There wasn't enough reason for such a twist!

Overall it is a very good "Divine Comedy", as the title claims. Watch it for some good humour, lots of wacky scenes and meaningful sarcasm against the authoritarian nature of religious bodies these days. I rate it 4.2/5.

Monday, March 18, 2013

run baby run..

close your eyes and imagine running in the cold morning in the mist. the feeling of experiencing your warm breath against the cold mist rubbing all over your body. the pain in the muscles tearing your apart from one side.

while the stinging pain in the lungs tearing from another side.the new and fitting running suit hangs around and moves around with each movement of your limb. that is the feeling of being up on the first break of dawn and panting like a horse on the spoiled roads when the dust has  not yet been kicked up the vile traffic.

run like a jet, run like lightning. run at the top of your speed. that is the key to running at the break of dawn. nothing else matters. run till you pant like horse in all senses. let the pain run down and settle things for you. you would never feel better in life. the sad truth is, its been quite a long time since that experience has touched the heart and body alike.

though not good at running, give it your all. you would never have to regret it. that is the best way to begin your day. everything else, as is recommended by others are just substandard.

run .. run like crazy.. run like forrest, run like lola, run like PT usha , run like bolt. tear off the masks of unreality and pierce the limitations of dimensions. run for your life.
(i typed all the above stuff with my eyes closed and only did corrections and added images afterwards. try closing your eyes after reading this..)

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale Experience..

The Muziris-Biennale is coming to a close today . So it is only natural that I spare some time to share some of my thoughts about this great art event that touched the shores of my hometown Kochi.

What is this Biennale that every one in Kochi seems to be talking about? If after all these days, you still wonder about, then read it here. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale gets it name from the famous port Muziris of ancient fame. The truth is, not even many Kochiites knew where or what Muziris was until the Biennale arrived with the strange name. Interestingly, the same information is covered in one the exhibits, which if my memory is right, is named Voices of Silence.

The event had started on 12/12/12 with great pomp and vigour. I was not able to follow most of the developments on this, as I don't keep up with news very actively nowadays. But I was aware that such an event of epic proportions was going on in Kochi and I was looking for chances to go visit it for a long time. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I finally managed to do a 'good-enough' visit, though I must admit, I couldn't catch all the exhibits. sigh..

I will not go into the details of the events or exhibits that you can find in the wiki page or the official website. I prefer to stick to my view, experiences and reaction to some of the exhibits I managed to visit.

Starting off with the main venue, the Aspinwall House. The famous front side(sea facing) was the sure shot attraction.

This was the first piece of art we saw just at the entrance to the Aspinwall house. I don't recall its name and neither was I able to study it in detail. It had something to do with the arrival of explorers through the ports.
The first major exhibit was titled "Dutty Water" by Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan born artist residing in the US. It is about a concept of purity and dirt and how these are equated to women in the society. To bring her point out,  her exhibit displays a set of ladies shoes connected to a network of hoses carrying dirty water, collected from local canals and the backwaters. The level of complexity and the nature of it set the expectations for us. We knew then that we were not going to be experiencing amateur classical art forms here, but complex and abstract stuff.
"Dutty Water" - Wangechi Mutu

 and the famous "Last Supper-Gaza"

Another interesting exhibit is as shown below. I don't know anyone yet who has figured out what the artist has meant out of his/her work. Any guesses?
These exhibits were followed by the huge exhibit covering the issue of forced evictions and violence in areas of Orissa for mining purposes. A series of footages, full movies, lots of transcripts, notes, photographs and diaries are put together to explain the struggle of the people against the powerful corporations and the corrupt Government officials. The dark room spreads the ambiance of pain of the forgotten people. The artist has used various means like a roster of people who went missing after the protests started, a list as well as full real set of grains used  in the area. It was a painful yet learning experience, being in that big dark room, absorbing the pain and rage of many people.

Then there were some really neat glass paint works and sculptures, which were arouse my curiousity and interest.

Another interesting exhibit was this one  shown below, where a series of speakers were setup in balance, and you are supposed to drop specific spices on it. A sound is played and the vibration kicks up the sweet aroma of the various spices according to the frequency of the sound. The setup somehow signifies the importance of Kochi to the spice trade and its kicking up creates the familiar scene in the everyday spice market of ancient port of Muziris as well.

And this one, where various every-day stuff were hung from the roof and we are supposed to touch them after removing footwear. Each item produces a characteristic sound, similar to the object. For example, a metal plate produces the sound a cymbal, whereas some local shells,pots,bricks etc produces their own sounds, altogether producing a very profound musical experience. There was lot of room for creative music composition and we were at it for a long time :) Must say this was one of my favourite exhibitions there.
 And the sparrow nest, which is supposed to collect all your negative thoughts and the nest is burned out after the exhibits are taken down. Some complex logic behind it, but it was fun to climb up the flight of stairs constructed from gunny bags and stare into the funny nest.

a random fisherman
 The following image is from the exhibit, "the voices of silence" which covered a lot of statements and recordings from eminent as well as random people from all over the world commenting about Kochi, or similar travel experiences, " in their own languages". So mostly it was undecipherable to us common people. Nevertheless, the concept of each of these statements, set as parchments prepared on pieces of gunny bags, in a dimly lit room produced a wonderful experience to behold.
 The following piece, from the "Laboratory" is another noteworthy exhibit. Each such piece of art is worth dwelling upon for a lifetime.
There are more and more exhibits, each of which requires lot of time and understanding to completely grasp the artists' motives. Some did go into our heads, but most didn't. For some we were able to enjoy the artistic beauty without understanding the deeper concepts, whereas for some it was easier to understand the deeper meaning than appreciate the art itself.
It would be big pain to put up pics and explain even the selected few works here.
Hundreds of perfumes lit up at once using liquidators..olfactory overload!

Overall, I felt there was a huge variety in the topics covered by the artists. Economy, history and humanity were the most commonly explored topics. But there were always some odd ones out which touched upon religious stuff, random works of experimentation which made no sense, photography, great works of video, and ideas that seem so weird to normal people that you would shun them in real life.

Artists from all over the world, putting up their works without much of an explanation of what it means. Many exhibits were like this and evokes your intellectual curiosity and makes you think beyond your limited understanding of the world and imagination to depict stuff that might be out there for anyone to react to.

An art performed on the algae on the walls. What innovation!

Funniest exhibit

An exhibit,equating five mega weapons to Panchabhootha

It's only when you read the explanations at the exhibit, or maybe in some cases just sit around for hours together thinking hard that you are able to get closer to the plane at which the artist had prepared it. That feeling gives a big sense of achievement, because we are not talking about regular small time artists working on routine stuff. We are talking about highly innovative individuals who break conventional forms of expression to aptly represent their feelings about some concept that made them react.
Art, according to me is a reaction to the full range of stuff all around us, ranging from the very positive to the very negative. Everything is art when man tries to make sense out of stuff and tries to share his feelings with others. Art is all around, art is in each one of us in various forms. We just need to be able to detect it. And for me, the Bienalle was an eye-opener in all forms. It showed me stuff I enjoyed and understood which made me happy, and stuff which I find repulsive and didn't really understand. Sometimes while casually clicking a picture of the exhibit, I would feel a stronger connection with the exhibit. Sometime things just happened outside me, but I still was at awe at such twisted expression of artistic feelings.

After running around various exhibits with our brains working overtime, we finally had to succumb to lack of time and exhaustion, leaving just one main venue out. To cover all the exhibits with judicious time allocated for each exhibit would take a week completely. Nothing less from the first Biennale in India and widely claimed to be the most successful one in the history of Biennales. It really was a treasure trove for artists(whichever form) and lovers of art, or rather human beings.

Some random shots outside the main venues which are not part of the exhibits, but certainly part of the Biennale experience in Fort Kochi.

And remember, these and more were part of random graffiti on somebody's walls. I can only imagine the appreciation the local people have for the artists to allow for such activities :) That is one thing I am very happy about the Bienalle being in my hometown. The people have welcomed it with warmth and lots of support. We too were wandering out, searching for the Bienalle spot when we were guided by local shopkeepers 'without being asked'. Now that is a new experience for me in Kochi.

Being a Biennale, it is bound to be held in the next location in another 2 years. But those who missed this event when it came so close, tough luck. There was lot of time to catch it :)
and finally some random shots not associated with art, but just the surroundings of Fort Kochi :)
Our ride for the day..


I still wish to say lots of things about the Bienalle experience, but I shall stop here forcibly. Ciao