Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ravana: The Great King of Lanka - Book Review

This 84 pager by M.S. Purnalingam Pillai is a very different look on Ravana, the legendary king of Lanka.

Anyone with academic interest in Lanka or Ravana should be reading this one. It is though biased in favor of the demon king it provides very valuable and insightful details based on research.

Recommended from an academic point of view. Looking for leisure reading - Please avoid.

iVerdict: Good
Rating: 3/5

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rockstar (Hindi) - Movie Review

Love story of the year! That is Rockstar summarised in a sentence.

Imtiaz Ali’s Ranbir Kapoor and Nargis Fakhri starrer, another one of the most anticipated movies of year 2011 is the journey of a musician from being a college joke to an international rock star. It is the story of his eagerness, passion, eccentricity and emotions that take him to his heart’s desire but also tear apart his soul in the process.

Rockstar traces the story of Janardhan Jakhar or JJ – a Delhi Jat, The Hindu College B.A. Ist year fail and wannable Jim Morrison, the rock star. JJ has been singing and strumming his guitar since childhood and is still the butt of all jokes for his impossible dream – to become a rock star. No one takes him, his music or his dream seriously. Khatana, his college canteen head is the only person who even slightly talks to him about his passion, his dream and amongst all his gyanisms on music and artists, Khatana points out to JJ that all great artists have one common thing among them – tragedy, pain, a broken heart. JJ analyzes his life and realises that his life unfortunately has NO tragedy! Damm! JJ realises that a broken heart is his only way to being a rock star and as a strategy decides to get his heart broken. He proposes to the college hottie and serial heart breaker – Heer Kaul from Kashmir. As expected Heer says no to JJ and the episode does not lead to the desired traumatic pain and music immergence from the heart but leads to Heer and JJ’s unusual friendship. Unusual because she is the classy, ‘neat and clean’, engaged girl from Kashmir and he is the rural, rustic Jat but they hit off well and go about getting cheap thrills by exploring the down side of life like watching sleazy porn film in a downtown theatre, drinking local liquor, hitting the red street etc. Rock star dream down the drain, JJ just goes about life with Heer finally heading off to Kashmir for her wedding. There again they enjoy their thrills as a farewell thing and depart where she also christens his Jordan. Though Heer starts feeling a soft corner for JJ she never confesses and goes away to settle with her husband in Prague. When JJ returns to Delhi, he is thrown out of his house for attending her wedding and arguing on the same. He then spends time at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah and later on at Khatana’s house singing sufi songs and bhajans, with the music spark coming out in traces. He is later contacted by a music company for singing songs for them and there he meets Ustad Jameel Khan, Padma Bhushan Shehnai artist. Ustad advices Dhingra, the music company owner to contract with JJ inspite of a bad audition. Dhingra takes Jordan turned JJ along with other artists for a tour of Europe including Prague. In Prague Jordan meets Heer again, who has a psychiatric problem by now, and then begins the passionate and volatile affair between the two. In the meanwhile the musical traces begin manifesting completely in Jordan and he turns into a star performer for Dhingra’s company. While the love affair with Heer completes the musician in Jordan, it also brings out the vulnerable and explosive emotions in him, which manifest in the form of his violent mood swings. While his erratic moods turned him into the bad boy of music, his passionate performances turned him into the demi-god of music. After an abrupt end to their relationship in Prague, Jordan turned more violent, he got more bad press and he made better music while Heer diagnosed with terminal bone marrow cancer comes back to her parents in Kashmir. Jordan meets her again in Kashmir in an attempt to revive her from her sure death and she gets him to feel at peace with himself but destiny cannot be that simple for the man who wanted his life to be tragic for the sake of musical heights.

Imtiaz Ali is the director for romance. Amongst the new-gen directors the skill with which he unfolds the complexity of emotions is just awe inspiring and here again the mastery with which Imtiaz unfurls the layers of complex emotions within Jordan is superb. Imtiaz’s earlier works Jab we met and Love aaj kal has exhibited what a splendid and skilful storyteller he is and here again he does not disappoint. He brings to us in Rockstar a complex tale in the most beautiful way. Dark yet soulful. Performance wise it is an out-and-out Ranbir Kapoor show. I cannot imagine another actor doing this role, it is tailor made for him. The transition from a happy dreamy JJ to a tormented genius Jordan is superb and Ranbir takes to the transition in the character effortlessly. Nargis is lovely on the eyes and her chemistry with Ranbir is electrifying but the acting has gone over the edge in parts. Shammi Kapoor is elegant in his cameo.

Ranbir will have to share his limelight with another hero in the film – A.R. Rahman. The music score of the film is truly another hero. Though the musical notes are bucketful, they are easy on the ears with good visuals.

Rockstar rocks in all aspects except that it may not touch the pulse with the masses as Imtiaz’s earlier works. This one is for the Apple junta, the aam junta may not take to it too kindly. It is definitely one of Ranbir’s career best performances and will be a cult in contemporary romance sagas.

It is FROM the heart, FOR the heart!

iVerdict: Excellent. Do not miss.   
Rating: 4/5  

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Secret of the Nagas - Book Review

The Secret of the Nagas – one of my most awaited books. Since Harry Potter I have not waited for a book sequel this bad and never for one from an Indian writer. The Immortals of Meluha – the prequel to this book by Amish Tripathi had blown away my mind with a tale within the tale that we all know and so Nagas was completed within two days!

The book starts off exactly from where the prequel ended. Sati is attacked by a Naga and Shiva is in pursuit of the Naga. Shiva and Sati give the Naga a tough chase but he escapes but leaves behind a gold coin that leads Shiva to the kingdom of Branga, situated in eastern India at the confluence of rivers Brahmaputra and Ganga. The kingdom of Branga being somewhat hostile to Ayodhya, Shiva and Sati go to Kashi, which has a reputation of being a patient city to all people and thus houses a colony of Branga’s too.  While they are in Kashi, a mini riot breaks out against the Branga’s and Parvateshwar (Shiva’s army chief from Meluha) is mortally injured trying to pacify the mob. Ayurvati tries her best to revive him fails, as the wounds were deep. Divodas, the chieftain of the Branga’s in Kashi as a thanksgiving for saving his people gives a medicine to Ayurvati, which has miraculous effects, and Parvateshwar is revived and starts recovering well. Ayurvati informs Shiva that the medicine had herbs that are only found in Panchavati, the capital of Nagas. Divodas informs Shiva that the Branga’s are yearlong affected by plague and need medicines that only the Nagas make to keep alive and that is why Branga’s and Nagas are ally’s. In his quest to reach the Nagas, Shiva decides to go to Branga. While Shiva is waiting for the special ships that will take him to Branga (as you cannot enter Branga just like that because of their advanced technological fortifications on the rivers) to be built, his and Sati’s son – Kartik is born. After which Shiva leaves for Branga with his team and Sati stays back in Kashi to help the king fight against lion killings in the kingdom. On reaching Branga, Shiva finds out that the Branga’s are in alliance with the Nagas for the sake of the medicine and till Branga is not able to make that medicine on its own the alliance will have to continue. He also gets to know that apart from the Nagas only one man can make those medicines - a Bandit by the name of Parashuram, who kills anyone who tries to come near his part of the jungle. Shiva’s entourage after much bloodshed wins over Parashuram’s army and he readily surrenders the medicine recipe to Shiva when he learns that HE IS the Neelkanth.  Shiva also learns that Parashuram is a Vasudev pandit (shiva’s guides and philosophers) and his story from a pandit to a bandit is what changes Shiva’s perception about the Nagas. While in Kashi, Sati goes to fight the pride of lions that were killing villagers with a group of soldiers. While there she miscalculates the number of lions in the pride and she is nearly killed under the attack when a group of Nagas come to her rescue. After the rescue operation the leaders of the Nagas a women who looked exactly like sati but with deformations and a man, again deformed claim to be related to her.

Sati related to Nagas while Shiva believes that he will find evil when he reaches the Nagas!

And the man is the one who Shiva believes killed his brother-friend Brahaspati!

Their revelation points out that Meluha after all is not as perfect as it seems!
Author Amish spins another tale of fascination and shifting beliefs. For someone who has grown up on Indian Mythology the Shiva trilogy is a path breaker. Whenever a new character is introduced the story that you grew up on comes to the mind and then the connection between the characters in your mind and the book comes up. The book is racy, intelligent and notion breaker. As an individual book it is excellent but comparison with the prequel will dim its glory. The Nagas lacks the punch of Meluha. You will like it if you are a mythology fiction fan but you will love it only because you are a Shiva Trilogy fan.

p.s.  Though I think it is good as a stand alone book but you will enjoy it fully only if you have read the prequel, else you will find more mysteries than there actually are.

iVerdict: A page turner. Must read for a Mythology Fiction or Historical Fiction fan.
Rating: 3.5/5

RA.1 (Hindi) - Movie Review

RA.1 Finally!! One of the most hyped and awaited films of 2011 - SRK’s dream film finally arrived and as was expected, going by the RA.1 jokes in circulation during the run up to the film, was beaten blue by critics and public alike. Anubhav Sinha’s Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Armaan Verma and Arjun Rampal starrer RA.1 and here goes the review FINALLY.

Barron Industries – Gaming company and employer to Shekhar Subramanium introduces a new technology wherein objects from the virtual world can create themselves into physical things in the real world using the radio waves present all around us due to all our usage of technological gadgets. In the meanwhile, Shekhar member of the game creation team has to come up with a game, which will save his job and also impress his son – Prateek, who is in the least awe of his father and is a huge gaming freak. Taking cue from Prateek, Shekhar a staunch in good beating the evil always, creates a game wherein the villain is much more powerful than the hero. He creates the villain Random Access Version one or RA.1, symbolic to Ravan – the villain of Ramayan in Hindu mythology just for Prateek but being the good man Shekhar creates the hero – Good one or G. One, symbolic to the hindi term Jeevan meaning life with all the goodness of his heart but with only 0.01% winning possibility against RA.1. Both have a H.A.R.T. which is their strength as well as weakness. G.1 is modelled on Shekhar’s face while RA.1 remains faceless because he has the power to take anybody’s face. The game is launched amongst much fanfare and Prateek is elated and that means Shekhar is happy. Prateek is so excited about the game that he wants to play it right away and starts playing it logging in as Lucifer (his favourite game name), reaching level 2 of 3 levels, with the last level being death of either the protagonist or the antagonist. But Prateek has to leave the game on level 2, as he has to rush back home. The game had shown some malfunctions at the time of programming i.e. there were certain characteristics in RA.1 that got developed on its own without any manual programming. When Prateek leaves the game RA.1 in the game is livid with Lucifer/ Prateek for reaching level 2 and wants him to finish the game and when he leaves RA.1 pledges to come to the real world to kill him. Same night while leaving office when the mainframe does not shut down Shekhar and colleague Wu come to check out the problem. But they are unable to trace the problem but due to all the radio waves in the place the in-game RA.1 comes into the real world from the virtual one with the aim to find Lucifer and kill him. In pursuit of Lucifer, RA.1 kills Wu and then taking his form kills Shekhar for hiding Lucifer. Prateek because of certain symbols associated with RA.1 and Shekhar’s death realises that RA.1 has come into the real world and is in pursuit of him. Though his mother Sonia decides to go back to India, he goes back to Shekhar’s office to get G.1 too into the real world because only G.1 can to an extent combat RA.1. While Prateek is in office trying to create G.1 with the help of Shekhar’s teammate Jeny RA.1 finds out that Prateek is Lucifer and he is in Shekhar’s office. While RA.1 heads to kill Lucifer, Prateek manages to escape and Sonia with Prateek head towards the airport to catch their flight to India. But RA.1 catches up with them and is winning but in the meanwhile Jeny successfully revives G.1 into the real world and he comes to Prateek’s rescue. RA.1 is killed and his H.A.R.T. is captured by G.1. Unwillingly but Sonia is forced to let G.1 travel to India with them and Shekhar’s passport comes to their rescue as G.1 has Shekhar’s face. With RA.1’s H.A.R.T. with him G.1 is sure that RA.1 will come back to them because as per the rules of the game neither RA.1 nor G.1 can die when the H.A.R.T. is not destroyed while being attached to their respective bodies. And its interval! How will RA.1 be revived? Will he trace them to India? Can G.1 with 0.01% of winning chances against RA.1 save Prateek? Can the good Shekhar create a game where the bad wins? That will form the second half of the film!

And the second half was undeniably more gripping and interesting. Coming to the review of the film, May be because I went in with a week of negative reviews about the film I do have some good things to say about the film. Like the story was definitely gripping in the second half (and I am not a gaming enthusiast, infact I hate the gaming types when they play that is). You have to admit the war between the good and the bad is a winner always especially if one is an underdog and this one was written in a pretty realistic way considering the digital age that we live in with artificial intelligence and the sorts. The music was good and the best thing was no inserted songs, all songs justified their presence and my pick would be Dildara. And finally the quality of the VFX and the technical quality of the movie is – Hats off. Well that’s about where the good things end. First of all the initial sequence featuring Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt was real putt off and bore. Bad way to start a film. Again there was too much Tamil in the film with no subtitles. You would feel so disconnected if you do not understand the jokes. And that is exactly what happened. Again some question remained unanswered – what exactly were the malfunctions happening in the RA.1 programme? How did RA.1 come to India without a passport? A story needs to be closed well with no doubts remaining for the viewer. Especially in an age when cinema is global and we all have good access to world cinema.

Performance wise all actors did justice to their roles but Arjun Rampal rocked as RA.1. Though his screen time was very less, he leaves an impact. You nearly believe that he CANNOT be beaten at any stage. The only complaint is SRK is not Salman Khan. We expect intelligent stuff from you Shah. Some sequences in the film were just not your kind of cinema.

It is a well-made film but far from perfect.

iVerdict: Kudos to the effort. One time watch, may be.
Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, 31 October 2011

Bodyguard (Hindi) - Movie Review

I finally chanced to watch Bodyguard in Hindi by Siddiqe starring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor in the lead roles. I really wanted to watch this one after watching the Malayalam one. Really wanted to see what mainstream bollywood brought to the table.  

Though the story by-and-large remains the same, certain details undergo a change from the original one – some for good and some for not so good. The film starts off with a narration of a love story being read from a diary by a child in a train aka Kuch Kuch Hota Hai style. The story in the diary narrates the birth of Lovely Singh, son of bodyguard Balwant Singh and only born alive because of Sartaj Rana, his father’s boss. Lovely grows up to be a DEDICATED bodyguard just like his father, overtly indebted to Rana for his life itself. So when Rana’s soon-to-be-married daughter Divya requires a bodyguard owing to impending danger on her life because of revenge directed towards her father, Lovely is assigned as her bodyguard. He is expected to be with her ALWAYS, and Lovely being Lovely takes the task very seriously, which irks Divya and her friend Maya unboundedly. Irritatibly for them, he wears safari suits and aviators always, lives life on a clock, sleeps, eats and drinks his duty. The girls are embarrassed and frustrated owing to all this and decide to play a prank on him to divert his attention. Divya, who has a restricted number, starts calling him in a changed voice and thus begins a phone love affair. Lovely falls for this person on the phone who speaks to him under a pseudo name and being the simpleton he is falls in love with the girl on the phone. In the mean while what began as a prank turns serious for Divya as she too falls in love with the simple and honest Lovely. But dilemma’s have no end for her as – her father will never agree to her marrying her bodyguard and Lovely will also never accept her against her father’s wish as she is Madam to him and her father god to him. In the meanwhile Rana discovers amidst a lot of misunderstandings that Lovely is planning to elope with Divya while Lovely thinks that he is eloping with his phone lover. After all the confusions and complications the film’s story takes a 8 years leap where we see a High profiled Lovely Singh, Lovely’s son, a bedridden Rana and a still not married Divya eventually leading to final clarifications once and for all.

The story has a lot of loopholes and leaves the audience unconvinced and feeling silly. The film has an assemble feel to it and seems like an assorted dish – an Indian Chinese noodles sans the tadka. Salman Khan does what he does best i.e. entertain his fans with antics that are so much his signature style but consistency seemed marred. Kareena Kapoor disappoints in this one. An actress of her calibre was just a pretty face in this one. Manish Malhotra does a fabulous job with her styling but the emote output from Bebo was next to nil here. Hazel Keech as Maya impresses while Mahesh Majrekar is wasted. Over all a very mediocre effort. A film that completely relied on Salman’s Daabang acquired estyle and made to just entertain his fan base.

iVerdict: Average. May be a one-time watch. Keeps brains locked. 
Rating: 2/5    

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (Hindi) - Movie Review

Mere Brother ki Dulhan (MBKD) had held my curiosity from the time the project was announced in the form of the first look in Bombay Times for not very proud reasons. I really wanted to find out what two near non-actors (Imraan Khan and Katrina Kaif) and a debutant director (Ali Abbas Zafar) can put together for Yash Raj Films that will garner footfalls at the theatres.

MBKD is basically a triangle of three characters as the title suggests. There is mere namely Kush, brother namely Luv and Dulhan namely Dimple. Luv and Kush are brothers (and no there father is not named Ram! He is luckily named Col. Agnihotri) Luv works in London and Kush is assistant director in Mumbai. In a moment of impulsive decision making Luv asks Kush to find a bride for him from India and promises to marry any girl he chooses for his brother. Col. Agnihotri is apprehensive of this decision on his elder son but still plays on and after much disaster after disaster the Agnihotri’s land up at the Dixit’s where they meet the prospective bride – Dimple. Kush is shaken up to see the bride-to-be, quite literally, as he remembers her from a meeting some years back and finds it difficult to imagine her as his brother’s wife going by the image of the girl he remembered her to be from their earlier tryst. As fate would have it the marriage is fixed and as always in bollywood Kush and Dimple fall for each other. So the brother-in-law-to-be and the bride-to-be are in love and they need to get married without hurting anyone in the families. So a plan is hatched which involves getting Luv’s ex-girlfriend from London to India, a lot of mis- convincing’s on both sides, an error-full flow put right.

MBKD is similar in treatment to another rom-com Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani and Katrina is the common factor and so is her performance. The film is entertaining is its genre and the lead actors – Imraan Khan, Katrina Kaif and Ali Zafar enthral in their characters well. Though you will find some over acting in parts by Katrina and Ali and some under acting by Imraan, the film is overall entertaining. The music is another plus point of the film. All the songs of the film are catchy and go well with the story line, though my personal favourite is the title track.

Deffo an entertainer.

iVerdict: Good. One time watch
Rating: 2.5

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Indian Rupee (Malayalam) - Movie Review

An often-told story about a young man wanting to make quick bucks but a refreshingly new film that is what Indian Rupee is! Written and directed by Ranjith and starring Prithviraj, Thilakan in lead roles the film boasts of superlative performances and a moral message to the society and the youth today at large.

The film speaks about a very average young man of our generation who does not represent the FB-ing, iPhone-ing youth but the other part of our generation - a youth that is in the mad race to quick money irrespective of the path taken. The film takes us through the life of a young man – Jayaprakash aka JP who is a small time real estate dealer in Kozhikode (Calicut).  JP and his friend CH work with a senior real estate dealer Rayeen and dream of breaking away as independent entities as soon as they land on a big land deal that will earn them a big commission. Amongst all this Achuthan Menon, an old lawyer comes into acquaintance with JP to sell off a land that Menon owns. Though the deal never comes through, Menon stays back to become a part of JP and CH’s life after helping JP out of a major crisis. JP along with CH and Menon goes through some major events, enters some major risks and nearly goes to jail eventually paying for the folly of adopting not-so-honest modes to earn money.

The high point of Indian Rupee is the performances by Prithviraj and Thilakan. This can possibly be called one of Prithvi’s best performance and Thilikan is subtle and powerful in his role as Menon. The low point of the film is its script. Nothing new or original about the story though the way it is narrated and presented has its freshness but it is a story that has found its way to us earlier also in some way or the other. Rima does not has much to do, she is a heroine for the sake of a heroine. Her role is akin to the one Asin had in Bollywood flick London Dreams – eye candy. The film basically belongs to Prithviraj in terms of role as well as performance though wish he would have got the Calicut slang a bit better. That would have been the knockout punch missing in the film.

Overall Indian Rupee is a must watch for its performances and subject.

iVerdict: Good. Must watch.
Rating: 4  

Friday, 14 October 2011

Marykkundoru Kunjadu (Malayalam) - Movie Review

The Thrissur trip this time was full of movies, infact to be precise 5 Malayalam movies in 2 days. The final one that I watched was – Marykkundoru Kunjadu (Mary has a Little Lamb) by Shafi starring Dileep, Bhavana and Biju Menon in the lead roles. Though I am not the biggest fan of Dileep I did find the name cute enough to watch.     

The story takes place in a small village settling on a hill in Kerala and has two Mary’s and one little lamb. Ofcourse not a love triangle because one Mary is the Little Lamb/ kunjaad Solomon’s mother and the other is his lover who is Ittichan, a Rich Landlord’s daughter. Mary has been in love with Solomon since childhood but she knows that Solomon can never fight her father and brother’s for her because of his nature. Solomon is an innocent soul who is afraid of literally everything including the school going kids in his village and hence is nicknamed Kunjadu (little lamb). Ittichan (Mary’s father) is very supportive of the love between Mary and Solomon not because he wants to get Mary married to Solomon but because of a past Ittichan and Solomon’s mother Mary share. Ittichan was engaged to Solomon’s mother but she finds out about Ittichan’s infidelity a day before their wedding and in revenge marries Solomon’s father. Ittichan still has a soft spot for Solomon’s mother. He is supportive of his daughter’s and Solomon’s love affair because he wants they love to reach its peak and then get his daughter married to someone else so that Solomon feels the same pain that he felt when he lost Solomon’s mother. In between all this fight for a less beaten body by Solomon a mysterious man lands up at their village and eventually in Solomon’s house and all of them assume him to be Solomon’s elder brother who had run away from home in his teens. Solomon gets an image makeover in the village with this mysterious body builder of a man by his side but his actions remain very ambiguous and start haunting & behaviourally changing Solomon out of fear for his family.

This is another movie that though not endowed with the best of performances manages to scrape through because of the thriller part in the script. Dileep, Bhavana are very conventional in their performances but Biju Menon as the mysterious man has an author-backed role and delivers it to the T. Though the story starts off very conventionally and we expect Dileep to win over his cowardness somehow, the script takes a complete and realistic U-turn with Biju Menon coming in and the mystery unravelling in the climax packs the punch.   

All in all a good entertainer.

iVerdict: Good. One time watch    
Rating: 2.5/ 5

Bodyguard (Malayalam) - Movie Review

At the time that Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor starrer ‘Bodyguard’ released I was in Kerala and though the film had a release here, I would not really watch it in a theatre as I was nowhere near the cities where it released (was busy exploring rural Kerala.) Twitter told me that the film was doing really well and that it was originally made in Malayalam. So during my visit to Thrissur, when I found a DVD of Bodyguard in Malayalam directed by Siddique starring Dileep and Nayantara I was tempted to give it a go. I wanted to watch the original before the remake unlike what happened with Gajjani or Wanted (I got a chance to watch the Hindi versions first and then the Tamil ones, which were the originals.)

The title role in ‘Bodyguard’ is that of Jaikrishnan who has an obsessive angle to his personality - his adoration for any person takes obsessive leaps always and ends up in him moving in and around that person like a bodyguard. The plot starts with Jaikrishnan developing adoration for a Business Tycoon, Ashokan, and becoming his bodyguard turns into Jaikrishnan’s life ambition. He somehow manages to get a reference letter from a person whose request Ashokan cannot refuse. Though Ashokan has no requirement of a bodyguard, Jaikrishnan manages to become a bodyguard in the Ashokan’s house after some heroic attempts. But though he wanted to become Ashokan’s bodyguard, he is made his daughter, Ammu’s, bodyguard and out of adoration for Ashokan, Jaikrishnan agrees. Jaikrishnan follows Ammu and her friend Sethulakshmi everywhere they go – college, classroom, canteen, loo, just about everywhere – in typical Bodyguard attire: safari suits, aviators et al. The girls grow tried of this embarrassing scenario and to divert Jaikrishnan’s attention Ammu starts calling him as a ‘fake lover’ from her number, which is a Private Number. Their scheme of diverting his attention works as Jaikrishnan starts falling in love with this mysterious girl and is constantly looking to find her. What started as a joke turns serious as Ammu falls for Jaikrishnan, realising the good heart in him through the phone conversations they have been having as - the fake lover and the bodyguard. Finally as the fake lover Ammu tells Jaikrishnan that they should elope the day their college closes but Ashokan comes to know of their plan. Asokan comes to know that Jaikrishnan is running away with Ammu; while Jaikrishnan knows that he is running away with ‘fake lover’. This whole story is a flashback read by Jaikrishnan’s son in a diary left to him by his mother Sethulakshmi. The climax is the present day situation where widower Jaikrishnan and his son visit an ailing Ashokan and find Ammu still unmarried at her house.

This movie by far, amongst the recent Malayalam films that I watched, barring Salt & Pepper, had the most interesting storyline. Though there was an angle from Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the climax is what worked for me. Performances were strictly ok. Dileep could have infused much more life into the character. I am definitely watching the Hindi one, can clearly see Salman Khan rocking the character of Jaikrishnan as Lovely Singh. Tightly edited, well directed, compact entertainer though performances could have spiced the script up more.

Hope bollywood had spiced up things more and if I get a chance want to watch the Tamil remake Kaavalan starring Vijay too. Would be an interesting case study  - same story, same director, different actors and the outcomes!!

iVerdict: Good
Rating: 3.5/ 5           

Black Swan (English) - Movie Review

Ballet performances if not intense are a big bore and that was one reason by watching a film based on ballet dance was not really priority. But I was pulled why the cover of the DVD and set on to watch this 2010 psychological thriller by Darren Aronofsky starring Nataile Portman in the lead – Black Swan.

Black swan is the story of a young ballet dancer, Nina, who works with a top ballet company in NYC. The company is about to start the new season with the production of Swan Lake. The director of the company, Thomas, wants a new lead dancer to perform the dance of Swan Queen. He requires a ballerina who can dance both the parts - of the fragile, innocent white swan as well as the conniving, sensual twin black swan. While Nina is perfect to play the part of the white swan another dancer Lily is perfect to play the part of the black swan. As the girls compete for the part, though not perfect for the part Thomas selects Nina as the ballerina to play the swan queen as an incident after the auditions shows Thomas a dark side of the fragile Nina.  Soon after strange incidents start happening, which were nothing by very strong hallucinations of Nina. The darker side in Nina’s personality along with the hallucinations start taking a grip on her resulting in strained relationships all around her and odd, erratic, insecure behaviour from her. All this peaks and creates havoc during the act on the opening night threatening to destroy everything that Nina held dear.

The movie is just so gripping that I just did not leave the couch. It is intense, disturbing, uninhibited, dark & deep. It takes you on a rollercoaster into the depths of the mind of a ballerina. How she in the desire to fit the role goes through a complete psychological upheaval and reaches into the depths of darkness in her own mind. The film in a sense leaves you numb with a fact-in-the-face that the white as well as the black swan in within us. We should never let either take over.

Kudos to Director Darren Aronofsky. It takes a mature mind to make movies starring minds.  Nataile Portman was Nina to the T. Kudos again.

iVerdict: Excellent. Must Watch.
Rating: 4.5/5    

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Pambummekkat Mana - Place Review

A week back I was in Chalakudy in Thrissur District of Kerala for a religious visit. The visit was to ‘Pambummekkat Mana’ - one of the most famous serpent worship centres in Kerala, in a place called Mala in Vadama Village in Mukundapuram Taluk in Thrissur District. Chalakudy is the nearest railway station to reach Mala.

Serpent worship is a common practise in Kerala owing to the legends associated with the formation of Kerala and it becoming a habitable place. Parashuram the creator of Kerala had laid down various rules as way of life for the land he had created. One amongst them was that each house and temple in this land would have some special place for the worship and comfort of serpents. There are many legends associated with the snake gods and Pambummekat Mana is one of the most revered amongst them. It is in reality not a temple but a family house and was earlier called Mekkattu Mana (Mekkattu is the family name and Mana means ‘a place where Brahmins live’). As soon as we reach the road leading to Mekkattu Mana you will see walls with pictures of serpents on them, which leads us to an arched doorway with statues of two huge hooded serpents guarding a shiv ling. Decades old tall trees, long creepers, thick vegetation line the two sides of the pathway that leads us to the main area of adoration – the sarpa Kavu (the snake grove).

As we walk in, on the left is the illam (house) where the Mekkattu family lives and through a half closed doorway we can see a seated old lady who is the reining priestess (amma) at the illam. We do meet her standing at the doorway. She blesses us and tells us what is to be done to solve the problems that we have come to the Mana with. Thereafter we proceed to pray to the deities – The Nagarajav (the serpent god) and the Nagayakshi amma (the serpent goddess). There are only two deities to be prayed here and there after we proceed to take the prasadam (temple offering, considered equivalent to blessings). Legend has it that nothing can be taken out of the Sarpa Kavu, not even the prasadam so we have to eat it completely before leaving the premises. The prasadam in the last of the rituals here, after having the prasadam you cannot pray to the deities or meet amma.      

There are 5 Kavu’s (groves) around the mana but you cannot enter them always.  Only after taking bath in the pond in the premises and with wet clothes on can you enter the Kavu and pray to the serpent gods. There are some cast restrictions also on entering the kavu but on special occasions people from all castes are allowed inside after the ritual bath. There is a serene, not to be messed around feel about the place and that feeling led me to dig into the legend of how did Mekkattu Mana become Pambummekat Mana?

One of the legends about the place says that the Brahmins at Mekkattu Mana were great scholars and devotees in rituals but were very poor, so rituals along with survival was very difficult for them. In such a situation one Brahmin from the mana went to The Thiruvanchikulam Temple, near present day Kochi (one of Lord Shiva’s oldest temples in South India where he is believed to stay with his whole family) and started praying to god for liberation from poverty. When the Brahmin was nearing completion of his 12 years of devotion at the temple, one night he had an experience that led to his home Mekkattu Mana becoming Pambummekat Mana.

That night the Brahmin went to the sacred pond in the premises of the temple to collect water and he saw a saint near the pond. He enquired with the saint, what was his name but was questioned back as to what the Brahmin has to do with his name. The saint asked the Brahmin to do what he had come to do and go away. The Brahmin was spell bound by the aura of the saint and stood rooted there and that is when he saw something shiny in the hands of the saint. He asked the saint what it was. The saint again questioned the Brahmin, if he had ever seen a ruby? When the Brahmin replied in the negative, the saint asked him if he would like to see a ruby. The Brahmin said ‘yes’ and the saint passed on a sparkling ruby to the Brahmin. The Brahmin was very impressed by the stone and wanted to show it to a friend who had kingly status. He asked the saint if he could do so. The saint agreed on the condition that the Brahmin brings it back soon.    

The Brahmin showed it to his friend, who was also very impressed by the stone, and retuned it the saint by the pond. As soon as the stone was returned, the saint disappeared. The Brahmin returned back to his cottage, after fetching water, but the identity of the saint haunted him and sleep stayed away from him. He regretted not pressing the saint to reveal his identity. He was convinced that the saint was some godly appearance. The Brahmin did fall asleep sometime during the night but was awoken soon and on seeing the light outside (because of the moon) thought that it was dawn and he was late for his morning bath. He ran to the pond but found a person standing there. He asked the person his name and received the same reply as before. The Brahmin recognised the voice as the saint’s and begged him to reveal his identity for Lord Shiva’s sake. Bound by Lord Shiva’s name the saint said that he was Vasuki – The King of Serpents. The Brahmin expressed his wish to witness Vasuki in his real form but Vasuki was sure that the Brahmin would be terrified by his real form so he did reveal his true form but in a very miniature size.    

After revealing his form, Vasuki asked the Brahmin what boon he wanted from him and the Brahmin requested Vasuki to dwell in his illam always and to put an end to his family’s poverty. Vasuki asked the Brahmin to complete his 12 years of devotion and go back to his illam and in the meanwhile he will take consent from Lord Shiva and come to his illam. The Brahmin did as told and kept doing the rituals as per traditions. One day when he came back after his rituals he saw on his olakkuda (an umbrella made of palm leaves that was used back then) a snake, which took the form of the saint. The saint told the Brahmin that he was Vasuki and he was here on Lord Shiva’s will. He gave him the ruby, that he had shown the Brahmin near the pond, and told him to keep it at the illam safely. Vasuki told him that till the ruby remains in the illam poverty will never enter the place.

About the same time, the eldest lady of the illam came from outside and keeping her olakkuda went inside. A snake appeared from inside the umbrella and took the form of a lady and went into where the Brahmin and Vasuki were standing. Vasuki told the Brahmin that the lady was Nagayakshi (Serpent Goddess). He told the Brahmin to make idols of both him and the Nagayakshi and establish it in the room that they were standing; he said to consider both of them family gods of Mekkattu family and perform daily rituals. He said that more serpents will come to live in the 5 kavu’s and the house, they should be allowed to live. He gave the Brahmin some more guidelines to be practised at the mana and then disappeared along with the Nagayakshi, promising to comeback whenever the Brahmin wants them to. This whole conversation had taken place in the kizhakkini (the eastern part of the illam) and as per the instructions from Vasuki the Brahmin lit two lamps there – Anaya vilaka (lamps that are to be kept burning always) and all rituals are carried out in the kizhakkini thereafter.

The fame of the mana grew far and wide and belief came about that any problem due to the wrath of the serpent gods would have a solution in Mekkattu Mana and so Mekkattu Mana became Pambummekat Mana with time.

Though date details on when was the mana was built or when were the two lamps established is not available, the belief is that nothing can be taken away from the mana and the nearby premises are rife with stories claiming how the serpents gods have never allowed anything to be taken away, even when repeated attempts were made to do so!!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Makeup Man (Malayalam) - Movie Review

Genuine guy. Debts galore. Confusing situations. Flow with confusions. Big Mess. All is well climax!! A few hundred films with a similar story line and ‘Makeup Man’ directed by Shafi starring Jayaram and Sheela in leading roles is no different.

Balu is an educated young man, presently under huge debts because of a failed attempt at business. The film opens with Balu trying to get into his ‘own’ house like a burglar, a neighbour witnessing this and Balu ending up in the police station where we come to know that he comes into his house in that manner to avoid creditors. To add to the situation Soorya, who is in love with Balu elopes from her house just before her wedding to be with him. Without money for even one meal Balu now has to fend for two people! He turns to his only friend Kichu, who is a film production manager. Kichu helps them get married with a lot of junior artists from films as witnesses and later on helps them spend a night at a hotel by adjusting them into a room assigned for the heroine of the film. The room was vacant for the time being as the director had fired the heroine that morning and it was on Kichu to find another new face as the heroine of the film. Confusions soon follow and Soorya ends up being cast as the heroine of the film. Owing to financial crunches Soorya and Balu have no other choice but to agree to this and to stay close to Soorya, Balu becomes her personal makeup man. What starts as a one-film thing later becomes a chain as Soorya starts getting offers for better projects and she too becomes interested in acting as a profession. Insecurities flow from Balu’s end as he expects her to be his wife but that ofcourse cannot be publically declared. He does make an effort on publicising it but fails as no proofs stand solid and Soorya denies it completely. What follows are efforts of reconciliation by Balu and Soorya and the drama that follows to a happy climax.

Makeup Man has a very conventional story and a very conventional climax too. There is nothing new that a viewer will take home with after the movie. The performances were good but Sheela can do a bit with some expressions also on her face. Overall Makeup Man did not work for me.

Kunchako Boban and Prithviraj Sukumaran were good in their guest roles playing themselves. The saving graces.

iVerdict: Average. One time watch may be.
Rating: 2/5       

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (English) - Movie Review

I have not read the Sisterhood series of books but I definitely loved ‘ The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ and when I got the sequel of the movie I just could not help but watch it. The sequel ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2’ retains the original cast of Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, Alexiz Bledel and America Ferrera in lead roles as Lena, Tibby, Bridget and Carmen – the four best gal pals since eternity.

The sequel starts off three years after the first movie ended and all four are perusing their personal interests – One is on the soccer team of her university, one is attending school of design, one is majoring in film making and one is attending college. The four again, as in the first movie, move away from each other for summer and as was the practice of the sisterhood each would keep the jeans for a week and would then pass them off to the next with a note. This summer one finds letters from the past tucked away, confronts the father on those and then goes away to an archeological dig and then to face the facts about the letters. The other finds an ex-flame married, goes away to the design school to get into a relationship but fails to find peace in any other relationship that she has. The third ends up consummating her romantic relationship in sex but things go wrong after that and a pregnancy scare puts her off radar from everyone including the sisterhood. And the fourth ends up as lead actress in a prestigious play rather than an actress’s assistant, as she had intended to be, followed by jealousy, backstabbing and insecurities. Amongst all these developments in the lives of the four protagonists the jeans keep getting exchanged with notes but the notes keep becoming less and less personal; and the sisterhood kept going away from each other. The climax is about how the jeans once again in the most unconventional manner bring the sisterhood back together.

This second part is much more saucier and bolder that the first part as the girls have grown up from high school to college and their problems and concerns are different now.  I loved the way the script remains realistic and grounded even if the pants give it a fairytale-ish twist. Though missed the converging shots in the first part, this one again is a well-shot, well-emoted, brilliantly executed movie.

Like the first part you just cannot get off the couch since the movie begins and I repeat Greece is so beautiful, especially the sea. Loved Shohreh Aghdashloo’s voice and dialogue delivery. A fan mam!

iVerdict: Very Good
Rating: 3.75/5      

Christian Brothers (Malayalam) - Movie Review

The stellar superstar cast of the movie was one reason why I really wanted to watch this movie. Christian Brothers – brings together Mohan Lal, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Sharath Kumar and Kavya Madhavan together along with other character actors. A multi starrer, big budget film but disappointing watch.

The story revolves around a rich, retired Army officer - Palamattathu Varghese Mappala and his family. Mappala has two sons and two daughters – Christy, Jogy, Jessy and Stella. While Christy is a police informer in Mumbai, Jogy is sent to Italy to study for becoming a father, Jessy is married to a guy in Mumbai and Stella is at home with her father. Things take a dramatic twist when Jogy drops out of his course because he has fallen in love with Meenakshi and Jessy dies under suspicious circumstances. Christy is framed for his sister’s death by his brother-in-law and old Mappala believes the son-in-law over the son. There is a land mafia and his sons ready to do anything and killing the world over for a land which is bestowed to the local church and the papers of which lie in the safe in Mappala’s house. Meenakshi, who is also Kerala Home Minister’s daughter, is sent back home to Kerala from Italy because her relationship with Jogy has come to light and is kidnapped from the airport. The home minister asks for Christy’s help so he comes to Kochi. Jogy also comes back from Italy because Meenakshi is in Kochi. Christy finds out that the kidnapper is his brother-in-law. So the battle shifts from Mumbai to Kochi. Christy rescues Meenakshi but his brother-in-law is killed and Christy is framed with murder. Christy’s friend from Mumbai rescues him from police custody. Meanwhile an honest but bully police officer is Incharge of Christy’s case and he is also married to Stella. Meanwhile, Christy will not leave Kochi without finding his brother-in-law’s murderer and clearing his name.  

Christian Brothers is a case of two many cooks. The story line has too many layers and the unraveling is in a complicated manner. In the end the audience is left with a feeling that it was a complicated, very complicated story. The performances by all the actors in their individual capacities are really good but the film as a whole should have been better edited. The film completely relies on its star power and masala entertainment. The script should have been better worked on.

Christian Brothers does not work for me owing to its script and editing. I was felt with a feeling – when will this end!! Disappointed Joshiy.

iVerdict: Avoidable.
Rating: 1.5/ 5   

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (English) - Movie Review

A celluloid adaptation of the book by the same title of ‘The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants’ – the movie is awesome especially for someone who has not read the book.

The movie starring Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, Alexiz Bledel and America Ferrera in lead roles is the story of four best friends - Lena, Tibby, Bridget and Carmen and how a pair of jeans adds spice to their lives changing it for good or bad. The four girls have always been together in highs and lows till now and when the movie starts are about to depart for summer – one is going to Greece, one to a soccer camp, one to stay with her dad and one at home making a documentary. Before they leave to walk into a store and all three convince Tibby to try on a pair of jeans. Just for fun sakes they keep convincing each other to try the same pair of jeans and they do but surprisingly the jeans fits all of them really well inspite of their range in sizes. All of them are convinced that the pair of Jeans are magical and decide to share it amongst themselves. At their secret hideout it is decided that each of them will keep the jeans for a week and then pass it on to the next person with a letter about their experience with the jeans. So the jeans will became a reason of keeping in touch with each other and hence they named it – The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants.

The movie takes us on a simple yet interesting journey of four young girls. A journey that all of us, especially the girls, can connect to. The film is well shot and well emoted. You do get involved in the joys and agonies of the characters and however tired once the film is rolling you will not leave the couch before the credits roll in the end.

And Greece is so beautiful & vibrant. Want to visit sometime. 

iVerdict: Good
Rating: 3.5/5           

Mattancherry - Place Review

Mattancherry - about 2 Kms from Fort Kochi in Ernakulam district of Kerala is a whole new world, infact it is a whole ‘old’ world. There is an old world charm about the place as most of the places you visit here are uncorrupted from the modernizations of our developed times.

Inside the synagogue
The first place you want to visit in Mattancherry is the Paradesi Synagogue or as it is locally known the Cochin Jewish Synagogue. It is a small, uncomplicated place at a corner of the Jew Street. It is one of the oldest active Jew Synagogues in the area and located in a silent corner it gives you a very pious and traditional feel as soon as you step in. Photography is strictly prohibited here and you have to submit all your belongings, except your wallet may be because you are charged INR 5/- to go in and visit the synagogue. As soon as you enter, towards the right you have a room with crude floors that display on the walls paintings that showcase the events that led to the building of the synagogue in the 15th Century. The paintings are in chronological order and tell you the story right from the advent of Jews in India to the building of the synagogue. The paintings tell you that the synagogue was built under the protection of the then King of Kochi on the land gifted by the King himself under the patronage of the Dutch and that is why the synagogue shares a wall with the Mattancherry palace temple. (And I think this once again shows the religious tolerance of the country from times immemorial.) 

Once you exit the paintings room, you enter the synagogue itself on the opposite side. At the entrance is a stone tablet installed into the wall – the tablet is in Hebrew and the inscription on it says that the tablet belonged to the first Jew synagogue in India at Kochangadi (in Kochi), which was built in the 13th Century.  The things that catch your attention as you enter the synagogue are the – ceiling and the flooring - many huge glass challendiers hang from the ceiling and hand painted porcelain blue and white tiles form the flooring. Apart from these distinctions the synagogue has very simple interiors and that ofcourse is the old world charm.

One of the shops in Jew Street
As you exit the synagogue building and walk towards the Mattancherry Dutch Palace you pass through streets that house the most exotic artefacts and spices in the area – The Jew Street in Jew Town. Both the sides of the streets are lined with shops in buildings that were once homes to the Jews in Kochi. Back in history the area was known as Jew Town as all its occupants were Jews who had settled here. Today baring a few, most of the ancient Jew families are no more here but the buildings are not much renovated and they scream out stories of the days that have gone by. If you have the patience, you will find all kinds of artefacts in the shops here in all shapes and sizes. Though commercialisation has hit the place due to the continuous inflow of foreigners to these streets but still this is the best place in the area to find a piece of history. A history enthusiast can spend days in these streets exploring history and the journey though times of these artefacts. 

The end of Jew Street takes you the entrance of another chapter in history – The Mattancherry Dutch Palace, which now is a museum and a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. Huge stone steps take you to the counter. After INR 5/- and a notification that photography not allowed you enter a whole different world. I had visited museums in North of India and I was definitely not prepared for this one.  Enchanted is an understatement. The palace as a museum basically houses the items used by the Royal family of Kochi – palquinns, clothes, headgears, utensils, lamps weapons etc. and the chronology of the rule of the royals in Kochi along with their full sized portraits in all royal gallantry but the beauty of the place lies more in its identity as a palace than a museum. The real beauty is its architecture and interiors. 

The history detailing at the palace museum tells us that the palace was built by the Portuguese in the 15th century and gifted to the king of Kochi as a way of atonement for destroying a temple under the King’s rule. The Portuguese built the palace in typical Travancore styled architecture Naluketta style (i.e. a squared structured with a courtyard in the centre.) But in this palace they did something special - they put a temple, of the deity of the royal family, in the courtyard. The palace mesmerises you in many ways. A mesmerizing thing I found was a pond to the southwest of the palace over looking the King’s Bed Chamber. A huge green water body – very enigmatic yet mesmerising. Siesta would have been heavenly in that chamber. The window overlooking the pond just holds you rooted there staring at the waters, but the most enchanting thing in the palace is – the Mural paintings.
Mural Painting

The palace walls are covered with Mural paintings with a religious theme. As you walk through the palace, most of the walls was covered in mural paintings, some unfinished but aesthetic all the same. The most mesmerising mural I found in the palace was in Gallery 1. – Lord Vishnu’s Mural. The colours are still after centuries un-impacted and just enchanting. The lower chamber of the palace, which housed the Queen’s chambers, contains a lot of unfinished murals but the detailing even in the blue prints is just very commendable. Again art enthusiasts can spend days just going through the detailing in the murals as well the architecture. Though built in Kerala architectural style you can find some European influences especially the door arches. But I did wonder why is it called the Dutch palace, if the Portuguese built it? I was told that the Dutch when they took over Mattancherry later on did some renovations to the palace – Hence the Portuguese built Travancore styled palace is called Dutch Palace. Seriously, Incredible India!            

As you leave all the history in the place behind there is Mattancherry Boat Jetty that can take you to Fort Kochi or Vypin Island or Bogatty Island on another adventure. I decide may be some other time. I had a very ‘historical’ time in Mattancherry. Would love to visit the palace sometime again and just keep staring at the Murals…..    

p.s. the mural painting and the synagogue picture are courtesy google images.      

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Fort Kochi, Kerala - Place Review

Saturday coming up and the mood to explore a bit of nature, a bit of history was in. The places on to list to visit was Fort Kochi and Mattancherry in Cochin District of Kerala.

The route plan is Cherthala in Alapphuzha District to Fort Kochi and then to Mattancherry, both in Cochin district and the plan is to travel by bus alone – no cabs or ricks, only KSRTC or private buses. Cherthala to Fort Kochi is about 38 kms by road. The travel began with a bus ride from Cherthala KSTRC bus stand and the destination was Thokumpadi bus stop in Cochin, as there is no direct bus available to Fort Kochi from Cherthala and the fare is INR 20/-. From Thokumpadi buses to Fort Kochi are frequently available.  A bus ride from Thokumpadi to Fort Kochi will cost around INR 6/-.

Preceding the fort kochi bus stop is the Santa Cruz Basilica stop also known as Basilica palli stop. This is the first place you want to get down in fort kochi for a dash of history before going to the beach, especially if you are a beach baby.  Santa Cruz Basilica is a must watch in Fort Kochi, if you are interested in history and art. It is that part of history which unifies the ages with the art.   It is one of the oldest churches in the country and was built by the Portuguese when they started arriving in India. The story goes that the king of Cochin in the 15th century gave permission to the Portuguese, who had arrived as merchants, to build a fort – Fort Kochi, which is now the name of the area, and later on to build a church. The church is symbolic of the religious tolerance of ancient India as a Hindu king had permitted Christian missionaries to build a place of devotion of a religion akin to them and had allowed practice of the religion by believers too.

Centuries later the church was upgraded to a Basilica and is now one of the few basilicas in the country.  The magnificence of the interiors of the basilica is worth a watch. The interiors are mainly Gothic styled paintings. The colours are something that will not leave your mind easily. The combinations of whites and blues leave you spell bound and the windows are the tainted glass styled, again the colour combinations are just awesome.  The high ceilings may sprain your neck but they are definitely worth admiration, for some minutes atleast. The cravings on the wood as well as the walls will again leave you spell bound and the whole feel of the place is that you are witnessing a part of history, you are INSIDE history.

A half a kilometre walk towards the north of the basilica will take you to St. Francis  CSI Church, locally known as the CSI church. This is another piece of history for the history enthusiasts as it is the oldest European church in India.  History has it that the church was part of the fort built by the Portuguese and was originally a wooden structure but later on with the permission of the King of Cochin, it was reconstructed into a mortar one but even today most of the inside the church is wooden. It is apparently the only Portuguese structure, which did not undergo demolition by the Dutch or the British who succeeded the Portuguese in ruling Cochin.

A major attraction of the church is Vasco Da Gama’s grave. Though the information tablet at the church informs us that his mortal remains are now in Lisbon, Gama was originally buried in St. Francis Church in the 15th century and 14 years later his remains were transported to Lisbon.  Another attraction is that the gravestones of many of the Portuguese (the Catholics) as well as the Dutch (the protestants) remain in the walls of the church on opposite walls facing each other.
St. Francis Church is a protected monument under the Archaeological survey of India  (ASI) and while we were there, audit by the ASI was going on. There is also the Dutch cemetery opposite the church if you want to visit; I could not as time was running out. The shops in the lane outside the church towards the west takes you to Vasco junction near the Fort Kochi beach and there are interesting stuff to shop out there if you can bargain or pay like hell.

Now the final attraction in Fort Kochi  - the Fort Kochi Beach. Here you do get to see something that you cannot see at the Marina Beach in Chennai or the Juhu Beach in Mumbai. Something that is typical of Kerala – The Chinese Fishing Nets. They line the coast and one would just stand gaping at the huge, ancient but effective model of fishing.  History says that much before the Portuguese arrived at Calicut in the form of Vasco Da Gama and his entourage there were Chinese fishermen settlements in the costal regions of Kerala especially Cochin, Alapphuzha etc. and those fishermen used these huge nets for fishing. These nets are lowered during night into water and pulled back the next morning. The fresh catch is sold freshly at the beach itself in the fish shops that line the beach. One gets to see the smallest to the largest fish species here. I saw one shark big enough to gobble me up in one of the shops. Compared to other beaches in the country, the beach is considerably clean except for some water hyacinth weathered over the beach, thrown in by the sea. The walk way and benches are a good addition and there is a nice, posh feel about the beach.
It was good to be at Fort Kochi. A dash of nature and history together. My ideal. Would love to visit again. 

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Backup Plan (English) - Movie Review

The backup plan directed by Alan Poul, starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex o' Loughlin in the lead roles has one of the most vibrant introductions I have seen in recent times, which psychologically puts the viewer into a light, playful mood which is what the movie's tag line suggests too - Fall in Love. Get Married. Have a baby. Not necessarily in that order.  

The movie starts off with Lopez getting an insemination as she wants to have a baby and fears that the Mr. Right may never appear, so she opts for the option which does not require the Mr. at all. And lo & behold the day she gets inseminated Alex appears and the rest of the film deals with the obvious of the leads falling in love and the rest but with a little 'baby' twist in the storyline because the insemination works for Lopez. Though the first time chance of success is rare, the rarest of the rare happens to our leading lady and the rest of the movie is spent in the acceptance of the  baby and the love and the heredity problem of commitment phobia in one of the leads just adds to the woes.

The Backup Plan is definitely a mush movie to the core and does a good job in the genre. It does not boast of any surprises in the story line but is definitely a well presented, well performed movie. The anxieties of a single mother, the helplessness of a lover, the realization of simple true facts make the movie predicable yet adorable. 

A must watch for any mush sucker and Alex looks cute.

iVerdict: Good. 
Rating: 2.5/5 

The Lake of Dreams - Book Review

A bundle of old letters tucked away. A rumbling family house by the lakeside. Cathedral glass windows with a distant and possibly family connection. And a protagonist running away from unpleasant, teary and mysterious memories.

I love mysteries and this one seemed to just have that. The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards, who also wrote the bestseller The Memory Keeper’s daughter, is filled with a lot of twisting mysteries. This is my first Kim book and she is definitely an effortless, free flow writer. The book takes the reader through the journey of Lucy Jarrett – who after trotting the world, secreting running away from a guilt filled incidental death at home, returns to the place that she is running way from – the house by the lake. There is where all the other attachments in her life come alive – the relationship with her brother, her ex-flame’s reappearance, her mother’s love interest, long distance relationship with her boyfriend and missing link in the family which leads to a Nancy Drew styled search and uncovering.

The book is interesting and pregnant with worthy details to a certain extent but does get lengthy towards the end. Why is the book still on is a question that did come to my mind towards the climax of the book. The pace consistency is missing and lags in certain parts of the book.  Interesting twists if you can handle a bit of lag.

iVerdict: Good. Can be read.
Rating: 2.5/5