Two movies and four women…'How Far Would You Go To Save The One You Love’

One of the best movies I had seen in 2005 (or was it 2004) was without doubt Perumazhakalam directed by Kamal and written by TA Razak. A wonderful movie starring Meera Jasmine, Kavya Madhavan, Mamukoya and Dileep. I saw it a while ago, so I recall only the main parts of the movie and the impressions it left. The songs were memorably done by M Jayachandran, and visually it was raining all through the movie, an effect that added to the pathos the director conveyed so effectively.

Kamal (Kamaluddin) has always made great Malayalam movies. Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thadikal, Orkkappurathu, Gramaphone,Nammal, Meghamalhar, , Mazayettum munpe, Ulladakkam, Niram, swapnakoodu, Manjupoloru penkutti, Gazhal..the list goes on.

PMK has four characters, two women and two men. The men have very brief roles, one of them Vineeth is ‘accidentally’ killed by Dileep in Saudi Arabia, where Shariya rules apply in these cases. Which simply put, states in this case …life for a life…You get to know the brief & intense relationships between the wives and the two husbands mainly as flashbacks…Well, Dileep has to die and his wife Razia-Meera Jasmine decides to try and get Vineeth’s wife Ganga - Kavya to formally forgive Dileep for the crime. With only such a document can the death sentence be stayed…A simple and poignant story covering so many aspects of life, the caste and religious climate, and of course the gulf worker and his place in Kerala. Meera Jasmine does wonders to the role and aptly the movie won awards. Mamukoya was, if you ask me, brilliant, topping the honors next to Meera J. So much for Perumazhakkalam, a ‘do not miss’ but ‘have your tissues ready’ movie. I wish every second Malayalam movie is as poignant as this one. It is reviewed by many on the web…

With all this in a distant corner of my mind, we set to watch “Dor’ by Nagesh Kuknoor. I had not read anything about it, but well it was Kuknoor and we had seem almost all his movies, truly enjoying Iqbal & Hyderbad blues. (I watched some others that have been quickly forgotten, but Rockford is still ‘view in progress’).

The scenes were breathtaking, the photography brilliant, and Gul Panag as Zeenat captivating. The two men from two corners of India Hp and Rajasthan boarded vehicles and bound for the flights to the middle east, a few days passed, the ill fated trunk call came to Zeenat and then it hit me, Shit, this is probably a remake of Perumazhakalam!!! Unfortunately the rest of the viewing was, I admit, critical and mentally comparing the movie with PMK…but well, in the end I must say the movie was good in its own way. A few bits could have been done better, for example the ending and here is where you see the difference between Kamal the master and Kuknoor the novice. The character played by Shreyas Talpade – Bhairoopia though refreshing could have been crafted better.

Gul as Zeenat does reasonably well in comparison to Meera J, but what you see from the beginning is that Dor is meant to be much lighter and for a wider audience. It moves well and true. Kuknoor does a wee bit in a couple of frames – the locales are so well captured on celluloid…but the music never finds a place in Dor unlike the MJC music in PMK. Ayesha Takia was passable…

The story is just about the same, a little less realistic towards the end, a mite faster than PMK - but nevertheless an enjoyable one… do watch it. Kuknoor had done two interviews (
Int1, Int2) answering questions about the similarities between the two movies, but the key question – was one lifted from the other? Kuknoor says not, that both are based on the same real life story, though he paid Kamal for the rights to avoid hassles!

A slight twist here – Apparently PMK shares the theme with an Iranian movie ‘Dame Sobh’ as explained in this
Hindu article… I have not seen the latter.

One scene I smiled at in Dor was the mobile phone rental service. How effective it was, the girl standing on a mound (to capture the signal) and talking for a minute – the owner checking his watch carefully for the seconds timing by…India is changing, gone are the visits to the post office to make an ISD call and scream at the top of your voice to get heard…I don’t think many of you would have seen the earlier wind up phones, I have seen them in the 60’s in my dad’s house in the estates…you have to crank them before and as you talk on…

Or how it was some decades ago in the Middle East, Since there were not so many phones in Kerala and since mobile phones were not even invented, people had to think of other ideas & methods to get their thoughts across to loved ones. They talked (some sang) into cassette tapes and posted or couriered them through others traveling back home (Filipinos also did it). This record of their thoughts & messages, resulting in a new wave called ‘Kathu pattu’ during the late 70’s.

BTW - For those interested – the Shariyyah law is based on

Intentional Murder = The Qur'an legislates the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and compassion are strongly encouraged. The murder victim's family is given a choice to either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary compensation for their loss (2:178).

Tail note – Another movie you should watch is ‘Khosla ki Ghosla’ – Truly brilliant.

Mammad kaka's coat

Driving down the I 15, I was starting to nod off a bit when I was surprised by MS Baburaj’s Kandam bechoru Kottane, mammadu kakkade kottane from the old hits CD playing in the car.After so many years, I was hearing that song all over again. On a dull winter day with teeming traffic crisscrossing the lanes and driving you mad, this one song has that ability to get you smiling. I listened to the words…What simple and nice lyrics, sung in the inimitable Calicut Koya dialect & tuned by the great Baburaj (the Cd cover states Baburaj- Mehaboob – Did Mehboob sing this or Baburaj? BTW this was the first Malayalam color film).

A song about an old and worn out coat, fit to be condemned, one that belonged to Fakir Mohammed Koya, and not a coat worn by blood sucking rich businessman or lawyers. The coat was always popular whilst on Koya, and ah! it is now mine ( who was this pictured on ? Adoor Bhasi or Bahadur? I tried picturing it and ended up with Bahadur since only Bahadur could have the size of a fakir- they are usually thin). Hey bed bug who lives in the coat, don’t bite me or I will quash you (actually stated as chop you to bits – Kashap akkum). There lives in the coat another parasite ‘kalan Paatta’ which eats away into the collar and sleeves, an entreaty to him – stop please, allow me to wear this coat for a while…
And it got me all pensive, taking me to my childhood days at Chalappuram – Calicut and the Ambalakkat house where I spent my primary school years. As the only child around, I had the large house all to myself with many trees, plants, sticks and stones for company. My Valiachan and Valiyamma who were taking care of me then (parents were living in the high range Estates – no schools in the estates, only Englishmen, Indian staff, tea plantations, tea pickers & wild animals lived there) and my bachelor uncle Balamama. Valiachan was a retired headmaster, and he was quite strict with me, the house was full of books and pictures, I recall one of those pictures on the wall, my dad’s brother (whom I never met – he died young) receiving some award from Chacha Nehru. Valiachan was always telling me about the great freedom fighters Nehru, Bose, Shastri (he never told me about VK Krishna Menon though)and making me write in copy books, using a fountain pen and old fashioned rulers (solid wooden cylinders that are rolled over paper, not today’s flat scales). Balamama my uncle worked at the Standard furniture factory in Kallai, he was always meticulously dressed in white, spending much time on an elaborate shave (first hot water, then the soap, then the Wilkinson razor with the 7’0 clock blades, then Mennen after shave), finally Brylcreem-ing his hair to perfection and finishing off by donning crisp and spotless white shirts & dhoti’s. I used to sit and watch all this before my own travel in a rickshaw to the school. Sometimes the 1-2 mile travel was by a hand drawn two wheeler; usually an old guy pulling it, sometimes it was a cycle rickshaw. Sometimes it was a ‘kuthira vandi’ – horse cart that took me clippety clop to nearby Ganapati School. Once or twice I went to school in an uncle’s Morris Minor. What an event that was!! As I got older though, I was allowed to walk the distance and I enjoyed that slow walk taking in the life around me.

I still recall the dreaded days when doctor mama came by for monthly check up’s – Dr Balakrishnanan Nair, our family doctor who owned and ran the Karunakara Nursing home across Malabar Christian College. He always ended up prescribed more tonics and asking tricky questions from school books which I had no answers for. And I remembered the many volumes of leather bound ‘book of knowledge’ that I pored over, reading about the Greeks and the Romans and many more. I can remember even today that particular musty book smell, and the wind up record player playing 78 rpm MS Subhalakshmi vinyl records.

The elders sold that house in the late 60’s to a wealthy Koya and moved to Palakkad where the rest of the family had settled down..

Balaama (shortened Balamama) used to call me Mammada…And that is where Mammad kaka’s coat took me today.

There are so many interesting words that have crept into the North Malabar Muslim dialect – words like Koyi – Which is as everybody knows Kozhi – Or Arabic words like Jannath (Heaven) or Mayyath (dead body ). ‘You’ is ‘JJJ’, now that is quite special & known only to Calicut’ians and ‘Oon’ is ‘He’. In those days we heard all these choice usages from the fish monger (almost always a Koya) who passed by or the guy who purchased old pots and pans…Today it is popularized by our comedian Mammu Koya. The z is silent in the koya dialect, koyi, puya etc are examples. Mohammad became Mammad. Kaka here does not mean crow, but means an elder. This word came from Gujarati & Hindi! Sometimes you see the learned Haji or fakir passing by, wearing the ‘Mammad’ kaka coat, small beard and mostly no moustache. Children feared the Haji, I won’t tell you though what the elder’s usual threat was…lest I create furor. Kabaristan (graveyard), Beebi (lady), Ithata(sister), Umma (mother), Odath (garden), suvar (pig) are a few of the many such special malayalified words that frequent the Calicut dialect.

Today the fish monger Koya has changed a lot, he checks with the catchers and fish retailers about the catch after whipping out his latest model mobile phone, calling to find out if a specific fish, mussels or prawns are available. I am sure we will have online fish ordering soon in Calicut..
Kandam bechoru kottanu, pande kittiya kottanu
mammad kakade kottanu ithu nattil muzhuman pattanu
Tozhilalikale kollayadikkana muthalalikalude kottalla
Kashtatha perukiya sadhu janangade kanneer oppana kottanu
Kottil irikkana van mootte, mootte nee ithu keettatte
Kadichu kollan vannal ninne kashap cheyyum mushette
Vakeel marude kottalla, ithu fakir aniyana kottanu
Rabbin kalpana kettu nadakkana kalbine moodiya kottanu
Varsham nalayi kottin akathoru kalan patta irikkunnu
Collarum thinnu keeshayum thinnu kottum koodi thinnalle....

Picture - Courtsey Hindu, HMV

Californian musings

In the middle of settling down at our new house in Socal (South California), thanksgiving, black Friday, forest fires and the such…we did meander around South California…An insight

Temecula, the place where we live, is beyond the white specked cliffs as you drive north from San Diego to LA on the I 15 (see my previous blog….). The town that borders it on the North is Murietta and down South is just hills & desert. West of the Temecula town is the French Valley vineyards where prospectors and amateur wine hobbyists and wine pros (ala French kiss – what a great movie that was!!) vie to set up the winner farm and reap a good grape harvest to bottle it. We have never been there; it is a plan for a future weekend with nothing better to do, probably go ballooning as well. It was in Temecula that Erle Stanley Gardener decided to settle down some years ago when driving on the old 395 in 1937. Legend has it that his dog ‘Ripp’ started howling his head off and Gardener stopped to let it loose for a break. The dog would simply not step back in. Gardener looked around and said ‘well, dog you seem to have a point, this is a nice place to settle down’ or something to that effect. He purchased large tracks of land, many thousand acres and lived here for many many years…For those who don’t know this chap(you have missed a lot), he was the author of the great Perry mason – Paul drake books (82 of them - sold 350 million)!! Well, Temecula is a nice medium sized American town with all the usual shops and malls, decent schools, great weather (except summer where it rivals (?) any desert temperature).

As we are located virtually midway between San Diego and Los Angles, it takes a good 60-70 miles drive to reach either city. No real Desi crowd in Temecula, though we have a Sardar running a provision shop, son running an Indian restaurant and a second Indian restaurant
Niti’s to rival. So week ends are spent driving to Mira Mesa at the outskirts of San Diego for provisions and some Desi Khana! Or to distant Artesia which is the real desi place.

Get off 91W to hit
Artesia, the little India… Woodlands, Annapurna, Tirupathi Bhima, Shaan, Ambala sweets and so on and so forth line the Pioneer blvd. Here is where the LA Desis come on weekends to shop, eat (yes, Paan available) and see movies. As you would expect bars are hard to come by though you can get Kingfisher beer or other Indian beer on the tables. The latest desi movies are released here and a good number of us come by to cheer Shah Rukh and Hritik at their antics. After the movie you amble off to the Tirupathi Bhima to see a line waiting patiently to get in. It is easier at Udupi café…but then if you want a good biryani, try Shaan. Provision shops vie to get your attention, you see signs like 230V AC items available, we convert NTSC to PAL etc…to pander to those who want to take stuff home on their holidays as they are expected to..Saree shops, jewellery all line the streets, neons glowing at night…Little India Artesia is neater & better organized compared to its counterparts in Chicago or New Jersey. It was here that we found John and his Kerala store. Not a man of cheerful countenance, John was soon grumbling about the diversity & factionalism in Kerala about how the Malabarian will avoid Travancore food and so on, and the reasons why one should not start a Mallu hotel (one state 10 different food cultures). He has a point though!!

The people…you see a good number of Mexicans in this part of the world. I am really surprised, many of the Mehican (that is how Mexican is pronounced) girls look similar to Indians, wonder where & when the lineage converged. The men are a different matter though; they are swarthy and fierce looking, or glum depending on the situation. Driving in the LA area is daunting, neither traffic nor drivers are orderly or friendly, it takes a while to adjust to the multi track roads and multiple exits on these freeways. You do need a good big car or else the bigger one will try its best to intimidate you on the road. The Americans here seem to be of a better disposition compared to their brethren in the East of the country, taking life more easy.

Black Friday went by the way it should, Arun and I covered all the electronics stores by noon, Bestbuy, Circuit city, CompUSA, Radioshack, Walmart. That is the day when big sales & discounts are announced and Americans go crazy, lining up from the early hours of the morning. It is fun (my kind, I guess) though and you do get good bargains, not just on computer and electronic goods, but also clothes & home items.

Then there were the forest fires, a common occurrence in Socal. We had one close by where many acres were burnt down overnight – deliberate arson. The smoke was horrendous, while driving back from office; I could see the sky going hazy and the ash dropping on the cars, driven through the hills by a stiff wind. You could smell smoke in the car and outside for a couple of days.

Yes, it looks like we are settling down to Californian life fast, after a two year sojourn in the UK…

Pictures - Wikipedia