Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blues on.. my Purple Blue …

“Why not that green one, I have always seen you going for green shades?” my friend asked in surprise, for that I replied “Green is my favourite colour, but I don’t know…I just liked her this way, cladded in Purple blue, blue being her identity… and I feel she is the only one who has a personality in this entire space...” It took only seconds to make that choice… and take her with me to the hostel room.

No need to confuse! Both of us were not talking about girl friends… This talk happened many years back near my college campus in Chennai, at a shop that sold fishes and aquarium… It was about my purple blue fighter fish. While my friend took an hour deciding on his favourites and finally brought half a dozen gold fishes, I was waiting at the teashop sipping hot tea in front of Selaiyur IOB bank holding a small bowl with my only fighter. Almost two three years later someone looked into my orkut profile and laughed at the statement that my ideal match is ‘a purple blue fighter fish”, for that I replied “I’ll be insulting myself in case I still think… if she is a purple blue fighter...”

I had never seen a woman like her. She was really tuff to understand… With her sharp eyes winking every single second, and the wide purple blue wings waving in a poetical passion she always proclaimed her rule. She cared a lot for her lone little space … that she cherished like a queen. I never talked much to her to make her feel that way, her freedom and comfort… as if I am not even bothered about her. Her individuality had all the shades that matched any rainbow. I could never stand those colours to get faded away like those rainbows becoming ‘yesterday’s illusion’, as she been my only ‘silent’ solution then. It was a great feeling watching her silently, during tensions of assignments and projects during college days. In no time, I used to get boosted with so much of energy and enthusiasm.

I was never been so addicted or attracted to any of those light hearted gold fishes, the little angels, guppies, black mollies or the sharp sharks that lived in groups. None of them seemed to have any sense of individuality or love for freedom. I couldn’t even differentiate one gold fish from another in the aquarium and thus they failed to create any fascination in me. But the very moment I looked at the lone lady fighter, as the glare of light hitting the bowl, I saw my own face reflecting on its smooth sides of the glass. Thus she and her lone little space became a part of my paradise - Room no.169, Heber Hall. At times I used to imagine myself to be her partner, diving into that bowl and swimming smoothly holding her tight.

At the aquarium they asked me not to touch any fish with hands while taking them out for changing water, pebbles, shells etc. But I always preferred to lift her with my own hands so softly; with utmost care coz I never trusted the sharp edges of the net. Moreover I hated the fact that the water always drained out while lifting a fish with the net, leaving them suffocate for some time. She, my fighter, was so cosy in the very little water I held in my palm while taking her out. More over she seemed to understand that I wouldn’t hold her for long like that, but leave her free… back in her free space.

Unlike other fishes she was never been so restless swimming so aimless like mad. She liked to stand at one place quietly for long time waving her purple blue skirt, deep in some thought, turning eyes in all directions watching her territory with utmost care. Her swim was more poetical and musical. It always matched with the music from my computer speakers. Moreover I have noticed her staying close to the speakers. She never liked any ‘hide and seek’ business and naturally never hid herself under the shells or pebbles. She didn’t seem to enjoy going to the bottom of the bowl. She used to come up so close and grab her food from my fingers touching the surface of the water.

Once my friend left a gold fish with her, to see her behaviour. That handsome boy (almost three times the size of my fighter girl) was chased all around the bowl up-down, left-right, top-bottom, north-south, east-west…in all possible vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines and circles - until we both felt so bad about him and took him out of the bowl. He was so tired and suffocated… taking deep breaths through his gills - almost out of his freaking mind. When we left him back in his aquarium, it was horrible to watch his weird disabled way of swim, as if he had forgotten how to swim. My purple blue girl was still relaxed as if nothing happened, quietly doing the salsa in the same poetical pattern, turning her head in all sides, winking her beautiful eyes with the rhythm of music.

She was a real tuff woman to handle, whom I respected a lot. I had to change water only twice a month for that small bowl that didn’t even have any artificial air pipes. She could live without any nourishment for two weeks long. I never had to be bothered about her when I had to go for vacations or project works. If it was for a longer vacation at my home in Kerala, I used to carry her with me in the train. She was such a silent girl, who seemed to like the travel in the train. I remember those restless baby rabbits I carried home with me form Hyderabad during my graduation days. Rabbits became a part of my family so well, sharing the same cage with the lovebirds. But none of them were a match for my purple blue. Whenever she came home with me she was treated so precious. She used to get more attention than me, from my parents and sister.

She was the only one that looked good on me. It was painful losing her. But then one day I realised that her dreams were beyond the boundaries of that bowl. One evening when I came back from college she was not there in the bowl. After ten-fifteen minutes of search, I found her near the door. It was so painful to see her so badly wounded and completely covered by dry dust. I washed her carefully and left her back in the bowl. She was just amazing…beyond imagination. From that critical condition she regained her strength spreading her wings wide. The obvious wound marks got covered by fresh new purple blue scales in two weeks.

You guys can call me cruel or selfish. Even after realizing her urge for more freedom and space, I was not ready to loss her. Many times I took the bowl to the Heber pond thinking of leaving her there, but came back… feeling so insecure about her… She was with me for a longer time, more than the time any of those gold fishes lived in my friend’s aquarium. I have seen him changing fishes many times. But I had only one purple blue fighter till this date. She died…

Fighters are of three colours, green, blue & purple blue. But mine was always that purple blue… with her I always forgot that my favourite colours are the green and the greys… “I never insulted myself by thinking, when I saw my purple blue…”, she still stay with me... in memories...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Animated, Inanimated & Partially Animated

I don’t know whether he was at the right place or the wrong one when he got that phone call, or whether he started drinking before that phone call or after that. He did react to it exactly the same way I expected. First he decided to throw his mobile off from the cliff and then he thought he should throw himself off. But he didn’t follow either of those instant thoughts but sat down sipping his sixth peg of Gin and Lemonade, smoking the last joint left in his hands.
Joy Kuttan was born as ‘JOY KUTTAN’ for those proud orthodox Christian parents from Kottayam district of Kerala, who believed them to be the successors of one of the disciples of St. George. Unlike the other babies born around the globe at 10.30 AM on 21st Dec 1982, he was considered as a surprise… He surprised everyone by a laugh instead of cry as if he was so excited seeing the first light outside. Doctors claimed that he came out much early too. The next thing he did was winking at the nurse who cleaned him. The priest, Mani Achan, from the nearby church who happened to be there by chance, with all heart, wished him with the name ‘Joy Kuttan’. All the Malayalies thus started calling him ‘Joy Kuttaaaaa….’. For a few years he lived as ‘Baby Boy. Joy Kuttan’. When he once shared screen with Superstar Mammootty for a film as a child actor, his name was scrolled in the credits as ‘Master. Joy Kuttan’. Since then it took many years for him to grow up to the status of Mr. Joy Kuttan.
This is the history, geography and cultural background of this character. I had to stop for a while to clean the utensils in kitchen. While doing that I was thinking on what made him plan his tour in his dirty modified Mahindra Classic Jeep to the suicide point of Kodaikanal from his rich rubber estate in Kottayam… and that too all alone. I really don’t know… may be some kind of instinct. Well, we all do follow instincts! Don’t we? What do you think is the basic instinct behind Cockroach’s plan of writing about one Joy Kuttan in joy that no one seems to enjoy?
Though his intention was not clear, he was obviously not in the mood or the mode of killing himself. But the phone call did knock him down. The intoxication of Gin was so tight too. The phone call could be a rude one, an unexpected one or an unexpectedly rude one… what ever. He smiled at the sky and the dead-end for his jeep and the life, lying down alone at the tip of the cliff. After a while he did something really crazy. Even I didn’t expect that.
He opened his bag and pealed a paper off from the book that first got caught in his hand. (I forgot to say that Joy Kuttan was an avid reader.) It was the first page of ‘Broken Glass’ by African writer Alain Mabanckou where he had written the golden phrase ‘in Africa, when an old person dies, a library burns’. He hardly bothered to read it but scribbled “good bye” on the empty sides of the paper and said this loud in an insanely shivering tone “Thanks for those tiny indecent reasons of your own, that I am on my own from now on.”
In a few seconds, a paper rocket flew up from the suicide point of Kodaikanal. It had no emotions. It sailed in the sky- in the air- so aimlessly. The paper didn’t know the meaning of any African phrase. But it had a rich history of its own. It was once the part of a forest tree at Valayar region in Kerala. The tree was stolen and exported as forest wood, later cut and processed at various places. The paper that became the rocket in the hands of Joy Kuttan was once that portion, thrown as unwanted useless priceless pieces, carried away as waste wood and processed at Punaloor paper mills. A different fate was waiting in the hands of small time printers who sold replica of famous books. It thus became the first page of ‘Broken Glass’ of Alain Mabanckou carrying the famous phrase from Africa for a reader like Joy Kuttan, who never believed in gathering knowledge for big money. As I said earlier, that paper didn’t have any emotions by itself. With the wind it continued its journey towards yet another fate… as it was been always…
Neither the emotional Joy Kuttan nor the emotionless paper rocket found the presence of the third character in this story - ‘Joy Kuttan, The Rocket and Chinnu’. Yes, it is Chinnu, I don’t know her exact name so let me call her Chinnu. Well, we humans have this weird habit of giving names to anything and everything without their permission. (I am thinking of all those pets in our lives – David the dog, Ruby the kitten etc…) For my convenience I am taking the liberty of calling her Chinnu. She was a beautiful black ant, and the queen of her colony. Just like her companions she was living a simple life gathering food and bringing up her children. Her fate was quite simple and certain, until Joy Kuttan threw her into the complex and uncertain. It was not intentional. She was caught in between the gap of the paper rocket.
Chinnu’s colony was very near to the place where Joy Kuttan’s jeep was parked. She was disturbed by the noise of jeep while feeding her children, and thus came out to face the intruder. The tyre of the jeep was very near to her colony. She was not capable to understand what would have happened if it was parked one step ahead. For that matter, she was not familiar about anything else other than her little world around. How many of us actually know the ‘Actual World’? How much of the world can be explored by a small little ant, who has nothing other than a colony that can be placed under the tyre of a jeep, living with less than a hundred adult inhabitants and a probable thirty little ones.
The wind carried Chinnu caught in that paper rocket, to her uncertainty… I can’t explain what was going on her mind during the journey. Being a nonliving object, I am pretty sure that the journey didn’t make any sense for the rocket. But the black ant is a living being capable of thinking. May be she is not as intelligent as a human being, but she definitely had emotions. Chinnu was the protector of her children and her colony too… May be she is a creature not capable of keeping memories on their realities… but she definitely had a reality and the sense of existence.
The paper rocket floated up in the sky like a feather. A lot many times huge birds like the eagles and vultures tried to grab it confusing it to the pigeons and sparrows. But it escaped with the difference in the pressure of wind as they approached each time. Swinging and swaying it took nine days for that rocket to reach the surface of land… a village nearby… but by then Chinnu was dead and dried, stuck to the surface of the rocket…
I did imagine a situation a few years later… One day Annamma Saira Philip who was by then Mrs. Joy Kuttan, discovered a black stain right on the nose of the photograph of famous Dr. Joy Kuttan featured in an article that came in the Sunday Suppliment of Mathrubhoomi Newspaper. There was no more African Phrases by Mabanckou except for an always-dull photo with a black stain on the nose … and the paper didn’t have any emotion to carry by itself…

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Squirrel of Ramayana

“They say that I am handsome only because of those three white lines. In fact, I haven’t even seen them as they are stamped on my back. To be honest with you, they didn’t make any difference in my life.” The squirrel replied for cockroach’s compliment, munching some cereals scattered on the courtyard.

“Does anyone remember me now? I am the Squirrel of Ramayana,” he continued moving around in a hurry as if he has just one more day to live. Cockroach looked surprised at his antics, with his mouth wide open.

“For many centuries I walked through the pages of Ramayana, as told by the saint Valmiki. I had grown old now. Still remember that day so fresh in my eyes.” He wiped his face with his tender hands, shaking his body cleaning the grains caught in the grey coat of thick fur. “I guess, the Lord noticed me only because of this habit. I was just helping him to build a bridge over the sea. Saw him so much in pain, missing wife Sita.”

“It was a rainy day in the forest. I woke up listening to a buddy bird chirping loud the news of some monkey’s march to the beach. I was so deep in sleep coz of the routine tiring day gathering food for dear little ones and my sweet heart. In sleep I didn’t even realize the heavy rain that socked me deep in. The whole forest was coloured green and grey with the water splashing from leaf tips and tree branches. Sunlight was struggling to find the way in through the dense green layer that protected us like a mother. Yet a few beams intruded into our world through hollow hallow spaces, blessing us with another new day of action and passion.”

“I shook my body to get rid of the water stuck to the skin. A few drops thus fell into my mouth. That day- for some crazy reason- the rainwater tasted salty like tears. Was the sky kept weeping for someone?”

“Curiosity is my colour by birth. True to that nature, I couldn’t resist the instinct. Rushing through the wet slippery branches I found my way targeting the seaside. I was new to those parts of the jungle and hence a bit scared about the owls and eagles possibly hiding here and there. Each day someone among us needed to be sacrificing our lives being the meal of their children. Now that is the general rule of the jungle, a city dweller like you might not understand.” The squirrel looked at cockroach, “It is all about sustaining the cycle of life and protecting a precious specious.”

“As I moved on, the appearance of the land and trees changed. Instead of monstrous ones like the bearded Banyan tree or the perfumed Jackfruit tree, there were more palms and coconut trees revealing the fact that I am quite nearer to the sea. In a few hours, along with the sound of rain, I heard the cry of monkeys in the air. Whether it is talk or action, no one can be as good as the monkeys. They were considered to be the most restless beings in our forest. But hardly anyone understood their talks; interestingly they themselves did’t seem to have any clue of their own conversations. Whatever ill we say, its them who had the will to support the Lord in his pain and thus the mission.”

“I reached the last layer of trees right near the beach. Sitting on top of a huge coconut tree I had an aerial view of the land underneath. I must say I had never seen anything like that before; it was stunning. As I told you, the monkeys were naturally active, but I had never seen them that active ever before. On the vast sand of the beach, in that continuous rain of agony, they were so busy in building the bridge across the sea. The whole monkey population was there including the old and the little ones; even the young elegant pregnant ladies to the ones who already had their babies hanging on their shoulders. On the extreme end of the beach I saw the Lord. He was obviously dull with the pain reflecting in his eyes. The birds were right; he looked so incomplete without his woman. For that matter, any man is incomplete without his woman by his side. Only the luckiest ones could have a good fate. Sita was still the part of his body and mind. The sea could be a physical barrier, but it couldn't be capable to fence their hearts. I knew the whole story about him and Sita from the gypsy migratory cranes that often visited the pools inside our forest. They all were philosophical in their talk because of genuine knowledge and understanding of the world. An old crane once told me that even the Gods needed to undergo the same struggles as of any other being, being a part of the living world. Hence Rama, the Lord too…”

“Among the monkeys I couldn’t identify most of the faces. But I recognized the monkey hero of the forest Hanuman and the leader of the lot, Sugriva. Without any sense of hierarchy they all were equally involved in sharing the tasks, carrying big rocks, sand etc for the construction of the bridge. The passionate engineers among them worked out many brilliant options to get it done fast. I heard that the big monkeys had to consult with the craftsmen of the jungle, the red ants and spiders, on tips for construction.”

“Immediately, a sense of responsibility stuck my mind and I crawled down the tree and ran across the sand towards the plot. I knew that they still needed more people, and I thought I could be of some help. I carried some sand in my hands and walked towards the bridge along with the other monkeys. They were all so involved that they didn’t realise me walking underneath. I had to really struggle between their massive inconsistent leg movements. As I threw the sand, I understood that it is too less compared to the huge sacks carried by the monkeys.”

“My little hands didn’t help me much. I had do something else. Probably that was the only moment in life I actually looked at my size. I wish I had bigger hands and body like them. While looking on my body, an idea flashed in. In the rain I was wet… I also had so much fur on my skin. Now that could work. I didn’t think much but followed my intuition plunging into the seawater from the bridge. Then swam back to the beach, twisted and turned on the sand, so that the it got stuck on my wet fur. It did work, my entire body including the face was covered by sand in seconds.”

“I then walked towards the bridge. Over there I shook my body, so that the whole sand falls on the bridge. It was quite a good plan and I felt so proud of myself. Yet deliberately, didn’t look at any monkey’s contribution. I knew that mine wouldn’t match them. I didn’t want to get beaten by that complex. So consciously avoided them and continued with what I was capable of. So many plunges in sea water… so many times crawling on the sand… so many times carrying the sand on my body to the bridge… the day just went on, busy on the task.”

“There was so much of energy and enthusiasm among the monkeys, that oozed into my mind too. We all had only one aim and one heart. Slowly, I somehow felt equal to them. I saw all of them, but no one seemed to have noticed me. I was even faster in my movements. In the time a monkey carried his sack of sand to the bridge, I almost finished with three of my rounds.”

“I didn’t even realize the passing time… I guess no one did, but the sun god was done with his ride in the sky for the day and was ready to hide himself in the sea. The horizon lost the blue, turning it red orangey.”

“I felt someone’s hand on my back and in no time I was lifted up from the ground. I shivered in shock. It was definitely not the catch of an owl or an eagle. A few among us who had narrow escapes from the clutches of the owl, had already explained to me how it felt on their skin. I was held so smoothly in the air. Ironically, the alarming shiver of my body changed to a sense of weird security in those hands. But still I was unable to look back and see the one who lifted me.”

“I felt the touch of another hand, with the fingers slowly moving on my back. A touch of care, love and gratitude… I closed my eyes for a moment. It was like seeing the whole world coming into me and me dissolving in the world. All the uncertainties became certain… all the questions changed to answers… I saw my little ones chirping and playing on my body; I felt my sweetheart’s breath on my chest. I realised that they are my world and I am for the world. My duty is to make my family happy... My duty is to make the world happy…”

"The tender hands that held me up, left me down too. As I touched the soil, my mind returned back to the reality of life - being the same little squirrel, crawling on trees, gathering food for children and loving his woman. The Lord did his duty to his parents, wife and the world, living as a normal human being experiencing all the struggles common for mankind.”

“They say that I got the three white lines on my back by the touch of his fingers. I had never seen the Lord close; I had only experienced that smooth soothing touch. Well, those three lines didn’t make any difference in my life. As the visionary gypsy crane said I am born in this world for that experiences of life, both the good and the bad - simple and straight. The Lord himself had to undergo all those hardships!”

“Centuries passed and I am still the same little squirrel of Ramayana… doing all that I am capable of doing. You are right Cockroach; I live as if I have only one more day to live.” He jumped over the fence of the courtyard and vanished in the green, just like any other squirrel.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Who am I? I wonder what so many writers did to me. Whenever I talk, write or make a film to the world I feel myself being Raskolnikov of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, bending down on his knees to the street prostitute Sonia and doing his confessions. Well, what is the difference between Raskolnikov and me, the world and Sonia. World is like that prostitute busy earning for her basic living, selling her skin and I am probably the same young-man lying down drunk in the gutters without drinking in a state of trans. Writer Permbadavam Sreedharan, in his Malayalam novel ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Poole’- about the most stressful and romantic chapter of Dostoevsky’s life - called him ‘Hrudayathil Daivathinte Kayyoppulla Ezhuthukaran’ (The writer who has the signature of God on his heart). While reading every single word of Fyodor I still do confuse whether he had written it with ink or his blood. Reading him is like watching a sincere cinema.

I read the first copy of ‘Crime and Punishment’ from library, when I was in 8th standard. Ended every single chapter with a tear in my eyes and naturally developed an addiction to the writer giving him a status equal to the God. One day my father gave me a gift - Perumbadavam Sreedharan’s ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Pole’. Sreedhran, himself confessed that it was his dream to write about Dostoevsky and the chapter and plot he adapted for this fiction was dusted, crafted and touched with a lot of love and care. Naturally it was a winner and thus, to date, it is the most selling novel in Malayalam. I remember reading that book like a bible. In Dostoevsky I experienced all of his characters. In a way, he was also a Raskolnikov busy doing his criminal confessions through his characters. I can’t forget. There was a beautiful moment in life, almost equal to a dark evening at Marina beech at a later point in life. A few days after I finished reading ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Poole’, I got a prize from Mr. Sreedharan for a short story competition conducted by culture centre ‘Mela’ in my hometown. I didn’t know whom or how to thank for that, at that little age. Life’s joyful miracles… I do cherish. Both ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Poole’ I still keep close to soul.

Somerset Mougham once called Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ equal to a bible. He also had ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ of Dostoevsky among the ten must-read books before you die.

I almost lost the flare of reading now, but the ones I read in my childhood are so fresh in heart, whether it is poems, short stories or novels. I used to read poems of Chinua Achebe, Sarojini Naidu and Wordsworth with a lot of love. More than just reading, I liked reciting poems like Naidu’s ‘Palanquin Bearers’ and Wordsworth’s ‘Solitary Reaper’ in a musical note while swinging and walking with my sister to the school. I liked acting as Watson of Sherlock Holms, coz according to me he is the luckiest man on earth for having the detective as his friend. I had a huge collection of Holms images and articles about him.

It was the same with Malayalam literature. While Vailappilli’s ‘Mampazham’ made me cry, Irayimman Thampi’s lullaby gave me sound sleep. I wanted to travel with S.K Pottakkadu to the Nile River to see crocodiles and Hippos. Another book I have read umpteen numbers of times is P. Narendranath’s ‘Parayi Petta Panthirukulam’, because that used to be my mother’s favourite. While my father is a man prefer staying outside home busy working in farm, my mother remains an avid reader. I really don’t know whose gene is more powerful in me.

While listening to Hindi lesson’s by Swamiji, I had this fascination to short stories in hindi literature too. Interestingly I read most of Tagore’s stories like Kabuliwalah in Hindi. But it was nice listening to Swamiji narrating those stories and poems, because he always used to combine his experiences as a military man in north, literally visualising the landscapes there. He used to recite Harivamsa Rai Bachan's classic poems the same way he sung Kabirdas, Soordas and Thulasidas.

Other than the Godly figure Dosthovisky, there are a few writers whom I guess I could relate more than anybody else… whom I could feel free to talk … whom I could have had some kinda personnel connection, may be like my grandpa or grandmom. They are Kunjunni Mashu, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan and Kamaladas. More than their stories I liked listening to the voice of Kunjunni Maashu and Kamaladas, their interviews in TV. They are full of enthusiasm, love and passion. I was not in Kerala when both of them died. I happened to hear about their death much later through friends and Internet. Felt like I lost connection with the world for hours. Those were the people whom I wanted to stay with me till I die speaking to me, the reality of life mixing with the fantasy of life. True dreamers… people who were so open at heart going to any extend talking without any masks on their faces, living according to their intuitions... and imaginations... simple and straight.

Love for Ruskin Bond and R.K Narayan started since I saw serial Malgudi Days and a Doordarshan serial on Ruskin Bond. I could somehow feel their personal presence so deep in me. One of the most powerful write-up I read is Narayan’s ‘Next Sunday’, where he had broken down the barriers of fiction and non-fiction, speaking spontaneously on autobiographical style and a unique treatment leaving you laughed, surprised, tensed as well as excited… something beyond all genres. You will laugh if I say that I tried to act as a blind man imagining a similar situation as that of Ruskin Bond’s ‘The girl in the train’ (I have seen the same story with someother title, not sure). This is one story that I always wanted to film ever since I started learning the art of filmmaking. Still confused about the treatment to be used and the perspective to be identified.

I am not forgetting any other revolutionary writers whom I respect a lot like O Henry, Paulo Coelho, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, V.T, Lalithambika Andarjanam, Balamani Amma etc. Writing a novel like Andarjanam's 'Angnisakshi' is not a joke during that era in Kerala. I once argued that an MBA lesson is incomplete without teaching 'Animal Farm'. But then literature is an ocean, where I used to dive deep and now almost lost even the talent to do a surface swim. Just remembering the number of sharks, piranhas, angelfishes, octopuses and dolphins I have met in those dives in my childhood… remembering the oysters and pearls I have collected in those adventures…

Today I feel myself standing at the beech looking at the waves… at times scribbling on the sand about those adventures... so aimlessly...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Demon & the Mermaid

Grandpa’s bedtime tales used to be mesmerising chapters of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Nesting our heads on his white hairy chest my cousin and me used to dream about the legendary jump of majestic monkey God Hanuman over the sea to Lanka overthrowing the obstacles caused by sea serpent Surasa and the monstrous mountain Minakam. Imaginations on mystic mythical beings are wild and vibrant since then. During the school days Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey gathered from the dusty old cupboard of Swamiji taught me how to ride on centaurs, dragons and unicorns too. No intention to compete with Vyasa, Valmiki or Homer…Framing neither an epic saga nor a fairy dairy. This is about the snowy reality of a Demon and a Mermaid, who are alter egos. Epics have quite a lot goons meditating to gain boons for options to hide their souls from jealous gods. This story is about such a demon. Beauty of any fairy tale is that they are the only literature on earth that cannot be questioned.

The demon - a silent creepy little creature - never longed for anything else except for following his devilish intentions and intuitions on his voyage to be a victor of the world. Gods were naturally jealous. Wherever possible they shot sparks of lightning shocks at him creating scars on his body and mind. Interestingly yet ironically they never knew where his life was. He was looked as a nasty being living with a violent heart and silent soul. The demon himself was surprised about his survival each time and the mystery behind his life.

On one of the rides on his centur at the grainy grey beech sand, he found a stained bottle caught in the net with an unclear message wrapped inside. The centur read it clearly to him. He discovered the sign of a mermaid living many oceans away who seemed to have written it. When the demon placed the bottle on salty water, a glimpse of her beautiful body reflected on the sides of the bottle smiling at him and in seconds it flowed down and dissolved in the shallow waters of the ocean. Demon immediately muttered a message in the ears of centurs and asked him to ride over the oceans and find her. Wagging his tail the centur jumped over the waves and raced on the ocean surface. It took many months for him to come back. But what he got with him was a visage filled with tiny drops of kisses by the Mermaid.

The next time when the Gods shot a lightning at the Demon, he fell deep into the seawater sinking down to the unknown in an unconscious state. The salty water entered into his ears and revealed the truth and mystery behind his life. The Demon heard the mermaid’s laughing voice echoing vague with the ripples hurrying to escape from the water. The visage of kisses opened and they covered all over his body, like tiny little fishes of rainbow colours. The streaks of light peeped in from the sky through the water scattering over the scales of the fishes. The demon felt the kiss of mermaid on his lips. He held her tight to his body and kissed behind her long neck. Her naughty golden hairs covered his face and the rosy lips whispered this, “ Your soul is safe in me, millions of oceans away. It is not for the Gods…”

As he opened his eyes lying at the grainy sands of the beach, to the beautiful red sun sailing high in the sky, many oceans away the murmur of his soul melted on her lips. Listening to her words drafted in an echo of laughter he stood high on the sand taking a deep breath of chill salty sea wind. While he exhaled, he whispered a name… Only the centur heard it… and kept it a quite secret in his heart.

A fairy tale cannot be questioned… until it is an experience. Grandpa never said this to me… but life did…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Karna Motcham - Incarnation of Karna

An amazing film I saw yesterday that made me realize how fake my films are in concepts and treatment. Karna Motcham is an award winning short film about a Theru-Koothu Artist and his one-day life in Chennai. Screenplay written and Directed by S.Murali Manohar, Story, Dialogues by Writer S.Ramakrishnan. This short film have won more than 60 awards including National award by Government of India, Tamilnadu Government Best short film, Best Director etc.

This film reminded me of my all time favourite director till date, Im Kwoen-Tak and his films Sopyonje and Chi Hwa Seon - Painted Fire. His films has volumes on his own land, the people, history, culture, traditions, geography, climatic conditions…etc… While Sopyonje says the story of the life of a performer of Korean traditional folk form Panasori, The Painted Fire is about a traditional Korean Calligrapher Owon. In both the films the passion of the artists are shown through every single property and parameter of cinema.

As the film ‘Chi Hwa Seon’ progresses we see the climate of Korean land changing in every scene. It has wide angles of the nature and the Korean land, it has deep emotions, row and natural people, and it has nearly everything that can possibly act as the cultural ambassador of the Korea. The passion of the artist is shown so deep. The calligrapher once break into a house that is in the control of military to make a small correction in his painting, all his best paintings are done as favour for different people including the wife who cheated him, his teacher and friends. In a frame we see a fleet of sparrows flying high in the sky and the shot dissolves to a long calligraphy by the artist who has all those sparrows sketched with perfection. The film Sopyonje used all the similar metaphors possible to symbolise the art Panasori. I cannot forget that long static scene where the Panasori Master and his children singing ‘Aariraari rang Soori soorirang’ and walking across an original Korean Landscape. The scene starts with all the three as small spots at the extreme end of the path and the frame remains static throughout until they sing and come close to the camera and leave. In the theatre I found audience standing and clapping for this single scene. It is the simplest and effective cinematic representation of passion and the film was thus the blood and flesh of the director representing his passion. In my life no other scenes thrilled me as much as this in theatre.

I have seen both these films only once and they are so haunting that I remember every single frame of it so deep in heart. I have a weird way of judging a cinema, which is obviously not the best or the right way. I consider those films that melt in me so perfectly hesitating to get out of memory as my favourite films. While Chaplin remains the role model as a cinematic brand, it is Im Kwoen-Tak who is my ‘complete director’ and thus a target to reach. Both these men are impossible to reach in perfection or style, but I do treat them with at most respect as the Gurus of cinema.

Talking about Chaplin, Im Kwoen-Tak or any of their films is not that easy. I can talk hours and hours about them, why them? Even a single frame in their film itself! There is so much to explore and study in detail.

Coming back to where I started- Karna Motcham. This could be one such film I have seen after a very long time that conveyed the beauty of the geography, culture, emotion etc of a land so perfectly in its concept and treatment. I was so surprised seeing such a film from Tamil Nadu. So thrilled and excited on the possibility of a revival period for good cinema in Tamil. If people are not reaching good cinema, let us take this pledge to take cinema to the people.

Art was, is or will not be a commodity. It is all about creation, innovation, communication, passion and sharing without expectation. Karna Motcham is one such film that should reach people of Tamil Nadu and the world representing Tamil Nadu.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sleeping with Camera

If someone ask me whether I have slept with a girl, my answer is no. But if the question is about a camera in the same way, it is yes. I really don’t know how many nights and how many postures that I have actually slept with camera. That includes sleeping with my very first Sony Hi8 Camera on the mat of Room no 169 of MCC to sleeping at the dry sand of Perunagar River of Kanchipuram hugging Panasonic M.D 1000. Can’t forget the mind-blowing sunrises I have seen with both these cameras.

One was after the turtle walk through Chennai beech at night for gathering eggs of migratory turtles and taking it to hatcheries in order to protect them from human and nonhuman predators. After the turtle walk I slept at the beech sand near the fencing of the hatchery hugging the Hi8 camera. The chillness of sea wind kept the body cold but in no time I was deep in sleep, as always without any clear dream. It was a beautiful sunrise that made me open my eyes. The sun was just out at the horizon painting the blue canvas of sky with shades of red and orange. He also placed a path way of golden red carpet with glittering rays on the waves of sea towards me.A fishing boat that passed through the tip of horizon created the feel of a black dragon slipping across the red sun.

The sunrise at Perunagar River was different but with a totally different feel. I was shooting a festival conducted by 8 to 9 villages of Kanchipuram at the dry riverbed of Perunagar. Each of the villages brought their own decorated chariot to the riverbed at night for the ritual of Garudaseva. After shooting the main rituals I slept on the river sand with the camera tight under my arms. My eyes opened early in the morning to a stunning visual of 9 chariots in the river sand, with the glittering sunrise in the background. It was like being in a war field like Kurukshetra of Mahabhatarha.

During the shooting nights of Tamil folk-art Terukoothu performance at Dusi and Takolam village of Kanchipuram, that Panasonic M.D 1000 stayed close to my body for many nights. That equipment can probably understand my heart beats more than the only girl who hugged me tight a few months back with the promise of being with me; but left in no time.

Hugging a camera and sleeping with it was never been any act of romance. I always did it to make sure that the equipment is safe at crowded locations and at night. But it always developed a sense of deep attachment with the gadget. May be that is the reason why I feel it as a part of the body while doing any shoot. Once I even had to bend down covering the camera with my body and run to protect it from a drunkard who tried to snatch it from me and on the process got beaten up by him on my back with wounds caused by his nails on my right hand.

I have never romanticised any equipment including camera but there is definitely a different feeling of attachment. Missing a moment or emotion on the location is more painful than getting a frame of camera right. I normally don’t wait to get everything in 100% perfection, because on the process I’m scared of missing something. Now that defines why I still carry the camera wrapped in bathroom towel or t-shirt on my back bag than the camera bag. I expect the gadget to be in hand and start shooting even before I think…

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Beachcomber

A short story narrated by my friends Alice and acted by Eugene. This is a chapter of omnibus film ‘Fish and the Yesterday Song’ by my artist friends Claire and Peter of Skimtone Studio with old people of Newcastle. I was been lucky to be a part this project helping them in shooting the film. I have also done the documentation of the process of making this collaborative process-led film.

More than the film, the unconditional love of each and every participant was a memory to cherish for this lifetime. Eugene and me shared quite a lot time cracking jokes and fooling around. Well, it was like getting a good friend whom I can relate very well. He too calls me his best friend now. Cheers dude. And definitely Alice, she is my sweet heart too. Love u guys. The film was a great effort of six months by Artists Claire and Peter. Kudos to the team. We all got so many hugs and kisses, which is precious than any awards or appreciation. Hope to make another film with the team.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Road Run of Romantic

It is morning 1.30 AM here. I just got back after 6 hour long work as a waiter in a Kerala Restaurant. The best thing about this job is Chef Yousaf Bhai’s traditional Kerala food and being in the ambiance of my homeland listening to Yesudas songs. I also enjoy the walk after the work late at night from Quayside to my house at Fehnam making fun on Newcastle roads fooling around everyone. Today while walking back I suddenly thought of my very first job in life, back in the year 2002.

I was always been blamed of seeing life through the eyes of a romantic. I won’t deny; it’s quite true. To be honest with you, I did my first job to earn money to buy a gift for a girl hoping to propose her. It was during my graduation days in Hyderabad. I was adamant that if I buy something for her, that should be with my own income. Since then I was been dependent on my parents completely. I never had any shame to ask money from them for myself, but I thought it is unfair in such a context. The job was to do promotional sales of Rexona Safron and Sandal soap at various shops, as part of its launch. I did the work for 4 days under the hot summer sun of Hyderabad with a record sale of 256 soaps. As a promotional deal I was asked to give a free shampoo along with 4 soaps of Rexona. A little intelligence worked there, to make that record mark by approaching wholesale dealers directly; who brought soaps in bulk from me along with all the shampoos, which they could sell separately for extra profit.

I too gained enough to buy something I thought is precious for the little money I could gather with that job. I got the payment a few hours before my train to Kerala. I ran through the roads of Hyderabad and caught a bus to old city. That was my second visit to old city and got into a shop called Kesiah or something, where I got a cute white pearl. I was too confused whether it was an original pearl. The shopkeeper was a kind man; he showed me how to find the purity of pearl. He made a flame and kept the pearl on the flame. He told me that if it changes the colour or get burnt it is a fake one and if it retains its shine it is genuine. He thus proved his point; that he sells only pure pearls. The pearl was pure and my heart too baked in Hyd sun, but interestingly only the pearl was acceptable to the girl. Well, she had her reasons… At later point of life, I realised that love and adventure as an infatuation quite natural for a young boy of his graduation days.

I can see that young chap, running through the dirty roads of old city, catching bus to the railway station to get the train to Cochin with a dream. He had a pearl close to his heart. That was my very first run of victory and failure. But the experience I gained is still unique. It was my love for her that introduced me to multimedia to do a music video on the theme of love. It is multimedia that introduced me to the world of editing and it is editing that opened a path to videography, direction, filmmaking and hence me, cockroach in cocktail… etc… everything… A Malayalam poem I did write, compose and sung that was recorded with a pocket walkman, transferred and edited with sound forge in the space of Arena Multimedia. I had never seen a camera during those days and hence animated clips generated from Flash and 3D studio Max was used for the video that was edited using Adobe Premiere. Special effects were added in After Effects. I myself handled every single aspect of it, without anyone’s help. In that process learning a lot about the art of cinema… Thus my first audio-visual art work happened. There used to be a time which I bunked my B.Sc Computer Science lessons and spend whole day in Arena practicing editing and making this film. The first preview of that video was done to the pune Vinay. The day I finished it, we both sat there watching it continuously again and again until we were bored of it. I used to help Vinay to pull down the shutter of Arena on many nights for many months. I remember that old maid servent of Arena too, who always hugged me and called me ‘Anarkali Betta’. Even now she won’t remember my name, but she definitely recognize me as ‘Anarkali. Now that is a different story, of acting as female character ‘Anaarkali’ for a comedy play at Arena.

Walking back through the roads of Newcastle late night, I realised that I haven’t changed at all… fooling around people, dancing and howling on the roads, I haven’t grown up at all. Still playing bet games on street run or jumping to catch the roof of bus stops. How much ever people blame me for being impractical, I still enjoy being that boy of Hyderabad roads, running with a pearl close to his heart. He still hasn’t learnt to love, but he enjoys his romance to his life. He is not okay with people who are busy complicating their lives. He is not ready to except the world’s comment that romance kills the sense of practicality. His life is a simple one; He see it with a lot of romance, adventure and care… love to live it this way, simple and straight… with the heart of the same boy of Hyderabad… whether it is filmmaking, family, friends… hopes, journeys, fantasies, adventures and dreams… A few days back I had a moment to cry when a young boy who had a problem of autism suddenly started sharing ideas with me when I was doing a little film editing with him. I haven’t lost anything… life has a reason to move on… it is magical… And I feel myself a magician. :)