Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chaappa Kurishu - A humble review

Please don't go ahead if you have not watched the movie because I have given away the suspense :)
Aararane ! Nyano neeyo araarane !

Over the flip of a coin around a 1000 true stories are portrayed through the conviction of a man, Sameer Tahir. Based on several MMS scandals that has happened in the past, and is happening even today, this movie goes beyond that basic concept, painfully showing the hovering of emotions and how it can require just one incident to trigger it off!

Ansari (Vineeth), who has been leading a very plain, dull life as a salesman at a supermarket; seems to be unaware of how it would feel to be the king of his kind of world. On the other hand, Arjun, who seems to be a Casanova, is somewhere deep down aware of how he plays his game. The two extremes are evident in every angle of their emotions. When love is blunt and so openly exposed between Arjun (Fahad) and Sonia (Remya); we have Ansari and Nafisa (Niveda) who speak it through the language of sight. One would call the latter 'old age’, but only if one could understand the whole universe of love that revolves around the beauty of silence. Sameer has shot few scenes so realistically...like how Ansari plunges his teeth into the banana, having bountiful bites at a time, hungry from a half day of tiresome work. There was so much of innocence on his face only to know what a crook he can be when he gets the power. In fact everyday he goes to have one porotta from a nearby eat out and is always ridiculed by another man for having to live on minimal food and sarcastically asks him to borrow money for a plate of Biryani. Also, loved how Nafisa took the first step of extending a hand of friendship towards Ansari, trying to make him comfortable and letting him know that he has someone to rely on since he is away from home.

After a steaming lip lock between Arjun and Sonia, their love making was intentionally captured on his mobile ,and from there begins the adventure of how these two extremes will come together for the same purpose. When Sonia becomes aware about the existence of Ann (Arjun's fiance), she gets into a bickering conversation asking him to back out from his wedding. During this mishap ,Ansari , who at that point of time was there to deliver a letter, happens to possess Arjun's phone that slips out of his hand in mere pressure of losing Sonia and having revealed to her about the their taped video. There are a few talks between the two main protagonists but what I thought was the beauty of this movie is, Arjun being absolutely unaware of how backward Ansari is when it comes to technology. The former is worried on having another stranger possess the clip but is totally unacquainted about how Ansari doesn't even know how to make a call from that phone!! But, it is only when Ansari feels cheated during their first meet (where he asks Arjun to come alone) when he spots two other friends of Arjun accompanying him to the discussed place (where the phone would be handed over), that the game begins ... Not only was Ansari disappointed ,but he also realized how everyone just took him too easy just because he had no power. Now that he knew that he had the phone that could bestow powers upon him, he wouldn't dare risk the chance of giving it all up too soon!

Right before the interval, there is a scene when Ansari calls Arjun to a park where he assures him of handing over the phone. Eventually he doesn't and ends up playing around with him, making Arjun do bold things which Ansari himself was insecure to do so. They both sit on either sides of a bench, a smirk slowly developing on Ansari's lips, a smirk that says it all. That one smirk is his acknowledgement of power, of remote control that is in his hands. It was the unveiling of the little demon that was triggered off from his dormant dream!

I love how Sameer has juggled with emotions, each commanding the other, depending from situation to situation. At one time, Arjun was so comfortable dealing with many girls at a time, but after having lost his phone it was only about Sonia that he cared. He just frantically searched the net to see if his MMS clip was uploaded, only to feel glad about its absence. If it wasn't for Nafisa's disappointment over Ansari's weird behaviour changes, leading to lies; maybe he would never give up his new found power. On Nafisa's word, he decided to return the phone back. There are a series of other phone calls between them and I was continuously wondering how the hell a phone battery stays that long. But, at this prompt moment, the battery dies and Ansari hands it over for charging at one his friend's shop. On the other end, Arjun was dying out of angst, helpless as to what he could do to get his phone back; what he was unaware of was how huge a scandal was waiting up the line for him.

Yes, the video is uploaded by the friend who charged his mobile and Sonia and Arjun end up becoming the libido factor for many of the perverts who enjoy the tape soon after. The climax is a fight sequence between the two which was full of anger, impatience and the urge to end the pain. There were no fashionable stunt scenes to highlight the muscles of our respective heroes which are exactly what made me applaud. It was a pure fight that was a mixture of guilt and fury. There was a point when both stood opposite each other, one contemplating the other's move; it was that moment which spoke about how scared and confused they both were of the consequence.

Another scoring point was how the female characters were given limelight. Sonia who is shattered with failure in love does not break into a dramatic outburst of tears, and very strongly speaks whatever is there in her mind. It somehow gave me a picture of how strong women are emotionally. We do know how to handle the worst of situations, and sometimes can save a sinking ship. After having learnt about her video on the net, there is a scene where she stops by in the traffic, through the rolled down windows one can see a guy handing over money to a prostitute. In a look one can get how she equates herself to the other woman across the road. For absolutely no fault of her's. Nafisa is so simply portrayed throughout the movie. She talks so little... but whenever she does it is like sweet music filling into my ears. There was so much of honesty and sincerity in her eyes, and this lady is so damn expressive!

Meanwhile, the end seems to be a sort of closure, in a more positive way, for everyone. Sonia, who contemplates on giving up her life, decides to move on and is surprisingly accompanied by Arjun who at last understood how truthful her love was for him. Ann, feels deprived of his love with this scandal churning up more hits day by day, but feels lucky to have survived the mistake of getting married to him. Ansari is a happy, young man now. He got to taste the power and at the same time feels good to have retaliated to whatever injustice (according to him) done to him. He lives his life the way he has to and ends up being served that one plate porotta yet again .. This time he does oblige to the ridiculed comment, and asks for those 50 Rs, believing he has earned himself a Biryani!

I loved every aspect of this movie. I don't think you should watch it just because it is experimental. I would refrain from using such terms as it will undermine the other highlights within the movie. I found Salt N' Pepper experimental too, only because it dealt with the most common topic, love, with edible delicacies and subtle humour. If one calls Chaappa experimental for its technical brilliance, then a movie would be incomplete as it only fulfills the technical side. But, Chaappa has everything from a strong story line, to brilliant casting to brilliant music ,by Rex Vijayan, complimenting every scene perfectly. Bravo! to the whole team of Chaappa Kurishu. Don't flip a coin over watching this movie, because you will miss one helluva movie if you lose it ;)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guru Pournima 2011

I'm quite on a blogging spree this month! Hmm... Loving this interest, and Inshallah, shall be inspired more to sustain it :) During my last session with my Hindustani Guru, Prof. Manohar Keskar, we were discussing about what I should try singing for Guru Pournima celebrations. In hindsight I got to understand how these celebrations are traditional held. There are norms and 'rules' some gurus/ shishyas attach to this day. Whenever I have found myself to be punctual, responsible and disciplined I know I have to attribute it to Dad. He always used to tell stories of struggle, compromise, adjustments and whole lot of that you-know-during-my-time incidents. Sometimes, I wonder how hard it must have been which on the contrary made him a super strong human being, a super dad! Making me a musician was his idea of making his dreams fulfill through me. He got me the best of everything to facilitate my studies particularly in music. From then on life went on a roller coaster ride, swirling through ragas , aalaps and geets...an extravagant journey so far.

Along with learning some beautiful, magical nuances in music; I also got to see some beautiful insights of my inner self through my Gurujis' knowledge & experience. I had some very negative impact while being associated to another musician who, maybe unintentionally, almost tarnished my determination and will to do sadhana. Why & How? I do not know. But definitely it was meant to be ,because if it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't have learnt some valuable lessons of life and most importantly, taken a step forward in music.

It is another whole traditional episode for music students throughout India to literally fall at their Guru's feet every time they see him/her. Coming from a much care free teaching system at Gulf, I was not so used to these traditions though I knew I had to do it on important occasions like Saraswati pooja, etc. During one such occasion, for Sai Baba celebrations, a very interesting thing happened. I was supposed to accompany my Carnatic Guru, Perumbavur G. Ravindranth sir, on vocals. I was already on a high when he invited me to sing alongside him, a privilege very few students get *yippee* . Soon after the concert commenced and people had settled down to listen to the bhajans; sir had signalled me to sit beside the accompanying instrumentalists. After that he himself, being an ardent fan devotee of Sai Baba, spoke few generous words on him and music and soon after came and sat beside me. He just looked once towards his right and left and gave a sort of approval to commence the concert. At that point I realized that I never touched his feet and it would be bad luck in that case. I looked at him, worried, with trouble in my eyes I tried to tell him of the horrible mistake I had felt I committed. He smiled lightly and then laughed a little more. That itself was so assuring, but I still felt guilty. He told me, "All this is nothing, child. Respect is in the mind, not by touching my feet. Pray to Sai Baba in your mind and sing, my blessings are always there with you ". That moment was something that will always remain etched in my heart forever. These are such simple things one tends to exaggerate and over exercise in the name of God, rituals, tradition, etc. After that day I was able to believe that everything is in the mind. Our love and fear for God, our judgements based on circumstances, a normal moment turned into aggression for the silliest reason... is all in the mind.

I remember how my very first Guru in Carnatic , Shri. Ramesh K. had come over to my home to commence our lessons. That time my sister would also learn with me. When he began teaching us geetam, there was a time when he would ask me to stop running like a rabbit :) I guess as kids we just tend to be really impatient as though wanting to learn and sing everything all at the same time ! But, he has been the sole reason behind my initial growth in music. He is the most patient person I had met at those times which was why it was a pleasure to learn under him. He is amazingly funny and would always crack little jokes to make the learning process more interesting. I just loved his classes so much that by the end of high school I told mom to ask him if we could secretly pack & bring him to Kerala :) He would never ever praise me for my performances even when I came first for Light music under junior category, consecutively for 3 years! But, that is exactly what made his every comment so exclusive. Probably in my 8-10 year of learning under him, only on 2/3 such occasions was he able to appreciate my singing. On the other hand, my Pakistani guru Ustad Khalid Anwar Jaan, would always keep motivating and praising the slightest nuance or taan I took which was why I felt super confident whenever he taught me.

Some of my musical sessions with Prof. Keskar go without any music at all! Hehe... he is a talker and I am a good listener if it is him on the other end. Initially when I was a new bud who was overtly willing to bloom, he would suppress my impatience with some of his scholarly talks. I remember him telling me how he despised all these poojas that were held at Gurupoornima celebration because it would simply embarrass him. He never liked the concept of Guru being literally treated as God with pada pooja (washing their feet) and restricting them from accompanying their shishyas on vocals or instruments. He has always broken barriers, very successfully, if he felt it curbed the freedom of expressing in any art form. I so love this attitude of his! So, this time during the practice session we were going through this cheerful geet in Raag Yaman . He played the tabla as I tried expanding my vocal chords to suit the rhythm. I so loved the thekas he played that I requested him to accompany me on the main day. He so happily agreed to it reiterating how he dislikes the rules some authoritative people put on Gurus like they are not allowed to accompany people smaller than them, especially if it is their own student. This time with his entire mind he said he would accompany me only for that small composition.

Today was Guru Pournima and I did a 35-40 minute interpretation of Raag Puriya followed by a small geet 'Rang rangile phool khile' in Yaman . Ratnasree, a fab tabla artist accompanied me for Puriya and Guruji for the latter.Also, on the harmonium was a very talented musician, Hussain Ali. Towards the end of the day , Guruji said that how much he teaches is proportionate to how receptive the student is. With the Universe reflecting all the positive energy given out by all my Gurus, I assume that this energy will give me the courage to take fruitful steps forward in most of the things I do ..

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SOLD : Zana & Nadia

Nadia and Zana Muhsen (Yemen)

The sisters right before they left for their holiday-turned-nightmare

This is Nadia with her daughter, Tina

This is Zana with her mother, years after her escape

Spell bound! I had been searching for ages for 'SOLD: Zana Muhsen with Andrew Crofts' but eventually ordered it through Flipkart. I have never ever felt so moved after reading a book. I share some mystical bond with it for sure..! My previous relationship with the book was when I was 14, the same age as one of the protagonists, Nadia. The story in one line is about the tryst of two England born girls, Zana and Nadia, with their sudden change in destiny. It was a beautiful holiday trip that just went wrong. Horribly wrong. These young girls decided on going for a holiday to Yemen, the birth place of their father, for a month or so. What they didn't learn was that they were already sold and apparently "married" to their father's friends' sons. Zana, who seems to be the stronger one, describes her whole nightmare that lasted for around 8 years before she could escape to England for good. In fact the book was written by a ghostwriter, Andrew Crofts for getting Nadia out of Yemen. Zana was first to escape and wanted this book to be used as a tool to reach out to her sister who is by now mothering around 6 children with her Arab husband, Mohammed.

What were painful to acknowledge was the chores she was made to do. This is a real life story that happened during the early 80s. I don't think I can ever relate to the pain she went through. But having to learn that she was married on her 3rd day of so called vacation to being forced to lose her virginity with an unknown stranger who was then known as her husband that too for a few dollars is unimaginable! When I read it during my school days there was an anxiety to know more about Arab women and their lifestyle. There are few photos of Zana and Nadia in the book and also available on net. I used to stare at those photos for a long time and try to picture how they walked miles together to collect water to not even having a standard latrine for fulfilling nature's call. When Zana had to deliver her baby, which she says is a product of her rape by her alleged husband; she had to do it at her hut-like home without nurses, doctors or proper instruments required for the purpose.

Though I did try to empathize with her very action and reaction, what I couldn't do was shed a tear. Zana had such great conviction, the will to fulfill her plan, and to never lose hope that always kept me as a reader very sad but determined of that tiny ray of hope. The book ends with Zana's return back home which almost freed me from some kind of a dungeon, I felt I was in, while reading the book. I could just keep writing about her agony and struggle and eventual success but it is not worth spoiling the essence of this book through my blog. Somehow, many events from her life kept haunting me at one point or another and then I decided I must get this book. I remembered almost all the important events as though xeroxed into my memory. Just finished reading it today and feel so light, as if it were a task I had to accomplish from the day of my birth! A must read, people! I totally recommend this woman's true account on modern slavery.

I did my little research on this and the latest reports on Nadia is available on this site : http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/01/gender.uk , where she states that she is apparently happy with her life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The raining grey cloud of music

Lovely, lovely music I am hearing as I blog right now. Now playing - Summertime by Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald. Love the way the violins flow behind the melody, splattering a canvas containing sparkling stars shining over the white, shiny horse, galloping its way through the night. Aah.. What music can do to me! When I listen to these songs, especially jazz, makes me want to go back to the golden era... where knights in shining armour were clearly visible amongst the dark shades of night and long hours of wait. Love the way people loved in olden times. Just one love for a lifetime. Ain't that really hard in today's time considering the pressure to flaunt your success, fame, achievements, papa-kehte-hain-bada-kaam-karega and what not...

I guess the song just took me to a different world altogether. What I started this post was actually for few interesting notions that came up before me in the recent past. Quite diligently I have noticed the increasing rate of songs that seem to be copied from here and there. This has been happening since many years, but has come to my notice, a lot, in the past couple of months. It is a surprise when you begin to love, accept and spread some amazing taste of music only to learn that it is apparently copied, or rather 'inspired' in the composer's language. No problem. Good music is good music at the end of the day, but don't you think one needs to give at least minuscule share of credits to the original source? I have been noticing the trend in movies too. But let me stick to the topic.

Few months back I had a nice, healthy discussion about the same with a very popular playback singer of south who also very vehemently happened to say that all this doesn't matter at all. He said if it is matter of respect then obviously the inspired ones lose on that hold, but how many of them really want to make music from the soul and all? Everyone apparently wants chart toppers. I don't think that is true. It would be very unfair to generalize them considering the entry of few very talented musicians who concentrate on quality. During school I remember telling my friends about how Pritam's 'Ya Ali' was copied from Guitara as the Arabic track 'Yagali' was the only Arabic song I knew at that time :) But coming to think of it, despite all the controversies and rumours of Guitara suing Pritam had emerged as a cloud of problems, none of it seemed to matter to the public. Well, at least all the school kids would sing that for competitions, functions and every possible place where they could prove their musical talents. Coming to the present there are several composers who have lifted songs from World music genre and have very cleanly put this across to the audience as their own production. As much as I have loved most of these alleged numbers, it pains to see how the credibility from the true composers are just plainly denied, or in other words, ignored. An absolute disappointment! 1. Because composer claimed it to be an original, 2. Because they think we don't have good enough ears to be exposed to such world music classics! With the growing age of the Internet and YouTube, it is a huge treasure palace of wonderful music... and one has to think twice before lifting it. But I wish the composers could mention the inspirational source in their album to at least give a sense of not being totally fooled as a public 

These are all just my personal insights... what about the general public? The ones who slog at work and listen to music in their free time, i.e. probably during gymming, in their iPods... are they concerned? My sister, very buoyantly, happened to be undeterred from listening to such 'inspired' tunes. She says that she likes listening to them while in the car, or while watching TV and it doesn't make a difference as far as it sounds good and belongs to her favourite genre. Would love to know your thoughts and views on this too... not that it is going to change anything... but am quite curious as the more worried I get about carbon copies, the more I'm told not to worry about them at all.. Because it is a passing phase and the world beckons a fleet of soulful music ahead.

P.S. I remember having asked M. Jayachandran, a popular composer down south of what he thinks when his contemporaries indulge themselves into such practices. He gave me an interesting perception - every song made for films from the 40's or before have been linked to some raga or 'route' which lead to ragas that were created for our knowledge by none other than the Trimurthis and the likes. So what the Trimurthis invented can be called original and everything that came after that was evolved from that. Hmmm.. music for thought hah?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Opaque wall of your reflection

Experience is what makes us more mature, wise and progressive. At the same time, experience is also what makes us judgemental ,proudy and over confident. It can make and break a person. Is it even worth a try ?

Very recently got to observe the journey of a person who now seems to have a broken identity. He came from a very complex background ,breathing life into whatever he found consoling. At a time when he assumed he ruled the roost, he was mistaken .People only let him believe that. Now that he is on the right path , which one would call progressive, he seems to have absorbed it as his dead end rather than just a mere beginning. When one feels he knows it all, it is the final call for his end.

I've seen people make their lives fruitful and vice versa. Sometimes, what concerns me the most is how one perceives things. In a situation where the glass can be looked as half full, the deceitful will always view it as half empty. It is easy to enjoy a good soul's company and even easier to wash away responsibilities from your hands when the soul needs you. But, it is all karma at the end of the day. Who wins and who loses? If you are going to be content by pin pointing at others.. you are the one at the losing end. How further can you prove your insecurities? It is as simple as that. The trick is to look deeper at how people perceive you. They really may have a valid point. Not everyone criticizes with a bad intention. And if they have criticized.. have you ever thought once about why they did so? If they are wrong then ignore ! How will it make a difference if they were wrong about you and you know it ? But what you may miss, in the hustle bustle of hastened commentary, that are purely situation-related and can terribly mislead you, are their genuine wishes for your well being. Let it go before it is too late.. life ain't that bad right ?

P.S. Wishing that troubled friend a healthy recovery .

Friday, July 1, 2011

Adaminte makan Abu

It is not a movie that defines simplicity. It is beyond that. It gave meaningful insights of my life in a very succinct manner. I don't have to be a poor man, or a Muslim, or a brilliant critic, or a rural person to understand it. That's the beauty of the movie. I have always believed that every human being has a good and negative spirit within him. But, one of them is always dormant for reasons better known to us. Abu reveals the good spirit that is perhaps dormant in many of us. Maybe it needs a reason like wanting to go to Hajj to unveil the positive energy within us.

There were subtle moments in the picture that made me smile wide open even though unintended. When Abu comes back home, discussing about his business not doing too well, he said about how people only cared about Gulf-made perfumes. Back in Muscat , every time an Omani woman would pass by swaying her abaya the rich scent of Attar would hypnotize my senses for few seconds. That strong was it's scent. Though all the young teen cousins of mine would demand for any, just any perfume that has an Arabic price tag on it , I would be gleefully looking at the Attar that would be kept on an exclusive shelf of the store.

The first time he woke up from a nightmare , deterred, which in contrary was a dream of his journey to Hajj , it not only showed how beautiful the experience was but also how difficult it is to get there. Dreams are my favourite . The only time you can just imagine you are on a roller coaster ride , licking your favourite praline and cream from Baskin Robbins , set in the middle of the Grand Canyon, blissfully closing your eyes to the beautiful Rahman number in the background. Where else can you picture all this that too for free??? :))

When Abu and his wife began their preparations for Hajj, there was this scene where the lady was posing for her passport size photograph. Once the photographer captures the face, there is this smile she gives to Abu that is kind of an approval of having done justice to all the time she took in getting herself ready for the moment. A smile of assurance that could mean so many things na? For some it is plain arrogance if you don't smile with your teeth shown, for some it means nothing more than diplomacy, for some it is a moment etched forever in their minds and for some - plastic. What I found more innocent was the way Abu jittered after he was photographed. The same kind of jitter that happens when you are caught unaware. That one expression was so captivating that I really had to take a moment from the reality of the character to appreciate the skills of the director, Salim Ahmed. Another scene that was humorous was when his wife thought that Mukesh's character resembles their only son who abandoned them, Abu , very bluntly, replies how good a person is Mukesh unlike their son. At a time when one would think he would remember his son and it would be one of those tear jerker scenes.. Salim Ahmed strikes yet again with a tinge of unintended humour :)

All said and done when Abu is unable to go to Hajj due to lack of funds, I really wanted to tell him that he doesn't have to go there to consider himself closer to God. Because, he already was God in disguise. To have a pure heart, a forgiving mind and honesty ..is in it's own way very divine. But what made me realize that he (here I am referring 'he' to Abu & the common man) is not God and can never be one ..is when he talked about why God never let him make it to Hajj despite his honest efforts and wishful thinking. Quoting the famous Om Shanti Om dialogue - Kisi cheez ko pure dil se chaaho, toh puri kayinat use tumse milane me lag jaati hai. I guess he didn't wish enough. In the climax - Abu and his wife were discussing about how they would have been celebrating at Hajj if they could make it on time , etc , there was a very valid point highlighted by him - How selfish a man is for his wants. We are never content with our needs and keep going to whatever extent possible to own everything we want. Abu, is too innocent by considering his idea of selling the tree, grown in his garden , a selfish deed. That was one of the ways to collect his money for Hajj. He felt God has punished him for doing that since the tree is also a living thing. A very thoughtful message. I don't know if there are any selfless deeds a man indulges himself into because at the end , Abu, plants another small sapling into the soil. With this deed he intends to go to Hajj the next year.

I don't want to underrate it by calling to simple, beautiful and meaningful. It is a movie that will surely open your eyes to the needful side in you that is inevitably hovered by the wishful side :) Don't watch it because you are a proud Malayali or because it won the National award. That way you'll only be able to clap hands during entitles instead of sinking into what Salim Ahmed has portrayed. This movie also speaks of how the 'superstar tag' is never a hindrance in creativity that is born out of such conviction. I'm luvin it :)

P.S. Sorry I am not a great writer who can ornament every scene in a manner by which I can compel you to watch this movie. Bare with it please :)