Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mont Blanc Pens. Mahatma Gandhi Series.

For pen lovers with bulging wallets and fat bank balances, Mont Blanc has recently come out with two limited series pens on Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation.

Mahatma Gandhi Limited Series 241 comes with a gold wire entwined around the middle of each pen symbolic of the yarn and spindle of Gandhi. It costs only Rs.14 lakhs! Hurry! Only 241 pieces are available for sale!

Mahatma Gandhi Limited Series 3000 available both as a fountain pen and roller ball pen cost Rs. 1.7 lakhs for the pen and R.
1.5 lakhs for roller ball pen. Only 3000 pieces each are available world wide.

Pen lovers would have heard about this. Still a paper cutting is shown here.

Tail piece:-About two decades back I had collected a souvenir from Gandhiji's Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad. It is a ball point pen costing Rs.5/- To me its sentimental value is far beyond the price quoted by Mont Blanc for its pen!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

kerala cafe--a new experiment in Malayalam cinema

It was after a long time that we, myself and wife, overlooking several inhibiting factors, decided to see the Malayalam movie 'Kerala Cafe' at the local theatre for a morning show(the film now available only as morning show here) The film was described as a new experiment in Malayalam cinema as it was a combination of 10 different films of about15 minutes each and we thought it would be a different cinematic experience.

Our hopes were not belied. It is a film different from the ordinary. Of course, we had seen films in two or three parts like for eg.,' Mera Nam Joker'. But the difference here is that the 10 different stories are told by 10 different directors including a newcomer, award winners, women directors and directors of proven ability. These 10 films are beautifully presented by director Ranjith making us feel that it is a wholesome single film. It is like reading a book of 10 short stories and in the end feeling like having read a novel.

The stories dealt with contemporary Malayalee life . The pravasi [non resident]experience ,recession, middle class worries, hardship faced by women, child trafficking, problems of the aged, fascination for the supernatural etc., have all been dealt subtly and with telling effect.

Padmakumar's 'Nattu vazhikal' depicts the true life and,often acquired, character of a Malayalee non resident played effectively by Dileep in a fast paced movie. In 'Mrithyunjaya', it was good to see the director [Udaya Anandan] not tempted to take the trouble of solving the mystery of the unnatural but the story , with a beautiful tinge of love at first sight ,kept open ,leaving the audience sure that it will be solved by Anup Menon and his friend.
The heroine of 'Happy Journey', a modern, bold, self reliant girl[a human bomb!],is a great relief for parents and grandparents who wait for their arrival. Anjali Menon's deft handling of the theme and the casting of Jagathy as the girl's middle-aged tormentor are excellent. The ill-equipped Portuguese couple in film 'Off Season' [director Syam Prasad] visiting India searching for a job, in the wake of global recession, the millionaire doing 'sheershasana' on the sand and the stray[slum?] dog sniffing at his face to his great discomfort and the group dance of the characters at the end with one of them carrying the dog in his hands all showed humour at its best. The fast paced film has Suraj Venjaramood cut out for the role of the unemployed tout.

Revathy's 'Makal' dealing with child trafficking is very touching with beautiful locations and picturisation though familiar cliche like the 'peacock feather' could have been avoided.'The Bridge' directed by Anwar Rasheed and 'Lalitha Hiranmayam' of Shaji Kailas were also soul stirring. These films showed that we have two highly talented actors in Salim Kumar [The Bridge] and Jyothir mayi[Lalitha Hiran mayam]. Infact the talents of Salim Kumar for serious roles, proved in film 'Achanurangatha Veedu' has once again come to the fore in 'The Bridge'. Jyothirmayi is great in her short role as the jilted wife. Pity that we see her only rarely in Malayalam films.

The last film of Kerala cafe, 'Veritta Kashchakal', showing the journey of a bus and its passengers all of whom except one were in a relaxed fun loving mood . The one tense looking traveller, played by a deglamourized Mammootty whose entire dialogue consisted of shouting thrice , one to start the bus, then at the delay at a stop and finally to stop the bus at a 'turning' of his convenience , though an exception in the crowd becomes a part of it when the poignancy of his impatience became evident after he got down from the bus.

We were hoping for more but the movie was over and the titles started rolling on the screen and we were back in the reality of the surroundings. All, except the two of us ,had left the hall. We wanted to read the titles. But fearing that the door man may, by mistake, lock us in we also walked out; the first to enter and the last to exit but pleased and full of hope for the future of Malayalam cinema.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Indian music world in recent weeks saw the honouring of the 90 year old singer, Manna Dey, with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award [2007], the highest honour in Indian cinema. Padma Booshan Manna Dey who ruled Hindi Film Music world in the 50s ,60s, and 70s along with Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore, Talat, Mahendra Kapoor and Hemant Kumar is the last of these legends still living and is the last link[male] that connects the present with that golden era of film music. It is heartening that this living legend continues to be active in music and stage programmes as seen from reports that he was in USA in connection with a cultural programme when the award was announced.

The news about the award made me refresh my memories of those excellent Manna Dey songs we grew up listening to and a few stage programmes of his in the 60s which I was fortunate to watch.The image of Manna Dey singing and playing the harmonium is still in my memory. Lovers of Hindi film music are fully aware of those immortal songs of Manna Dey and a lot has already been written about them. Let me confine myself to a few aspects /features of his music which come to my mind readily.

1. Brought to Bombay's film world from Calcutta by his uncle, the famous music director and singer K.C.Dey, Manna Dey's first song was for the film Tamanna( Music by K.C.Dey), a duet with Suraiya. But it was his song 'Upar Gagan Vishal' from film 'Mashal'(1980-S.D.Burman) that got him the first real break in Hindi films.

2. While Manna Dey is at his best while rendering classical and semi-classical songs, it will be unfair to type him as such.He is a versatile singer who is at ease with any song, be it qwawali,bhajan,chorus, fast numbers, hilarious numbers or romantic songs. The sweetness of his voice is, in fact, suited more for melodies especially romantic melodies. Songs like ,'Yeh raat bheegi bheegi'(Chori Chori), 'Quasme wade pyar wafa'(Uphar), 'Chale Jaa Rahe hain(Kinare Kinare-Music Jaidev),' Kaun aaya mere man ke dware'(Dekh Kabira Roya-Madan Mohan),'Aye mere pyare watan'(Kabuliwallah-Salil Choudhury),'Ek Samay par do barsaati'(Jhoola-Salil Choudhury) are a few examples. In fact the song 'Ek Samay' is so soft and sweet that one may doubt it as a song of Talat!

3. While his romantic solo songs are very popular, there are several outstanding duets like 'Aaja sanam madhur chaandni', with Lata (Chori Chori), 'Mere dil mei hai ek baat' with Lata(Post Box .999), 'Zulfon ki khada lekar' with Asha(Reshmi our Rumal-music Babul), 'Tum gagan ke chandma'with Lata(Sati Savitri), "Jhoomta mausam mast mahina' with Lata(Ujala)etc.There are two other beautiful duets of his with Suman Kalyanpur, known as poor man's Lata. One is ,'Najane kaha tum se'(film zindagi aur Khwab-Music Duttaram) and the other , the romantic,'Tum jo aao to pyaar aa jaye' (Sakhi Robin Music Robin Banerje).

4. Another noteworthy contribution of Manna Dey is the numerous chorus songs he had sung with all the great singers. It even appeared that there cannot be a hit chorus without Manna Dey singing in it. " Hariyala sawan dhol bhajata aaya'(Do Bhiga Zameen)with Lata and chorus, Mud mudke na dekh mud mud ke' with Asha(Shree 420),'Tu pyar ka sagar hai(Seema),'Chad gayo papi bichhua'(Madhumati),and the two beautiful quawalis from film Barsat ki Raat,viz., 'To Karavan ke talash hai' and 'Yeh hai ishq ishq' and 'Ek Chatur Nar' with Kishore Kumar and Mahmood in film Padosan are a few examples.

5.Manna Dey's strength and range in singing classical and semiclassical songs are well known.The first song coming to my mind is the song 'Sur na saje kya ' (Basant Bahar) one of the best in this genre. 'Laga chunari' from film Dil Hi To Hai (Music-Roshan),'Tu Pyar ka Sagar hai'(Seema), a beautiful bhajan, 'Chum chum bhaje re payaliya'(Film Jane Anjane-Music Shankar Jaikishan)Poochona kaise maine'(Film Meri Surat Teri Ankhen-S.D.Burman) etc. all show Manna Dey's prowess. Though Manna Dey had sung for all the leading Music Directors of that era, it was Shankar Jaikishan who could bring out the best from Manna Dey. Films like Seema,Shree 420, Chori Chori,Ujala,Tesri Kasam,Boot Polish,Choti Bahen and Basant Bahar are a few examples.Writer Ravi Menon in his article on the late maestro, Pt.Bhimsen Joshi, had written how Manna Dey was selected for singing the song, "Chetaki Gulab juhi', in film Basant Bahar, with Pt.Bhimsen Joshi. I wonder how the great singer could have agreed to sing it with Manna Dey, how a diffident Manna Dey was persuaded to shake off his fear to sing with the maestro and how Pt. Bhimsen Joshi praised Manna Dey for his excellent rendering after recording the song!! Of course, this song remains as one of the best classical duets of all time.

6. Manna Dey has a special place in the hearts of Keralites for two reasons. One, his wife ,Smt. Sulochana is from Kerala. Two, his song, Maanasa Maine Varoo'from the President's Gold Medal winning Malayalam film,'Chemmeen'(Music: Salil Choudhury)is a favourite film of all Keralites.
Manna Dey faded from Hindi film music scene in the 80s and started concentrating on Bengali songs and stage programmes. In a few interviews he had mentioned about his inability to gel with the changing trends in Hindi film music and his desire to be away from the scene. A big loss for Hindi film music and its followers.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Malayalam Film Gulmohar-A different Experience.

It is a fact that, for various reasons, going to a theatre to see a movie is becoming something to be better avoided.People in general and old generation in particular prefer to see a film in the comforts of their living room. It appears that, these days, films are seen more on laptops than on the wide screen .No wonder that recent statistics show a dwindling number of cinema theatres in state.
But in spite of the enforced reluctance to visit a theatre, sometimes, there comes a compelling urge to see a film on the wide screen. After all, one has to admit, that movies are made for seeing on the wide screen and there is no substitute yet for that experience. One such film I wanted to see was the Malayalam film 'Gulmohar' directed by Jayaraj. Its pre-release publicity and write-ups in film magazines and the fact that music director Johnson was composing music for the lyrics of Sri O.N.V.Kurup might have been the factors behind my desire. But, unfortunately, the film, to my disappointment, vanished from the local theatre with in a day or two before I could watch it.

Happily for me the film 'Gulmohar' was recently telecast by one of the regional channels. Its impact on the serious viewers may not be as strong as that of some of the other films reflecting the failed Naxal movement of the 60s in Kerala like Hariharan's 'Panchagni' and Shaji N.Karun's national award winning film 'Piravi'. But still 'Gulmohar' was a different and refreshing experience reminding me of some of the Shyam Benegal films of the 70sand 80s like Ankur,Nishant, Mandhan, Mandi, Bhoomika etc., What made it different from the run of the mill is the simple, down to earth way of telling the story and the cast of the film, viz., Ranjith[the director who gave us Thirakadha' and Nandanam], Meenu Mathews, Nishant Sagar, Siddique, Jayakrishnan etc who gave the film a refreshingly different look sparing the audience the monotony of seeing familiar faces. While the entire cast has done their job well, the subdued performance of Meenu Mathews, a new comer, as the female interest of the protagonist of the film was very impressive.

But what I liked most about the film was the music of Johnson . The song,' Orunaal SubhaRathri Neerunnu poyi nee'; ithile oru pookinavay vanna nee', penned by Sri O.N.V.Kurup sung by Vijai Yesudas and Swetha Mohan is one of the best songs heard in recent times reminding us the much apreaciated composition of Johnson viz., 'Onnu thoda
n ullil theeramoham' from film Yathrakkarude Sradhakku. The song was sung solo by Jayachandran and Jyotsna. It also reminded me of Johnson's song from the film Photographer,'Kadalolam novukalil' sung by Chitra. When good duets are rare nowadays, the song 'Orunal' with Johnson's class writ all over it, is a beautiful duet. Interestingly a very popular and award winning song , again a duet, ' Kolakuzhal vili Kettu ', from film Nivedhyam [music by M. Jayachandran.] was also sung by Vijay Yesudas and Swetha.This also brings to my mind another soulful duet, 'Bhasuri shruthi' sung by Sujatha and Sreenivas in Lenin Rajendran's 'Rathri Mazha ' with music by Ramesh Narayan.

It is a pity that the film Gulmohar , like many other films of this genre,viz.,Thalappavu, Orekadal, Rathrimazha ,Naithukaran ,Akale, Pulijanmam ,Ente Hridayathinde Udama etc., did not prove popular and commercially successful and abruptly vanished from theatres. The music cassettes /CDs/MP3s of Gulmohar were not available in local music shops at the time of its release even though downloaded /pirated versions were available .The song is also not heard in any of the endless reality music shows on regional channels. Changing times , changing tastes!
Tail piece:- A few endangered/extinct/obsolete/unfashionable names---- Art films, Parallel cinema,New wave cinema,Film society, Children's'film..........