Embedded media at film festival Thursday, Dec 16 2010 

Delegate Cell of IFFK

Delegate Cell of International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK)

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) hardly raises any criticism in the media these days. And that is unlike Kerala.

When the International Film Festival of India was held in Thiruvananthapuram in the eighties, almost everything sparked a controversy right from the opening film. Even a slight change in schedule or even a late arrival of a film can used to attract media attention and criticism. It was very much like the State awards which had hardly ever failed to raise a controversy.

But for the few years, media hardly ever tuned into deficiencies of the festival. The roads in and around the festival venues were a mess, and there was hardly any parking space. Though it did get some mention in the media two weeks ago, then everybody forgot about that. Even on the opening day, workers were fixing the drainage system near the main venue of the festival.

The world cinema section was an omnibus affair. ‘Why so many films’ was a question that was hardly posed in the media. There were several more sections to please all. However, the main fare was not of high quality. But we heard very little about that, not even about the documentary quality opening film which reminded one of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Oru Pennum Randanum.

The festival seminars hardly rose to any standard with its permanent fixtures. Dozens of scheduled screenings were changed hours before the shows. Programmes got delayed. There were few personalities who could invite attention whether at the press conference or the open forum. Yet, the over-reacting media of Kerala kept the silence. Why?

The reason is that the media is fully embedded in its organisation. They are there in different committee and programmes. The omnibus committees also cater to almost everybody who wants to be something at the festival including politicians. The patrons and co-patrons number about 125. The general committee has an estimated 300 members. The organisers have learned not to deny any passes, especially to the media. So, the festival turns out to be a big success story.

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Movie stunt in public space Saturday, Feb 27 2010 

Thilakan and MammootyLet us view it as another movie. Thilakan is the underdog, superstars are the villains and innocent says that azhikode cannot have a role.

However, the issue cannot be taken lightheartedly as the matter involves organised attempt to deny work to an artist. There is a tinge of fascism in it. It smacks of feudalistic attitudes. It also violates the Constitutional right to pursue a profession of one’s choice.

Individuals will have their likes and dislikes about other individuals.  We can do little if a director or producer decides not to hire an artist for personal reasons.  But, organised denial of work falls into an all together different dimension. That is why criticism arose from people like Sukumar Azkhikode. No civilized democratic society could tolerate trade unions trying to infringe rights of workers, in the name of unionism.

Slumdog millionaire is a docu drama Monday, Feb 2 2009 

A still from the film Slumdog Millionaire

A still from the film Slumdog Millionaire

The movie slumdog millionaire has attracted a huge controversy even as its sound director A. R. Rahman won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Soundtrack” and both Rahman and sound director Rasool Pookutty are waiting for the results of their Oscar nominations.

The IIPM has used stinging criticism of the movie for its advertisement campaign in national newspapers. Malayalam movie director Priyadarshan has said that the Bollywood had produced better movies of estranged children. However, many Westerners are in all praise for the movie. This, the critics say, is because they look down upon India.

However, it seems that Indians are over-reacting about the portrayal of poverty. Satyajit Ray and other Indian directors have portrayed poverty. Squalor is a reality in many streets of India not to speak of slums. If somebody realistically portrays the life of poor blacks in the United States, should the Americans be protesting?

The overall score of the film, however, is just above average. It is a fast-paced film with quick cuts for the Western audience. The pace is so fast that you may even find it difficult to follow the storyline. However, it was a brilliant idea to tell the story in a flashback against the background of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contest despite hiccups from the non-linear narrative. By and large, it is rather a docu-drama than a fiction film. However, a few sequences are unrealistic and would defy logic. For example, it is so unlikely that the host of the television show would turnover Jamal to police and the police would begin by torturing a person who had become famous. The host would not fail to foresee the damage that could arise if someone alleges that it was done to save the prize money.

It would also have been more realistic if the protagonist had rushed for Amitabh Bachan’s autograph after having a quick wash after his jump into the toilet pit. Of course, it can be argued that he managed to cut through the crowd because he smelled so badly.

The hero is a winner against all odds. That makes India a place of opportunity and emerging prosperity for him while the film itself show how hollow the perception is. The lot of other slumdogs have hardly improved through high rise buildings have taken the place of their old slum. It reminds one of BJP’s Shining India Campaign. Symbolically, the film rebuts Shining India.

Coming to sound recording, it hardly stands out. Yes, that is its quality– non-intrusiveness. Incidentally, Rasool belongs to Kerala though he is based in Mumbai. And A. R. Rahman has done better soundtracks for Bollywood films.

Correction: The spelling used officially for Pookutty’s first name is Resul.

Kamalahasan’s mono act Sunday, Jul 20 2008 

Kamalahasan in film desavatharam

Kamalahasan in film dasavatharam

Kamalahasan’s latest film Dasavatharam is not on par with the actor’s other creations. Despite the hype surrounding its release, the film did not bring out anything more brilliant than his performance in other films.

He dons masks of various characters ranging from American President Bush to an old grandma. Simply because it is a masked performance, it falls far below his acting in Awai Shanmughi or Nayakan.  Concept wise, the film is far behind Hasan’s Pushpak.

Some of the sequences remind one MGR’s Ulakam Chuttum Valibhan and his techniques to achieve mass appeal. It also seems to be inspired by success films such as Annyan.

Though fashioned as a sort of a thriller, suspense is sacrificed in favour of hilarious situations. The main selling point of the film is that it is a full-length comedy with run of the mill comic situations, mounted one over another. Many may like the tempo of opening sequences (which totally avoids comic situations) and concluding sequences. Some of the special effects such as that of the tsunami are of high quality.

Keralite actress Asin is the heroine. Malliga Sherawath does a sizzling role.

Cash for Priyanandanan sets a bad precedent Thursday, Jun 19 2008 

National Jury Chairman Buddhadeb Dasgupta announcing the film awardsThe State Government’s decisions to give Rs. 1 lakh to the Priyanandanan who directed the film Pulijanmam which won the National Award (2006) for the best feature film sets a bad precedent.

First, the decision is partial and arbitrary. It is a subjective decision of the Cabinet as no policy or criteria had been announced for deciding such financial rewards from the Government,

Similar cash ‘prizes’ have not been announced for other Malayalees who won national awards. So, it may be assumed that the selective grant to the director is on account of his missing the State Award. In that case, is it right for the Government to compensate an artist because the jury for the State Awards had a different view from that of the National Jury headed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta? Why was the producer left out when the prize money for State and National awards for the best feature film is shared by the two?

Cash for Priyanandanan is only part of a larger malady of the Government dispensing discretionary grants to people without clear and transparent criteria. Perhaps the CPI (M) began that with its assistance to the victims of agitations launched by it when in the Opposition in the past. Oommen Chandy as the Chief Minister of UDF Government turned it into a large scale exercise during his mass contact programmes in the 2005-06 period. The criteria often were whether a poor-looking person could reach out to the Chief Minister with an application.

Now, solatia are being announced for a wide variety of reasons. Political partiality is often evident in some such decisions. Sometimes, assistance is sanctioned to smother public ire against Government failures to prevent violence or calamities. Now, it is even being offered to set right a possible misjudgment or partiality by State Film Awards jury!? What will the Government do if a film that did not get a State Award went to win a prize, say, at Cannes?