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.

Doctorates for all: Mammootty, Shilpa, Akshay … Sunday, Jan 4 2009 



It is becoming easier to get a doctorate from a University in India these days. Anyone can aspire for a doctorate these days as the standards are falling.

Now that doctorates are essential for promotions in colleges, doctorates are being awarded by the universities at unprecedented rates. If you look at the theses, not many merits a second look. It is no surprise that the contribution of our universities to knowledge is insignificant. India would have progressed faster if our universities were free from politics and devoted themselves to pursuit of knowledge.

However, the trend is in the opposite direction. Appointments to the universities have become political. People have also started getting doctorates on political grounds. The trend had started possibly in Tamil Nadu with M. G. Ramachandran being showered upon with honorary doctorates by universities. The Madras University has so far awarded about 400 honorary doctorates to various personalities including Sonia Gandhi.

Foreign universities are also not much behind in awarding honorary doctorates to politicians and film stars. The awardees include Karnataka Minister B S Yeddyurappa (Saginaw Valley State University of Michigan) and actors Akshay Kumar (University of Windsor, Canada) and Shilpa Shetty (Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom). So, one should not find fault with the University of Kerala granting a doctorate to actor and chairman of the pro-left Malayalam Communications Mammootty, before they gave anything like that to Aravindan or Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

The question is whether these doctorates bring any honour to the recipients. It definitely brings disrepute to the universities. When a university bestow a honorary degree, it should bring honour to itself.

Tailpiece: Higher ups in the army has reportedly decided to give the title of Lieutenant Colonel in the territorial army to actor Mohanlal for acting roles of army officer in two films. By that reckoning, how many actors would have to be given honorary IAS and IPS? When even officials conferred with IAS and IPS suffer a lower status, what would be the fate of honorary IAS and IPS officers? Hypothetical questions? Who knows when the private staff of the Ministers would be granted such titles? The next turn then will be that of actors.

Film star Mohanlal as magician Thursday, Apr 17 2008 

Malayalam film star Mohanlal in his new avtar as stage magicianStage magic is beginning to attract celebrities. Malayalam film star Mohanlal will be doing a Houdini escape act (Burning Illusion) in Thiruvananthapuram on April 27 as a prelude to the Vismaya 2008 magic fair to be attended by magicians from different parts of the world.

Earlier, Kerala Chief Secretary Lizzie Jacob, who could not do anything magical during her career, had turned up at the local Magic Academy of Gopinath Muthukad to learn magic. Now, Mohanlal, who inclination towards stage is already known, is undergoing intense training to do the escape act. That could make him the first film star to do the escape act, which had remained the domain of experienced magicians.

Magic has indeed become an attractive proposition to stage performers after Sorcar, Muthkad and others turned magic into glittering shows. Superstar Mohanlal has indeed found an opportunity here to stay in the limelight.

The Kerala State Youth Welfare Board with the Magic Academy is sponsoring the escape act. The reason cited is that the performance would be an inspiration for the youth to face hurdles. “It shows that you can escape from the clutches of bondage,” said Mohanlal.

We can only hope that it would not turn into inspiration for the youth to jump into fire. The Board should be warning the youth that they should not attempt risky acts without sufficient training. Discretion is the better part of valour. That should be the message of the Board to the youth when even Mohanlal’s family is asking whether he should be jumping into the fire.

Besides, magic is basically tricks and illusions. Such escape acts cannot see the youth through the hurdles of life. The youth should not hope to achieve anything magically. If welfare of the youth is the objective of the Board, it should cast its messages carefully.

Update ( 23/4/2008 ): Mohanlal’s programme has been cancelled in view of protests from fans and others who fear for his life. The Youth Welfare Board, which unnecessarily sponsored the programme, should be in a fix now. What message has Mohanlal’s withdrawal given to the youth? Runaway from difficult tasks?