Monday, September 27, 2010

Malayalam cinema: Signs of revival?

Last month Anjali published a post titled Ritu. It is about a Malayalam cinema by that name. The writer is annoyed and angry about the movie mainly because the story is an old tale and the script writer has not bothered study the subject and background well enough. I haven’t seen the picture but can understand why Anjali is upset. Many of the new Malayalam cinemas are like that.

Some years ago when I visited Chennai a friend asked me to join him and the scriptwriter of the Malayalam cinema he was producing for ‘working drinks’ at their hotel. I found him and the writer with a collection of English movie cassettes. This was before the CDs and DVDs. They were shamelessly copying from the Western cinemas for the Malayalam picture. I never saw that movie.

The story and script form the heart of a movie. The director, cameraman and actors work to transfer what is written to the celluloid. A good director would work only with a credible and well written screenplay. He and the writer would discuss and finalize the script.

Scriptwriting is a tough job. It requires understanding the place where the story takes place and the people who live there. The visuals and dialogues should give the impression that the story is actually happening there. This requires great concentration and even visualizing the camera angles. Sometimes research is needed. Attention to details is so important.

This is where Malayalam cinema fails. Most of the script writers just rush through the job. Some introduce theatrical dialogues. The producers go ahead with something that should be thrown into the waste basket. There are enough directors who do not bother as long as they get paid. As a result, 90% of the Malayalam movies fail at the box office.

Some time back I had written a post Malayalam Cinema: Going, going, gone? The same situation continues though Malayalam won 13 National awards recently for the year 2009. Imagine, for discovering a good story, Shaji N. Karun, the director of the best film, Kutty Srank waited 10 years. It is a pity that Mammootty lost out to Amitab Bachan for the Best Actor Award in spite of his good performances in three movies, Kutty Srank, Paleri Manikyam and Pazhassi Raja.

Actually, 2009 had six or seven good Malayalam movies. One of them was Blessy’s Bhramaram. I was quite impressed by the film. It had a good story and script. The final portion of the tension filled movie was shot in the rough terrain of the High Ranges. Blessy, and Mohan Lal, the hero are near perfect.

Both Mammootty and Mohan Lal continue to dazzle. Their latest releases, Pranchiyettan and the Saint (Direction by Renjit) and Shikkar (M.Padmakumar) are reportedly doing very well.

One problem is that the younger set of actors do not get really good chances. They are mostly wasted in quickly assembled, fight and dance oriented movies.

Unless new stories are found and the script writers and the directors put in hard work, Malayalam cinema will continue to be of low standard. The recent National Awards should inspire the industry to come out with better products.

Also see

Malayalam cinema: Random thoughts

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kerala: Roads are meant for…?

In the beginning there was no road. Adam and Eve didn’t require pathways to roam around in their Garden. Move anywhere and it was Paradise. The first specific road was perhaps the one the original couple treaded when they were banished from the Garden of Eden.

With the increase in the number of their descendants more footpaths emerged. Later on the wheel was discovered and human and animal drawn wagons were made. That required many footpaths to be converted to wider tracks or primitive roads.

The next major development was the automated vehicles with pneumatic tires. They transformed the transport industry. Wise men realized the economic importance of road transport which could move people and goods faster - point to point, warehouse to warehouse.

But the vehicles required proper roads. Road building technology developed and broad modern highways were built in many countries. Better roads meant fiscal advantage in different ways.

On good roads the vehicles can travel faster and more safely. Their maintenance outlay would be minimized. This reduces the cost of transporting goods which, in turn, lessens the selling prices.

Proper highways considerably reduce the turnaround time of the vehicles. The quantity of goods transported on a bad road by three trucks could be probably managed by one lorry on a good highway by making three trips. This means that money required for two trucks could be used for other development activities. Overall economic growth escalates the need for articles and more trucks to carry them.

Realizing the importance of good roads India constituted National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) by an Act of the Parliament to create world class roads with uninterrupted traffic flow. The successful operation of this organization requires the cooperation of the State governments. By and large, such support is there. 60 meter wide National Highways (NH) are coming up all over the country.

But Kerala has to be different.

The State argued that because of the heavy density of population the width of NHs in Kerala should be scaled down to 45m. After a great deal of discussions, NHAI agreed to this though a heavy increase in truck traffic is expected with the opening of the Vallarpadam Container Transhipment Terminal later this year.

It is a common practice in Kerala to hold political meetings on highways. Sometimes rallies and religious functions are held blocking the traffic totally. Recently one citizen went to the High Court against this. The verdict was obvious – roads are meant for traffic and obstructing that should not be permitted.

There were heavy protests from politicians against this verdict. The Judges were abused in public. Kerala Government went to the High Court with a review petition that failed. Now there is talk about approaching the Supreme Court on the issue. And the politicians keep on saying that the High Court verdict would be broken frequently.

In the meanwhile the question of road width has still not abated. Now the demand is that the NHs should only 30m broad. Basically this comes from the traders and people staying along the roadside. The law and policy of the government is that proper compensation should be paid to the owners when private property is taken over public purpose. But law and logic do not always prevail in Kerala.

Just a couple of weeks back in another case the High Court made a statement that travelling on NH47 in Kerala is like riding a horse! The road condition is so bad.

Now, this leads to another question. If the new tracks are meant for horses, horse carts and meetings, what should be its breadth?

Also see:

The maiming of Munnar