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Friday, December 31

Windup 2010

You know it, there is much ado about nothing. In short nothing has gone nowhere. But if foundation stones are the keys and proofs to success then we've the full Monty. 10/10!

So where do the ticks fall? Technocity? Tick. Vallarpadam Terminal? Tick. Cyberpark? Tick, with a half mark. I think the bucks stops there...not an inch more.

Now let's hit the ramp. Rolling out the drop dead gorgeous stuff, yeah the manikins.

NH Development

Stalled. Kerala is probably the last of the 28 states and 7 UTs to nod to the basic necessity to have their roads widened. Then we had lot of round table discussions, confusions, itches and gas trouble related to the alignment, toll, width, people and shops on both sides, ducks crossing the road and snake-charmers coming out of the toddy shops aligning the NH.

You know it, but I'd say this once again. These kind of idiotic and selfish rulers are the major sclerotic elements of our life vessels.

Smart City

I won't blame you if you've a "I've-heard-this-name-somewhere-before" feeling. 7 years is a long time to remember something, if fact E=mc^2 is the only formula I remember 7 years after college. To brush up our memory, Smart City was a colossal IT project roped in by our erstwhile CM Chandy, (or was it Antony?) which promised to turn Cochin city something into the present Dubai, Singapore and Silicon Valley, all rolled into one big thing! Gulp, so hard to imagine that, as now the brown blades of grass have long taken over the piece of granite stuck into the marshy land. Not very smart.

For the record, Dubai Sheikhs and Kerala comrades are on and on at the yo-yo game. Nobody appears to be in a mood to give up. So, how 'bout another Foundation Stone Mr. CM? Make sure this one sears above the coconut trees.

National Waterway Development

This Central Sponsored project has also been sacrificed at the altar of our bureaucratic- political mismanagement. Multi-hundred crore plans for TS Canal renovation from Kovalam to Kollam have lapsed because nobody at the administrative circles were interested. What a great mistake I made thinking and wasting my time blogging about the TS Canal at my backyard turning into something like the stuff up there in Amsterdam or somewhere. (TS Canal: A passage through time) All dreams gone in a thick puff of big black smoke. Muddy, messy, mucky Puthanar continues to expunge nauseating odour poisoning the olfactory nerves of the unfortunate residents.

T3 @ Trivandrum

No more comments on this one. We had a chat early this month in this blog. (The Trivandrum Airport Saga) The tale has been evolving ever since the Terminal was ready for commissioning almost an year back. Let me Ctrl + C > V what I've written about this project exactly one year ago. (Link)

The swanky new terminal which was supposed to open this month is still u/c. Now the authorities say that 2010 March is the holy date, third time the opening date is being deferred courtesy lorry strikes, militant trade unionism, red tapes and what not? The 6 lane approach flyover is also stuck up behind the deadline. Anyway I expect to walk out of T3 this summer, anything else would be a huge disappointment. 

The Terminal is still not open. STOP.

My friend and fellow blogger Nishanth had promised a photoblog of the proud new terminal when he passes through it a fortnight from now. Now he has replaced the 'when' with 'if' and thinking about other city landmarks to test his photography skills. I don't blame him.

Kannur International Airport, Aranmula International Airport, Kottayam International Airport, Idukki Airport, Guruvayoor Airport (Now, did I miss anything?)

Who is too bothered about the old ones, lets talk about the brand new ones and that too of the International breed. Foundation Stone laid for Kannur. Good. Land acquisition in progress for Aranmula. Good. I'm not too sure about Kottayam. Bad. What was that proverb we all were taught at school?

Winners don't do different things, they do things differently.

Precisely what Award-winning state Kerala plans to do. 2 laned National Highways, clogged up waterways, primordial railway services and tracks but hey, we will have 14 international Airports by the end of the world and we all will be flying around. From Pattikkad Int'l Airport to Vattappara Airport, from Kumbalangi Airport to Guruvayoor and from Chavakkad Airport to Valayar International Airport. There are even plans to connect Sabarimala via Choppers, wow!

No need of bhaang, cocaine or the black stuff to fly around in the clouds, catch my drift?

Vizhinjam Port

Good news first. The current Govt has done a lot of good, hard work for the project and things have come a long way forward. The bed news is that the project is still on paper. Some infrastructure development works have been initiated but when the first stone for the breakwater will go into the Arabian Sea is anyone's guess. Especially since the onus is on the next Govt to make sure things don't go back to square one as had been the fate of Vizhinjam a few times before. That could be a bad news for some pretty obvious 'historic' reasons, if the Reds go down the dump this new year.

And that's NOT a big 'if' given the see-saw nature of Kerala's political affinity.

Cochin Metro

Guess this one will be another Ganapathi wedding tale. Another project to make ass of the citizenry of Cochin to divert their attention from the original infrastructure related issues. This one seems to be on the trail of Vizhinjam, Smart City and the likes, projects with such incredible gestation periods that it'd put the longest pregnant dinosaurs to shame. Some folks appear to believe that Cochin Metro plans appear to build up muscles just before an Election, so the idea behind the project appears clear: take everyone for a ride.

Some good news out of all this is that someone had the right senses to think of a road development plan for Cochin on the lines of the Trivandrum project. Now that's something inevitable and sensible, no matter what lies ahead of the Metro tracks.


Into year #9, the 42km road development project in the Capital is 'promised to finish soon', as has been the case the last half-a-decade. Roads now certainly look better in Trivandrum, after 50+ years of State formation and we've to appreciate that. Clap. So that also means we ought not roam around Power House Road looking for that dreaded flyover which completes the inner ring road. Another 5 years? Yes, if we're lucky enough. But there is a new year feast awaiting the residents of the Capital, a plethora of road inaugurations are coming your way. Hold on to your knickers! (especially the ones living along the K'puram- Nalanchira corridor)

In a few months Kerala will enter the poll booths yet again to perform their civic sacrament, a new Government will surely take seat, may be the Reds again, most probably not but remains to be seen if there would be any significant alteration to the course our state appear heading. Dead End.
Wishing you all a prosperous 2011 ahead. Thanks for visiting No Man's Land?  :)

Remembering former CM K. Karunakaran who has at last succumbed to the order of life process, who has by far been the most progressive and development-oriented leader of Kerala, who possessed the vision and determination to bring about social development based on strong economic foundations.

Tuesday, December 14

IFFK: Opening to World Cinema

1055km down South from Goa where India's shambolic International Film Festival just reached its fag end, curtains have gone up in Kerala's capital city for a kindred fete which improves its outlook, reach and fame through every passing year. 

IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala) took wings in the mid 90s, with the inaugural edition in Calicut, providing opportunity for the serious-minded and educated movie geeks of the state to get a wide-angle view of the art-form on a global scape, and was later moved permanently to Trivandrum. Over the past decade it has grown from a local festival to something very much prominent on Kerala's yearbook, winning accolades for the modest but professional & spirited way it is organized. In fact what makes IFFK stand out from contemporary jokes of film festivals in our country, is the passion of people involved in the venture.

India's prominent film-critic Ms. Anupama Chopra has a strong point on what dodges the IFFI in Goa. The article, Doomed by babudom, provides an unintentional insight as to why the Trivandrum festival has been able to score more tick marks as opposed to the much older, bigger and costlier Goan edition. Excerpts:

our International Film Festival of India (Iffi), taking place in Goa from 22 November to 2 December, continues to be an amateurish, badly organised comedy of errors with the usual complaints, controversies and largely mediocre selection of films. Which might be forgivable if the festival was new, but this is the 41st edition. A cursory internet search throws up news articles that reveal a painful consistency of bungling over the decades: fights over who will be the chief guest; criticism of films included and excluded; bureaucratic myopia; charges of corruption; and the absolute lack of character and vision.

K, let's leave the mess and get back to the point. The IFFK, organized at a shoe-string budget, has been recognized and accredited by FIAPE (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films), 'FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) and the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema)and also has increasingly been successful in generating immense interest among local, national and international film-makers, critics, media and the general public and has acquired the premiere spot among the already glittering cultural calender of Trivandrum.

Signature clip from Technopark based Toonz Animation.

It's taken 15 years, short or long, for IFFK to cut a niche for itself. Starting from a more than impressive website, planned and put together by genera who love and care for films, careful selection of movies grouped into interesting, appropriate categories, citizenry who understand and appreciate quality reels, vibrant and educative open-sessions and interactions, IFFK's latest edition has not let anyone down so far.

Touch wood. Let it remain so...

Or perhaps the only conspicuous omission would be the red carpet? On second thoughts it may just be a good idea to have that carpet folded and stowed in the attic; the last thing we need is the Bollywood descending on it to take the sheen and class away from the festival.

For IFFK, the most important lesson is to learn how Goa has faltered over the years. While IFFI has descended into a tug of war between Goa state authorities and their New Delhi bosses, and of late threatening to turn into a Bollywood Circus, Kerala's premiere Festival is not without its fair share of ailments. One glaring aspect is that we are yet to have a permanent venue for the glorious event. And that's a shame.

Apart from the decade long promises that work on the venue will start tomorrow, next  week and so on, the films are still screened in the dozen-odd theaters in Trivandrum City. Robust plans of Tagore theater renovation was spoiled when heritage and preservation acumen got better of the construction plans. Of late there has been a promise to construct a multiplex on the Jawahar Balabhavan grounds, close to the sprawling Kanakakkunnu Palace in Vellayambalam, but we'll keep our fingers crosses on that.

IFFI Permanent venue in Goa

The IFFI legend also inexplicably exhorts the importance of whom you entrust with running the show. IFFK has been taking rapid strides just because it has people who're actively associated with movies and it's technicalities. Still at the other end of the spectrum when compared to glitz and glamour of Cannes, Toronto, Milan or Berlin or even to Ann Arbor or Pusan, IFFK commands its due share of respect among nouveaux all-over-the-map city-centric film festivals.

Just for record, Cannes' Festival Budget caps at a cool 20 million Euros (120 crore INR) , the disgraceful IFFI Goa smokes up 7.5 crores at its altar whereas Kerala State Chalachitra Academy organises IFFK at less than half that amount. No red carpet, paparazzis, reporters & journalists who travel first class on jets, expensive hotel suites, dress codes, valet parking, themed dining or even a multiplex to screen the films, but IFFK has got it right!

Film makers and critics concur. From Anupama Chopra's Twitter:

Cannes winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul on jury at IFFK. 1200+ delegates filling theaters. IFFK gets it right in 15 years. What ails IFFI?

German film-maker Werner Herzog (Newslink)
the festival had an incredible international scope and yet retained a strong cultural identity of Kerala.

So if you're in or around Trivandrum , anywhere close to a movie-fan and you've hard time filling the hours  then you know exactly where to be heading now.

IFFK 2010: Schedule
IFFK Website
15th IFFK Blog
IFFK 2010 in Yentha 
IFFKThe Hindu

Monday, December 6

The Trivandrum Airport saga

The curious, lengthy and irritating saga of Trivandrum Int'l Airport could well be summed up in two simple words: total disgrace.

Ideally we shouldn't be talking about the old international terminal (T2) here as we all expected it to be history long time back. The brick and mortar building, Kerala's first aerodrome terminal, has over time turned into an apology for modern International Airline operations. A new, third, city-side terminal was conceived in the late 90s as a befitting salute to the state capital, but things never moved an inch from status-quo until millennium-break.

UK based designers Atkins were entrusted the job and the product was nothing less than spectacular.

Details of the project:
*  Tubular, sustainable, futuristic design
*  Construction of a parallel taxiway
*  Peak hour handling capacity of 800 arriving passengers and 800 departing passengers
*  The departure area will have 30 check-in counters and 18 immigration counters
*  Arrival area will have 18 immigration counters and 18 customs counters.
*  Eight aircraft parking bays
3 aerobridges with provision for a fourth one
*  New cargo complex and a landbank of 88 acres
* Air India- Boeing Maintenance Base
New Terminal Interior photo courtesy The Hindu

Since then the proceedings  have been sort of a bitter-sweet affair.  Its been close to a year since the new terminal, called T3 by many, has been waiting like a fully dressed-up bride for her groom just to tie the knot.

One look at this timeline and you'll see why this tale stands out among our contemporary development tragedy tales...

December 2000: Central Govt agrees in principle for the development of a new Terminal for Trivandrum Airport. The existing terminal deemed outdated, congested and inappropriate for International operations.

2004 July: Civil Aviation Ministry includes Trivandrum as one among the 10 non-Metro Airports to be developed  with private participation

2005 December: Aviation Ministry allocates 256 crores to develop new city-side International Terminal for Trivandrum. It would coming up beside the new NH 47 Bypass and would be, numerically, the third terminal of Trivandrum after the Int'l and Domestic terminals (T2 and T1 respectively).

image courtesy Sreeraj K.R @ SSC-Tvm

2006 February:  Kerala Govt promise to initiate steps to acquire the required land in 2 phases. 27 acres for Phase I and II combined, and 130 acres in total. As of today not an inch of land outside these 27 acres has been acquired but time and again the authorities make complete ass of the public by announcing that the land will be acquired in 2 weeks or so when confronted by the press.

November 2006: Groundbreaking day for the swanky new terminal, by PM Manmohan Singh. Phase I kicked off and planned to be commissioned by September 2008.

October 2007: AAI decides to commence Phase II along with Phase I and open the terminal by May 2009.

December 2007: Works halt on Air India Engineering Base (Hangar) project as acquisition of Travancore Rubber Works land run into troubled waters.

Air India Hangar
June 2008: Over 18 months after the start of T3 works and just 10 months left for inauguration, KITCO decides its time to start work on the crucial approach flyover. The 30m wide 6-lane carriageway passes over T.S.Canal, connecting the terminal to NH Bypass.

September 2008: Cargo movement from TRV takes a dip ahead of T3 opening amidst fears of accessibility of the Air Cargo Complex from new terminal.

October 2008: KSIE earmarks 10 acres of land at Vallakkadavu adjascent to the new terminal for an International Cargo hub (Kaumudi news screenshot) at a cost of 90 crores. No noteworthy progress on this proposal, as land acquisition not yet commenced.

February 2009: AAI decides to widen and strengthen the perimeter road from the Air Cargo Complex to the tarmac of the new terminal to facilitate the smooth transport of cargo.

March 2009: Works on Air India Engineering Base start, after long delays.

GoI plans to develop 6 multi-modal hubs in the country; Trivandrum short-listed as one of them. (Economic Times link)  No further follow up on this project as of today.

New Terminal Phase I ready to be opened by May 2009. Works on Phase II, initially planned after commissioning of Phase I, now initiated and the deadline extended to Dec 2009.

July 2009: The State Government considering evolving a special package for the rehabilitation of ~350 families who will have to be evicted for next phases of development. Nothing solid has transpired so far.

September 2009: Hangar works expected to finish by June 2009.  T3 opening date for last week of December as an X'mas/ New year gift for the city.

November 2009: Scarcity of sand stalls approach road and flyover works. Meanwhile State Govt urged to acquire remaining land for the development of Airport while T3 opening postponed yet again.

 T3 Airside image courtesy The Hindu

January 2010: AAI says they're ready to open to open T3 but the approach road has reached nowhere. Plans to construct a temporary approach road from old Airport Road fall through. Date of opening pushed back, now March is the new deadline.

February 2010: AAI promises to take up strengthening works of the perimeter road to facilitate cargo transfer between terminals. 

May 2010: Newsreports confirm opening date as May 20, with the Prime Minister most likely to take the honour of cutting the ribbon. But the unavailability of the PM for the selected dates upsets the cart.

June 2010: AAI officially completes T3 works (Phase I & II) while KITCO drags on with approach flyover works.

July 2010: Union Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi to inaugurate T3. Stiff opposition from State Govt over political differences with Mr. Ravi led to cancellation of the date. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel deemed to open T3 on July 16th (Newslink) but postponed yet again. New proposals for linking the terminal via waterways and rail-link actively considered.

Qatar Airways join Emirates and Saudia to commence exclusive freighter services to TIA using wide bodied jets; a B-777 this time after the former two airlines flew in B-747s. 

April 2010:  AAI approves implementing a UDF (Users Development Fee) of  Rs.755 for travel through Trivandrum Airport.

July 2010: Gulf Air winds up Trivandrum operations.

 T3 Entrance (view from approach flyover) image courtesy Vivek S

September 2010: A new ATC Tower is proposed, pending approval from AAI honchos.

Air India board meeting decides to shift the headquarters if Air- India Express from Mumbai to Trivandrum. (Newslink)  This decision sets off a familiar chain reaction which Trivandrumites are all too familiar with now.

Air India raises technical issues and space constraints ahead of T3 opening, scheduled for second week of October. The deadline, as an effect, is pushed back yet again.

October 2010: An Air India Express B-737-800 docks with one of the T3 jetways as part of trial run. Thumbs up from officials and all those concerned.

Airport Director is literally sacked overnight, raising many eyebrows. Internal politics and dirty lobbying suspected behind the hasty and unprecedented decision.

Air India Express goes on an unprecedented cancellation spree of flights to and from Kerala; Trivandrum suffering the most. On top of it Air India shoots up its fares on domestic and international routes from Trivandrum.

Plans to make the airport a multi- transport hub mooted. 

November 2010:  Air Asia decides to wind up Trivandrum operations. (Newslink) The hefty users fee pointed out to be a reason for withdrawal of low-cost carrier. Meanwhile another low cost carrier, Singapore based Tiger Airways spread their wings to Trivandrum.

Air India Express drafts a settlement formula; decides to move Administrative Headquarters to Cochin and retain the Engineering Base in Trivandrum.

AAI decides to commission T3 on second week of December. New reports in prominent media that passengers are abandoning the capital airport because of high rates.

State Govt opposes to the idea of opening the Terminal without 'proper' inauguration. AAI duly oblige. Full stop.

December 2010: Of late, Dec 12 is rumoured to be the new date for opening T3. Newsreport that both Domestic and International operations will be from the new terminal perplexes many.

As 2010 draws to its last few days, an year after the first proposed date of opening, it's anybody's guess as to when the first passenger will be able to check-out of the new Trivandrum International Airport terminal. More than the infamous passivity of big-brother Air India, it is the I-don't-give-a-damn attitude of the people's representatives from Trivandrum that has been shocking and disheartening.

 International Terminal Panorama image courtesy Vivek S

What has been unique in this tale is that such a landmark project is yet to be opened months after completion of works, just because they couldn't shortlist an appropriate inaugurater! In the state-of-affairs prevailing in our country, I certainly feel its bewildering and bamboozling.

Will 2011 make a difference? Well, what else could one hope for?

Thursday, November 25

A few privileged gentlemen... and ladies

The earth rotates at over 1600 km/hr, and jeez thats fast! Supersonic. It's quite amazing how fast horoscopes change and caricatures collapse within that small capsule of time. The pejorative called democracy, especially in India is a great pedagogue, for us citizens, because it constantly evolve, epiphanize and epitomize in the way it do things.

In the 2 months of forced-hibernation from this small web-space, mother Earth continued its loop around the sun at 1,07,000 km/hr, Commonwealth Games began (!) and ended (!!!!) without major embarrassments to the host as feared, and then its main organizer-cum-benificiary-cum-perpetrator's head rolled, befittingly, the US President came, danced a bit, buttered a lot, secured work-placements for his countrymen (including for Ms. Pam An) and left, the lady-of-small-things twisted her tongue aimed at usual publicity stunt via misguided anti-nationalism, one CM leads the way in the most infamous of India's BIMARU states, on way teaching a prolific young 'G' that exuberance alone won't always work, 2 Chief ministers got the boot; one for skulduggery and another in default politricks, yet another one getting his butt kicked for land-grab, 2 prolific 'newsmakers' made it into the news for wrong reasons and are in the red-hot seats themselves, and LIC, of all companies, making it into the one-scam-a-day list, all this while the lady-boss and the apprentice play the inert puppet-show roles to perfection.

Yes, the Earth is oblique spheroid; that means what goes around comes around...

First things first, a pack of lions if led by a mule will be as ineffective and sterile as the leader itself. Compounding the conundrum, this mule is destined to steer a bunch of hyenas instead of lions. That makes things worse, doesn't it?

One thing is sure. Our leaders and netas know very well how to step it up. Else, when our stock markets rise and fall as any ordinary nation's, our poverty levels are reduced only by a few percentage every decade, our percapita incomes are painstakingly increasing in single digits whereas the scams involving our babus & netas tend to multiply in geometric proportions.

Not kidding, the latest scam involving some 'G's fused my brain with regard to the no: of zeros involved in it.
17,63,90,00,00,000 to be precise, or 1.76 lakh crore to make it easy. Yes, 1.76 lakh crore! As filmi Thampuran Jagannathan famously said, we can buy the whole Kerala state for 250 crores. But for some people the world is not enough.

Least of all bothers, come, in our own malluland, the vivacious party leader who takes pride in using the law to hunt down extremely dangerous cyber-criminals, to be exact netizens who are satiric with their humour sense. This portraits the real face of the "people's" party, as it is in Cuba, China or Korea, which apocryphally subjects to inject elements of its malignant autocratic character into our democracy; as if that's the only attribute our system lacks!

I present the objectionable, incriminating criminal evidence.

Image courtesy: Janakeeya Aikyavedi

Extremely important Disclaimer: The author of this blog does not endorse the viewpoints presented in the above snap-shot of the 'evidence' and I swear I haven't e-mailed, faxed, laughed, giggled, smiled or talked to my mother, brother, friends, wife, neighbours or to my pet dog about it. I present this evidence just for better understanding of the 'case' and I protest against the unlawful use of the sense-of-humour and hereby request the think-tanks to draft out something on the lines of the legendary 'vetti-nirathal samaram' be advocated against bourgeois neo-media outlets like blogs, twitter, facebook and such anit-social'ist' sites.

Oh, the original version of the "crime", if you havent already seen it. From this I understand that the smear-campaign began way back in 1991! Kudos to Cyber-cell for cracking an age-old case.

This, even after the people of Kerala have pulled down those red knickers to exhibit the nobleness of the people's party. We're moving onto become the original Police State, where, "if you can't beat them, then beat them up" is the motto.

The difference is that the law takes a hypocritical passive stance when it comes to cyber-space. Try the iron fist on any of our traditional media folks and you'll be butchered. Webspace, for our misery, isn't organized or protected by a PTI, and the www doesn't have a union to lock-down the streets, cry their hearts out on the tv and paper and bring the state to a standstill until the politicos come out, apologize, and echo the 'free press' 'free press' mantra after them.

But as I said earlier, the Earth is very very very round. Remember Cheytanya Kunte? He must be a happy chap that his adversary has learned it the hard way :-)

How befitting, the holier than thou 4th estate has finally been blown apart by the cheekiest of scams. Talk about the hunter being hunted, the #mediagate scandal has proven a theory we always suspected. But the pawns in the tale turn out to be lead roles and India see first-hand evidence of how the unholy alliance of the politicians- media- businessmen have inflicted devastating cracks at the heart of what we used to call the 4th pillar of democracy.

Not finished, the media kept the matters well in the black, from exposure to public so that self-made statues of remain so. Except for a few media houses, possible because of their own interests, all major channels chose not to run the story. But elementary gold-plating can't prevent the mucky odour from leaking into the public air. If not for Twitter, the #mediagate would've remained a 'not to be made public' tale.

Real story behind the stories we're shown, told and made to believe everyday, how a few privileged ones pull the chords in the South Delhi puppet-play and how tax-payers' hard earned money end up in Mauritius, cricket teams, oil wells, Jaguars and where not?

Because these are the creme de la creme of our nation; the priviledged ones who can, and will get away with blue murder.

PS: Remembering another 26/11 on way. A moment to remember all the lives lost, including the brave soldiers who laid down their lives, so that we and Kasab could live a bit more longer.

Monday, September 27

bye bye Eire

By the time you read this I'd have already left the verdant shores of Ireland forever.

Its been a fulfilling, satisfying and virtuous 4 years here in this tiny speck of earth in the North Atlantic. Ireland has formed a strong connection with my life ever since I landed here in August 2006.

I married my long-time sweetheart after I reached here

Bought my first apartment after reaching here, and ironically the apartment is all set for handover this very month!

My piece of heart, my little daughter, was born here in Ireland last year.

The last one especially creates a reason why I'll never be able to cut the chord with this Western European  island nation.

I'm leaving Ireland for strictly personal reasons. Oh, I almost missed telling that we are moving to exactly the opposite side of the globe, to Australia. From the cloudy, wet and cold counties outside Dublin to the warm, sunny and bustling shores of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The weather being one of the main reasons we're moving. There is virtually no outdoor life in Ireland for us. Ah, too bad I'm a touch more warm-blooded than my fellow species.

We have some personal and professional reasons as well for the big move...Australia is far supportive to migrants than European laws and is also better for my career prospects.

The Irish has taught me too many precious lessons in life. I'd be lying if I say I'm not a better person after mingling with the local folks. The pubs, the bars, the motorways, the Guinness, the smoking/ drinking women, the city... all unique and interesting.

One thing they may learn from others is how to keep their tradition. Ireland has allowed the local language, Irish, to wither away and die. Though there are efforts to keep the language alive its almost like a dead language. No one really cares about it. Well, that's not the way Germans treat German language, Spaniards treat Spanish or the Italians treat Italian.

Anyway folks, it might be a touch late when I get a look back at this space. New country, new housing, getting phone and broadband connections, settling and acclimatising in... hmmm, may take a while. Meanwhile I'll try keep the blue-bird fed and groomed. You're following my bird aren't you? If not you're just a click away!

See ye in Oz  mates! :-)

Thursday, September 23

Your moment is waiting

Kerala Tourism unleashed its boldest ever campaign in a slick and sly event in London just the other day.

The 03:00 min essay is refreshingly different from the routine 'backwater, beach and greenery' themes Kerala Tourism has been successfully flaunting all these years. Keeping the same strengths alive, but experimenting with a new artistically translucent line, KT has adopted a bold, unorthodox but clever step which has won accolades but raising a few eyebrows on its way.

Here is how to blow your trumpet, or here, beating your drums in a different way.

The film opens with a silhouette of a fisherman-figure evolving himself out from a very well blended waterscape, surely shot in or around the Thakkady catchment area. The short essay passes through moments of tranquility when the female protagonist (Swedish model Miriam Ilorah) soothes herself in Ayurveda and wakes up in a surrealistically quaint highland background. She trods down a narrow, offbeaten country-passage crossing a mature frame of an unadorned, performing Kathakali artist before the mundane caricature of Kerala backwaters bring familiarity to the proceedings. Not before the tourist indulges in some theatrical soul-searching in a typically Malabar-esque plateau and amongst a platoon of Theyyam forms, winding up at ridiculous ease against the calmingly reassuring mightiness of Kerala's State animal. Director Prakash Varma has poetized it all in a dream-form, breaking into lazy-rolling but robust, vivid frames and seems vaguely inspired by Ashes and snow experience.

The bold, new style of showcasing the cliched beauty of the state has taken a few aback because of an apparent juxtaposition with the stereotypical image of India. The ad does not physically concentrate on Fort Cochin, Kovalam, Munnar or Kumarakom but on the most potent, untold and enigmatic asset among our rich possessions: culture and diversity.

Kerala Tourism explains itself:

Kerala Tourism's international campaign, Your Moment Is Waiting is a film that goes far beyond the realm of a commercial, to capture the soul of Kerala like no destination hitherto has.

Stark Communications, the brain behind this theme and Kerala Tourism's many older campaigns adds on to the tagline.

 Let's take you to a land, raw and refined, flowing slowly, languorously, sensual and spiritual, stirring memory with desire, the real with the surreal. Don't be surprised if something deep inside tells you that your moment is waiting out here in Kerala, God's own country.

Dr. V. Venu, Secretary, Kerala Tourism is more clear about what they intend to propagate.

We are trying to be different from others by saying pretty pictures don't make a destination, but experiences make a destination.

NatGeo did an interesting study a few years back on 'what lures you to visit a place'. The study fetched up pretty interesting details, the culture and heritage of a place being a major element.

Kovalam, Cochin or Kumarakom is not going to lose any charm just because the new ad ignores the picture-postcard scenarios. It has a message that Kerala has much more to offer than just a beach or a backwater haven or a mountain resort. It urges the visitors of 'feel' the state and experience it rather than merely 'visualizing' it.

'Your moment is waiting'  has been specifically designed for a target population. Those intended to dig a bit more deep than just the tranquility of resorts. The West has a different way in seeing things. The same reason why our Kathakali, Theyyam and other art forms catch their imagination more than ours. The promo aims to attract a new segment of visitors possibly those from the business end of things.

This has always been the idea ever since the think-tanks drafted our Tourism policy. Concentrate on quality of the incoming tourist than the quantity.

Appreciable that KT still believes on the 'quality' adjective. The message is quite clear. Kerala is infinitely different from the run-of-the-mill destinations and depicts itself as something much more than a just a getaway. Now isn't this an angle we always lacked? Though Kathakali and other cultural forms were erratically and weakly featured before, I doubt if it ever succeeded to create an impact before this one. I believe that's the idea behind 'your moment is waiting'.

And it's always good to look at ourselves in a different angle, and I like this one. Respect to whoever made this, knowing very well there'd be a few brickbats around.

Prakash Varma sure has succeeded in catching the attention. It's surreal and packs a punch. The critics remain ambiguous, noteworthy ones that of Tharoor's. Tharoor feels the ad was a bit 'odd' that it fails to  showcase our greenery, waters, people and dances.

From ShashiTharoor's Twitter.

But the intelligent t traveller knows about Kerala, its greenery, its backwaters and all. Google for 'Kerala' and what you get to see what the world see about us. Nobody lands here by accident. A tourist perhaps knows more about us than we could ever imagine. We have more than enough on www capturing our beaches and backwaters, and this advertisement is just another but unique addendum to those luxurious array of magnificent promo materials. And I'd bet this one will take the cake as well.

I don't think a potential traveller will hold back saying "Oh, there is no Chinese nets and the swaying coconut trees in this Kerala video."

Because for the visiting masses the Infosys 'ship' in Trivandrum or the Le Cochin Meredian is not what they eagerly look forward to. This ad may slightly galvanize the 'sadhu' , 'mystic' and 'snake-charmer' Indian  stereotypes but I believe that's what sells where we want to sell it.

Surely Kerala has in it to clinically fumigate the down-trodden Indian images. Creating another Mohiniyattom-Kumarakom- Munnar tea garden- Eve's beach video wouldn't be appealing, magnetic or raise any more curiosity. People forget it as soon as the video ends. And how ingenious to premiere the video during the 'Eat, pray, love' movie which incidentally resonates the spiritual and emotional angles of life.

The criticisms are also aimed at the artistically unreal colours featured in the video. It must've been a  painful  creation experience for the cinematographer and director to take out the rich natural colours of the state to focus on the theme they intend to propagate. It's difficult to corelate to the background music as well, especially towards the end, it was more like a Zulu war cry rather than any  folklore music I've heard.

What's more important is that Kerala Tourism has managed to get Internationally famed figures like Didier Drogba, Gary Linekar, photographer Seamus Murphy, actor Dev Patel, Swaraj Paul and co talk and drool over the video and Kerala. Our own Lieutenant Colonel Mohanlal was present on the occasion and the "magical" video urges him to "go back and discover Kerala again". Businessline Link

Kudos to Kodiyeri and gang.. Kudos to Prakash Varma. And Kudos to all behind this piece of art. Yes, not because many, including yours truly, fully didn't grasp the whole idea :-D

But it just shakes you up to see our home in a way we never dared to see. Jolt! An advertisement must be able to sell the product, and this one sure seems poised to sell big!

Tuesday, September 7

A.R. Rahman, CWG Anthem and some little facts

People dwelling in the mystic affluent seats-of-power in South Delhi possess some unique proficiencies. They have an incandescent knack of displacing their depressing shortcomings and failures to the ones around them. We all know that for a fact, and A.R. Rahman the last person to learn the lesson the hard way.

image courtesy

The brewing issue is around the Anthem created for the imminent practical-joke-of-the-decade Common Wealth Games, composed by the Academy Award winning music-genius, has been panned and ridiculed by some quarters, most of the noise made by ailing politicians and organizers associated with the CWG. The media pronounced their verdict next moment the song was released and the twitter-facebook freaks also released themselves for free.

Some TV Channel even went on to say "After Kalmadi, now A.R. Rahman lets us down with the CWG Anthem". Well, wtf!

Ok agree. 'Jiyo, utho, bado, jeeto' is not the best of the best from Rahman. But it is nevertheless a hugely inspiring and enjoyable song, which would very well symphonize with the audience, participants and the atmosphere at CWG.

CWG Theme Song by arrahman

The knee-jerk reactions from some of the 'fans' have shocked me. I think many have watched the video through one eye and listened to the song with one ear and then jumped into the social networks. Well, everyone has an opinion. The question is how fair is the general review on aggregates?

We badly need a Rotten Tomato for our Indian songs.

Some of the 'noteworthy' criticisms are:

The tune fails to lift up the 'sagging' spirits of Common Wealth Games. V.K. Malhotra, the CWG Organising Committee member & IOA Vice-Resident (Newslink)

Well, a big lol to that! As if its all Rahman's fault that the spirits are sagged. I'm sure the music has enough in  it to create and sustain the air at CWG; I'm not talking about clearing the ppm levels of New Delhi atmosphere. Those still 'sagged' can go around looking at the stadia, Games Village, roads, footpaths, toilets, press venues, athletes failing dope-tests et al to lift up the spirits.

This CWG anthem and the New Delhi International Airport are the ONLY two things which are/ will be ready before the opening ceremony. Isn't that in itself a huge achievement? :D  Sorry, but I think sardonic criticisms deserve similar responses.

Rahman charged Rs. 50million (5 crore) for the music. It took Rahman and Mehboob (the lyricist) 6 moths to create the anthem

A.R. Rahman is a professional. He lives on his music and this is not a free world. He pockets a paycheck of a cool 10 crores for a film work and spends months on a job. Its not a surprise secret only known outside yesterday. The CWG organizers knew all about it when they approached him.

And I'd like to know from the 5-crore-6-month whiners if this is the only hefty bill the taxpayer has been burdened with. Don't get me started on Kalmadi and his poppycock 1000 crore airhouses which will probably be completed just before Planet Nibiru arrives in 2012.

At least Rahman will pay income tax on that 5 crores goddamnit!

Rahman has churned out a rather mediocre score, a far cry from the Bollywood masala stuff he is used to creating.

To be very honest, the song didn't fully catch my imagination when I first heard it last week. But you know this one thing about A.R.Rahman. His songs are not instantly likeable. You hear it, then you listen to it, then you listen to it again and without even you knowing it you start liking it and the next day morning you're humming it already!

As per my understanding a Bollywood hip-shaker for Shah Rukh, Deepika and co is not what something like a Commonwealth Anthem needs. The song's main catchy-phrase foot-tapper jiyo-uto is good enough to elevate the adrenaline and create a feel of the competitions.

I'm reminded of the clueless Rajnikanth fans who attacked Rahman's house when 'Padayappa' songs were released, accusing him of creating sub-standard tunes unfitting the 'superhero'. It made headlines all over India. 'Padayappa' went on to break all chart records.

Rahman has plagiarized his own song 'Ramta Jogi' from Taal for the CWG Song. The lines as well as the composition are stolen from another context.   - Sadanad Menon on Outlook India

Mr. Menon finds the lyrics too 'bollywood-ish' and 'fake', which could be an argument for another day. But about the 'Ramta jogi' citation, did he? I watched the classic hit-score again. Am I the only one who can't find any obvious similarities?

Rahman is not the kind of person who'd take the country for a ride by not putting 100% into the song. Surely someone who created 'Maa tujhe salaam', 'yeh jo desh hai tera' and 'vande maataram' needn't prove himself over and over again. And to accuse him of overcharging and letting down the nation by just lifting his own score is not a minor accusation.

The song is not upto mark compared with Shakira's "waka-waka" for FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Some people even brought in the Final Countdown -Europe for 'analysis'!

Well wtf fellas. Seriously, Shakira's song became more popular than any other official theme song is another thing but when did we start comparing music at different levels? I've never heard anyone comparing a Mohammad Rafi song to an Elvis Presley number or an R.D Burman score to an MJ rap. Comparing music of different genres is just utter comic.

Isn't it insulting for a globally recognized composer to be suggested that he kill his creativity and morph out something from what a Western performer dished out a few months back? Where is the national identity and pride we boast about?

And hold it there. Just go on and see how much flak Shakira has gathered for 'waka waka' in the beginning. Go. 'waka waka' wasn't a 10/10 from Minute #1 but you developed a liking for it over time. Jiyo, utho isn't a tenner either (in my opinion) but pretty much close to it.

And those who wanted 'waka-waka' in its exact form and style may please wait a few months. I'm sure Pritam will bring it to Bollywood, with credits due forgotten.

[Post Edit] That 'waka waka' itself is an old Cameroon band may be a minor detail for Rahman bashers. Shakira has made it global, credits to her! Click to hear the original 'waka waka'. (Thanks to Deepak for bringing it to our attention)

Out of pure curiosity, how much would the critics give the 'Slumdog Millionaire' songs which brought 2 Oscars and Grammy to India and brought the whole world singing behind Rahman? Nobody in their right senses would ever rate it above Iruvar, Rangeela, Roja, Swades, Vande Maataram et al. Same way, we may not be too impressed by the score but this is for the good part of 63 nations to listen to.

We're all entitled to our opinions but here the politicians and press have just blown the trivial downside of the song, right out of proportion. Some clever propaganda has succeeded in shifting the focus from the real losers of CWG to A.R. Rahman.

Wednesday, September 1


Just a filler in observation that the previous post was the 100th on No Man's Land? :-)

100 posts in nearly 3 years on Blogger isn't anything spectacular, I know... Small landmarks on this even smaller space on the world-wide-web. But no, I'm not opening champagne.

Thanks to all friends and foes of this blog who've been a constant source of inspiration to keep the space oiled and running. I hope I haven't let you folks down, I've been putting my honest efforts into each and every of those 100 posts. And let me tell you, the opinions are honest...

On way, let me list down the posts which have generated the most hits since 2007. Stats from Google Site Analytics.

The Quintessential Mallu, still fetches approximately 30-40 hits a day just on keywords "mallu", "mallusex", "mallu women and sex" and the likes. I'm thinking about adding a few more tags like "Shakkeela", "Maria" etc to disappoint more enthusiasts from messiah Google.

I'm Green Today brings in a good few from the search engines. Surprises me too. Perhaps it's an indication that the world is more and more inclined towards 'going green'. Good.

Shashi Tharoor: A year into the job, courtesy Dr. Tharoor's couple of tweets which boosted my site hits by 5000 in just 2-3 days. Remains to date, the post with most comments here, 60 and counting! 

Cochin Metro: Essential or Extravagance? The project may not have moved an inch further but still a dozen visitors land here everyday searching for Cochin Metro. Glad to see that there are people still interested in infrastructure and similar projects instead of the old sex, masala and stuff.

Kerala Gold rush: many lost market researchers end up here. Another dead end, please refer market watch :-)

Didn't you get the point? Most lads landing here are lost souls looking for something 'sinister' or better. Surely someone who scrambles Google for "How to act in mallu sex film with Kerala girls" and "IPL gate- what is Gate" or those with "mallu sex videos" have reached the wrong place, haven't they? See, Google owns us.

Good day & good luck!

PS: Forgot to tell which blogpost remain closer to my heart. My personal jotting after the birth of my daughter by far remains my favourite: in da club!  I took just half-an-hour to put up that small personal post but it still remains so very special to me. They say when you combine your emotion with an event, you seldom forget that event. Its true. You mustn't leave without reading it if you haven't. Happiness multiplies when you share it, you see. :-)

Saturday, August 28

Smile please

Do not open a shop if you don't know how to smile.   -Chinese proverb

"Our apartment price starts at 90 lakhs; would you be able to afford that?",asks a scurrilous sales-agent to one of my friends who 'dared' to ask him about the residential project details.

"Make up your mind if you want to buy half-sleeves or full!", asks bluntly a very disinterested, impatient and rude salesman when I asked him to open a few shirt pieces so that I can compare both before buying. This happened in a leading Menswear store in Trivandrum a couple of years back.

"It will be easier for you to pay the EMI. Also the Insurance will cover your repayments even if you default", the answer given to me by my previous Bank Manager on questioning about some radical, uninformed changes to my home loan agreement. I had requested for a loan term of 10 years (which was increased to 15) and had an surprise 1.5 lakh addendum in the name of a policy (which I hadn't asked for or previously discussed with me). 

"Listen, it can only be that much cold, this is not Himalayam", utters a sarcastic fruit juice vendor in Kumarakam when we complained about the Soda being room temperature. We were on a pleasure trip from college and had specifically requested for 'chilled' lemon-soda.

"If you don't know where Lissie Hospital is then don't travel", the response given to a nun by a KSRTC conductor when she asked if the bus had a halt near Lissie Hospital, Cochin. The conductor's initial response was an abrupt "Dont know!!" in the face of the reverent lady, and received the above response when she said she was asking because she didn't know where the hospital was. The incident happened in Trichur.

"We don't have Woodland but have Parkland and Bootland", says a shopkeeper in Trivandrum when asked if he had Woodland shoes in stock.

Agreed, the last one is an outrageous comedy! It happened in mid 2000s when yours truly and pals were on a shoe-hunt. The poor guy wasn't ignorant but surely didn't know what he was saying. The incident attained epic proportions, produced instantly enjoyable variants and still lightens our moments everytime we get together. Sad, that shop wasn't there in Pulimoodu when I checked this summer :(

The above scripted half-a-dozen instances are real-life, all-too-common occurrences if you're a customer. Ok, the KSRTC conductor personifies a typical government employee who infests on the helpless common public. The term 'public servant' is a terrible misnomer; perhaps 'public dictator/tyrant'  would be a good replacement word for Indian babus. Let's not talk about them more.

But seriously, what the heck is wrong with the folks in some of our business establishments? Why is there an overwhelming and persistent unwelcome feeling? Not everywhere, but I bet all of us have been subjected to such acrimonious conducts as customers on a not-so-rare basis. I don't know, perhaps they all hate their bosses or had a tiff with their wives or may be constipated.

The guy in the first story anyway succeeded in his mission. The builder, who apparently sold (or wanted to sell) his apartments from 90 lakhs up has gone bust. My friend, who enquired about it and got laughed at can consider himself  very lucky, I must say. Perhaps his modest looks and unorthodox way of enquiry may have prompted the sales dude to laugh him off but is that the way a sales guy is supposed to talk? No, you needn't be an IIM graduate to learn basic manners and politeness.

Same goes with the shirt-tale. I felt many times I was doing a great injustice and unfavour to some people by walking into their shops. The first eye contact itself sends me a "why the heck have you come here now" signal. And the salesman in the 'shirt-story' was in so much hurry that he appeared to be on the verge of a climax after a very long, exhaustive masturbatory effort when I interrupted him. No other reason why he wanted to piss me off and go back to firing blanks.

Lack of education? May be. Attitude? hmmm yes. Ignorance? More like it! But what about the Bank Manager who should be more than well-qualified for the high-profile job? She didn't have the courtesy to ask me before adding on an extra heavy component to my loan and committed the serious injustice of extending my loan tenure at her will. All these alterations were done at the last moment just before I put the pen to paper!

Now this is arrogance, or plain ignorance. She is in no way better than the Bus conductor who treated that nun like shite.

Keralites are not well known entrepreneurship, except in certain pockets. May be the political and social climate of the state may have created that psyche but the 'I don't care' attitude is everywhere to be seen. With Kerala relying heavily on tourism, we've acquired the ways to respect and treat our guests with dignity, but we still got a long way to go.

Be it the notoriously slack Air India employees, the head clerk at the village office, the official at the Embassy and Consulates, the imbecilic boy who asks for your credit-card pin at the filling station, or the condescending militant labour unions who rip apart house-owners and business men like predators, it all points out to what the great man once told "Education means change in behaviour; he who doesn't exhibit a change in behaviour isn't educated."

Couldn't we easily estimate the virtues of education in some of the blissfully indifferent friends we see around us?

in the Immigration Officer at the Airport who throws the Passports and documents at your face and treats passengers like criminals...

in the petty rickshaw-walla who gives you the dirty look or act deaf when requesting a ride to a nearby point, or the ones who are out for daylight robbery...

in the receptionist at the hotel who doesn't bother to greet or smile at the guests...

in the supermarket girl who says "I don't know", instead of finding out where the item the customer has requested is placed...

The fact is that these ignorant little fools constitute only a minor fraction of our society but that's more than enough to leave a very sour taste in the mouth.

May you be selling a lemon-soda, a plastic toy, a candy, lettuce, cheese-burger, i-pod, a duplex or your state's natural beauty, before opening our doors to welcome our guests some of us are forgetting perhaps the most important lesson of all.

Smile please :=)

Sunday, August 15

Catalysts for progress

India celebrates 63 years of freedom today!

Every passing year such reverent public holidays usher in a sense of pride and a feeling of patriotism in being a citizen of democratic secular republic of India, doesn't it? That's the idea behind it. New India now blogs, tweets, checks in on Four Square, wield their smart phones and drive top notch wheelies, also acknowledge the political system, gives out about it (like you and me) and sits on our ass most of the spare time because we don't know how or what to give back to our homeland.

This young India is like compacted tri-nitro-toluene ready to unleash its power, constructive or destructive depending on how you use it.Youth or the hyper-productive age group constitute 42% of our population. They they have the thrust, vision, compassion and dedication to do something meaningful, all they need is support.

I'm happy to take this opportunity to look up at some of the lesser known but meritorious groups functioning in our cities, working selflessly towards the benefit of the society. I've picked four such organizations I know best about, specific to Kerala but obviously an example for every city and citizen in India.

Tidycity is one of the most respected youth movements who does jobs which isn't considered so glamorous. Taking up the social responsibility of keeping our public spaces clean and tidy, Tidycity currently functions within the city limits of Trivandrum.

 Initiated by a fairly well-known cyber-journo and blogger Cris Seetha, Tidycity has nearly 100 members upto date with over a dozen actively working citizens. One of the earlier members and co-blogger Srijith. V is enthusiastic about the humble initiative and finds time for it even in between his hectic work schedules.

Tidycity leads by example by voluntarily tidying up major public spaces in Trivandrum like the Museum, Veli, Kallar etc. They've also joined hands with various Residents Associations for local clean-up operations.The group finds the necessary funds within themselves and has plans to join hands with the local authorities to promote use of bins in public areas.

Tidycity has picked up public awareness and responses via organizing rallies and undertaking School Awareness programmes. With the motto "working towards a clean city", initiatives like Tidycity deserves more than a pat on the back for their efforts.

Contact Tidycity
Sreejith: (0091)  9895891445

When it comes to city-promotion and developmental activities, TDF has no predecessors or competitors. It is a group of professionals who have fierce motivation and dedication towards the single point agenda: economic development of Trivandrum. From fighting for Vizhinjam project, high court bench, promoting the city as an IT/ tourist destination or in luring investments into the city, TDF exemplifies the critical difference between armchair critics & activists from people ready to give their sweat and blood for their homeland, literally.

Founded in 2002, the works of TDF would put the much heralded Members of Parliament from Trivandrum to shame. No strings attached in its work, the organization through field work, blogs, forums, mail groups and meetings push forward for development of the city and has become one of the unneglectable voices of new Trivandrum.

TDF has cut no corners in its motives when it comes to chronicling and projecting the shining profile of the city on major investment meetings and B2B meets. The Intelligent Trivandrum presentation by TDF at the CII India IT summit 2009 is an example of how a non-profit, non-political citizen's movement has taken up the duty and responsibility adhered to out local Government bodies in promoting investment and creating jobs.

TDF has actively functioned in many crucial development projects including Trivandrum's dream project Vizhinjam, Technopark and Technocity, Road development projects and has also presented the strengths of the city to leading software development companies, Infrastructure developers and builders.

The group has over 2 dozen committed members working on the ground and handed out memberships to 150-odd Trivandrumites from all professional sectors.

Ramkumar Rajan (President)
Sreeram Iyer (Secretary)

A relatively new entity for urban development, KUDS is a Cochin based organisation created by local businessmen, NRIs and a few motivated youth interested in the development of Cochin in particular and Kerala in general.

KUDS has already made a name for itself in this short span of time by involving themselves in some crucial development projects. KUDS is managed by a governing council and offer membership in 3 ways. Any Indian Citizen, NRI’s, PIO’s, OCI’s, and other like-minded individuals etc can enroll themselves as a member of KUDS. The heads of the some of the similar minded organizations are given ex officio membership. KUDS keeps its door open for representatives from Corporate world too.

KUDS devises an elaborate and systematic plan of action for infrastructure development with the involvement of Public Private Partnership in Cochin. From city beautification to planning and design, ecotourism to heritage conservation, provision of Wi-max connectivity to integration of GPS technology in social lifestyle, KUDS possesses the expertise to machinate executable proposals for projects in association with various Governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Members of KUDS have been behind the screens for Vytilla Mobility Hub, MG Road walkway project, solar powering of the city and many more initiatives.

KASS (Kochi Arts & Science Space), AYPIC (Association of Yound and Progressive Indian Citizens) etc are associated wings of KUDS formed to engage with targeted sections of development.
Anup Jaochim. T (Secretary) Ph: (0091) 9544044440

Teaching is the most noble profession in the world. And teaching with pure service as the motive will be one of the most selfless jobs you could do. That's exactly what MAD (Make A Difference) does.

Make a difference initiative is an organization working at another level: development through social improvement. Founded in Cochin, MAD functions through volunteers who make use of their free time in providing English and computer education to grad students thereby increasing their effectiveness in attaining skilled labour.

With the motto "to bridge the inequality in society through education", MAD website explains their work philosophy:

We are an Organization of young people working amongst orphans and other underprivileged kids to provide them with quality education so that one day it shall empower them to stand on their own feet and when the times comes fly away. We try not to grill into their heads the tedious school syllabus but instead prepare them face life better by improving their communication skills, computer skills and their overall personality.

Winner of the Ashoka award in 2009, MAD has grown outside the state borders with branches in India's main cities. Currently nearly 2500 kids have benefited from the 800odd selfless MAD heroes.

Join MAD

In every Tidycity worker, in every MAD volunteer or in every TDF professional could be the one unsung hero our city is looking forward to. Some of these above mentioned organizations could definitely do well with your support because two hands are definitely better than one. So what have you decided to do for your city on this August 15?


Thursday, August 12

Prithviraj: stepping in

The graph of Malayalam Cinema has been on its steep slide down for a good while now. Off screen verbal duels, dogfights, real-life quotation gang action on sets, shooting blocks and bans, even car-bombs! No to mention the Himalayan heap of films which bombed at the box-office, including that of the Almighties. The only streak of light is from a lone star who could potentially reverse the heading of ailing malluland film industry- Prithviraj.

Let's face it: our film industry still is in tantrum toddler-hood. It dances to the strings of nothing more than a handful of individuals. The tried and tested approach of production houses finalising a script, deciding on the technical staff and cast and then thinking about the reels is still not the path we trod here. Mainstream commercial cinema starts at the two big Ms, proceed towards storyline, script and such insignificances, pass through filming formalities and dish out pure atrocities as end products.

I think there has been a consensus: hoping for Mr.Mammooty and Mr. Mohanlal to revive Malayalam Cinema is like asking Milkha Singh to win the 2012 Olympic dash. Hopeless... Dileep, Jayaram and co doesn't hold much promise either. About time we looked beyond the towering palisades...

What has Prithviraj Sukumaran in him which has captured the average malayalee's attention? Surely he doesn't have that innocent lovable naughtiness of yesteryear Mohanlal or the high and mighty roles portrayed superbly by Mammootty. Prithviraj is also living in a Kerala long abandoned by Padmarajan, Lohitadas and Bharathan,  legends who moulded those senile superstars into what they are today. Neither has he been long enough in the industry, with his first movie out in 2002, nor yet given life to even a couple unforgettable characters on celluloid.

You cannot just dance and sing into the Malayalee ventricles, like the new young Kapoors and Khans do up North, we yearn(ed) for genuine quality stuff. Well that's how it was until a good few years back.

So what is the charisma, his USP?

I'll speak for myself. I saw all his initial releases with a friend of mine in college, who happened to be a classmate and buddy of Prithviraj in Sainik School, Trivandrum. Nandanam was outright  impressive, while he was the lone relief in a badly made Stop Violence. And then Prithvi received a long 'casting-spell' from nemesis Vinayan which forced us all to stay away from the screens.

Perhaps Vinayan's ouster from Malayalam Cinema could probably be the turning point of Prithvi's career. Well, take it lightly. You know I'm half-joking :D

Sure, Prithviraj had a Godfather to introduce cinema to him. It isn't just an accident that the son of the sturdy rascal Sukumaran ended up in silverscreen. The Sukumaran factor surely helped Prithvi, but it was the chromosomal grit and improvidence that helped him take the elevator into Keralite's hearts, not an easy thing to do.

Or is it because of his this rebellious character, so easily identifiable in socialist Kerala?  Prithvi had no strings attached to take on anyone who crossed his path, a trait which appeared to have endangered his whole career for a while.

Another aspect could well be the depreciating quality of audience, which don't need an audition to create instant celebrities, courtesy the reality shows and stuff. If Malayalees can bestow the Superstar badge to Prithvi who hasn't yet played a Sethumadhavan, Chathiyan Chandu, Vincent Gomez or Bharatchandran IPS then there could be one glaring reason. We have that bar lowered too far down.

Not being mean or discreditive to the young actor but just pointing out a fact. In his Filmography spanning over 50 films, the characters in Nandanam & Vaasthavam are the only ones worth mentioning.

On an encouraging note, we see the rise of Prithvi as a sign that we're at last willing to displace the two home-trees, who've been consistantly accused of draining the sand from under our industry...They ALL can't be bitching, Sreenivasan the latest to join the long anti-superstar bandwagon.

Whatever be the reason, Malayalam film world desperately needs younger, stronger shoulders to carry it forward. Its about time Prithviraj or Vineeth Sreenivasan or Narain or Anoop Menon stepped in and the industry exhibits the courage to propel them. And God forbid, let's not let them go like we did with Vikram.

One good thing about Prithvi is that the man is as confident in himself as one could see. Hardly the adjective we could attribute to present day stars, Mohanlal especially. Prithvi is one guy who has lived upto the hype created around him. One snapshot of his career and its already inspiring!

  • Youngest to win Kerala State Best actor
  • Over 50 movies in 3 languages
  •  Lead roles in Tamil and Telugu mainstream movies
  •  Mani Ratnam's movie opposite Aishwarya Rai and Vikram

Keralaites are already willing to reciprocate the confidence Prithviraj has in them. Prithviraj movies open the same way as the Superstar ones but more importantly the collection figures do not come crashing down like the WTC from second day on. And the man knows what he is saying and doing, may be attributed to the education from pretty much reputed institutions. Sainik School, Kazhakkuttam seems to have fine tuned the ingrained determination and veracity and the stint at University of Tasmania sure has changed his perspective of the world. But Prithvi's biggest help might have come from the oldest institution in the world: the family.

Critics have taken note; they've been generous and ruthless.

He has been accused of being haughty, arrogant and disrespectful. Kindly note, these are pretty much ambiguous adjectives, not something you go to a Behaviour therapist to change 

"The entire media unanimously appreciated Prithviraj in Kana Kandaen, so it was with that confidence that I signed him" -Bhagyaraj

"Prithvi is one of the most macho stars in the new generation of actors. He also knows how to speak properly. And above everything else, he is Sukumaran's son. It is this boldness that has prompted Prithvi to speak in support of me." -Thilakan

The Thilakan comment was a surprise, and those kind words shook many including Prithvi. Even Sukumar Azheekode had a thing or two to say about the man, good things mind you, for a change! Do I need to say anything more?

Saying all these, there is one glaring misfortune for the man...The misfortune to be born in our times, when scripts and characters with heart and soul arrive like rain in Atacama. We're subjected to a Thanthonni or a Pokkiriraja more often than a Vaastavam. Not Prithvi's fault entirely but I'm hopeful that a Red Chillies or an Angel John won't ever happen with him.

Prithvi appears to be knowing exactly what path he needs to trod in the film industry. This series of interviews on Manorama Television caught my attention, not just because of the style and control in which the man speaks but also in having a vision for the future and how to select his movies.

Keralites must be thankful to Prithviraj for NOT lending his face and voice to all offered rubbishes, like our Superstar Mohanlal continuously does. We have developed sore throats shouting at Lal to avoid disasters like Alexander the Great but incredibly even after 3 decades of filmi-experience Lal fails to distinguish the chaff from the grains. Prithvi, even at this inexperienced juncture, exhibits that judiciousness more consistently, we've to give him that.

Hard work and exuberant self-confidence has resulted in him crossing the barriers of language, and region. To work in a central role alongside Abhishek Bacchan, Vikram and paired opposite Mrs. Rai! WOW! We can forgive Prithvi for becoming a touch too excited here; for not being the clam, composed man we know.

This, from the world premiere of Raavan at London, amongst the bigwigs of Indian Cinema! The boy from our neighbourhood has come of age! Yo!

Not just acting, Prithviraj has tried out his vocalistic abilities as well, with a fair bit of success. The kaane kaane (Puthiya Mugham) and kaattu paranjathum (Thanthonni) have been chart-toppers.

Perhaps Prithviraj is the break our industry needed, someone who could take our movies well beyond Parassala and Walayar, whose face and name personifies the rise of our cinema. No, he won't take us back to our 'golden years' but he has only just started, not a legend by any means. He is no saviour but could well be the one to defibrillate Malayalam cinema.

Whatever be the reason, Malayalam film arena needs Prithviraj and a few more like him who can pull the crowds back to the Talkies. Only hope is that he won't take a leaf out of his predecessors and force the industry to project a one-man-show. Time will tell.