Review of ‘According to Jim’

It reminded me of the short stories I read in the collection ‘The House That Nino Built’ by Giovannino Guareschi. Based in Italy of the 50s it tracked the story of a middle class family wherein the father is unambiguously patriarchal and patronizing of his wife and daughters. Politically incorrect and definitely ‘out-of-sync’ with modern values the stories still were humorous and gave us insights into discordant personalities living together.

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Image Courtesy – Fanpop

And yet the series ran for 8 seasons and was positioned to take on Frasier during prime time. Guess they did exaggerate the storyline a bit to appeal to their target audience. 

Jim (Jim Belushi) is a typical middle class and middle-aged family man based in Chicago. He doesn’t hesitate to flaunt his ‘blue’ collar credentials and revels in acknowledging that he ‘married-up’ by partnering Cheryl (Courtney Thorne Smith) who is a sensitive and caring modern lady. Continue reading “Review of ‘According to Jim’”

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Selvaraghavan’s ‘Maalai Naeruthu Mayakkam’!

The story has the typical Selvaraghavan stamp on it – the underdog hero easily reminds you of Dhanush in ‘Kadhal Konden’ or Ravi Krishna in ‘7G Rainbow Colony’. The heroine too is the right contrast – confident, socially skilled and upwardly mobile. Such love stories seem incredible and usually are laden with angst and guilt.

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A complicated marriage – Maalai Naeruthu Mayakkam                                                                                       Image Courtesy – Kollystar.com

But a surprising and needless comparison was made to the classic ‘Mauna Raagam’ – based on a single premise that the heroine is forced to marry the hero due to family pressure. While the idea may piqué interest of the average cine-goer, the comparison couldn’t be more superficial than it is.

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Maalai Naeruthu Mayakkam (MNM) is a typical story line that begins with a marriage set up in the early scenes and of course the couple doesn’t seems to be destined to lived happily ever after. The marriage is a meeting of two different worlds – Balakrishna is a well-educated and seemingly well-employed youngster but he is an introvert who lacks social skills and simply is that jerk / loser that any modern girl would want to avoid. Wamiqa seems to be doing well in life and is career oriented. So the way the marriage gets organized is not at all credible – even in the traditional ‘arranged marriage’ format ( ‘boy-meets-girl’ routine) it is not managed effectively.

Continue reading “Selvaraghavan’s ‘Maalai Naeruthu Mayakkam’!”

R K Narayan’s ‘The Dark Room’

Somerset Maugham happened to read the novel and was interested to meet Narayan when he visited South India. Unfortunately Narayan was still an unknown name so didn’t quite make the connect and their paths didn’t cross.

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The Dark Room by R K Narayan           Image Courtesy – Rediff.com

Set in Malgudi, the novel is grim and full of foreboding sense of doom. In the tale Narayan focuses on aspects of traditional Indian marriages that are a cause of grief instead of celebration. The Dark Room narrates the sad but futile struggles of Savitri who justifiably fights with her philandering husband but ends up losing the war. Continue reading “R K Narayan’s ‘The Dark Room’”

Bharathan’s ‘Devaraagam’

From the man who gave us the classic ‘Thevar Magan’ starring Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan, we have yet another gem featuring Sridevi and Arvind Swamy. The movie was originally made in Malayalam and then dubbed in Tamil.

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The movie tanked on the box office and possibly it is still what one would call, ‘ahead of our times’. I have not heard of it emerge as a cult classic yet but then future is not ours to foresee. It is difficult to be a popular choice since it takes on orthodoxy and prevalent social norms head on. It is a bigger debate between the individual v/s the collective. And the climax sure pulls no punches.

Love as the forbidden fruit is not new in films right – particularly there does not seem to be much at clash when Lakshmi (Sridevi) falls for a young priest-in-making, Vishnu (Arvind Swamy). Of course the scene is rural countryside and definitely the Elders would be opposed to any such match. The brahminical world can be quite insular at times.And yet it unfolds quite playfully – Lakshmi’s charms her beau with a bagful of tricks. Lovely songs, comic interludes and acquiescing lovers, the first half seems to be meant for light entertainment. Continue reading “Bharathan’s ‘Devaraagam’”

Lakshmi Holmstrom’s ‘The Inner Courtyard’

It is an anthology of stories by Indian Women that was published in 1991 and I picked it up around 2000 as a reprint version. I happened to chance on it while rummaging my book collection and re-read it with great enthusiasm.

The writers are all women who trace their roots to the Indian sub-continent though quite a few of them are now settled abroad in the US and UK – part of the celebrated Indian diaspora. Quite a few are also translated versions of vernacular tales.

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In a lucid introduction the editor explains some of the constraints that impacted the stories selected for the anthology. In all we have 18 tales and the choice tends to focus more of English writers and writers who seem to have settled abroad. A few translations of vernacular stories are included but they are indeed rather by exception than the rule. However we must accept that the editor did the best possible of a bad job since many constraints impact such an anthology. It is still quite representative and an Indian reader will have little trouble in discovering the familiar world. Continue reading “Lakshmi Holmstrom’s ‘The Inner Courtyard’”

Thangar Bachan’s Pallikoodam

Cheran gave us a memorable Autograph for the memories of our teenage and college days – Thangar Bachan takes it a step forward so that we can reminisce about our school days as well.

Schooling has changed a lot nowadays in urban India but many of us have memories of schools that were never meant to be ‘state-of-art’ – the experience was pleasant and memorable all the more I guess. Of course it remains the same for most schools in the countryside.

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Sneha & Narain in ‘Pallikoodam’                                      Image Courtesy – ysongs.com

We have seen this before in so many movies. The first segment in the movie ‘Autograph’ is based on a love story at the village school. Azhagi and Azhiyatha Kolangal too explore many parts of a similar story. Themes of patriarchy, feudalism, provincialism and rustic mores abound in plentiful. Many lives are blighted though education does seem to be a tool of emancipation. Continue reading “Thangar Bachan’s Pallikoodam”

R C Sakthi’s ‘Manitharil Ithanai Nirangala’

Imagine casting Kamal Haasan and Sridevi together in a movie but not as the romantic lead pair. Instead you place them in  fraternal roles but back them up with powerful content. Sakthi holds the distinction for notching up this feat and the movie was quite an interesting fare.

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Sakthi’s career as a film maker belied the early hopes of a great success and at the end of it he didn’t quite live up to his initial billing based on hits like ‘Manatharil Ithanai Nirangala’ and ‘Dharma Yuddham’.

The initial scenes are a bit traumatic and meant to prop up the final climax. But the story really picks pace when Sridevi, on losing her father and being alone, decides to take support from her friend (Satyapriya) who lives in a village. Here she first encounters Kamal as Satyapriya’s husband. Continue reading “R C Sakthi’s ‘Manitharil Ithanai Nirangala’”

K Balachander – view from a feminist perspective?

All kinds of accolades have poured in for KB – the supreme director who helmed 101 movies, the  ‘Guru’  who launched many careers but in particular played a pivotal role in Kamal’s and Rajni’s rise to stardom, the strong playwright and scriptwriter known to produce intriguing climaxes, the director who showcased social issues etc.

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But the most appropriate epithet for KB would be the manner in which he delved into the female psyche and provided a feminist view in a patriarchal and male-dominated society.

KB’s heroine were well-known leads chiefly Sarita, Sujatha, Sridevi and Suhasini. In some ways he employed a technique similar to his contemporary Bharathirajaa. The tale would be a woman-centric subject, she would be subjected to a vale of miseries and the rising crescendo will lead to an intriguing climax. Bharathirajaa tended to focus on rural themes and would exploit the psyche of a person under stress. KB seemed to have reserved his attention for his female leads. Continue reading “K Balachander – view from a feminist perspective?”

Review of Tamil movie ‘Thevar Magan’

Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Haasan epitomized the perfect picture of a feudal father and modern son in Bharathan’s ‘Thevar Magan’ (Son of Thevar).

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Kamal and Sivaji in Thevar Magan                                                                                   Image Courtesy – filmibeat.com

Kamal’s genius went beyond playing the perfect foil to Sivaji Ganesan as Thevar – he donned many hats in the movie including that of singer, writer and producer.

Sakthivelu (Kamal) returns as a London educated young man to his native village with Bhanu (Gowthami) in tow. His dreams are apparent as he plans to marry her and launch himself as a restaurateur. Picture perfect life and the initial frolic of the movie is innocent enough. Continue reading “Review of Tamil movie ‘Thevar Magan’”

Review of ‘May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons …’ by Elisabeth Bumiller

The book, ‘May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons – A Journey Among the Women of India’, written by Elisabeth Bumiller appeared in 1991. The writer, a journalist with the Washington Post, narrated stories of Indian women across a cross-section of the society.

The title may seem biased to many but it is just a translation of a popular blessing  by Elders that greets a newly wedded woman.

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The book is not stereotyped and the writer recounts her narrative based on travels wide and far – the journey for her is certainly not a great Indian snake rope trick. Undoubtedly women face challenges in a conservative and patriarchal society – but the book is anything but a vale of tears. Instead it reflects optimism and determination that is encouraging.

Continue reading “Review of ‘May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons …’ by Elisabeth Bumiller”