Joji – A Brilliant Peek Across the Kerala Village Lives

By Suresh Nellikode

Spending too much money on big-budget productions is not advisable when the film industry, by and large, sleeps as an after-effect of the present pandemic. As a result, micro-budget movies have been conceived, shot and released worldwide in different genres. That’s how the films like SEE YOU SOON, THE GREAT INDIAN KITCHEN, IRUL, WOLF etc came out in Malayalam through various OTT streaming. JOJI, a film that could be included in that category, has indeed something new to tell us about what we kept seeing but not given much social importance. That’s about the long-living patriarchy and the male high-handedness still holding the fort in Indian households.

Fahadh Faasil

JOJI, directed by Dileesh Pothen and scripted by Syam Pushkaran had its worldwide release on Amazon Prime, in the first week of April 2021. No sooner had it reached the households than the critics raised their heads with different allegations like it did not do justice to the play ‘Macbeth’ as credited by the makers. A good number of viewers and critics have come up with its desultory connection with IRAKAL (The Victims), a 1985 film by veteran film maker K G George. On the other hand, a majority have enjoyed the movie without any complaints, as they sadly lived a story like this or witnessed one in their neighbourhood. If we have a close look at IRAKAL, the connection they want to establish does not seem to hold water at all. There may be a slight similarity in certain characters and that wouldn’t mark enough to plagiarize a movie.  The characters created by Dileesh Pothen and Syam Pushkaran stand on top and living in the current world with their own peculiarities. They are with flesh and blood in their creation. It shows many in-house stories that had been going on either suppressed or stamped as social stigma. Cinema has branched out as political weapons against the hidden realities hitherto. It could boldly call a spade a spade and stand against the discrimination and injustice worldwide. Pothen and Pushkaran are not the Johnnies-come-lately with wide scarves worn about their shoulders. They had already proved their mettle in movies like MAHESHINTE PRATHIKARAM and THONDIMUTHALUM DRIKSAKSHIYUM with wonderful stories to show afresh.

As I mentioned above, the makers unnecessarily admit that JOJI has been inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was not needed at all, since it doesn’t come near to the play in any way. There are no enough events that remind Macbeth except a few feeble lookalike moments. Maybe that declaration had prompted dignitary poets like Satchidanandan to come up and say that there’s no justification for the film to claim a courtesy to the story of Macbeth. He might have been under the impression that who would be there more than him to have an authorized say on the matter, he being a retired professor of English literature.

The next allegation was its similarity to the film IRAKAL, directed by KG George. One of the main proponents of this allegation was Radhakrishnan MG, one of the top brasses of the Asianet TV channel. He bluntly alleges that JOJI is a replica of IRAKAL and Dileesh Pothen should have acknowledged the plagiarism from that film through its titles.

Syam Pushkaran / Fahadh Faasil / Dileesh Pothen

IRAKAL and JOJI are two different stories except for the slight similarity of the lone bungalows situated in the large rubber estates that appear in both and the number of children the guardians have. What wonders me is the inability of this school of critics in studying both movies. Both are telling two different stories. IRAKAL is a story that goes back to three decades and JOJI happens yesterday and today-like in its time. Maybe, both the characters played by Ganesh Kumar (Irakal) and Fahad Fazil (Joji) are frustrated and fumes for freedom; another similarity to point out, but a part of the Kerala life still.

I can point out a minimum of five families similar to that of Panachel PK Kuttappan’s (Joji) in a distance of about five kilometres in between the homes of Dileesh Pothen’s and mine. When JOJI says such a common story, how can it be termed as a failed adaptation of IRAKAL? IRAKAL is available on Youtube and those who want to compare could watch that and form their own opinions on that matter.

When the male highhandedness and patriarchy dominate many of the families in India, each one can contribute to a film script in its own unique way. Fahadh Faasil, as the youngest of the sons who doesn’t seem to fit in with the others, has done an exceptional performance in the film. Unni Maya lived very well as the less spoken Bincy on the edge. Baburaj, Joji Mundakkayam, PN Sunny, Basil Joseph, Shammi Thilakan etc have all performed very well under the close watch of the director  Dileesh Pothen. Kiran Das, an adroit editor has turned the lumps into an object of great beauty. The aesthetically pleasing music by Justin Varghese has added to the richness. And last but not least is the inimitable cinematography of Shyju Khalid.

(CounterCurrents.org – Apr 21, 2021)

https://countercurrents.org/2021/04/joji-a-brilliant-peek-across-the-kerala-village-lives/

Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s diatribe only lowers his stature

In a recent interview to a weekly, Adoor has gone after veteran filmmaker KP Kumaran with whom he collaborated for ‘Swayamvaram’.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan rants when he talks about KP Kumaran, another veteran filmmaker and the former co-writer of Swayamvaram. And this time, it’s in the third degree, quite unusual and unheard of. However, Adoor doesn’t know that such acts only deflate his stature worldwide as a renowned filmmaker. He didn’t spare a thought for KP Kumaran in his coarse war of words.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

It has become almost a vulgar display of imperious behaviour to other filmmakers. The stories jog back to almost half a century. What went up the wall now is a recent interview of Adoor’s which appeared in a mainstream weekly (Mathrubhumi Weekly Dt Aug 16, 2020). In that, he hit Kumaran with below the belt, unfounded allegations that have not been raised so far. The title of the interview read: My Greatest Mistake Committed in Life – Adding His Name as a Co-Screenwriter.

What else is needed to arouse the curiousity of a reader? What has made Adoor angry? Why is he at loggerheads with Kumaran? No one knows exactly what has pricked him. He stated that Kumaran was only a ‘helper’ who had been asked to write down and record the script dictated by him. History, as we have heard from older people, says that Kumaran also had an equal part to play in completing the movie, Swayamvaram, which later turned out to be an important juncture in the history of Malayalam movies. 

K P Kumaran

Swayamvaram, though not got considered for the main State Awards, fetched top-most laurels at the national level in 1973. It bagged the top National Awards for the best feature film, director, actress and cinematographer. The only reason one, could guess, for the intense hostility that Adoor exhibits towards Kumaran is the latter’s short movie The Rock, which of hardly two minutes, that fetched a gold medal at the Expo’72 Tokyo Film Festival. That was great news for Kerala and the whole of India to be proud of. Even the media at the national level had carried the news, making Adoor blow his top. That was just before Swayamvaram‘s national recognition, probably why Adoor was unhappy. There seems to have started his displeasure which hasn’t ended even after more than four decades.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is a great name in Indian cinema. He is respected as one of the masters of cinema across the world. But, he has never been seen promoting movies made by others from Kerala. He’s the author of a worn-out slogan, “Cinema is the art of the Director”. Although that slogan was celebrated decades ago, the new tech-revolution in cinema has rewritten that slogan into a product of plural contributions. Cinema now is no doubt a collective art and the product of a big group, thanks to the long and never-ending list of people, shown as an add-on to the titles. 

Adoor is a product of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. He still believes that only an academic pass-out can be licensed to make or judge a movie. If we look at the global scenario, a good number of film personalities have no official qualifications to fall back on other than their experience. Adoor, however, always finds fault with others’ filmmaking. He always has bones to pick with the jury when his films fail to fetch recognitions. He never appreciates movies made by others.

He was not on good terms with directors like G Aravindan, MT Vasudevan Nair, KG George etc., who were of his time. He didn’t even spare Dr Biju, much younger to his generation, a filmmaker from his place, who fought many a battle to come up. He even laughed at Biju’s profession and suggested that he was supposed to concentrate on treating people, and not make movies. Both of them would indulge in their share of mudslinging wherever they met.

Adoor also tried to belittle the part played by actor Sharada (called ‘Urvasi’ Sharada for winning the National Award for Best Actress, then called Urvasi Award), by revealing the ‘unbearable remuneration’ she asked for at the time of making Swayamvaram.  When the remuneration is a ‘secret contract’ between the actor and maker, it was so untoward for a director to reveal it at a venue set to felicitate her.

KP Kumaran is not a man of straw as Adoor thinks. He has proved his mettle not only in making a number of movies, he is well versed in history and world politics. He has written a lot in various publications on diverse subjects, including literature. He refused to take up many lucrative offers extended by governments for fear of losing his working freedom. Going through a few chapters of his autobiography, I failed to spot any personal allegations against any of his friends.

It’s quite unfortunate and unbecoming of a man like Adoor to make new allegations against his fellow beings that hurt many people around him. It’s an unhealthy game, with none of his friends coming forward to put a lid on, a game where no one wins.

Views expressed are author’s own.

Suresh Nellikode has written fiction for Malayalam periodicals like Mathrubhumi and Kalakaumudi. He’s also been a contributor for The New Indian Express and Khaleej Times. He currently lives in Canada.
(The News Minute – Aug 2020)

Here’s how Toronto International Film Festival will happen this year

By Suresh Nellikode
A couple of months ago, when Cameron Bailey, the Co-head and Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, came up virtually for a press meet to say that they haven’t yet ruled out the possibilities of hosting TIFF 2020 on the agreed dates, nobody took the news seriously. In fact, everyone appeared to disapprove of the festival taking place, considering the coronavirus pandemic.

Kate Winslet in Ammonite

However, TIFF is not going back on its promises. It’s happening finally, this year too! But, not in the usual way and certainly in line with the official safety directives in Canada.TIFF will take place from September 10 to 19.

As Cameron Bailey says, “The great storytelling never ends. Inside every storyteller there’s an urgent need to push limits, change minds, lift voices, drop jaws, draw tears and spark laughter.”

Hence, TIFF has decided to go on. The 45th edition of TIFF will take place as announced earlier with 50 feature films representing all sectors, like star-driven, international, documentaries andCanadian creativity. There will be physical screenings at marquee venues, drive-ins and digital screenings along with virtual red carpets and interactive Q & A sessions with the cast and filmmakers.

The first five days will witness TIFF’s full slate of films at socially distanced screenings. So, the organisers have to take the audience out to drive-ins and outdoors, beyond the theatres. As a first in its history, TIFF will launch a digital platform to connect with audiences beyond Toronto. There’ll be special events too, with numerous surprises.

The organisers guarantee that the films will shake you,move you and stay with you with the novel content. The titles announced till now include Ammonite (Dir. Francis Lee, UK), Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark), Bruised (Halle Berry, USA), Concrete Cowboys (Ricky Staub, USA), Fauna (Nicolas Pereda, Mexico), Good Joe Bell (Reinaldo Marcus Green, USA), Spring Blossom (Suzanne Lindon, France), and True Mothers (Naomi Kawase,Japan). More titles will be announced in the coming weeks.

“TIFF has a proud history of programming world class movies, expanding the conversation to include a multitude of voices and in creating boundary-pushing initiatives for the industry,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-head of TIFF. “And, this year too we’ve added new innovations and ways to give back to the community,” she continued.

In addition, TIFF will be welcoming 50 celebrated film personalities to attend various functions. A few of them are Ava DuVernay, Darren Aronofsky, Taika Waititi, Anurag Kashyap, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorcese, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuaron, Tantoo Cardinal, Riz Ahmed, Rian Johnson, Jason Reitman, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Denis, Atom Egoyan, Priyanka Chopra, Viggo Mortensen, ZhangZiyi, David Oyelowo, Lulu Wang, Rosamund Pike, Sarah Gadon and Denis Villeneuve.

TIFF’s tribute Award, which was started last year, will continue this year too. Meryl Streep, Taika Waititi, Mati Diop and Joaquin Phoenix were the winners last year.

The health crisis has affected every sector of the Canadian industries. TIFF is no exception and has been seriously impacted. But it has an impetus to move forward. A lot of film personalities and serious audiences all over the world are looking at it as a beacon of hope. The $2 billion-a-year- film industry in Canada sees TIFF as a hope to go universal and contribute more than $ 200 million annually to the economic activity of the City of Toronto and its province. Also, it serves as the prime market to launch Canadian films in the global marketplace.

The programming teams are working day and night to create the most memorable experience possible with great diversity in the selection of high-quality movies from all over the world.

Cameron Bailey

The representation of women in TIFF has been applauded and this reiterates its commitment to gender parity for future generations. TIFF has a novel Media Inclusion Initiative to accredit eligible Black, Indigenous, People Of Colour, LGBTQ and women, and amplify their voices in their respective fields of activities. TIFF is offering companies and individuals an opportunity to giftindustry access to 250 under-represented emerging filmmakers from all over the world. Also, it plans to collaborate with its festival counterparts in Vancouver, Venice, Telluride and New York etc., in bringing the best to the cinema audiences.

All the information regarding the titles of movies, screening venues, ticket sales,conferences, press and industrial accreditations etc would be available in the coming weeks.
(The News Minute – July 01, 2020)

Usageaster

bonYves Bonnefoy is considered to be one of the pre-eminent postwar poets of France. He died on Jul 01, 2016, in Paris at the age of 93.

He said once: ”When I went to America in 1958, I knew Elizabethan English better than the contemporary idiom. You’re lucky if I didn’t use ‘multitudinous’ for many and ‘incarnadine’ for red.”

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.” – Hope you all remember who said it by looking at the blood on his hands.

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/heres-how-toronto-international-film-festival-will-happen-year-127740

A Shaggy-dog Story

By Suresh Nellikode

Since it’s a dog-eat-dog issue, I thought of seeking clarification from a dog.

The dog said, “Shoot out master!”

I : I was given to understand that, dogs… 

“But, Sir…..,” he interrupted on a mild growl.

I : What are you trying to say?

Dog : To be frank, I’m not a real dog!

I : Don’t make me a hangdog. You must be kidding!

Dog : I’m a new-generation dog!

I : What do u mean?

Dog : I’m a Goat-turned-dog.

I : You don’t look like one.

Dog : Yeah, reality leaves a sour taste back always. One of you – a political leader – had turned me out like this. Till yesterday, I was a goat. A mere vegetarian goat!

*****

Elevator Pitch : You cannot bark up the wrong dogmatics!

Look Who’s Talking!

meerasthatha

That was Tweakie, our Meera’s pet cockatiel (cockatoo?), an intended third voice at ‘Gaadha’. Meera must have thought that Tweakie could meddle with Rema and Rita in her absence. Perhaps, a thought of three is better than two, always!  As we entered Meera’s house we didn’t notice Tweakie, in fact. No sooner we sat down and got into the swing of things than she started her ceaseless chirps. And that prompted me to know her more and moved me towards her cage. But she was shy and flew back to the inner walls disowning all the clucks and clicks produced earlier. I thought of pepping her up to the old position of resuming her talks. I explained to her how tweets of these days made the world smaller and closer. All in vain and she didn’t utter a word of her own. That struck me a chord of testing her nature again and I went into hiding. She had a look around and started singing again the very next moment. I enjoyed the tricks she had played on me.

She was celebrating her loneliness in laughing at others and singing. On closer interrogations, she had never admitted to us that she was the source of the cacophony went around.

I was told that as a solution to Tweakie’s loneliness, Meera once brought an alliance to make her busy in her family business. A little old guy of cockatiel family to entertain her into cheers. Perhaps, according to Meera, a paradigm of sartorial elegance in their own winged class. A brightly coloured zygodactyls male with a short hooked beautiful beak and the ability to mimic others. But, to the surprise of all family members, she never bothered to love him. She never made love with him. Eventually, he was found lying dead in a not so fine morning. A resultant flit and flutter, in many a heart outside and inside the cage, leading to nothing, just faded away. No visible or tangible evidence of a fight that would ‘ve taken his life! The follow-up inquiries reached nowhere and Tweakie deserved a benefit of doubt and stood acquitted.

She asked her owners if she would be let free to fly and find the vastness of the world. But Meera said, ”not exactly as you dream, but partially!” That again drowned her in blues when she knew that she was only free from a sin and not from the bars she had been confined to.

Time flew on swift-wings! She resumed her singing slowly.

Her eyes told me, ” you all come for a short while and not only talk too big but talk over my head and go back to your own business. It takes time for me to establish a relationship.

She was right. Are we all wise enough to guess their feelings? Everyone needs a space and sky to fly their thoughts. Do we all have at least a bird’s brain to think of freedom and the skies that create? Why do our thoughts and feelings surround only us and not the others who also breathe the same air? Why are we inconsiderate to all other living beings?

That reminded me of Kahlil Gibran : ” You can muffle the drum/ You can loosen the strings of the lyre/ But who shall command the skylark not to sing?’’

A curious case of sour grapes

The vines in my next door neighbour Daniel’s backyard were not sophisticated. They were of a wild variety that produced grapes with big seeds and less flesh. They must have been the same ones that so disappointed that legendary fox (in The Fox and the Grapes, one of the stories in Aesop’s fables).

Last summer, a few lines of the vine started creeping into our backyard and I encouraged it for the simple reason: anything that grows without our sweat would indeed taste sweet. I expected the grapes to ripen in August.

One evening, however, I found that the lines that had grown into our backyard looked lifeless. When I went over to Daniel’s side, I found that they had been cut at the very point they started slithering into my backyard. Ah, et tu Brute, Daniel?

I asked Daniel about it and he said, ‘’I didn’t want my grapevine to intrude into your yard, causing a problem for you!’’ I told him I didn’t mind at all. His grapes were welcome.

In the fall, the days became shorter and the leaves fell off Daniel’s vine. Then came winter, and the grapevine shrank into its annual dormancy. Like all deciduous plants, the vines, exposed to the hail and snow, were reduced to a dry withering trunk .

When spring came, it came back to life, sprouted new leaves and again headed straight for my fence. I was happy to welcome them and looked forward to a feast in the summer.

In the home stretch, however, a small flock of robins discovered Daniel’s vineyard and made themselves at home. They came every morning and evening and plucked every grape that had turned ripe. This was disappointing after a whole year of waiting, if not working hard.

Duly, I consoled myself. Robins have a right to nature’s bounty too. As the adage goes, every grain of rice preordained to be eaten by you carries your name on it.

And that’s true. If that doesn’t carry your name, even if it’s there on your plate it could lose its way between your spoon and mouth. So, every grape had the name of the living being who was going to eat it.
Every moment is unpredictable as paths are not always smooth and that can turn precipitous too, at times.

Although we human beings are blessed with a lot of different options in survival games, we still tend to exploit the nature that teaches us a noble message to share and care in order to turn this world a better place to live in.

Suresh Nellikode

Email: suresh.nellikode@gmail.com
(New Indian Express – Friday, Jan 12, 2018)grape

The Extra Weights We Gain

I was wondering why some people project themselves fearsome, raw and tyrannical in power that has got nothing to do with the other standing face to face with them. Don’t they assume a lot to restrict themselves to such positions and situations?

 A couple of months ago, while doing shopping in India I happened to come across a man I know, who might have forgotten me, for it’s too hard to sail up the river of life and keep abreast of what’s up with all friends. He’s quite less than my age and currently one of the top brasses of a regional TV channel. If we roll out and sing from the same song-sheets, we have a lot to remember and laugh about. He used to always wonder about my Malayalam fictions published not because of the greatness of writing but the good frequency that kept up. He used to consult with me how to go about the publishing of articles in various periodicals. We had met many a time and he had no reservations for an open talk.

But when I met him and reintroduced myself and told him that we were old friends and used to meet up in the early eighties I found him cold-shouldered and felt like he’s carrying the whole weight of the world he controls. He was so quiet in his reciprocation and restrained. I wished it would have been a surprise for him and introduced me to his wife standing beside him, making the whole small world bloom! He didn’t even give me a full-blown smile nor a sentence other than the stray ..hm…. hm..yeah..yeah..  etc. Are memories like water off a duck’s back even at a very younger age? First time in my life I had a feeling that I shouldn’t have gone to him followed by the inner me saying, ”nothing wrong, for you’ve not gone for any favours.” My wife who was busy shopping at a nearby counter also looked at me and felt my pulse that I’m at the receiving end.

I do not think that this is because of him being an introvert or prefers seclusion. After we left each other a few years ago he soon became a popular lyricist and had enough of the limelight in his field. I wanted to escape from the territory I felt I do not belong to. That left me absolutely cold and reminded me to take a small bite of the reality sandwich always first. I for one think that the other human being may be good at hundreds of things I’m not good at or not even heard of and respect people as and where they are, irrespective of the professions they hold.

No wonder another celebrity film director asked my friend to facilitate me to call him up to get more information on a foreign film festival I’m attached to. Although all information is available on net he preferred me to call back. My friend who stood in between apologetically told me, ”you please call him up as he said he has some propriety and protocol, being a national award winner.”

Did I hear the usage right? Propriety…. protocol..? Is there anything like that? Are we to throw the weight we gain from fame on others?

But I had called up without losing any of mine!

blog

By Suresh Nellikode

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