Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pazhassi Raja

If you're a true-blue Malayali, you have to be in one of two camps - the Mammootty camp or the Mohanlal camp. A minority might have sprung up recently claiming to like Dileep/Jayaram/Prithviraj, but I discount them. The Mammootty versus Mohanlal debate is too deeply entrenched in the blood of every Malayali.

Me, I'm a Mammootty fan through and through. I might like some of Mohanlal's earlier movies, but Mammootty has so much style, so much panache. I remember the exact moment I gave my heart to him. Anybody remember the movie The King? It featured Mammootty in the role of a dashing, rebellious District Collector, seemingly fighting all the crooked politicians on his own. Saying that it was not one of his best roles would be the understatement of the millennium. But "Wow!" thought my impressionable eight-year-old mind, and promptly surrendered itself.

And so, a decade and a half later, we come to Pazhassi Raja. I am no history buff, let me warn you at the outset - especially when it comes to Kerala. Before the movie was released, if you had asked me who Pazhassi Raja was, I would have probably guessed that he was a Tamil king from the seventh or eighth century. Obviously, I wouldn't have known that his real name was Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja. Yup, that's how far my knowledge of history goes.

I went for Pazhassi Raja for three reasons. One, that it featured Mammootty, of course. That too, in a role that reminded me of Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. (By the way, check out the two screenshots below. Almost wenty years between the two movies, but what has changed? Even the user ratings are the same!)

Secondly, because it seemed to offer a treat for the eyes, set as it is in Wayanad, in my opinion THE most beautiful region in Kerala. And thirdly, well - it's a must-watch for every Malayali this year, isn't it?

Trust me, Pazhassi Raja doesn't disappoint on any count. The movie offers everything - political intrigue, mesmerizing battles, an excellent cast, enough history for those interested. And yet it leaves you thirsting for more, wanting to find out more about this incredible man, the 'Lion of Kerala'. Mammootty holds back on the glamour and gives a restrained performance that is well worth applauding - especially in the later scenes in which Pazhassi is holed up in a makeshift camp in the mountains of Wayanad, injured and apparently losing the battle with the British.

But what I liked most was the fact that the film does not belong to Mammootty or Pazhassi Raja in any way. The entire cast pulls out incredible performances - especially Sarath Kumar as Edachena Kunkan Nair, the Commander of Pazhassi's armies. The last fight scene he features in and the aftermath - I had goosebumps, I tell you. I also liked Padmapriya's performance as Neeli, the gutsy leader of the Adivasi women fighting for Pazhassi Raja.

The battle scenes are to die for, no pun intended. Well, you can't call them battle scenes because Pazhassi seemed to believe in oliporu - I guess that would translate best as guerilla warfare. So you have the red-coats trotting complacently through the lush green forests of Wayanad, only to be beset from all sides by well-camouflaged Adivasis. Later on, there is also the excellently-shot pre-dawn storming of a fort, and the final battle on a hill-top. A few gruesome hangings also happen along the way.

A minor point is the length - at 200 minutes, it's easily the longest movie I've seen recently. But it is so good visually that there are very few scenes that I would want cut. I also found it strange that there were no Malayalam sub-titles for the English dialogue. Granted 100% literacy and all that, but are all Malayalis expected to be so well-versed with English as to understand British accents?

Oh, and I can't end without a note on the audience. They cheered everything, starting with the 'Special thanks to Mohanlal' legend to the first appearance of Mammootty (the two camps do have a few overlaps, please note) to the hanging of a British officer. It's so true that you may take a Malayali out of Kerala, but not Kerala out of a Malayali. No, not even at a 200-rupee-a-head screening at PVR at 8:30 PM. But Nikhil, with whom I watched the movie, was disappointed - he said the comments were much better at the eleven o'clock show at New Theatre in Trivandrum, where he watched the movie last Saturday. I suspect it was more about the show timings than anything else.

By the way, if you want to know more about the historical setting, you can read Nikhil's review of Pazhassi Raja here.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Open Letter to Facebook Spammers

I posted this letter as a note on Facebook, in a desperate attempt to get people to stop spamming my Facebook stream. Considering the zilch effect it had on them, I suspect it was drowned out by the very spam it was supposed to fight. Posting it here because it's sort of a continuation of this post.

Dear Facebook Spammer,

I know this letter of mine is going to cause some strain in our relationship, but I can't help it. Trust me, I've thought long and hard about this. The decision to write this letter was a painful one.

So I'll get straight to the topic.

Stop spamming - just stop. Desist. Refrain. Please.

I know it's tough, and I know I have no right to be ordering you about. It's a free country after all. But still.

I do understand that you feel the need to consult your daily horoscope every day on Facebook. And of course I can accept the fact that you must ask Mystical Meg a whole bunch of questions before you can make a decision of any sort. And believe me - I too want to know how many people have a crush on me and who my Enemy of the Day is. And when I get bored, I take random Facebook quizzes too, just like you.

After all, Facebook is all about the mindless entertainment.

But when these applications ask me whether I want to publish the results on my page -  now that's where I pause. I think about it. I weigh my options.

Do I WANT people to know that I just took the 'How well do you know your Harry Potter' quiz? Will the results of my consultation with Anita the Online Psychic interest them at ALL? Will they WANT to know what my Fortune Cookie (which, by the way, looks like something else entirely) just foretold?

I think these things through. And then I very deliberately click the 'Skip' button.

The problem is that you just don't seem to! And in choosing not to, you clutter up my Facebook stream! In desperation, I even tried Facebook Lite. The lack of spam was simply awesome for two days, but then the usability was kinda meh. So I came back to normal Facebook.

My second problem is with status messages. Don't get me wrong - they're awesome in general. They tell me what my friends have been up to recently. And even when they don't, the people on my friends' list are generally clever/witty/interesting enough for the status messages to be worth reading.


Why oh why, dear FB Spammer, do you insist on linking  your Twitter account to your Facebook profile? Yes, I do know it must be a pain to have to post your awesome status messages separately on Facebook and Twitter each time. But there's this awesome app called Selective Twitter - the premise is that you can 'select' which of your tweets becomes your Facebook status message.

I think the problem is that you don't quite understand the difference between Twitter and Facebook, dear FBS. I won't mind if you spam me on Twitter, because I can always un-follow you there. Yes yes - I know I can hide you from my Facebook stream too - but then I DO want to know what you're up to, FBS. Just not every five minutes is all. I'm sure you understand.

Now now. Don't think I'm deaf - I can hear you wondering why the *BLEEP* I'm on Facebook in the first place, if it pisses me off so much?

I'll admit it's all about the entertainment for me. I like reading people's status messages. I like the videos they post and the photos they put up. I like staying updated with XL news. And of course I can stalk people by visiting their profiles and checking what they've been up to. Okay fine, I guess I might be slightly addicted.

But that's precisely why I really need you to stop ruining the experience for me, FBS. Please.

Love as usual,
Regular Facebook User

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