Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Swallowing Bitter Pills...

I got an email from Ashok, a true guide and well-wisher, reminding me of the importance of credibility in the profession I am about to undertake. In his words, I had misused the trust, readers endowed on me by writing something that never happened. Though I defended my position in my reply to him, I feel apologetic now. No propaganda to label the movie, Thalappavu, as offbeat happened. I used it unnecessarily and dishonestly as a stick to beat the cult of superstar worship that I have grown to utterly hate. A big sorry on my part to all of you. Anyways let what I wrote, stay as is. I will never forget this lesson learnt and hold no bitterness. Thanks to varnachitram for showing me for what I was - yet another pen-pusher with an axe to grind.

Now that is done and I feel at ease and peace, I need to somehow let loose the other things that perplexes me. Heading back home in a week, with no idea what I will be doing beyond the next two months - the heart beckons me to continue in trivandrum but I can't decide between becoming a part of the social circle of my parents and old friends which anyways will need a lot of money and mundane social interaction or follow the path of the last 2 years where I have kept largely to myself and lived an existence dictated by what interests me and nothing else. I am not sure that second track will lead to personal happiness but somewhere in my mind I feel a little happiness in having insulated my inner core from the recent prosperity besides the urge to expand that currently tiny warehouse of experiences which have been my best teachers. Hope neither of these become a casualty amidst the influences of kerala society and the comforts of home.

And, I need to give this blog a break. I keep telling myself I am about to be friggin' 28 and I am wasting the youthful energy and insights of this age. I keep telling myself I haven't published a single work or for that matter even put the effort into it. I have been getting the feeling, perhaps wrongly, that I am investing too much into this blog, that its too much a part of my life than it should be and that its time to focus elsewhere. Its a hard decision, to let go of a good thing but I have thought over this hard for the last one month. And I doubt I can be gone for long, considering India is a place where blogging ideas abound for somebody passionate like me. But I HAVE to make that start on writing that first piece of publishable fiction, and I will return ONLY after I set a steady pace in that effort. Call it my faith in materialization powers - in simpler words, the belief that saying the stuff I want to do, out loud, will prod my subconscious mind to find a way, in helping me achieve that desire.

Cheers everyone, and please spare me the embarrassment of wishing me all those good things in life and of missing my posts, etc, etc, which I know you guys will insistently do. So I am disabling comments on this post.

Friday, May 09, 2008

On How Languages Are Taught In School...

Over the last one year, I have taken a few online classes and been irregularly perusing books on fiction and non-fiction writing. Though the classes were a failure because of my aversion to homework and the books ineffective because of my inability to read without distraction, what I have realized is that the fundamental basics which these books espouse are lessons that should have been taught to me in school itself. You guys must be wondering, why a self-conceited prince of no man's land like your's truly will take a poke at himself. The reasons is that I found to my utter annoyance last year, that I had virtually no idea about those most basic voices used in writing that we all subconsciously utilize - the first person, second person and third person. Like every craft, writing also needs guidance and a little sprinkling of theory is needed for us to master it. Sadly the springboard for our lives, schools, have essentially failed in providing this critical ingredient to spur our writing ability - an ability which i believe is a valuable part of our personality development.

I went to a very good school, arguably among the best in Kerala, and how we like to believe, even in India. Yet, I can't remember a single instance of any English or Malayalam language teacher, giving us a lecture on what separates good writing from the bad or tips to improve our writing while they were adept at nitpicking on spelling and grammatical errors. The emphasis was always on grammar and vocabulary. I guess the blame mostly lies with the outdated syllabi we are all saddled with, which doesn't see writing as amongst the most important wheels in the creative process. A part of the blame could be apportioned to teachers who came up in another age, where the rigours of life had nipped out the last remaining bits of thinking out of the box and believed it is safer to stick to what works. Probably, another important factor is that these teachers are not equipped to talk to us about writing, as they themselves are unsure of their prowess as writers. Or it could be something as simple as lack of exposure to books on writing or something as complex as not having put in extra-academic thought about their own perspectives on writing through the books they studied or read.

Our writings were always called compositions. Even when we wrote a story on a fictitious incident, it was always called a composition. Using a term like "short story" for that budding piece of writing, would have given so much confidence to us. The English course was divided into English-I and English-II and same with Malayalam. English-II was fun from high school - we learnt Shakespeare, poetry and short stories in these classes. Similarly Malayalam-II had novels and until the 8th, short stories and a few poems we lapped up. English-I bored us - one period dedicated to grammar and another period to composition, comprehension or letter writing and the odd stab at precis writing, which though useful was considered to be of lesser value. Frequently teachers would use up the English-I period to finish English-II portions which always lagged, while a Malayalam-I period was a rarity! I can imagine the world of difference it would have made if English-I and Malayalam-I was more about us finding the writer in us. I also have doubts if any of us learnt grammar properly either, despite the importance given to it, because of its inherent dryness which bounced, right off our young restless selves sans imbibition.

Most of us learned to write, with some degree of comfort, thanks to the voracious reading appetite we had in those days, a result of the absence of distractions like the internet and cable tv. We were consciously and subconsciously inspired by the masters we read and to copy their styles, but the most frequent outlet to exercise our writing abilities was sadly only in examinations. Later came emails to friends or official ones at work and then came blogs. Writing for pleasure has continued in some form or the other for a lucky few, and as part of their profession for the rest. What we all continue to lack, is a better understanding of the craft. Some learn the finer points without guidance because these are mostly common sense principles, noticeable if people have thought, compared and contrasted theirs and others writing. Others fumble along blissfully without that self-realization. I for one, hope that schools take a hard look at the absence of well-rounded writing classes in their curriculum and the very real fact that writing is not just a natural or inborn ability but one that can be cultivated in every young mind through proper guidance.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thalappavu Coming...

Why would I dedicate a post to a movie that I am yet to see? Because this is a film that has excited me from the day I came to know of its announcement and because the film is about a man who I adore to the cusp of hero worship. And because I don't see a trace of this man's sacrifice, leadership and heroism in today's generation of young Keralites. "Naxal" Varghese as we call him today was the CPM Wayanad district secretary who chucked a promising future as a politician(probably chiefministership too???) to join the Naxalite Movement protesting against the party's acquiescence of landlordism and exploitation of tribals and peasants ultimately laying down his young life for the people whose conditions he strived to better.

I am no supporter of violent upheaval but there are situations when you feel justified in your support for such movements. Naxalites are back in relevance and have even begun to rule, as we see in neighbouring Nepal where the ruling class and middle class ignored the fate of the underprivileged majority. We have states in India with naxal menace like Jharkand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, etc that are seething at the non-improvement of their living conditions despite 60 years of independence and democracy. While India has zestfully responded to the justified need of supressing these violent movements, more importantly the efforts to address the ills that plague the societal inequalities in these states have not been tackled properly.

Thalappavu will release anytime soon I hear. Many years back I read these three wonderful articles on rediff when retired police constable Ramachandran Pillai who is dead now confessed to the cold-blooded murder of Varghese. On that same day rediff also carried this article indicting the establishment. A few years later noted Kerala journalist George Iype travelled to Thirunnelli and discovered the legend that surrounded Varghese 30 years after his death. Around the same time, mainstream newspapers like Manorama and Mathrubhumi retrieved superbly written articles from their archives chronicling the last days of Varghese, Ajitha's arrest and the fatal torture inflicted on Rajan. Unfortunately I didn't have the foresight to save those gems.

In Thalappavu, Prithviraj plays Varghese and Lal plays constable Pillai who killed him. The movie is directed by actor Madhupal who makes his debut behind the megaphone, script is by Babu Janardhanan who arrived in prominence with Achanurangatha Veedu and Vasthavam in 2006, with camera helmed by veteran Azhagappan and is produced by Tamil actor, Mohan. Check out the film's superb website at http://www.thalappavu.com. I decided to pitch this movie seeing propoganda aimed against this film by our "harmless" superstar fans who have already begun deriding it as offbeat, a "derisive" label which today is used to keep people away from theatres. A movie like this deserves to succeed but is waiting release as crap superstar flicks like Annan Thampi and Innathe Chinthavishayam continue their artificial run. Hope my little blog has given you all a heads-up and everyone will go watch this movie in its first week. Also check out two snaps I uncovered from the net of Varghese, shot by famed Manorama photographer, T.Narayanan . Note the facial similarily he shares with Prithviraj which probably prompted his casting for this role. The other one is Varghese shot to death after the "encounter".