Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cuckoo Clock

It is not clear who made the first Cuckoo clock but it was around 1750 the first Black Forest Cuckoo was created.
There are museums displaying the collection of Cuckoo clocks, the Cuckooland Museum in the UK and the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum inGermany.
Some of the latest ones are very savvy with some special designs.

On a personal level I would not like to own one, for the simple reason I don’t like to be reminded of the passage of time every hour. And imagine my plight when this happens in the night, with the cuckoo waking me up every hour to say “see another hour has passed away”
But this is exactly what Alex Budovsky has done. He has made a short film showing how the Cuckoo has entered our lives and controls our thoughts. It is every where, in our bed, in our bath tub….. slowly it takes over our complete life. The way he has depicted the whole process in this short movie with simple animation technique made me sit through for the 3 minute duration of the movie. It is in Black and White and the pace is very fast.
The music by Stephen Coates is apt and one can imagine how the conveyor belt effect can change our lives.
It has won the Jury Award for the Best Animation at Sundance Online Film Festival for “the perfection of music and fantastic Imaginary”
To see the movie, click here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Joyce Wordsworth

In this age of texting and abbreviations that are used in the name of “communication” it is a pleasant and welcome change to hear someone speaking English, the way it is meant to be spoken. I had the privilege of meeting such a person who knows the value of the language and she is 90 years old.
Yesterday was her birthday and I was very much there to witness the sparkle in her eyes while she cut the birthday cake. I am talking about Joyce Wordsworth.

Long distance wishes

As the party progressed she saw me busy with my camera, she beckoned me and asked “so how many photos have you clicked so far? A hundred?”  
I told her “It could be a few hundreds, but more than that I have to make a confession”  Her eyes widened and she brought her ear closer to me urging me to go on. (I felt as if I was kneeling at the confessional)
I told her that I took the liberty of clicking some photographs of her house while she was busy with her guests outside in the lawns.
Now I was not sure if that meant “Why?”  or “ without asking me?”
So I quickly added “you see I write blogs and I feel I should write a post on you. I would like some photographs to accompany my post”
She gave me an approving nod with a smile. I told her that once it is done I would bring my lap top and show her the post.
“Yes please do that, and also tell your wife to get me that freshly baked bread that she promised me long back”
Now it was my turn to raise the eyebrows. Such sharp memory!

with her nieces and nephew

So now I have to make sure both are delivered on time. Here is a person who will not forget anything and here I am who does not remember what I did yesterday morning!!
"where is the bread?"

She was a teacher in some of the prestigious schools in Pune. Her ex-students approached her and requested her (on bended knees) to accompany them for a party in advance for her 90th Birthday. She willingly accepted and joined them. She still takes  Spoken English classes.
with her brothers

Walking around her small cottage was an experience for me. I did hear many stories about how she refuses to dispose the old things in her cottage. I think each and every article in the house must be memories for her. 

Those key chains, those photographs, there must be stories attached to every item. I have made a mental note to come later and sit with her and talk to her. I am sure there will be many stories that she could unravel for me, both about herself and about Poona.

The party in progress

And now a picture of her from 1962 when she was teaching in one of the prominent schools in Pune (then known as Poona )
I think its easy to spot Joyce.

After all it is not every day that one meets someone who was born just after the aftermath of World War One.
The whole Wordsworth clan

Happy Birthday Joyce :-) There are not many like you . . . .

Joyce Wordsworth expired on 23rd Nov 2013 at the age of 91.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A movie with a message

There must be very few who did not enjoy the comic books  when they were kids. (I always wondered why they were called comic books)
My favourite ones were Phantom, Mandrake the magician and Tarzan. 

It was so fascinating to know that Tarzan was the child of Lady & Earl of Greystoke who were shipwrecked and how he was adopted by one of the apes who had  lost her own child. 

Then came other lovely cartoon strips like Denis the Menace followed by Calvin and Hobbes. The difference between Denis and Calvin is that Denis thought and spoke like a child would whereas  Calvin’s thoughts and words were that of an adult.
Coming back to Tarzan, I remember the time I cut up all the Tarzan comic strips from the daily newspaper (Monday to Friday) stuck them together to form one big roll.    
I  modified  a shoe box  to make some sort of a movie viewing box and fixed the roll in it so that it could be viewed like a movie. Those were days when kids were happy with simple pleasures  of life…

Recently I saw a short cartoon movie  which  brought back old memories. This  was an animated movie with a  difference . It conveys a message of life  without actually preaching about it. In fact there are no dialogues, no voice over, just music (and I loved the music too). It is for the viewer to decide what the movie has to say. The message is so simple that even a kid can understand it. Come to think of it, I think this is a good cartoon movie for kids. A movie with a message.
To see the 3 minute movie click here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The little things in life

The stressful life that we lead, the hurried drive through the traffic to work, all these don't add up. But somehow the brighter things in life don’t get through.
The little things in the life are the ones that make you happy
Is there anything more exciting than the sunny Sunday morning with a hot bacon sandwich?  

However if you take time to watch the times of pleasure around us, they will add a spark to your life and make the world warmer and a pleasing place to dwell.
Waking up on your day off, the first day of sunshine after a cold day of winter, making someone smile, turning a corner and seeing the beach, the ocean crashing against the shore, smelling the sea air, feeling the sand in-between your toes, crushing the crunchy leaf, being the first to step into a fresh field of brilliant dazzling beautiful white snow, the joy of having the whole cake to yourself.

Your pet dog happy to see you, no matter how long you have been away, Fridays afternoons, Saturday mornings, walking on the fresh grass bare feet,  reliving your childhood memories of games, a glimmer of excitement when similar experiences come to light, a goal in the last minute, breaking those bubbles on that bubble wrap, going for a drive on a rainy day, the list is endless.

Reading these small things that make you happy is one thing and the visual impact that one gets when you actually watch them is something different.
That is what Sorcha Anglim did. He strung all these together to make a short movie of three minute duration.
To watch the movie click here:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

English Vinglish

I usually don’t write movie reviews but when I see a good film I feel I must write about it. (the earlier reviews that I wrote were Peepli Live and Tintin)

Kudos to Gauri Shinde for giving the world a good film in Hindi.

Yes, this is a movie that will not only run in India, but will have a universal appeal and audience.

One of the salient features of this movie is the perfect casting. Be it the mother in law (Sulabha Deshpande) or the loud mouthed lady at the coffee counter in New York, 

or the ever smiling priest (Ashvin Mathew) from Kottayam (with his hand movements that  is so characteristic of a Mallu), all were perfectly cast. Most of them underplayed their roles which was the hallmark of the movie.

Some of the other character actors that stand out are Mehdi Nebbou who does the role of Laurent (the French Student). Even though I have seen him on screen with Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies and as Ali Hassan Salameh in Spielberg’s Munich, I just could not recognize him as the French guy Laurent who goes for the English classes with Shashi (Sridevi).

Adil Hussain as Shashi’s husband has done justice to his role. 

In fact I would say that each one has played their role perfectly. And that includes Amitabh Bachan. 

Even though it’s a small cameo role, he did it with ease.  I liked his reply when the US immigration officer asks him the standard question “What is the purpose of your visit?”  to which he replies “To spend  some  dollars and help  your economy. If you don’t want it, I can go back” 

There were some fine details in the movie which may go unnoticed like the time when Shashi and her sister Meera (Sujata Kumar) makes the  laddoos at Manhattan. Shashi rolls the laddoo with her bare hands while Meera does it with gloved hands (as per the norms by the Europeans and Americans that all edible items are not be handled by bare hands) From hygiene point of view it may be true but when it comes to rolling laddoos, you have to feel the temperature of it constantly to know how firm the laddoos will turn out. 

Then there is the time when Shashi rummages through her hand bag for her cell phone and in the process keeps the roll of French Laddoo (given by Laurent) down on the seat and forgets it. A subtle way of showing that she did not accept the roll given by Laurent.

What I liked best in the movie is the fast editing. No one realises that it is the editing that keeps the pace of the movie.
The song Badla Nazara is fast paced and may sound loud initially, but if you listen to the lyrics, it gives a sense of urgency, to do things fast in a short time. Exactly the situation Shashi is faced with.

The Marathi-Hindi song Navrai Maajhi is a perfect example of using Dholki, Banjo, Harmonium and the Tumbi to give an Indian song a rustic effect.
One gets to see some parts of Pune as the story is based on a family from Pune (India) It would have enhanced the authenticity if Shashi had used a few words of Marathi here and there (though she did mention Laxmi road and Main Street)
If you found the film colourful, its thanks to the wonderful cinematography by Laxman Utekar, with his multiple cameras at the wedding scene and the boom camera at the terrace scene.

Ahhhh yes, Sridevi’s sarees –beautifully draped and carried with great  sense of style. Simple  but  wonderfully ethnic , showcasing the essence of  Indian textiles…Khadhi, Chanderi and then some more….. thanks to Sabyasachi. Though I get the feel that they must cost a bomb!

And finally coming to Sridevi, she has proven that emoting and acting can still be done after a long hiatus  of 15 years!  

No wonder this movie got a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Burial and Cremation

Of late there is an  increased awareness about donating body parts to the cause of Science and Medicine.
I have found more and more people signing up for Eye donation and leaving clear cut instructions to their family regarding Organ donation, when the time arrives.
Many have even gone a step ahead and arranged for their own funeral, something like a prepaid cremation.
 For some it may sound morbid to talk about death especially when it is a family member. But let us face it, Death is a reality. The only uncertain thing is about the “How and When”

But if everyone goes through this exercise of selecting the way you want to be buried or cremated then it would be a lesser burden for the loved ones who are already in grief at that particular moment. One can even decide on the Casket Costs.
Then there is the question of deciding whether one wants to be buried or cremated. Most often the choice is dictated by religious beliefs. Cremation is an ancient practice that began over 2000 years ago in civilized cultures such as Greece, Rome and in India. The Hindus believe that cremation is the only way in which the soul will attain salvation.
When it comes to the Christians (especially Catholics) some still cling on to the old church belief that all Catholics have to be buried. Many are not aware of the instruction from the Holy Office in 1963 about the changes to Catholic views on Cremation. This was further amended in 1969, 1983 and 1989. These revisions solidified the church’s position and says that following a cremation, Catholic Church teachings instruct that the cremated remains be buried in a grave, or entombed in a colobarium.
Then there is the choice of keeping the body in community owned Mausoleum or a private one. One can even compare the price at the Mausoleum Prices.

Cremation is becoming  a more popular and widely acceptable option due to shortage of space in burial grounds (especially in the cities) and the fact that it is less expensive. 
 Last year this time I was in Spain where I attended a funeral of a loved one. I was really impressed about the way the whole cremation process was conducted.

I wish such facilities were available in India too.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Saving lives

It must be really depressing to see people landing up on the shore half famished or almost on the verge of death.
This is what happens on the shores of Yemen in the month of August / September. It is due to the instability of southern Yemen.

People try to flee in the best (or worst) possible ways not knowing where or how they are going to land at the other end.
The smugglers who take them in small boats are ruthless, often beating the passengers and overloading the boat and undergoing the risk of capsizing.
There are some who has come forward to help such victims and one such organisation is  the SHS (Society for Humanitarian Solidarity)
As soon as they get word, they land up at the beach to give immediate food a water relief. Some of the victims are too traumatised to move.
After a short rest at the shore they are taken to the nearest transit center where they can rest for a few hours so that they can have a meal before taking them to the reception center in Awhwar or Mayf’aa.
There are risks involved like endangering their own lives to save others, pulling people out of the waves in difficult seas and operating in extremely volatile security conditions where tribal violence is a daily occurrence.
In some cases where there are causalities, they even bury the dead.
Al-Hamairy founded SHS in 1995, when he found that the new arrivals became a burden to the impoverished local community. He says that he was motivated by the NGO to assist both the groups.
In naming SHS as the 2011 Nansen Refugee Award winner, the UN Refugee agency recognizes the life- saving assistance provided to the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores each year.
You can see a movie on it - click here