Sep 29, 2011

Tracing the Roots of Malayalam Cinema

With the memories of my evening jaunts to a tiny wayside tea stall located in the fringes of the Trivandrum city and the light talks I used to make with my friend Kiran Ravindran there, while sipping warm coffee, still soaring in my mind; I had a similar experience of an evening road side light talk here in Cochin itself quite recently. It happened when Kiran visited Cochin for something professional. At around 10 pm in the night I went to his dwelling place, near the railway station, and while drinking a hot tea from a less hygienic tea stall, he revealed his purpose of his Cochin visit.

A director of documentaries and short films, and a writer of some critically acclaimed books, Kiran was in Cochin in connection with some research works of his new book, ‘Cinemayil Inganeyum Chilar’. Forgive me, I could not think about a proper literary translation of this Malayalam phrase now, but, ‘Cinema has Some People like This’. 

In this new work, which is currently under preparation, he deals with such persons of Malayalam Film Industry, who remain almost unknown to the glory of the Silver screen, even if had appended some contributions – nothing less than significant – to the growth of the industry. 

With a plan to write a book by dividing the Malayalam Film history into two segments, viz, from the beginning to the end of Black and White era, and the later era, Kiran sought the guidance of two veteran producers, Navodaya Appachan and T E Vasudevan. It was these two giants who directed Kiran to include the details of lesser known personalities of Malayalam cinema. 

So, the next was his search for unpopular stars. He delved deep into the history, till reached the initial days. Though none of the crew behind the first Malayalam film Vigatha Kumaran (The Lost Child – 1928) is alive today, including its director and lead actor J C Daniel (the Father of Malayalam Cinema) and the heroine P K Rosie, he succeeded in tracing some of the people of the later films.

The first talkie in Malayalam was Balan (1938). Kiran had earlier visited M K Kamalam, the heroine of Balan, who died in 2010 at 86. 

During his visit to Cochin, he met some of the people who associated with the film Nirmala (1948) and Thiramala (The Tide – 1953). I have some photos of the actresses of both of the films to share with you. The then and now comparison will be an interesting one. Apart from these actresses, the people Kiran met include actress Vasantha Kokila, playback singer T K Govinda Rao, sound recordist Krishna Elamon, Thomas Burley, lead actor of Thiramala, character actress Annamma, M K Nathan, the script writer of the first Malayalam colour film Kandam Becha Kottu (The patched-up Coat – 1961), etc.

If you are someone associated with the Malayalam film industry of yester years, or if you know someone of that kind, kindly send a note to tomz@vanitymoments.com. If it will help Kiran in his new work, I can have the satisfaction of putting in my share. 

Sep 18, 2011

Legend of Hymavathy

Her name was Hymavathy. She was a beautiful girl, lean and tall, fair and graceful, born in the 1950s in Trivandrum, the capital of the South Indian state Kerala. The reason why you are not able to find the name Hymavathy in the contemporary naming culture of Kerala society may perhaps be that it has got weeded out from the vocabulary conscience of the people here.

Born and brought up in an orthodox Brahmin family, Hymavathy was privileged to attend the renowned University of Kerala campus for her higher studies. Motivated by teenage frailty, Hymavathy fell in deep love with a young handsome boy, and they became inseparable. During the free hours, they both spent some time together in the forest like areas within the campus itself. In the wilderness, there was a small pond. It was sitting on the banks of this pond (some call it a lake) that they both used to share their joys, personal worries, secrets, and perhaps more. The layout of the campus could most possibly be the same as today, since development in Kerala usually happens in a slow manner, thanks to the bureaucrats. 

As she was about to lose her butterfly days of teenage soon, her parents hurried to find a suitable boy for her. Since there was already a boy, who occupied her heart, she did not give consent to any of the proposals brought by her parents. Later, when her parents journeyed into the depths of her heart by asking questions, that secret surfaced. May be due to their conservatism, or because of the boy’s background, which was set in a separate caste, her parents never allowed that relationship. Heartbroken, and totally distressed, the beautiful Hymavathy, one unfortunate day of the 60’s went to the lakeside without anybody’s accompaniment. Bidding farewell to the surrounding solitude and to her beloved one silently, she jumped into the pond, and died. 

Since she left the world, without fulfilling her womanly passions and desires, her soul was in a distressed condition. Without being able to leave the earth and its environment, it appeared in the form of a white apparition to many people in the surrounding areas, and wept terribly. What gushed forth from its eyes were not tears, but red clotted blood.  

It was two decades later only, this Blogger was born in a different place far away from the precincts of the above mentioned incidents. By the passage of the half of a century, the neighboring rustic areas had given way to modernization. As a result, one of the largest technology hub of India, Technopark was set up in the neighbourhood, even when the government’s initiative University of Kerala remained the same with its haunted wilderness and forest like terrains, except some new buildings, departments, and hostels germinated somewhere within. 

The Blogger grew up and as part of education, he travelled to Trivandrum. During the end of his media related studies, he got placed in an online news portal, which was functioning in Technopark’s biggest building, Tejaswini. Since he dealt with news, he had to do night shifts. Many of his colleagues working in night shifts with him were living in the Trivandrum city located some 15 kilometers away. He was living in a rented place in the Trivandrum city, and the commutation was easy for him with the help of his sincere bike. 

Though their shift usually ended at 12 O’clock in the night, none of them had the habit of going home in the night, except him. What he did was actually saving time; work from 5 to 12 in the evening, go back to home traveling 15 kilometers to have a peaceful sleep till eight in the morning, and collect a handful of free hours of the day to get involved in some other activities which he was interested in. 

Either envied by his time saving trick, or in order to save him from the grudge of the supernatural beings, two female colleagues told him about the legend of Hymavathy pond, and about the spirit of the girl who roamed around with her unsatiated lust and unfulfilled desires. He was shocked, and his shock was doubled hearing the accounts from some other tongues. As per the legends, if someone goes to Hymavathy Lake alone, he would feel someone at his back who tried to push him to the water, though no one could have been found around. The Blogger checked the internet and found some narrations of the Hymavathy pond, in which a huge sized figure appeared to a night time traveler while traveling on a two wheeler through the route which lay straight in between Technopark and Kerala University. Another night time traveler had seen a woman at the back gate of the University accompanied by the scent of the Jasmine flowers, when there were no jasmine plants growing in those areas.

Even after hearing all these stories, the Blogger continued his mid night travel, with pulsating heart, and dried lips. During those hours, what illuminated the isolated tarred roads was only the headlight of his vehicle. He passed that route, fearfully expecting a scented apparition of a woman in white dress at each and every juncture and curve. Finding him harmless the next day, his female colleagues gossiped that he was escaped only because Hymavathy was in love with him.

Dear readers, sorry to disappoint you again without a twisted end; either impressed by the courage of the Blogger, or hindered by her natural affection towards him, Hymavathy never tried to harm him.

In Pictures:
Picture 1: Young woman (corbis.com)
Picture 2: Snap of the Hymavathy pond as seen today (Courtesy: http://angelicidol.blogspot.com)
Picture 3: The night time snap of the road between Technopark and University of Kerala, through where I used to travel (Courtesy: http://www.technoparktoday.com)

(In the following map, you can see the areas. The University of Kerala campus and Hymavathy Lake are marked clearly. The buildings you see on the left bottom corner are part of Technopark. In between, the one you see with the label, Karyavattom-Thrippadapuram road is the one which I used to travel during night time. Using the Zoom and direction controls, given at the top left portion, you can get to know the places more accurately)


View Larger Map

Sep 10, 2011

About Travel


This time, I have nothing special to write, but about travel. You people must be thinking that what I am going to write is about a travel which I made in recent times to some distant places. To free my post from such speculations, I may tell you that I haven’t made any such travel or pleasure trip to any such wonderful places in the closest past.

If you travel daily from one place to another in a regular manner, there will develop an affinity in your mind to certain objects or areas in the paths. If the travel is not so frequent, happening only in an intermittent manner also, that affinity would be there, but with a tinge of nostalgia. I am talking about the second case, the nostalgic affinity you have in your mind, towards the objects or areas in the path, if you have a regular route to travel from one place to another in a not-so-regular manner.

During my time in Trivandrum, I used to travel back to my home in Kottayam once in a while. Sometimes, I used to take the risk of riding on my sincere bike all the way, covering some 175 kilometers. In such cases, sometimes, I had my drive crazy-cousin also with me to get an emotional support for my feeble mind. With his frequent travel back and forth, my cousin was even sure of the exact places where you would find a gutter on the road.

Once we leave the Trivandrum city, the first stopover would be a small church, where we used to put a ten rupee note as the bribe to the Almighty to save us from any danger in the way. But, once upon a time, while I was driving his bike, at a dangerous curve, a middle aged man suddenly jumped in front, and with lost control we both fell down with the bike, with my laptop on my shoulder, and with a thumping sound. By God’s grace, no one was hurt, not even a single object was broken.

The second stopover used to be a road side tea shop, from where we get tea and some traditional snacks. My cousin would use this time for a wayside-free-stand smoke. There are some more tea stalls on our way to home as our subsequent stopovers. We used to choose a route where we can go through rustic country side paths dotted with tiny towns and hamlets in midway. One of the areas we need to pass is a dangerous forest. This is the route through which you can reach the famous South Indian pilgrim centre located at Sabarimala. It is heard that the forest area is where a lot of burglaries had been practiced by some antisocials. So, my cousin used to force me to pass the forest area before dusk.

I had my last such trip from Trivandrum to home the day before I shifted to Cochin. But, since it was a rainy season, I reached home wetting in the rain for kilometers. The next day I set out to Cochin in the evening when it was raining lightly. From home to Cochin, I was all the way wetting in the rain, which sometimes drizzled slightly and some other times fell heavily.

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