Nagavalli by The Down Troddence

This is one gem of a work. I’ve never been a fan of Thrash Metal and don’t know much about the genre either but these guys made me listen. The way they infused the story of Nagavalli, a fictional character from the popular Malayalam movie “Manichithrathazhu” that made Shobhana a national award winner, and put it in to the contemporary context is a great work. Add to that the pinch of folk and finally the perfect blending into the original score. Perfect example of how you can use the popular art psyche to introduce or popularize the little known art forms/music genres. Contrary to the new-age indie bands who poor lyrical quality, these guys beat it on that front too. Well done THE DOWN TRODDENCE! (And whoever done the video deserves an applause too).

I want Modi to win

No. I am not going to post that in Modi’s Gujrat the average daily wages is Rs. 129 while it is Rs. 493 in Kerala. Or that Wikileaks themselves have made it clear that the BJP’s official campaigners used the name of Julian Assange to bat for Modi as an ‘incorruptible leader’ in a fake Twitter message. Or about the gender violence in Gujrat as published by Open Democracy.

Why should I, while you – the so-called ‘non-partisans’ – are in search of reasons to like him despite the many myth-busters doing the rounds? Why, when the finance experts among you – while admitting that the statistics can be played out – bats for him with finance jargon?

I would rather play myself a Yesudas. I will tell you the stories of harmony, one god, one religion and all that. And how music can heal you. I should do that because in Modi’s India, I will be saved with all that good talks and not lose a fan in the name of my politics (with a most recent example of that lady who befriended me after hearing a song of mine and later quit accusing me of my ‘secular meter coming down’). Why should I be worried? The Sangh or Modi will definitely not rake up much of the Hindutva issues in their first term. In the next term, probably their first target is going to be Muslims and I am not a Muslim. Their second target could be the evangelical Christians and I don’t belong to one. Their third target could be the Dalits but though I would be proud to call myself part of a tribe who fought the oppression, I am not categorically a Dalit. I belong to a Church who, while the Christians were being burned and killed, said that Communism is a greater threat than Hindutva – simply because their educational business or their belief business was at threat. The same church who are as Hindutvavaadis as the real Hindutvavaadis in the name of ‘nativity’ while they seldom admit that their approaches are being labeled as a way to convert the natives by the Hindutvavaadis.

I want Modi to win. Really. I want him to be the prime minister. I know for certain that he can’t deliver what he promises. I know for certain he will not be a prime minister even for my class, the middle class, but for the Adanis and Ambanis, but I want him to win. I know for certain that he would blame his inefficiencies on the political alliances and compromises but I still want him to win. Because you deserve him. India deserves him so badly right now.

I want Modi to be your prime minister.

The schoolmates

Most of the schoolmates I see after many years are faces or names that I do not remember. Yet they all had stories to share that sometimes would make you wonder how to respond. There was one I met in a bar while I was with another friend. This guy came to me and asked if I remembered him. I had no clue. “Are you not Joseph?”, he asked. I was surprised. Then he told me he was my schoolmate and how he remember me singing in the school and all that. I was dumbstruck that he remembered my name and recognized me after all these years. Then he told me the story of his life. Romancing and marrying a girl who was the daughter of a top police official and how his father-in-law got furious at him and made life difficult for him and he had to run to Gulf. “Now we are settled”, he said. “Her family has come to terms and we are visiting them now.” I felt happy for him though I didn’t recall who he was. And then while he was leaving, he said “Never had I imagined that I would see you in a bar”. I didn’t know what to say to that. I just smiled.

I met another old friend and I remembered this guy’s name, Suresh, who is an autorickshaw driver now. I was just walking out of the fireworks store when I spotted him. He asked about my family and I asked about him. “That went up as a disaster”, he said while he was still smiling at me. “I lost a lot of money and I don’t know where my life is headed”. In our society where divorce is still a taboo, I could see what he meant. But I was at loss of words. I did try to console a bit though but I was pitying myself.

What are the odds you remember a face that you last saw while you were nine years old or so? None I would say, if I was speaking for myself. So I was waiting for an autorickshaw at midnight on a Sunday and this autorickshaw drops by. I get in and after a short while he says my name. Surprises again! Not only my name, but he recalls many other names from that small lower primary school we all studied in until 4th. This came as a real surprise to me. “I have our annual group photo with me and I check on it from time to time. And you haven’t changed much that it was easy for me to recognize!”, he said with a big smile. I apologized to him that I didn’t remember anything about him. He said that he understands completely but those were some of the best years he had. He added much life to that night which otherwise would have been a sleepy, homesick trip to the railway station.

You know what, I believe in people and their inherent goodness even with so much evil around. Oh, so much.

Malayalam film songs of 2013 – My picks

Been doing this list every year for the past 4-5 years and here comes the list of my favorite songs from the last year. I haven’t listened to all the songs and albums that were released last year, so this list comes from whatever I could listen to.

If I am to pick up the best music album of 2013, it will be “Amen“. Every song from this album is a treat to ears and Prashant Pillai is definitely a music director to watch out for. His music is fresh and captivating. Add to that the lyrics by the legendary Kaavaalam Narayana Panicker which makes “Amen” the album of the year.

Now to the list:

Song: Zammilooni
Movie: Annayum Rasoolum
Music: K
Lyrics: Rafeeq Thiruvallur
Singer(s): Shahbaz Aman

My top favorite song of the year. The highlight of the song is definitely Shahbaz Aman’s voice. There is love, pain and longing in his voice for this song. And it doesn’t have a heavy orchestral background. You will appreciate the song more if you have watched the movie which in itself is a beautiful work.

Song: Vattoli
Movie: Amen
Music: Prashant Pillai
Lyrics: Kaavaalam Narayana Panicker
Singer(s): Lucky Ali

I like everything about this song except that Lucky Ali was a misfit, not for the voice, but for the language. His diction is the only thing that kills the song because you can’t make out what he is singing except for a few words here and there. But you know it’s Lucky Ali and his voice is a perfect fit for this song. Almost all songs of ‘Amen’ is a favorite to me and this one tops the list.

Song: Aliveni
Movie: Kadhaveedu
Music: M. Jayachandran
Lyrics: ONV
Singer(s): Madhu Balakrishnan, Mridula Warrier

There isn’t anything fresh about this song. You have heard so many beautiful Malayalam songs in the same lines, the orchestral arrangement reminds you of many songs you’ve heard in the past but still, the singers – especially Madhu Balakrishnan – makes you play this song on loop.

Song: Ottakku Paadunna
Movie: Nadan
Music: Ouseppachan
Lyrics: Dr. Madhu Vasudev
Singer(s): Vijayalakshmi

I think probably the mass popularity of the song “Kaatte Kaatte” from his period venture “Celluloid” is what made director Kamal to come up with another song that ‘sounds’ old. However, Vijayalakshmi’s crystal clear rendition and voice with Ouseppachan’s melodic structure make this song beautiful.

Song: Otta Thumpi
Movie: Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum
Music: Vidyasagar
Lyrics: Vayalar Sharath Chandra Varma
Singer(s): Shankar Mahadevan, K. S. Chitra

This is a typical Vidyasagar but that’s why you like this song.

Song: Laalee Laalee
Movie: Kalimannu
Music: M. Jayachandran
Lyrics: O. N. V. Kurupp
Singer(s): Mridula Warrier, Sudeep Kumar

A beautiful lullaby, sung so beautifully by Mridula Warrier. Her voice is so fresh, clear and beautiful.

Song: Shalabhamaay
Movie: Kalimannu
Music: M. Jayachandran
Lyrics: O. N. V. Kurupp
Singer(s): Shreya Ghoshal

This one is sung by Shreya Ghoshal and an absolute favorite.

Related Posts:

Malayalam film songs of 2012 – My picks
Malayalam film songs of 2011 – My picks
Malayalam film songs of 2009 – My picks
Malayalam film songs of 2008 – My picks

“It’s Strictly Business”

One of the most famous quotes of the movie “The Godfather” is “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business”. It says so much about our everyday life. That even though it is all personal – ultimately we are all just people dealing with other people like us – we always try to find a way to make it look like it’s just business. You might have faced the situation in your personal life, or business or at work. At times you might have been the one who said it or the one who heard it. In “The Godfather”, it is Tom Hagen who says that first and then Micheal puts it in his way, then Tessio says it to try and change his luck and in Godfather part III, it is Micheal at the receiving end. Life, is a cycle. And “The Godfather” is a textbook in many ways.

Track: “The Complex” by Kevin MacLeod

Back to school

A visit back to your school invokes nostalgia so much. After finishing high school in 1994, I went back there only once. I would pass by the school quite often, as it is just 2 KMs away from home, but never felt like walking in there. But last week, I thought I would just show my 3-yrs old son around the school as he would always point out and say “here comes your school!” whenever we passed by.

Sree Narayana Boys High School, Kanimangalam, was and is a modest school. There is a story behind why I joined this school that is about 2 KMs away from home while having an English medium right in the back of our house. I was a school topper in the lower primary school which was also nearby. That school was run by nuns and they made a deal with this other school that I would get admission there from 5th standard onward, because my family couldn’t afford the school fees and they would have to admit me for free. The founder of that school was an old man clad in monk-like saffron clothes whose name was Acharya J C Chirammel, also known as “Chaakkoru Maash”, and he readily agreed to take me in. But then he passed away in a road accident. His son was a priest and he denied the help offered by his father (very priestly indeed). So we had no choice but to move to a school where we did not have to pay for education. That is how S.N. Boys School came in to picture. I have mostly good memories of the school. The teachers were kind, the atmosphere helped grow the extra curricular activities and got some good friends who still remain good friends. Here are some pics.


This place that looks like an abandoned historical site was once abuzz with the chatter of students and parents. The stage you see in this picture has witnessed many school anniversaries, youth festivals and send-off meetings.


Next to the old and abandoned stage is a portion dedicated to teach children the basics of farming. There was a student who was watering the plants. I also met the current school head mistress there. She is an alumni of the S N girls school next door. She asked me whether there were enough children in our batch. There were plenty of children in each class room in our time. She said now there are very few students. The surge of modern schools has resulted in this. The class room you see on the right is which used to be my 6th standard class. One of our teachers was K V Sreedharan Master, who is a former BJP chief of Kerala. He had a hoarse voice which, as the children used to say during that time, was a result of police beatings during the times of Emergency. He retired the next year, when I moved to 7th.


This is how the old and infamous ‘kokkaRNi’ looks like now (‘kokkarni’ is sort of a farm pond). There used to be a time when this place was a camp of the notorious senior gangs in the school. They boozed and smoked beedis and weed here. They also used this as a rear entrance to the girl’s school next door even. Other children did not dare to go to this part of the school when there were seniors around.


This is where the children came together every morning for the school assembly. The stage you see is where I, Saleesh, Saji and late Sreevatsan used to stand to sing prayer songs during the assembly.


Another view. This used to be a lotus pond in our days. The class rooms you see at the end was one of my first class rooms when I joined the school for 5th standard.


My son Ryan in front of the statue of Swami Ramananda, the school founder.


Another picture of the school campus.



What Sachin means to me

I’m not a sports person. I don’t know any rules in any sports, except that I can understand when a ‘goal’ happens in soccer. Never felt like watching any game except soccer during a couple of world cup matches, but that too was just to observe the moves. Never watched a cricket match too, except for once at a friend’s place to watch some game that Indian team played during cricket worldcup but what drove me to that was the friends’ company to booze. While almost all my friends, right from the childhood are crazy cricket fans. So I am not emotional about Sachin’s retirement and probably would never understand his legacy. What I understand is this – if there is one person about whom people in India would equally talk about with such love and admiration, one person about whom people in India would unitedly agree upon, irrespective of their religious/political/regional conflicts, one person that they looked upon as an icon, a role model as such – that was Sachin Tendulkar.

Just being myself