The Evergreen Voice – M Thankamani

[M Thankamani, who won accolades for her unique voice as a presenter and drama artiste at All India Radio (Akashvani), India’s national broadcaster, and as a film dubbing artiste, talks to KK Moidu during her first visit to Dubai.].

thankamaniKerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award winner M Thankamani’s voice is familiar to listeners of the radio for more than three decades now. She is the presenter at Akashvani and those who have heard her voice once cannot forget the attractive and enticing tone. She has secured a place in the hearts of millions of listeners through the roles of numerous characters on radio dramas like Sooryakanthiye Snehicha Penkutty, Moodhevi, Theyyam, Indulekha etc. Her special talent for the vocalisation of people of all ages like old women, young ladies, college students or little girls, endeared her to audiences.

M Thankamani was born in Shoranur in Palghat district, Kerala, in a Namboothiri family. She is the third daughter of the great social reformer Mullamangalath Raman Bhattathirippadu aka MRB and Umadevi Antharjanam. Her father MRB was a playwright, poet and author of many books and made history by marrying a widow in the Namboothiri community.
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Meet Akash Kingston

[Lies on the Prize, directed by Dubai-based Akash Kingston, won the first prize at the 15th Slamdance Film Festival 2009. He shares his winning experience with KK Moidu]

Akash Kingston was chosen by the Real Ideas Studio Student Filmmaking programme in 2009 for Slamdance Film Festival held in January in Park City, Utah, USA. Eight documentaries made by thirty-two students from different backgrounds from all over the world were screened at the festival. Akash’s team got the story idea for the winning documentary from colleagues. He was the head of one of the eight teams selected through an interview and skills assessment by the board members of the Real Ideas Studio. Twenty-year-old Akash, son of Kingston Gilbert and Usha Kingston, is a graduate in film production from SAE Institute, Dubai.

Born in Calicut, Kerala, India, Akash has been living in Dubai for the last 13 years. Akash was the only one to be selected from the Middle East and the Asian region for this prestigious event. The participants had been given a short period of 10 days to write the script, shoot and edit a five-minute short film. Akash’s film was selected by the jury as the best film from the entries submitted by more than 30 students from around the world.

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Nagesh – A tribute

[Nagesh will be remembered as one of the most talented comedians in Tamil Cinema, says KK Moidu in today’s guest post].

Cyril K Nagesh, popularly known as Nagesh, has left a void in the Tamil cinema industry. The death of the septuagenarian on Jan. 31 due to complications related to diabetes and heart ailment put an end to an era. The 76-year-old actor is survived by three sons, including actor Anand Babu.

Nagesh, who carved a niche for himself, was most often casted as the man who stands next to the hero. He had enough luck to share screen space with three generations of actors like MGR-Sivaji, Rajinikanth-Kamal Hassan and the latest Tamil heartthrobs Ilayathalapathi Vijay and Ajith Kumar. Most of the people today remember Nagesh as a funny man but many don’t know yesteryear’s front-line heroes like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were waiting for his arrival on the sets. For producers, his presence in films was necessary for commercial success. He was not able to find enough time and worked on an hourly basis on each film per day. For the last couple of years, Nagesh was rarely seen on screen and his last film was Dasavatharam, where Kamal Hassan played ten different roles. He was one of the leading comedians of the 60s and 70s during the reign of MGR-Shivaji and was a regular in their films. Nagesh, a good dancer, was praised for his pairing opposite Manorama in several films.

CK Nagesh was born as Gundu Rao in a Brahmin community to Kannada speaking Brahmin Madhwa parents in 1933. He left his home as a teenager, telling his parents that he would return only after establishing himself. He travelled to Chennai and started his career as an employee of the Indian Railways. After watching a Tamil play Kamba Ramayanam presented by his colleagues, he felt that he could do a better job. His role in a play as a man suffering from stomach pain staged at the Railways Cultural Association won him appreciation from MGR, the chief guest of the programme. Nagesh began his career as a theatre artiste by playing minor roles and finally reached stardom.

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Interview with Sohan Lal

[Today’s is a guest post by K K Moidu]. Young director Sohanlal is delighted by the overwhelming response to his maiden directorial venture Orkkuka Vallappozhum (Remember sometimes). The low-budget Malayalam film, with veteran actor Thilakan in the lead role, is bringing him laurels from all walks of life. There are more reasons for him to be happy, this is his first feature film and it has already placed him among well-known filmmakers in Kerala.

Moreover, the film has not only got rave reviews, but it also won the prestigious Atlas Film Critic Award for the director. Awards and appreciation are not new to him. He has won more than 15 awards earlier for his small-screen works. His teleserials Pedakam, Neermathalathinte Pookkal and other mini screen programmes like Sopanam, Anjali, Cinema Vicharana, etc. fetched several awards for him earlier.

Born in Thiruvananthapuram, he has a postgraduate degree in Web Designing and a degree in English Language and Literature from the prestigious University College, Thiruvananthapuram. He has been working with various television channels in Kerala. His initial years at Doordarshan gave him the opportunity to work with famed directors like Shyama Prasad. His live commentary for a programme called Veettilekkulla Vazhi (Road towards home) is still fresh in the minds of people. He has worked with most of the Malayalam channels like Asianet, Amrita, Indiavision, Jeevan etc.

His long experience with electronic media has made him technically perfect in his projects. While working with Indiavision he had the good fortune of working with the legendary littérateur and filmmaker MT Vasudevan Nair. Incidentally, MT is writing the preface for his book Orkkuka Vallappozhum, on which the film was made. A strong critic of present-day commercial potboilers, he always wanted to make good films and Orkkuka Vallappozhum proves his commitment.

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Southern Slumdog

Today’s is a guest post by Sirensongs, who blogs at Feringhee: The India Diaries. In this post, she shares her opinion about the recent controversy over the movie Slumdog Millionnaire. Sirensongs moved to India in 2002 to complete her six years’ study of the ancient temple dance, Bharatanatyam. Apprenticing with a revered master in Madras, she learned a great deal; however, most of it was not about dance. Disillusionment and childhood memories of “Tintin In Tibet” have led her to adventures throughout India, Nepal & Sri Lanka. She currently works as a writer in Kathmandu where she also studies the Buddhist ritual dance, Charya Nrtya.

That Slumdawg won’t hunt

Last time, I wrote something about the widespread defensive attitude (not 100%, mind you) of Indians toward the success of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. I also left some rather impatient comments on another blog. In case you’ve been asleep for a few weeks, lotta folks are huffing and puffing about Slumdog‘s portrayal of Indian slum life, mostly because it’s too accurate. (Wonder what the slum dwellers themselves think, has anyone asked them? All the comments I have read are from upper crust writers.)

I can’t write with authority about what it’s like to be Indian and see a film that shows so much of the country’s dark side to the world. But I have a comparable experience. I do know what it’s like to be an American Southerner and see Hollywood films, famous ones, award-winning ones, represent my “country” (we almost were another country, fought a war over it, remember?) to the world.

There were, and still are, lots of negative stereotypes about my country (the South). When I moved to New York in 1981, I was asked derogatory questions like “Do you even wear shoes down there?” and “where do you live, a trailer park?”

And even,

“Did your ancestors own slaves??”

“Everyone down there belongs to the Klan, right?”

…and from an Indian girl, “If you wear your bindi down there you’ll get shot at.” (There actually were, in fact, at least 2 “dot-head” murders…I think they were both in Canada.)

The vast majority of Hollywood films about the south – which is where people get these ideas – were made by either Yankees or Californians (same thing, ha). Outsiders. Carpet-baggers. Some were romanticized epics (Gone with the Wind). Later, some consciously tried to redress such romanticism by showing an uglier side (Cold Mountain). Others retold true stories in a condensed, dramatized and only partially “true” way so that important but largely unknown eras in American history would not go unknown by a new generation (ie, Mississippi Burning).

There’s loooots more (Glory, Matewan, Birth of a Nation, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sling Blade, Deliverance, Mandingo, Roots, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Streetcar Named Desire, Forrest Gump… ). Most of the above are full of slow-witted, slow talking hicks and obligatory Klan meeting scenes. Don’t forget television like Andy Griffith Show, Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Alice, Designing Women, Hee Haw and so on.

My point is this: the vast majority of this media was made by “outsiders.” Some of it (especially the romantic stuff) Southerners appreciated; most of it, they did not. Some of it I personally enjoy; a lot I have mixed feelings about. But even when I didn’t think they got it right, I usually felt the topics (mostly concerning poverty and race history) needed to be discussed.

Usually they didn’t cast Southerners in the parts; since pretty much anyone can “do” a southern accent, right? Just sound real dumb. (Marlon Brando’s accent was dreadful in Streetcar and he was nominated for the Oscar.) And – did you ever notice? – Black Americans are all sort of considered by casting directors to somehow be Southern by default. Seeing your homeland represented worldwide, by an outsider, is a sensitive thing. My point is, no one ever, ever questioned the outsider’s right to make such films or shows, whether we liked them or not.

Why do Indians think that they and they alone can give “permission” to someone to discuss or represent their country in media? Besides which, the book on which Slumdog is based was written by an Indian (as Streetcar and Mockingbird were based on books written by Southerners).

I certainly hope no one ever questions the “right” of an NRI or Indian visitor to make a film about the America they perceive, however negative or one-sided the result may be.

Sara Raza Khan – Pak Ki Mallika

[Today’s is a guest post by K K Moidu].

An hitherto unknown Sara Raza Khan of Pakistan was in the limelight recently for her participation in the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, where she lost but impressed all, writes KK Moidu.

Teenager Sara from the city of gardens, Lahore, Pakistan, is the first Muslim girl to take the big leap by competing in a musical reality contest like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, in spite of stiff opposition from people of her community.

Although, Sara didn’t win the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 trophy, her mind-blowing and soulful performance will surely take her a long way. Her great voice and expression not only placed her among the top eight contestants in the prestigious contest, but she also won plaudits from all corners. Sara was eliminated in Episode 37, on Nov 7. She talks about her dream to become a legendary playback singer. Here are some excerpts:

Who was the first to recognise your musical talent?

My lovely mother recognised my musical talent and motivated me. My best music teacher Sir Abdul Rauf, encouraged and supported me by training me in classical music.

What is your background in music?

I have no musical background, I am the first girl in my whole family to learn classical music. I want to be successful with my God-gifted talent.

I started learning classical singing just two years ago from Sir Abdul Rauf, a teacher at the prestigious Al Hamra Arts Council, Lahore. After a month’s training from a sincere teacher like Sir Abdul Rauf, I got a chance to perform in front of General Pervez Musharaf, former president of Pakistan. He appreciated me a lot and also invited me to his birthday at the President House. After that people started recognising me, I got many opportunities for anchoring, singing and also performed in many live shows on different TV channels.

Tell us about your selection to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?

Legendary singer Ghulam Ali Sir selected me for the audition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa from Lahore as the only and first girl from Pakistan (Pakistan Ki Beti which now known as Pak Ki Mallika).

What were your relatives’ and neighbours’ reactions to your participation in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge?

Well! Reactions of my relatives were a mixture of positive and negative comments. But the majority were extremely happy and excited for Pakistan Ki Beti, and now in Pakistan, people are excited and warmly welcoming me. And one more thing, my country is also very happy that it appreciated me and motivated me a lot.

What was your experience in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa like?

It was really awesome, superb, outstanding, mind-blowing history. Ya, it was! Because I just dreamed to be in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and when it really happened, I thank the Almighty and the audience for their prayers.

Tell us about the judges and audience?

All the judges of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009 are very sincere, talented and motivating persons. They all are very successful in their fields and I want to work with them.

Audience! wow! I think that it’s really very astonishing for me that the audience from all around the world loved me, appreciated me and blessed with their votes and prayers. I was very attached to my viewers and I am taking a lot of beautiful memories back with me! The way the audience chanted my name, took my autographs, also wrote plenty of mails to me and all these memories always make me emotional. I pray to God that all the viewers always love me and remember me! I am sure that today all India Loves Me!

What do you plan to do now?

My future plans are to learn more classical music, be a great playback and live show singer, to earn a lot of respect and be one of Allah’s favourites.

What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to be a great singer and earn money and fame to make my elder sister the happiest woman in the world. I also want to help those strong women, who are divorced and are alone with their little babies at a young age.


Looking Back to 2008: Mammootty & Mohan Lal

[Today’s is a guest post by K K Moidu].
A look at the career graph of Mammootty and Mohanlal and their dominance at the box office. At the end of 2008, front line Malayalam superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal had reason to be happy — they remained in the top slot. Their box office successes with super hit films and success guaranteed projects in their hands show their strong presence in the industry.


He started 2008 with the hit film Roudram by playing a cop for the 25th time in his career. His double role in Anwar Rasheed’s superhit Annan Thampi was one of the biggest superhits of the year. Other films of Mammootty like Parunthu and Maya Bazaar didn’t do well at the box office. But the actor, who started the year by playing a cop ended it by shining in a lawyer’s role in the magnum opus Twenty 20.

Compared to the seven releases in 2007, Mammootty had only five films last year including Twenty 20. In 2007 the actor had two offbeat films like Ore Kadal and Kaiyoppu, which has screened in various film festivals and won few awards. But this year the actor didn’t have an art film.

The biggest achievement of the actor last year is not the released films, but his completed projects like Pazhassi Raja and Kuttishranku. The epic movie Pazhassi Raja, made on a big budget, reunites the literary genius MT Vasudevan Nair and Mammootty. The film, directed by Hariharan, also stars senior Tamil hero Sarath Kumar and veteran Ilayaraja scores music. Like Pazhassi Raja, Mammootty is playing a rare role in Kuttishranku directed by National Award winning director Shaji N Karun. Both the movies have a chance of benefiting him by winning accolades at the national and international levels.

Mammootty has already completed the shooting of few commercial entertainers and the first release of 2009 will be Love in Bangkok directed by Rafi-Mecartin. Telugu heroine Navneet Kaur is making her Malayalam debut as his love interest. His bilingual film Vandemataram titled in Tamil as Aruvadai has only few scenes left for completion. Tamil action hero Arjun plays an important role in the film. Mammootty romances Sneha and their pairing in Thuruppugulan was a hit at the box office.

According to reports, three times national award winners Mammootty and Kamal Hassan are expected to team up in a forthcoming film in different South Indian languages. The film will be a remake of Bollywood offbeat hit A Wednesday. If Kamal succeeds in buying the rights of the Hindi movie, he himself will act in the role of Naseerudheen Shah and Mammootty will once again fit the cops cap as a police officer, which was enacted by Anupam Kher in the original.

Mammootty will play the lead in director Jayaraj’s forthcoming film scripted by Renjith. The ace director’s earlier movie Johny Walker with Mammootty in the lead, released one-and-a-half decades earlier, was also scripted by Renjith. In the forthcoming film Thaappana, which means an elephant used to train wild elephants, Mammootty plays the proud owner of a famous elephant. The film will be the next directorial venture of Akku Akbar, after his runaway hit Veruthe Oru Bharya. It will also feature the elephant owned by actor Jayaram featured earlier in Rappakal.

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Thilakan: Master of Expressions

Today’s is a guest post by K K Moidu, who is working in The Gulf Today newspaper published from Dar Al Khaleej Group, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. He reports Entertainment news, local news and writing cinema features, profile, movie reveiws, Television programmes, artistes interviews etc. In this post, Thilakan, one of Indian cinema’s finest actors, speaks to KK Moidu about his personal experiences in showbiz.


A two-time National Award winner for film acting, Surendranath Thilakan, was in town recently to receive an award for his lifetime achievement and contribution to Malayalam cinema at a star-studded AMMA Award function held at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. This rare honour came at a time when the thespian is facing a boycott from those of his ilk following a war of words. An acclaimed actor, known for speaking his mind, Thilakan has just chosen to ignore the industry reaction but alleges that the actors’ guilds were being used to safeguard the interests of a few people. He has said this before and in September, except director Thulasidas and some small-screen artistes, none of the Malayalam film industry personalities attended his daughter’s wedding. But even his detractors cannot deny the fact that he is a brilliant actor.

In his own estimation, the creative freedom that film-makers give him has helped him breathe life into the characters he portrays. Osteoarthritis has imposed physical limitations and he has fewer assignments now but he still managed a national level special mention performance in 2007 for Ekantham. Even the film technicians’ guild, MACTA, made an exception recently and honoured him though he is not a technician. His boundless talent is likely to bring him into reckoning once again. In an acting career spanning over five decades, he has gifted the audience many memorable characters. The first screen character he portrayed in 1973 mouthed famous lines from Shakespeare’s works like Hamlet’s words “to be or not to be.” He fondly recalls the dialogues as well as each frame of that film. In the climax, after both the character’s father and sister die, he wonders aloud “Two deaths for one love, so how many deaths for love since the beginning of the world.”
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