Divine Abode of Ambadi…

Thekkady is famous for its pretty location on the fringe of Periyar tiger Reserve. Gigantic bamboo clumps forming an intricately towering canopy over roads will welcome you to Thekkady. An occasional Malabar giant squirrel scampering overhead can be spotted here if you prefer gazing into the thickets than in tourist shops!

Our next stop was Ambadi resort in Thekkady. Ambadi literally means the home of Lord Krishna. (ref: our headmaster tour guide) Though I don’t see any historical trace to it, I can gladly accept this beautifully designed hotel as Krishna’s own home!! He’d love the stone pathways, fine-carved, polished wood paneling, and excellent designs of timber-joints in sloping roofs! Warm earthy brown terracotta flooring and heavy wooden furniture with witty lights twinkling through bamboo lamp shades!

What a divine home it was!

The headmaster had whisked away every other tourist to boating and some spice garden cum shop. I bunked to stay in this divine Ambadi and took a long luxurious Abhyanga bath! My little cottage was silent… allowing only the squirrels to chirp relentlessly! There was a cozy sit-out in the front facing a wild cluster of bamboo… Lounging with a hot cup of “kaapi” I watched the sun showering its last flecks of gold for today from behind the dark silhouettes of arching bamboo….wrote notes for the blog, feeling like I was already sharing the happiness of being alive with you all, my loved ones!

Slowly the sky went dark and lights from the pathway started to illuminate the bamboo upward… Rested and “coffeed” comfortably I set out to stroll around the tiny settlement. I just walked on roads, met strangers, and made friends with little girls selling heaps of jasmine….

There were little shacks of art studios and local restaurants with excellent appam-sambaram menu! Beautiful pieces of wooden artwork lined the roadsides of a bustling market. I watched a wood artist at work, wearing a traditional white mundu wrap, his face austere with tense, intent thought behind is sharp sparkling eyes…. It was like walking into some timeless world where the artists chiseled gods into existence… I swayed back to my cottage feeling like an audience of some enchanted magnanimous movie that was being set on the world stage….. The glimpses of thekkady will always jump at me at the mere mention of kerala…. Surging like a living element inside me, never letting me succumb to a lifeless life.

Sarang of The Water Lily A night on a lagoon

Munnaring Tourist A Stroll through the hills of Munnar

Rango and The Lavasa Corporation

Once upon a time there was a chameleon named Lars (Johnny Depp). He lived in a comfortably urban terrarium (a dry version of aquarium) until one day he got stranded somewhere in the Mojave Desert (an extreme West region of the US of A).

After an indicative tryst with an armadillo named Roadkill and after being chased to almost death by a hawk, the hero, Lars the chameleon finally meets Beans (Isla Fisher). She is a desert iguana, and a rancher’s daughter and yeah, the girl of his destiny.

This girl, Beans takes him to the town of Dirt. Now Lars is free, as he has never been before, to build a new identity, to create his niche in this new world. And gorgeous chameleon form of Depp takes the opportunity to boast and introduces himself as RANGO, the spirit of west! With some animation twists of luck, he manages to kill the predator Hawk, and earns the badge of sheriff of the town of Dirt, from the mayor (Ned Beatty).

So far the story looks normal….perky screenplay, Wild West music, and cowboy hats….with the desert setting….this super animation world looks too real to be animation. The viewer can comfortably chew on popcorn so far.

And now the real story starts. The lead lady, Beans finds out that there are threats more severe than the shadows of killer hawk.  The water reserve at the dirt Bank is too low to sustain the town even for a week. The usual weekly supply of water has mysteriously dried out. She demands sheriff Rango to investigate the source of water problem.

One night, Rango comes across few mole robbers and unknowingly provides them the location of the bank and tools to break in. The limited water in the bank vault is stolen and sheriff Rango must arrange a posse to chase the robbers. They find the bank manager, Mr. Merrymack, mysteriously dead on their way. Eventually when the posse confronts the robbers, it is found that the water tank they stole was already emptied.

Rango and Beans figure out that Mayor has been buying all the land around the town of dirt, by will or force. Rango also remembers the mayor telling him how controlling water means controlling everything. It is evident that the mayor is behind this mysterious water crunch. The mayor is building a modern city on his purchased land. (Please try not to remember Mr. Sharad Pawar and his Lavasa Corporation.) As the mayor sees Rango getting closer to expose his political game, he calls for the gunslinger rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) to get rid of Rango.

Jake with his Gatling gun tail fires shots after shots, but worse than that, he paints Rango as a fake and irresponsible sheriff, by exposing his lies about being the spirit of west.  Rango, broken and ashamed wanders away from the town of Dirt, and meets the real spirit of west (Timothy Olyphant) in a dreamlike situation.  He inspires Rango as “No man can walk out on his own story.”

Rango eventually figures out that the real source of water for the town of Dirt, comes from Las Vegas and has been smartly closed shut by the mayor, to create a pseudo water crunch.  The closed lines are opened and Rango returns to Dirt, with water.

A typical climax fight takes place, involving lady Beans being held ransom, Mayor trying to kill the rattlesnake and Rango saving all of them! So now there is no villain, abundant water and a town superhero to celebrate!

Happy endings!

And now let’s come to the point. The story is actually about a real issue that we can locally connect with. Forget the frills, but political powers controlling water and hence the social structure, are not new to us. It is ancient reality that the one, who controls water, controls everything else.

In Maharashtra, Mr. Ajit Pawar controls water. Lavasa, the first hill city of Independent India is cuddled by the media as the ‘glorious vision of our honorable Union Agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar’. So obviously, Lavasa Corporation is entitled to be given unrestricted freedom to change every town planning regulation. In case any activist tries to play Rango, the politician-developers lobby has nurtured rattlesnakes of gangsters, ready to crush the resistance.

In a movie, Rango has one great advantage of animation powered luck! In reality we are already sold to the will of politicians. They can buy each one of us if they wish to do so. Lavasa is eating up 7% of Pune’s water supply, in its eight check dams in the catchment area of Varasgaon backwaters. In last 5 years many state level town planning regulations are mysteriously changed to suit the need of Lavasa developers. But we are not Rango of course, we cannot fight. We let Environment minister, Jairam Ramesh fight. We let activist Medha Patkar fight.

All we need to remember is, Rango can rise only if the townsfolk of Dirt come together to fight for their existence.  Without the town, there is no Rango…. And we are the town, you and me, together.

For more information about Lavasa case please read, down to earth, April issue.


MNIK, World Peace and SRK’s Epiglottis!

So here it goes, as expected… about the one whose name is Khan… Khan, from the epiglottis, by the way! But before I do that I must confess that I am one of those shahrukh haters, who are actually Amir Lovers, (though not lover enough to be called a fan or anything…)

This very commonly unattractive looking Delhi boy came up to Mumbai and became King Khan (don’t forget the right pronunciation! Khan, that’s from the epiglottis!) And with his larger-than-life attitude, style and confidence he covered up for his inadequate frame and looks. About acting skills, it never marks for much in main stream bolly-flicks!

They seem to believe that if you stay stuck in the industry for long enough, you learn up to fool the cameras (and viewers) to think you can act…. And as you get exposed to better and better directors, naturally your acting skills (if there are traces of any) are honed and polished. Many of the Bollywood stars have been hopeless actors in the beginning….but with perseverance and most importantly zero sensitivity towards criticism; they learnt acting and stardom both….

So now this very same SRK has now come up with a new concoction of love and tears…. But so very unlike his usual brand! I have to confess that he seems to actually act these days…. At some points in the movie he was almost out of his silver celebrity-hood, being a real sensitive man out there! After years of toiling…..seems he is really a star enough to shine! He can repair almost anything, (he says so in the movie) and that includes his acting!

The movie has this whole big concept of universal love that goes beyond the fences of race, color and nationality. Terrorism is not born of any religion, but it is born of narrow minded, weak-heart, selfish people who are born in any nation, any race, any religion! The only difference that can be made amongst people is whether they are good or bad. It is the goodness of heart that makes man a man…..

The Karan Johar, Shahrukh Khan and Kajol trio seems to make justice to this really big concept. While defending the basic of religion, which is always humanity, they do not attack anyone else. Use of different verses from Koran Sharif has added great justification and sense of faith.

If you are little more mature than SRK, you will know that humanity, love and religion are not just so shallow as to choose between a bullet and a rose. humanity is only the first step… religion and faith are much deeper realms of truth than that to explore. But for a traveler on the road towards the truth, humanity is not a negligible milestone. It takes more than a human body, to become a human in true sense. And MNIK, though not high enough to cross the humanity, at least manages to touch it!

I will not discuss the story, though I must mention that it is structured very well. It is quick where it must be, and it lingers, giving emphasis at right points. Though you must put up with the melodrama part of bollywoodian culture! That is what makes a movie digestible to masses! And for Amir Khan Lovers, if you could stand the melodrama of 3 Idiots, SRK has dished out too little for your appetite!

But when it comes to screenplay, Shibani Bathija has managed to touch every nook of the concept, yet not make it sound like a documentary! Right from the references of Mumbai riots to 9/11, every reaction, every socio-cultural transform is captured well….that too, on a global scale. She has indeed managed to yield the best of story possible. In addition, there is also family bonding part (which cannot be forsaken by KJo!)

Knowing Karan Johar and the way he puts in money where he must, the cinematography and locations are very well done. It is not always Swiss meadows in the background! Arizona desert landscapes and dusty raw American locations make it look a lot more realistic than I expected from KJo! But he gets a negative marking for the set up of a village in Georgia. In some scenes it kind of shows up as a toy village indeed!

Overall, the big message and story rules out all the flaws and makes you watch the movie in rapt attention throughout. I would say make a point to watch it if you are not as busy as the President of America. And it is not much of a hindi film, considering most conversations go in English. And a special note, to watch this movie, you do not have to be a Khan, an Indian or even an Asian….. It can be watched by global viewer, of any country, any race. If you have seen or suffered the burns of terrorism of any kind, violent or subtle, you will understand and identify with this movie very easily.

PS: It is ironical coincidence why ShivSena chose to oppose this movie of all! SRK has enough bad movies to protest against! But they chose the exact movie that is going to ensure mass support towards SRK…. There is a saying in Sanskrit, Vinash Kaale Vipareet Buddhi meaning, when it is time to perish, you take wrong decisions on your own.

http://www.shahrukh.com/wp_wife.cfm Please visit this link from SRK’s official blog. Very genuine and lovely entry indeed! (God! Am I praising this man?!)