Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Neglected Heritage

Recently I had the opportunity to shoot a song sequence for the film KADAKSHAM, at Kuthira Malika, Thiruvananthapuram, built by Maharaja Swati Thirunal more than a century and half back. There is also a museum in a part of the building and the archaeological survey of India is doing some maintainence work on the exteriors. But the interiors beloging to a Trust is not maintained properly with full of dust , bat droppings etc.
Panoramic view of Kuthira Malika

In the same complex there is a big Hall called LEVY HALL where during the British days Levy was collected. I one corner of the building I saw some Huge paintings ( About 9 ft by 4 ft) of bygone Maharajahs covered with dust and torn at some places too! Since I do not know the names I am just reproducing two of the paintings out of the four.

Maharaja with a court official

They are all equisitive paintings done by some master painter with an eye for detail and expressions. look at the Royal expression and that of the courtier who is holding an important document along with his eye glasses.

A Closer Look at the Painting

There is so much detail in that painting you can really feel the thread weaving in the Royal dress. Below is a closer view of the medals on the chest of the official. In one of them you can see the image of Queen Victoria and the words too. On the other "HEAVENS LIGHT OUR GUIDE" engraved clearly.

Detail from the Painting

There are also some beautiful wall mirrors and smaller paintings and old photographs too in theLevy Hall Building.

Old Mirror

It is quite unfortunate that these paintings of such quality and antiquity is gathering dust uncared and unseen in a corner of the Levy Hall though there is a Museum in an adjacent building! In any other country these paintingworth many crores would make a museum proud!

But This is INDIA, Mera Bharat Mahan!!

Update on Puppies

Out of the Eight abandoned Puppies in my neighbourhood compound, Seven are still there. One managed to jump the wall and go away. One or two go out but returns back after some time. Rest of the others are still there waiting for scraps of food thrown from our kitchen. There is one dog with stripes, we call Tiger which is most agressive and tries to grab all the food. There is one who is very timid and meek and in poor health with a bent back - we call it Kangaroo. We always try to ensure that Kangaroo gets some food.


These pictures were taken in the first week of December, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Geethu Mohandas and Rajeev Ravi

Geethu Mohandas and Rajeev Ravi got married on 14 th November 2009 at Ernakulam. Unfortunately I could not attend the marriage in person as I had to go to Chennai for CG work of my film Yugapurushan. Both Rajeev and Geethu called me up and had also sent invitations.

Rajeev and Geethu

I had known Geethu as child star in her very first film appearance in the Malayalam film ONNU MUDHAL POOJYAM VARE directed by Raghunath Paleri. I did part of the Cinematography, the main Cinematographer being Shaji N Karun.Later on she went to Canada and studied there for some years. Her comeback movie in an adult role was in Sesham directed by Rajeev Kumar and cinematography by none other than Rajeev Ravi. It seems to have been love at first sight which over the years culminated in their marriage. In that film she had acted as a film director and now she had become one too by directing a short film which was selected for the Indian Panorama 2009!

After many years we did work in the Malayalam film BHARATHAN directed by Anil Das. While going through my old collections, I came across some drawings of Geethu as a child, drawn by Art Director Sekhar during the shooting of ONNU MUDHAL POOJYAM VARE.

I wish the Couple a Long and Happy Married life!

Drawings by Art Director Sekhar

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shooting "KADAKSHAM"

The shooting of Sashi Paravur's Malayalam film KADAKSHAM started at Kuttikanam Ashley Bungalow on 26 Sept 2009. The film introducing new comer Shweta Vijay also stars Suresh Gopi, Shweta Menon, Jagathy, Indrans, Madhupal, Kottayam Nazeer, Anoop Chandran, aby Manasa etc. Also Producer A.V.Anoop ( Medimix) plays a pivotal role. Old friends Art Director Krishnan Kutty and Editor Venu along with Music Director M.Jayachandran and Pattanam Rasheed ( Make up) formed the main crew.

The weather was pretty bad as it was either raining in spells or misty and cold and confined us mainly to indoor shooting. We had a few days work at Koottikkal Bungalow at Koottikkal. It was there, on 30 th evening we heard the news about the boat tragedy at Thekkady.( see my earlier blog for more details)

We had also our share of near escapes - while going up hill at night from Mundakkayam to Peermedu after the shooting the brakes of our Scorpio failed and we somehow managed to stop the vehicle and got down. While on the way we passed a bus which also had brake failure and managed to stop by jamming against the rocky side wall. We used to drive in the road with heavy mist and never realized the depth of the valley down.

October 9, 2009: We were shooting at a place called Wembley named after some European planter.Some one told us about a very tall waterfall near by. So we went in our Scorpio through some very rough or no road to reach the falls. It wes quite interesting but reaching there with unit etc is difficult. While trying to reverse the vehicle it got bogged down in the mud and we had to summon help to get it back on road. Meanwhile we took an autorickshaw ride back to Wembley. The Scorpio once again had to be sent for repairs!

October 11, 2009: Learnt the news that FEFKA got approval from IFFEC. Sweets were distributed in a happy atmosphere. Hope peace will prevail in the film industry.

October 13, 2009: We were shooting at Vagamon grass hills.The weather played villain. Suddenly from bright sunshine it became misty and started raining heavily and we had to abandon shooting.

October 14, 2009: Today's shooting was at Mundakkayam. Again rain interrupted our work by 2 pm

The spell of rain continued for another day or two and we were confined to indoor work.

October 17, 2009; Diwali day! No celebrations , just a usual working day!

October 24, 2009; We finished the schedule's work by 5 pm at Mundakkayam.Immediately it started raining and seems like an auspicious sign!

Dogs Life - Saga of Survival

Next to my home is a vacant plot where previously a building existed. The buyers demolished it more than a year back and left it uncared. Meanwhile shrubs and weeds covered the whole place and it had become home for snakes, rats and other insects.

Some time in August 2009 I noticed a pair of dogs with eight puppies! Since the plot of land was securely protected by a compound wall and gate, obviously the mother had jumped the wall and had given birth there. The mother sometimes accompanied by the father will return regularly at feeding time to fill the stomachs of eight hungry puppies!

Puppies at feeding time

After sometime the visits of the mother dog became less frequent as she had run out of milk and during those rare visitsthe hungry puppies used to crowda round her competing to draw out whatever milk was available. For a few days I did not see the puppies and I was under the impression that they have left the place. But one day I found them foraging for some edible leaves and grass etc. Then I realized that they got trapped in that compound with no means of going out and with out any food. They had somehow survived eating God knows what! If left like that they were sure to die out of starvation.

At home I have a pet Labrador called Muthu who is fed and looked after like a family member. Hence,I took pity upon those poor things and threw in some bread slices. They ran away and hid themselves out of fear. Slowly, slowly, they came out and started eating whatever is being given.

Puppies in September

As I had to go for a month long outdoor shooting, the feeding of the puppies had been taken over by my wife who prepares some additional food for them. Also my brother-in-law's family living next door started providing them some food ! And when I returned back by the lsat week of October , I found them grown up.

In end of October

I do hope in a month or so they will be able to jump the wall and go to explore the world outside!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thekkady Boat Tragedy

We were shooting a song sequence for the Malayalam film KADAKSHAM at Kootikkal Bungalow near Mundakkayam and some one came with the news that a tourist boat had capsized at the lake in Thekkady. Only when I reached back at Peermedu and switched on the Television the cruel face of fate had emerged. It was a tragedy that could have been averted if simple norms of safety were observed by the authorities concerned. One look at the boat by even a casual observer will bring doubts about its stability. It had a narrow hull and the height of the boat is too high and the centre of gravity will change very fast if some one moves on the upper deck.

The next day morning we cancelled the shooting and our team consisting of Director Sashi Paravur, Actor Suresh Gopi, Editor Venu,Production Executive Sunil Pettah and Associate Director Satheesh went to Vandi Periyar to offer solace and whatever help to the victims families. It was a heart breaking sight of the dead bodies lined upon the floor of the Periyar hospital room. Even as we were standing there more bodies were being brought followed by the cries of their near and dear.

The scene at the Primary health centre where the post mortem were conducted was still worse. There were huge crowd of onlookers going here and there.It was total chaos everywhere, the officials and police did not know what to do in a calamity of this dimension. Minister Issac Thomas was seen running around trying to bring some order. There was some one announcing over a public address system calling for the Panchayat secretary to report immediately to the reception desk. I wonder doesn't he have a mobile phone or wasn't he aware of the tragedy. Meanwhile TV Channel people were after the kith and kin of the victims trying get some newsworthy visuals. A few of the unfortunate relatives were seen seated on benches on the verandah of the building. There was no one deputed to console or to care for them.

Some one broke the lock of a room, opened it and made arrangements to seat the relatives and offered them a little privacy. Later it was announced over the loudspeakers that arrangements are being made to issue all necessary certificates from a single desk. I was wondering what will happen to our official machinary if a still bigger disaster happens. Certainly the Government should give training to all officials, police, fire, ambulance services to co-ordinate and work together.Firstly they should cordon of specific areas to keep off unwanted onlookers and proper authority should take the overall in charge of the rescue operations. Unless some one takes the leadership chaos is bound to happen.

We then proceeded to the Thekkady boat landing and managed to get inside a forest dept boat going to the site of the tragedy. Even our boat was in a dilapilated condition and was overcrowded. I was afraid of one more boat tragedy. Fortunately some of the passengers down after much persuation and we started our journey. Even as we were proceeding towards the site a rescue boat carrying another body passed by. At last we reached the site of the accident.The boat had been pulled up and navy divers were searching for more bodies.

After returning from Thekkady for a long time the images of the human tragedy haunted our memories for a long time.

May Their Souls Rest in Peace.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Welcome to my new Blog!

I had been writing a blog for quite some time about Remembering Film Institute Days. I used to write about some other personally felt matter too having no connection with the Film Institute. I thought it will be better for readers to read them separately. Hence I am moving those writing into this space.

Hope you will like this!

Given below are some of the Blogs published earlier under Remembering Film Institute days:

Wednesday, 1 July, 2009

Lohi - A Sudden End

The news of the sudden demise of Malayalam Screenwriter and Director A.K. Lohitadas, on Sunday, 28 th of June came as a wild shock to me. I could not believe the news as I was not aware that he was having some heart problems for the past few months. A few months back, I had seen him waving to me from a distance at a function but we could not meet each other and talk.
I had the opportunity to be associated with him as Script writer for RADHA MADHAVAM (1990 - Dir: Suresh Unnithan) AADHARAM (1992 - Dir: George Kithu ), VENKALAM (1993- Dir: Bharathan) and SALLAPAM ( 1996 - Dir: Sunder Daas) and also in his Directorial ventures KARUNYAM (1997)and KANMADHAM (1998).

Unlike other Scriptwriters, he used to be on the sets on a fulltime basis always coming up with suggestions for improving the film. He was a keen observer and by watching various Directors like Bharathan, Siby Malayil and others from close quarters he gained knowledge in the art and craft of Film Direction. Later on when he worked with new directors like George Kithu in AADHARAM and Sundar Daas in SALLAPAM he guided them with his knowledge in Direction by suggesting how a shot should be taken or camera angle to be placed etc. He also did Second unit direction in SALLAPAM which was like a training ground for him in Direction.

Myself, Lohi and Director Sundar Daas - SALLAPAM

He was a sensitive and sensible human being who hailing from a lower strata of society rose to the heights of glory in Cinema as a Script writer and Director, through sheer hard work and genius. He found themes for his films from the people around him and made them immortal in the horizons of Malayalam Cinema. His first Directorial venture, BHOOTHAKKANADI won many Awards and was appreciated by one and all. The switching on ceremony of the film coincided with the start of Sundar Daas' second film KUDAMATTOM and both the functions were held together at Shoranur Rest House, a favourite haunt of Lohi, where he used pen many of his outstanding scripts.

Twin Switch on ceremony of Lohi's first Directorial venture BHOOTHAKKANADI and Sundar Daas' KUDAMATTOM

(L-R) Sundar Daas' Parents, myself, Sundar Daas, Lohitadas, Directors Siby Malayil, Sathyan Anthikkad and Venu, Cinematographer

Lohi was a very emotional person and a keen observer of people. He had a knack of grooming new actors and bringing out the best performance out of them. I had occassion to observe this, first hand in the films we were associated together. During the filming of SALLAPAM, Manju Warrier, who was a newcomer at that time had difficulty in enacting a shot in which she had to laugh spontaneously on seeing the character Junior Yesudas (Dileep) with a chisel in hand working as a carpenter. After many takes, the laughing shot did not turn out to be natural. Then Lohi suggested that we take that shot after a few days, so that she will get accustomed to the character she was playing and get used to filming routine as well. A few days later, the shot was sucessfully taken without any hassle and Manju later on became one of the finest actresses of Malayalam films.
Similarly in the film KANMADHAM, Lal (Siddique) was uncertain about his ability as an actor. Though well established as a Director and Scripwriter, he had just done one film as actor in Jayaraj's KALIYATTOM. But as a performer he was finding the role in KANMADHAM a difficult proposition altogether and that too pitted against an actor of calibre such as Mohanlal ! Lal even thought of backing out from the film but for Lohi, who came out with encouraging words and gave him confidence about his acting abilities and brought out excellent performance from him. The Kerala State Award for Best Actor in 2008 won by Lal would not have happened if Lal had stopped acting at that time, and concentrated instead on Writing and Film Direction !

Under Lohi's Direction I did two films KARUNYAM and KANMADHAM. The film KARUNYAM was a moving tale of Father and son relationship very emotionally narrated and filmed. KANMADHAM had a very powerful story shot in the height of summer in Palakkad and completed on a hectic schedule of 55 days on the whole. It was simultaneously shot, dubbed , music scored and sound mixed within that short time frame. Even while the re-recording is going on we were shooting portions of the song sequence. As the script was not complete Lohi was under tremendous pressure as he had to write each day's scenes early in the same morning and proceed with the shooting. The dubbing and editing work was simultaneously done at Chennai under the supervision of Sundar Daas. The film had the rare honour of being the only one for which I left for the shooting and returned home with the print of the film in 55 days flat! Yes, I flew back to Trivandrum with 3 Prints for Trivandrum, Attingal and Kollam theatres. Yet the film was very successful and Manju Warrier's superb perfomance was much appreciated and the film had won me the First Asianet Film Award for Cinematography.
After that film in a private chat, he told me and Producer Kireedom Unni that he will never shoot a film without the full script in hand! But he was never able to keep up his decision. The strain and stress took its toll on his health and ultimately resulted in his untimely death. Malayalam Cinema had lost one of its great script writers, and I, a true friend and a fine humanist par excellence.

May his Soul Rest in Peace and may the Almighty give strength to his wife Sindhu and sons HariKrishnan and Vijay Shankar to bear this great Personal Loss!

Memories from the Past

Lohitadas, Bharathan and myself during filming of VENKALAM

Myself and Lohitadas at Mumbai during filming of Kanmadham

Myself, Maju Warrier and Lohitadas : Film -Kanmadham

Tuesday, 2 June, 2009


Madhavi Kutty, Kamala Das, Kamala Suraiya - noted poet and writer in English and Malayalam passed away into eternity on Sunday, 31 st May.

I have read many of her English Poems published in the Seventies and later on when I learned to read Malayalam her novels and short stories in the language in which they were written. When I myself started writing poems in English, I just happened to send a few of them to the YOUTH TIMES Magazine from the Times of India Group, Bombay. I never expected that it would be published. It so happened that I have a lucky streak in getting my works published in the very first attempt itself. The first photo I had sent was published in the Tamil magazine KALKI. My first Letter to the Editor also found a place in THE HINDU Newspaper.
Likewise four of my maiden Poems were Published in the issue of YOUTH TIMES Weekly, 17-24 November, 1977. They were was selected by none other than the great KAMALA DAS, herself who was the Poetry editor at that time ! I also got a note that a few of my other poems were also selected for publication, but I did not hear any further about them. Though I wrote many more poems, these are the only ones which got through in to the print media. To read more of my Poems, please visit https://sites.google.com/site/ramachandrababuk/poems


Selected by KAMALA DAS

Midday Take-off

In the blazing sun I walk blind
My immobile hands follow behind
Time worn planks in the stairs of destiny
Utter a long drawn out cry.

Under a shade less tree, with the ghosts of tomorrow
I await an encounter with fate.
Absolute silence seeps in to the void
Among the transparent shadows of life
Stretching seconds into years and then to ages.
This maddening stillness, this unending agony
Fills me with the suffocating terror of the unseen.
How I wish,
I could just take-off and just vanish
I feel the ground
Suddenly s-l-i-p

Boredom weeps alone

In moments of silence
Words refuse to appear
Defying the laws of language.
Back-fired thoughts shock frozen
Stand as
Dumb T.V. towers in the desert.
Disrupted communication
Speaks in sign language
To those blind eyes staring at infinity.

Rider less horses trample lawns
Breaking the stillness
Corks pop out, glasses tinkle,
Displayed flesh in streets of desire
Stink with memories of lost innocence.

Morning dawns smelling of stale kisses,
Hangovers from sleepless nights.
Nauseating mists of imported love
Blind the senses.

Under the cold blanket
My hand searches for the missing partner
In the grip of my longing fingers

Sunset Sand Diggers

(Inspired by Kobo Abe's Women of the Dunes )

Under the undulating dunes
Desires lie buried
My soul sleeps imprisoned
Somewhere in a bottomless pit,
To each his own
He himself being one.

Ours might be billion light-years apart
Or just a sand wall away.
Above in the gray sky
Under the blinding sun
Circles a lone vulture.
I dig my agony to unearth lost ecstasy.
In constant work, do I exist
My universe --- this pit.
Destination unknown,
This journey a one-way trip.
Perhaps our tunnels may meet in the sunset
We may then discover
What we have lost
Or what we have not yet.

Of Godmen, Gods And Men

My denial is no conclusive proof of absence
Nor other's approval the evidence of your existence.
They sing of your manifestations,
Many visitations and revelations
Some claim your partial presence in their form
And perform miracles like magicians,
Only garbs are different
Arenas vary.
If at any one at any time
Could feel your presence, even a trifle
It is just possible that
I too might.
Skeptics like me
Can wait till then
Before we start to believe.

During the course of my profession as a Cinematographer I had traveled to many places and happened get in touch with many great Writers and Poets from Kerala. But it so happened that I never met her in real life though I had been in the cities where she had lived for some time. I really miss meeting her in person to thank for selecting my poems for publication and encouraging me.
May Her Soul Rest in Peace