Saturday, November 5, 2011

Man's Best Friend

I have never had a Pet dog at home until I built a house and settled at Trivandrum. Our Labrador was named as Kittu and I was introduced to the world of unconditional love and affection of dog, described as man's best friend. He became one of our family and was great fun as a puppy and used to like bread slices soaked in milk. When he grew up it was bread and butter. Though a cage was built for him, he spent much of the time inside the home and mostly at the kitchen. It was on 18, December, 2003 that he died due to Distemper infection, leaving us all in great sorrow. Though the veterinary doctor had given anti rabies injection etc we were not aware of vaccines for distemper and he died at an early age of two and half years.


In order to overcome the loss, in the next month itself, we bought a similar black Labrador pup and named him Muthu. He got much more affection from all of us and was a much pampered person. He used to eat all sorts of fruits like jack fruit, apples, fish like Tuna or Netholi and snacks like egg puffs, pakoras. Ice cream, squashes and milkshakes are also his favourite items. The joy and the warm welcome he gives whenever return home even after a short trip is unbelievable. He will jump with happiness, bark and express himself, until I pat him down and allow him to lick my cheek. For nearly eight years he was the guardian of our home and love of our life.

Last October, he was having cold and cough and the doctor who treated him asked us to bring him to the hospital at P.M.G. Junction to have blood tests taken. He was found to have some liver problems and medicines were given. After about 15 days he stopped eating any food and doctor was summoned and Muthu was given intravenous glucose drip and many injections. But early in the morning of 31 October 2011, he died peacefully in his sleep. Till the last day he was healthy and walking and we never expected him to die so soon and so suddenly. His sudden departure had left a void in our life but we still feel his presence in every corner of our house.

Three months old

Kittu at 6 Months with son Abhilash

Playing with a bottle

Looking up to me with affection


Thank you both for showing me what unconditional love and affection means.
May you Rest in Peace

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Like a Meteor she vanished …….

The year : 1972. Location : Kollam Hotel Neela
Cinematographer Ashok Kumar was on the camera shooting a scene involving Shobana for the film “Chemparathy” being directed by P.N.Menon. After my first film “ Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile” with John Abraham, I was into my second feature film “Ragging” directed by N.N. Pisharady. We started the film with newcomers in the main roles, but on seeing their dismal performances we decided to rope in well known artistes. Hence myself, N.N.Pisharady and Aluva Thampy went to Kollam to contact Sudheer and Rani Chandra and get their dates for our film. That was my first meeting and she was a simple and friendly person. Though she was selected as Miss Kerala, I found her to be a typical Malayalee girl with curly hair and tanned skin with an out going nature. At Neela Hotel Bamboo bar we also had an eventful meeting with veteran Malayalam writer Kakkanadan too along with S.K.Nair playing host.

On the set of "Ragging " she was simple and friendly with every one and didn’t show any airs of stardom and was at ease with other new comers like Balan Nair and Somasundaran. Others in the cast included Vincent, P.J.Antony and Jameela Malik .

On the set of RAGGING

It was only in K.G.George’s film “Swapnadanam” her acting talent rose to its summit. It was such a powerful role and she took all efforts to perform as the director had intended. K.G.George was instrumental in polishing her talent and bringing out the hidden talent in her. Her acting in “Swapnadanam” earned her Kerala State Award for the Best actress in 1975. After that she was flooded with offers to act in many films including well known Tamil production houses.

Rani Chandra and Dr.Mohandas

Mallika, Rani, myself & Dr.Mohandas in SWAPNADANAM

Thirty five years back, on 12 October 1976, after a film career spanning only eight years, Malayalam actress Rani Chandra died in a tragic accident near Bombay Airport on a flight to Madras in an Indian Airlines Caravelle aircraft. Her last film was “Badrakali” (Tamil) in which she starred opposite Siva Kumar, was completed with a similar looking actress enacted Rani’s scenes and released after her death was a huge success.

It was really shocking news to the Malayalam Film Industry that she had left this word at the height of her career blazing a trail, she vanished like a Meteor.

I felt deeply on losing a personal friend and real human being, and on that occasion I wrote the following lines:


- (To Rani Chandra)

Through fire you made your exit
That was no trick shot.
All that remained in the end
Ashes, an indistinguishable lot.
Many longed for you
But not in this form.

Among the mourners I spot
One who still loves you.
A fellow traveller,
On a journey in dream,
Oh, a friend sweet and lovable
You sailed through enormous sufferings
A rare one who cared for others
Even if others cared not.

Your absence
None can replace
Not even memories.

An abridged Malayalam translation of this article was published in Metro Vartha on 13 October 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oops! Our Indian English Spelling

There are numerous occasions where we come across misspelled English words in boldly written sign boards etc in our country. For example in a Juice shop in Trivandrum I saw this list of milk shakes and fruit juices available there. I can understand the spelling mistake of Chocolate - written as Chockolate, may be because of the choking effect after drinking it. But what about " JINGER LAME" ? Will you become lame afterwards? Actually it was meant to be Ginger Lime !

The other day I noticed this blatant spelling mistake written on the side of the out door unit van of Kerala State Film Development Corporation. Film is spelled as " FILIM" and Development as "Devolepment". It is no wonder that any Development of the Film Industry is not taking place at Chitranjali Studios over the many years of its existence.

On the side of the Out door unit Van

Even our TV Channels do turn out to be error prone. See the picture below of CNN IBN Live Channel News Program. Read it carefully - The Government has drafted a policy to shit... what was that? Did Malayalam actor Suresh Gopi write the News headline?


Whatever we may be at home we are the best when it comes to English spelling in U.S.A. Just look at the list of Spelling Bee Winners in U.S.A and you will find lot of Indian names. The 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee winner was Sukanya Roy of South Abington Pennsylvania, a person of Indian Origin ! Sukanya Roy won after spelling the word cymotrichous.

Can you guess what it means...... no way!

I just looked it up in the Dictionary, and the meaning is -
Curly-headed, having wavy hair

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Returning to school after 50 years

Recently I was shooting the Malayalam film LITTLE MASTER starring Lal (Siddique) and Lakshmi Gopalaswami, being directed by L.Rajendran in Thiruvavananthapuram . The location was S.M.V. High School which was one of the oldest schools in Thiruvavananthapuram established by the Maharaja Sree Moolam Thirunal and hence the name Sree Moola Vilasam High School.

Shooting at SMV H.S with Lal (Siddique)

During the shooting interval, my friend veteran Art Director and Director Radhakrishnan ( R.K.) paid a visit to meet me. He told me a very fascinating information that he had once been a student at the S.M.V. school 50 years ago and since then nothing had changed much there. The old tiled buildings and even the benches and desks in the classrooms were the very same ones from his times. Those old wooden benches had cast iron frames which were imported from England. He also told me that a portion of the school was formerly used as Police premises and lockup cells were there.

Going back in time he located the class room and the very bench where he sat during his days as a student there. his old seat at school

In his student days he had a leaning towards Communist ideology and became part of the leftist student organisation SF. In his fervour towards the party he had carved the Sickle and Hammer Party symbol on the surface of his bench.

The hand that etched...

Sitting in his old seat and running his fingers over his art work, Radhakrishnan said that he was coming there for the first time, ever since he left the school 50 years ago. It so happened only because I invited him to visit our shooting location. Though he had been living for the past many years in Thiruvananthapuram and passed the school on his way many a times, it never occurred to him to get inside and see the place.

R.K's art work

I am happy that I was instrumental for his reunion with his Alma Mater and was able to record it for posterity.

More about THE HINDU newspaper:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

" Yahoo" of Indian Cinema - Shammi Kapoor

I saw the Hindi film " JUNGLEE" at a Saturday Night screening for the hostel inmates while studying at the Loyola College, Madras for my graduation in 1963. The screenings were held at the Bertram Hall and the films were pre-censored by the warden for objectionable content. It was love at first sight and I became a fan of the dashing, dancing and dynamic Shammi Kapoor. Though I have studied Hindi at high school level it was not compulsory to get pass marks in that subject and if you just write down the question paper that will earn you 15 marks! Even with such scarce understanding of Hindi we all enjoyed every moment of the film mainly due to Shammi's stylish and electrifying performance and the the fantastic music by Shankar - Jaikishan. Later on we were also treated to another film of Shammi, the hilarious "PROFESSOR" and he became one of my favourite actors.

I was lucky to have worked with him once for the Hindi Television Serial " Stories from the Bible" in 1991 Directed by Jijo Punnoose, produced by Navodaya. I was doing the Pilot episode of the serial which consisted of Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel. Shammi was cast as Nimrod who built the mighty Tower of Babel. On his arrival he invited us, the crew to his room to get ourselves introduced to each other. There sitting on the bed was a massive man sporting a beard and wearing a necklaces of big polished stones, colorful beads and rudrakshas. He was entirely different from the image etched on my mind many years ago. He was very friendly and even offered us a drink which we politely declined. He asked the Director to give him the script of the next day's shooting so that he can come prepared for the work.

When the time came for his shot and he started the rehearsals, the assistant director began prompting the dialogues as it was the usual practice in the Malayalam film industry. He immediately asked the assistant to stop prompting. He had memorized all the dialogues perfectly and delivered them flawlessly. Such was his dedication to his work that amazed all of us. Even now most of the actors in Malayalam film industry never care to learn their dialogues and think it not at all a part of their acting. They just hear and parrot like mouth their lines. In spite of the hot and humid conditions of the remote location and the dusty atmosphere produced by hundreds of extras engaged in the building activities, he cheerfully endured the shooting.

At the end of the shoot we had this group photo taken and he called all the unit members to join him.

Crew of "Stories from the Bible"

Director Jijo, Shammi and me

Thanks for the short and sweet association we had with you which we will all remember for ever.

Adieu Shammiji!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mani Kaul - A personal remembrance

Mani Kaul ( 1944-2011)

While many Film makers made compromises for their existence, Mani Kaul till the very last breath remained an uncompromising, individualistic creator of films. His films were far ahead of their times which will be always cherished by connoisseurs of good cinema.

I was a student at the Poona Film Institute when he had come there to screen his debut film USKI ROTI in 1970. The film was really something we have not seen before on the Indian screen, consisting of lengthy static camera shots and used only one 28 mm lens for the whole film. Many of us didn't like it at all in the first viewing , because of the static lengthy shots and slow pace of the film. But a repeated viewing made us to study the film more deeply, made us to think and not remain as passive viewers. The carefully composed images of light and shade created by K.K.Mahajan in Black and White was another factor that contributed much to the film. I got introduced to him after the screenings and soon became a friend. During his visits to the Institute, which were quite frequent we used to meet along with K.G.George and other friends under the Wisdom tree or at the canteen. You are sure to find him always surrounded by admiring students. Such was his magnetic personality.

At that time he was having a love interest with a Tamilian girl Lalitha, (whom he later on married) and he asked me to teach him a few words in Tamil so as to impress her. He used to write down words like " Naan unnai kadhalikkeren " ( "I love you ") on a piece of paper and memorize it with proper pronunciation. Later on I have also visited his house "Janaki Kutir" at Mumbai and enjoyed his and Lalitha's hospitality. Though he was my senior, he introduced me to his wife Lalitha as his Tamil teacher!

Ravi Menon who was my batch mate at the Institute had done the lead role in Mani's Hindi film "DUVIDHA" before he made his debut in Malayalam films with M.T Vasudevan Nair's National Award winning "NIRMALYAM" for which I was the cinematographer. Ravi used tell me a number of interesting incidents from his shooting experience with Mani Kaul's team. I lost touch with Mani for a number of years after I relocated to Thiruvananthapuram. A few years back I happened to meet him during the International Film Festival of Kerala and that was our last meeting.

I have lost an old friend and great soul and Indian Film Industry had lost a Master Film maker!


Please also read a Moving Tribute by Tanuja Chaturvedi - HERE

Monday, February 14, 2011

VIPIN DAS - A man of contrasts in B&W

Vipin Das always remained a mysterious figure - Cinematographer, Director, Violinst, Sanyasi etc all rolled in one. His coming and going will be always dramatic and unexpected. For some time you will find him working in films and suddenly you will be missing him as he will wandering in the remote corners of the country in search of exotic spirituality. Like his Black and White photography he was a man full of contrasts, likable and unpredictable. The final curtain came down on his colourful career on 12, February 2011 at Vythiri at Wayanad in Northen Kerala, after a cardiac attack.

Vipin Das

(Photo - R. Gopalakrishnan)

In the seventies I met him in the company of our mutual friend P.A.Backer who at that time was a Film Producer. I was staying at Chennai along with K.G.George and Prabhakaran ( FTII - Acting) in a flat rented by P.A.Backer which was fondly called POONA HOME, because of us , the residents all hailing from the Poona Film Institute. When Backer started directing films Vipin Das was the natural choice and he extended his full support for his films. I still remember his excellent B&W work in MANIMUZHAKKAM which he had photographed using ordinary photo-flood bulbs.

Later on he did the debut film of I.V.Sasi and the team regularly brought out many small budget B&W films which became superhits, such as AVALUDE RAAVUGAL etc. When the colour era came I got associated with I.V.Sasi in his first colour feature film ITHA IVVIDE VAREY which was a path breaking film. While in 1979 I was going to the U.S. for the filming of I.V.Sasi's multilingual films EZHAM KADALIN AKKARE (Malayalam ) and OREY VAANAM OREY BHOOMI (Tamil) we thought of having a second unit. Editor Narayanan as Director and Vipin Das as cinematographer formed the second unit. Thus we had the opportunity to work side by side for about a fortnight. Below is a photograph taken at the Niagara Falls helipad.

At Niagara falls - Editor Narayanan, Vipin Das and me

The last time I met him was while he was shooting the Malayalam film TATWAMASI on one of the floors of the Chitranjali Studios. At that time I was shooting the film KADAKSHAM on the main studio floor. He came down to our sets during the lunch break and spent some time there. He was looking very smart and active despite the passage of years. Though he had not done feature films for a number of years, he was quite up to date about the technology as he was a voracious reader.

Malayalam film industry will certainly miss the loss of Veteran Cinematographer Vipin Das who had contributed a lot especially during the Black and White era low budget films. I too miss him, but I hope that as per his nature, any moment he may reappear again at unexpected time and place.

He had done a large number of feature films and documentaries in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and other languages. Given below is a partial list of films as Cinematographer and as Director.

Filmography ( Cinematographer):

2010 Tatwamasi

1991 Adayalam

1990 Randam Varavu

1989 Jagratha

1989 Mounam Sammadham

1988 Oru CBI Diary Kurippu

1988 Moonnam Mura

1987 Aankiliyude Tharattu

1987 Oru Sindoora Pottinte Ormaykku

1986 Ee Kaikalil

1986 Adukkan Entheluppam

1986 Iniyum Kurukshethram

1985 Nirakkoottu

1985 Ente Kanakkuyil

1985 Azhiyatha Bandhangal

1985 Kaiyum Thalayum Purathidaruthu

1984 Piriyilla Naam

1983 Belt Mathai

1983 Changatham

1982 Chillu

1982 Ponmudy

1981 Oridathoru Phayalwan

1981 Parvathi

1977 Mani Muzhakkam

As Director :

1984 Oru Kochu Swapnam

1971 Prathidhawani

Thalattu ( Tamil)