Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: In The Heart Of The Sea

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED ūüėÄ

Missed out as usual the titles and opening scene which was anyway predictable. Caught up with it later in You Tube.

A wild life enthusiast, the film no wonder appeals to me. Compelling watch for all nature lovers.

Sperm whale and the Elephant both reign supreme in their respective territories. The former roams the oceans as the world’s largest mammalian predator and the counterpart rules the forested lands as the earth’s surprisingly herbivorous and gentlest giant. The duo though have a mind of their own. They neither forget nor forgive, almost blessed with a sixth sense and emotion akin to human beings.¬† Most endangered species today, the two also continue to be hunted down ruthlessly to extinction. Quite like whale hunting, culling of tuskers also has been in practice for centuries. While the whales yielded the precious burning oil (literally) to the then darker world devoid of electricity and gas, the elephant tusks became trophies and intricate and expensive jewelry, the most coveted treasure of the wealthiest of the world.

Whaling goes on in present times unabated as we see in Scandinavian seas/countries and also Japan/China. Elephants are pricey too and elephant poaching still goes unchecked in many parts of the world. While the wild elephant habitat and elephant corridors have shrunk by many times in geographical extent, the high seas are now too very crowded by mariners that whale population is threatened for survival like never before.

The greed of the mankind is alarming and cruel, at the same time the adventurous spirit of the human race in touching greater heights, in reaching beyond, in daring, in challenging, in going out the last mile driven by sheer instinct and guts breaking boundaries and shackles, is amazing. May be the future Homo Sapiens will evolve with mutations to breathe in carbon-di-oxide and breath out oxygen who knows !!!

The picture is a whale hunting tale, not to be compared with the likes of the ‘Jaws’, ‘Anaconda’ or ‘Lake Placid.’ These are creatures of our imagination, brought to life in silver screen. Whereas this is real life story from Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Hero whale hunter is Chase played by Chris Hemsworth who is the first mate of the whaleship ‘Essex.’

The brave expedition gets published in America when a fortunate survivor Nickerson who happens to have joined the whaleship as a cabin boy, is approached by author/novelist Herman Melville.

Period film dating back to 1820 based on the non-fiction, as narrated by the teen survivor Thomas Nickerson who lives unto ripe old age to sell his story to the writer, the mysterious whale hunting voyage is unraveled of its hidden and buried secrets locked away forever in the memory of the deck hand Nickerson. So that’s how Moby Dick is born, inspired by the big white, the most ferocious of all to wander in the seven seas (although vaguely I recall reading about it years or perhaps decades back).

What follows is an unbelievable and daring account of harpooning of whales in the Atlantic and Pacific, many leagues far from the coasts of South America, as whale oil was largely in use as fat for lighting as well as in industrial works fetching gold in bullion markets, in a time before the discovery of the fossil fuel was made in the landfall (to drive the world ever since).

Whaler Chase who has earned the distinction of wearing his whale badges is easily the natural leader denied the command of Essex, much to the chagrin of the pedigree and political appointee captain of the ship, Pollard. Although the two strike an uneasy companionship, the harrowing months at the seas away from homes and hearths and the common hardships faced together foster an understanding relationship between them. What ensues is a touching tale of humanity in the midst of inhuman living conditions, the fighting spirit conquering lethargy and the will to survive. Friendship and team work and companionship cannot get better than this.

The teenager Nickerson is live witness to the whaling expedition as the whalers hunt successfully for whale oil hooking and reeling in to death many a mammoth blue whale from the fathoms of the oceans in bold and nerve-wracking escapades after the captain makes an unwise decision about a squall that renders the whaleship weak and battered to face the perils of the sea in full force at the very start of the voyage. The initial grave slip does its damage as drama unfolds in the depths of the Pacific and beyond as the whalers go in search of schools of whales. In a bizarre turnout, the whaleship gets pursued and hunted down by the massive and legendary 100 foot white whale. Ship wrecked and oil lost, the crew is washed ashore to survive and refit in a tiny and deserted island, from whatever is left over to start their return voyage empty handed.

Absolutely stunning visuals of schools of whales deep in the Pacifics. Hopefully it is not photoshop. Or whatever. The whalehunting is excellent picturization. The walk Nickerson takes like kind of initiation in the entrails of the culled whale is astounding, flabbergasting! Can’t believe humanity lived and evolved through this stage of barbarity!

The narrator stops midway with serious misgivings over the abominations the men committed in order to survive when they run out of food and water as they make their return voyage, sun-baked and thirsty and famished. On prompt from his interviewer, he finally bares terrible secrets  that had plagued his conscience for years that make for an incredulous real life story. Moby-Dick is born.

Liked this one better than the ‘Titanic.’ Or may be even ‘Avatar.’ Or the ‘Everest’ or ‘Below Eight’ yet another daredevil real life drama filmed entirely in the Antarctic. Many Himalayan stories nowadays that you actually get to think that Mount Everest is no big deal !!!

My two cents on the film being the best in the category; and more realistic may be because it is true story.

 

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: War For The Planet Of Apes

Can’t figure out why film channels from India are beaming pictures like ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Planet of Apes’ for our Independence day!

Anyway, as a fierce wildlife lover, I couldn’t have bargained for more.

I hate to bring the Hindu factor into everything but can’t help mentioning here.

I grew up in a home/culture where before we ate a morsel of food everyday, we offered it to Goddess Annapoorna first and then the crows in our terrace next. The crows we see as our pitrus (forefathers) waiting to be fed every morning.

Cows are everywhere in India because we think they are divine. Same for monkeys. Our temples also have snakes !

Every Hindu God (we have a galaxy of them, each for a different department) has a pet animal attached (very much like in Avatar picture – the word Avatar being the Sanskrit word for reincarnation) (reincarnation by itself is another Hindu philosophy). Every Hindu temple has a ‘thala vriksha’ – the temple tree.

All trees in India are sacred and considered divine.

I recall when we had to fell the four tall standing and overgrown Ashoka trees in our house because their roots were damaging the structure.

The day before, the crew came with their tools and machinery and performed an earnest Puja (akin to Christian service) offering the septuagenarian trees ‘Neivedyam’ (food meant for the divine) and pleading for their pardon for cutting their lives short.

The next day morning before chopping of the trees using machines and saws (for the top most branches), there were again fervent prayers for the souls of the trees. The woodcutters were labourers who routinely felled trees hindering highways. But they said, cutting old trees was like murdering wise old men.

Which other culture of earth would think the way we Hindus do. Who will even bother about the souls of trees. Some trees we Hindus believe may house ‘Muneeshwar’ for one thing, the saviour god of little children! And He is believed to be an unforgiving angry old man, not wanting to be disturbed! Better not provoke Him!

The Ashoka trees in our compound were  taller than three-four floors and home to a handful species of birds. Cutting them down was no easy task. In spite of machinery and good amount of manual sawing, the street had to be cordoned off for the day for safety purposes. The way the trees fell! Unforgettable even today. For years you assume they are one among you, they are like a family member, but then you chop them down one fine day!

If you think Ashoka trees had no branches, you are wrong. How the birds had intelligently built their nests in the crooks and nooks in the Ashoka trees was amazing.

I couldn’t help wailing out in agony as the trees were taken down one by one. As they were huge, they took two whole days. The base never yielded. Not quite possible to completely uproot them. Acid was poured on their roots to snuff out whatever life could possibly still sprout from them at a later date.

The evenings were the worst. I remember it vividly because my son was still a primary school boy then. I have fed him food pointing out the birds to him and the nests and eggs.

The birds were back for their nests at sun down and were clearly disoriented not finding their homes. Their screeches in pain and shock rented the night air – the crow families, the cuckoo families, the pigeon families and the sparrow families were all flying in circles. I wondered how much curses must have been heaped on us by the voiceless and helpless bird parents looking for their nests and nestlings. After a week of encircling our house, they stopped coming back eventually. Where in the city they took refuge was something I thought about for a long time.

Urban Chennai has no place any more for tall old trees. Every inch of space is worth in millions of rupees, sadly. I forgot the squirrels. I didn’t know until then how many squirrel families had holed up in the trees.

The trees had to go still. It was practical solution with neighbours complaining from next street about the intruding roots damaging their foundations.

But the love and respect we Hindus have for all living creatures is immense. Our temples house the cows, the snakes, the trees… In fact this is the main conflict between the majority native Hindus of the nation and the converted muslims who cull cattle and relish beef. The Middle eastern culture does not sync with the ten thousand year Hindu civilization which is too strong and deep rooted in spite of a thousand year invasion.

So as a wildlife lover and lover of nature, it gave me ample satisfaction to watch the latest ‘Planet of Apes’ picture today that saw the mutilation of Human race back to their fifth sense (of the Ape world) and the Apes ultimately ruling the world gaining an upperhand inadvertently.

Return to the Nature. That’s simply wonderful. Back to the basics.

Foreign ideologues like the Churches (on conversion spree) and the Islamists have always poked fun at the Hindu way of life for living close to nature, demeaning and disrespecting our love for birds and animals and trees, and even rivers.

Hindus are the only race in the world to have elevated the flora and fauna and the five elements of nature – the Agni (fire), the Wayu (wind), the Jal (water). Bhoomi (soil) the Akaash (sky) to divine status. All these are living Gods for us. Every christian and every muslim I have come across in my life has only ridiculed our cultural belief. The Hindu belief system has been worshiping nature for tens of thousands of years, being the oldest civilization in the world.

 

In Hindu temples, we marry the Neem tree with the Peepal tree (!). If a woman goes childless, all she is advised by the elders is to do is, to circumambulate the wedded trees every morning and evening. The reason is pretty scientific. Neem is a natural pest and infection controller. Together with the Peepal, the oxygen level in the air gets maximum purifying the environment. Who knows how, but it has been working for Hindu women.

In Mylapore, in the Kapaleeshwara temple where i literally grew up in, the ‘thala vriksha’ (the local shrine tree) was the Punnai tree. The temple bird was peacock. As it was a Shiva temple, we also had the Vilvam tree inevitably. And a cowshed where they reared a dozen high breed cows and bulls as tall as six feet. It would be a glorious sight to watch peacocks dancing with unfolded feathers before the onset of the monsoons.

All that is disappearing even in India now. Every single custom, belief and tradition from Hindu culture is degraded first, then copied and looted by the followers of Abrahamic folds. Simultaneous attack from multiple sides, i do not know how we are still ticking as a nation. Both the Middle east and the West are bent on their agenda: to either make us into world’s largest terror nation or another Latin America – at any cost. Hindus today are endangered species!

Watching a picture where mankind perishes from planet Earth totally leaving the world to the wildlife (in this case the Apes) felt good really. Hopefully this turns into reality!

Barring that, the human gene in the Ape Caesar is remarkably captured by the direction as the Ape leader’s face registers a variety of conflicting emotions coming face to face with humans in extra ordinary circumstances. The humane face of the merciless general doing his duty is another case in point. It is a battle between emotions and wit. For an ape leader, Caesar is a good characterization. I remember ‘him’ from his earliest movies – from the time he is a baby.

With this film, i have watched the entire series of the Planet of Apes. Whoever conceived the idea merits the highest awards, no wonder the latest picture bagged Academy awards last year.

May be not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a nature lover like me, you will appreciate the Ape flicks.

In spite of ridicule, we Hindus must never give up our love and reverence for the wild life and domesticated animals and for birds, insects, trees and rivers – in general, for all that is natural. All rivers of India are goddesses going by names Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Kaveri… the only boy is Brahmaputra, the son of creator Brahma Himself, among the trinity of Male Hindu Gods of Creation, Nurturing and Destruction.

When visiting the Thala Kaveri in the state of Karnataka, the origin of river Kaveri, I offered a Puja to Mother Goddess Kaveri, the lifeline of south India, who nurtures life to the south of Vindhyas. Thanked Her for the rice we eat, the water we drink, for the earth we slept on. Emotional moment for us. Dozens of Hindu families offered Puja (prayers) to Mother (river) Kaveri anointing her with flowers at Her source.

I am a Hindu. I am proud we worship our rivers. I am proud the Neem trees and Banyan trees and Crows and Snakes and Rivers and even the Seas are gods for us. There is no other culture like ours. The more I see such films, the more I love my culture and the more I refuse to let India be converted.

Apes are all the more special to us Hindus because, monkeys are the family of our god Hanuman. Hanuman we believe, still lives eternally somewhere, watching out the world. No other better custodian for planet Earth than Hanuman. We have exclusive Hanuman temples, dedicated to the monkey god. He is our protector god against all things evil. He is god for sharpness, alertness of brain. He is god for godspeed success.

The Hindu Monkey God Hanuman from the Kingdom of Kishkinta, the monkey world of ancient India, as per Ramayan

Something like the planet of Apes within India is already described in our Historic epic Ramayan. It is called ‘Kishkinta’ – the kingdom of monkeys. Lord Ram helps ruler Sugriva defeat Vaali and consolidate the monkey kingdom.

After ‘Avatar’ a total lift of the Hindu philosophy of reincarnation (from one body to another), i have always felt that the Planet of Apes is another copy of Kishkinta, the ancient monkey kingdom believed to have existed in India by Hindus over tens of thousands of years ago. (At least director James Cameroon titled the picture ‘Avatar’ acknowledging its Hindu inspiration).

 

 

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Queen of Katwe

It so happened that I heard about the book and real life story of ‘The boy who harnessed the wind’ from Malawi, in Toastmasters Meet just yesterday. The day before, I had watched ‘Queen of Katwe’ – based on real life story of a Ugandan girl who went on to become a legend in Chess.

The glaring and depressing squalor of the girl’s society throws light on tough life and survival conditions in African countries. Uganda is supposedly better off, I reminded myself.

The first shocker for me was something like ‘culture shock.’ I am ashamed to admit that before this picture, I hardly got to watch a full length film with cast predominantly black. Or overwhelmingly black ,with not a single exception. A fight in my mind started … whether to continue watching or stop. I clicked on the ‘info’ on my tv remote and discovered that the story was that of a chess prodigy. That helped.

I have watched of course some Will Smith pictures like ‘the Pursuit of happiness’ and some of Morgan Freeman’s but they are basically set in America. Somehow my mind classified African Americans as different species compared to native Africans. Watching a full length picture set entirely in Africa was like a challenge i set to myself.

We Indians accuse others of racism always, for the first time I found that even watching a picture totally centered in Africa was like difficult home assignment for me. Looking at the streets in screen where only black heads bobbed felt different. By no way I mean insult to anyone. Everything, everyone is God’s creation. I respect that. Until now, I am just not exposed to this kind of crowd.

I remember the first time I landed in Malaysia over 20 years back. More than the slight culture shock, what I felt immediately was my new status as ‘minority.’ It was impossible to come to terms with accepting this basic fact: that outside India, I am minority. I despised the tv adverts there where the models were either Malay or Chinese. Indian skin could/would not sell a beauty cream or soap or shampoo. Frankly, it was a humbling experience.

My days in Middle East are far better. Now I am more mature, and here there are mixed nationalities.

Europe too is increasingly a mixed society and America, a melting pot of cultures, even if both may be predominantly Caucasian. At least nobody moved away from me or stared at me. I won’t say I felt exactly at home, but I was relieved nobody paid me attention. I wasn’t a freak. Indian skin was regular.

Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria are popular tourist/work destinations with flourishing game business and oil trade. Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia may have Arab influence while South Africa, Zimbabwe may still boast of a residual white population to balance. But Katwe comes across as 100% purely ethnic African-Ugandan. It is a small rundown shanty town perhaps or some forgotten rural picket where our girl Phiona (played by Madhina), nurtures a passion for chess. Encouraged by her coach and his wife, Phiona surmounts uphill tasks both in personal and social life and carves a niche for herself in the world of chess at African summit.¬† She aims to become a Grand Master. The dilemma Phiona faces as she goes places (literally), with confused emotions, reflects to me somehow what every middle class Indian who climbs up the social ladder may identify with. Phiona’s family circumstances are typical African where crime and poverty go hand in hand. It is not easy to escape this vicious circle. It requires greatest courage and determination to beat out of the corrupt system and emerge a winner. Phiona makes her village proud as she reigns supreme as the Queen of Katwe, crowned the chess champion.

After I finished watching the picture, I asked myself if as a routine film buff I had had second thoughts beforehand, how film critics around the world would receive a picture filmed in Africa. It is unfair. Even a trained and educated mind like mine took a while to adjust.

Personally to me, Queen of Katwe proved to be cathartic … the experience has molded me. My cinema world has been so far limited to Hollywood, Bollywood and Tamil filmdom. The glitz and glamour of these fake film industries probably blinded me to bare essential truths.

However, I couldn’t help thinking how entire Africa is completely either christianized or islamized. The new missionaries are no more the Europeans. Now the conversion mafia are Africans themselves. The present day African native/tribal travesty is troubling. Strip them off their indigenousness , what is left of them.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: The Reader

Watched this rare love story in tv but happened to miss the title and opening scene that I managed to find in You Tube. It was from Berg (the hero)’s bath tub scene that I watched the picture in the idiot box. Catching up with the first couple of reels on internet, I was amazed to discover how our censor board continues to edit steamy scenes for us Indian viewers!!! One would think by 2018, things must be different!

Anyway, having watched over a hundred times the debut picture of Kate Winslet the Titanic (of which I never tire), nothing prepared me for her middle-aged mature looks in ‘The Reader.’ She looks her age. The second part of hero character is played by Ralph Fiennes. I like him from his ‘Maid in Manhattan’ with Jennifer Lopez, another Hollywood romance favourite of mine. Like Richard Gere, Fiennes seems to have compassion written in his eyes… How important cast selection is, is something I learned from his role. Why do directors pick on certain actors. Why not others. Ralph Fiennes, from two of his films i have watched, seems to have an answer.

Googled Kate Winslet and found her to be born 1975. Not too young.

Powerful and bold script but totally understandable. I don’t know how I missed this one all these days. (Obvious reason: i watch most Hollywood films at home, in tv, never in cinemas. Cinemas are reserved for watching local Tamil ‘masalas’ with unruly and non-stop whistling Chennai ‘machis’ hahaha) ‘The Reader’ looks like an Academy award winner. No memory of it but I could guess right away that this one was different and well made.

We speak of unconditional love, but when you come across one it totally bowls you over. Such a rare gem to find.

As for Hanna Schmitz played by Kate Winslet, her obsession with perfection is baffling. OCD, the obsessive compulsive disorder. Could it be that? It is easy to hold her in contempt if not for her honesty and forthrightness and the false pride that convicts her for life.

In spite of the gravity (literally) of the crime she is tried for, one can deeply empathize with Hanna-Kate. The bubbly Irish tap-dancing Titanic girl has come a long way. Ralph Fiennes’s Micheal Berg character is equally crafted with care. I fell in love with this man. His sensitivity to Hanna moved me to near tears. Respect for the man who wouldn’t judge Hanna. The way Berg reads his love to Hanna is poetry. How Hanna matches his imagination teaching herself to read is a love letter by itself. The proud woman leaves a proud woman.

The Jewish daughter refusing absolution is understandable.  May be here, we Hindus can take cue. May be this is the steely Jewish resolve.

The one who has played the junior Berg is perfect.

War movies have somehow been touchy : ‘The Schindler’s List’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’ .

Looking forward to watching this beauty  a second time. Felt like reading a good book. Few films leave you with such a lingering after taste. Melancholy can be sweet.