Wednesday, October 20, 2010

There's no business like show business!

The movie is called Anwar and it is the latest film from the new Super-Star Malayama Actor, Prithviraj. It was my first film in Malayalam and, as I went in with little to no expectation (admittedly leaning more to the little side), I came out pleasantly surprised. Having said this I have tried to add some humor to the situation and I would like to point out that these are only my experiences from one movie at one theater in one city.  For those reading this in Kerala and my American friends who enjoy watching Malayalam movies: SPOILER ALERT!!!

The plot line is quite simple: A young Muslim man’s family is killed in a bombing committed by a Muslim terrorist organization in a jewelry store here in India. In the aftermath many Muslim men are rounded up for questioning—including the young man who lost his family. He tells the India authorities he will do ANYTHING to get back at the men who did this. He is quickly trained in the arts of explosives, hand arms, martial arts, as well as a much fitter body, a strong sense of courage, military tactical prowess of a seasoned veteran and deadly instincts. He is placed in the prison to befriend the supposed perpetrator of the bombings. In prison he becomes one of the most trust men of the mastermind. Upon their release (which is never actually explained) he is quickly recruited by the mastermind to join his… terrorist group… (I guess?!?!). He joins the group and he gets into the inner circle. He ends up committing a number of acts of violence in order to be accepted by the mastermind. In the end he learns that it was in fact the mastermind who killed his parents. In the end they face each other at gunpoint and the mastermind commits suicide.


So needless to say it was good.

There were a number of reasons it was interesting.

First: The population of Kerala is split up into equal thirds when it comes to the major religions. There are 33% Christians, 33% Muslims, and 33% Hindus. Meaning that, give or take a few people, a third of the audience was probably deeply offended and angry.

Second: It is a movie about terrorism and they still managed to find reason for not one, but TWO song/dance numbers (Interestingly enough the hit Malayalam songs on the radio are usually the songs from the big movies of that season).

Third: There is ALWAYS an intermission. No matter what.

Fourth: Popcorn and tea is actually quite a delicious combination.

Fifth: You buy tickets according to where you want to sit. Usually, families and groups of girls sit up in the balcony (45 rupees) and the boys and young men sit in the floor seats (30 rupees).

Sixth: There is no message before the movie to silence your cellphones. Come to think of it… there wasn’t a message for “don’t talk on your phones during the movie” or “don’t carry on loud conversation to discuss the goings on in the movie”.

Seventh: Not even the cinema is immune to the frequent power-cuts in India. We stopped our movie twice. Once for 13 minutes (it was the second time and I happened to look at my clock… I wasn’t timing it or anything).

Eighth: Indian men are good whistlers.

Ninth: Seriously…. Popcorn and tea is actually good.

Some other interesting things to know about the Malayalam film industry.

The highest costing film was just over 5 million dollars which is equal to the cost of golden leaf toilet paper used by James Cameron while filming Avatar (the 230 million dollars used to make Avatar is more money than then each of the ten smallest economies make in a year and the worldwide box-office grossings of 2.7 billion are greater than the forty-six smallest national-- RIDICULOUS). The major Malayalam film stars are in as many as ELEVEN films a year. They like to use only one take for fight sequences (there are a lot in every movie… probably even romantic comedies…) and are infamously fast about how quickly they can set up and take down film sets. They also usually film in live settings… i.e. the actual road, or the campus of the college I am at (it was used in the 2006 hit comedy, Classmates).

Another nice thing about Malayalam films is they don’t use lead actors with chiseled abs, handsome features and uncanny debonair…. Oh no… they use THESE GUYS (and yes... these are two different men):



It leaves the chance for all of us to be movie stars!

And finally, in a state that democratically elects and is, in fact, run by the Communist Party the Malayalam Film industry is one of the finest examples of cut-throat unabashed Capitalism you are ever likely to see. If public reception to a film is bad the film will run no longer than a week. If a film is loved it will last in theatres for months. Theatres here have one screen not multiple smaller theatres. The auditoriums, which usually have a balcony and a floor level, seat over a thousand in a single screening. The film on offer is showed four times a day, everyday. You wait outside and with fifteen minutes to the start of the film a bell goes off and you are able to pay fory our tickets and shuffle through the turnstiles. Inside the theatre is already dark, the floor is stone, and the techno music is bumping (LOUD). If a film is not doing well and not enough people come to see it the cinema will simply stop showing it and put on one of the MANY other films out there.There's no business like show-business!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Play Ball

Asides from my other responsibilities here at the college I have taken on the position of Coach of the Softball and Baseball teams as requested by the players. It started when I would join in on the Cricket teams practices and eventually the captain of the Softball and Baseball teams asked if I would be their coach. I was excited to accept this role. We began practices roughly three weeks ago and towards the end we began practicing twice a day (once in the morning and once in the afternoon). Some of the boys had played on previous teams but the majority of the players were enjoying their first swing at the American bat and ball sports.

On Sunday night the captain called me and informed me that our first game of the league would be tomorrow. "We leave at 530", he said to me.
"OK... and we play one game tomorrow?" I asked.
"Yes" he says.
"One game and then we come home?"
"Ok. Well I will see you in the morning then."
"Yes. 530"

So I get up at 5 and take a bucket bath and prepare for the day. At 530 we leave and head to the bus station to take a bus an hour south to a town called Tiruvella. We arrive around 730, have breakfast and make it to the field by 815. As we are walking in I notice a lot of activity going on around the field. To my delight they are still measuring out the field and chalking it by hand. 10 AM rolls around and still no games have been played. Eventually, at around 130pm we play our first game-- winning 13-2. They play five inning games to keep play moving. I was very excited and the players had played extremely well and had even incorporated many of the things we had talked about leading up to the match. An all around sound showing. I was excited to head back home too because a long day out in the sun can be quite draining. To my surprise none of my players seemed to be  getting ready to leave. "Shall we go?" I asked.
"No. We still have at least one more game."
"Um.... I thought we had one game today?"
It turns out we did only have one game today... and then another one... and then another one. Three in total. And, whereas I had assumed "league" meant that we would be playing over the course of several weeks, we were in fact cramming the league into four long days. By the time I got home and had taken off my sandals I realized that I had the Chaco tan to end all Chaco tans. If anyone knows of a more ridiculous Chaco/sandal tan please do send pictures. Here is mine:

By the end of the four days (which ended up concluding on Saturday because of heavy rain delays on Tuesday and Wednesday) our team finished second out of eight. Something we are very proud of.

If anyone is involved in a Baseball or Softball league and would like to help out this team at all it would be greatly appreciated. The team is using very old/broken equipment. My outfielders don't use gloves (Two of them are left handed and you can't get left handed gloves in India and we only have six gloves good enough to be used in games leaving the outfielders to catch the softball/baseball as they would a cricket ball). I am not sure if sending equipment would be the best idea because of shipping costs and unreliability of the postal service here. If you are interested in helping out or know someone else who might be, please contact me via email at: