Thursday, May 27, 2010

Travelogue - Sri Lanka

Been on a rather unplanned trip to Sri Lanka and back - these are my observations: -

(warning: long post)

This was my first opportunity to use my rusty old passport. The emigration folks at Chennai airport put their seal on the 3rd or 4th page, very randomly covering more than one box, and the ink getting smudged. The Sri Lankan immigration authorities did a neat job sealing on the first blank box and doing it very neatly.

Traveling to Colombo from Chennai/Trivandrum is much cheaper than traveling to most other places in India, with the airfare being under 3000 rupees. Duration of flight is also under 90 minutes.

Looks wise, from the air, Sri Lanka looks very much like Kerala, my home state - in fact greener (this is a rare case of me accepting any other place as greener than Kerala). Climate wise, too it is theoretically very similar to Kerala, only that in recent times Kerala has been getting lesser and lesser rates.

When I landed in Colombo (airport being 35km away from the city) it was raining heavily, and the route to the city was flooded due to incessant rains. There were no options other than to take a bus to the city, which wikitravel had warned to be messy. (Since I didnt convert rupees to dollars, and since banks at the colombo airport refused to buy INR, my industry - ATMs - came to my rescue to get Sri Lankan rupees.) Communicating was tough, as very few in the bus spoke English.

The bus journey was not as uncomfortable as wikitravel made it sound like (maybe experience in MTC buses helped), though it took close to two hours to reach my hotel.

There were other interesting observations in Colombo city - though the city has a sizable number of vehicles, there were no traffic jams - unbelievably pleasant surprise was the fact that vehicles kept 3-4 feet distance from the vehicles in the front, stopped at pedestrian crossing, and no one honks irritably! Shops close early (most of them by 6-7pm) and they dont have any shutters - clear glass with lights inside to highlight their main products (I could never imagine such a situation in Kerala - it would have not have lasted 1 month, with either robber or hartal activists taking them down). Maybe the constant vigil of police/paramilitary on the roads help.

The beaches at Galle Face and along Galle Road are excellent. Food options are heavenly for non-vegetarians, and non veg fare starts right from the morning (very much like Kerala). For a keralite, food is pretty much the same - Appam (interesting Anglicized name - Hoppers), Idiyappam (String Hoppers), Paratha (similar to Kerala/Malabar Paratha, except, square in shape), Pittu (called Puttu in Kerala).

Also made a weekend trip to Kandy, but thats for another post.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Review: Vinai Thaandi Varuvaaya

I would never have thought that I would see a 'Simbu movie' in theatre. I did, finally, with Gautam Menon's latest offering, Vinai Thaandi Varuvaaya. Within 5 minutes of start, the movie plunged in to romance and a song, which I thought was too fast. Simbu fitted the role pretty much, and did proper acting, except for his 'open arms dance step' he kept doing throughout the movie.

Trisha also has done well, with apt looks for the role. She has a well sketched role (not the typical heroine roles you find in Tamil Cinema). The story keeps shifting between realistic and unrealistic. As with all movies, love in this movie is all about love at first sight made to feel as love by perseverance (which could very well have been an infatuation) and based on mere looks and no knowledge of personality. The script has been very realistic from a man's point of view - when he decides to fight back her brother (later tells her not to expect him to get beaten just because the guy at the other end is her brother) and also when he tells her that they can't merely be "just friends" when he dreams of making love to her.

The dialogues have been written well, including the ones that are left unsaid (Eg - when Simbu drops Trisha on his bike and asks why she keeps a physical distance with him on the bike, when he has kissed her in the train - as if if he touches her then.... [leaves the remaining unsaid]). The role played by the cameraman, Ganesan adds light comic relief in sync with the movie (unlike having a separate comedy track like Vadivelu).

The locales are good, especially Alappuzha. The cinematographer has made the places look more beautiful than they really are.

Songs and background music by A R Rahman is excellent, only that there are far too many songs and the choreography repetitive. You could replace any song with any of the other songs and never feel a difference in the flow - all songs having similar dance steps and foreign locales.

Overall, the movie has a different feel compared to regular Tamil movies. Hats off to Gautam Menon in making Simbu act properly. I did feel that Simbu was imitating Kamal Hassan when he was acting emotional scenes - the tone of his voice and body language was very similar to Kamal's.

The twist at the climax has also been handled well, which makes this movie stand out from the rest.