Monday, December 15, 2008

Tsukigami or The Haunted Samurai

I knew that I could count on some fun with a Japanese film whose title was The Haunted Samurai. Three years ago, when I was totally under the thrall of Western Media and had no access to anything but Hollywood or Bollywood or other Indian cinematic offerings, my expectations from Japanese film-making would have been sex and gore of the most perverted genre.

But visiting Malaysia opened to me the gates of an amazing audio visual perception of diverse cultures: I have since viewed films from Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, The Philippines, and even lately, one Greek film!

And although I have digested some violent Japanese films ( Boiling Point, for example), my basic journey of initiation into Nipponese cinema took the path of The Twilight Samurai, Train Man, Udon and so many others, to lead me to an entirely new perception of the Japanese psyche as delicate, tender, and value based. And this is what made me buy and view this incredible film.

Director Furuhata Yasuo and cinematographer Kimura Daisaku cast the cute young Tsumabuki Satoshi in the lead role for this wacky period film version of a novel by Asada Jiro "Tsukigami".

Bessho Hikoshiro is a struggling to survive in the caste system of the Bakumatsu era. Separated from his rich wife and son, he now lives with his good for nothing elder brother and wife. A noodle seller tells him that one of his friends, Enomoto, rose in life after praying at a shrine in Mukojima.

One night, a drunken Hikoshiro tumbles down off the road near a small neglected shrine and thinks he has found the one in Mukojima. He offers a prayer ...

Which is answered but alas! Not in quite the way he imagined as one after the other the God of Poverty Iseya, the God of Disease Kuzuryu, and the 1200-year-old God of Death , come to plague him.

The film shows us how he deals with and outwits them. It took me totally by surprise with its enchanting way of tackling the theme. The Rap style music is very foot tapping and way in which the titles roll at the end is delightful.

Death as the Grim Reaper we can live with but who can resist the form it takes in this film?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Arabikatha-a 2007 Indian Malayalam film

Few are the Malayalam films that I have seen and of those little remains that is memorable.

However, I have my cousin-in-laws to thank for sending over a bunch of films from Kerala.

These girls have given me such an amazing pile of movies that I literally wept buckets and am now a confirmed fan of Malayalam cinema.

Arabikatha tops my list for the moment.

Kerala is a very "Communist" State in India. And Indian Communism is very peculiar to India-an eccentric mix of art and literature, of Don Quixotish idealism. Most of the Indian Communists come from high caste families, are not too well off preferring to live off slogans and strikes than to do an honest days work to feed self or family.

Cuba Mukundan is just one such specimen. All he knows is party politics and that too only that of his little town. He is a simple man much loved by all who are acquainted with him. All?

Alas no. He has made his share of enemies in the course of his "protests". And a small bunch of people plot to throw a spoke in his works.

When his father is accused of embezzling money, it is up to him to go out into the real world to pay off the debt. And where do Malayalees go to earn some extra bucks?

Mukundan finds himself adrift in Dubai. Jobs elude. Crooked hearts abound.

Yet the timeless spirit of Indian brotherhood surges to the rescue and strangers with compassionate hearts shelter him.

The tale is entertaining and told with gentleness.

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to explore films from Kerala.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


When my son was a little boy, he was fond of books about insects and animals. These were mostly illustrated and informative. The little fellow called them "Knowledge Books". This almost-encyclopedia on Mental Health falls into this category and is both extensively and imaginatively illustrated as well as pretty exhaustively informative.

As wife to a film maker who focused on Science, I was prone to having numerous books on various subjects being inflicted on me. Drs. Arun and Mary Rukadikar's learned tome thus reminds me of one particular manual on health:
Where There Is No Doctor.

This book was designed to be a
"health care manual for health workers, clinicians, and others involved in primary health care delivery and health promotion programs around the world."
It had a lot of hand drawn pictures too. However, this effort of David Werner, Carol Thuman, Jane Maxwell, while equally bulky, will find it hard to compete with the thoroughness of the treatment given the Mental Health manual by its assiduous authors.

As Jacob K John's thorough review puts it,
"this book is aimed at patients and relatives, but should find itself on the shelf of any mental health professional, particularly the young ones who are fresh out of training and bristling with a theoretical construct of practice."

I also agree with him that
"it will indeed be a tribute to the authors if they (the authors) allow the book to be translated into different languages to benefit many more people."

Let us look at it this way. A psychiatrist is sadly a rare luxury for most around the world. In remote rural settings it is the GP who has to deal with a range of health issues in none of which he may be a specialist. One can easily see how this manual would provide yeoman assistance when a village GP in the developing world, for example, is confronted with psychiatric issues which may not warrant the expense to the patient or patient's family of a trip to the big city.

Sadly, although the urban milieu should ideally be composed of an informed population, media has never done psychiatry adequate justice and even today a depressed person's friends and family expect the patient to just "snap out of it". A visit to a psychiatrist is all too often equated with stop over at a spa. The easy availability of Drs. Arun and Mary Rukadikar's user's guide to mental problems would help literate people in distress or their families to process and pinpoint the problem and seek the right treatment.

It would also guide those under active treatment or their families and thus demystify the psychiatric process. Knowledge sets you free and living in this advanced age it is a shame that so many still do not have the luxury of making informed decisions from sheer lack of such a manual where it concerns mental disorders.

Its sole drawback might be its size and comprehensiveness in this user friendly day and age where people
a. do not read as much as they should for lack of time
b. prefer things to be short (the book is heavy to hold or carry around)
c. sweet (the tone is rather severe at times and we have all become rather used to TLC)

That said, all it now needs to fill the tragic vacuum in terms of mental health information for the layman is to find its way to a book shelf in every book store around the world.

Suffering as I am from depression, I can only thank Drs. Arun and Mary Rukadikar for this boon -I'm no longer at sea and can see my way to the Light.

An illustrated and easy guide to mental disorders for the mentally ill and their families

Arun Rukadikar, Mary Ponnaiya Rukadikar
Publisher: Miraj Psychiatric Centre, Dr. Gaikwuad Road, Miraj - 416410, Maharashtra, India
Pages: 472 pp; Price: Rs. 420

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Paintings by Indian Translators

Translation is an art but who knew that Indian translators Deependra Pandey and Anuj Goswami and his wife, Nidhi, interpret more than words.

I was left speechless when I discovered their paintings on Srujak.

Deependra R. Pandey's abstract mode draws inspiration from
"some kind of subconscious state of mind where he spreads the wings of his imagination whereupon his conscious state of mind throws something into it".

Anuj Goswami's name may bring a smile to the lips as it is a Sanskrit word for younger brother, while he is , in fact, the eldest! It was his wife, an artist herself, who
"introduced him to the world of colors and imagination."

In the words of the artist himself:
As per SANATANA, Vedic or Yogic culture this body is made of 5 elements - Prthivi (Earth), Jal (Water), Agni (Fire), Vaayu (Air) and Aakaash (Sky or Space). The 4 horizontal bands represent the color of Water, Earth, Air and Sky respectively from bottom to top. At the top left corner is the SUN, the Fire (energy) element not only for humans but also for the whole universe.
The hand represents MAN with KARMA (duties), also correlated with the 5 elements of the human body. And the Sun being the ultimate source in the sky for these Karmas is on top of all.
Now when mother NATURE had given all sources of life in its purest form then I (human) have to decide the KARMA, keeping all these 5 elements in my mind (in purest form).
The painting was an effort to express this philosophy with help of Colors on Paper.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Global Warming

It's a hot topic and one which makes some of us very hot under the collar. While a lot of us are warming up to the issue, others are staying cool under the heat.

China and India are being made to feel the heat as are many other countries which already have enough woes on their plate but those who are wielding the “Global Warming” cudgel over our heads do not seem to have enough irons in the fire. And the more exposure this so-called Apocalypse prediction now gets, the more we are apt to swallow it hook, line and sinker.

So where do we draw the line, read between the lines or at least find the bottom line?

Musings on Media says
The implication of the story that is presented by the media is that the people who live in tropics are responsible for it. These people who live in hot climes are stinky and therefore use body sprays. They want to drink cold water and keep their food from rotting and therefore use refrigerators. They use air-conditioners to keep themselves cool. And in the process they liberate what the media fondly calls CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons. It is these CFCs that are responsible for the ozone hole. In other words, these browns and blacks – they will ultimately take over the earth after killing off the white skinned people with skin cancer.

The Global Warming Myth? asks John Stossel and goes on to challenge the "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity".
MYTH No. 2: The Earth is warming because of us!
TRUTH: Maybe. The frantic media suggest it's all about us. But the IPCC only said it is likely that we have increased the warming.
Our climate has always undergone changes. Greenland was named Greenland because its coasts used to be very green. It's presumptuous to think humans' impact matters so much in comparison to the frightening geologic history of the earth. And who is to say that last year's temperature is the perfect optimum? Warmer may be better! More people die in cold waves than heat waves.

So, if we dig where media lays it on too thick we might do ourselves a greater favour than if we bury our heads like ostriches forced to watch a discovery travel and Living programme featuring Ostrich Pasta.

My take: Live simple- don’t let the media dictate your opinions nor your purchasing urges.

Most people in Asia, Africa and perhaps even the Middle East, have splendid road side markets where it is often the farmer himself or herself who sells the produce. So it is with many other goods and services in these parts of the world but some of us not only need to buy products that need to be flown to us from Denmark or France or God Knows Where but we need to step into the very skins of the people of those lands- we need to exclusively use “Whitening” cosmetics.

You can’t whitewash a falsehood for long and hopefully the consumers in Asia, Africa, and perhaps even the Middle East will let the scales fall from their eyes and awaken to the truth- All the doomsday predictions of what Global Warming will surely come to pass if all of us can only hope to live so long as we speak like Brad Pitt, or look like Angelina Jolie or drive cars and live in houses more suited to Germany or Italy than to our own regions.
Stay cool, dudes. The end of the world is not yet at hand and, for all you know, it will end in the words of Poet T.S. Eliot,
“Not with a bang but a whimper”

Monday, March 24, 2008

Still in Chains

While most countries have manged to shrug off the shackles of colonialism over the years, large parts of the world remain under the thumb and it looks like new ones are being added to the toll.

One wonders at a world where a "democracy" like the US and its "democratic" allies still maintain troops in Japan, the Philippines, South Kora and other places. Let us not even begin talking of the fact that peoples as a whole are entirely subjugated: the Red Indians, the original peoples of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to name a few.

Will it end in this century or will we continue to put up with this until we forget that we ever enjoyed another type of life?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Goodbye Bafana, Gandhi, My Father and Sione's Wedding

What do these three films have in common?

The first one which documents how Mandela became the most inspirational political figure of the modern world, poses the questions: Who is the prisoner? And who sets whom free?

The second centres on the stormy relationship between Gandhi and his eldest son.

Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela both used non-violent protests to liberate their countries-the first from the British and the second from Apartheid.

Another link between the two films is the fact that it is said that Nelson Mandela was deeply moved by Gandhi my Father.

And what about the last film?
Well, Sione's Wedding is the first Samoan New Zealanders.

So why do I put them together?

Well, I started surfing the net to find out more about Samoa and found that they managed to gain their freedom through non-violent protests!

In the early 1920s, the Western Samoans began a campaign known as the Mau ("Strongly held Opinion"), a non-violent popular movement to protest the mistreatment of the Samoan people by the New Zealand administration.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weird Subtitles from an Unknown Korean Film

The picture is not from the film but it should give you a premonition!
I'm going to give you a few treats:

"All canned not see clearly"

Isn't this sample subtitle an eye opener?

"I learn the thing of the society everywhere"

"Who ah?"

"be he"

The thing is that it probably gives you an idea of the structure of the source language.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Subtitiling humor-Part 1

Last night I finished watching this delightful Korean comedy and it reinforces my thoughts regarding subtitling.
I need a way to quote some examples and in the process I've downloaded things and don't know what to do with them!
The movie is full of puns which though conveyed in fairly good English yet lose the punch of the original play on words.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Over the past few years I have been exposed to a variety of subtitles.
In fact, before that, that is to say, living in India, I never gave subtitles much thought as one either watched things in Indian languages or in English. The ease of obtaining or viewing a CD or a DVD was also not yet in full swing there.

Here, in Malaysia, I realized that subtitling plays a greater role. Firstly, subtitles are extensively used on TV as the Malaysian population consists of the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians (mostly Tamil). Depending on the programme, you have the option of English, Chinese or Malay subtitles.

But, besides this, there is the easy availability of the DVD or CD version of films from most of the region (China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, etc) as well as a smaller selection from the European world.

My first serious look at subtitles was via French films borrowed from the Alliance Fran├žaise here at Kuala Lumpur. I’m bilingual (English/French) with the bias towards English. The subtitles were mostly “good”: they had not horrifying bloopers and the only comment I can make is that some were done by Native speakers of French and others by Native speakers of English.

The observation is that perfection sometimes kills. The flawless subtitling of the obviously Native speaker of English detracted from some of the flavoring and nuances of the French whereas the not so perfect subtitling by the Native speaker of French acted much in the way a French accent does. It actually enhanced the pleasure of the viewing.

Then came the Chinese movies viewed on Celestial Movies … That’s when the fun begins…Well, google “funny subtitles” and you have enough clones for the likes of The Best Bad English Subtitles from Hong Kong Movies. Some examples that spring to mind are the use of the word “fever” for “horny”. Yet here again the main satisfaction is the flavor- something was lost in the perfectly dubbed versions of Chinese films that I had seen on HBO or Star Movies. Some very vital cultural clues get swallowed up in the quest for perfection.

As the lust for viewing exotic films grew upon us, we progressed to pirated DVDs and here’s where the fun really got going. There was this version of the French film Taxi 4 –I have no idea how this marvelous gem of a sub-titler went about it. He or she merely used the sounds to weave the subtitles! An absolute gem.

But the end was nowhere in sight until we got this Japanese film and a whole bunch of others (Chinese, Korean…) recently. The subtitles are bizarre to say the least and must surely be the work of some robotic enterprise.

Hopefully I may find a way to capture some of these exquisite samples on my next blog entry!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Indian English

Goodness Gracious

While Indian English is sometimes the source of amusement, the fact remains that a certain number of Indians (given India’s population, this becomes a significant number) have little or no option when it comes to their “native” language or “mother” tongue. Again given the figures, a serious student would do better to consult the Dictionary Of Indian English featuring such terms as brinjal and wet grinder than being merely reassured that "Indian English is a recognized dialect of English, just like British Received Pronunciation (RP, or BBC English) or Australian English, or Standard American."

Perhaps this is or will no longer be the situation with the death of the last of those who lived under Colonial rule and the rise of Indian English. Be that as it may, Indian English still proves or is increasingly proving to be a thorn in the side-not only for those who seek to carve a new identity more in tune with geographical reality but also for all those who find that, while American/Canadian/ Australian or other “White” English is acceptable as a “marketable” tool, Indian English is an outrage. Such a thing is only permissible in terms of prizes for Indo-Anglican writings but somehow not to be tolerated as a “working” language. To quote some lines from what was once a famous war of words on some translator sides, the general Western attitude remains: "Again, let's face another truth: "Indian English" is not considered "standard English" by any accounts."

All that is, however, not going to be my focus here today. My desire is merely to gain world acceptance for a certain number of terms (particularly those to do with food stuffs).

And so I find the taste of a brinjal marred by any other name and cannot for the life of me bring my self to exorcise the yuck from yoghurt as I need my curds. An okra is definitely not going to help me make my favorite ladies fingers and I object to onions being called shallots at least in my part of the world.

And as for the dals, it’s a real tragedy when the best one can serve up is a plate of mushy lentils! While I do go ouch when I read some French translations on a packet of my favorite Haldiram offerings, I still maintain that all Dal Moth needs is some uniformity in spelling. To think that one can only settle for some sort of scientific term is like castrating our chillies! Pepper? That’s a hard round black dried condiment to me. And I’m the one who needs at least 6 or more of those green devils to meet my family’s daily culinary requirements.

So I hope I’ve stirred the sambhar up enough to dish up some spicy curry for thought.