Premam running to packed houses throughout Kerala and outside. Feeling so proud to be part of this wonderful movie. But then, this is the time success shouldn’t get into one’s head. What better way to be humbled and be grounded than be in company with people like Alex Uncle.
Dr.M.M Alex needs no introduction for the people in film industry. But for the sake of ‘New Gen’, let me try introducing him. Alex uncle has acted in more than 80 films, covering several languages. He has worked with legends like P. Padmarajan and Bharatan. His most memorable role is of “Babu “, the bus owner in Padmarajan’s cult movie “Thoovanathumbikal”. Remember the dialogue ” (ദേവി ഇലട്രിക്കൽസൊ? ദേവിക്ക് ഇലക്ട്രിസിറ്റിയോ?? ) and the epic bar scene where he throws up the empty beer bottle into the ceiling fan. When he was at his peak, Alex uncle left the films and the glamour attached to it.
Dr. M.M Alex made close to 250 documentaries, he was the first person to document the rituals at Sabarimala temple. He is the Director of Ancient Integrative Therapies and Vedik India Society. He is full of path breaking projects and relentlessly working towards realising them.
And when I am with Alex Uncle, I am firmly grounded myself and realise that there is so much to be achieved and have miles to go.
P.S: Alex uncle passed away in 23 June 2015. Just 2 days prior to his demise, I spent an entire day with him discussing about cinema, his writing and the book he wanted to write. The selfie was taken on 19 June 2015.
Here is a short interview did by Mathrubhumi channel
In 2010, when I was working with good friend Kiruba Shankar, I shared the idea of travelling through Malabar region and capture the football frenzy. He encouraged me to go ahead with the plan. The idea was to write a series of blogposts. Later in 2013, Kiruba conducted a “Book authoring retreat” at his lovely farm house Vaksana Farms.
Book Authoring Retreat!
Kiruba organises Book authoring retreats for wanna be authors. This is a 2 day intensive, fun filled programme organised at his farm in a village called Rettanai, 150 Kms from Chennai.
The highlight of the farm is there is no net connectivity, no TV and very feeble mobile connectivity. You have no other options but to interact with the people and animals around 😀
No Google so you are forced to think ( I enjoyed this part )
Kiruba encourages the participants to write down ( not type in the laptop or pad) , draw or sketch. The idea is to bring out the idea inside you. there will be interactive sessions with authors who are already published many books. Kiruna himself have authored close to 10 books.
Evenings are filled with games and fun. Food is homemade (another highlight) His family also helps him in this retreat.
Its a great place to unwind, to meet interesting people and more over to be close to the nature
I have heard that the farm is more greenish now. Eagerly waiting to visit the place again.
There i decided to make this as a book. Atlast in 2014, I met Kiruba with the book.
The name of the book is FIFA World Cup: Festival of Malabar! Here is the cover design!
FIFA WORLD CUP – THE FESTIVAL OF MALABAR was released by beloved uncle and famous novelist Sri. K L Mohana Varma in the presence of Sri. Dominic Presentation MLA. The function was held at the Parade Ground Fort Kochi. The event was part of “Shoot the rain” football tournament. Special thanks to cousin Sri. Ravi Varma, who organised the event.
Kindly leave a message if you want to buy the print version of the book.
The Kindle edition of the book can be purchased here
The never ending queues of Visa aspirants is a common sight if you happen to visit any of the US and UK consulates in India,. In this age of Globalisation also the desire to go and settle abroad is one among the top priorities of middle class Indian.
If the trend in 1970s and 1980s for the most preferred destination , especially for Malayalees was the middle east , in 1990s and 2000s US and UK took over that place. And now it is South East Asia. The trend continues, only destination changes.
This sights, in front of the various consulates reminds me of a movie that hit silver screens almost 26 years back, Akkare. Akkare was the first film of well know Malayalam movie director K N Sasidharan, a Gold medalist from Pune Film Institute and the story was based on P K Nandana Varma’s (my dad) short story on the same name.
The movie very aptly portrays a typical middle class mentality, of not satisfied with what you have and always craving for more, without realising whether you deserve it or not. We can still see the same characters, brilliantly played by Bharat Gopi, who played the lead role of a Thahasildar, who is not very happy about his job and life style and always compares himself with many Non Resident Keralites (NRK), Mohan Lal, Mammooty and Nedumdi Venu in our neighbourhood. This shows the plot and the movie Akkare is still relevant today. Akkare was selected to Indian Panorama and went on to be screened at various International film festivals.
The team behind Akkare :
Director : K N Sasidharan Story : P K Nandana Varma Screenplay : K N Sasidharan Dialogues : K N Sasidharan Music : M B Srinivasan Produced By : K N Sasidharan Genre : Comedy, Drama Cast : Gopi, Madhavi, Mammootty, Nedumudi Venu, Mohanlal, Rani Padmini, Srinivasan, Sriraman.
So many things have changed after the Akkare. Mohan Lal and Mammooty became superstars and ruled (still rule) the Mollywood. Sashidharan went on to take more movies and later moved to ad film making, P K Nandana Varma scripted and directed various documentaries and tele serials. Very recently I happened to meet Mohan Lal and his memories of the film was afresh.
It was one of my friends who told me about “Turtle Walks” a wonderful initiative that’s been happening on the coast of Chennai by a handful of volunteers.. The very idea of walking the entire night on the beach excited me. And on a Friday night around 9:30, myself along with my friend Samuel Eddy reached Elliot’s beach. Parked our vehicle, purchased some essentials like biscuits and water, to keep ourselves busy throughout the night. There was already a group waiting at the Elliot’s beach, waiting for their friends. We joined the group and left to Neelankarai, that starting point for Turtle Walk.
By the time we reached Neelankarai beach It was 11:30 P.M. There was already a huge group of some 30 odd people listening carefully to a small introductory talk by Arun, one of the volunteers of Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN). Arun was talking about various species of Turtles, about Olive Ridley turtles, the threats faced by these wonderful creatures, various conservation efforts taken up by various groups in different coastal areas of India. The turtle walks are one such effort to increase the chances of survival of the Olive Ridley sea turtle.
The Turtle walks route is a 10 km stretch starting from Neelankarai beach to Elliot’s beach. Now in order to increase the awareness of conservation of Olive Ridley turtles, Public are also taken along for the walk on Fridays and Saturdays. Our batch had almost 50, of all ages, from kids to retired people.
By around 12:15 A.M, we started off from Neelankarai beach. We had hardly walked for 10 minutes; we came across a dead Turtle. One of the volunteers told us that most of the turtles get stuck in the fishing nets and die. We continued the hunt for the nests and almost 20 minutes later found the Turtle trail, the path taken by turtles to come to the shore and lay eggs.
With the help of steel rod, the volunteers started searching for the exact position of the nest. With the rod they dig up the places and the soil above the nest would be loose when compared to other areas. These volunteers are trained and they make sure that no damage is done to any of the eggs. After few minutes of the searching they found the first nest.
The Turtle nest is in the shape of a pot — a narrow neck and a wider chamber below, almost 2 ft in depth. The volunteers, with utmost care removed the soil above the nest and start collecting the eggs.
By around 1:30 A.M, collected almost 150 Turtle eggs from the first nest, entire gang, especially the kids, were so excited. Everyone was busy to have a look at the eggs, to touch it and feel it. Others were eager to have a look at the nest. As I was walking insearch of more nests, I realized to my horror the amount of filth and garbage we humans have dumped along our beautiful beaches. On one side we saw so many dead fishes and all sorts of garbage, the beach side was bubbling with life as crab in various sizes were running here and there.
Around 2A.M we came across the second nest. Eggs were carefully taken out, the nest was measured and then covered up.. Once all the eggs are taken to the hatchery, volunteers dig up a nest that is more or less the same in dimensions as the original nest and carefully puts all the eggs inside. Second nest had around 45 eggs. We continued The Turtle walk. On the way, around 3A.M, we met some fishermen. They were getting ready to go for the catch, keeping huge water cans in the catamarans and they would be back by 8A.M, hopefully with a great catch.
By 4:40 A.M ‘The Turtle walk’ concluded at Elliot’s beach. The volunteers collected almost 400 eggs from 5 nests. We were almost exhausted but happy and thrilled to be part of this wonderful initiative. During the walk, I made acquaintance with so many people, participated in the collection of Turtle eggs and most important walked almost 10 kilometers, first time in my life. I would say a night well spent.
The entire Kuttanad is eagerly waiting, to see which Chundan will lift the coveted Nehru trophy; they have been waiting for this moment for last one year. Preparations are in full swing, all over you see practice races, people from all parts have started coming in, and gallery’s work is in progress, it is the race time, the World famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, held on the second Saturday of August every year. 58th Nehru Trophy Boat race is happening on 14th August 2010
Nehru Trophy race is the most competitive and popular of the boat races. On the day of this fiercely fought boat race, almost two lakh people gather to watch the event. For the people of each village in Kuttanad, a victory at this race for their village boat is a matter of great pride and something to be celebrated for months to come. It is also one of the main tourist attractions in Kerala.
The first boat race was organized in 1952 in honour of late Pandit Jawarlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India visit to Alappuzha. 8 Snake boats participated in the procession, Nadubhagom, Chambakkulam , ParthaSarathy, Kavalam, Valiya Diwanji, Napoleon, Nethaji and Gear Goss. The winner was Nadubhagam Chundan. Panditji donated a Silver Trophy, which was a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus. This trophy later came to be known as Nehru Trophy.
Boats’ own country
Kuttanandu is a place of boats. Different kinds of boats are seen always roaming over the waters of this part of the Kerala. The boats are differentiated based on their purpose, all home-made out of indigenous materials. All these boats are used for the race, ranging from to the smallest one which measures 18 feet and accommodates almost a dozen crew, to the biggest ones called snake boats. A lot of skill, labour, time and money go into the making of these boats which are objects of envy and wonder. The most popular varieties of Racing Boats are called Chundan, the magnificent Snake Boats, nearly a hundred feet long and with 150 rowers, Churulan, pleasure boats used by rich people in olden days Odi (Iruttukuthi), earlier used for smuggling and Parunthuvalan (Veppu), boats that were used to carry stores for the soldiers in olden times and each differs from the other in the shape of the helm and prow, and capacity to accommodate the crew.
The major attraction of the boat race is the competition of snake boats (chundan vallams), measuring over 100 feet in length, with a raised prow. Over 100 people are needed to race a snake boat. The Nedumbhagom snake boat which entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest rowing boat in the world was 135 feet in length. Now Vellankulangara snake boat hold that record, which is 140 feet long. The Chundan Vallam also holds the record as “the biggest water vessel used for sports purpose”.
Preparations for the big event begin several weeks in advance. Selection of the oarsmen is one of the crucial events. The best oarsmen are selected and trained under the supervision of the senior oarsmen. They take the vow to observe strict abstinence and celibacy till the race is over. The synchronized way of rowing needs long and devoted training. A single neglected act of a single oarsman can lose the race.
Each ward in the village and at time rich individuals takes responsibility of feeding the athletes on the days of the practice. Mass and sumptuous feasts are arranged for the athletes during these practice sessions. Boats are also treated with special care. The boats are made out of single tree trunks, usually Kadampu and Anjili (Artocarpus Hirsuta) The boat is smeared with sardine oil for smooth passage through water.
One of the reasons for the success of the event is its community participation. Most of the race boats belong to the joint ownership of the people of the locality. Single owner boats are often hired out by a group of people belonging to a particular locality for the purpose of participating in a boat race. Money required for the preparation and the race is collected from the locality itself. And boat race season is the occasion for stirring the warmth of friendliness and brotherhood in the locality
The festival begins with a colorful procession of various boats. They move in a formation down the 1.4 KM stretch of the lake and oarsmen singing couplets from “Kuchelavritham Vanchipattu” the classic Malayalam poem written by Ramapurathu Warrier to entertain King Marthanda Varma of Travancore in early 19th century during a boat journey from Vaikom to Thiruvananthapuram. The numerous beaded umbrellas are held aloft in each boat and various floats depicting Kerala’s rich cultural heritage follow. Various artists perform “kathakali” “theyyam” “panchavadyam” and “padayani”.
The race happens over a length of about 1370 meters that is divided into eight tracks, each of 30 meters width for carry out of the competition. Oarsmen singing Vanchipattu can be heard from a distance. The people of Kuttanad are keenly waiting for the D day, their Olympics on water.
How to reach Alappuzha?
Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Kochi International Airport are the nearest airport. Thiruvananthapuram to Alappuzha is 150 km and Kochi to Alappuzha is 75 km
KSRTC buses are plenty which are connecting all the major cities in Kerala. Private luxury coach buses are also available from destinations like Bangalore and Chennai
Alappuzha is well connected by train from different parts of India. Alappuzha railway station is within the city limits
The game of football is almost synonymous with the district of Malappuram, especially the small towns of Perinthalmanna, Mampad and Morayur. It is widely believed that the shorter and interesting version of football game, The Sevens football, originated in the town of Perinthalmanna. The Sevens football season begins in the month of December in the district and continues till the arrival of the monsoons. Malappuram district hosts nearly two-fifths of the Sevens football tournaments held across the State of Kerala. Other famous venues are Areekode, Kottakkal, and Tirurangadi.
So I started my hunt for football fans from Perinthalmanna in Malappuram District. I borrowed my brother-in-law’s bike for the trip since it gave me more flexibility and ease of movement, but the only catch – it was the month of June and heavy rains lashed as monsoon reached its peak in Kerala. By around 11.30 am, I reached Garima Sports and Fitness, one of the leading sports store in the region. Earlier in the day I had met Mr. Hassan, Secretary of Khadir Ali sports club. Khadir Ali club is one of the leading soccer clubs in the Malappuram region. The club conducts various 7’s football tournaments in and around the district. Mr. Hassan suggested I visit Garima stores to get a feel of various merchandising available during the World Cup season.
Football has always been a passion for Malayalees, much before the formation of the state of Kerala. In the 1930s, there were several Amateur Football clubs throughout Malabar in the princely states of Kochi and Travancore. And there were lots of famous players who were very skillful. Another interesting fact is that teams from far off places like Karachi and Bengal would come and play exhibition matches with the local clubs. Those were the early Football tournaments organized by the various clubs.
The region also takes pride in its very own football legends; Olympian Rahman, VP Sathyan and many. The Sait Nagjee All India Football Tournament, held since 1952, attracts large crowds from all over Kerala.
Yet another FIFA World Cup! Even though cricket dominates India’s life more than the national sport of hockey, football has a decent fan following in spite of India’s pathetic show in recent times. India’s FIFA ranking stands at 167 out of 200.Way back in October 2007, in the preliminary to the qualifying stage; we were knocked out by Lebanon! The game is hardly played in any of the states other than Kerala, West Bengal and Goa. Still millions of Indians are die hard football fans.
When it comes to Kerala, especially, the northern part known as Malabar, football is an inseparable part. There is no better time than the World Cup football season to understand how much the people of Malabar love the game. The preparation for the World Cup soccer celebration starts months before the actual event. The entire region is decorated with banners and flags of various World Cup football playing nations. Various clubs organize exhibition matches. There are road shows where fans of various soccer playing nations participate. Live shows of World Cup matches are another interesting aspect of the season. Each and every junction in Malabar area has a LCD TV where you will see groups of people huddled around the telly at the time of kick offs.
Travels through Malabar during a World Cup season
The Idea of travelling through Malabar came when my friend sent me pictures of flex banners dedicated to Argentina and Brazil. Fans of various soccer playing nations spend huge amounts of money for printing and mounting these banners here. The banners show the real passion of people in northern Kerala for football. Hence in order to get a first hand account of the celebrations, during the 2010 World Cup season, I decided to travel through the main Soccer-loving districts of Kerala viz., Palakkad, Malappuram and Kozhikode to celebrate the spirit of FIFA World Cup with diehard fans of the game, document interesting stories and capture their images. The idea was to pick up as much news related to World Cup football as I could, meet these soccer fans, locate World Cup-related special merchandising and understand in detail the activities of various local soccer clubs.