Story of a lost journalist

May 27, 2012

My first celebrity interview – Anjali Menon

Filed under: Journalism — Cris @ 15:15

My first celebrity interview was in December 2008 – Anjali Menon. It was also my first film fest – well, the first I see. Seeing Manjadikkuru at Kalabhavan back then, I remember running down in my red and white salwar – I remember that cause it matched with her title – little red seeds. I saw Prithvi Raj there, swarmed as usual by a number of fans. I dug out Anjali Menon from the crowd and asked for an interview. The next day I wore my best clothes (well at the time I considered a gypsy red skirt my best) and went, feeling all inexperienced and nervous. I did not have a recorder (still don’t) and I was too scared to note down points when she talked. So I had to write it from memory! But Anjali was an absolute dear :-).

And now as I read it, I can remember vivid details like the floor of her Vazhuthacaud office being washed and fearing if I’d slip and embarrass myself.  I had sent the interview to Saraswathy Nagarajan of Metro Plus who I consider my first journalism guru. Who let me write on the paper before anyone else. (This interview was for another site. )

She said: “The question why she didnt make Vicky a girl is a good one.” I was on cloud 9. I know now this is a really naive first attempt, but it is still mine. Finding this nowhere on the net, I feel free to put it here again, when the film has finally released. Wonder if Anjali remembers this.

The interview

I walked into Little Films India Pvt Ltd and Anjali Menon was already there. She is a debutant director having done a Malayalam movie Manjadikuru which was screened at the 13th international film festival of Kerala. Manjadikuru tells a beautiful story and what makes it special and dear are the people who tell it – children.

I start.
“You are an entirely new face, both to the movie-goers and the general public. How would you like to introduce yourself to the people of Kerala?”

Anjali smiles before she answers.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about myself, I’d rather talk about my movie. And I hope to be known through my movie.”

She is full of excitement and life when talking about her new venture, Manjadikuru. She describes what it meant for children living outside to visit their homeland for vacations. She was a Gulf kid herself and has a thousand things to say about her short vacations to Kerala.
“I have grown up in a number of places. But when someone asks me where I am from, I have my answer all ready. I am from Kerala”

And you find glimpses of herself in the child Vicky who plays the central character and narrator in her movie.
“Yes it’s a lot from my personal life. The experiences I have had and felt when I used to come down.”

But the story was born entirely in her imagination.
“I got this fiction bug somewhere along the line and just had to do a feature film”.

So how did the whole idea come to her? Was she always keen on movies?
“I was actually planning to join the business our family was doing but then I
got interested in dance and music and movies”. She has gone on to do her mass
communication and film school studies thereafter.

And then I ask the unavoidable question. “Did being a woman bring any hurdles in this journey?”
She smiles. “That question has to be there right? Let me ask you, how is it being a woman reporter? How do you feel?”
I was taken aback. “Why, just as usual as anyone else”
“Exactly” she made her point. “Its really about perception. I may say I feel quite at ease as a woman director, but someone else may not feel that way.” There have been instances, she said, when her being a woman had made people ask questions that doubted her ability to do a movie all by herself.

How did she feel about these things? “Are you a feminist?” I ask.
“No, no I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I don’t want to say that I should be as good as a man in this or that. We are pretty good the way we are and I really enjoy being a woman”

But I press on. “Yes but do you have the freedom to do things the way you want?”
“Yes, I would say so. That’s the way I have been brought up. Mind you, ours is a traditional family in every way and my parents were skeptical when I expressed my desire to enter the film world. But then they let me be. I am quite privileged that way. I haven’t been told ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’”

She goes on. “And women play a big part in bringing up the future generation. She raises her kids, she teaches them values so she is responsible in what kind of an individual they grow up to be.”
Anjali adds thoughtfully “A woman has to be sensitive to everything around her.”

But she agrees that a kind of support was crucial. “That’s the way it works in our cultural setup. As a woman we may have a set of things to take care of. And you don’t want to give up that either. Its really great to actually take on both roles, not giving up either.”

“And if there was someone who says ‘no she is a woman I won’t listen to her?’”
“I would rather avoid having to work with such people, if that’s the attitude they have!”

But the people she worked with, the entire crew was as excited about the movie as she was. They all were eager to be part of the movie as soon as they read the script. And such veteran actors at that – Thilakan, Kavyoor Ponnamma, Jagathy Sreekumar, Urvashi, Murali and so many more.
“That was a list I chose at the very beginning, and it miraculously almost worked out just the way I have wanted it.”

Has she felt the movie went a little unnoticed? “No not at all. Infact for the screening, the Cinema was house full and people were actually sitting on the floor when the seats were filled. I was told that it does not usually happen much for Malayalam movies at the IFFK. Cause you can watch it even otherwise”

She asks me if I watched the movie. Yes I did. “And what did you feel about it?”
I go on to say how brilliant it was. But what I really wanted to appreciate was that she did not use any dubbing artists, she let all the actors speak for themselves. “How come you did that?” I ask.
“Cause that makes it real. It was not all that easy. There were the kids who were not professionally trained in any way. The only way was to put them in their characters and ask them to do it.”

And her ways worked fine. The characters were as real as the people you might see in your life or dig out from your memories. And in this case, Anjali had dug out a lot from her memories. “So why didn’t you make Vicky a girl?” I ask.
“Well no one has asked me that before. But I think it’s because it was really important that Roja was a girl. And Vicky was the coil around her. Their emotions and feelings reflect upon each other.”

She proceeds to talk knowledgeably and passionately about the movie and I think “She is born to be a moviemaker”

But Anjali is modest “This movie is not an Anjali Menon movie – its everybody’s movie. Everyone had a part to play in it. It’s a joint venture”

And if the movie failed?
“Then I am the one who should get the blame. Yes they were all there, but they were working towards reaching the vision I had”

I ask her hopefully “Would you continue in this role?”
“Why not? I am really enjoying myself”, she answers cheerfully

“And what would like to hear about your movie from the people who watch it?”
“Their honest opinion of course. But I should hope that it touches them, that they are able to carry home something from the movie.”

I have a lot more to ask. But the young director was busy and I am thankful she gave so much of her time to me.

More details about the movie and its making is there in her blog http://

May 24, 2012

Short Story: 10-year-old Thoughts

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 15:58

I want to stop the pages of my notebook from fluttering wildly in the wind. I want to move my hands away from the burning rays of the afternoon sun. I don’t. I watch the moving pages with the same inaction I look at the light on my hands. Light had to be a good thing, I think carelessly. Why does it have to burn?

The little girl and her mother sitting next to me are quiet. The child rests her head on her mother’s shoulders, indifferent to the same scorching sun and its tan on all of her little body. She had the window seat. But like all children she got tired of whatever excited her five minutes ago to peep out and is back to rest on her mom’s lap. The mom looks blankly ahead, the kind of look that said she is not thinking of anything at all. I wonder how she managed to keep her white Sari from wrinkling everywhere.

She gets a phone call and the blankness disappears from her common face. She speaks to someone in an everyday language. Another day of her life, that’s all this is. Yet she treated it importantly I am sure, planning the minute everyday details well in advance. Maybe she laid out the Sari and blouse on the previous night. Her child’s clothes too she must have chosen and ironed with care. A planned mother, mothering. Her munthani is now touching my fluttering pages, the way Sam’s sleeves would sometimes tangle with my stuff. Sam had always worn clothes much too big for his slender body. He hoped to hide his littleness in large blue shirts.

I haven’t seen Sam for ten years. Since the day he ran away from home. The day he yelled at dad and eloped with his classmate. He was 21 and without a care for tomorrow. Someone told us he got married. I was 11 then. But I was still sour at him. Not because he ran away. But for not calling me to run with him.

He never spoke of girls to me. I would keep snooping around for clues. I was sure he had a girlfriend. Suddenly his extra large shirts had disappeared and in place of them came well-chosen T Shirts with funky writings on them. Mom gave him hell when he appeared one day with an F-word line from a new movie. He smelled of different perfumes. The walking bus-taking brother of mine suddenly wanted a bike and jacket and sunglasses. I was right about the girl, just boys were better at not leaving clues behind. He had no diary I could find from under a bed. No letters stacked deep inside a desk. He never talked in whispers on the phone or write text messages. But he went missing for long hours after college I knew were not spent in the company of his boy-gang. Finally without a warning he announced he was marrying his classmate Veena. Dad and mom thought he was joking. Soon there were yells and protests and door slams and concerned relatives coming to bring peace. Nothing worked. He disappeared the same night into the darkness outside leaving a note with one word ‘Gone’. I felt betrayed. He left me out of everything. Why?

The bus brake woke me up from 10-year-old thoughts. The woman stood up, and took the sleeping child in her arms. She whisked past me, her Sari gently brushing my face and I smelled different perfumes. When the bus left, I wondered.

I missed however in the rear view mirror, the image of an impatient man, now fitting into the size 44 blue shirts that were too big for him once. A man who frowned at the woman, establishing a 10-year-old marriage on the curves of his face. The woman acknowledged their relation by ignoring him and climbing on to his bike without a word. The child clung on, slightly disturbed by the movement. Sam still had no diary. But if he had one, he would definitely have written a name in every few pages. Mine.


Filed under: Daily Rot,Diary — Cris @ 01:14

I had seen enough of the instructions. I didn’t look up for that. I looked up to see the gorgeous flight attendant who was demonstrating it. Then I think it’d be good to be an airhostess. You can fly to all places and work with these gorgeous fellows (darn it shortens to GF!). But then flying everyday might mean more risks of being in an air crash. Hmm but then again it might mean being able to use one of those yellow parachutes, like the ones you see in cartoons. Sometimes Jerry would float down holding an umbrella! I let these thoughts drown my dukams – means sangadams – means vishamams – darn I cant think of an English equivalent. Let’s do with miseries.

It’s been rejection season for me, for a long time. I think it starts with TFI rejection last year. Then compere-rejection. Then – there were more I am sure (sentimental tragedy music, someone!) – and now visa. Ye that little stamp on that little passport. Not my little passport though. That came back with me – unstamped, unvisa-ed.

I had no dreams of the USA. Well yea I did include it in my world tour which will happen for my global trip for novel promotion which will happen as soon as my novel is published and everyone fights for more copies. But that USA was just three letters on a green globe, the nights and days of which I have been through with Ted and Barney or Jessie and Michelle or Joey and Chandler… well you get the picture – with sitcom fellas. After an initial indifference to the idea of a family visit to bro’s in Ohio, I began to entertain the idea, step by step, day by day. I began to visualize sitting in my 4-yr-old nephew’s room with the toys we saw on the webcam every Saturday. I thought how grandma and grandson will play in real, when two hours of computer chat had them running entire tours of the country. I thought of running into Ted Mosby in a book store and giggling like an idiot – usual for him, usual for me – unusual together. But when the bespectacled Indian behind the counter asked me two questions – where do I work and what did I study – and drew a red line on my application, the thoughts began to tremble. When he returned my passport and said sorry, they were still trembling, refusing to fall down entirely.

This was not my visa cancelled. This was a summer of love and happiness that six people dreamed of, broken by a ‘Sorry’. Dad and Mom could go. But they wouldn’t. Grandson will have to wait a year or more to see his Saturday playmate. And my bro and Chech, who have been planning this so much in detail, so much ahead, calling day and night, and pushing a lazy sis like me to get things ready…

This is why I demand there should be no borders, no countries. All of the world should be just one place. Let’s call it, emm, well let’s continue calling it The World. Maybe we can allow passports for outer space, to other planets and all you know. Till we know they are friendly out there perhaps.

May 21, 2012


Filed under: Personal — Cris @ 18:53

Friendship should be an easy game to play. You shouldn’t have to be careful about what you say or not. You shouldn’t have to be afraid to be your careless indifferent and sometimes totally intolerable self. That’s why seeing Rosily after four long years was so easy. It didn’t matter I had to take a train to Alappuzha at 6am or come back shaking in a throwy KSRTC for four hours. Cause Rosily was going to be Rosily even if I had missed her wedding, even if I hadn’t called her for months, even if I forgot the name of her husband!

She was there at that Kuttanad doorstep as if she had spent all her life there. This tiny girl who sat near me as a 16-year-old, her long plaits dangling on the navy blue uniform skirt, her wise eyes probing much deeper into the lessons others frowned at and I yawned at. The girl I knew was going heights even as we teased her Thrissur ‘chirri’ and squeaky protests. We wrote letters between Surat and Trivandrum at an age kids learnt of stamps and inlands in history lessons.

We had decided together never to get married. I’d change my mind sometimes but she stuck to her word until another marriage-hater came to her life. Together the BARCers decided to experience the other side of life. “Like my dad said, you have to know the difficulties in life to appreciate it,” Rosily told me happily, playing with her one-year-old Selin and patting her newborn Jerome. I still couldn’t believe my friend has become a mother of two. She was still so Rosily. So genuine. So happily admitting her realities with a pure heart I seldom see. “Her articles are nice and crisp (about me to her husband). I like it. But I got bored reading her blog.” I had to laugh. Her husband (whose name I still don’t know!) was another Rosily (yes she has become an adjective now, my favorite too). He would gladly take little Selin and ‘Babba’ her for hours. Selin Babba walks unsteadily all across the house, always stopping to exchange gaga-gugus with the strange visitor in the house. Jerome opened his little eyes to smile at the guest and go back to sleep.

Walking out of the open house was as easy as coming in. There were no formalities, no stay-a-little-longers. It was perfect. I walked through the roadless paths outside, inviting attention from the women who washed and cooked outside their houses that stood along dirty brown streams and countless green trees. I walked till I found a road. But the water never stopped flowing alongside. I so wanted to bend and catch some drops when I came to Punnamada Lake. But I pretended to be another grave visitor who watched the lake and the Nehru Pavilion, and was interested in boating for hours on stretch. I managed to not throw my eyeballs out when the friendly boatman named his price. 13000 for a houseboat which I wanted to enter. I had to do with staring ahead at the distant ends of the water which I imagined was really just a straight black line like the one I drew in my notebooks.

May 10, 2012

Coorg and Bangalore and No Goa

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cris @ 22:15

Thursday morning, I woke up dreaming Goa. One word that had me fascinated ever since second grade when I mugged up state names and capitals. The fascination back then was for a different reason – you had to remember only three letters. But year after year when cousins talked about vacationing there, when friends brought back happy beach photos, when I saw three hairless guys Dil Chahta Hai-ing… Goa was rushing past Singapore, London, and Japan (for some reason I like saying Japan every time I use travel)… Goa was on top of the places I just had to see.

So when Saturday morning I woke up in a cold homestay room in Madikeri, I was not exactly psyched. I was still mourning the drenched Goa plans. I wouldn’t acknowledge the quiet excitement shaping in my eyes every time it saw the trivialities that made a new place new. I wouldn’t cheer up when my hands would reach out of the car window to the hilly stretches of Coorg and pretend to catch a cup of coolness and pour it on my cheeks like water drops from a tap. But by the time we reached Abbey Falls I had to leave behind all pretence. A public enemy of the sun, Miss Cris, stood right beneath the giant yellow ball, smiling at the gushing wetness slipping from rock to rock and sneaking into the pools below. “Are you meditating?” her friends teased.

Got lost, away from the tribe, finding self in a lonely path at the Nisargam point, that led to the banks of Kaveri. A place becomes special when it is least trodden by others. Kind of makes it your own little place. You can pretend you discovered it, well, for the day.

There was the Coorg Fort with only an outdoor stretch, an unappealing museum and a few old caves. But like all century-old places, it thrilled me to hide inside the thin long caves and peek through the high wall-holes, imagining I am an 18th century princess searching forbidden love and life. Kings of Coorg stepped into the heights of a place called Raja’s seat to watch the sun rise and set, and think about the village girl they pretended to not see. In between the fort and the seat stood the golden temple with a giant gold-plated idol of the Buddha. I think all idols should be gigantic.

There was a Coorg wedding on our way to the waterfall. I saw men in black suits with swords hanging from their belt and women in Kodagu style saris. There was also the faint sound of Kodagu music. Badly wanted to slip in unnoticed and watch the alien customs. My tribe members however were not interested. Oh well, next time. I mean, what next time?! Next time is Goa! Nothing else! Not even Wayanad, which has recently made a huge leap into the must-see list. No, it has to be Goa. Spelled Go-Goa!

That would have been a nice conclusion but I just have to write a bit about Bangalore. That was my starting and ending point. On day 4 of my sojourn, I took a lone trip on the Bangalore roads. I know I started from the forum in Koramangala after meeting long-time epal Rosh. But I have no idea where I walked to. Somewhere along, I found a place to sit and jot down this:

“Somebody’s turned the lights dimmer. Up in the sky I mean. I love this moment – the one before it begins to rain. There’s a comforting bit of breeze that touches you like a lullaby. It’s like being rocked in a cradle. I have no idea where I am now. It looks like a bus stop. But no bus has stopped here so far. And no people wait here. So maybe, it’s just a green shed for people who walk by to come sit and write on their notebooks. So far, Bangalore seems same as Trivandrum. Except there is a lot more people, shops and vehicles. But there are men and women and kids walking about, unmindful of all this noise. There are moms and daughters shopping – moms bargaining, daughters looking longingly at a piece of cloth. I had to play both roles – the longing daughter and the mother who warns there’s no money. There are not-so-nice-looking men looking at nice-looking women (which in this case is quite subjective). There are little children fighting for the same little toy laughing as they do. Oh ye, B’lore is pretty much the same. I reckon so is the rest of the world. It just depends on what you see when you look at it.”

May 9, 2012

Girly books, writing and rail waste

Filed under: My Musing Moments — Cris @ 14:54

When scrolling through book shelves in the local library and second hand book shelves, I sneak in a ‘girly’ book when no one is looking. I don’t quite like the term chicklit. I prefer girly. And I don’t mean just any book written by a girl about a girl. In fact I consider Chetan Bhagat books girly. Anything circling around the life of young people, the things they do, the feelings they feel and the messes they make. It’s easy reading and easy timepass. Perfect for a train journey unless you’ve dropped your head outside the windows, in long and green paddy fields or deep and dirty lakes, wondering how green, green is and how deep, deep is.

Most of the time I hate these girly books that I read. I know it is a perfect waste of time and I don’t even enjoy it. But it’s easy like I say and that I like. Those one-stretch stuff. This time, I actually enjoyed reading Ruchita Misra’s Ineligible Bachelors. It was witty. And I like wit. You cant hope for literary value, but hey if it makes me write, then it is literary enough for me. Honestly, I was much better yesterday, composing poetry (yes, me and poetry!) in the train, frowning at the lady sitting opposite me for crunching a plastic bottle and throwing it right outside the window – right into the depths of those deep waters I was talking about – which explains the ’dirty’ part of it. The poem was not on her. I forget the lines entirely now. I can assure it was no good. But I wouldn’t be thinking ‘lines’ if I weren’t reading.

Two things happened. One, I wanted to write, right then. Two, I wanted to talk with the railway authorities to put messages on top of every window asking not to throw waste out. There is a bin at the two ends of every compartment. It was only a 2-minute walk! I always think of purifying these impure souls out of their foul littering habits. Only once I got to say it. It was a Tamilian I think sitting next to me. He asked if I could move so he could throw his used cup out. I said “please give it to me I will throw it at the bin when I leave”. He agreed and I kept it in the sack in front. I saw him later add more to the sack. After sometime, he asked me where the bin was, took all the waste and went to drop it there. I felt so happy, so proud I was ready to hug him for his acceptance. Most of the times, people take offense when you make these suggestions, like you are teaching them something they didn’t know. I want to tell them it is perfectly okay that they didn’t think of it till now – none of us do, that’s what we see all around us. But once it strikes us, we could change habits. I just want to help with the striking.

Well this is not exactly the writing I had in mind when I said I wanted to write. It was much prettier, well in my head it was. Someone should seriously consider making a headpad – that would type all the lines in your head. And then again, maybe not all.

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