Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Living with 'My Boss'

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Linta talks about life with her film director-husband Jeethu Joseph

Photo of Linta by Mithun Vinod 

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, in 2000, film director Jeethu Joseph and his wife Linta went to visit a cousin of Jeethu's, Geeta Joy, in Thiruvananthapuram. On a table in the living room there was a brochure of a film, 'Karunam', directed by Jayaraj. “When I saw the brochure, I asked Geeta how she had got it, since she has no links with the film industry,” says Linta. Geeta told her that they have a house in Thrissur, which Jayaraj had taken on rent.

Linta told Geeta that her husband was keen to join films. So, Geeta arranged for the introductions. “At their initial meeting, Jayaraj Sir asked whether we had any other means of income and Jeethu said he had,” says Linta. “That was the only way to survive, since it is a field where you don't get success immediately.”

Jeethu began working with Jayaraj as an assistant. At that time, Jayaraj was working on a Hindi film, 'Beebatsa' which starred Atul Kulkarni and Seema Biswas. Jeethu also worked on 'Thilakkam', (2003). During this time, Jeethu wrote his first script, and a producer, Mahe, agreed to make the film. Called 'Detective', it was released in 2007, with Suresh Gopi playing a double role. Jeethu also made 'Mummy and Me' (2010), which did well, as well as the recent hit, 'My Boss'.

Responding to the charges that 'My Boss' is a lift from the Hollywood movie, 'The Proposal', Linta says, “The initial inspiration may have come from that film, but it is not a frame-to-frame copy. Jeethu has put in a lot of effort in the script. The characterisation and the cultural scenarios are completely different. Basically, you can get inspired from anywhere.”

Incidentally, it took some time for Linta to be inspired by Jeethu. In 1994, Jeethu saw Linta at the St. Sebastian's church in their home town of Elanji, and was smitten. During Linta's final-year English literature course at the Dev Matha College in Kuravilangad, Jeethu proposed to her. “I told him it is an infatuation,” says Linta. “But he said it was much more than that. Apparently, he had pointed me out to his parents and sister Mini. I said, 'Let me finish my studies. Please do not talk or try to speak to me on the phone.'”

But Jeethu got permission from Linta's parents to talk to her on the phone. They agreed because Jeethu was the son of VV Joseph, who was the MLA from Muvattupuzha, and the Josephs were a prominent family of the area. “Jeethu would talk about films and told me he wanted to be a director,” says Linta. “I asked whether he could find another profession, since I knew the risks of a career in the film industry.”

Anyway, the couple tied the knot on June 1, 1996. And Jeethu became a businessman and set up a shopping complex in Elanji. “But as time went on, I realised that in his heart of hearts he always wanted to be a director,” she says. And, thankfully, fate played a role in fulfilling Jeethu's dreams.

As the couple is basking in the success of 'My Boss', Linta says her husband consults her frequently, when he is working on a script. “The moment he gets the thread of an idea, he will tell me,” says Linta. “When he writes one page of dialogue, he will read out to me. Then he will ask me how he should move forward. Jeethu is always asking for suggestions, but it is not necessary that he will follow what I say.”

In fact, because she came to know the characters of ‘My Boss’ so well, Linta helped in selecting the costumes. “Jeethu encouraged me to be a costume designer,” she says. “For [actress] Mamta's western-style dresses, I got the trousers, a Diana suit, formal shirts, and even a swimsuit from the malls in Bangalore. The rest we got from Ernakulam.”

It has been an exciting partnership with Jeethu, but there are ups and down. “He has a lot of positive energy,” she says. “On the other hand, I have a tendency to look at life in a negative way. His one drawback is that he gets angry very fast. But within minutes he cools down and asks for forgiveness. But I find it difficult to forget what Jeethu tells me when he is angry.”

And there are practical difficulties also. She has to oversee the children's education [daughters Catherine, 15, and Katina 11], pay the household bills, and do all the banking work. Nevertheless, it is a close and intense partnership, and, as Linta says, with a smile, “At the end of the day, Jeethu is 'My Boss' and I like that.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feisty, smart and sexy

That's Mamta Mohandas for you. She's revelling in her recent superhit, 'My Boss', a far cry from the dark days of mid-2010, when she had Hodgkins Lymphoma

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the Malayalam film, 'My Boss', actress Mamta Mohandas, plays Priya S. Nair, the boss of a software firm in Mumbai. One morning, she strides into her office with long, bold steps. All the employees, both men and women, start quaking. Soon, people are called in, including superstar Dileep, who plays her assistant. She flings a bunch of papers at his face, telling him that he is no good. Others too receive a tongue-lashing. She swivels on her chair, picks up her phone, and talks to a client in impeccable English. After all, Priya, even though she is a Malayali, grew up in Australia, and is a confident and smart career woman.

I was attracted to the role of the bossy Priya Nair because in real life I am like that,” says Mamta. “I am perhaps the only actress in the Malayalam film industry who could have carried off this role. Although this sounds arrogant, it is true.”

Like Priya, Mamta grew up in Bahrain. And like her character, she is feisty, intelligent, sexy, and charming. So charming that cobras become docile and meek in front of her.

This happened during a shoot in a slushy paddy field in Palakkad in July this year. A comely-looking Mamata, in a white sleeveless top and brown shorts, was playing football with Dileep and a few others in a scene from 'My Boss'. 

“It was so slushy, that I would run for two minutes and have barely moved an inch,” she says. The shoot lasted for three hours, and when the director Jeethu Joseph shouted, “Pack up time,” the crew noticed a long cobra lying in the water. “I guess, it realised that I was a female cobra and decided not to do anything,” says Mamta, with a laugh.

The actress is in a happy mood because 'My Boss' has become a super-hit. “One reason for its success could be that the dialogues, situations, and clothing are fresh and contemporary,” she says. “Priya, my character, does have a heart, although in the first half it would seem as if she is a heartless bitch in the way that she treats her employees, always shouting and screaming.”

There was a time when Mamta was also screaming, but it was in shock and sadness. On June 21, 2010, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. Fortunately, for her, it was at stage 2 B. “When I initially heard the news, I just cried and cried,” she says, “I asked God, 'Why me?' Because I am an only child, my mother was going mad with sorrow.”

But the good news for Mamta was when the doctors said it was curable. She began chemotherapy at the Apollo Speciality Hospital at Chennai and it lasted for seven months. “Today my cancer is not in complete remission,” she says. So, Mamta has to do check-ups often. But, at the same time, she has been having an intense film career. 

Some of the films in which she has made a mark, includes the 'Big B' with Mammooty, 'Passenger', with Sreenivasan, and Sathyan Anthikad's 'Kadha Thurannu'. She also acted in the Telugu superhit, 'Yamadonga' as well as in the Tamil film, 'Guru En Aalu'.

Her attitude has changed because of her cancer. “Life is precious,” says Mamta. “It makes you realise that relationships, time, the air you breathe, the sun that you see in the morning, all things in nature, everything has to be deeply appreciated. The illness has ignited a hunger for life and to act my best.”   

(The Sunday Magazine, New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

“Processed food is harmful for the body”

Says N. Venkita Krishnan Potty, a proponent of nature foods

By Shevlin Sebastian

Sugar is not a food,” says N. Venkita Krishnan Potty, the director of the Kottayam-based Amrutham – Nature Health Foundation. “Sugar does not have starch, protein, vitamins, or minerals. We remove all the nutrients from the sugarcane, like calcium, sulphur and nitrates, and only the sweet part is extracted. Thereafter, through a chemical process it is bleached white. Essentially, sugar is a chemical which is harmful for the body. ”

Robert H. Lustig, of the Centre for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote an article, ‘The Toxic Truth about Sugar’ in ‘Nature’ magazine: “A growing body of research argues that excessive sugar consumption affects human health. Sugar causes hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and damage to the liver. Sugar is also addictive, like tobacco and alcohol, and it acts on the brain to encourage subsequent intake. There are now numerous studies examining the dependence-producing properties of sugar in humans.”

The same could be said about processed foods. A quick definition of processed foods: “They are foods which have been altered from their natural state – to ensure a longer shelf life and ease of transportation,” says US-based dietician Carolyn Brown. To achieve this, more than 3000 chemicals are added to processed food.

Many processed foods contain trans-fatty acids (TFA), a dangerous type of fat. “TFAs tend to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good),” says Tim Lang, professor of food policy at the City University, London. “These changes increase the risk of heart disease."

Some of the processed foods, which are harmful, include oats, cornflakes, biscuits, cheese, jam, butter, cakes, chips, fried items, all health and soft drinks, soyabean-based products, and even ice-creams.

Milk is also harmful. “Apart from human beings, no animal drinks the milk of others,” says Venkita. “If milk is not digested, it calcifies in the stomach. We drink milk from plastic packets, which are a few days old. How can it benefit us?”

Even processed oil is not good. “We don't eat cottonseed, but we have no problems of using oil from it,” says Venkita. “The same is the case with sunflower and soyabean.” Soyabean had been used as cow fodder. When the production of soyabeans became too much, the manufacturers looked for a way to have a commercial outlet. “Hence, oil was made,” says Venkita. “But this contains preservatives which are harmful for the body.”

So what is good food? “Anything that is given by nature,” says Venkita. “These include fruits, vegetables, cereals, sprouts and coconuts. It can be steam cooked, using a low quantity of water and oil. By this, you can preserve the nutritional value of the food you are eating.”

The naturapath suggests having meals only three times a day. But one meal should consist of fruits only. “That is because fruits, which consists of vitamins and minerals, cleanses the body,” he says. “Along with fruits, you can take nuts. The best and the most easily available is coconuts. Everything natural should be eaten as it is.”

The immediate benefit of having natural food is an increase in mental satisfaction and physical health. “If you are taking any tablets, you will stop taking it within two weeks,” says Venikta. He remembers a sixty-year old woman who had attended a seminar on natural food, which he had organised. Two weeks later, she called Venkita, and told him that her husband, who was angry all the time, had turned into a mild person. “His anger has gone down,” says Venkita. “This has been the result of the changes in his diet. He used to eat a lot of meat, fish, and chicken, but once he started eating fruits and vegetables, his mind also turned positive.”

Venkita also turned positive about natural food when he attended a talk in 1986 by Nature Cure proponent, CRR Varma (1925-99). Known as Varmaji, CRR was a disciple of Acharya S. Swaminathan, a well-known nature cure expert. Varmaji left his job in Delhi and returned to Kerala and dedicated his life to propagating the benefits of eating natural food. He travelled throughout Kerala conducting talks, seminars and camps. “He was my guru,” says Venkita. “I have decided to follow his path.” Now, Venkita, with his Amrutham Nature Health Foundation, is giving seminars on 'Lifestyle Diseases and Healthy Food Habits' in different parts of Kerala. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“I enjoy watching his films”

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Sheeja talks about life with film director-husband Mecartin

Photo of Sheeja by Mithun Vinod 

By Shevlin Sebastian

At midnight on November 11, 2007, Sheeja Mecartin began getting calls on her mobile. Since she did not recognise the number, she did not pick it up. But the calls persisted. So, she finally took the call. It turned out to be Ravi, a production manager of director Mecartin, who was calling from Ottapallam, where the shoot of the film, ‘Romeo’ was taking place. “He said that my husband had some variations in his ECG,” says Sheeja. At that time, Sheeja was staying with her brother Shaijan on Vypeen Island. So, along with Shaijan and her daughter, Serene, they set out for Ottapallam.

“I was mentally blank, and scared,” says Sheeja. What Ravi did not tell Sheeja was that Mecartion had a heart attack. His co-director Rafi rushed him to a local hospital. There, Mecartin had a stroke of luck. Sometime earlier, another patient had a heart attack. Medicines had been specifically bought to treat the victim. Some of the medicines were not used. The doctor present, Shanmugham, used it on Mecartin, and saved his life.

So when Sheeja entered the hospital room, at 4 a.m., Mecartin was awake. “You have come,” he said, looking relieved. “I am feeling sleepy. So I will take a nap.”

That was one of the most nervous moments in Sheeja’s marriage. She met Mecartin for the first time when the director came to see her in an official meeting for an arranged marriage at her home on Vypeen Island. “He asked me about my studies,” says Sheeja. At that time she was doing her post-graduate diploma in computer applications. “Mecartin told me that when shooting takes place he would be away from home for a few weeks. I liked the way he spoke. He was friendly and kind. I felt that I could get along with him, even though there is more than a 10 year gap.” The marriage took place on June 16, 1996.

Interestingly, Sheeja had not heard about Mecartin earlier. “I was not crazy about films,” she says. “I would see the occasional film and knew the names of the heroes and heroines.”

Today, when Mecartin is not shooting, they have a fixed schedule. The director gets up at 6 a.m., does exercises at home, including lifting dumbbells, in their apartment at Kaloor, Kochi. Thereafter, he goes for a walk around the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. “At 7.30 a.m. I take Serene [a Class 10 student] to the bus stop,” says Sheeja. “Thereafter, Mecartin and I come back home together.”

Breakfast is at 8.30 a.m. Following that, Mecartin goes to another flat in the building where he is writing a script for a new film. He returns at 1 p.m., has lunch, and after half an hour, goes back to the apartment. He writes till 5 p.m. “The rest of the time he spends with us,” says Sheeja. “Mostly, we talk a lot as my husband does not enjoy watching TV too much.” The family goes to bed at 9.30 p.m.

But Sheeja says her husband is going through a tough time. He had been writing a script, with Innocent as the main character, but that had to be put on hold, since the veteran actor is ill. “All the actors, whom he would visualise, as playing roles in his films, have passed away,” Sheeja. They include Thilakan, Cochin Haneefa, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, N.F. Varghese, Rajan P. Dev and Murali. And Jagathy Sreekumar is yet to recover from his accident.

“He told me that this was Nature’s way of getting rid of the old, and bringing in the new,” says Sheeja. But Sheeja still likes to watch the old films of Mecartin. “The other day my daughter and I saw ‘Thenkasipattanam’ on CD,” says Sheeja. “She had not seen it earlier. When it was released [in 2000] Serene was a baby. Both of us liked it. Serene laughed a lot. However, my favourite is ‘Punjabi House’ and ‘Hello’.”

Incidentally, Sheeja only sees Mecartin’s films after it is released. “My husband usually takes me for the second show on the first day,” she says. “If I don’t like a film, like ‘Love in Singapore’ or ‘Chinatown’, I tell him frankly.”  

And she is also frank about the difficulties of living with a creative person. “When shooting is going on, Mecartin becomes tense,” says Sheeja. “He will be thinking about the movie all the time. Suppose you ask something, he would not have heard what you said. His mind is elsewhere. I cannot feel connected to him. In the earlier years, I would feel unhappy. Now I have got used to it.”

Of course, like most Malayali wives, Sheeja has adjusted to the situation. “It is only adjustment that makes a marriage work,” she says. “Both spouses are different because they come from two families. You should not force the other to behave in a certain way. Spouses should have the freedom to be their own person. Then the marriage will work.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

Monday, November 19, 2012

In honour of Jalaram Bapa

A brand-new structure in Kochi houses the idol of one of the most revered saints of Gujarat

Photo: Manu R. Mavelil 

By Shevlin Sebastian

On a sunny Friday morning, a woman and a six-year-old boy steps into the Jalaram Bapa Dham in Mattancherry, Kochi, and strikes the bell, hanging from the ceiling. Thereafter, they stand with folded hands in front of a marble statue of Bapa. He is wearing a red pagadi, a white muslin kurta, bright red dhoti, and holding a wooden stick in his hand. The other idols, made from marble obtained from Makrana in Rajasthan, include Lord Ganesha, Rama, Hanuman, Krishna and Radha. The canopy is inlaid with 24 carat gold. Meanwhile, the pujari, Bharat Bhai Pandiya, offers prasadam to the mother and child. And they step out.

Welcome to the newest religious structure in Kochi. The three-storey building, 9000 sq. ft. in area, is gleaming white and is already an eye-catcher in the area. “It took us three years to make it,” says Mahesh M. Joshi, Vice President of the Shri Jalaram Dham Trust. “We started with an initial corpus of just Rs 5 lakh and then the money just flowed in, all thanks to the blessings of Bapa.”

Jalaram Bapa is one of the most prominent saints of Gujarat. “There are Vaishnavs, Jains, Marwaris, Brahmins and Patels who are his ardent devotees,” says Mahesh. “Undoubtedly, he is not known among non-Gujaratis.”

Bapa was born in Virpur, Rajkot district, in 1799. From his teens, he was engaged in serving pilgrims and sadhus. A devotee of Lord Rama, Bapa showed no interest in his father's business.

At the age of sixteen, Jalaram married Virbai. Soon after, he became an ascetic. Virbai was
also a pious woman and remained steadfast beside her husband. At 18, Bapa became a devotee of Bhoja Bhagat of Fatehpur. With the blessings of his guru, Bapa started 'Sadavrat', a feeding center where sadhus as well as the needy can have food at any time.

Soon, miracles began taking place. A tailor, Haraji, was suffering from severe stomach ache. Jalaram prayed to God and Haraji was cured. He fell at Jalaram's feet and addressed him as Bapa. Since then he began to be known as Jalaram Bapa. As a result, his fame spread far and wide, and people came to him with all sorts of problems. Both Hindus and Muslims became his disciples.

The main shrine of Bapa is located at Virpur. This is actually the house where Bapa lived. It contains his belongings, as well as the idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. The singular attraction is the portrait of Bapa.

In Virpur, thousands of people are provided meals every day. “We will be adopting the same practice soon,” says Viren Kalyanji Khona, the treasurer of the Shri Jalaram Dham Trust. “But, since 1999, we have been giving food packets to 400 needy families, irrespective of caste, creed, or religion, on every Thursday, which is regarded as Guru's Day. We also give buttermilk, during the summer, to thirsty wayfarers. On an average, 500 glasses are consumed every day.”

Even for the devotees in Kochi, Bapa does miracles. When there is a request to Bapa to fulfill a wish, the pujari will take out a red satin cloth bag, placed in front of Bapa in a small wooden case. This contains wheat grains. This is placed against the two eyes of the devotee. Thereafter, the bag is placed near the mouth of Bapa and the pujari will say, “This person has a desire, please fulfill it.”

And, inevitably, the promises are fulfilled. “People give donations in gratitude,” says Viren. “I had a dream of living in my own house and Bapa has fulfilled it.”

Says Mahesh, “We are so happy that, finally, we have a dham where we can worship our Guru, even though we live so far away from Gujarat.” 

(The New Indian Express Sunday Magazine, South India and Delhi)  

Kerala’s Swiss Miss

The Kochi-based designer, Vanessa Meister, married to a Malayali, makes clothes and accessories which she sells in her native Switzerland  

By Shevlin Sebastian

In March, 2011, Swiss designer Vanessa Meister went with her friend, Natalie Bissig, to buy fabrics from Jaipur. They went to several shops and saw numerous bolts of fabrics. 

"The shop-keepers kept asking me what I wanted," says Vanessa. "I was thinking, ‘What kind of colours do I need? What will work in Switzerland?’ I was trying to calculate the price in Swiss francs. In between people asked me whether I wanted tea or coffee. A few of them knew French, so I had to be careful about what I was talking with Natalie because they could follow what we were saying. If we told each other we liked something, they might increase the price. There were so many things happening at the same time."  

In the end, after some frantic bargaining, the duo bought several fabrics, but when they reached their hotel, in the evening, they collapsed on the bed, numb and exhausted.

"That's India for you -- overwhelming and intense," says Vanessa, with a smile. "Yet I love the country because it is so different from Switzerland."  

And she elaborates on the reason why. "In India I experienced a huge sense of freedom," says Vanessa. "Unlike in Switzerland where everything is so regulated, in India, there is more space to do things, without being restricted by some kind of law. But it has its downsides. Sometimes, it can lead to a chaotic situation."

Nevertheless, Vanessa fell in love with India, which she first visited in 2005. When she returned to Switzerland, she wanted to learn Hindi. So, she looked around for somebody suitable, and met Krishnan Varma, a scion of the Cochin Royal Family. Krishnan was doing his masters in architecture from the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.  

Even though Krishnan did not know Hindi, they fell in love, and got married in January, 2010. The couple moved to London and Vanessa got a chance to work under the famed designer Vivienne Westwood. “I saw how clothes were developed from the first toile [a mock-up model of a garment] till it was exhibited on the runway during the Paris Fashion Week,” she says. “It was a valuable learning experience.”  

Earlier, Vanessa had also done a three-year course at the University of Art and Design in Lausanne.

However, in October, 2010, Krishnan and Vanessa relocated to Tripunithura, a suburb of Kochi, where they reside in a 200-year-old bungalow that belongs to Krishnan's family.

On the first floor, at the enclosed balcony on one side, Vanessa has her design studio and production unit. On the wooden beams above her studio, her design label, ‘Trumpet by Meister’ has been stencilled in black letters.

Ever since then she has brought out five collections of men and women’s clothes, accessories and bags. But, perhaps, her most interesting is the Goonda collection (Spring/summer 2012). This was inspired by the 2010 Malayalam super-hit film, ‘Best Actor’ that she saw, and had superstar Mammooty in the lead.     

Mammooty and all the other actors were wearing mundus (dhotis) and shirts in very bright colours,” says Vanessa. “The way they combined fabrics and colours was amazing. Although I did not understand the dialogues, I was struck by how colourful the clothes were.” So, in the Goonda collection, there are bright orange blouses matched with blue shorts, green tops with pink shorts, and a pink shirt with striped black trousers.

Since Vanessa sells all her clothes in Switzerland, she did not want to make the clothes too loud. “Most people in Switzerland wear black and grey,” she says. “I have learnt to adjust the level of colour in my clothes. At the most, the Swiss would prefer one loud colour, while the rest should be muted.”

Creatively, Vanessa does not have to look far for inspiration. The moment she steps out of the house, she is assailed by colours. “The greenery of Kerala, apart from the vibrant colours of the salwar kameezes and the sarees, is very exciting,” she says. “Even the labourers wear bright blue shirts and maroon mundus.”

But dealing with the labour has not been that easy. In her case, this meant the local tailors. “The male Malayali has plenty of ego,” says Vanessa. “Being a woman and a foreigner, the tailors found it difficult to accept orders from me. If I point out an error, they will get offended and say, ‘You don't appreciate my work’. There is a lack of professionalism. Criticism is taken personally.”

But at the same time, some of the tailors are very skilled and are able to solve problems in a creative manner. “So there is a mix of good and bad,” says Vanessa.

Meanwhile, one of her good moments happened a few weeks ago. Whenever she interacted with the local people, they would call her ‘madama’ (a tongue-in-cheek term for a foreign woman). “But when I went to the market the other day, the shopkeepers began calling me ‘chechi’ (sister),” says Vanessa. “So I am finally being accepted here. I feel very happy.” 

(The New Indian Express Sunday Magazine, South India and Delhi) 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The School of Hard Knocks

The play, 'Hard Places', focuses on the border that divides communities and the conflicts within families

By Shevlin Sebastian

The first sight of the stage at the JT Pac, Kochi, brings a surprise. At one side, the floor is littered with garbage: paint buckets, wires, plastic packets, cardboard boxes, a white plastic lunch tray, and wires hanging from the ceiling. On the other other side there is a wooden partition that seems to indicate a hotel room with a door and window.

Actor Rajit Kapur, in the introduction, says, “Though the play [Hard Places] is not political in nature, or specifically located anywhere, the genesis lies in an extraordinary place called the Shouting Valley in the occupied Golan Heights. Cutting across the Valley is a border imposed by Israel, which abruptly cut apart families and separated them forever” (see box).
In walks Aziz (played by Nabil Stuart), pulling a suitcase, and Saira (Shernaz Patel) with a satchel. They have come to rescue their mother (Jasmina Daniel).

There are a lot of conversations between brother and sister about their early life with their parents, the problems and conflicts. Sometimes, when things get heated up, and what is more inflammatory than a bruised childhood feeling, expletives are used. Occasionally, an unforgettable line comes up, like this one by Saira: “In wars everybody gets screwed except the ones doing the screwing up.”

Later, there are exchanges with the mother, shouting across the border, through megaphones, about relatives, boyfriends, careers and life. And at the climax, mother and daughter walk towards each other, in no-man's land, and, not unexpectedly, they are shot dead by the guards. At this point, a part of the garbage is lifted up on a wire. And Saira, near the end of the play, places her face in a bucket of water for an inordinately long time. This, clearly, was a play for cerebral minds. But for most people, they, probably, could not understand the symbolism of Saira's act.   

'Hard Places' is a hard play. It is not easy to figure out the meaning. The dialogues are intense and serious, with very few laughs in between. This is a collaboration between Rage Foundation (India), Tinderbox and Mercury Theatre Company (UK). But the Kochi audience had a mixed reaction to it. Says businessman Sooraj Menon, “I did not understand most of it, since it was quite intellectual. But I am sure there was a section that enjoyed it.”

Says Dr. K. Anand: “Unlike the usual plays seen at the JT Pac, which is mostly comedy, this play was a bit dark, with unnecessary profanities. Some of the dialogues were over the top, and high-brow. The ending was abrupt, and, given the hype, the play was a bit of a let down.”  

The Shouting Hill

The Six Day War in 1967 pitted Israel against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. During the conflict, Israel annexed a part of the Golan Heights in Syria. In this area is the Shouting Hill. It is situated near the Druze village of Majdal Shams. As a result, the Druze community members have been separated. Visits are allowed rarely between the families on both sides of the ceasefire line. Since there is no telecommunications or mail, families come to the border and speak to their relatives by shouting through megaphones.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In the Garden of Malabar

German artist, Wilhelm Bronner, has focused on the various plants of the book, ‘Hortus Malabaricus’ (Garden of Malabar) in an exhibition at the David Hall, Fort Kochi 

Photo: Wilhelm Bronner by Mithun Vinod  

By Shevlin Sebastian

Ten months ago, German artist Wilhelm Bronner was wandering around the David Hall in Fort Kochi when he came across a pamphlet which described the history of the place. It was the residence of the Dutch governor Hendrik Van Rheede in the 17th century.

Van Rheede asked the Ayurveda physician Itty Achudhan about how the local people were so healthy. Because in Europe at that time, there was a lot of diseases and the standard of hygiene was poor. Achudhan replied that the people used the plants, not only for treatment of illnesses, but also in their diet. Van Rheede got very interested.

With the help of Achudhan, and several collaborators, over a period of 25 years, Reede was able to document most of the plants. “The collaboration between the coloniser and the colonised on an equal footing was illuminating,” says Wilhelm. “The end result was something extraordinary.”

The end result, indeed, was extraordinary. Reede brought out the 12 volume, ‘Hortus Malabaricus’ (Garden of Malabar), which is considered a classic, from 1678-93. In the book, there are 742 plants. “Artistically, I was immediately attracted to the beauty, preciseness and the delicateness of the drawings, apart from the scientific aspect,” says Wilhelm.

So, Wilhelm took photos of all the drawings and decided to reproduce them in his own creative way. So he sketched ten plants each from the 12 books to make 120 drawings. “The original is black ink on white paper, but I did the opposite: white ink on coloured wooden plates,” he says. 

Wilhelm also etched the names of the plants in the four languages of the Hortus: Latin, Konkani, Arabic and Malayalam. And amazingly, he met people who can still read the old languages.

On the cover of the first book is a drawing of a sensuous lady gardener reclining on the steps of a Greek temple. In front of her are several workers. “I have made 12 different watercolour copies of the gardener, to represent the 12 books,” says Wilhelm. Apart from that, Wilhelm has made two large paintings, which shows the face of Van Reede, with a solemn look on his face, a chef holding a ladle in one hand and a pizza in the other, and tourists wandering about, with glasses in their hand. At the bottom is a building with a red-tiled roof. “This is my impression of the modern-day David Hall,” says Wilhelm.

The painting has faces and noses having an elongated look, which was made world famous by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. “I have been influenced by many painters,” says Wilhelm. “These include Picasso, William Turner and Gustav Klimt.”

William's style is focused on drawing people in different ways. Sometimes, it is realistic, at other times it is abstract, but always it is interesting (check out Wilhelm’s web site: www.wilhelm-bronner.de). But after working on the Hortus, flowers and plants have appeared in a series of five paintings called, 'Faces and Plants'. 

“This is the direct impact of the Hortus on me,” says Wilhelm. “I must add that India also has had a wonderful impact.”

This is Wilhelm’s fourth trip to the country and his third to Kochi. He first came in 1978. “Kochi has changed a lot,” he says. “This is a new world. There is so much of change. I would not judge whether it is good or bad. But thanks to technology, the communication system is so good now.”

And Wilhelm is attracted by the friendliness, spirituality and the sensuality of the Malayalis, in particular, and Indians, in general. “It is a land of such vibrant colours,” he says. “And people look stunning in whatever dress they wear.”

Incidentally, Wilhelm had his reasons to hold the exhibition at David Hall. “The work on the Hortus took place in this building,” he says. “Secondly, I wanted it to be an eye-opener to the Malayalis, about such an important and valuable book, which very few people seem to know of.”

Wilhelm has exhibited all over the world, in places as varied as Chile, USA, Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Czech Republic, and Australia. And he plans to remain focussed on the Hortus. “I am going to do research on how the plants look in the original,” says Wilhelm. “And I also plan to study the medicinal benefits of each plant.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“Shafi radiates positive energy”

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Shamilia talks about life with her film-director husband

Photo: By Mithun Vinod

By Shevlin Sebastian

A couple of years ago, one of director Shafi's friends, Vijay Raghavan (name changed) committed suicide. The family was shattered, especially the eight-year-old son. He kept quiet for a few weeks, and was sad all the time. In desperation, his mother, Prema, took him to see Shafi’s 'Marykkundoru Kunjaadu', in order to revive his spirit. After the show, Shafi received a call. “My son laughed for the first time,” said Prema. “Thank you very much.”

At her home in Kaloor, Kochi, Shafi's wife, Shamila, says, “I felt so proud of my husband that day. He makes films for the family and to bring back joy to a boy, who had lost his father, was a great feeling for me.”

Shamila met Shafi for the first time when the director's family moved next door, at Ellamakara. After a while, a marriage proposal came. “I had no problems that Shafi was in the film industry,” she says. “Because my own father, MA Majeed, was a music director and worked with PJ Antony [a notable stage actor, director and playwright].”

They tied the knot on December 3, 1998. “I was only 23 when I got married,” she says. “So Shafi, who is seven years older to me, was able to mould me. He taught me not to be over-sensitive all the time. Sometimes, it is necessary to be bold and courageous. He guided me on how to look after the family, and to talk to people.”

But what Shamila likes the most is her husband's positive energy. “If I have a problem, he will explain to me the negative and positive points and try to solve them,” she says.

But it took Shamila some time to adjust to Shafi's unusual life. The moment shooting is over, Shafi comes home and goes straight to his home theatre on the first floor. “He will see three movies, and most of them are in English,” she says. “He goes to sleep at 3 a.m. Sometimes, I sit and watch with him. If there is no shooting he will get up at 10.30 a.m. Then he spends an hour reading the newspapers. Thereafter, after breakfast, he will go back to his room. Then he will come down for lunch and evening tea.”

But Shamila says that creative people are different from others. “They are always in a different world,” she says. “When you talk to them, sometimes, it takes them quite a while to come back to earth and understand what you are saying. But nowadays I can know just by looking at him whether he is deeply thinking about something. Then I will not disturb him.”

But Shafi compensates, at other times. When he is free, he will take his wife and daughters, Aleema, 13, and Salma, 11, for outings and films. And when he is shooting, he will ask his family to spend the weekend at the sets. “For the latest film, '101 Weddings', we have spent time at Kulamaavu,” says Shamila. “We go on Friday evening and return on Sunday night, so that our children's classes are not disturbed.”

Thanks to the uncertainties of the box office, a director's life is full of tension. So what happens when a film does not do well, which, though, is rare for Shafi? “He feels low for a few days,” says Shamila. “The same is the case with me. Then he will say, 'Whatever has happened, has happened. It is time to move forward.'”

And, not surprisingly, when the film is a hit, Shafi is ecstatic. “He will call from the hall during the noon show itself,” says Shamila. “I remember how happy he sounded when he called me, from Kavitha theatre, to say that 'Chocolate' was a hit. If he does not call during the noon show, then I know the film has not done well.”

To ensure that a film does well, Shamila also offers suggestions. Usually, she sees a preview of the films he makes, but without the music being added on. “Sometimes, I am certain the film will be a hit,” she says. “At other times I point out certain weak spots. And he does make some changes. I did feel that 'Venicele Vyaapari', which is set in a different period, might not do well.”

Asked on how to have a marriage that does well, Shamila says, “There should be mutual understanding. Speak honestly about the good and the bad things about each other. Then find a solution for it. It is also better to put your ego aside."

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

Twist In The Tale

Author Ashok Kallarackal’s book, ‘Curiosity kills the KatHa!’, has absorbing short stories, with a surprise ending

By Shevlin Sebastian 

Author Ashok Kallarakkal was standing in a queue at a railway station in Bangalore to get a ticket to go to Kerala. A man, Thankappan, standing in front of him, says, “Look how bad the times are. Everybody is corrupt. Look at the porter standing there. He is the most corrupt person I have ever seen. If you pay him Rs 100, he will get you a ticket, while we all stand and struggle in this queue.”

However, when the conversation continued, Ashok realised that the porter, who was charging only Rs 25 a week ago, had increased his rate to Rs 100. That was Thankappan’s grouse. “It was the kind of hypocrisy people have,” he says.

Ashok felt this could be a good theme for a short story. “We all have paid porters like that and condemn people who do such things,” he says. Ashok wrote this tale called ‘Tipping Point for Wrongdoing’, and a couple of other stories. “I circulated it among my friends, and they asked me to write more and get it published,” he says. He followed their advice and wrote a total of nine stories. Then he began sending the manuscript to publishing houses. 

Most said no, as he was a first-time writer, but finally one said yes: the Mumbai-based Leadstart Publishing. And his book called, ‘Curiosity Killed the KatHa!’ was published in August.

Asked about the unusual title, he says, “There was a book by [best-selling author] Jeffrey Archer called ‘A Twist in the Tale’, which has a surprise at the end of every story. In my book, also, there is a twist at the end,” says Ashok. “That is why I decided to give this title.” 

The book is available online on Flipkart, Home Shop, Indiatimes and Amazon, and now at the Leadstart stall at the DC International Book Fair at Kochi.

These are well-written stories and the twists and turns grips the reader. Some of the topics include a cross-cultural love marriage, the price manipulations of a bonsai garden owner, and a prospective reporter giving answers in a job interview.

However, the most remarkable was a story during the Independence struggle. There is a place in Karnataka called Vidurashwatha, which is regarded as the Jalianwala Bagh of the south [A public meeting, held at Jalianwala Bagh, in Amritsar on April 13, 1919, led to the killing of 4000 people by the British].

Ashok travels with his family to this place, around 120 kms from Bangalore, and the interaction between the author, the guide and an old man who witnessed the massacre, forms the crux of the story.

And thanks to the comments on various sites, Ashok has been able to analyse the type of readership he has garnered. “They are mostly in the age-group of 25-45, who are working people, and have travelled a lot,” he says. “For them, my book is easy to pick up, at Rs 125, before a journey, and easy to throw away at the end.”

Ashok seems an unlikely candidate to be a writer. He passed out of the Regional Engineering College in Kozhikode, worked in the IT industry in Bangalore, then stepped aside, to get a doctorate in international business at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, before he returned to work.

In total, he has spent 20 years in the IT industry, working in places like Chennai and Chicago, but all along he harboured a passion of being a writer. During his schooldays, he published a few stories in regional science magazines like ‘Shastra Keralam’.

I realised that if I waited till my retirement to be a writer, it would be too late,” he says. So, Ashok quit his job and has become a full-time writer six months ago. “I know it is a risk, but I do earn something by being a part-time consultant two days a week,” says Ashok, who is married to homemaker Sandhya, and has an eight-year-old daughter, Anajli.

Ashok is at present doing the research to write a novel about the IT industry. “Publishers say it is easier to sell novels than short stories,” he says.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

An intense quest for the truth

Film artist Amar Kanwar talks about the many films in which he has documented political and sexual violence

Photos: Amar Kanwar (left) with Bose Krishnamachari, artistic director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale; Bangladesh women who were victims of sexual violence by Pakistan soldiers during the 1971 war

By Shevlin Sebastian 

The Kochi-Muziris  Biennale is a mammoth event,” says Amar Kanwar, a film artist with an international reputation. “I don’t think people have understood the scale of the work the organisers are doing. Setting up the art work of the 80 plus artists from all over the world is an enormously difficult task. It takes months of work. In my experience, when I do a show abroad, it can take a year or two of preparatory e-mail exchanges.”

In other countries, such a big event is usually done by corporations, state governments and big foundations. “That is how it is in places like Berlin, Venice and Sao Paulo,” he says.

But the Kochi-Muziris  Biennale is different. “Don’t forget that Bose  [Krishnamachari] and Riyas [Komu] are artists and not professional managers,” says Amar. “Most of the people who are working with them are artists and young people. Anybody, anywhere in the art world, would be envious and excited of what is happening here.”

Indeed, the international community is quite excited. “I have received many e-mails from senior artists, curators, museum directors, and critics asking me whether they should come,” he says. “People are curious to see what a Biennale will look like in India. Secondly, it is an artist,  and not a corporation-led show. So, people think it could be something special and interesting.”

Amar is also an interesting person. A film artist he has been focusing on trying to understand physical and sexual violence, as well as the politics of power all over the world.

One of his films is called ‘The Torn Front Pages’. For the past several decades there is a law in Burma which stated that every published item, be it a newspaper or a magazine or a story book or a collection of poems, must have, on its first page, a set of propaganda statements by the Burmese military. “If these statements are not printed, then the work is banned, and the publisher is arrested,” says Amar.

In Mandalay, there was a book shop owner by the name of Ko Than Htay. In the early nineties, whenever he would sell a book, he would tear off the first page as an act of rebellion. “When I learnt about this, I found it amazing,” says Amar. “I also felt it was an extremely courageous act. If caught, Htay would get several years in jail, and face torture. It was not an act of rebellion by a political figure but an ordinary man.” Eventually, Htay was arrested in 1994, by the military police, tortured, and jailed for three years.

Another film called ‘The Lightning Testimonies’ looks at rape during conflicts. “Whether it is the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, or during the Partition of India in 1947, people resort to sexual violence, as a way of getting back at the other community. Apart from conquering armies, it is also defeated soldiers who have used this as a weapon.”

The Pakistan Army, after losing the Bangladesh War in 1971, raped more than 75,000 women during their retreat. “But this has also happened in Yugoslavia, Sudan and Rwanda,” says Amar. “There have been reports that the Soviet Army in 1945 used sexual violence against the Germans following their victory in the Second World War.”

Amar asks a lot of questions in his work. For instance, on July 15, 2004, 12 old women disrobed and stood naked in front of the gates of the Assam Rifles in Imphal, Manipur, protesting the suspected rape and murder in custody of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama. 

“What forced them to take such a strong step, and that too, in front of the press and the whole world?” he says. “And when they did it, what did they feel? Why did the soldiers get scared and lock the gates and run inside? If there are any conclusions, it is for the viewer to do so.”

Not surprisingly, Amar’s films have fetched him numerous international awards. He is the recipient of the 1st Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art from Norway, as well as the Golden Gate Award (San Francisco International Film Festival) and the The First Prize (Torino International Film Festival, Italy), among many others. He has also enjoyed the rare honour of being selected thrice for the highly regarded Documenta exhibition at Kassel, Germany: in 2002, 2007 and 2012.

Amar Kanwar: an artist with an intense quest for the truth!

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

“I can do anything I want”

Photo by Sanjeev Nair

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

Latha talks about life with noted film director T.K. Rajeev Kumar

By Shevlin Sebastian

In August, 1995, Latha Kurian met film director T.K. Rajeev Kumar at the eastern gate of the Thiruvananthapuram Museum. She was making a one-minute film for the NGO, 'Zoo Watch'. Latha's friend, Diljit Thomas, a cinematographer in Malayalam films, suggested that Rajeev would be the best person to conceptualise and help with the shoot.

 “There was an instant attraction,” says Latha. “I remember Rajeev was wearing a blue-grey shirt, which was three times his size. It also had small white ikkat (weed) designs.”

They worked closely for a week and then Rajeev had to leave for the Gulf to do a stage show called 'Mohanlal and the Magic Lamp'. “We went out of touch,” says Latha.

The second meeting, an accidental one, took place during the International Short Film and Video Festival. “I was going into Kala Bhavan theatre and he was coming out,” she says. “We stopped and talked. Thereafter, we saw the rest of the festival together.”

In November, they were having lunch at the Hotel Horizon. Rajeev said, “Look Latha, I have to ask you a question. If I don't, I will regret it for the rest of my life.”

Latha said, “Please go ahead.”  

Rajeev paused, and said, “Will you marry me?”

Latha was overwhelmed and asked for some time. “By the evening, I said yes,” she says. “I knew it would not be easy since he is a Nair and I am a Christian.”

Nevertheless, they tied the knot on June 23, 1996, eight months after the proposal. “Rajeev wanted to get married immediately, but I had a lot of things, on the personal front, to clear up,” says Latha.

Asked about Rajeev's plus points, Latha says, “He knows who I am and what I can do, and what I have been doing. I am not a great and wonderful person. In fact, I am terribly flawed. But, through it all, he loves me. I don't know of any married woman who has the freedom that I have. I can go anywhere, do anything, and hang out with anybody.”

In fact, a few years ago, Latha travelled to Europe, on a three-week solo trip to Barcelona, Paris and London. “He trusts me 100 per cent,” says Latha. And during that period it was Rajeev who looked after the children: Mrinal, 14, and Keerthana, 12.

And Latha loves her husband's generosity. One day, she was having lunch with him and a friend. Latha told him that she had seen an interesting phone, the expensive Samsung S-3. After the meal, Latha dropped her husband off at a meeting and went off to the La Gallery360 at Nanthencode, which she runs. In the evening, when Rajeev returned home, he gave her a small paper bag which contained the S3. “He just blew me away,” she says. “These are some of the extraordinary things he does for me.”

Another extraordinary incident which she will never forget was when she was returning from Shantiniketan in West Bengal, where she was doing her doctoral research on art history. They had a tiff on the phone and Latha, who had to get down at Ernakulam, to meet Rajeev, decided to carry on to Thiruvananthapuram. A desperate Rajeev could not locate her. So he ran to the engine driver, paid some money and told him to wait, till he spotted Latha. And it was only after that the train left the station.

As for negative points, Latha says, “It is difficult to be married to a man whose first love is films. In a marriage, you demand the other person's time and attention. But he can't, because he is so busy. I have tremendous empathy for his work, but at the same time I am a woman and a wife who craves his attention and time. When he is free I get all this, but this is very rare. Of course, I can easily call him up and say, 'Rajeev, I am going to faint and die.' And he will drop everything and come to me.” Latha bursts out laughing when she says this.

Another drawback is that he is reticent. “In a party he might not speak to anybody,” says Latha. “But in the right company he can talk non-stop.”

Asked for advice to give youngsters who are about to get married, Latha says, “You should not try and mould each other. Never break each other's wings. You have to accept the other person with his good and bad faults.”

And she continues: “In a marriage, we think that a moment or a week or a month is a lifetime. But it is not. If you have an issue with your spouse and it seems to be unsolvable, if you hold your breath and give each other the space to think, I am sure even the biggest problem can be resolved, and you can come back together, provided you have a soul connection.”

About TK Rajeev Kumar

TK Rajeev Kumar has made 20 films. Among them, he won the Filmfare Best Director Award for ‘Chanakyan’. His film, ‘Jalamamaram’ won the National Award for Best Feature on the Environment, while ‘Sesham’ won the Kerala State Best Feature Film Award. His latest movie is ‘Up and Down… Mukalil Oralundu’, which his wife Latha Rajeev is producing under their banner, ‘A Blue Mermaid Picture Company’.  Rajeev has served as the Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, from 2003 to 2006, and was the Director for the International Film Festival of Kerala, from 2003 to 2006. He also served as Jury Chairman for the Kerala State Film Awards, 2007. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)


Monday, November 05, 2012

When art and youth intersect

Perhaps, for the first time, young designer Chanchal Sethu Parvathy has created costumes inspired by the Kathakali art form

Photos: Chanchal Sethu Parvathy (photo by Manu R. Mavelil) and a model displaying Minukku Vesham

By Shevlin Sebastian

For her final-year presentation, during the Bachelor of Fashion Technology course at St. Teresa’s College, Kochi, Chanchal Sethu Parvathy was thinking of what to present. She knew what she did not want. “In Kerala when we say fashion it means Western-style dresses,” says Chanchal. “But when a foreigner thinks of Kerala, he talks about how great the art and culture is.”  

Chanchal wanted to do something in the Indian tradition. Luckily for her, she did not have to look far, for inspiration. Her father, P.K. Sunil Nath, a film-maker, had done a 25-minute documentary called ‘Paccha’ on the life and career of Kathakali dancer Kalamandalam Balasubramaniam. As she viewed the documentary, she decided to do something based on the classical dance of Kerala. “In Kathakali the costumes are elaborate,” she says. “So, there are a lot of opportunities to adopt different aspects.”  

In her collection, she has taken the five clothes or veshams – Kari, Minnuku, Thadi, Kathi and Pachha.

Noble male protagonists like Lord Rama and divine beings have Paccha (green) faces, but wear red and white costumes, except for Lord Krishna, who has a dress of navy blue, yellow and golden combination. “In four veshams, except kari, what is common are the colours of red and white,” says Chanchal. Her Paccha vesham style is inspired by the curtain which is held up during the drama called the thiraseela. The colours, which are used like a patch on the blouse, are, indeed, of blue, gold and yellow.  To replicate layering, which is there in most Kathakali costumes, Chanchal has attached two frill-like patterns over a knee length paavada (long skirt). “Although Paccha is worn by male characters, I have transposed it to a female,” says Chanchal.

Incidentally, in Kathakali white is regarded as a sign of purity. This colour is present in all costumes, except for the kari (black) version. In the minukku (prettying up) version, there is a long white skirt, reaching below the knees, and it is crunched up at the bottom, in a red lining, and held together with a tassel. “The skirt is long, because I wanted to avoid making sexy costumes,” says Chanchal. “The top which has gold, red and white cloth patches looks like the back of a kireedam (crown) which is used in Kathakali. This dress was worn by Sita and Draupadi, and many others, and resembles purity.”

From there, it is a straight black formation: Kari vesham. “This is worn by negative women characters like Poothana (a demoness who tried to kill Lord Krishna when he was a baby, by feeding him with a poisoned breast). Not surprisingly, in Chanchal’s version, the single-piece strapless dress is in all-black, with red linings at the bottom. But she has added a red scarf to create a sense of stylishness. “In fact, in Kathakali also, they have this red scarf as a prop,” she says.

Meanwhile, the veshams continue. Kathi (knife) vesham signifies villainous characters like Ravana. Again, a male costume has been designed for women. So Chanchal has made a white frock with red lining, while the top has sleeves falling a little short of the wrists. “In Kathakali all the costumes have full sleeves,” says Chanchal. “I put three bands of red lining to indicate the anger of Ravana.” In the dance, it is only in the make-up that Ravana looks threatening.

Noted film actress and designer Urmila Unni says that this is probably the first time in Kerala that somebody has come up with a collection based on an ancient dance form like that of Kathakali. “Chanchal's collection is innovative and creative,” she says. “She has a beautiful colour sense. I am much impressed by it.”

Meanwhile, designer and stylist Dhanya Balakrishnan, who was Chanchal's teacher at St. Teresa's, says, “When Chanchal first approached me and said that she wanted to do a collection based on Kathakali costumes I was apprehensive because it is not an easy thing to do. But I admired the way she met and interacted with several artistes, and did a lot of research. And step by step, she built up the collection. In the end, it is a remarkable work. Chanchal is blessed with talent. She has a bright future in front of her.” 

(The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)