Friday, May 30, 2014

Wadjda (2012)...A Realistic Movie Which Moved Me...

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Though the girl is the main character, this boy too acted very well, so, wanted to display this poster too!
I loved this movie, Wadjda so much that I watched it for the second time today!  It hasn't got even 1% of Indian/Bollywood/Kollywood touch.  Still, it touched my heart! I had tears in my eyes, happy tears in the end!

This is the story of a young 11 year old, school going girl, Wadjda(all letters are heard while pronouncing the name but in Arabic accent!) wishing to own and ride a bicycle and win a race with her friend, Abdullah.  The story is based in Riyadh and picturised in the same place which was not easy for the first woman director of Saudi Arabia,  Haifaa al-Mansour (link).  In Saudi Arabia, girls are not supposed to ride bicycle because of a myth that the girls would not conceive later,  if they do! You can see Riyadh streets with Arabic licence plates in their cars...even numbers!

This girl, Wadjda goes to an 'all girls' school and her neighbour and friend, Abdullah teases her all the time and rides away on a bicycle.  She challenges him that one day she would win a race with him on a bicycle.  She notices a 'green brand new bicycle' in a shop and asks the old shop keeper not to sell it to anybody else but to reserve it for her till she collects the 800 riyals, the cost of the bicycle.  He laughs and tells her that he would wait for her to buy it.

Her school is a typical Islamic school where the girls  follow the rules of Islam.  The girls are made to cover their head and face, though this boisterous girl Wadjda never covers her face! She starts 'collecting' money by all means like selling her own wrist bracelet made of wool, mix-taps of different songs, exchanging 'errands' for her friend for money (she charges for giving and taking notes from the friend and her boyfriend).  This gets a bad name for her in the school.  She is often called to the Headmistress's room and reprimanded.  Her mother (she is a famous local TV artiste, it seems, looks beautiful!) is busy wooing her husband not to marry again leaving her, since she could not produce a male child (Indian touch?!).  She advices her daughter to be a 'good girl' but this girl, Wadjda is in her own world.  Abdullah teaches her to ride his bicycle at their terrace and then at an open ground.  He gives her shyly, a helmet too and tells her that he would marry her once they are old enough! This is said with an innocent face and Wadjda ignores and walks off! Since enough money was not coming fast, she joins a 'Quran' competition which offers 1000 Riyal as prize money.  To her Headmistress's astonishment this girl recites 'quran' very well and wins the money.  When asked what she would do with the money, the girl says that she was planning to buy and ride a bicycle.  The whole auditorium is shocked.  The Headmistress is not very happy and announces on Wadjda's behalf that the money would go to the 'Palestinian brethren'! Wadjda gets very angry and gives her a nasty look (with 'words') and then goes home.   Her father was waiting with the news that he was re-marrying and the mother was very upset.  They show how much he loves his daughter.  He gives her a lucky stone...a piece of stone from a volcano (she holds it in her hand while participating in the competition!).  But girl child is secondary in Arabian countries, like ours! Wadjda's mother had collected (she too works in a school...women mostly work in 'all-women' environment) money to buy a 'red-dress' to go for a wedding party of her husband's brother.  Now, she surprises her daughter with the 'new bicycle' which the old shop keeper had reserved for a small girl! In the end Wadjda rides in front of her grand mother's place where her father re-married and then in front of the shop, laughing happily at the shop keeper...he seemed to be happy seeing her riding the bicycle! She races with Abdullah and goes far away happily!

I think I will notice more and more new things if I see the movie again and again! The Quran recital sounds beautiful! The sing song sound doesn't sound strange to us! The teacher asks the students not to touch the Quran when they have periods! The book should be touched with a tissue! It should not be left open to stop the devils from reading it! While praying, they should sit together without leaving a gap in between...again to stop the devil from coming in between! The girls should not talk loudly outside the school entrance since their sound is considered 'nakedness'! But the women wear exotic clothes at home and smoke too! While coming out, they cover their body and face! Only eyes are visible outside.  Since women are not allowed to talk to strangers other than relatives, the director had to advice the crew via walkie talkie, sitting in a van, while shooting for the movie! The whole movie is picturised in Riyadh, a place where even movies are not produced and shown since theatres are not there.  People watch movies in DVDs or go to Jordan or other nearby countries! This movie was produced by the Prince Alwaleed bin talal with German collaboration.  More details are here.

The girl who acted as Wadjda is a first time actress.  She was very natural, naughty looking, which the role asked for.  The story is based on the director's life itself and her niece's life.

You can see the list of nominations in the link mentioned above.  Hmmm...I have to mention one more thing.  The girl draws the family tree at home but it contains only the names of the male members.  She pins her name in their tree branch, but her mother removes it! I can go on mentioning these tid bits some more.  But I will leave leave them to you to watch and enjoy.

Now, to the trailer...




There is no climax like our movies, so, spoiler alert is not needed!

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Movie Stills: Google

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A New Era Starts From Now?!

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Narendra Modi, Our New Prime Minister

'I am optimistic about my country's future. After that speech, I really didn't have a choice. #MODIfied'

I saw this message by my grand niece who is in her early twenties, first thing in the morning in Face book.  I thought, 'Modi has influenced even youngsters by his sincere speech (Acceptance speech at the Central Hall of our Parliament, click here to read/see the speech pl.) yesterday.  She told me later that she became emotional while hearing his speech.  Later in mid-morning, a friend of mine from Assam called and said that her whole family became emotional while watching Narendra Modi's speech.  Well...we have got a sincere, patriotic Prime Minister, I think, which is really unexpected when our country is facing a dearth of a good leader.  I think now, the whole country is expecting a positive/progressive future for us, via Modiji. Let us hope for the best! We need a leader like him very badly!

I read that the whole world was watching our election process, the world's biggest democracy, conducting its election.  Even the remote hilly areas were covered...the voting machine was carried by donkeys, it seems.  Even small villages with very limited people were covered.  It is really fantastic.  Now, I am quoting from 'Outlook' magazine, some anecdotes about this election with my comments within brackets.   It is interesting.  I would like to record and read it whenever I want to, again! Now, to the 16th Lok Sabha election anecdotes:


I love this picture...so many people, esp. women waiting for their turn to vote. peacefully.

1. 551million
 
Highest voter turnout in any general election so far. EC’s provisional figures put the number of voters who exercised their franchise at 551 million, which is more than the combined population of the entire European Union. (Great! This time, even the 'educated' people came out to vote!)

2. The President, Pranab Mukherjee, did not cast his vote for the sake of neutrality, thus restoring a tradition. Presidents Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, however, had done so.

3. Narendra Modi became the first chief minister in office to also simultaneously launch a prime ministerial campaign (He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat for the past 12 years!).


4. Modi is the first Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak to make a bid for the prime ministerial office. A.B. Vajpayee was an RSS swayamsevak but not a pracharak. (This made many people,  intellectuals, esp., to think twice before voting for him.  But even the minority community, Muslims, voted for him in large nos. it seems...)

5. It’s the first general election held after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and creation of the 29th state of the Union, Telangana.

6. Gen (rtd) V.K. Singh became the first former army chief to join a party and contest an LS seat. Earlier, Gen Shankar Roychou­dhury was elected to the RS as an independent member from WB.

7. NOTA (None Of The Above) option provided to voters for the first time in a general election (NOTA has become famous in this election.  Even the editor of Outlook, Vinod Mehta punched NOTA, he wrote, later...Quoting from the NDTV link '
While exercising their franchise, country's 59,97,054 voters punched the NOTA button on the electronic voting machines, which equals to 1.1 per cent of the total votes polled during these elections across 543 seats.)
 

8. The EC also introduced for the first time, Voters’ Slips, with their photographs)

9. The rule disqualifying convicted persons from contesting the election came into force in 2014. (But nearly 1/3 rd of the elected candidates are facing criminal charges, though not convicted,  I read.  But nowadays each and every party has got people like them...chalta hai!)

10. Aam Aadmi Party made its debut, putting up over 400 candidates across the country (though many lost deposits later, this is a warning for the regular tainted politicians!)

11. Use of ‘Pepper’s ghost’ or three-dimensional hologram for simultaneous campaigning was brought in for the first time (Modi became famous for this!)

12. Innovative political funding,  with political parties charging money for attending rallies, selling merchandise and through fund-raising dinners (Modi's Trichy (Tamilnadu) meeting, charged Rs.5 per head for attending the meeting and he had a huge crowd there, which was a surprise.  Here, in Tamilnadu, only dravidian parties got this much crowd, normally!)

13. Digital marketing of political messages became more popular following growth of new media

14. A video channel on voters’ awareness and education launched by the Election Commission on its website and youtube.com/eci

15. National Electoral Search to provide polling booth information provided on internet mobile, tablet and computers and mobile SMS through app developed by C-DAC launched

16. Booth-wise electoral rolls uploaded in PDF format on the Election Commission’s website

17. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate (Mr. Narendra Modi) addressed over 5,829 events, including 437 public meetings, 1,350 3-D rallies and 4,000 chai pe charcha programmes since September, 2013, setting a record of sorts.


 Well...I and my family were bored of hearing Modi's voice all the time in TV.  Since he was facing large crowds, he was shouting all the time.  Naidu, the Ex. CM of Andra Pradesh said during Modi's 'acceptance speech', that once in AP, Modi started campaigning from 8 in the morning and till noon he didn't eat anything and later on asked for just tea, it seems.  He wanted to finish off all the meetings and then eat, it seems...I think he said that Modi attended nearly 13 meetings that day.  Modi is a committed person.  

But, the Acceptance speech made us all sit glued to the TV.  No adverse comments.  Nobody laughed even when he broke down (check from the highlighted link given in the second paragraph).  Everybody became emotional which had never happened when a politician spoke.  

The definition for a 'politician' had changed yesterday.  


Jai Hind!




P.S.: Modi's picture, Google courtesy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Water, Water And Water, Everywhere!

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I am so happy to know that many people liked my earlier post about our Cruise Ship trip  and are planning to go by one in the future! Thank you!

I never thought that I would be fascinated so much by the water/sea until this trip! When you stand on the deck and watch, it was just water and water, on all sides! But it was so beautiful!

My son says that the foam like waves formed in the sea is called 'wake'! I took this picture from the rear of the ship!
As I told you in my earlier post, we stayed in the ship for 3 days.  We reached the ship at around 12.30 pm.on a Sunday.  We packed 2 medium sized suitcases, with clothes for 3 days and took them along with us.  Otherwise we have to 'check in' our big suitcases! On the way into the ship, girls and boys (girls with heavy make-up) waited, when we crossed them, they just pulled us and made us (one by one...husband just pushed them aside and walked!) to stand in between the girls and the boys took photographs! It was weird for us! This happened in 3 places on the ship's platform! Then they gave a slip saying that we can collect our pictures with 5% discount (we had experience at Jurong Park in Singapore, how they compelled us to take pictures holding birds and charged 35 dollars per picture - 50 dollars for 2 pictures...I bought one set for the sake of my grand niece...a tooo expensive memorabilia!).  They don't give us time to understand what they were doing!  The next step was, the Cruise staff took our passport and gave us a cabin key (card) to each of us.  That worked as a key plus ID card for us in the ship.   They charge everything to the card (swipe!) when we buy things and we have to pay the money and get back our passport when we come out of the ship! But we didn't have much problem with this method though! They do it in all the cruise ships, it seems!

The ship started exactly at 2 pm, as per plan.  We had tea and snacks at 4 pm.  Roamed around the ship! It was clean and beautiful everywhere.  Since the ship was quite long and with 12 stories, they had 4 sets of lifts (4 each) in 4 areas, from the front to the rear end of the ship! We got used to them (which one to use!) after sometime! Our cabins were on the 5th floor, one for us and one for my sis in law's family.  The beds were very comfortable and had a nice sleep.  Woke up the next morning and again started watching water from our cabin first, from very early in the morning and went up to the deck to watch the sunrise later! Many people were there with cameras before us! Some were walking around in the deck and some jogging too! The atmosphere was serene! Since the ship was moving, we noticed that the sun rose late and the sunset was at around 7 - 7.15 pm! Singapore time is 2 1/2 hours ahead of our time!

Sunrise on the Indian Ocean/Andaman sea
The captain introduced himself and told us about the crew via public system on the first day evening. He also said that we were to be ready to go to Penang island the next afternoon at about 11 am.  We should not bring back any fruit or eatables from the shore! Everyday prog. was given as a newspaper the previous evening, explaining about what was happening in the ship, the next day and where they were taking us.  4 trip options were given to 4 different places in the island.  We can chose one of them.  Some stayed back! The only draw back we noticed was though the bus trip was comfortable (they provided an escort who explained about the places) the places were not very attractive.  Local malls with international goodies and a couple of eateries were shown.  The eateries were full of local food.  No veg. food.  We just had some biscuits and snacks and tea from a Tamil vendor on the roadside. This vendor was from Tanjavoor (Tanjore).  He was there for more than 5 years.  He was earning well, saved money and went home once in 2 years, it seems!

I was very happy to notice sparrows in many places in Malaysia, Singapore, Penang and Langkavi! No crows except some, in Penang and Malaysia!

The bus trip to Penang was nice.  The way was very very scenic.  This place is famous for its loooong, 24 Km bridge from Old Penang to New Penang across the sea. Read more about it here. Have a look at the picture I took from our bus.

Penang bridge.  Looks beautiful!
International marathon competition takes place on this bridge every year, the escort said.
Chocolate museum at Penang
Then the bus took us to this chocolate museum.  They had many varieties of chocolates in various flavours...coconut, durian fruit (this fruit is famous here and has got strong fragrance/odour....click on the name to know more), coffee, strawberry etc.  They gave small pieces of nearly all flavours.  Chocolate images of dragon and other dolls were displayed there inside a huge glass case.  No photographs pl., they said! Otherwise it was just a shop.  Bought some chocolates!  And then they took us to a local mall!  Boring! Came back in the evening. Watched the activities on the deck.  Late night Bollywood music also was there which was for just adults! After dinner, we watched a magic show, which I had mentioned in the first part and went to sleep. Next day, we had our trip to Langkavi from 3 pm.

The famous Brown Eagle statue at Langkavi, meaning, Brown Eagle!
Buses were arranged by the Cruise people to reach Penang and then Langkavi. The escort to Penang was good and explained a lot of things about the place, esp. chocolates (Black chocolates are good for health, good for diabetics also!).  But the escort to Langkavi was just giving minimum details of the place and his English also sounded like Malay! The Chinese add 'haan haan' in between words, it seems.  He was doing it.  He was a lawyer by profession, though!

To Langkavi...The famous Eagle statue is situated at the tip of the Langkavi island.  The statue is quite huge! Click on the picture to have a better view please. Boating was there in the water.  Again, saw many mynas and sparrows too!  Noticed some crabs, huge ones, in the water, near the rocks! Nandita, my grand niece, was excited to watch them! The rest rooms in all the places were quite clean, which is a good thing, in trips!

Then the bus took us to one local medicine shop (like our ayurveda medicine).  Many people bought oil for arthritis etc. Otherwise nothing special was there.  We went back to the ship by night and had dinner, watched some music and dancing by people and slept. We can have supper too at 11 pm, if we are awake and HUNGRY! God, I have put on weight even without having supper!

The main thing to be noted was, we had to pay 10 Singapore dollars for 12 hours of Wi Fi connection (1 Sing dollar was equivalent to Rs.18!).  They were giving a paper with user ID and pass word.  It might work or not, according to the availability of signals.  I used to get mails suddenly and replied to a couple of them.  Twitter also worked sometimes.  I spent 26 dollars for wi fi! Though we had Singapore sim card, we were not able to use mobiles.  Got signal only a couple of times! It said 'calls are barred' sometimes! Got two calls from our relative, which was sort of a miracle! But this was expected since we were in a ship!

The next day was the last day.  We had to leave the ship by 6.30-7 pm.  We got back our passports in the evening.  Bought some artificial jewellery from the gift shop (expensive!) just for memories! Had dinner also (!) at 5.30 pm and waited for our last stage in the ship! Staff were standing and bid good bye with a cheerful face! Very polite and friendly staff, they had. I noticed another thing...very rarely people smoked on the deck which was a surprise since most people, even women, smoked a lot in Malaysia and Singapore and other places we visited from the ship!

I loved the sunset scene more than the sunrise from the deck of the ship.  You can see why!







We were nearing the Singapore port and saw this beautiful ship!
We reached the port by 7 pm.  Went to the Trip adviser's office to collect our bigger suitcases which we had left with them before leaving for the Cruise trip.  Had dinner and roamed the street ... (Mustafa mall was visited for the last time...it is like our Saravana Stores in Chennai...we get anything and everything there).  Reached the Singapore airport and waited for our flight to Chennai!

The airport is very clean.  Many small shops were selling gift articles and dresses...all were run by Muslim women with head scarves! They were quite young! At 9 pm all of them pulled down the shutters...no man helped them to do that...they were thin sheet, weightless shutters.  Locked and left for home...all were happily giggling and chatting all the time! I was happy to watch them!

I think I will write about Malaysia and Singapore later! Since this was the best part in our trip, priority was given to the Cruise trip!

People, try and enjoy the Cruise trip sometime...just forget all the daily tensions and enjoy...no phone, no serious TV watching...just relax...swim if you like, dance if you like, play basket ball...so many entertainments are available here! Just EAT and ENJOY! Put on weight, come back and start the workouts!


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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Best Part In Our Recent Tour...3 Days/Nights, In A Cruise Ship!

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I am writing first about our holidays in the Cruise ship first, since it was the best part in our tour! We had been to a 'Malaysia-Singapore' trip for two weeks, last month...came back on 1st May.  We spent the last 3 nights on a Cruise ship, at the fag end of our holidays! I never expected to enjoy so much inside a ship in the middle of the sea...for 3 days and nights! So, my first post about the tour is this part!

I had read about ships in Alistair Mclean's books, which was many years ago.  He used to explain the interiors and parts of ships very well.  Then, have watched the interiors in some English movies...I think I had never given much importance to remember everything clearly!

This Cruise ship, Star Cruise Gemini/Superstar Gemini had a city inside it...it had everything from shops to recreations to swimming pools!  I could have learnt dancing or origami or pizza making also in the ship! But I didn't! All these classes were for free.  We watched a magic show by Ernesto from Italy (click the link to watch a part of the show..very interesting!)which was made colourful by the Brazilian salsa dancers!

Now, to the ship!

The 'Superstar Gemini' cruise ship! A city is inside this ship!
We had booked for the flights to Malaysia, from there to Singapore and then to this Cruise ship, nearly 2 months earlier.  The Travel agent had insisted on booking for the Cruise as early as possible, since it was difficult to get the best cabins in the cruise if it was late.  Yes, we had the best view from our cabins!

The cabin!
It was a small, but very convenient room with all the necessary amenities! You can see the window at the far end which faces the sea! I used to sit on the window sill and watch the ocean/Andaman sea, whenever I was in the room!  A tiny, compact bathroom was there.  A wardrobe with a safety locker, hangers etc....everything was there.

The tiny bathroom...hand shower with a curtain, is on the left and wash basin and seat are on the right.  But was very convenient.  Everything was neat and clean.
The ship has got 12 floors.  First 4 floors (down) were for the ships engines, staff quarters, laundry and other things.  We stayed in the 5th floor. 750 rooms are there, including some suites.  3 floors have got dining and refreshment areas.  7th floor has got reception, shops etc.  Other floors on top have got casinos, gaming rooms, recreation room, health club, clinic, observatory room etc.  100% vegetarian food was available in Mariners restaurant. The best part!!!

Dining hall!

Different varieties of vegetarian food were here along with fruits, breads, cakes etc.  Coffee, tea. fruits, fruit juices etc. also were available.  Non-veg food was kept separately.  It  also tasted good, I was told.  Separate dining for Chinese was available. Vegetarian food was available on the 11th floor deck, where recreation stage also was there! Dance or music was going on most of the time.  

They never repeated the subjis...only dosa was not there! Even idlies, upma, vada, Raw mango sweet pachchadi (!) also were there! Different types of bakery items, even egg less cake was there! Their lemon pickle was superb! Curd tasted like home-made! All of us were eating, walking around the deck, most of the time! I have got a good tan because of the sun on the deck! We were taken by bus from the Penang and Langkavi ports for sight seeing.  Will write about them later.

I think 4 swimming pools and two Jacuzzi were there.  2 pools were for small children.  A ship staff was always standing there, keeping an eye on the small children.  Dress code was there for swimmers.  Men had to wear trunks and women full swimming dress.  If they didn't bring them, they can purchase from their shops in the ship...one swimming trunk was Rs. 1000/-, our currency!

Swimming pool
This is the beautiful 'Tea corner'.  Opposite to this, there were counters selling handbags, artificial jewellery etc.
People were sitting here, chatting or playing with children and just simply reading books in the mornings and evenings! It was very hot in daytime! Still, shades were there to sit and enjoy the sea breeze.
Many people were regular customers of this cruise.  One family said that they came here every year along with their small children, play basket ball, swim, read, eat and go back! Yes, a small basket ball court also is here on the other side of the deck!

This is the rear end of the ship! It was very nice to watch water, bending down on the rails!
Front side of the ship! All parts of the ship were clean. 

Mast?! I took this picture when I was waiting for the sunrise.
Decks were the most attractive places in the ship!
Some movies were shown, a movie a day, I think.  I read the name 'Gravity' which I had already watched at home.  The TV had some 11 channels.  One channel showed the passage of the ship 'live'.  HBO, Zee (Hindi movies and serials), Fox sports, a Disney channel were there and all others were Chinese channels, I think.

I noticed more than 50% passengers were Indians, rest were Chinese mostly, Koreans, Japanese, some Australians and people from other European countries.  The Captain was a Finnish, some crews were from Philippines, Germany, China etc.  Other staff were mostly Chinese.  Everybody was polite and did their job systematically without any flaw. 

I think I should stop now.  Will post the pictures taken from the ship, in my next post.

Make it a point to go on a ship once at least in your lifetime.  The experience is unique!

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P.S.: The first picture of the ship is from wikipedia Others were taken by me!

The second part of this post is here!


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