List: Types of People You Meet in an Elevator

The elevator is the most awkward place on Earth. Your intention might be to just transport yourself vertically but the people you meet in there make it a gauche affair. Whether it is an elevator at your housing society’s high-rise or your workplace or any other lift capsule, these people are omnipresent.

Outside the Elevator

  • Crashers – They crowd the entrance of the lift and hope to enter the elevator before people inside have even begun to walk out. They wake up in the morning with only one purpose in life: finding a place inside a lift
  • Sprint Runners – They are a variation of Crashers. They are always in a hurry, have a slightly swifter gait, and use their elbows as weapons to clear off the crowd. One moment they will be outside and the other they are in front of you turning into a Crasher
  • Delayers – They call the lift, see everyone else get in, and then stand outside waiting for their friends to join. They repeatedly press the call button and delay the lift’s movement. They often are the opposite in bed
  • Anxiety Folks – They tend to press the call button again and again till their ego and insecurity have filled themselves to the brim
types of elevator people

It sucks when all of them enter together. © Photo by Vale Zmeykov on Unsplash

Inside the Elevator

  • Network Seekers – Always the ones talking on the phone just when the lift starts moving. They know that network connectivity tends to get weaker when you are moving at a high speed on a vertical plane but boy they talk. And a few seconds later they begin to shout
  • Gangbangers – Typically a group of two or more people whose primary purpose is to measure the sound proofing of an elevator capsule. From cackling to roaring to snickering – with loud and intense sound waves – they are also often the people who crack the worst jokes
  • Leaners – Physically incapable or not, they just lean on the wall of the elevator. They enter, choose any of the three sides, and lean their entire body on the elevator wall panel. These are mostly people who are fed up with their life (housing society) or work (office building)
    • Ultra Leaners – They lean on the doors (fourth wall) of the elevator. They are so fed up, they have suicide in their subconscious mind
  • Watchers – They enter the capsule and stand without turning. While everybody is facing the door of the elevator, these guys look at you. And smile
  • Oglers – Probably the most common type of elevator people. They usually have a phone in hand that they give the remaining 30% attention to when they are not looking at you, your attire, and the visible body beneath your attire. Their only regret in life is that they don’t have see-through glasses
  • Hitpeople – They walk in, stand facing the door/s, look at the changing numbers on the display panel, and get out when it’s their floor. In their free time, they kill people and bury their bodies in the hull of the lift structure
  • Noobs – They enter the lift and later realize that it does not stop at their floor. These are the ones who empty an entire bucket of ice cream later that day when such a thing happens
  • Helpers – They usually stand by the control panel of the lift and give in to requests of pressing floor numbers by other travelers. They often end up with partners who abuse them mentally for the rest of their lives

There is never a good way to travel in an elevator which increases your chances of being one of these people. Happy elevation!

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My Experience at MAMI’s Young Critics Lab

This is a long-form take on Young Critics Lab, the annual workshop on film criticism for youngsters organized by MAMI which is the organization behind the Mumbai Film Festival. I attended all the three rounds of the lab in 2017 between August and October, which typically ends with the finalists attending the week-long festival in various venues across Mumbai and selecting a film for the Young Critics Choice Award.

A guy I only know as Yash won the Best Young Critic Award that year, with the lab again having a successful bout in 2018. I’m a bit late with this editorial but I think that guy from Kerala who pinged me on Twitter back in July with some questions about the lab would find this helpful. I hope he (and countless others) make it to the lab in the future years because it’s one hell of an experience.

A Bit of Personal History

I have been a fan of cinema for the better part of my adult life. As a young boy, I was least interested in any form of art. I didn’t read books nor was I exposed to any kind of screen-based entertainment. That’s because I was brought up in an environment that didn’t encourage much blending with the arts. Poverty may have something to do with it, but that was a long time ago. As a child, I remember going to one or two circus shows that I immediately grew to despise. And the fondest memory I have of watching a film on the big screen was when we went for Jijo Punnoose’s 1998 fantasy drama, Chhota Chetan, which is also known as India’s first 3D film. I don’t remember the specifics or even the details of the plot because I haven’t seen it again after that day, but the idea of sitting in a dark room with people having similar interests, wearing a contraption over my eyes, and watching motion picture unfold in front of me taking me beyond reality really stayed with me.

Although it took me some time to actively pursue this interest, I wanted to do more than just watch and analyze films in my head. My interests in cinema then grew exponentially in 2012 when I created an account on IMDb and started reviewing films in my free time. Rating films (out of 10 stars) and reviewing them on the platform gave me an instant rush, but I soon began to realize that instead of appreciating them, I was ranting, finding faults, and spreading negative opinions. And fellow IMDb users seemed to love it. Today, some of my most popular (or useful) reviews on IMDb are those where I have given the films a negative rating (mostly one or two stars).

Instead of appreciating cinema the right way, I was belittling it. Breaking people’s hard work up into pieces and describing them using negative adjectives to gain personal gratification. And that’s perhaps the biggest issue today with film criticism, and that is where the phrase originates from: “everybody’s a critic today!”

I had no formal education in the arts or any experience in the department of filmmaking, which showed in my reviews. I was calling films good, average, and bad without even analyzing their aesthetic, technical, or artistic qualities. I was what you would call “the self-proclaimed film critic” and the web is brimming with people like that.

The Why

In May 2016, I watched and hated Rajeev Ravi’s crime thriller, Kammattipaadam, starring Dulquer Salmaan and Vinayakan. Everybody else seemed to love it. (I would later come to know that Baradwaj Rangan, our chief mentor for the 2017 edition of the lab, was one of this everybody.) And so started my quest to know more about cinema and do film criticism the right way. The problem was that I was very passive about it.

So, when in June 2017, I found out that the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) was organizing an informal crash course on film writing and criticism, I didn’t think twice before applying myself. The Young Film Critics Lab required its applicants (aged between 18 and 25 years) to submit a short test, which I enthusiastically did. In the third week of July, I was confirmed as one of the students for the lab which would have its first round in August at J W Marriott, Juhu in Mumbai.

The Young Critics Lab (sometimes abbreviated as YCL) was going to take me by surprise.

Walking into the Young Critics Lab

I was one of the 60+ students who attended the first round of the workshop in August 2017. Before it even started, we were given a list of 50 essential films to watch. Films that Baradwaj Rangan, a National Film Award winner (for Best Film Critic; c. 2006), and a renowned critic currently with Film Companion, wanted us to see before we entered the hall that day.

Young Critics Lab

The watchlist for the Young Critics Lab 2017 (click to enlarge) / © MAMI

I had seen a mere eight films out of that list then and I am ashamed to say that the number has risen to nine as of today. Ironically or not, I watched Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) a few weeks ago, and let’s just say, I’m not a fan. I am not allowing you to judge my takeaways from the lab because there’s more to it than my relationship with this list.

Round One – August 2017

The first round, like the other two rounds, was a two-day workshop. It began at 9 in the morning with a scheduled wrap-up at around 5 in the evening. Lavish breakfast and lunch, and unlimited coffee were served by Marriott so that we could entirely focus on the learning. Boys and girls from different parts of the country (but mostly Mumbai) were present, with a majority of them still studying. Most were from an Arts background, which was evident throughout the workshop. I also met and talked to a bunch of guys who had quit their jobs to pursue full-time careers in film, and this was their first active participation at a cinema-based “discussion platform”. Which made me jump a little because I had never thought of reviewing films as a full-time job. And I never will. (Maybe that calls for another article, but not today.)

I had registered for the Young Critics Lab purely for the experience and to learn a few more things from reputed critics who have been in the know for years. In that way, the first day of the workshop was overwhelming.

Lessons from Baradwaj Rangan

Baradwaj Rangan, who also maintains a blog, talked about a lot of things in the first round. My notes for those days tell me that we discussed what a review is and how it should look like, what all it should consist of, and the duties of a film critic before, while, and after watching a film. Apart from the general list of takeaways that I have listed below, the first round taught me this, in my own words:

A review of a film is a write-up about what you feel about it, first-hand while and after watching it. It’s an opinion directed chiefly at the reader. Criticism, which is a subset/variation of a review, is describing why you feel what you feel.

We also talked about filmmakers (Imtiaz Ali, Richard Linklater, and David Dhawan), film theory, basic-level cinema interpretation and analysis techniques, the process of reviewing and writing it, and the mythical concept of the perfect review. According to Baradwaj Rangan, the perfect film review – if it exists – is a mix of two approaches, reviewing and critiquing. How you differentiate between them is up to you and that will shape your reviews.

From Maxim Gorky to Pauline Kael

The Young Critics Lab took us on a route to the history of film criticism. We discussed the personalities and works of writers and notable film critics such as Maxim Gorky, WG Faulkner, Otis Ferguson, James Agee, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Chidananda Dasgupta, and many others. Compared to the times when these greats were most active in, the landscape of cinema and film criticism has changed drastically. Because everyone is a critic today, film criticism has turned into a beginning of a never-ending conversation.

With TV and web shows being consumed like water in the middle of a summer night across the globe, film criticism is no longer a concept that was considered niche between the 1940s and late twentieth century. So many films are released to the public that today it is up to you to choose what films you want to watch and review. A privilege that we both enjoy and are cursed with. Because there are so many films and shows and so little time.

Qualities of Good Film Criticism

The most memorable takeaway from the first round was finding out the essential elements of a “good review”. Mastering some or all of these qualities can ensure that the review does not stray away from its main purpose: delivering an outlook or a perspective about the film to the reader. According to Rangan (with respect; apologies for calling him by his last name), everything from bibliographic information to spoiler-less plot description to the identification of theme/s to the overall feel of the film is important.

I do have the detailed notes for these qualities but I do not want to share it publicly here. That would make future editions of the lab redundant. Therefore, I take this opportunity to highlight the importance of being physically present at the lab – which is free – if you want to experience what I did. (If you insist, however, I can share all the notes with individuals. Ping me here (beware; opens on the same tab).)

Rangan also feels that an able critic will know where the film is going in the first 15 minutes itself. If you don’t then you were not paying enough attention. Reviewing a film is an art as it is a process, which is why there is no designated length for a review. It can be a few lines or more than 2000 words – there’s no limit. But, then again, it depends on the medium of your review, publication limitations, and actual content. (Note: This is something that I have been experimenting with since the lab. I try writing short, shorter, long, and one-line reviews of films. You can check them out here.)

Conversation with Raja Sen and Anupama Chopra

On the second day of the first round, we also got a chance to hear eminent film critics and writers Anupama Chopra and Raja Sen talk about criticism. A lot of interesting points were made – mostly about reviewing Bollywood films. Two of the biggest takeaways from this conversation:

  • It is more difficult to review average films than good or bad films (Chopra and Sen)
  • There can never be a film that’s 10/10 because there’s always something that’s lacking (Sen)

We also had the lovely Smriti Kiran briefly talk about MAMI and the festival over the years. And that’s the photo below that we clicked to end round one a very high and eclectic note.

Young Critics Lab - Round 1

Coffee on me if you can spot me. / © MAMI

Major Highlight of Round One

One of the main highlights of the workshop is that it not a monologue but a conversation between the mentor and the students. Although I was too shy to ask, during my time at the lab, I found satisfactory answers to these questions:

  • Should a reviewer avoid reading other reviews?
  • Is hating a classic film blasphemy?
  • Should I base a review on first viewing only? Or can I watch it one (or a few) more time?
  • Should I worry about hurting the cast and crew of a film while reviewing?
  • Is film reviewing a sustainable profession?
  • Is it okay to publish a review on a blog and a publication at the same time?
  • How do I assign a rating? And what rating convention should I follow?

If this is the type of questions you have about film criticism, you can be sure that the Young Critics Lab is made just for you. Here’s an active thread about it on Twitter.

Concluding Round One

Round one ended with two things:

  • Reading and analyzing reviews of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) written by Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael
  • Watching a short clip of Satyajit Ray’s romantic drama Charulatha (1964) and reviewing it.

We had to write a 500-word review of the clip considering it as an independent short film. The qualification for the second round depended on this review’s merit. I hadn’t watched the film before, which I think was helpful that day. Here’s an excerpt from my review:

There is relevance all over the place in this film, as is with any other Satyajit Ray film, but it’s the theme that makes Charulatha worthwhile and elevates the overall experience despite being a monochromatic film in a digital age known for its maelstrom of colors. It’s about a lonely wife who does not expect an acknowledgment of her situation, but instead a solution, which does not seem to show itself, not even in the politics that her husband brings into form.

A fortnight later, I received a mail telling me that I had passed the first round. I was elated as I saw the qualification to both the second and third rounds as a sort of validation to my writing and perspective on films. The Young Critics Lab had already crossed its worth. Here’s a take on YCL by The Hindu.

Pro Tips for Off-Station Folks

Most of the people I met who had traveled from afar stayed in local lodgings and hostels around the area (Juhu) to attend the workshop. This was both affordable and convenient because the festival also takes place in venues in a 30-kilometer radius from the usual venue (J W Marriott) of YCL.

Venkat Ramanan (who is a video editor by profession), a friend from Chennai, stayed at the low-cost Urbanpod. He used to fly to Mumbai the night or two before the workshop, stay there for the weekend, and fly back the next week after exploring the city. He repeated this all the three months and I think he pre-planned this at work sometime in June/July. You may also get discounted rates on OYO rooms (partners of MAMI), so do check with the organizers before booking anything.

So, if you are not in Mumbai, you are looking at staying in Mumbai for at least 5 days each for the first two months and then taking a longer break (of around 12 days) for the final month. Because you also have to mandatorily attend the festival and review all the films in a certain section (in 2017, it was India Gold) to be eligible for the Best Young Critic Award.

I understand that the question of affordability arises for people who are not in Mumbai, but trust me, the Young Critics Lab is totally worth it if you really are an enthusiast. Plus, YCL finalists are given free passes for the entire festival. Which means they can catch all the screenings (4 per day, if they book online through BookMyShow) all the 7 days. You are anyway not gonna be working or studying when you are here, so why not make the most of it?

Round Two – September 2017

I did not expect it but the two days of round two mostly entailed watching and discussing in vivid details two films – Rene Clément’s Purple Noon (Plein soleil) (1960) and its American remake, Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).

It was one of the most scintillating experiences for me, being in the midst of English Literature students and film enthusiasts who quoted Descartes and Homer and Oedipus while finding references in the films. A popular topic amongst debaters around the world, the workshop witnessed high-intensity comparison between the two films (each and everyone was going gaga for Alain Delon), with Rangan shooting points to discuss and us students breaking them into more points that even the two filmmakers would gasp at hearing. I think the 1960 French-Italian classic won the debate by a hairline margin but I think a majority of the folks present would agree that a tie would be the best way to end that debate. Once and forever.

What I loved and would like to point out about these workshop rounds is that most of the discussions had natural humor in them. For instance, I remember a fellow attendee referring to a chef and his Italian pizza and comparing it with the anti-heroic character in the two films. It was a lively discussion which was elevated by an active participation by the students. Which is generally rare in such workshops.

The 30 or something of us then proceeded to round three, which was scheduled on days adjacent to the start of the film festival. This way we could continue our discussions about films while experiencing the festival first-hand with newfound knowledge on film criticism.

Round Three and Festival – October 2017

If there is one international magazine that I fervently follow then it is TIME. So when I received the mail about the third round informing me that TIME magazine critic Stephanie Zacharek would be mentoring us, I jumped up and down on my seat. I still remember going numb reading her reviews online and updating my watchlist on IMDb. Meeting her was not exactly a dream come true but heck! I thought it called for a selfie.

A selfie

A precious souvenir, a selfie with (l-r) Rangan, Anurag Kashyap, Zacharek, and me.

Under Zacharek, we chiefly dug into international film criticism. Since Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (2017) had released in the US just then, 2 out of 4 topics that we discussed in round three included a reference to that. Which automatically made it a not-to-be-missed film at the festival for all the attendees.

We read and studied reviews written by James Verniere and A O Scott, and other critical works written by other popular writers. Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of the discussion because I was so enchanted by the discussion I forgot to take notes. (And, guys, that is why you always take notes. Always.)

However, here is a list of the top takeaways from round three:

  • Every film is two films – one that you see and one that you remember
  • A review can be written in a way so that it encompasses everything you know and everything you are when you think about the film (because you should never compose while watching a film)
  • Reviewing films during a festival is probably the most challenging task for a film critic. You are looking at at least four films a day and you are supposed to write at least 1500 words of content per film and send them to the publishers because web publishing is nasty and time-sensitive.

At the end of the first day, we watched a short clip from Jerry Lewis’s comedy, The Bellboy (1960). The task – which would partially help in adjudging the Young Best Critic – was to review that sequence and send it to Zacharek for review. The second day, we discussed some of the most interesting reviews. Mine did not make it, but it was exciting to see how others had perceived the scene (it was irritating).

End of the Workshop

The workshop ended on a merrier note as I had made one friend (Ramanan) and raked in lots of great opinions and perspectives on cinema and its criticism. All finalists were handed a participation certificate as well as a coffee mug with the phrase ‘Where Literature Meets Cinema’ inscribed on it, probably describing what Mumbai Film Festival aspires to be or already is.

Then we were given a bunch of guidelines as to what we were supposed to do during the week-long festival. Unfortunately, I had to cut short my experience on the second day of the festival due to an urgent surgery. I watched a couple films in the India Gold section and enjoyed the festival wholeheartedly while it lasted for me.

Looking back, I would have done a couple things differently when the lab was in session. I would have also rescheduled my surgery, but for all that it’s worth, I had a hell of a time with everyone that I met and talked in the lab. And that definitely called for a photograph. To show to my grandchildren if they are ever born.

Young Critics Lab 2017 finalists

The finalists of Young Critics Lab with Baradwaj Rangan – 2017 edition. / © MAMI

In the above photo, that’s me (checkered green shirt) on the extreme left on the bottom row. Behind me in a red shirt is Yash, the Young Best Critic of 2017. Behind him, standing in a purple and blue checkered shirt is Venkat Ramanan, my friend from Chennai.

Concluding the Young Critics Lab

I would be lying if I said all the three rounds were equally interesting and informative. Round one would take the pie for me as I learned a lot of things I didn’t know from Baradwaj Rangan. Watching the films and comparing them in the second round was exciting and a level-above experience. Stephanie Zacharek helped us see beyond India, as she also talked about film criticism as a profession in the West. But, out of everything, if I had to choose one great takeaway from the Young Critics Lab, then I would choose Rangan’s commandments on film writing and criticism. I believe every aspiring cinema writer should stand by these rules from day one. Only then can they make a difference.

Baradwaj Rangan’s Critical Commandments for Aspiring Film Critics

There are 20 commandments in total and it’s not easy. I would like to apologize to both Rangan and MAMI for publishing these without permission.

  1. Learn/know cinema
  2. Watch movies; read reviews after
  3. Make a note of what you feel (while viewing)
  4. Be detailed (while writing)
  5. Entertain/engage the reader
  6. Don’t worry about authorial intent
  7. Don’t go along with the hype (compare with #10)
  8. Understand ratings
  9. Be confident
  10. Don’t let the editorial desk influence you
  11. See the classics
  12. See Indian films
  13. See both popular and art-house cinema
  14. Try not to do reviews for films you don’t have a feel for
  15. Don’t mock directors
  16. Watch one slow film a week
  17. Give films one more chance
  18. Know your audience
  19. Keep writing
  20. Keep reading

Further Reading

If you somehow do not qualify for the lab or are above 25 years of age, you can still use this editorial as reference material. Plus, if you took the 2oth commandment seriously, here are some book suggestions by Rangan and Zacharek for further reading:

  • All books of Walter Murch
  • Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1992) (Man Booker winner)
  • Ralph Rosenblum’s When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story (with Robert Karen) (1979)
  • All books of Sidney Lumet
  • Works of Australian film critic Robert Hughes
  • All works of Kenneth Tynan

That’s it about one of the most interesting and fruitful products by MAMI other than the festival itself and Movie Mela. I can confidently say that my knowledge of cinema and its criticism has improved considerably over the past year. I cannot say that I follow all of Rangan’s commandments, but I am on my way. I caught Blade Runner, didn’t I? And that definitely counts for #16.

The Young Critics Lab will essentially give you some actionable tips and show you the direction. How you take it and what you make of it depends totally on you.

Participating certificate for YCL

I broke the mug last week but here are the certificates I got.

I know I have talked a lot in this editorial and I’m not sure if I should have. But I had been meaning to do it ever since I prematurely ended my lab experience in 2017.

Then when a guy named Cyril Samuel pinged me on Twitter to share my experience at Young Critics Lab, I just had to do it. I hope he makes it to the lab next year. If he does then I think my job is done here. TN.

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List: Why People Don’t Wear Helmets

Every day while traveling to my workplace I see people riding motorcycles without wearing a helmet. And every day I wonder what makes them skip the one essential safety element that can save their head from breaking in case of an accident.

So, one day, I sat and thought deep about it. I also asked a few friends what they think. Friends who wear, even have an extra for the pillion rider, do not wear, and do not even own one. And this is what I found.

riders don't wear helmets

Most people own a helmet, but they keep it at home. / Jon Tyson

17 Reasons Why People Don’t Wear Helmets

  • It screws up their hairstyle
  • It’s uncomfortable and borderline suffocates them
  • “The stock unit that I got with my Honda Unicorn would anyway not save my head so why should I bother”
  • It’s an unneeded expense and petrol prices are only rising
  • “I don’t like to hold it in my hand when I am not riding”
  • “I couldn’t find a large one”
  • Good quality helmets are expensive
  • “I know how to talk to the traffic police”
  • “I only ride short distances”
  • “I would pay the 500-rupee fine once than buy a helmet worth 5ooo rupees”
  • “My helmet was stolen twice”
  • “I ride safely and am confident that I will not meet with an accident”
  • It’s heavy
  • It stinks
  • “I started losing hair because of it”
  • “I have never been stopped by the traffic police”
  • They don’t like to follow rules

There are even dumber reasons that people give when asked about their habit of not wearing a helmet. It just baffles me that people are ready to put their lives in danger because a helmet will distort their hairstyle (#1 reason) and they always want to look presentable.

I have tried describing to them the problems associated with helmet-less riding, and so far, I have changed the mind of not a single person. Which is why people don’t come to me when they want to convince someone.

One day I will write about why people don’t wear seat belts but for now read what I have observed in today’s taxi-cabs.

What are your thoughts on helmet-less riding or unsafe riding/driving in general? What dumb/weird reasons have you come across? Let me know in the comments below. Check the conversation at Reddit. TN.

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Premam Review: How the 2015 Malayalam Film Affected Me

Eight tall men walk into a shopping mall through the main entrance. At first glance, you would think they have vandalism in their minds, but if you look closely, you will realize all of them are sporting an unusually similar look. Wearing stark black shirts with sleeves rolled up elegantly through mid-arm over white mundus (waist cloths) with black border lining, and sporting fake Ray-Ban aviators with deadpan expressions on heavily bearded faces – you know they are all succeeding in imitating the loverboy of a protagonist of the 2015 smash hit Malayalam film, Premam. This is my review of a film that I have watched countless times since it opened on 30 May 2015 to a boisterous reception.

This particular trend of imitating Nivin Pauly’s character from the film had spread like a wildfire in the nooks and corners of Kerala. While that sounds justified as far as the southern Indian state is considered, what should one deduce from a phenomenon where a budding Engineer like me who was born and brought up in the island city of Mumbai and who has always been repulsed by the very idea of visiting Kerala starts experiencing a fondness for everything Malayalam?

The Premam Effect

You may call it “the Premam effect” similar to “the Narasimham effect” which engulfed Malayalis all over the globe (and chiefly in Gulf countries) in 2000 when Malayalam film superstar Mohanlal hypnotized his audience with his charming moves and a piercing moustache in the film with the same name. Honestly, the film is a big fat 7 (out of 10) for me as I watched it first day first show with my mother in a Mumbai theatre (Cinepolis). The hall was houseful, which is an unusual occurrence when it comes to Malayalam films in Mumbai theatres. Just to put that into perspective, the time when I watched the critically acclaimed 2014 film North 24 Kaatham by debutante Anil Radhakrishnan Menon in a Navi Mumbai theatre (INOX), there were a total of 8 people in the hall, including the two redundant ushers.

I have been reviewing Malayalam films since 2012, but the sheer magical experience that I shared with my fellow audience that day has left me in awe. And now whenever the beautifully sung love-song ‘Malare’ by Vijay Yesudas plays on TV, I lapse into a state of total entrance.

Three months after I watched the film and three weeks after the apprehension of those little lover pirates who shared a preview copy of the film over the web, the so-called “Premam effect” has not winded down. It is chiefly because of the elements used by maverick director Alphonse Putharen in his second feature (after Neram (2013)); the pure native elements of a Kerala district that any malayali can relate with.

Premam Review: A Dose of New Wave

The protagonist’s journey from being a teenager who is head over heels in love with his petite classmate to his fascination with the beautiful guest lecturer in college to finally end up in the arms of an unsuspecting dame is captured in the most appropriate and stylistic way. This is absolutely how real life love stories occur, and if you were to ask any shuffling adolescent at the Kaladi junction or at the Kochi pier or at Lulu Mall to describe about their love life, you will now most obviously be shot with the title of the film as an answer, which translates to “love” in the English language.

Premam review

A poster of Premam designed by Thought Station / © Anwar Rasheed Entertainment

The unofficial political activism rampant in the by-lanes of colleges, teacher-student love affairs, and unsolicited hotheadedness are all marks of the modern adolescent who will take to Facebook to ask that girl out rather than asking her in person. What Premam manages to capture is the intricate details of such a person’s daily life – how it affects his life partially, and how friendship plays a significant role in it.

That is why when I was talking to an old friend of mine about why I now want to often visit Kerala as opposed to my random, infrequent visits, and get more exposed to Malayalam cinema, understand Santosh Pandit’s psychology and philosophy (if any), get married to a girl who is a born-Malayali and in whose arms I would lay and watch the film Premam again for the umpteenth time, he replied, “This is exactly what I have been thinking of lately. The effect is huge.” And this friend was also born and brought up in Mumbai.

Moreover, if a Malayali who was born somewhere outside Kerala and is not much exposed to the essence of Malayali soil, “the Premam effect” will make sure that he starts respecting his roots. There are a lot of people who talk negative about being a Malayali, and smirk at the thought of being counted among them. However, even the most righteous prig will stop and wonder how charming his roots are once he watches it. The film’s photography will make him weak, the songs will make him swoon, and the Kerala exoticism will eventually break him into submission.

In future, when someone asks me what my story is, to keep it dramatic and filmy, I know I would answer that my adolescent life can be divided into two parts – pre-Premam and post-Premam. That is the solid effect of the film which is arguably one of the best Malayalam films of 2015 and one of the best Indian films of the decade so far.

Have you watched it yet?

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The One Thing Common in My 70+ Uber Rides

Last day I was on a road trip with my friends. When I noticed the same thing that I have noticed in almost all of my 72 Uber rides taken so far: the lack of a proper, functioning seat belt in the back passenger seats. That’s around total two days of perilous riding time in the city of Mumbai.

Keeping aside the general public’s reluctance to wear seat belts, what surprises me more is the absence of a proper seat belt system in today’s cabs. Where prominence is given to Wi-Fi and in-car entertainment. Most Uber cabs do have proper belts in place but the problem is that the buckle you fasten it into (female latch) is nowhere to be seen. It is deeply submerged inside the seat or the seat cover, and it’s same for both the seats. Even if you have strong, long arms, good luck finding it, let alone digging it out. And I am not even talking about the third, middle seat.

While this is the most common scenario I have observed a lot more variations.

The Case of Missing Backseat Seat Belts

Some cabs do not even have belts in place. They are either tucked in the front seat cover or stashed in small cavities on the side of the back passenger doors. I have also ridden in cabs where there are no belts even in the front passenger seat. Which troubles me a lot because I usually ride shotgun where there are usually increased chances of finding a functioning seat belt.

Seat belts in Uber cabs

The privilege of seat belts / © Flickr

When asked why seat belts are not in place, drivers often have the same response. They give back a look like they didn’t know such a question would ever be brought up in their career. Some drivers chuckle, blurt out dull excuses, and then go on to fasten their belt sheepishly and reluctantly. But I do not just blame the drivers.

I remember going to a recent client meeting where a colleague told me that he had seen very rarely people using the seat belt when sitting on the back side. Fortunately or unfortunately, that Uber ride was booked through his account, which prevents me from adding it to my statistics. The event of a person wearing a seat belt while sitting in the back seat is seen as an abnormality, which troubles me all the more.

The point is not that today’s cabs are not maintained properly. While they definitely are not, my point is the lack of service check by taxi aggregators like Uber and Ola and other kaali-peeli tax federations. If Uber can keep a check on its drivers and the well-being of their cabs, why can’t this check be extended to the essentials? Seat belts are why you even have a chance at survival in case of an accident (airbags are high maintenance, right?), and if a cab cannot provide that, is it even worth having the luxury of booking a cab through an app in 10 seconds?

Just Not Only About Uber Cabs

It wouldn’t be correct if I do not mention that the case is not just for cabs but also at a personal level. Take the case of the road trip we took last day, where the rear seat succeeded in hiding the female latch end because the owner had just redone the cover. So much priority to how the upholstery looks.

And it is not just one or two instances. Majority of cars I have ridden in my lifetime do not have functioning back seat belts, which supports the alarmingly low rate of people who actually look forward to wearing them. According to The Quint, it stands at 4% in India (2017).

When I bought a second-hand car in 2016, one of the first things that I fixed was the rear seat belts. Yet when I ask my family members to buckle up, they behave like Uber drivers: an eye roll, a scoff, or a trigger of a fleeting murderous instinct. I believe that it is the responsibility of the driver to make sure that everyone in their car follows basic safety measures and etiquette, including themselves. Which although is a bit challenging but doable. My mother still complains when I ask her to wear the belt because “it’s (destination) just around the corner”. But I don’t turn ON the ignition until she does and she has no choice.

I am not even debating about the habit of wearing seat belts because there are no two ways about it. For an average person who rides on cabs every other day, not having a seat belt in place is worse than finding out that Twitter is down. While one temporarily stops spying on you or influencing presidential elections the other stops something closer to you. So, it is up to the taxi drivers’ associations, corporates like Uber, and individual drivers to make a case about this and ensure that all commercial cars have functioning belts in all the seats and in good condition. Because it is high time that we talk about passenger safety in public and commercial transport instead of about funding rounds and self-driving cars. Talking about public transit, have you noticed that buses in India do not even have seat belts?!

via GIPHY

I usually ride shotgun when I’m not driving and that’s not because I am a decent Google Maps navigator or a phenomenal ‘car music player player’. It’s because I care for my life. My friends don’t know why I choose the front passenger seat while going on a road trip. And they don’t care because after all everyone today is an Uber driver.

Seat belts are a privilege today and I make it a point to this to Uber every time I travel in one of their cabs that do not have one in the rear seat.

PS: I prefer Uber over Ola but I’m sure the case is mutual.

PPS: Lyft or Grab, if you guys are entering India, take notes.

Featured image copyright of Moneycontrol.

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  • about me

    Tejas Nair is a freelance copywriter based in Mumbai, India. He writes about cinema, literature, current affairs, culture, and society. He manages search-based digital campaigns for Publicis. more »