Year: 2015

NEW – The Best Malayalam Movies of 2016 – List

A video countdown of the top 20 Malayalam movies of 2015 released between December 2014 and November 2015. Best viewed in 1080p and using headphones. Enjoy! (For some reason the video does not play on mobile devices. Please use your desktop to avoid missing out.)

(Special thanks to Rolling Stone Staff Writer David Ehrlich for the inspiration.)

“The Double Theme” by Andrew Hewitt
“Arike Pozhiyum” by Govind Menon (100 DAYS OF LOVE)
“Shaji Pappan Intro Song” by Shaan Rahman (AADU)
“Looper Theme” by Rajesh Murugesan (PREMAM)
“Wild Tales Theme” by Gustavo Santaolalla (WILD TALES)
“Drumline Beats” by Jeff Russo & Ryan MacMillan (FARGO TV Series)
“High Speed Drifting” by Rajesh Murugesan (PREMAM)
“Unfinished Hope” by Rajesh Murugesan (PREMAM)
“Beginners Theme Suite” by Roger Neill, Dave Palmer, & Brian Rwitzell
“The Ecstasy of Gold” by Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

Malayalam Hit Movies of 2015 List:
Malayalam Flop/Bad Movies of 2015 List:
Greatest Malayalam Films of All Time:
All lists:

15 Best Hindi Movies of 2015:

Thank you for watching!

Mumbai’s Autorickshaws And Their Evil Quotient

Lately I have been relating autorickshaws with my girlfriends because both have mastered various ways of rejecting when it comes to me requesting to ride in them or them riding me, respectively.

It is a well-known fact that if you are to hire an autorickshaw to your workplace, you have to deal with at least 4 to 5 of them, if not more. 2 of them who will actually take you to and fro, and 2 to 3 of them who will reject you. Rejection, if it’s related to love or sex, can be easily dealt with, but when autorickshaw drivers reject you, it’s like the end of the world. And the way they reject you by slowing their vehicle a bit, glaring at you like an imaginary humble wolf who requests its prey to be his dinner, and then suddenly hitting on gas when you utter your destination as if it is located near a palace of hell, is heartbreaking. And you can do nothing about it.

If you are travelling in a vehicle that is not an autorickshaw, you can observe how the only people even slightly safe on the road are the only people riding in one. (Lets not consider the ones where five people are stuffed by its greedy driver.) They drive like gangsters with no knowledge about lane discipline and/or traffic rules, and even if they have any, they seem to ignore it. We all know that they talk to you like they are doing you a favour.

Wherever there is a scuffle in a traffic jam, you know who to expect as a participant. Whenever there is an ugly brouhaha in the middle of a traffic-less road, you know who to expect. Whenever there are shots of expletives being fired, you know who to expect. The driver, in his ubiquitous uniform with a triangular badge attached to his khakee shirt’s pocket, will be seen in front of his three-wheeler. And the looks in the faces of those hapless customers sitting inside his vehicle are worth peek-sneaking.

The main reason why these auto rickshaw or just rickshaw or auto or rick drivers are errant is that it is just a secondary job that most of them take up to be away from their nagging wives. Although it doesn’t suppress the fact that there are far too many whose livelihoods depend on it. I feel bad for such drivers who I am also dragging into this post, collectively.

Once when I was talking to a close friend about how Engineering is not what we expected it to be and that our future is filled with darkness, he had suggested we buy two auto rickshaws and ride them to college, and on the way, ferry passengers. Since we would be plying on a single route, we would be refusing one too many rides to people who want to go to a location that does not fall in our route, automatically qualifying ourselves as ideal auto rickshaw drivers. This was four years ago, and last week when I decided to take it up seriously, I read the news about how auto rickshaw permits will be now only given to Marathi-speaking individuals. I cried.

No, I know Marathi, but unfortunately I am not well-versed with Marathi curse words which I figure is the most essential thing if one aspires to become an auto rickshaw driver in Mumbai. And even if I manage to learn a few, I would be straight disqualified, because I don’t know how to make those weird, cringe-worthy faces while uttering them, and I don’t chew tobacco or betel nuts or mava. I suggested the idea to a good Marathi friend of mine, but he’s currently busy earning tenth of a mil a month by serving as an Uber driver. So I am trying to be more friends with him.

If all auto rickshaws are recalled from the roads, then I believe things will be much more cooler on the road, at least for a few months before the rickshawallahs/taxi drivers union’s strike brings them all back. However, things look so bad for these examples of arrogance now that cab services like Uber and Ola have entered turning the market, they are sure to kick the bucket. Conclusively, the auto rickshaw business in Mumbai may go for a tumble because no one wants to ride in it nor does anyone care about it.

Why Unmarried Couples Don’t Visit Siddhivinayak Temple?

siddhivinayak temple shrine dome mumbai

It’s an urban myth with at least five variations.

The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir located in Prabhadevi, Mumbai is visited by thousands of devotees every day and is also one of the most popular temples in the city. However, there is an insane practice that is highly regarded by many (particularly by superstitious Mumbaikars) which says that couples (man-woman, of course) who are not married yet should avoid going to the temple on several absurd grounds (stated below), failing which they risk their chance of getting married to each other. 

I don’t know the origin of this belief but every other person I talk to about this practice are familiar with it.

Following are some of the rule’s variations as deduced out of different conversations with different people in different places in and around Mumbai:

That unmarried couples or engaged-but-unmarried couples or two lovers or live-in partners should not visit the Siddhivinayak Temple…

…on account of being in an impure relationship which has not yet been sanitized by the flaming bond of marriage, generating a mass of impurity, causing a gradual chaos in the relationship, ultimately causing a horrid split between the involved parties.

…because one of them does not have genuine feelings of love for the other and is only looking for lust (sex) which is tabooed in India so you get the idea.

…owing to the fact that they be spotted by one of their relatives which will anyway cause an instant split between the parties. Why take a risk?

…because love and marriage don’t go together. If you are in love, you cannot be married and if you are married you cannot possibly be in love. Visiting a temple will be the least of your worries.

…because if you are true Indian lovers you would opt for the traditional arranged marriage setup and this whole thing would be a waste of time since you would have all the time and the freedom in the world to visit the temple since you are, didn’t you realize, already married to the person of your parents’ shared dreams, using the purest form at that.

There you have it – the highly illogical variations of a myth – an urban legend that is considered by many devotees of the shrine that is frequented by celebrities during the auspicious festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.

siddhivinayak temple shrine dome mumbai
The outer facade of the popular Lord Ganesha temple in Mumbai / © Commons

On a serious note, to answer the question “Should unmarried couples visit Siddhivinayak Temple?” I would ask why not? If you are a theist and believe in the power of praying and personally love the elephant god and want to take your partner to the temple to experience the tranquility of the place, you should not pay attention to this urban tale that is filled with canons of superstition. Only a fool will see it as a fact and follow it and wait till their marriage to visit the temple which is one of the coolest places to be in Mumbai. Go and do a little praying, for god’s sake. TN.

Disclaimer: This article is a work of satire and hurting any religious sentiments is not my intention. If you somehow were still hurt, feel free to contact me and I will do something about it.

Man Booker Prize 2015 Winner Prediction

Predictions for 2015 Man Booker Prize

Longlist for the 2015 Booker Prize, sponsored by Man Foundation, was announced on Wednesday 29 July, 2015. 13 fiction books written in English were selected by the chair. Since 2014 the prize is open to all writers from all countries, and thankfully, we have a great selection this year.

I had planned to read all thirteen books before the shortlist was to be announced. However, since not everything goes as planned, I have listed the following shortlist as per the official announcement which was made on Tuesday 15 September, 2015. Further attempts will be made after an extensive read to determine the 2015 Man Booker Winner. The rankings are solely based on my personal opinions and reviews. So far I have read only one book for which I have also stated a rating.

2015 Man Booker Prize Shortlist (Author/Country of Origin/Title), as retrieved from The Man Booker Prize website

Who will win the Man Booker 2015?

Man Booker 2015 Shortlist

Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life

Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread

Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen

Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways

#6 Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island 1 star out of 5

Following are the books that did not make it to the shortlist; ranked as per their initial probability of winning:

#2 Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago)

#4 Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)

#5 Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)

#8 Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre)

#10 Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)

#11 Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)

#12 Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)

Consider buying the longlisted books from here

So what do you think which book will take the much coveted prize? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Follow Thoughtcream to keep track of the 2015 Man Booker Predictions. Thank you.

At The Movies With My Future Son

The year is 2025.

My wife has ditched me and instead gone to a girls-only party. A fanatic movie enthusiast that I am, I took my ten-year old son to the movies. Since 2015, I have never heard an offensive/objectionable word in a film, nor have I witnessed any glorification of bloodshed (a feature I instead witness daily at my home during the frequent, high-intensity fights with my wife) in them. For nudity, I often turn to my wife and she to me. Let me not talk about our extra marital affairs. Porn in the internet has lost its glory. The Indian government has banned my favorite websites, and the few ones that have the capability to run a proxy server demand my credit card details. To be precise, going to the movies is like going to an exhibition which displays everything polished, with fiction. Realism is nowhere to be found.

The film was a 90-minute crime drama titled “In The Glory.” I didn’t mind taking my pre-teen son for a crime drama movie, thanks to the responsible CBFC. I had grown much fond of the censor board for thoroughly regulating the films that these imbecile producers throw at us, and in fact, had even led me to follow their scrupulous way of handling things in the complex modern world. Once I even pulled off a Pahlaj Nihalani on my work group: what I did was slashed the salaries of all my juniors and then blamed it on my seniors, of which there were none. I told them, with the tongue firmly on my cheek, “This was not my decision. I have merely slashed your fat salaries on the command of our company Board which I also happen to be the Chairperson of. You will have to manage with this because, all this time you all have easily gotten away with a lot of objectionable behaviour by bending the guidelines. I cannot allow this anymore.”

The following is part of a duologue that occurred just seconds after we left the theater hall.

Tejas: So, what do you think? How was it?
Tejas Jr.: The hero’s intentions were not clear. What was he trying to say?
Tejas: I think he wanted to avenge the death of his virgin girlfriend. So he traces her murderer.
Tejas Jr.: Eh? Wait, what? What does a virgin mean? Besides, they never told us she was murdered.
Tejas: Virgin means a person who has never had an intercourse. I learned that when I was a child like you. I had gone to watch a romantic movie with my girlfriend. When this word was mentioned in the film with a proper but vulgar definition, I asked my girlfriend whether she was one? I never saw her again.
Tejas Jr.: You had a girlfriend?
I dismissed it to be a rhetoric question.
Tejas: The montage where they pixelated the body of his girlfriend clearly told us that she was murdered.
Tejas Jr.: Wrong! That montage was a fantasy-led dream the boy had after a date with her. Also, there was no blood.
Tejas: Oh please! We are not supposed to see blood or nudity. It is against our culture. I believe you did not get the message the movie wanted to convey.
Tejas Jr.: Oh yeah? You think you understood the movie?
Tejas: I understood it very well. I had seen it back in 2015 when it was known as Badlapur. This is estimately the 6300th film on the topic of revenge.
Tejas Jr.: Nonsense! Your puny mind has been exposed to too much violence, cuss words, and bloodshed through films. I cannot help it, and it will be few more years until you totally acclimatize yourself with the safe movies of our generation.
Tejas: Okay, okay. There is no need to shout. Just tell me, what do you think was the movie about?
Tejas Jr.: The movie was a safe drama about crime. Although, I still cannot figure out why it got an A certificate.
Tejas: Back in my time, this movie would have been banned.
Tejas Jr.: Why?
Tejas: Because, few minutes after the beginning credits, for a split-second, when the heroine adjusted her tee-shirt, I could see a part of her neck’s skin. Remember the time I shut your eyes with my palm? Beta, it is not safe for us to watch even a tad bit of nudity in films. It is against our culture, the great Indian culture.

As a film enthusiast, I am strongly against the latest guidelines that the CBFC has laid out, limiting the art of cinema as a craft. It does not make any sense in regulating a film’s language given that it is the most essential part of a motion picture. A film, with its story and themes, cannot stand as an art by itself if some of its integral parts are pruned off. Many National award winning films in the past have had to use strong language to convey a particular theme to its audience, and now, if the censor board members are going to behave like overprotective parents, then clearly there is no hope for growth in Indian cinema. Internationally, Indian celluloid will hold no respect. India is currently regarded a developed nation, and it should start following other free-world countries. USA, Australia, and even the UK have a peer-based review system when it comes to arts. And they rarely regulate a film based on sex and nudity. If they did, Lars von Trier would better shift to catering. So, why can’t India, where more than five hundred movies release in a year, have one? Yes, India’s folklore is a lot different from other countries, but limiting a film’s essential factors will only mean that the film will be less authentic. It directly threatens creativity.

This latest attempt of purging objectionable content from films is as nonsensical and immature as it sounds. Even though the idea that “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it” does not hold much strength, regulating language, nudity, sex, bloodshed, and other offensive materials will only mock the art of cinema. Indian cinema, which has braved so many things in the past, should not submit to the guidelines of a board which has lately been showing traits of fascism.

WATCH a countdown of the 15 Best Hindi Movies of 2015!

CBFC should be dissolved, and then will I even think of watching Fifty Shades of Grey in an Indian theater. That is, if I am even slightly impressed by the book, why, which I wonder, was not banned in the first place.

Charlie Hebdo Incident Fuels A Gradual Fear

It’s a very sad moment for the world as we mourn the death of some of France’s top cartoonists, after twelve people were shot dead in a ruthless attack on the headquarters of France’s satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo (Hebdo is French slang for weekly) by alleged ISIS militants. It is even graver a fact when we realize that we have lost a dozen of creative people (who constantly advocated freedom of speech through their lampoons), an original type we so rarely find among ourselves. Moreover, it’s a checkpoint to a world we have always feared. A world that will harvest anarchy, as more and more self-righteous factions will dilute the controlled fantasy we now live in.

It describes the aftermath perfectly.

An old New Yorker cartoon that describes the aftermath perfectly. It has gone viral since.

The cause of the attack is believed to be the rampant publications of cartoons by Charlie Hebdo that apparently mocked some religious idols and ideologies. While people debate that Charlie Hebdo kept pushing the envelope too far even after being harmlessly attacked by religious militants back in 2009, what we decipher from this incident is that we no longer thrive on warnings. Actions are wildly instantaneous, and the aftermath always constitutes of loss, be it people’s lives or ideas and, in this case, freedom of speech. Here in India, since cartoons are limited only to last pages and below the no-longer-read classifieds of newspapers, and certain unpopular digital platforms, there is not much furore when creativity is used for mocking. No one pays heed to these cartoons, except in few cases which are probably part of publicity stunts. Contrary to the popular myth about Indians that we take the minutest things very seriously, when it comes to cartoons, we dust it off as mere children’s source of entertainment. India doesn’t have a Charlie Hebdo. Instead, we Indians spare the drama and take everything on our own hands. The result is a society confused of its actions and reactions.

The aftermath points attention at the fate of Charlie Hebdo. Will it resume publishing without amending their policy? Or, will it give in and try to avoid future provocations? Either way, France has already been shattered. In the worst terrorist attack it has witnessed in over twenty years, the French press and entertainment fraternity WILL revise their courses affecting the way publications are construed not only at home, but around the world. People around the world have supported, promoted, and lauded the difficult road Charlie Hebdo took in terms of utilizing cartoons for satire, but it is obvious that one will think twice before creating another snippet that mocks a subject, at a time when it takes only seconds for something to go viral. As the French capitulate, it will be only a matter of years that other European countries follow suit. I say this because of the conceptual fact that if we look at the statistics, terrorism has only grown in the past few decades, with no foolproof solution in sight. The brave may try their luck, but Charlie Hebdo was major, and so, other major satirists will take note. If not the agencies, at least the cartoonists will dilute their cartoons.

A terrible start for 2015 as the issue we are dealing with here not only restricts to terrorism, but the imminent death of the beloved freedom of speech. No wonder, a friend speaks the truth when he says that World War III will be sadly related to religion, if it does ever happen.

Ban On PK Will Be Murder Of Creativity

Just before the beginning of this millennium, Deepa Mehta struggled with the release of her first instalment in the Elements trilogy, Fire (1996) as some Hindutva bullies said its homosexual themes and adultery are against Indian culture and tradition. In the previous decade, at least one film per year had been deemed unfit by India’s callow Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC). While the board consists of a bunch of worst film critics in the world, the damage is borne by the filmmakers alone. But when a film which has been widely released and then deemed unfit by self-appointed censors, it marks a point in history which we can lavishly term as the “murder of creativity.” Only difference: here the damage is shared by the audience.

Rajkumar Hirani’s Aamir Khan-starrer PK is now being considered an anti-religious element as it trashes the idea of God. So they say, the hindutva bullies have the whole plot of the film as a weapon for their cause. While the film has been successfully accepted by audience and critics alike, there is no doubt that it addresses a stark topic that we all seem to have put into saturation for ages now. I, for one, think the film was an average drama that briefly forces its audience to question the religious orientations and practises they follow. The people who are seeking a ban on the film should accept the fact that the film has been widely released and most of the people who watch movies for entertainment and other purposes have seen it. So, their argument is invalid.

While the CBFC has strangely stood in defense of the film, the bullies do not seem to  be retreating. The only thing that can be derived from this adamant behaviour of the bullies is that at a time when free speech is being hugely advocated around the world, a priggish squad can snip it using outdated ideologies. Historically, the power of a faction in general has always been questioned. But when free speech is involved, these factions always seem to defy history. Reason? The topic. When Anurag Kashyap refused to add anti-smoking warnings on his film Ugly (2013), he was threatened with halt of its release. Eventually, he had to give in. Cigarettes and smoking are big topics that are debated around the world, and our government earns a lot from its business. Similarly, PK is related to religion and deities, which is even bigger and an object of a highly lucrative business worldwide.

This means that when creativity slithers out of its box and touches topics like religion, its span is numbered. And if it somehow manages to stay, it is murdered, to both dissolve its influence and create and drop another example in the ocean. Creativity cannot grow if it doesn’t influence our surroundings and the way we lead our lives. But this incident will warn some experimenters and then we have to rely on our individual intuitions and imagination to come up with ideas that we unfortunately cannot share. There is no ready solution for this unwarranted censorship which will be cumulative in its process and a grave problem future generations will have to handle. My instincts say they will.