Sunday, December 23, 2012


A word of caution: 

If you are planning to watch ‘Ozhimuri’ reclining on your couch sipping scotch and soda, munching on some hors d'oeuvres all set for a wholesome weekend entertainment, banish the thought. Ozhimuri is not an entertainer but a serious cinema for the connoisseur!   

The theme of ‘Ozhimuri’ is based on Marumakkathayam, the matrilineal system of inheritance of ancestral property, followed even today by certain families in the Travancore region.

While Vivaaha Mochanam is the Malayalam word for divorce the word Ozhimuri is perhaps the local dialect, unique to the border regions of the Travancore-Kanyakumari belt. Under the matrilineal system, women had the unequivocal power to divorce their husbands by giving 'ozhimuri' on a piece of palm-leaf which is accepted as a valid document for their separation. The word Ozhimuri is perhaps derived from the fact that a small piece of palm-leaf is used as a document to annul the marriage.

Ozhimuri begins with Meenakshi (Mallika) who is 55, demanding divorce from her 71-year-old husband Thanupillai (Lal), who had ill-treated her and their son, Sharath (Asif Ali), all through their lives. The story takes place in a village in Kanyakumari district, which was once part of the Princely State of Travancore but has come under Tamil Nadu after the States re-organization in 1956. The confusion in the minds of the locals as they are struggling for identity between two distinct cultures viz. Malayalam and Tamil provides an interesting backdrop.

It is only through the narrations of Sharath to Bala (Bhavana) a young lawyer that we get to see the trauma that he and his mother had to go through at the hands of his cruel father Thanupillai (Lal) who had lived his life with hatred and vengeance having been brought up by his fiery and matriarchal mother, Kali Pillai brilliantly essayed by Swetha Menon. Her authority and ruthlessness in kicking out her husband Mallan Sivan Pillai because she finds him an useless wastrel, leaves a mental scar on her son Thaanu Pillai who resolves that unlike his father, he will never let a woman dominate his life but keep her in her place. Thus, Meenakshi, Thaanu Pillai's wife is relegated to a speck of dust in their household. She is abused and ill-treated by her husband in his retaliation to the ruthlessness of his mother. Whenever he gives a resounding slap on his wife Meenaksh’s face, Thaanu Pillai convinces himself that he is not the weakling that his father was. In this process Thaanu Pillai alienates his only son Sarath, who finds it impossible to understand his father's cruelty and meanness which leaves the distraught family in shambles.

The film portrays women in two extremely opposite categories. Kaali Pillai the haughty and ruthless woman who doesn't hesitate even for a second to slap a man who encroaches her land or treating the Police Inspector like her subordinate when summoned to the police station is one extreme and Meenakshi the docile and meek wife who gets viciously slapped by her husband for the slightest of reasons and stoically accept her lot as his doormat is the other.

While the on-screen presentation is slow, there is not a moment of boredom or slackness in the narrative. The Trivandrum dialect spoken in this film adds flavor to the narrative. Mind you, it is not the easy flowing slang spoken by Mammooty in the Film Rajamanickyam but this dialect is unique to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border region and delivered with élan by the three main protagonists Lal and Shwetha Menon and perhaps by the dubbing artist for Mallika.  

While the romantic lead provided by the younger actors Bhavana and Asif Ali is up to the mark, they get completely overshadowed by the histrionics and dialogue delivery of the three senior protagonists. The brief court scene in the climax is certainly a game-changer and makes you sit up.

Ozhimuri has two surprises. The first surprise is Director Madhupal, whom we have seen as a supporting actor doing cameos in innumerable Malayalam films but never even thought he had the potential to present such a serious narrative. 

The second surprise is bilingual writer Jeyamohan who scripted the Tamil blockbuster ‘Angadi Theru’ which boldly exposed the ruthless and cruel way in which large retailers like ‘Saravana Stores’ exploited and ill treated their employees. This is his maiden attempt in scripting a Malayalam film and has done a brilliant job.

Verdict: A must watch if you are a lover of serious Cinema!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I have always been obsessed with the idea of owning a Trumpet Gramophone Player but I didn’t know where to look for one or whom to approach. I tried Google and contacted some of the Trumpet Gramophone enthusiasts most of them from UK but that didn’t help much except to get some tips on how to identify a genuine HMV Gramophone Player as there are many fake replicas in the market and these are not really worth buying.

Little did I know that my obsession will be rewarded with a genuine HMV Trumpet Gramophone Player, that too in the most unlikely of all the places, at a Spices Shop right here in Dubai!!

It was January 2001 and just a week before our visit to Bangalore on vacation, Manju wanted to shop for some spices like Saffron, Cloves, Black Cardamom and Cinnamon to carry with us to Bangalore. We were in one of the shops in the Spice-Souq in Dubai and while Manju is busy asking for and selecting various spices, I perched myself on a stool and looked around the shop just to while away the time and suddenly spotted this beauty in a corner of the shop… my HMV trumpet Gramophone Player!! 

I immediately conducted a few tests I have learned through e-mail from the Gramophone experts in UK to determine whether it is a genuine HMV Trumpet Gramophone Player or a fake replica:

a)   If the Brass Trumpet is gleaming like Gold, reject it as it’s a fake replica –the Trumpet on this one is almost dark with plenty of green and white patches, molds caused by years of oxidization on brass.     
b)   If the base wooden box (Motor-housing) is squire in shape, reject it as it’s a fake replica - the base wooden box in this one is octagonal in shape.
c)   If the HMV insignia in the front of base wooden box is clear and visible reject it as it’s a fake replica – there is only a dark patch with traces of some assorted colours in place of the insignia in this one.

I cranked the winding-handle on the side a few times, released the stopper and to my utter delight, the turn-table started spinning at 78 Revolutions per Minute indicating that the Motor is in good condition. Hooray… I have found my genuine Trumpet Gramophone Player and now it’s time to negotiate a price and buy it!!  

The young man in-charge of the shop, a Sindhi, is the owner’s son, who has taken over the business upon the sudden death of his father. When I guardedly asked him a few questions about this Player I realized that he knew nothing about Gramophone Players as he was more interested in DVD Players, Music CDs and MP3 Players. However, he was eager to get rid of what he thought was an old junk, a legacy left behind by his late father, to the first bakhrah who wants it. He greedily quoted 250 Dirhams for the Player (about USD 70) and although I knew it is worth much more than that, I started bargaining lest he may become suspicious about its collectors’ value. After some hard bargaining he relented and agreed to give it to us for 225 Dirhams (about USD 63). He also gave a good discount on the spices that Manju bought.

Both of us left the shop happy and contented, Manju that she has bought all the spices that she wanted at a good price and I that I have got my genuine Trumpet Gramophone Player. The shop-owner also gave me a 78 RPM HMV Vinyl Record with two songs from Rajkapoor’s 1964 magnum opus Sangam and a Gramophone Needle as his compliment. He did not have any more vinyl records or Needles nor did he have any idea as to where I could source these. 

After bringing home my Trumpet Gramophone Player, I had two important tasks. The first is to remove the patches of green and white molds on the Trumpet and restore it to its gleaming glory. After a good deal of discussion with metal experts, I made a paste of Vinegar, Lemon juice concentrate and Dishwashing-Salt (Salz) and applied the paste on the patches with an old toothbrush. The green and white patches dissolved slowly and the Trumpet became clean. Then I polished it with liquid Brasso and bingo.. my Trumpet was gleaming!!  


The more difficult task was to restore the HMV insignia, the picture of the Fox-terrier named Nipper listening sadly to the voice of his late Master, Mark Barraud emanating from the Trumpet of the Gramophone Player. Restoration of oil painting on wooden surface is a highly skilled job and needs technical expertise and has to be done with a lot of dexterity and I realized I am ill-equipped to handle this job all by myself. I got hold of our carpenter Swaminathan who has some skill on this job but again, he is not a restoration expert. He inspected the patches of colour and said he cannot guarantee 100% result and he will only clean the surface but try to ensure that he will not damage what is left of the HMV insignia in oil-painting.

He dabbed a brush dipped in lacquer-thinner on the patches of colors and buffed gently with a dry cloth. Slowly the dirt came-off and seeing the results Swaminathan himself got more obsessed with the restoration process. After cleaning the surface he gently applied mineral-turpentine on the surface repeatedly. Slowly but steadily the visibility of the insignia improved and Wow… almost 90% of the HMV insignia was restored!! The Fox-Terrier Nipper was visible, the Trumpet was visible but the base unit (called the Cylinder in that particular model) has been obliterated. Almost 95% of the brand name “His Master’s Voice” is also visible although some of the letters are smudged.
Now that my base-unit is also ready with the HMV insignia, I sprayed a generous dose of “Pledge” Furniture Polish on it and buffed the surface with chamois leather and the base unit started shining like Rose-Wood!!


Now that the Gramophone Player is ready, I placed the Vinyl Record on the Turntable, cranked the handle till it became taut, released the stopper and gently lowered the gooseneck arm on which the needle is fitted on the edge of the Vinyl record. Mukesh’s Golden baritone filled the room with his rendition of “Mere mann ki ganga aur tere man ki jamuna ka, bol raadha bol sangam hoga ki nahin”. I turned the other side of the record and it played Vyjayantimala’s dance number “Main kya karun Ram mujhe Budda milgaya

In the next few days I played these two songs again and again and the sound quality slowly deteriorated and ultimately ended up as an unpleasant screech after about twelve to fifteen repetitions!!

I realized it’s time to change the Needle and get a few more Vinyl Records and also identify a source to procure these. I knew that a Gramophone Needle can play only two songs i.e. both the sides of one record if you want the best sound quality and a maximum of four songs i.e. two records after which it has to be replaced.

I shopped around in Dubai and found that only a high-tech “Stylus” used in electronic record-players is available in the market. This stylus is meant for playing LP Records which run at a speed of 33 RPM and cannot play my old 78 RPM Vinyl record. Further, this stylus cannot be fitted in the Needle groove in the gooseneck arm of my Trumpet Gramophone Player. 

Having come to a dead-end, my obsession with the Gramophone Player slowly wore-off and we kept it as a Trophy possession in our lobby for visitors and guests to admire. It most certainly did get admiring glances and evinced a lot of interest from our guests but somehow I lost interest in it. It was regularly cleaned and polished by our domestic-help Suresh but remained just a showpiece for the next 10 plus Years. 



This Year (August 2012) while surfing the Net, I suddenly found that the Gramophone Company Ltd, UK made Trumpet Gramophone Players only between the Years 1921 and 1936. They discontinued the Trumpet-Speaker model in the year 1937 and produced the box-type Gramophone Players with a lid and the speaker was inbuilt in the diaphragm-housing of the gooseneck arm.

This meant that my Trumpet Gramophone Player is at least 76 Years old, could be even older and it is still in working condition!! I looked at my Trumpet Gramophone Player with a new found respect especially in view of its age and decided to put it back into action. So, where do I source the Vinyl Records and the Needles? The answer suggested itself... from Good Old Chennai!!! 

We were scheduled to visit India in Sep 2012 but we will be directly flying from Dubai to Bangalore, drive straight to Mercara (a beautiful hill station in Coorg Dist. 225 KM from Bangalore) and relax for a week at Club Mahindra’s Kodagu Valley Resort, and the reservations have been done well in advance as part of our Club Mahindra Holidays. The original plan was to spend about 10 Days at Bangalore after returning from Mercara and then return to Dubai.

I had to reschedule our itinerary but I didn’t want to mess with our Mercara trip as Manju has planned it to the last detail and both of us were looking forward to it. So, instead of staying at Bangalore we decided to fly to Chennai, but we have to return to Bangalore at least on the 4th of October to board our Dubai flight from Bangalore on Oct 5 early morning. 

After reaching Chennai, I immediately got busy with my expedition in quest of old Gramophone Records and Needles, booked a Call Taxi from Fast Track and started with NSC Bose Road and covered other areas like Esplanade, Parry’s Corner, Koyambedu and Red Hills but drew blank everywhere and 4 Days have already lapsed and I had just 1 more day left before flying back to Bangalore and to Dubai. I nearly gave up my expedition but my Taxi Driver, sensing my disappointment suggested that I should also try at Richie Street adjoining Mount Road as a last stop before calling-off my expedition. 

We reached Richie Street and my driver dropped me in front of Bata Showroom and told me to come back there when I have finished and give him a call on his Mobile. Richie Street was full of shops selling Electronic gizmos like i-Phone, i-Pod, i-Pad, Cameras, MP3 Players, Media Players, DVDs et al but no sign of old 78 RPM Vinyl Records. After walking in and out of about 150 Shops I decided that I will not waste any more time and money (on Taxi fare) on this wild goose chase when a friendly shopkeeper suggested Dastageer Bhai’s Shop and I struck Gold!!   

Dastageer Bhai’s Shop was a nondescript and derelict outfit in one of the by-lanes adjoining Richie Street and a bearded man in his mid-seventies, presumably Dastageer Bhai himself, was sitting at the Ghalla in a semi state of coma. I shook him and he came out of his coma and asked me what is my requirement and I could sense a trace of acerbity in his tone as I have intruded upon his state of hibernation. I told him my requirement in a few sentences which I have been repeating like a pre-recorded tape for the last 4 days to hundreds of shopkeepers allover Chennai.

Dastageer Bhai suddenly brightened, sensing some good business and beckoned his son to attend to my requirements. “Arrey Jafarullah, Saab ko zaraa records dhikao” he ordered his son. Jafarullah surfaced out of nowhere and requested me to accompany him to the opposite building which he said is their stock room. The building was dark inside as there was power-cut at that time of the day and we climbed two flights of steep and narrow stairs using the feeble light from our Mobile phone screens. In the second floor he opened a locked room which was pitch dark inside and he lit a candle. I looked around the room as my eyes were slowly getting used to the dim candle light and realized to my utter delight that I have reached the Mecca of my quest, the Promised Land so to say. There were piles and piles of old 78 RPM Vinyl Records stacked by the walls all over the room!!

Jafarullah pulled out a rickety table and a stool from the room, placed it outside in the passage where there was some diffused sunlight and heaped about 200 or so records on the table and asked me to select from the lot and said he will return after 15 minutes to provide me the next consignment. I was in a state of euphoria and told him not to hurry but come back at his own leisure and focused my attention on the records.

The first consignment had lot of Urdu Ghazals, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil Film songs. My very first job was to inspect the quality of the records, reject the bad ones and arrange the good ones in a pile before I start the selection process. Most of the records were broken or frayed on the edges and replete with innumerable scratches.

Out of the 200 odd records, only about 25 to 30 records passed the test for quality and after discarding Urdu, Telugu and Kannada songs I ended up with just four Records – 1 Hindi and 3 Tamil Film Songs. 

The first was a HMV Record with two solos from the 1966 Hindi Film Anupama, a Dharmendra – Sharmila starrer. The solos are “Dheere Dheere Machal by Lata Mangeshkar on one side and ‘Ya Dhil ki Suno’ by Hemant Kumar on the other side.
I have pleasure in inviting you to listen to the solo "Dheere Dheere Machal" by Lata Mangeshkar played on my HMV Trumpet Gramophone Player.

The second was also a HMV Record with two duets from the 1957 Tamil Film ‘Manamagan Thevai’  a Sivaji Ganesan – Bhanumati Starrer. The duets are ‘Vennila Jyothiyaai Veesuthe’ by Ghantasala and Bhanumati on one side and ‘Kodai Idi Kaatru Mazhai’ by A.M. Rajah and Jikki on the other.  

I have pleasure in inviting you to listen to “Vennila Jyothiyai Veesuthe” played on my 1936 Model HMV Trumpet Gramophone Player.

The third was a Columbia Record with a Bharatha Natiyam Number from the 1963 Tamil Film ‘Paar Magale Paar’ another Sivaji Ganesan Starrer. The song ‘Vetkamaai irukkuthadi’ by Sulamangalam Sisters and P. Leela is recorded on both the sides.  

As we have listened to two HMV Records, now we will listen to “Vetkamaai Irukkuthadi” recorded on a Columbia Disc.

You would have noticed that the sound quality of this is better than the previous two numbers, because (a) I have replaced a new Needle and (b) the Columbia record I played is in very good condition without scratches, chipped or frayed edges.


The fourth was a HMV Record with two duets from the 1969 Tamil Film ‘sivantha Mann’ again a Sivaji Ganesan Starrer. These duets are by T.M.S and P. Susheela. 

More important than the records to me are the original paper covers with the HMV and Columbia Logo printed on them, in which the Records are kept. As Jafaruulah has already returned, I told him that I need the original HMV and Columbia Covers and he managed to get four such covers although they were all torn and needed a good deal of reinforcement. 


Jafarullah also gave me a small Plastic Box containing 100 Gramophone Needles, enough to see me through, at least for the next one year. Having made the selection now is the time to negotiate prices. Jafarullah quoted a total price of Rs 1,100 split into Rs 200 per Record and Rs 300 for the box of 100 Needles. After hard bargaining we shook hands on a total Price of Rs 700 – split into Rs 125 per Record and Rs 200 for the 100 Needles.


I reinforced the original paper covers using 3M Scotch-Tapes, packed my records carefully in bubble-paper and brought them to Dubai for uninterrupted listening pleasure from my 76 Years old HMV Trumpet Gramophone Player, trying hard not to feel guilty about spending Rs 3,600 on Call Taxi Fare on my 4 days shopping expedition to procure these Vinyl Records and Gramophone Needles for Rs 700!!

Now that I know where to go for buying my records and needles, the Call Taxi fare will not exceed Rs 500 on my future shopping trips and that is some comfort!!