Monthly Archives: February 2009

Tarsem – The Fall (2006)

What do I say, and where do I even begin…

I got to view this film a few months back or so, and was completely floored. I work with the erdkinder in NammaShaale, some of them have actually made ‘shorts(films of circa 3 min duration)  and so I thought, may be they would actually appreciate ‘The Fall,’ at least from the perspective of technical excellence, considering the fact that, otherwise they routinely get dished out (no, not in the school) only soapy, syruppy and maudlin films of the likes of ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘Wrong day Besan Tea.’  I am glad to say that they were also dazzled by this labour of love of Tarsem (Singh Dhabdwar) and surprisingly (to me, that is) they understood a few nuances in the film too! This reinforces my long held conviction that, given half a chance and a bouquet of choices, children intuitively, instinctively and irresistably are drawn towards excellence, be it music or film or book or ideas or life, whatever  – hence this post.

The story line is simple: A little girl Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) and a Hollywood stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) are recovering together from their respective falls, in a hospital. Roy has been recently jilted by his lady love and he feels that life is hopelessly dreary, as he is bedridden with no immediate scope for recovery and therefore it is going to be a longtime, if at all, before he can do any stunt again . The little girl (read: magic) is befriended by Roy, as she is required by him to get some Morphine pills so that he can commit suicide, thusly ending his agony. He starts telling her a story about his life couched as a few desparadoes grouping together, out to take a revenge on one Odious (‘Spanish Governor ‘) who has wronged them all in one way or the other…

What follows is a stunningly magical storyline narrated by Roy, exquisitely and vividly visualized by Alexandria.  Full of breathless landscapes – sand dunes, bald mountains, butterfly island, underwater shots of a swimming elephant, blue-blue-blue city (Jodhpur), reservoir with  geometical explorations (much like MC Escher’s recursive themes), labyrinth (actually it looked like one of the observatories of yesteryears in India – Jantar Mantar) etc etc…

When the storyline becomes bleak, Alexandria intervenes, gets into the story and starts steering the story towards a relatively cheerful direction. And the magic lantern shines on… Lovely!

I read that the whole film has very little or no animation or computer generated images. Tarsem captures the indefagitable spirit and endless hope of the child and the stunning visuals – and seemlessly weaves them together – it is pure magic. It is hard to believe that many of the visuals framed by him are popular Indian (and firangee) tourist destinations  – as Tarsem has successfully distilled the magic out of locations, but not the distracting environments. Amazing.

Editing and sound mixing were of the finest kind too – especially the technique of fading voices and lingering dialogues  when the story within the story takes over from the main story. It very nicely introduces us to the dreamy world of the child (even as Roy tells the story) while, pointers suddenly become values and values, pointers – if I may be pardoned about using a little bit of a parallel in computing science.

I have never known any other film that has used the splendid allegretto of the 7th Symphony (of Beethoven) – that is in ABSOLUTE sync with the mood of the film. And as suspected by me, the music/rendering is by the inimitable and grand Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra; to be honest, in more ways than one, the collapse of the ‘Warsaw Pact’ or the iron curtain has been a great  thing to happen. How else could one have been fortunate enough to listen to such perfectly rendered musical pieces?

There is quite a bit of humour in the film too… Darwin’s pet monkey is named Wallace (probably alluding to the Alfred R Wallace, the much forgotten co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection) and the Indian living in a wigwam (visualized by Alexandria as a palace in India) and having a squaw  (visualized as an Indian girl) – the cute interplay of the culture of American Indians and Indian Indians…

I wish he makes a film out of The Last Samurai of Helen Dewitt! Honest. This incredible capability of transforming the real into surreal, is Tarsem’s magic and I guess The Last Samurai will be in very good hands…

I strongly recommend that all you folks view and savour ‘The Fall.’  Never mind the Blimeyhog Billionaire and Shamedog Sillyonaire. (actually I haven’t seen  the recent winner of n Oscar awards, but then…)

Like all great films, this film too is not likely to hit the Indian theatres or multiplexus… But if you do want to view it at your homes, you know who to ask.

BTW, do we know that we have amidst NammaShaale parents, the director of ‘Kutti Jappanil Kuzhandaigal’  (roughly translating to: Children in ‘little Japan’) – a poignant & activist documentary on child labour in Sivakasi, that probably was made more than two decades back?


the universe within…

objet d'art?

objet d'art?

“Everything you’ve learned in school as obvious becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines. ”

— R. Buckminster Fuller

A couple of years back, one day, I had taken a walk late in the evening, with a child to a nearby lake (this child had just begun ‘schooling’ – and was some 3 years of age) – and we were chatting about how we perceive everything; that everything we see are ‘seen’ by us because our brains tell us so and things like that – even as we followed a red ant as it scurried about communicating with its fellow-ants while (may be) going back to its colony; the ant took a good amount of time – some 30 minutes or so and by that time it was getting darker, with quite a few stars shining and sparkly Venus holding forth near the zenith .  So the ‘ant watching’ activity for the day was over and we headed home.

a primary child in her environment

a primary child in her environment

While getting back, it was quite chilly and stuff and I looked up fascinated at the faintly visible akaash ganga and wondered audibly – Universe, universe, where are you?

The little bundle bouncing along said, oh you want to know dat? It is in your head!

Goosebumps. May not have been because of the cold.

I think, any child whose sense of curiosity and wonder is not periodically squashed, strangled & smothered or ignored, will go far – I mean it will reach nirvana, eventually.

And it is so true of all the children – the spark is there everywhere.

Elementary child engrossed in 'work'

(NammaShaale photos courtesy: Ms Pratima. Thanks!)

Visit: Jaathre – Ratha Saptami

And so, it happened on Ratha Saptami.

NammaShaale is located in the northeastern fringes of Bangalore and there is still a whole lot of nice ‘rural’ events that happen in the area – like Santhes (‘shantis’), Jaatres (‘village/temple fairs’) etc. The whole area is full of villages – great green orchards (mango/guava/sappota),  rippling raagi fields, interlinked lakes and cattles grazing on the emerald grass and ‘weeds’ that abound and lustily bellowing… There is a significant bit of bird wealth too – all of which are waiting to be ‘developed.’ Bangalore is rapidly and imminently coming to the places near us, this is what we tell ourselves…

One such ‘rural’ event happened on 2nd February, 2009 – and not wanting to miss the chance, we jumped into the school buses and cars and went for it

There is this little known ‘Anjaneya Devasthaana’ in the nearby Bilishivale village, that has been around for the past 150 years or so – folk memory which is undocumented and that which is purely dependent on the  selective memory of a few oldmen,  makes history slip into the realm of legends. But that’s what we seem to have here. I talked to a few elderly folks to piece together a few details about the temple and the fair.

Apparently, around 150 years back or so, a farmer chanced upon an idol of Hanuman, when he was ploughing his fields – and the slightly damaged icon was ‘installed’ in a makeshift shed and once-in-a-week kind of worship started for the icon. Around the time of independence, a jaatre was beginning to get organized (and every year on Rata Saptami day (seventh day of the Indian month – Megha) when the ‘north bound journey’ of the Sun is on its way from winter Solstice) by the local villages, at the premises of the temple.

The temple continues to be surprisingly small and desolate – still nestled amongst the ubiquitous mango orchards. but the jaatre attracts some  50000 to 70000 people/pilgrims every year. Some 250 odd makeshift shops/stalls (mostly put up by folks professing Islam) are routinely put up, selling all kinds of trinkets and eatables, for a day. Whoever visits the temple on this day, can have a free lunch (‘prasaada’) sponsored by the local folks. On this occasion, all the way from the Hennur-Bagalur Road to the temple is dotted with free buttermilk and ‘thindi’ stalls. The whole Bilishivale village (of some 300 houses) owns the function and it is nice to see a bunch of local youth/volunteers handling all the gazillion issues and details of organizing such an event with aplomb. Folks come in tractors to buses to cycles – from all the nearby villages – and we even chanced upon our friends from Chockanahalli – the village our erdkinder went to last year, to conduct a anthropological study!

Of course, for the children of NammaShaale, it was a novel experience mingling with the milling crowds. shopping for trinkets (each child was given some money, assigned to a group and then each group of five or so  children to an adult from schoo;), getting tattoed, going on a merry-go-around, gorging on tender coconuts, bargaining (and more bargaining) for trinkets etc etc. It was fun. All in all, we spent close to 2 hours out there and it was with much difficulty that we chaperoned all the children back to school. They ‘simply’ didn’t want to leave the fair grounds… *phew*

Here are a few pics shot by the Demiofficial Photographer of NammaShaale – Ms Pratima.

some primary children, Smt Yellamma in the background (smiling)

some primary children, Smt Yellamma in the background (smiling)

milling crowds...

milling crowds...


elementary children showing off their 'tattoos'

elementary children showing off their 'tattoos'

Its truly elementary, Mr Watson…

welcome aboard, parents…

Dear fellow-parents:

Thanks for visiting the blog.

Whenever a few parents (like us, for example) of children that go to
NammaShaale  met, we have always discussed about creating a forum for
exchanging of ideas and opinions about ‘education’ in general and
NammaShaale in particular.  And, this is an effort in that direction.

We thought, we would just begin a blog – at – an
opensource site that is clutter and ad free; this effort has been going on for the past 2 months or so and now, I feel the time has come to ‘talk of cabbages and kings’ and spread the news around…

If you peruse the site, you would see that there are many categories –
such as news, request-for-comments, visit report, elementary,
erdkinder etc – as only one person has posted so far, it reflects only one
person’s view of the universe. But am sure, with contributions and
active participation from you folks, it could become the bulletin
board of a vibrant community. Since this blog is regularly read by folks from the ‘management’ of the school as well as staff, I suppose there could be healthy and effective interchange of memes…

We understand that, the parents’ community is generally busy, what
with the pressures of having to ‘earn a living’ etc – but we would like to think
that we always have enough time to share and spare, if anything has to
do something with the wellbeing of our children. Hence I suppose, you
can start participating, what?

As such, the basic rules that of course all of us will obey, would be
the following:

1. The content should have lots of those fundamental particles called
cluons. (Meaning, the content will respect the time and energy of its readers and will seek to be clueful, always.)

2. No ad hominem stuff, Never. (There would not be any personal attacks and venting of spleen)

3. We are free to crib and complain as long as we actually do something to address it. Giving positive suggestions is absolutely fine and welcome, And if that can be accompanied by what one can and will do, to implement the suggestion, that would be more welcome. As Yoda (of Starwars fame) says: TRY? there is NO try. Only DO or no do.

4. If one chooses to post as an ‘anonymous’ person (this itself is not
an issue) and if the post/comment violates the three above, then the
admin would intervene.

Please feel free to post your comments. If you want to contribute or
be an editor , please contact me at ‘ramjee dot swaminathan at gmail dot com’; for the time being I would be the admin of the site and if any of the parents also wants to be the admin, we can share the responsibility or I can transition it in toto. Whatever that works.

If you don’t want to be a contributor (in the formal sense of the
term), but still want to publish something of relevance, please do
contact me. We will try to take things further, as meaningfully as

Some links:

Who are we –
December 2006 archives –
January 2009  archives –

Your comments and suggestions to make the blog an effective medium and
as a vehicle for discussion and issues-resolution  – are most welcome.

Speacial thanks to Rama, Jayashree, Reshma  and Sowmya for their feedback.