Being in Kerala end-October was a thrilling experience. It was pretty iffy, since the end of the semester was always hectic. But Ranjith Krishnan-- the amiable course convenor --was always supportive (snap 5 from top, Valedictory). I left on 24th night on the 12218 Kerala Sampark Kranti (Dep. Margao stn. 2225 hours). The train, which originates at Chandigarh, finally left at 0015 the next day, but the journey was pleasant and swift. It was a joy to see the undulating rivers, the paddy fields, and the various stations salute the train. My return journey on the 16346 Netravati Express was the very antithesis, with the sleeper class virtually becoming a free-for-all. Even old ladies with luggage were standing in the aisle!
What made me travel almost 950 kms. into 'God's Own Country' was a UGC sponsored national seminar- cum-workshop on 'Re-tracking the Celluloid: History, Politics and Popular Culture in Films' organized by the post-graduate department of English, Nair Service Society (N.S.S.) college, Pandalam (Estbd. 1950) over the weekend, 24-26 October 2013.* Since I was deputed for supervision in my college on 24th I could only leave the same night. It was a joy to see Vysakh and Akhil (snap 3 from top) waiting to receive me at Pandalam bus stand at 6 p.m. after a 90 minute journey from Kayankulam station/bus stand. They escorted me to the welcoming Nallukettu hotel (snap 2 from top) where, no sooner had I put my haversack in the room, I ordered coffee and pakoras for all of us.
The next day, the gracious hospitality of the department and the students continued with Anoop helping me with my power-point presentation. He also cued and played my film clips on the LCD for the presentation (snap 1, seated to the right). The tech-savvy Anoop who was so generous with his time, gave me the confidence to make a worthy presentation. My paper was titled, "'Ready, Steady, Po': Chennai Express and the Indian Imagination." Since ours was the first paper after lunch the hilarious film clips -- including the hit number, '1234 Get on the Dance floor,' helped to keep the audience glued to their seats.
The impressive array of papers celebrated 100 years of Indian cinema. Presentations were thoughtfully arranged thematically into sessions. Some of these were, 'Cinema and Ecology,' 'Masculinity in Cinema,' 'Depiction of Women in Popular Indian Cinema,' and the refreshing 'Food in Cinema.' Resource persons also spoke on cinema-related topics like, 'Marketing the Dreamworld' and 'Plotting the Script.' As we somewhat ruefully left the majestic building of N.S.S. college after the seminar concluded, with a spirited performance by students of dances from select films (both regional and mainstream), we paused to take a photo with Ranjith's younger brother Avinash, who gladly agreed to drop me back to the hotel in his car (snap 4 with Prof. Rekhasree and Prof. Vineetha Krishnan). The boys took me.to S.N.Bakery where I picked up the mandatory snacks Kerala is famous for! There is still a sliver of the famed black halwa at home if you'd care to taste it! The seminar was a big boost for me in my foray into film. Now things are no longer iffy. Instead it's all IFFI! Excuse me while I register as a delegate for the International Film Festival of India in Goa between 20th-30th November 2013.
*www.pgenglishnsspandalam.com; all photos taken on Brian's Canon 4x zoom, 14.1 megapixels.