Kerala is ruled by the Left Democratic Front, and some of the widespread Communist sentiment has coloured commercial film productions in shiny hues of red.
The Nivin Pauly starrer Sakhavu (Comrade) is the latest Malayalam movie to celebrate Communism and spread the ideology through populist means. Sidhartha Siva’s movie, which has been running to packed houses across the state, sees the Malayalam star Nivin Pauly in the double role of Krishnankumar, a student activist, and Communist leader Krishnan, who unites tea plantation workers facing exploitation. Krishnakumar learns the qualities of a true Communist by observing the life of Comrade Krishnan.
The first movie to rally to the cause was the March 3 release Oru Mexican Aparatha (A Mexican Infinity), which portrayed the intense political rivalry between a left student outfit and a Congress-led student political organisation. The film, starring Tovino Thomas, was a box office hit.
Director Tom Emmatty said that he didn’t think about the market potential when he decided to make Oru Mexican Aparatha. “I wanted people to come to the theatres, and opting for a movie with Communist themes was a ploy to attract more viewers,” Emmatty said. “I made the movie with good intentions, but I received many brickbats. Many alleged that I was trying to malign Communist parties and their student wings.”
Detractors of the red mania will soon have another cause to agitate against: Comrade in America, directed by Amal Neerad and starring young star Dulquer Salman, is scheduled for a May release. The movie, also known as CIA, has been shot at locations in the United States of America and Mexico. The posters show Salman in the backdrop of a modified American flag, in which the stars have been replaced by the Communist sickle and hammer.
However, the movie’s director, Amal Neerad, said CIA should not be lumped with its predecessors. “I had planned to release the movie in 2016 but it was delayed as I couldn’t complete the shoot on time,” Neerad said. “CIA should not be considered as run-of-the-mill stuff.”
Romanticism for the Communist cause dates back to the early 1970s. Legendary filmmaker Thoppil Bhasi directed Ningalenne Communistakki in 1970 and Anubhavangal Paalichakal in 1971. In the ’80s and ’90s, several films examined the ideology that has endured in Kerala for decades, including Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mukhamukham, Lenin Rajendran’s Meenamasathile Sooryan, IV Sasi’s Adimakal Udamakal,Venu Nagavally’s Lal Salam and TV Chandran’s Ormakalundayirikkanam.
“Filmgoers in Kerala have always had high regard for ideal Communists,” pointed out film critic NP Sajeesh. “So all the films went on to become huge hits.”
Many of the left-leaning films made in previous decades subtly tried to malign the trade union movement that had been gaining momentum in the state, Sajeesh added. “Most of the films created the binaries of good Communists and bad Communists, and tried to exhort people that trade unions were a bane.” The newer batch of films harks back to an idealised notion of Communist politics even though it is widely believed that the state’s leadership is veering towards the Right, Sajeesh pointed out.
Rather than ideology, it’s the colour of money that seems to be encouraging filmmakers towards Communist-themed movies. “I am sure that the success of two recent movies will inspire more directors to try out similar stories,” Sajeesh said.
From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich
A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.
For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.
Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.
The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.
While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.
Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.
If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.
Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).
If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.
There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.
The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.
Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.