Monday, December 30, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird (film)

An adaptation of the novel written by Harper Lee and directed by Robert Mulligan, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the few good courtroom movies I have seen. The film poster says, "The rare film story of a father who must expose his children to a small town's outraged passions...and can only protect them with his love." It is indeed a rare film story which is explicitly mentioned as 'not suitable for children', and yet narrates the story in the view of a young tomboy Scout. 
To Kill a Mockingbird was set in a fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama in 1932. It looks into the prevalence of racism in Maycomb society through three young children namely, Scout, Jim and Dill, and focuses on the character of Scout's father Atticus Finch. Intertwined between these characters, the story goes on about how Atticus defends a negro Tom Robinson who allegedly raped a white woman Mayella Ewell. Though the case is strong in Tom's side, the racist tendency of the society results in Atticus losing the case. However, Atticus efforts gain him the respect from other black people in the society. In the other hand, the story also talks about Boo Radley, and the children's imagination about his monstrous appearance. Final scenes talk about how the vengeful father of Mayella attacks Scout and Jim and how Boo saves them by killing the attacker.

There are scenes which give scintillating effect to the viewers. Let me describe few here.
  1. The courtroom scene: As said earlier, the courtroom scene makes clear that Tom Robinson is innocent, and it was Mayella who tried to take advantage of him, and it was her father who beat her up. In this scene, Atticus' appeal to the all white jury to keep aside their prejudice and consider the case in human point of view, is one of the best pieces of dialogue I have heard. Yet the all white jury finds Tom guilty anyway. The best of the scene is the quietness the verdict receives from either side. Neither the whites cheer much, nor the blacks send cries of protest. This quietness is clear symbol of the faultiness of the verdict and tolerance of the blacks. Jewel in the crown is the saying by a reverend, "Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father's passin."
  2. The lynch mob scene: A lynch mob of white men tries to attack Tom Robinson in a jailhouse. Being prepared to break in and hang Robinson, the mob faces Atticus himself guarding the jailhouse. In that remarkable scene, Scout being unaware of the intentions of the mob, bursts onto the scene and shames a poor farmer into leaving. Despite being of innocent words, her speech shows a strategic exercise. It made me wonder whether a child could turn away such an angry lynch mob? The way the scene is portrayed clearly provides an aye for an answer.
  3. Spit on the face scene: After the death of Tom, Atticus goes to his house to inform Tom's wife. Bob Ewell appears there and calls one of the black men, "Boy, go in the house and bring out Atticus Finch." One of them does so and when Atticus is out, Bob spits on his face, Atticus stares at him, wipes his face and drives away. There seem no specialty in this scene as such. But the face expressions by the two actors is the gem. Atticus' angry but confident look and Ewell's unstable fear in the stare down were well captured in camera.
  4. Killing a Mockingbird scene: The climax sees a sudden appearance of Boo Radley. Robert Ewell is found dead with a knife stabbed under his ribs, and Boo appears in Jim's room. This appearance is much unexpected because of the descriptions of Boo and the story's focus away from him. Though it becomes obvious that Boo killed Bob, Sheriff says, "There's a black man dead for no reason and the man responsible for that is dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time." After this, so far innocent Scout reaches to her father and with much understanding of the situation and states that what the Sheriff says is right because sending Boo to the gallows would be like "killing a mockingbird".
Added to the excellent story by Harper Lee and direction by Robert Mulligan, the third element that leads the viewer to concentrate on the movie is music by Elmer Bernstein. In fact, till the movie was over, I almost forgot there has been a background music going on. It has so embedded with the screenplay. Hats off to Bernstein.
In total, To Kill a Mockingbird is an artistic depiction of the then society of Alabama. It views, speaks and plays the reality of a racist society and the few good men in it. No wonder it remains in the top 100 in IMDB ratings for the past 23 years.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beyond the Tropic - A Journey to Rajdhani

Travelling is an unique activity that brings us in contact with various places and people for a much shorter period of time, but teaches extensively about the same. In Francis Bacon's words, "Travel is a part of both education and experience."
I am a traveler, though not a frequent or extensive one, I like traveling. But till the mid of this month, my journeys were contented within Tamil Nadu. Till the mid of this month, I had crossed the borders of Tamil Nadu for only four times. However, within the State, I had traveled across every districts at least twice. My entire travel history changed when I started to New Delhi on 15th December 2013. Though the purpose of my visit was to attend IFS 2013 Personality Test, it was the travel I had taken has been more memorable. Like all the great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen. And here, I would like to share things I remember to have seen in my entire trip to New Delhi.
Andhra Pradesh: Starting on a chilly morning of 15th December, myself and four of my friends boarded in Chennai-Delhi Rajdhani express. The first State we entered was Andhra Pradesh, in which we could see two faces. Geographically, the Coastal parts were completely different from rest of the State. In the coastal plains we could see improved agricultural practices with proper shelter belts and wind-breakers. The climate was moderate till we reached Vijayawada. Once we entered the Telengana region, we could see rugged terrains with tank irrigated agriculture and higher temperature. Social backwardness of the region was more expressive in agricultural practices and settlement patterns. Of high mark of Andhra Pradesh as I had seen was the majestic view of bridges across the river Krishna.
Maharashtra: I remember only two things from this state - Pollution and forests. As the train entered Ballarpur, a smoke cloud arising from many parts of the city welcomed us. Accompanying this was the effluent from paper industry here. The most regretful view of the entire trip was Ballarpur. On the other side, the Tadoba forest was extremely calm and fresh. It was my first time to travel through a forest region and it was a pleasant experience. The view of teak trees will stay in my memories always.
Madhya Pradesh: The first all Hindi state we entered was Madhya Pradesh. Lakes and Ravines were the token view of the state. Two of my co-passengers were from Bhopal. One thing we noticed from them was that the North Indians love to sleep. From Chennai till Bhopal, they got up only to eat. It was in Madhya Pradesh, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer, to the land where sun never comes overhead. It was from Madhya Pradesh, fog started to block our vision.
Rajasthan: A small stretch of the journey and a small station of Dholpur were all that was to see in Rajasthan. North of the Chambal badlands was so dry with minimum number of shrubs and trees. As fog became heavier, we were not able to see anything beyond 10-20 metres. This gave us no other choice other than to sleep, resulting in skipping the Uttar Pradesh part of this post.
New Delhi: The train became intermittent as we entered the outskirts of New Delhi, presumably due to heavy fog. Crossing the growing dense settlements, the mighty Rajdhani Express finally reached Nizamuddin station only after 4 hours of scheduled arrival, at 1400 hours on 16th December.
Thus ends the first part of my post "Beyond the Tropic."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lessons learnt...

It has been a year and half since I started to prepare for Civil Services Examination, and I am in mid way through my first attempt. In this one and half years time, I have understood a few things which I would like to share in this post.
  1. Preparing for Civil Services Exam itself is a worthwhile activity. It provides a different perspective on the events happening around us. Such a new perspective to view the problems wouldn't have been possible if at all I did not take up civil service as my career option. For this I thank all my well wishers who encouraged me taking up this track.
  2. There is much to learn. Our knowledge is very limited even in the fields we perceive to be strong with. But very few people really accept this fact. When a person understands and accepts the knowledge he/she possess is incomplete, that person succeeds.
  3. There are not shortcuts. Hard work and dedication are the necessary criteria for success. With proper guidance, any person working hard and dedicated to do service can get through the process and become a civil servant.
  4. Life would see many ups and downs. In all the situations a person needs to maintain consistency. A person who is consistent in thoughts, talks and deeds can become whoever he or she wants to be.
  5. Staying positive even when everything goes wrong. Such positive attitude is the very basis of consistency.
  6. Every human is respectable. Their status or position does not really matter. Each person is a constituent of the society, so be duly respected.
  7. No information is trivial. Everything we come across has its own impact on our surrounding. It is important that a human understands this truth and weighs all the data equally.
These may look simple things. But in the past few months I have experienced the importance of above said statements. I hope this helps other aspirants who read it.