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One More Loyolite in Malayalam Cinema

babithgeorgeBabith George (1993 SSLC) enters Malayalam films as music director. Babith has composed songs and the background score for Dracula 2012.

Watch and listen to his song “Paarijaatha Pookkal” here (via YouTube).

And then, read about him in The Hindu.

Hat tip: Benoy Ittyavirah (1993 SSLC)



Let us march a-singing

Let us march a-singing

May 2012 was the Loyola music season.

First off the block was Jishnu Dasgupta (1996 ISC), of the Bangalore-based band Swarathma. Their second album Topiwalleh was released in early May. Catch the title track. Or hear them live on their multi-city tour.

George Peter (1989) then came with “One: The Unity Song”. The music video is on YouTube and was hyped for featuring an ensemble of singers, film stars and other celebrities.

The new sensation, however, is Siddharth Kumar (2005), who brought us “Paloma”, modelled on Kolaveri. Must hear! His band, the Chennai-based Jack, Johnnie and the Ol’ Monk have come out with an album titled Crystal Moon. That’s Siddharth on the left, playing the keyboard.


Santosh Sivan Enters the Top League

Santosh Sivan (1976) has become an active member of the American Society of Cinematographers. The club is international (despite the ‘American’ title) and entry is only by invitation from peers. So, entering this league is considered a top honour among cinematographers, and Santosh is the first from South Asia to make it.

Becoming an active member is a four-step process. According to the President of the Society, “First, you have to be recommended by three active members who write letters explaining why they think you’re qualified. They take into consideration your body of work as well as the integrity of your character. Those three letters are not something that you can solicit; they just have to happen. You and your cinematography have to have made enough of an impression that three of the world’s best cinematographers took notice.” Then the candidate is invited to sit before the Membership Committee. After hearing from the candidates’ about their work, thoughts on cinematography, etc., the Committee votes. If favourable, your name goes to the Board of Governors of the Society, who consider the recommendation and vote. If you are still favoured, a letter proposing you for membership is sent to every active member of the Society. If there are no objections within 30 days, the candidate is admitted into the Society.

Santosh Sivan’s name was proposed by Michael Chapman (cinematographer notably of Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull), Theo Van de Sande, and Gabriel Beristain. His interview before the membership committee was in November 2011. The committee found it “very refreshing to hear Santosh’s philosophical, artistic and poetic approach to filmmaking,” reported a participant.

Santosh is the first active member from South Asia. Before him, a few non-cinematographers of South Asian origin have become associate members of the Society.


Trivia: Michael Chapman was the cinematographer of The Fugitive; Santosh Sivan was the cinematographer of its Malayalam remake, Nirnayam.

Scooping Happiness in School
Loyola Goes to Hollywood

An Artful Update

Time flies. So do celebrities.

Here’s a quick update on celebrity Loyolites I’ve interviewed for this blog. The thing about celebrities is that they are repeatedly in the news. Still, in case you missed…

Photo courtesy: viia page on Facebook

Three years ago, I interviewed fashion designer Vivek Karunakaran (1998). Then, he was in the news for being selected to the GenNext round of Lakme India Fashion Week. In 2008, he was back at LIFW, and Westside had contracted to sell his designer line. By 2009, he was on Day 1 at LIFW. And now, with Asal (2010), a Tamil movie starrring Ajith Kumar, Vivek has become a costume designer in filmdom. Vidya Balan, on the cover of Verve magazine (February 2010), wears a Vivek design. Vivek has also styled for Vikram.

Santosh Sivan (1976) was interviewed on this blog just ahead of the release of Before the Rains, an American production set in colonial Kerala. His next film Tahaan (2008), set in Kashmir, was shown at various international film festivals. Like his earlier children’s films, this one too picked up a couple of awards. This year, Santosh Sivan will mark his debut as actor. He has played the lead role, of painter Raja Ravi Varma, in Lenin Rajendran’s film Makaramanju.

Last month, Jishnu Dasgupta’s (1996) Swarathma won the Best Band of the Year award at the JD Rock Awards 2010. Their debut album “Swarathma” has sold 4,200 copies, and they recently composed songs for Suvarna News TV channel. They tour the country quite a bit and so, if you live in one of India’s metros, you can catch them easily.

Hat tip: Deepak Madhusoodanan (1996)

Videos on Loyola

The 2009 edition of LA Fest is scheduled for 18 July, and there is a promise of live videostreaming. With videos on YouTube, LA Fest has always been a step ahead in providing Loyola videos on the internet. So, here’s wishing the organisers all the best for their forthcoming small-step-giant-leap.

1. LA Fest 2008 (in 50 parts)

On more than one School Day in the 2000s, I have seen video cameras capturing the events on stage. Excerpts from that rich visual collection have made it to YouTube, without commentary. Here is an example.

2. School Day 2008 – IXth Std Dance (4:55)

There are a few other Loyola videos too on YouTube — still-image videos with background music, as well as very short video clippings.

3. Loyola School Trivandrum (4:38)

4. DP (1:47)

5. BOSS Cricket 2007 (7: 34)

6. M.M. George Speech – 1978 Batch Reunion (0:35)

There are no excellent, scripted videos about the school. I wonder why neither students nor old boys have taken the initiative so far, given that many of them sport expensive cameras and mobile phones, or already have access to rich raw visuals. The creative edge is surely not lacking in Loyolites. The absence of videos is probably because putting together even a good, still-image video takes time; a good, scripted, actual video is beyond the patience and energies of most enthusiasts. Such nicer videos are usually spotted on Vimeo, but my search there for Loyola drew a blank.

Wishlist Item#1: A 10-minute highlights version of LA Fest 2009
Wishlist Item #2: LENS video (one per term)

Would it not be wonderful if LENS published at least one video story every term? I am sure that the squad will find it an exciting, creative, and learning experience. This month, former President Abdul Kalam is visiting Loyola. Since the school is treating it as a major event, LENS can try producing a 3-minute video report — background of visit, his speech, interaction with students, post-visit responses of Loyolites — that includes narration as well as audio excerpts.

“Till the game is won”, let us march asinging to the fare that exists. They give us a taste of Loyola. To those who uploaded those videos, this blogpost is a note of thanks.

Readers hungry for more Loyola-related videos can hop across to YouTube.

Was Loyola really different?

In the 1980s, a popular claim was that Loyola School was different from other schools. Whenever a Loyolite was quizzed by friends or relatives as to why his school did not secure ranks in the public exam, he would typically reply: schools like Holy Angels’ Convent prepare students for the public examination; Loyola’s emphasis is on extra-curricular activities, and not merely acquisition of textbook knowledge.

How true was this claim?

Those who claimed so (including me) had limited information about other schools in Trivandrum, to make an honest and thorough comparison. If we were tested on this–say, if asked to list out the extra-curricular activities in any three city schools–all of us would have failed. But ignorance did not prevent us from asserting that Loyola was different because of its extra-curricular thrust.

I believe that we students were parroting the words of our teachers and parents. Their own belief was probably rooted in knowledge of other schools (via neighbours, colleagues or relatives). But it is also probable that they took cue from the Jesuits who ran Loyola and cultivated an image of a “different” school.

The Jesuits were not being dishonest. Loyola did have several platforms for literary and artistic activities inside and outside the classroom. There were a weekly period called “Literary Association”, a youth festival, the wallpaper LENS, debates or quizzes each term, and so on. The school also encouraged students to participate in inter-school competitions. In addition, there were squads for cleaning classrooms, social service and similar non-literary or non-artistic work.The Jesuits and the teachers put in a lot of effort to organise these activities in the school. None will question their sincerity or doubt their dedication.

But was Loyola different?

Those who studied in other schools can tell us whether such activities were common in their schools or, as we believed, unique to Loyola. My guess is that various schools had different extra-curricular activities. If English elocution was a prestigious event in Loyola, it might have been kathaprasangam in school x and mohiniyattom in school y. Accordingly, Loyola fared reasonably well in the state ICSE schools’ meet (where the events were similar to what Loyola hosted), but rarely made a mark in the state SSLC schools’ youth festival. If Loyola was different, it was in the kind of activities that the school hosted.

Loyola of the 1980s was different from other schools also in terms of facilities. Loyola had better infrastructure than other schools. Well-equipped classrooms (good desks and benches), different courts for various sports and games, sporting equipment, sound systems, closed auditiorium–few schools in Trivandrum could boast all of these. The infrastructure helped in hosting a range of extra-curricular activities and strengthened the popular claim.

We had the hardware, but was Loyola different in terms of the software?

Look at the approach, for instance. If the popular claim is to be believed, the activities should have been co-curricular, if not part of the curriculum in this school. But at Loyola, every activity was called “extra-curricular”, i.e. beyond the curriculum, as if the curriculum did not demand any such activity.

In the few cases that art formed part of the curriculum, it was taught unimaginatively. There was a weekly music class (till around class 7). There was a weekly painting class (in the lower classes of the junior school, if I remember correctly). And there was a weekly moral science class (till standard 10). For a school that believed it was different, there was hardly anything different in the way Loyola treated such subjects or activity.

We got many platforms to sing, but Loyola did not teach us how to sing, or what music was. I doubt whether any Loyolite learnt music at Loyola, despite ritually chanting songs every week for seven years. All of us could have been exposed to different genres of music, right? (In these days of CDs, mp3 downloads and an audio-visual room, is it too much to expect Loyola to have music appreciation classes?)

Yes, we could paint in the annual youth festival, but were we taught how to paint? I am not expecting Loyola to make every child a Picasso, but at least: (a) tell us why this Picasso chap is great; and (b) show us a few tricks and techniques to draw. Pick up a basic book on drawing and you will realise the opportunities missed.

Some of you will argue that the situation was the same in other schools. Maybe. But that is exactly what I am asking: was Loyola really different?