Kerala Cabinet gives nod for preliminary works of JLN Stadium-Kakkanad metro line in Kochi

The Kerala Cabinet today decided to give administrative sanction of Rs. 189 crore for the preliminary works of the Kochi Metro line from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Kakkanad via Infopark in Kochi, expecting the sanction of the Central Government. 
The length of this new line will be 11 km. The extended new line is meant for improving the financial stability and efficiency of Kochi Metro, an official press release said.
The major works include repair of certain roads, widening and land acquisition required for these purposes.
"If such steps are not taken prior to commencement of work, it would result in traffic congestion. Administrative sanction of Rs 2024 crore was given earlier for the construction of the new metro line from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Kakkanad via Infopark," the release added.
Kochi Metro sources said that today's decision meant that road widening and other preparatory work can start for the project.
To enable Metro construction, the road along the alignment should be widened and utilities to be shifted to a duct. As many as 3.85 acres of  land will have to be acquired to widen the existing road to  22 metres along the corridor.

Ansari calls for discussion on Nehruvian legacy of secularism

Vice President M. Hamid Ansari releasing the book 'Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian polity in perspective', in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on January 12, 2016. Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Thoma, the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church are also seen.
Vice President M. Hamid Ansari releasing the book 'Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian polity in perspective', in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on January 12, 2016. Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Thoma, the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church are also seen.
Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari has called for a discussion of Nehruvian legacy of secularism as an instrument of national integration at a time of dangers arising from superstition, obscurantism and fundamentalism.
Addressing a gathering after releasing the book 'Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Polity in Perspective', edited by Prof (Dr) PJ Alexander, here yesterday, he said the firm anchoring of secularism as the core character of Indian polity remained one of the most important contributions of Nehru.
“This discussion is required, particularly in the backdrop of the dangers from religious superstition, obscurantism and fundamentalism at the present moment.
“To examine the Nehruvian legacy is to renew our fight against religious deformations in thought and practice, which disorient the consciousness of the people, which impede the realization of the secular ideal, which thwart the pursuit of national self-reliance and of a just society, he added.
Nehru’s exposition of secularism did not mean an absence of religion, but putting religion on a different plane from that of normal political and social life. It was firmly rooted in affirmation of social and political equality, Mr Ansari said.
He said Nehru believed that in a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism could be built except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach “must exclude a section of the population and then nationalism itself will have a restricted meaning than it should possess,” he added.
A leader and shaper of the Freedom Movement that won India its freedom, Pandit Nehru spent nine-and-a-half-years in British prisons, a period longer than Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Rajaji or Jaiprakash Narayan, the Vice President said. 
The dust of time may have blurred the picture for those who are coming of age now, but Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed a connect with the masses of India, a popularity that any political leader today would be envious of. Nehru loved India, and the people of India loved him in return. Eyewitness stories about how India’s masses, rural and urban, adored Nehru are simply too many to recount, he said.
The eight-point resolution regarding aims and objectives, which was moved by Pandit Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on 13th December, 1946 set the tone for the Constitution drafting process and cast the basic features of the Constitution, he recalled.
Mr. Ansari said Nehru was also a visionary of a modern India and played a major role in establishing a modern scientific and technological infrastructure and strove to promote scientific temper. He oversaw the establishment of many institutions of higher education, including the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the National Institutes of Technology (NIT).
Nehru envisioned the use of nuclear energy beyond its use in weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948. Over 45 Central laboratories in different fields of science were launched during his time. He was also responsible for initiating the first steps to launch India into the electronics and space era.
Mr. Ansari said that, for Nehru, the development of science and technology was not an abstract notion or a means to military power. For him science was essential for building a modern India. It was to be a tool to eradicate poverty and want, an instrument of eliminating inequality and building a just society. The scientific approach was to be the attitude of all Indians in their social interactions, he said.
“Today, as we proudly enumerate the technical and scientific prowess of our nation, we but acknowledge that the countdown to the launch of the Mars orbiter started with Jawaharlal Nehru,” he said. 
He said the book, edited by Prof. Alexander with contributions from eminent persons like Justice K T Thomas, Dr. Rajan Kurukkal, Dr. B. Vivekanandan, Mr. M G Radhakrishnan and others, on Nehru’s role in shaping the polity of modern India was timely.
"As one of the titans of the national movement and the first Prime Minister and architect of modern India, his dynamic and towering leadership and progressive ideas richly deserve to be recalled and evaluated. Nehru’s services were many sided and the book should be of interest every Indian," he added.

Ansari lauds last Maharaja of Travancore as “architect of modern Kerala”

Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari has lauded Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, as an architect of modern-day Kerala.
The Maharaja, popularly known as Sree Chithira Thirunal, had carried out a set of Constitutinal reforms in 1932, forming the first Bicameral Legislature and willingly agreeing to reduce some of his political powers, the Vice-President said in his address at the Sree Chithira Thirunal Award ceremony here yesterday.
Conferring the award upon former career diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan, Mr Ansari said that, since his superannuation, Mr Sreenivasan had become intensively involved in the public life in Kerala.
The Vice-President, in his speech, noted that Sree Chithira Thirunal had “enacted the now famous Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936, established the University of Travancore (now the University of Kerala) in 1937 and is credited with allocating a substantial share of the State’s revenue towards furthering education.
The Maharaja also oversaw the creation of several public services like road transport department, power generation projects and irrigation schemes, Mr Ansari said.
Among the socal reforms initiated during his reign were several progressive measures including those dealing with Hindu Widows Remarriage, Child Marriage Restraint, Suppression of Immoral Traffic, Maternity Benefits aimed at the betterment of women and children and codifying succession norms.
He is also credited with start of industrialization in the state by utilizing the local raw materials such as rubber, ceramics and minerals.
“The foundation of Sree Chitra Art Gallery, which features a unique collection of traditional and contemporary Indian paintings, and Sri Swathi Thirunal Music Academy, since renamed as Sree Swathi Thirunal College of Music in 1962, bear witness to his passion for arts and music,” the Vice President said.
Referring to Mr Sreenivasan, Mr Ansari said, “My joy is compounded as the recipient is also a member of my own tribe of the Indian Foreign Service, where he made a distinguished career for 37 years.”
Mr Sreenivasan served as India’s Permanent Representative in Vienna and Governor for India of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was Ambassador to Austria and Fiji and High Commissioner to Kenya. He has also served in various capacities in New Delhi, Washington, New York, Tokyo, Thimphu and Yangon.
The Vice-President noted that since his superannuation, Mr Sreenivasan had become intensively involved in the public life in Kerala. He continued his passion for education by serving as the Vice-Chairman and Executive Head of the Kerala State Higher Education Council with the rank of Vice-Chancellor.
A Visiting Fellow on Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington in 2009, he has also been writing and lecturing widely on a variety of issues, prominently on Foreign policy related topics.
Mr Sreenivasan has authored four books. He also anchors the popular programme 'Videsa Vicharam' that aims at making the “rarified domains of foreign policy and diplomatic dealings” more accessible to the general public.
“The award is an apt recognition of his multi-faceted talents and years of public service,” the Vice-President said.

Kerala govt. to provide Rs. 50 lakh as solatium for Lt. Col. Niranjan Kumar's family

The Kerala Cabinet today decided that the state government would provide full care to the family of Lt. Col. Niranjan Kumar, the National Security Guard (NSG) officer who was killed in the terrorist attack of the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Pathankot in Punjab.
An official press release said the government had decided to provide his family with Rs 50 lakhs as solatium and a government job to his wife. The educational expense of his daughter will be borne by the government, it said.
In honour of the departed soldier, the ITI at Elambulassery in Palakkad and the Palakkad Medical College stadium that is nearing completion will be named after him. 
It has also been decided to sanction Rs 4 crore for the renovation of the 10 km road from Ponnamkodu to Elambulassery in the native place of Lt Col Niranjan Kumar, the release added.

IndiGo announces 24 new flights, including direct Delhi-Trivandrum service

Low-cost carrier IndiGo has announced plans for 24 new flights between cities in the country as part of its new schedule.
A press release from the airline said that, effective January 7, it would launch 12 flights connecting Delhi to Trivandrum, Bengaluru to Vishakhapatnam, Bengaluru to Bhubaneshwar, Ahmedabad to Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar to Kolkata and Chennai to Trivandrum. 
With effect from January 14, IndiGo will launch its sixth daily non-stop flight between Chennai and Hyderabad. 
The airline will introduce ten flights on January 15 connecting Bengaluru to Kolkata,  Delhi to Ahmedabad, Delhi to Bengaluru, Delhi to Kolkata and Hyderabad to Mumbai, it said.
Mr. Aditya Ghosh, President IndiGo said, “It gives me immense pleasure in announcing new non-stop flight between Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram-Delhi. People of Kerala can now fly direct into the capital city Delhi with convenient timings and affordable fares."
"In addition, the new frequencies connecting the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar, Vishakhapatnam and Ahmedabad will offer much improved connectivity and choice across the IndiGo network. We will continue to expand our network to meet the requirements of our business and leisure travelers wherever they demand it. We are determined to provide the best travel experience to everyone who flies with IndiGo, as we continue to offer them on-time, hassle free and an always affordable flying experience," he added.

Kerala registers 4.8% increase in European tourist arrivals in 2015

Foreign tourists in Kerala.
Foreign tourists in Kerala.
Kerala registered a 4.8 percent increase in European tourist arrivals in the first ten months of 2015 despite the Euro zone recovery losing steam.
A press release from Kerala Torism said here today that a total of 420,247 European travellers arrived in the state between January and October this year compared to 401,063 during the whole of last year.
More number of tourists continued to arrive in Kerala last year even from countries like Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany, whose less than expected economic growth is worrying financial analysts.
"Europe remains the number one traditional market for Kerala while we have been able to create strong markets in several countries abroad along with finding new ones," said state Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar.
"This is evident from the fact that more number of tourists from European countries have visited our state so far this year compared to last year in spite of their economies encountering hurdles in a full recovery," he said.
"The Chinese downturn and the turmoil in many emerging economies have had a negative impact on the European economy slowly recovering from the 2009 financial meltdown, but Europe will certainly rebound from the present situation," he added.
"The tourism industry in our state, which has been built over the last many decades by the strong commitment of the governments, the participation of the common people and the lasting will of the private sector, will always strive harder to achieve higher growth," the Minister said.
The marketing campaign by Kerala Tourism over the years to create a spread of strong markets while continuing to explore new markets has significantly contributed to the state staying away from over dependence on tourists from a particular country.
According to statistics pertaining to this year, the tourist arrivals from Europe has showed an overall increase across the continent. As many as 125,795 tourists have visited Kerala this year from the United Kingdom, Kerala's number one market in Europe, as against 119,605 in the whole of last year.
The number of tourists from France, the second biggest European market for Kerala, visiting the state this year was 75,216 till October compared to 73,368 last year.
A total of 61,962 German nationals have also visited Kerala this year as against 59,225 in the whole of last year.
From Italy, one of the countries affected by the sluggish recovery, 20,489 tourists have visited the state up to October against 19,740 last year.
The figure for Finland was 4,895 compared to 4620 in 2014. A total of 12,541 tourists from the Netherlands have arrived in the state until October against 11,632 last year. For Portugal, the figure was 1,787 compared to 1,635 last year.
The state has received 9,884 tourists from Belgium till October compared to 9,524 last year. The number of visitors from Denmark until, October has been 12,228 compared to 11,667 in the whole of 2014.
From Spain, the number of visitors to the state so far this year has been more than last year’s, at 9,912 compared to 9,411 in 2014.
Even as traditional products like Ayurveda and the backwaters have remained popular among foreign tourists, especially those from Europe, new tourism products like Village Life Experience have been attracting more and more visitors to the state, the release said.

"Rajnath, Rudy misled Parliament on my absence at Kollam function": Chandy

File photo of Oommen Chandy.
File photo of Oommen Chandy.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has accused Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Rajiv Pratap Rudy of misleading Parliament on the issue of his absence at a function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kollam, near here, on Tuesday.
In a letter to Mr. Modi, dated December 15, Mr. Chandy apologised for the controversy over his absence at the unveiling of the statue of former state Chief Minister R. Shanker.
“It is also unfortunate that Union Ministers Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy have misled the Parliament in their reply to the adjournment motion in the house without even verifying the facts from myself or my office,” he said.
“I was invited for the unveiling ceremony of the statue of Shri R Shanker by Shri Vellappally Nadesan, chief organiser of the function and General Secretary of SNDP Yogam and I readily agreed and accepted the invitation,” he added.  
Mr Chandy said the notice and the plaque for the function was prepared showing the meeting would be presided over by the Chief Minister.
“On 11th evening, Mr Vellappally Nadesan informed me through Mr K Babu, Minister that intelligence agencies have informed him that there will be some protest in the meeting if I attend the function.  
“I verified with the State Police intelligence and they were not aware of any such report from any intelligence agency,” he added.
The Chief Minister, in the letter, said Mr Natesan on  December 12 again conveyed to him that he should keep away from the function and that he had no option other than to abide by his request.  
“When PMO contacted me over phone, I had conveyed this personally.  And on 12th by 1PM my office issued a press release showing that I will not be attending the Kollam programme as requested by organisers.  
“In the evening by 5PM, in reply to repeated queries from PMO, our State Protocol informed PMO that I will not be attending the Kollam programme.  It had never said that my absence is due to my inconvenience as said by Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy in Parliament, ” Mr Chandy said.
“I don’t know why the organisers had withdrawn the invitation extended to me in which I am obliged to attend as Chief Minister and it is the first public programme of the Prime Minister in his first visit to Kerala.
“Later the organisers said that it is a private function and they have the right to invite or not to invite guests.  I fully agree with that.  But after inviting me and including my name in the notice and plaque of the progarmme, Mr Vellappally Nadesan was forced to withdraw  the invitation due to unknown reasons," the Chief Minister said. 
All political parties except BJP and media have said that this is an insult to the people of Kerala, he added.  
“Usually, I keep away from controversies, and it is surprising that  PMO hasn’t intervened to avoid controversies.  I wish to know what would have been your reaction if such an incident happened in Gujarat while you were the Chief Minister," Mr Chandy said.
He concluded by saying that he was sending the letter “to convey the truth and clear any misunderstanding.”
The controversy led to the state leadership of the Congress boycotting the function, including Minister-in-waiting for the Prime Minister K P Mohanan, who preferred to remain seated in the helicopter till the Prime Minister returned after the hour-long function. 

Work begins on international transhipment project at Vizhinjam in Kerala

Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), part of the Adani Group, today formaly began development of India's first international transhipment project at Vizhinjam near here in Kerala.
A press release from the Adani Group said the ambitious project would be completed within the stipulated period of four years.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari and Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani laid the foundation stone  of the project, which will be Kerala's first deep water container transhipment port.
"We are honored by the trust bestowed on us by the Government of Kerala. Developing India’s first international deepwater seaport project in a record time of just one thousand days is another opportunity for us to fulfill our commitment to nation building. Given Vizhinjam’s access to prominent international waterways, the project will be a significant catalyst in positioning India strategically as a global transhipment hub. It will also help us in accelerating our journey towards achieving our vision of annually handling 200 million tons of cargo by 2020," Mr Adani said.
Vizhinjam is a natural port located close to international shipping routes.
Its advantages include availability of 20m contour within one nautical mile from the coast and minimal littoral drift along the coast. 
APSEZ is the country’s largest port company with footprint across the Indian seashore. It has proven expertise in building, operating and maintaining world class port infrastructure. APSEZ operates ports in Mundra, Hazira, Tuna-Tekra (Kandla) and Dahej, in Gujarat, Dhamra in Odisha and operates specialized coal handling facilities in Mormugao in Goa, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It is currently setting up a container terminal at Ennore in Tamil Nadu.
At present, more than one million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of Indian cargo get transshipped annually through foreign ports, such as Colombo in Sri Lanka.

3D films add extra dimension to Kerala film fest

The 20th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015), which got off to a colourful start here yesterday evening, has an exclusive section for 3D films, which will open up a new world of experience for film buffs as some movies in the section have used the technology to delve into the intricacies of the human mind.
Six movies have been included in 3D category of which ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘The Martian’ (Director: Ridley Scott) have already been released in Kerala for public viewing.
Except ‘Pan’, which is an expedition into a fantasy world called ‘Never Land’ by an orphan, the other three movies in this section offer the viewers an alternative perspective on how the third dimension works for realistic themes.
The opening movie for this year’s festival ‘Wolf Totem’, a Sino-Gallic co-produced venture by director Jean Jacques Annaud, is an ecstatic 3D visual voyage into the mystique depths of nature and its universal codes.Set in the backdrop of life in a Chinese province during 1967, the plot revolves around a protagonist named Chen Zhen, a young student from Beijing, who was sent to Inner Mongolia to teach a nomadic tribe of shepherds.
Chen, instead of being the tutor, becomes a student himself when exposed to the boundless wilderness of nature, where he learns from the shepherd tribe about community, freedom and responsibility, and about the most feared and revered creature of the steppes - the wolf.
Seduced by the untamed beauty of a wolf, its cunning nature and relationship with the tribe, Chen adopts and tries to domesticate a wolf cub. The film has beautifully captured the characteristics of wolves and their survival techniques in adaptation with nature in 3D technology. The film gets a realistic political edge to it, when a central government officer decides to eliminate all wolves from the region, which comes as an authoritarian interference into the spiritual bondage between man, nature and its beings.
Jean-Jacques Annaud, known worldwide for his movies ‘Seven Years In Tibet’ and ‘The Bear and Two Brothers’, has now returned with the ‘Wolf Totem’, a movie expressing concerns over man’s dictatorial attitude towards nature.
‘Love’, a French movie directed by Gasper Noe, will be a counter-culture experience in 3D effect. The movie, that dives deep into a couple’s hysteric version of love, trails through the disturbing memories of a young man named Murphy as he relapses into his intimate relationship with girlfriend Electra.
Apart from the raw depiction of a couple’s personal life thwarted with drug abuse, emotional outbursts and estranged bed room fantasies , the movie also captures moments of tranquil connection between Murphy and Electra amidst their chaotic love life.
Featured in all major film festivals around the globe including Cannes, Toronto and Melbourne festivals, ‘Love’ has also made its presence felt in the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa.
By employing the 3D technology for a intricate drama movie like ‘Everything will be fine’, which is devoid of special effects and spectacular action sequences, master director Wim Wenders has proved that 3D is not just for dramatizing the visual experience.
Set on serene winter landscapes, Wim cast his camera upon an author named Tomas, focusing closely on the aftermath of a road accident involving Tomas and two brothers. Christopher, the elder of the two, manages to escape from the accident but was devastated on seeing his younger brother die, so was their mother Kate.  The psychological undercurrents running through the minds of Tomas, Christopher and Kate, after the accident, portray the distance between guilt and forgiveness.
Although Tomas’s life progresses after the accident, the emotional baggage he nurtures within him is closely monitored in the movie, with a parallel view on the lives of Kate and Christopher. The scope of 3D technology is used subtly in this movie to blend the delicate beauty of scarcely populated Quebec side of Canada with Tomas’s stranded island of emotions.
The 3 D movies will be exclusively screened at Remya theatre and New theatre (Screen1) where 3 D glasses will be provided to delegates.

IFFK 2015 to feature seven films based on true stories

A still from the movie The Dark Horse
A still from the movie The Dark Horse
The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), which began here yesterday, will feature seven movies in the category ‘Based on True Stories’ in the curated sections.
The movies Anton Chekov 1890, Bridgend, Carte Blanche, Tanna, The Dark Horse, The Truth, and The wolf Pack are based on real life stories. 
Anton Chekov 1890, Carte Blanche and The Dark Horse are biopics. Most of the movies have bagged awards at several international film festivals.
Anton Chekov 1890: The French movie, directed by René Féret, shows how a doctor/writer transforms into a reformer after shedding his celebrity status. The movie throws lights on the life of literary genius Anton Chekov, who was a doctor by profession. The film depicts how he started his writing career and what was the circumstance which led to his self-realisation.
Bridgend: Directed by Danish filmmaker Jeppy Ronde, this multi-award winning English movie revolves around the incidents that took place in the Bridgend County in South Wales. The movie tells the story of Sara and her dad Dave’s journey to Bridgend, It focuses on the relationship between vulnerable teenagers and their parents who are left in the dark to witness the mass suicidal trials.  The movie has bagged several awards including the Internatioanl Debut Award (Special Mention), Best Actress (Narrative Feature), Best Cinematography and Best Editing Award.
Carte Blanche: The Polish movie by filmmaker Jacek Lusinski narrates the story of a high school history teacher, Kacper who suffers from progressive sight loss. In spite of the darkness hovering over him, his positive mind drives his future life as a dedicated teacher.  The film, inspired by MaciejBia?ek who still teaches in a Lublin High School, has won jury awards in international film festivals.
Tanna: This debut movie of the acclaimed Australian documentary filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean is based on a tribal story in 1985. The movie is known for its visually captivating shots. Filmed on the remote island of Tanna in Vanuatu, this movie tells the story of Wawu, a young woman who fell in love with her chief’s grandson Dain. The movie shows the intensity of love, war and the struggle to shield the tribal tradition from the fast-paced change the world is facing. The cinematography of the movie has been adjudged best in the Venice Film Festival.
The Dark Horse: The New Zealand drama directed by James Napier Robertson is based on the life of charismatic chess champion Genesis Potini.  The emotionally- charged story is about finding the courage to lead, despite his own struggles. The protagonist suffers from bipolar disorder but, unnerved by circumstances, finds a meaning in life by passing in his knowledge to the children in his community. The movie has bagged numerous awards including Audience award, Best Narrative feature, best film and best film in international film festivals.    
The Truth: The American docu-drama directed by James Vanderbilt is based on the story of the news magazine’s investigation into George W. Bush’s alleged draft-dodging during the Vietnam War. Based on Mapes’ 2005 memoir, Truth and Duty, this directorial debut from screenwriter James Vanderbilt is a political thriller and an investigative-narrative about the dirty tricks in the US political system. The story is told through the investigation of a journalist along with her team to build a bullet-proof case.
The Wolf Pack: This American movie by Crystal Moselle throws light on six children’s homeschooling and their perception of the world. The story revolves around six brothers locked up in their apartment in Manhattan and how they get to know about the outside world through the movies they watch. The movie was adjudged the Best Documentary and Feature Film at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

20th IFFK takes off, Zakir Hussain mesmerises audience at opening ceremony

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy speaking at the inauguration of the 20th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015) in Thiruvananthapuram on December 4, 2015.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy speaking at the inauguration of the 20th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015) in Thiruvananthapuram on December 4, 2015.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015) at a glittering ceremony in the packed Nisagandhi auditorium here this evening.
“Denizens of the state get the opportunity to learn and understand about the varied cultures across the world through the prestigious platform of IFFK,” Mr. Chandy said.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Minister for Cinema, Forest, Environment, Transport, Sports Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan.
Minister for Tourism A.P Anil Kumar and Minister for Rural Development, Planning & Culture K.C. Joseph and Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson were also present.
Mr. Anil Kumar released a book ‘Best Movie Locations in Kerala' on the occasion. He said the temporary auditorium at Nishagandhi, which houses only 1500 delegates, will be renovated and expanded to accommodate 4000 delegates soon after this edition of festival.
Mr. Joseph released the festival book during the inaugural ceremony. IFFK International Jury Chairman Julio Bressane also spoke at the event.  
Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain set the stage for one of the country’s most awaited arts events with a mesmerising performance. 
In his keynote address, he said Kerala’s richness in culture and heritage had always enticed him. “Moreover, I had the unique opportunity to perform along with a few of the legendary musical maestros from the state,” he said.
The IFFK’s ppening film, French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s French-Chinese 3D film Wolf Totem (2015), was then screened.
Over the next week, about 180 movies from India and across the world will be screened at 13 venues in the state capital.
The inclusion of three additional venues this year, including the Nishagadhi auditorium with 1,500 seats, has enabled an increase in overall seating capacity by 3,200. Delegates will be able to reserve seats at any venue by SMS, online or through an on-site help desk.
Apart from the screenings, the festival features regular popular events such as the ‘Open Forum’, ‘Meet the Director’, ‘In Conversation’, ‘Master Class’, the Aravindan Memorial Lecture, panel discussions and seminars at Tagore Theatre and Mascot Hotel.

First-time feature directors find space at IFFK 2015

A still from My Skinny Sister
A still from My Skinny Sister
The debut features of several talented first-time directors will be showcased at the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala beginning here this evening.
Folowing today's opening ceremony, nearly 180 movies from more than 60 countries will be screened over the next week at the festival.
The debut features will show in the ‘First Look’ segment of the prestigious festival, and include works from China, Europe, South America and Africa. Most of the films have been lauded on the festival circuit and some have picked up awards at some of the important international festivals.
The following are the highlights of the films to be screened in this section:
My Skinny Sister: This Swedish-German work by Sanna Lenken, which will show at Kairali on December 5 and Sree on December 6, is the story of protagonist Stella’s big sister Katja, who is hiding an eating disorder. The film considers with warmth and humour the impact that the problem makes on the family.
Kaili Blues: Gan Bi’s Chinese film, which won the Best Emerging Director at Locarno among other awards, will be screened at Dhanya on December 5 and in Remya on December 6. It is the story of lonely Dr Chen Sheng of the Kaili clinic who goes in search of his abandoned nephew.
The Thin Yellow Line: Also an award-winner, The Thin Yellow Line is Mexican director Celso R Garcia’s drama about five men who are hired to paint the median line of a 200 km road under the blazing sun. The film shows in New Screen 1 on December 7, Dhanya on December 8 and Remya on December 10.
Land and Shade: A film that picked up awards and special mentions at Cannes, Poland’s Tofi Fest and the Mumbai Film Festival among others, the Colombia-France-Netherlands collaboration Land and Shade by director Cesar Augusto Acevedo is the story of Alfonso, who comes home after nearly two decades, to discover that a lot has changed, including his family’s concern for him. The film will be screened at Dhanya on December 9 and Remya on December 10.
Lamb: A collaboraton between Ethiopia France-Germany-Norway-Qatar, Yared Zeleke’s film based in drought-ridden Ethiopia will be screened at Remya on December 8 and on December 9 in Dhanya and New Screen. Ephraim is a young shepherd and an excellent cook, who must save his sheep from being sacrificed at the next religious feast.
Hopefuls: Ives Rosenfeld’s Brazilian film, which picked up awards at Locarno and the Rio de Janeiro Film for its director and actors, will show at New Screen 3 on December 5, Remya on December 8 and New Screen 1 on December 9. It is the story of a young footballer who sacrifices his career for his pregnant girlfriend, and burns up with jealousy when his friend signs a contract with a professional team.
600 Miles: The Mexican-American film by director Gabriel Ripstei looks at the unlikely eventual companionship between a young Mexican gun trafficker and an American law enforcement agent, who start out as enemies. The film will be screen at Sree Kumar on December 5 and Tagore on December 7.

Treat awaits cineastes at Kerala film fest beginning on Friday

A veritable feast has been laid out for cinema lovers at the 20th  International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) beginning here tomorrow, with the organisers, Chalachitra Academy, drawing up a carefully curated list of movies from across the world.
The films are categorised into International Competition, World Cinema (featuring films released in 2014-15), 3DX, Jury Films, Malayalam Cinema Today, First Look, Korean Panorama, Restored Classics, Indian Cinema Now, Women Power, Contemporary Master in Focus, Retrospective, Country Focus (Lithuania and Myanmar) and Based on True Story. 
Some ‘not to be missed’ Oscar aspirants that figure in ‘World Cinema’ on the IFFK schedule include Chilean film The Club by Pablo Larrain, Croat-Serbian Dalibor Matanic flick The High Sun, Turkey-France-German collaboration by Deniz Gamze Erguven Mustang, Icelandic Rams by Grimur Hakonarson, Hou Hsiao­Hsien’s Taiwan-­China-­Hong Kong film Assassin, Pakistan’s Moor by Jamshed Mahmood Raza, German film Victoria by Sebastian Schipper, Masaharu Take’s Japanese 100 Yen Love and German-Iraqi film Memories on Stone by Shawkat Amin Korki.
Other important films included in the World Cinema list, which will be screened across the 13 festival venues, include Spanish-French film by director Carlos Vermut, Magical Girl; Malgorzata Szumowska’s Polish film Body; Brazil-Uruguay-Netherlands film Neon Bull by Gabriel Mascaro; Robert Geudiguian’s French flick Don't Tell me the Boy was Mad; Bulgarian-Greek film by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, The Lesson; Palestine-France-Qatar collaboration by Arab Nasser and Tarzan Nasser, Degrade; France film Dheepan by Jacques Audriard; Fatima by Philippe Faucon from France; Portugal-France film Montanha by Joao Salaviza; France-Belgium collaboration by Laurent LariviereI am a Soldier, Turkish Secret by Selim Evci; Brazil-Chile-France film Absence by Chico Teixeira; Not my Day, a German film by Peter Thorwarth; and Sri Lankan film Dirty, Yellow, Darkness by Kalpana Ariyawansa and Vindana Ariyawansa.
Also on the cards are Italy-France film A Bigger Splash by Luca Guadagnino; Palestinian true story The Idol by Hany Abu-Assad; Majid Barzegar’s Iran-­Czech film A Very Ordinary Citizen; Filip Bajon’s Polish film Damaged; Jafar Panahi’s Iranian film Taxi;  Lorenzo Vigas’s Venezuela-­Mexican film From Afar; Russian film The Lower Depth by Vladimir Kott; Ciro Guerra’s Colombia- Venezuela­-Argentina film Embrace of the Serpent; Pierre Jolivet’s French film The Night Watchman; US filmTangerine by Sean Baker; Santiago Mitre’s Argentina-­Brazil-­France film Paulina; Rúnar Rúnarsson's Iceland-­Denmark-­Croatia film Sparrows and Özcan Alper's Turkey-­Germany-­France-­Georgian collaboration Memories of the Wind.
A Homage to Malayali director-cinematographer, the late A. Vincent, fondly called Vincent Master, will be marked with the screening of his two landmark films at Sree. His Bhargavi Nilayam (1964) will screen on December 7 and Murappennu (1965) on the next day.
Restored classics to watch out for in New Screen 3 include John Abraham’s Amma Ariyan(1986), Mrinal Sen’s Oko Oori Katha(1977), Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal (1987), Jabbar Patel’s Jait Re Jait (1977) and Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959).
The Contemporary Master in Focus at the festival is French filmmaker Tony Gatlif, whose films feature society’s marginalised people. His Gadjo Dilo (1997), Je suis né d'une cigogne (1998), Swing (2001), Exils (2004) and Transylvania (2006) will be screened at New Screen 2 and 3.
Another highlight is the screening of International Jury chairman Julio Bressane’s 2015 film Kid (Garoto) at the New Screen 3 on December 5. The 2015 Brazilian film depicts the spiritual adventure of a young couple in an enchanted place.

IFFK to showcase three movies of jury members

The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), beginning here on December 4, will feature three movies by jury members in the ‘Jury Films’ category.
The line-up includes international jury chairman Julio Bressane’s Portuguese-language film Garoto (Kid), Ezra by Nigerian director Newton I. Aduaka and Ajeyo (Invincible) by Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua.
Bressane took inspiration from literary giant Jorge Luis Borges’ story The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan for Garoto, which traces a young couple’s experiences with sexuality and spirituality in a fantastical place where the only other sign of life is a compelling percussive drone. The ups and downs of this post-utopian Adam and Eve story and the darker energies of their world drive a narrative that is quintessential Bressane. The Brazilian auteur’s movie was screened at this year’s Locarno International Film Festival.   
In Ezra (2007), Aduaka trains his lens on the civil conflict in Sierra Leone – presenting its horrors through a frenzied drug-fuelled attack on a village. The events of the night are reconstructed from the testimonies of three witnesses: Ezra and Cynthia, former child soldiers and Ezra’s mute sister Onitcha. It is poignant commentary on the lives of child soldiers, of whom an estimated 3,00,000 were said to be engaged in various armed conflicts around the world at the turn of the millennium. Some 1,20,000 of these children were allegedly combatants in African conflicts.
Barua’s Ajeyo (2014) chronicles the journey of a small village on the north bank of the Brahmaputra in Assam from the heady days immediately before and after Independence to the decades of gloom that followed. Based on the Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel Ashirbador Rong (The Hues of Blessing) by Assamese litterateur Arun Sharma, the film is a mood mirror to the personal story of its protagonist, a passionate young revolutionary fighting against social injustice who eventually trades in his idealism for pragmatism and then bitter pessimism.

Kerala film fest to feature 20 movies handpicked by Shaji Karun

The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), to be held here from December 4-11, will feature 20 movies that have been handpicked by renowned director and chairman of IFFK 2015 advisory committee Shaji N. Karun.  
The films have been compiled into three categories: ‘First Look’ featuring debutant filmmakers from around the world, ‘Women Power’ on stories told from the point of view of women and ‘Based on True Stories’, which are movie adaptations of real-life people and events.  
“We were looking for movies that followed their own unique aesthetics and ways to tell their stories,” the National Award-winning director said. “The movies selected connect with the heart first, and then go in for cerebral processing.”
With ‘First Look’, Karun envisioned a category that conceptualised how “the idea of new generation movies is conceived among global film fraternity”. “We carry around wrong notions about ‘new generation’ films and filmmakers. The term doesn’t encompass everything that is new or is made by young directors.”
“This category aims to create a reference point for our society to relate their idea of new generation films against how it’s understood elsewhere,” he said. In choosing the seven films in this category, emphasis was laid given to the directors’ selection and treatment of subjects in their first ventures and their takes on contemporary issues. This helped offset the technical handicaps some directors faced.
“I’ve seen some internationally acclaimed movies made only with a mobile camera. It is the creative expressions that the filmmaker imparts in those works that make them unique. Some of the movies have been under consideration for the Oscars or been highly rated and won prestigious awards at a number of international film festivals – even overshadowing established film makers.”
The ‘Women Power’ section was created to juxtapose the traditional patriarchal structures and biases against life through a woman’s eye. The seven films in this section – not all by women filmmakers – dwell on the female psyche.
“Women the world over are, in a way, caretakers of humanity. The labours they undertake to stitch family bonds together, the delicate care they give to provide for and sustain crucial social structures are vital. And all the more remarkable considering women are among the most vulnerable groups in our society.
“The films in this category address their universal pain, the importance of family and its bonds and also explore the lives of women from different cultural milieus all over the world," Karun said.
In the ‘True Story’ category are six movies that have followed the adage that ‘truth is sometimes stranger than fiction’.
“Each has basis in real life events and experiences – which are narrated through visual expressions. It just shows that real-life incidents can be more dramatic than those thought-up," he said.
While Karun noted that the section and genre “may get classified as docu-fiction”, he said that “more the drama of a real-life incident, the creative energy used to identify a movie from that real-life experience is what I considered important while selecting movies for this category."
The common thread to each sub-category is “identification of the humanness with its pleasure and pain by filmmakers around the world,” Karun added. “Their choice of visualisation – the sequence between yelling ‘action’ and ‘cut’ – was the prime consideration while selecting the movies.”
The following are the movies:
First Look Section
600 Millas (600 Miles) direction & screenplay by Gabriel Ripstein
Aspirantes (Hopefuls) direction & screenplay by Ives Rosenfeld
Lu bian ye can (Kaili Blues) direction & screenplay by Bi Gan
Lamb direction & screenplay by Yared Zeleke
La Tierra y la Sombra (Land and Shade) direction & screenplay by Cesar Augusto Acevedo
Min Lilla Syster (My Skinny Sister) direction & screenplay by Sanna Lenken
La delgada linea amarilla (The Thin Yellow Line) direction & screenplay by Celso Garcia
Women Power
Dap canh giua khong trung (Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere) direction & screenplay by Diep Hoang Nguyen
Ixcanul direction & screenplay by Jayro Bustamante
Mate-me por favour (Kill Me Please) direction & screenplay by Anita Rocha da Silveira
Mia Madre (My Mother) direction & screenplay by Nanni Moretti
Que Horas Ela Volta? (The Second Mother) direction & screenplay by Anna Muylaert
Umimachi Diary (Our Little Sister) direction by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Sangailes Vasara (The Summer of Sangaile) direction by Alante Kavaite
Based on True Story
Anton Tchekhov 1890 direction, screenplay & production Rene Feret
Tanna direction by Bentley Dean, Martin Butler
The Dark Horse direction & screenplay by James Napier Robertson
Truth direction & screenplay by James Vanderbilt
The Wolf Pack direction by Crystal Moselle
Bridgend direction by Jeppe Ronde

Kerala film fest IFFK to feature retrospective on Tony Gatlif

Tony Gatlif
Tony Gatlif
The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), to be held here from December 4-11, will explore the fiercely emotive oeuvre of French filmmaker Tony Gatlif through a retrospective of his selected works.
The movies that will be screened in the ‘Contemporary Master’ category are Gadjo Dilo (1997), Je suis né d'une cigogne (1998), Swing(2001), Exils (2004) and Transylvania (2006).
Gatlif’s muses are the world’s outcasts and dehumanised – from the denizens of Parisian ghettos, to exiles and immigrants far from home and, closest to his heart, the Romany people (better known through the politically charged exonym ‘Gypsies’). The lives, trials and traditions of the nomadic Roma – from whom he is partially descended – are a regular feature.  
In Gadjo Dilo (Crazy Gadjo), Gatlif has the companion piece to his magnum opus – Latcho Drom, the 1992 lyrical tribute to Roma music in which he traced its journey from Rajasthan to Romania, Hungary and the Mediterranean. In Gadjo Dilo, he follows an outsider who enters the Roma world in search of a melody.
His next feature Je suis né d'une cigogne (Children of the Stork) deals with themes of displacement and searches for sparks of humanity and humour in the face of even the most trying circumstances. That an actual stork embodies victimhood and loss lends both absurdity and poignancy.
Swing returns to the Roma, this time in Western Europe, and their Manouche jazz musical tradition. The bond between two children – one of the caravan and the other of the city – during a summer vacation is one of the many delights on offer. Exuberant melodies again set the tune and mood to which the characters sway.
With Exils, Gatlif retrains his eye on the bonds of music and dance that binds disparate cultures bound together. This time, he goes back to his own roots in Algeria, tracking two committed bohemians whose road trip to their native land becomes a spiritual expedition.
Another personal journey – this time for love – is at the core of Transylvania. A woman’s romantic quest through the Gothic heart of Romania to find the man she loves and another chance at happiness. The wilful loss of identity and redemption are key themes here.
The selected films showcase Gatlif’s motif of worlds within worlds, of people within peoples. They offer a taste of life – shorn of broad brushes and labels – on the margins, in the niches and nooks, with its heartbeats and drumbeats.
Each film is at once revelry of life and rebellious polemic against modernity’s conformism.

Kerala Cabinet okays draft Malayalam Language Bill

The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesay approved the final draft Malayalam Language Bill that aims to make Malayalam the official language of the state and to expand its reach and enrich it.
The Cabinet gave its approval for the Bill after holding extensive discussions and preparations, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told journalists.
As per the Kerala Official Languages Act, Malayalam and English are the official languages of the State. 
The Bill seeks to give shape to a comprehensive Malayalam language law. A memorandum in this regard was initially given to the Law department. The draft bill prepared by the department was vetted by a committee comprising Perumpadavom Sreedharan, R Gopalakrishnan, M R Thampan and former chief secretary K Jayakumar. 
Following this, an amended Bill was submitted by the Law department, after taking into account the inputs received from the departments of General Education, Higher Education and Registrar of High Court. Part three of the Bill was amended by the Law department after obtaining the consent of the Chief Minister and later presented for the Cabinet's approval, an official press release said.
Earlier, the need for a comprehensive official language law was put before the government by the Legislative committee dealing with the subject. The high-level committee headed by the Chief Minister had also taken a decision in favour of that, the release added.

Kerala Cabinet decides to set up NRI Commission

The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday decided to set up a Non-Resident Indians (NRI) Commission with quasi-judicial powers to protect the rights, interests and properties of NRIs from the state.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters here yesterday that the Commission would also interact with State and Central Governments for protecting NRIs' interests, prevent fake overseas recruitments and take up issues of inappropriate actions against NRIs in foreign countries.
"The objectives of the Commission are to ensure that the NRIs, without any discrimination, receive the services of various government departments and agencies that have different guidelines and laws for functioning and to make sure that issues pertaining to the lives of NRIs are given equal consideration," he said.
The decision to set up the NRI Commission was announced at the 2015 Global Non-Resident Keralites (NRK) earlier this year. It was also part of the policy announcements made by the Governor in March 2015.
The Chairman of the commission will be a retired High Court judge. A retired IAS officer and two NRIs will be its members. A person of joint secretary's rank will be the secretary. 
The Commission will be based in Thiruvananthapuram and will have a sitting once in thee months.
The Commission can initiate an inquiry on its own, based on complaints received by it and based on the request of the government. The Commission can submit its report to the government with recommendations for action, an official press release added.

Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani resigns following adverse remarks by HC

Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani tenders resignation
Kerala Finance Minister K. M. Mani announced his decision to resign from the State Council of Ministers in the wake of mounting pressure on him to quit following adverse remarks made against him by the Kerala High Court.
"As a sign of my respect for the rule of law, I am resigning as a Minister," Mr. Mani told journalists here tonight after a marathon meeting of his Kerala Congress (M) leadership.
"I will send my resignation letter to the Chief Minister. I am grateful to the Chief Minister and my colleagues for the support to me. I will continue to give unreserved support to the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the government," he said.
State Government Chief Whip Thomas Unniyadan also announced he was resigning in solidarity with Mr. Mani.
The resignation came amidst a growing clamour for Mr. Mani to step down after the High Court questioned his continuation in office at a time when a vigilance inquiry was on against him in the bar bribery case.
The allegation against Mr. Mani was that he had taken a bribe from bar owners to facilitate bars which had been closed down as part of a policy decision taken by the UDF government.
Though Mr. Mani appeared to be in no mood to give in to such demands, he was left with little choice when the Congress made it obvious that he would have to go and the other constituents of the UDF agreed with it.
Mr. Mani told journalists that he had already stated yesterday that he would make his stand known after a meeting of the steering committee of his Kerala Congress (Mani) today.
He said he had informed the meeting of his decision to resign and got the party's consent to send in his papers.
Mr. Mani, 82, said he had already consulted Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the matter.
The Kerala Congress (M) has eight members in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, where the Chandy government has a slender majority of just four in the 140-member house. Mr Mani has been a member of the assembly without a break since 1965.

Brazilian filmmaker Julio Bressanne to head jury at Kerala filmfest

Well-known Brazilian filmmaker Julio Bressane will head the five-member core jury for the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) to be held here from December 4-11.
The other members of the jury for Kerala’s premier film festival are Moussinin Abza, Nadia Dresti, Maxin Williams and Jahnu Baruah, a press release from the Chalachitra Academy, the organisers of the event, said here today.
A core committee, appointed by the state government along with a Technical Committee headed by filmmaker Shaji N Karun, also announced two other jury boards for the smooth functioning of the festival.  Derek Malcom and Latika Padgongar are members of the Fipresci (international federation of film critics) Jury. 
The Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Jury consists of Siddique Marbak, Swarna Malvarchi and Meenakshi Shedde.
The core organizing committee meeting here here yesterday also hammered out the details of delegate registration and improved infrastructure facilities.
Delegate registration for the 20th IFFK will start from November 5 and will be available at a price of Rs 500, which is the same as last year. Students can avail the delegate passes at a subsidized rate of Rs 300. Two public venues are also being transformed for public screenings. A total of 180 movies will be screened in this year’s IFFK.
The meeting also decided to implement plans to make this year’s IFFK a grand event in all aspects. Besides increasing the number of theatres and their seating capacity, Nishagandhi is being  transformed into a temporary fully air-conditioned theatre with a seating capacity of 3000. Other theatres participating in the festival and their seating capacity are: Sreekumar (1000), Sreevisakh (700), Dhanya (700), Remya (700), Tagore Theatre (900), Kairali (440), Sree (300), Nila (260), Kalabhavan (410), New Screen1 (520), Screen 2 (200) and Screen 3 (200).
The main attraction this year’s IFFK will be the acquisition of two public spaces for the screening of censored movies, said Festival Chairman Karun. While Manaveeyam veedhi has been selected as a venue for screening censored movies, plans to take over the basket ball court of Central Stadium to screen special movie packages, with a seating capacity for a thousand people, are also in the final stages.
More than 80 foreign films will feature in this year’s festival. The participating movies are classified into ten categories: International Competition Section (14), Malayalam Cinema (7), Indian Cinema (7), Country Focus (Lithuania, Myanmar) (8), World cinema (80), Contemporary Masters (7), Tribute to Vincent Master (3), Retro International (10), Jury Films/Lifetime Achievements (10), and Public Screening (7).
Further, 20 movies will be screened as a special package coming under the categories 3-D, True Story, Women’s Side and New Directors , with five movies included in each section.
A jury board, comprising Malayalam film director Kamal, Malti Sahai and K R Mohan, was assigned the task of selecting movies for this year’s festival. Foreign programmers will lend help to Chalachitra Acdemy for the functioning of this year’s IFFK.

Trafalgar Square beats to 'chenda' in 'Visit Kerala' London Campaign

A view of the cultural events organized by Kerala Tourism at the  Mayor of London Event in Trafalgar Square in London on October 11, 2015.
A view of the cultural events organized by Kerala Tourism at the Mayor of London Event in Trafalgar Square in London on October 11, 2015.
The famed Trafalgar Square here reverberated with the beats of 'chenda' and movements of 'Kathakali' performers as 'God's Own Country' sought to capture the hearts of visitors to the 'Mayor of London' event in the British capital.
Thousands of people thronged the London landmark visited by tourists from around the world to witness a series of traditional music, dance and martial arts performances organised by Kerala Tourism.
"The Trafalgar Square presented a grand stage to introduce the cultural diversity of our state to the people of the United Kingdom and visitors from the rest of the world," said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar.
"Our objective is to present the 'Best of Kerala', its natural beauty and rich culture and heritage, to our distinguished visitors from around the world so that we can contribute to the development of our state and empowerment of our communities," he said.
Kerala Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson introduced the cultural extravaganza to the audience at a function attended by the Deputy Mayor of London, Mr Roger Evans. The event was held in collaboration with the Indian diaspora's 'Diwali in London' committee. Kerala Tourism Secretary G Kamala Vardhana Rao was also present on the occasion.
"Kerala is a top destination on the world tourism map because of the harmony between our land and culture as seen in the beautiful backwaters, majestic hills or calm countrysides in the state," Mr. Thomson said after the event, which also had cultural presentations like 'Garba' and 'Bhangra' dances, fusion, Bollywood songs and performances by Indian children.
The Kerala cultural presentation included 'Chendamelam', 'Thiruvathirakali' and a 'Bharathanatyam-Mohiniyattom - Kathakali fusion. Another attraction was a 'Kerala Nadanam' classical dance fusion.
The Chief Secretary, who called upon the large Indian community in London to invest in the tourism sector in Kerala, said:  "Investing in Kerala's tourism sector is being part of the mission to save nature and the planet as we are the world leaders in practising sustainable and responsible tourism."
Britain is the biggest tourism market for Kerala. As many as 151,497 travellers from the United Kingdom visited the state last year. 
The Kerala delegation also met with prominent tour operators and top media persons in London to promote the 'Visit Kerala' campaign.
"The tens of thousands of visitors at the 'Mayor of London' event were happy to learn more about Kerala," said Mr. Rao. 
"We are confident of a major increase in foreign tourist arrivals in the state during the 'Visit Kerala' year and beyond," he said.
While the 'Thiruvathirakali' and 'Kerala Nadanam' were presented by the Chitra Lakshmi and team, Vinod Navathara and team performed 'Chendamelam' and the 'Mohiniyattom-Bharathanatyam-Kathakali’ fusion was performed by Vinod Nair.
Launched in April this year in New Delhi by Union Tourism Minister  Mahesh Sharma and Mr. Anilkumar, the 'Visit Kerala' campaign, which will run until April next year, brings together a variety of tourism products, presenting a unique opportunity for a 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience in 'God's Own Country'.
Kerala Tourism will also participate in the World Travel Mart (WTM) in London, which will be held during November 2-5. 

K. Satchidanandan quits Akademi posts, Sara Joseph to return award

K. Satchidanandan
K. Satchidanandan
Noted Malayalam writers such as poet K. Satchidanandan and femist author Sara Joseph today joined the protests by littérateurs around the country against the growing intolerance in the country by announcing their decisions to quit their positions in the Sahitya Akademi and return their awards.
Their decision came close on the heels of the announcement by well-known writer Nayantara Sehgal and poet Ashok Vajpeyi, who returned their prestigious Sahitya Akademi Awards earlier this week in protest against the "assault" on the country's culture of diversity and debate.
Yesterday, novelist Shashi Deshpande sent in her resignation from the Akademi's General Council, saying she was "deeply distressed" by its silence on the murder of renowned Kannada writer and rationalist M M Kalburgi and "disappointed" by its failure to stand up for its community of writers and scholars,
Earlier, well-known Hindi writer Uday Prakash had returned his Sahitya Akademi Award for the same reason. 
Ms Joseph, 69, announced in Thrissur that she had decided to return the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Rs 50,000 purse she had received in 2003 for her novel Alaahayude Penmakkal.
“The tide of intolerance has risen to such a level that individuals do not have the freedom to eat what they like or to love a person of their choice,” she said.
"There is a very scary situation being created in the country. It is my responsibility as an author to react on the issue," she said.
"I was honoured to receive the prestigious award. But now I feel we the writers have a role to play in the way things are going on in our country. So as a matter of protest, I will return the award along with the cash award that I received then," she said.
Prof. Satchidanandan told newspersons he was resigning from the General Council and all other committees of the Akademi because it had failed to stand with the writers and uphold the freedom of expression.
Literary critic K.S. Ravikumar, member of the General Council, also told journalists that he had decided to send in his resignation.
Sara Joseph. Photo: Malayalam language Wikipedia
Sara Joseph. Photo: Malayalam language Wikipedia
"I am sorry to observe that the Akademi has failed in its duty to stand with the writers and to uphold the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India that seems to be getting violated every day in the country," Prof. Satchidanandan, 69, said in his letter to the Akademi, India's national academy of letters.
"Holding a ritual condolence meeting in a regional office, as the Akademi seems to have done, is hardly an adequate response to the recent attacks on the freedom of expression followed by a series of murders of independent thinkers in different parts of the country. I am sorry to find that you think this is a political issue while to writers like me it is an issue of our basic freedom to live , think and write . Annihilation should never be allowed to replace argument that is the very essence of democracy.
"I thank the Akademi for all that it has given me in response to the many years of service I have given it; but as a concerned citizen and writer my conscience does not permit me to continue on its General Council and its Executive Board. I hereby abdicate all my positions in the Sahitya Akademi including the membership of its several committees," he added.

Kerala Tourism invites entries for International Photo Contest

Kerala Tourism has launched an ‘International Photography Contest’ through its website, calling for entries that would highlight the state’s tourism potential.
The competition, that began on September 24 with the theme ‘Kerala’, will have Rs 5 lakh as the top prize.
The second and third prizes will be Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, respectively, a press release from Kerala Tourism said. There will be five consolation prizes of Rs 1 lakh each.
“It’s for the first time we are coming out with a contest endowed with such huge amounts as prize money,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anil Kumar.
Each contestant can send in a maximum of three entries. The photographs should be original and taken between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015; the participant should hold its copyright. 
Digitally manipulated photographs will be disqualified. The submissions must have at least 1000 pixels but not more than 3000 pixels in either height or width. They should be saved as Jpegs (.jpg), and not exceed 4MB per file, at 72dpi resolution. The selected images, which will depict Kerala in multiple perspectives, will be added to Kerala tourism’s image bank.
"Kerala, known for its varied topography and colourful festivals, has always served as a photographer’s paradise. Considered as one of the countries with the highest brand recall, the tropical and green southern Indian state has already made its mark in the international tourism map," the release said.
“This competition that attracts participants from across the globe will further expand the state’s tourism market and encourage more visitors to explore our land,” said Kerala Tourism Secretary G. Kamala Vardhana Rao.
Kerala Tourism Director P I Sheik Pareeth noted that nearly one crore people visit the state every year on holiday. "Of these, many are photography enthusiasts," he added.
The competition that ends on December 31st will give visitors to the Kerala Tourism website an opportunity to submit their ratings on the competing photographs.
Participants can avail further details here

Kerala Tourism offers holiday packages in online bid war

Kerala Tourism has launched an online bidding game offering holiday packages to the state and the winners will be those who bid the lowest prices.
First-ever in the country for a destination, 'Visit Kerala Bid Wars' will be played out on the popular Facebook page of Kerala Tourism.
The bid, joined by accredited tour operators in the state, will include packages from Rs 8,000 to Rs 78,000.
Aimed at domestic travellers, it is organised as part of the 'Visit Kerala 2015' campaign inaugurated by Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar in the national capital in April.
"Kerala Tourism enjoys round-the-year engagement with our huge fan base across the world," said Kerala Tourism Secretary G Kamala Vardhana Rao. "This bidding process is a unique way to acknowledge the bond with each other," he added.
"It will also help us continue our association with our fans by providing an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of being in the place they love," Mr. Rao said.
The campaign will be anchored on an online bidding system known popularly as the 'lowest unique bid'. In this bidding system, the package, which is up for bidding, is won by the person whose bid is the lowest as well as unique. If two people bid the same price, that amount will get cancelled. For example, if a person bids for a package worth Rs 20,000 at Rs 10, the package will be awarded to her if nobody else has bid Rs 10 and no other unique bid is made which is less than Rs 10.
Kerala Tourism, which has more than 1.2 million fans on Facebook, is a pioneer in using information technology to spread awareness about the state's destinations. The tourism department's website, one of the most popular tourism websites in the world, has won several national and international tourism awards.
"The online bidding not only carries forward the conversation with our fans, but also takes it to the next level," said Kerala Tourism Director P I Sheik Pareeth.
"The opportunity for our fans to spend a peaceful day on a houseboat in the famed backwaters or stroll in the picturesque tea hills of Munnar will go a long way in consolidating our association with them," he said.
For making the bidding a success, Kerala Tourism has partnered with accredited service providers from the state such as Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, Voyages Kerala, Intersight Holidays, Spice Land Holidays, Cosima Holidays, Dravidian Trails, Indus Holidays, Kerala Travels and Travel Planners. The packages range from two nights to 10 days.
The bidding will happen for one package at a time. The details of the package and its worth will be available on the Facebook app.
Kerala Bid Wars will takes place on the official Facebook page of Kerala Tourism ( An android app titled “VisitKerala BidWars” which is available on Google Play Store ( can also be used to take part in the bidding.
The bidding process begins with signing up on Kerala Bid Wars Facebook App or downloading the VisitKerala BidWars app from Play Store. 
The bid will be active for a few days initially. The winner will be announced for each package soon after it ends and before the next package is put up for bidding.

Kovalam beach tragedy: One body found, four persons missing

File photo of the lighthouse beach at Kovalam. Photo: Courtesy: Kerala Tourism
File photo of the lighthouse beach at Kovalam. Photo: Courtesy: Kerala Tourism
The body of one person from a group of five who were reported missing after they went for a swim near the Kovalam Lighthouse Beach yesterday evening near here, has been recovered, police said.
Police officials said a search was going on for the other four. All five belonged to Thiruvananthapuram district, and four of them had gone to Kovalam as part of one group while the fifth belonged to another group, they said.
Personnel of the Coastal Police department and the Marine Enforcement Wing as well as local fishermen are involved in the search operations, sources said.
Local media reports quoted onlookers as saying that the five did not heed warnings that it was extremely risky to go swimming in that area after dusk.
The police said the five reported missing late in the evening and one body was recovered last night.

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