Much in the vien of Outbreak from quite a few years ago, Contagion is a medical disaster movie that is also a kind of horror – the kind that really frightens me because it’s a possibility! Directed by¬†Steven Soderbergh, the film has an¬†ensemble cast¬†that includes¬†Marion Cotillard,¬†Matt Damon,¬†Laurence Fishburne,¬†Jude Law,¬†Gwyneth Paltrow, and¬†Kate Winslet with no real leads and is shot in such a way that it almost looks like a well made documentary. The story is of a highly deadly virus disease that almost shuts down the social order in the wake of a pandemic.

Following several plot lines inter-woven along the spread of this disease, the movie takes us from the initial outbreak and attempts to contain it, to panic and decay of social order, and, finally, to the introduction of a vaccine. Starting off with a business woman Beth Emhoff who while returning from a business trip to Hong Kong, stops in Chicago to meet a previous boyfriend, develops a cold before returning to her husband and family in suburban Minneapolis. In two days she starts getting seizures and is taken to the hospital by her husband, where she dies. Her husband Mitch returns home to find that their young son has also died from the same infection. Mitch is however immune and he is later released to take care of his daughter, who was away at the time and luckily did not get infected by the virus. Mitch struggles to protect her from the virus, not knowing if she inherited his immunity, while coming to terms with his loss.

The movie then moves on to the containment attempts, the race to find a cure or a vaccine against the spread of the disease. We see how Dr. Erin Mears, sent to investigate and study the disease is soon infected herself and succumbs to it. The initial cures prove to be fruitless leading to frustration as the illness spreads and more people die. Added to the plot is a conspiracy theorist freelance journalist/blogger¬†Alan Krumwiede¬† who posts video blogs about the disease, and in one of them appears sick and later claims that he recovered using a¬†homeopathic¬†cure called¬†forsythia. Panicked citizens rush to various pharmacies to get their ‘cure’ causing fights, destruction of property and also accelerate the contagion as infected and healthy people congregate. Krumwiede himself becomes famous and is on tv channels nationwide.¬† During a television interview, accuses Dr. Cheever, of the CDC, of informing friends and family to leave Chicago before a quarantine is imposed.

It is later revealed that Krumwiede wasn’t infected and forged his infection & cure after being hired by investors of the manufacturers of the drug. He is arrested but is allowed to go free as his internet followers collect and pay his bail. Dr. Leonora Orantes, an epidemiologist from WHO to trace the origins of the outbreak, is kidnapped to get the cure for a rural Chinese village.¬†Orantes spends months living in rural China with the villagers until the vaccine is announced. Feng exchanges Orantes for the vaccines, which turn out to be¬†placebos. Orantes rushes away when she is informed of this, presumably to warn the village. A real vaccine is finally created & its production is rapidly ramped up and the CDC awards vaccinations via a random lottery based on birth dates for one full year until every survivor is vaccinated. The movie ends by tracing the origin of the virus from a bat nesting in a tree being cleared by Emhoff’s mining corporation. The bat flies to a nearby¬†pig sty¬†and drops a banana where it is eaten by the pig, presumably transferring the bat virus into the pig. The pig is sold to and butchered by a chef in a Macau casino who greets Beth Emhoff without washing his hands of the pig’s blood, transferring the bat-pig hybrid to her and creating the human strain of the virus.

The movie shows us that at any moment we could be affected by a global epidemic but also that our advanced civilization could be close to a breakdown created by our own doing, inadvertently though it may be. Hats off to this ensemble cast and Sodenberg’s direction for what I call a true horror movie. 8 out of 10!

Favourite Street Food

Almost everyone, citizens & tourists alike, will agree that the best kind of food in any decent city is the street food. And if you don’t get god street food in your city then sorry, your city isn’t worth spending time in! It’s true that you have to be careful of which street vendors you buy your food from but once you find a decent, clean vendor, chances are that you will be a frequent visitor to that place. Kerala has their “thattukada”, the restaurant on trolleys, a road side eatery / fast food outlet and in this state you have lots & lots of them.

Dosas, puttu, porottas are some of the staple food served in thattukadas with a variety of dishes accompanying them. Pictured here is a plate of Kerala style porottas with a kada (quail) fry. Absolutely delicious. Similarly other dishes like the popular beef fry, beef roast, egg burgi, omelets, egg masala, fried chicken, chicken roast/curry, tomato masala, kadala (lentils) curry etc etc. You can sit there and try out a variety of stuff. Choose a bigger thattukada or ask your friends & relatives for the nicer ones (there are places called 5 star thattkadas in the city) where the food is cooked in the same style but they are extremely neat & cleaner than the smaller thattukadas.

This post has made me hungry! I would love some karimeen (pearl spot) fry for dinner.

Mind Your Language : Season 1

From one of my earliest recollections of sitcom, humour & tv in general, comes the universally loved & highly popular British series Mind Your Language. I recently completed watching the first season composing of 13 episodes. The series originally ran from 1977-79 and 3 season of 13, 8 & 8 episodes respectfully before it was cancelled and then revived for another 13 episodes in 1986 (no doubt bolstered by syndication popularity). Considering it’s hugely popularity and countless number of reruns throughout the years since, I’m actually surprised that there were so few episodes in the original run.

Anyways, as most of you know, the show is about n the adult students of an English foreign language class taught in early evening classes in a London college and their teacher or “professori” Jeremy Brown. The students have varying proficiency in English and nd much of the humour of the show is derived from the students misunderstanding English words or terminology and plays heavily on the cultural¬†stereotype¬†of their individual nation of origin. The jokes & punchlines are quite simple and this might also explain it’s huge popularity in the nations¬† including¬†Pakistan,¬†Sri Lanka,¬† India,¬† Malaysia,¬† Kenya,¬† Nigeria, Ghana, and Singapore. Other than the UK it was also popular in South Africa, Australia & New Zealand.

At the beginning we are introduced to Mr. Jeremey Brown who joins as an ESL teacher although pompous & uptight principle Ms. Delores Courtney prefers a lady teacher.¬†A diverse group of ten foreign adult students in London, hailing from nine different countries. From Europe come two au pairs, the flirtatious and beautiful Danielle (France) and prim and proper Anna (Germany); two young single men, Giovanni (Italy) and Max (Greece); and a laid-back middle-aged bartender, Juan (Spain), who speaks no English. From Asia come a revolutionary-minded secretary from the Chinese Embassy (Su-Li) and a Japanese businessman (Taro), as well as three students from the Subcontinent: a devout Punjabi Sikh (Ranjeet); and an unemployed Pakistani Muslim (Ali), who are constantly at each other’s throats; and finally an Urdu-speaking housewife (Jamila) who can’t speak a word of English. The school principal, Ms. Dolores Courtney, nearly dismisses Mr. Brown immediately as she had requested a female teacher, but he is allowed to stay on a trial basis.

The first season, which also seems to have been the most popular one, has Mr. Brown trying to teach his students while funny incidents occur like him mistaking the school board inspector to be an African student, Ranjeeth asking for help from his arranged marriage, getting locked in the school, Mr. Brown having to fight for the honour of Danielle with an obnoxious fellow teacher, Ali wanting to marry Su Lee and take her as his second wife, Ms Courtney dismissing Mr Brown but regretting her decision when his replacement turns out to be a very intimidating woman and ofcourse the finale where the students have to take their Lower Cambridge test while Brown has a bad encounter with their examiner. All interluded with moments of pure fun & hilarity.