Vineeth John, the only child of John and Lissy Kunnathu, was born in Gondar, Ethiopia on April 3, 1985. He spent his childhood there and at the age of seven moved to India, before eventually settling in Houston, TX when he was ten. He departed from this life on May 6, 2008 at the age of 23.
Vineeth was active in many facets of life and was very successful at the many things he did. He was active in church as an altar boy and as a Sunday school student. His passions involved acting and film; more specifically mimicry, mono-act, and creating short films.
Vineeth has always excelled during his academic career. He graduated with honors from Jersey Village High School in 2003 and was granted a full scholarship to the University of Texas in Dallas, where he graduated in 2007 with a Bachelors degree in Business Management. Vineeth was most recently participating as an intern for Zeon Global Energy Inc, working in their renewable energy process division.
Letter to Dad
How are you? I got your letter and photo. You look very young. When Jerry, Jeffy and Joby come, please send a T-shirt and a blue Jeans with them.
Now I have got the Sunday school text book of Std. 2. I write notes in a notebook. From school I collected my 3rd grade books. In my English text book I found the story “The Good Samaritan” (The story Jesus Christ told his apostles). But I knew the story before because I read it from your fifth grade Sunday School text book. I have read many other Bible stories. I read some other books. Everybody says I am a reader like you. The stories of Jesus Christ are very wonderful.
In my social studies book, there are lessons about Veluthambi Dalava, Sree Narayana Guru, Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Gandhi, Sree Buddha and some other important people. There are books of English grammar and Malayalam Grammar, but both are small books. But the Grammar book that Dad wrote is very thick. In English Grammar I read about noun, pronoun, adverbs, adjectives and other things. In Malayalam Grammar I learn about ……..
I will write more later.
With love and kisses,
എത്ര സുഖകരമായ, എത്ര സന്തോഷകരമായ ഒരു പ്രവര്ത്തിക്കും ദുഖകരമായ ഒരു അവസാനമുണ്ട്. അനിവാര്യമായ അവസാനം. പക്ഷെ ആ ദുഖകരമായ അവസാനത്തിന് സന്തോഷകരമായ ഒരു തുടക്കമുണ്ട്. മാറ്റം അനിവാര്യം.
സ൦ഭവിച്ചതെല്ലാം നല്ലതിന്. സംഭവിക്കുന്നതെല്ലാം നല്ലതിന്. ഇനി സംഭവിക്കുന്നതും നല്ലതിന്.
നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ടതോര്ത്ത് എന്തിനു ദുഖിക്കുന്നു? നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ടതെന്തെങ്കിലും നീ കൊണ്ടു വന്നതാണോ? നശിച്ചതെന്തെങ്കിലും നീ സ്ര്ഷ്ടിച്ചതാണോ?നീ നേടിയതെല്ലാം നിനക്കു ദൈവത്തില് നിന്നു ലഭിച്ചതാണ്.
ഇന്നു നിനക്കുള്ളതെല്ലാം ഇന്നലെ മറ്റാരുടേതോ ആയിരുന്നു. നാളെ അതു മറ്റാരുടേതോ ആകും. മാറ്റം പ്രക്രുതി നിയമമാണ്. ആ മാറ്റത്തിന് മനസോടെ കീഴടങ്ങുക.
മനുഷ്യന്റെ ഏറ്റവും വലിയ ശത്രു ഭയമാണ്. നാം ഇന്നു മരിക്കുമെങ്കില് അതിനെ വിവേകം കൊണ്ട് നേരിടണം. മരിക്കുന്നെങ്കില് അത്രയും നേരത്തേ ശാന്തത നേടാം. അതിനാല് എപ്പോള് നമുക്ക് എന്തു സംഭവിച്ചാലും നമ്മള് നമ്മുടെ കര്മം ചെയ്യുക.
Christmas Memories --1997
To buy all that you want -- a house, or a Mercedes
But there’s one thing that’s priceless,
And that’s a Grandma’s love.
Your parents will scold you, your parents will punish you.
But dear ol’ Grandma won’t even raise her voice.
She might be weak, she might be old.
But deep inside, she’s as strong as one can be.
After decades of living, and decades of caring,
It’s time for Grandma to say goodbye
But Dear ol’ Grandma will still live forever,
She’ll live forever in all of our hearts.
So let’s take a moment, just one moment,
To say a little thanks to dear ol’ Grandma.
This is my little tribute for my dear Grandma,
But it’s not even close to repaying her love.
I want to say now what I never got to say.
Rest in peace, Grandma, rest in peace.
I spent the first seven years of my life in Ethiopia. After that, I went to live in Kerala, India. Here, I was admitted into the second grade and was immediately presented with a problem. Although I was able to speak the native tongue, Malayalam, with some fluency, I couldn’t write. The curriculum was unforgiving. It consisted, among other things, of having to memorize and recite at least two poems a week. Exams were conducted every two months. Even if I was able to hold my own in English, math, and science, the inability to write in my native tongue was enough to ruin my academic prospects.
I had to be brought up to speed. My mother quickly hired a tutor, and I devoted two hours a day to learning the language. Malayalam bore little relation to English and Amharic, the language spoken in Ethiopia. Hence, I had to start from scratch. It was hard, but I worked at it. Within two months, I was able to follow the lessons with ease.
In retrospect, it was at first a very shocking ordeal. At a moment’s notice, the status quo had changed. The skills I possessed, the abilities at my disposal, were deemed insufficient even to get by. All my visions of the future that I’d taken for granted were compromised. Nevertheless, some time and effort was all it took. Order was restored, and life could resume its natural course. When similar crises presented themselves in the future, I would be able to approach them calmly.
Furthermore, learning a third language in eight years endowed me with a penchant for writing and a solid understanding of the mechanics of language. I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of mere words to reach the depths of the human soul and evoke the deepest emotions. I’ve even tried my hand at creative writing.
The whole ordeal also gave me confidence to venture bravely into unexplored intellectual territory. I knew it was only a matter of time and effort before I could master something. Years later, when learning computer science, a field of study radically different from any I had previously encountered and requiring a whole new set of skills, I was able to approach the task with the knowledge of having met a similar challenge years before. In time, I came to find computer science fascinating and took three courses of it in high school. At the moment, Calculus BC has become a crisis of sorts. Much more difficult than previous math courses, it caught me unawares and initially made for some unsightly report cards. But with effort, I was able to raise my grade significantly. Calculus isn’t so tough.
No doubt the future will hold in store many more crises. But, as the saying goes, I will meet them as opportunities.
When I researched the University of Texas, I noticed that one of its most widely advertised assets was diversity. Most people would agree that diversity is a good thing to have, giving one the opportunity to be exposed to different kinds of people, possessing different outlooks on life, thereby enriching one’s own outlook and experience in general.
Many of my friends tell me that I have a unique perception of the world and encourage them to think innovatively. This could partly stem from the fact from that I’ve had a rather unique childhood. I spent my first seven years in Africa, then three years in India, and finally settled down here in Texas. Living in three different countries with vastly different cultural, social, and religious standards has given me a desire for understanding, and hence an interest in philosophy and religion. After class discussions in English, my peers tell me that I had made insightful and unique comments that they had not previously thought of. I could bring my share of insight to the learning community.
- More confident, expressive, relaxed, natural, laid-back in social situations
- Be very comfortable in my own skin, laid-back, natural
- Be approachable, accessible, likeable
- Learn to establish rapport, learn to establish a connection, with people
- Have a circle of loyal friends who I can count on and know me well
- Live a purposeful life, with fulfillment and direction
- Love the life I’m living
- Be more confident in general, take initiative in living life
- Be more in control of life, more sure of where I’m going and on the right track
- Have more energy, more enthusiasm, more verve and passion in living life
- Be motivated, inspired, passionate, optimistic
- Engage life fully, grab life by the horns, but also be easygoing, relaxed
- Love the work I do, excel at it
- Have the strength, daring, patience, and ingenuity to overcome obstacles, face tough situations, and achieve goals
- Be more resourceful and capable in dealing with life’s challenges and setbacks
- Stay calm, cool, resourceful in crises and resolve them with poise and competence
Vineeth as a Successful Movie Director
An Imaginary Interview with Times
Time: I’m sure that many film school grads would like to be in your place right now. What advice do you have for them?
Vineeth: [Laughs] Seems to me, they should just book a flight to LA. No, seriously, persistence and vision. That sounds cliché, I know. But, it’s the only way.
Time: I think, given your success, they’d have to take your word on that. Were you surprised at the success of your film, given the fact that it was you first Hollywood effort?
Vineeth: I’ve always known that my place was in Hollywood. I’ve always known that I’d wanted to be a director. It didn’t have to be my initial film. It could have been my second, or third, or fourth. I would have kept going till I hit the mark.
Time: And what is the mark, exactly?
Vineeth: There are a couple of goals I have as far as making a good movie goes. First, I want it to succeed in the box office as well as on an artistic level. Second, I want it to capture the essence of the period it was made in. Take Trainspotting, for instance.
Time: Is that one of your favorite movies?
Vineeth: Definitely. It’d be in the top five, no doubt. The great thing about Trainspotting is that it was made in Scotland, by a director that was unknown to non-Scottish audiences. Still, it managed to be a success not only in the U.K, but in the U.S. It managed to transcend geographic boundaries, is what I’m saying, because it captured the essence of the 90s so well that it didn’t matter that they had accents or it took place in another country. The dilemmas the characters faced were keenly relatable. You could walk down the street and come face to face with the characters in this movie, there was that level of realism.
Time: It also launched Ewan Macgregor’s career
Vineeth: Right. That was the kind of movie I wanted to make. Where historians would look back and pick it out as having captured the essence of the decade. Same goes for, say, American Beauty. Now, my other goal, is to make a movie that’s successful not only on an artistic level, but in the box office too.
Time: Sort of like Ang Lee?
Vineeth: Yeah, Ang Lee’s legendary for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – which is basically pop art. Pop art, yeah, that’s a good term. It was hauntingly beautiful, but it also approached a summer blockbuster. See, you can make a movie that has tremendous artistic merit, but the general public might not be receptive to it. Take Memento, for instance. A great movie, in my opinion. It would also go down in my top five. The only thing about Memento is that, the accessibility might have been a little too low. It was original, yeah. Nobody would question that. But, there has to be a certain level of accessibility. I mean, it’s not that I don’t care about artistic integrity.
Time: Artistic integrity alone wouldn’t buy all those Porsches in your garage, right?
Vineeth: [Laughs] Precisely. I decided a long time ago that the happiest people in this world are the people who had the freedom to express themselves creatively and the people who had a lot of money to spend.
Time: And in your case, you’re both.
Vineeth: [Grins] I’d like to think so.
Time: Your film also broke numerous records. For instance, no other movie has consistently grossed this high from one nation to another.
Vineeth: Right, like Trainspotting, to the nth power. It may not be an epic movie in the sense that it deals with wars and love and that sort of thing, but it has a very high level of accessibility, without sacrificing any depth. That is, it’s innately human. It doesn’t matter if you live in Boston or Beijing, you can relate to these characters and their troubles.
Time: It also managed to knock off the other summer blockbusters, which is something of a feat
Vineeth: I know what you mean. Some of these movies, they’re formulated from the very beginning to have mass releases and become blockbusters. The $100 million plus marketing machine behind a movie like that is very formidable.
Time: Apparently, that wasn’t enough.
Vineeth: [Grin] Well, it doesn’t matter if you have trailers running twenty four/seven on every station. There’s still a better way to advertise, and every first year marketing student knows it.
Time: Word of mouth
Vineeth: Yeah. A lot of those movies, they have a huge marketing campaign, and so they’ll have a pretty nice opening, then word of mouth kicks in and pretty much neutralizes the power of the marketing campaign. There’s one movie that shows just how powerful word of mouth can be - The Sixth Sense. A very modest marketing campaign. A mediocre trailer. Except it went on to become the highest grossing movie of the summer, and made Night the most sough-after director in Hollywood. The buzz it created, it was pure creativity, pure genius. You just can’t create that sort of buzz artificially, no matter how much money your pour in. The Sixth Sense offered something new and original, yet with mass appeal. That’s another thing I strive for.
Time: And the numbers show that you’ve got it.
Vineeth: The Sixth Sense didn’t drop off. It climbed. It kept climbing. And then, for a long time, it stayed in the number one spot with very little drop. Part of the reason for that was the twist ending, of course. But, it was also new and inventive, genuinely entertaining.
Time: And you’ve done the same thing.
Vineeth: Essentially. I don’t rely on buzz. I tried to make something that was genuinely new and original and entertaining, accessible, yet with mass appeal. It makes its own buzz, and deservedly.
Time: And there’s the essence thing.
Vineeth: Right, the instant relatability. The people in this movie are the people you see in the street, in your workplace, except you get to see what makes them tick, get to see their inner workings, it delivers a certain insight that people instinctively seek.
Time: So, what’s next on the board?
Vineeth: [Grins] Well, success is a tricky thing. I have a certain flexibility and freedom that I didn’t have before. I could ask for a $150 million budget and Universal Studios would fork it over. But, that makes it all the harder to decide. Over the years, I’ve developed thousands of movie ideas. I could choose to make a movie out of any of those. How do you choose one out of a thousand?
Time: Would you say you regret being the most successful new director in Hollywood?
Vineeth: [Laughs] Oh, hell no. I don’t worry about taxes anymore. Once you achieve this level of success, you get to sit back and let out a heavy sigh. And, there’s always the porsches.
Time: Some people have been saying that you’re leading a new trend, a new breed of millionaire playboy director.
Vineeth: Me and my friend, when we were teenagers, we used to joke about that. Our thing was, what’s the point of wealth and fame if you can’t be a playboy?
Time: It’s paid off. Variety’s named you one of the ten most eligible bachelors of the year.
Vineeth: Beats any dating service or bar on the planet.
My Favorite Actors and their Qualities - 2008
There are a number of qualities I find attractive in actors. In the case of my favorite actors, it’s the way the different elements of their personality mesh together to produce a unique, interesting person. But, there are a few characteristics many of them have in common.
First is a natural ease of being, a quiet presence. It's a quality of being very natural, not trying to be anything or anyone other than who they are. It’s being comfortable in their own skin. Nonetheless, despite seeming to not even try, their personality and character radiates and shines outward. I find this quality irresistible - that of effortlessly being themselves, relaxed, laid-back, while at the same time exuding their own unique brand of charisma. Every actor I like has this quality, but it’s especially evident in some, like Mohan Lal and John Abraham.
A second quality I admire is a natural gravitas. It's a trait that makes you respect them naturally, without the having to do or say anything. It almost gives the impression that they're carrying some great burden, but they do it naturally and with ease. Toshiro Mifune exemplifies this quality.
A third quality is a brooding nobility that alternates with carefree joy. It seems as if they're tortured by something tragic inherent in life only they can see, but they bear it quietly, with nobility and character. But, these same actors later display an easy and carefree joy. One minute, they're noble, brooding, dignified. The next, they're happy, joyous, and goofy. Mohan Lal has this quality most prominently. But so do Bruce Willis and Chow Yuen Fat.
He's all presence. In Yojimbo, one of his most famous movies and a masterpiece, he barely speaks or acts. Everything he does is fascinating, for no particular reason, even when he's just standing in one place or walking from one spot to another. I'd love to have this quality and be fascinating for no reason even when I'm not doing anything. And when he finally does act, his actions are imbued with preternatural significance. He does amazing and heroic things with precision and ferocity but also a careless nonchalance. It's a fascinating juxtaposition. I'd love to be able to do the same.
He has the easy, flowing charm of a prince. I'd love to be charming. That way, even everyday social encounters and conversations become special. On top of that, his characters are usually fearless, daring, and clever. I'd love to have those qualities, too. Finally, he has the odd combination of being brooding, tortured, and noble one second and happy, joyous, goofy and carefree the next. This is also a quality I'd like to have. I like the brooding nobility, but I wouldn't want it twenty-four/seven. Being goofy, joyous, and carefree is also nice to have sometimes, but not all the time. It's best to alternate between the two.
Like Toshiro Mifune, he has plenty of presence. He exudes the quality of being masculine. He has a lot in common with Mifune. But in addition to all of that, he's very casual, cool, and nonchalant in very American, New Jersey sort of way. I'd love to be cool. I'd love to be able to stay calm, relaxed, lucid, and detached, with a dry wit, in even the worst crisis situations. Willis also has a contradictory pair of qualities. One moment, he seems detached, absent, and oblivious to his surroundings. The next moment, he's fully engaged, present, and energetic. It feels like his quality of being absent lends strength to his being engaged and vice versa. I find this quality fascinating and would love to have it myself - to be fully engaged and absent at the same time. I feel that life is made so that at the same time, you want to live it fully and to not live it at all.
Chow plays vicious characters. Killers. And he does it very well. But his characters are vicious in service of very high ideals. I feel like life demands this. Life sometimes demands viciousness and cruelty, but you have to own up to these things with artistry, without losing your humanity. He acts vicious and cruel for the most noble reasons. I feel like it takes a certain kind of nobility and courage to do that. Good people sometimes aren't willing to get their hands dirty. So, their intentions stay unrealized. Chow Yuen-Fat conveys the impression of being both sinner and saint at the same time. A saint is noble, but a sinner is expedient. I think it's necessary to be both.
Has plenty of presence. He also gives the impression of constantly thinking, brooding. This is also a quality I’d like to have for reasons I can't explain. Also, the characters he plays are fearless. He's prudent, smart, and deliberate, but when it comes time for action, he acts without fear or misgivings. This, too, is a quality I'd like to have.
- Presence; be natural, comfortable, laid-back, charismatic, authentic
- Gravitas; command respect, but casually
- Be casually fascinating for no particular reason
- Brooding nobility and goofy joy
- Do things with lots of energy and ferocity, but also a careless nonchalance
- Cool, detached, calm, lucid in even the worst situations
- Fully engaged and absent at the same time
- Be a sinner and a saint at the same time, noble and high-minded but expedient and practical
- Be fearless, daring, clever; but also prudent, smart, and cautious
- Give the impression of constantly thinking, brooding.
Condolence from a High School Friend
Steven May 7, 2008
Vineeth, DTV, and I were very close in high school. We had multiple classes together our senior year and pretty much did everything together. I told them about my sexcapades, and they told me about their handcapades. During English he would constantly give our teacher a hard time. He would use his sarcastic, cynical humor to pick apart arguments. His intelligence knew no bounds. I will not speak for DTV, but he was superiorly more intelligent that I could ever strive to be.
A regular occurrence for our trio was to go to IHOP extremely late at night and just have fun. One time we had a waitress named Priscilla who expressed her love for Vin Diesel. She then said that Vineeth looked like Vin and proceed to rub Vineeth’s head very sensuously while moaning. This was by far the funniest thing that happened that year due only to the face Vineeth made. It was a face of sheer terror.
On a more shameful note, on my part. When Vineeth and I were in 9th grade, we took a P.E. class together. There was kid who was a bad influence on me, and I was too eager to impress him, and whilst playing floor hockey, I checked Vineeth hard enough to knock him to the floor and his glasses off his face. After doing that, I got pats on the back from those guys. That is one of my greatest single regrets in my life, and something that I still to this day feel guilty about. That next year when Vineeth and I became friends I apologized to him for what I did, and he accepted. I regret what I did, but I would not change it if I had the chance. Vineeth taught me valuable lessons by extending his forgiveness to me. He taught me that everybody is equal. Not only did he forgive me, but he accepted me as a friend. He also showed me that being your own person, free thinking, and non-conformity are some of the most important things in life.
Vineeth John was one of the best people I knew. He had internal demons like we all do, but it seems that they won that battle. I will miss him very much and regret that we did not stay as close after high school as were in high school. My condolences go out to his family and friends, and I hope that he is happier in Heaven.
Condolence from a College-Mate
Jay Pulanco, May 10, 2009
I was one of Vineeth's friends in college. I think that he may have introduced me to you all as Nestor. Anyway, I gave Vineeth rides home to Jersey Village a few times from UTD over the holiday breaks (I lived in Sugar Land), and we became rather good friends during our time in college.
We became friends freshman year (2003) when a shared acquaintance introduced me to Vineeth, and from the outset of our friendship, I always marveled how witty, well-read and clever Vineeth was. Being an intellectual myself, the conversations Vineeth and I had (dozens if not hundreds) were always refreshing and thought-provoking. Over those formative years, I considered Vineeth to be one of my best friends. I had graduated early from UTD (December 2006) and accepted a consulting job, but always tried to stay in contact with Vineeth. When my work would bring me back to Dallas, we always made an effort to hang out with one another. Last spring, I was in Houston working on a project, and left my laptop open. Vineeth had sent me an innocuous message ("what's up?", or maybe it was "how's it going?), and I was away from the computer, unable to respond. We hadn't spoken for sometime, and the first thought in my mind was to give him a call, or send him an e-mail or message so that we could catch up over lunch or maybe see a movie. He had told me that he was currently interning back in Houston, and I was excited to hear about all the changes in his life and I wanted to share with him all the things I had experienced traveling across the country. A day or so had passed, and the thought lingered in my mind to give Vineeth a call. I was so busy on that project. The day after, Gabe had told me of the news. I was so shocked. Devastated, really. I wish I could have visited with him, had another one of our deep conversations on movies or politics or economic policy, and taken him out to a meal. When in Dallas, I remember Vineeth had grown fond of the Ahi Tuna roll at the Cheesecake Factory.
Vineeth and I had shared so many lasting memories together, and it was beyond comprehensible that he wouldn't be there anymore to share new experiences with. I could only imagine how you, as his parents felt, which is why I couldn't muster the courage to introduce myself to you and share condolences at his funeral last year. It has been a year, and I still think of Vineeth so frequently. I wonder what kind of person he would grow up to be; he was so talented. Whether an actor or a businessman or a entrepreneur, I always saw that he had the motivation and talent to pursue whatever he wanted, but just lacked the confidence. I believed in him. I know his friends and family did too.We all miss Vineeth so much.