Sunday, September 30, 2018

Chekka Chivandha Vaanam: What was the point of this movie again?

A few things became clear to me after watching CCV about MR movies and what causes them to not work well. CCV was actually boring for me and kept thinking "what was the point of all this". I don't want to say nonsense like "Its better than Kadal, Ravanan etc". Those kind of bad movies are really hard to make even if you tried and come once in a career. That doesn't redeem CCV. And here is why:

We don't care about the characters: Mani Rathnam over invests in the idea that if he casts known faces to play a character then it creates efficiency in screen play. His thesis is that people automatically buy into caring for the character because of their history with the actor. This gives him more time to develop other characters or spend more of his movie screen time real estate on other parts that don't have this advantage. In this movie he applies this logic to pretty much every character we see. Senapathi, Varadhan, Arun Vijay's character, Simbu, Jyotika and Thiagarajan. There s no arc or building up for the characters - and Mani seems to have taken the audience for granted and assumes, we'll walk into a key episode of the character's lives, have it magically loaded into our brain that these characters had a rich and deep past and we'll automatically care for them. We don't. Most of them die like flies and it didn't do anything for me.

Its feelings not Words: The "Show don't tell" is visible in unimportant aspects of emotion building. But absent where it matters. Mani beautifully condenses a possible 10 min section of Arvind Swamy begging and threatening doctors in a hospital to operate on Jyotika to a 15 second visual that conveys the same thing. But when we don't care whether Jyotika lives or dies, what is the use of that scene? Mani employs these back stories narrated as words by actors (the back story isn't played out - just read out by characters like a Kadhai-Kalakshepam). Every character has backstories, even Jyotika's father and brother. But words are used to develop the build up - that Prakash Raj was a great mafia don. the sons are ruthless, that these people cheat on their wives and that is a common thing for the wives.  It doesn't make you feel anything. They are just words. You can build some feelings this way but not all. Most of the important events that make you emotionally involved does not happen in the movie at all. It is said as words. So you don't care when Aravind Swamy's wife walks in on him when he is with his mistress - you don't worry that 3 brothers are fighting - for all that you care it could be 3 unrelated mafia dons.

Story to Screenplay: When Mani Rathnam marinated the story into the actors - it would have looked pretty rich and colorful. Because the story length is limitless like a novel - There is a don with a large family, he is worried his sons are plotting against him and there is an undercover cop who is a mole trying to bust this family etc. When that story morphs into a screenplay and a POV and then some ruthless editing happens to make the screenplay tight and later scree time tight - most of the color and detailing present in the story will be lost. Vijay Sethupathi's character comes off as clumsily done - you don't get a clear picture of how he became this undercover person (its there in end credits but its vague). And this reflects in the first two points as well. I think when Mani looks at Screenplay minus his initial Story and the delta is huge - he should give up that screenplay.

Tone: This movie could've taken the tone of Sarfarosh. A pretty serious, realistic take of under cover cop in a gangster's life. But this movie is very masala in tone. Almost has shades of a Hari or SP Muthuraman movie, where ridiculous things can happen. In one scene, you have Arvind Swamy do last rites for Senapathi with an iyer. Next scene you have his brother do some church wedding with random girl. It feels like Mani wanted some pretty scenes and didn't care if they connected well. Even if in his mind space he feels that the audience will connect that Simbu's girl friend is christian etc - it still looks stupid with all those foreign relatives of the girl standing there and crying as if they care.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Kaala: More Lust Less Love

Kaala is the classic "veri theekira" movie. Somewhat like "Inglorious Basterds" but way less interesting conversations. However, the "veri theekara" aspect is not at all part of the actual movie or its plot or events in the movie. Its the raw mindless lust is displayed by director Ranjith and politician Rajinikanth to prove a particular point. Ranjith wants to piss all over Hindu religious symbols. Rajinikanth wants to piss all over the notion that he is BJP's political ally. These two things, though unrelated to the the movie's actual story or premise, becomes the crux of the movie. Once you understand this, the movie is like a mindless triple-x porn vehicle featuring a cast of 2 people (Ranjith and Rajini) who do the same thing in 6 different poses - in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage etc.

During the last 30 minutes of the movie, I was wondering - what is the point of all this? I loved Madras. Really liked Kabali and came in to see a point of view. But I didnt come to see a "record dance". I was unable to imagine that even a firm believer of Ranjith's politics will like this sort of titillation. You will of course have the usual group of Tamil brahmins who will 'ooh' and 'aah' at this movie, to overcompensate for their caste and try and see subtext that doesn't exist. However, why would anyone else like this? There is no screenplay, no emotional investment in characters, key characters can die and there is just no feeling at all. I was actually rooting for Nana Patekar to win in the end. I think MGR's political vehicle movies like Rikshawkaaran had more soul and cinematic dedication than this lust vehicle.

The only thing worth commending in this movie is Rajinikanth's guts to subvert people's political positioning of him. I don't know if this will help him get dalit votes. It doesn't matter. At this point by making everything not about the movie Ranjith has kind of risked his reputation to be a propaganda director. For Rajinikanth, it has usually never been about the movie - but this time it was not about him as a star vehicle as well.  He looks kind of sharp and handsome though.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Imperfect — Sanjay Manjrekar Autobiography

Among the people who have over-thought about things, including the thing about over-thinking about things, I have over-thought the most about things. This is why I loved Manjrekar’s book because he is the quintessential over-thinker and he puts it in perspective with this passage in his book (its not relevant purely to cricket, but life in general).
“ Thinkers by nature don’t usually make good cricketers because a lot of cricket is about letting instincts take over. It pays not to ponder too much. All exceptional cricketers that I have got to know are people who didn’t give their cricket excessive thought and brushed off their own failures. It is for this reason many of the greats of the game won’t be able to give you much insight into the game.”
As Nassim Taleb says, “you don’t teach birds the theory of flying” — trying to understand everything is overrated. In fact, I have come to believe that “understanding” in an academic sense trades off against the ability to “do”. What matters is that you should be able to do what you have set out to do, effectively and if ‘understanding’ is a minor cog in the wheel of being effective, it should be used that way. As a tool. As a means to an end. 

Manjrekar takes us through a wonderful journey in his book on what this point meant to him as a cricketer. He comes across as a person who loved geeking out on the details of his own game. His introspection has led him down the path of dissecting his game at the molecular level and optimizing it by fixing what he thought were the “broken pieces” that led to imperfections. His realization that the imperfections is what makes a good cricketer is what this book is about. His story is refreshing in the that its an unflattering and honest reflection of the “gaps” he saw in himself and why they weren’t really gaps but his unique fingerprint. This blew my mind. Such a tragic presentation of one’s successes had an interesting Agassi’s Open like take on things.

Manjrekar’s book begins by placing a super critical microscope on his father, Vijay Manjrekar, a superstar test cricket in his own right. He details how father Manjrekar wasted all the money he earned, didn’t care about being a good husband or a father and how he was busy being a superstar to the external world. If you thought this exposition of a former test cricketer was brutal, you should wait for his description of Indian opening batsmen “who suddenly developed an injury when they had to go to West Indies or England”. I loved his chapter on the “Mumbai Cricketer”, which details the ethos of what it means to play the game the hard way and look out for each other. An interesting sub-culture of Indian cricket. 

There is a chapter dedicated to 1996 World Cup, which is was the first WC I watched after I learned to appreciate the game well. The QF game against Pakistan and SF against SL gets some attention (Gavaskar “sobbing” after the SF loss, Jadeja taking Kambli to task for crying in public). A lot of time is dedicated to analyzing the late 80s and mid-90s Indian team and its characters (Kapil, Vengsarkar, Azhar, Wadekar). Prabhakar is held in good esteem (he taught Kapil reverse swing, kept things simple, stood up when India needed openers whenever Siddhu weaseled out). Manjrekar describes Azhar as a poor communicator (in the literal sense — no one could comprehend what he was saying) and an average captain, who disliked decision making. The entire Sachin-Azhar captaincy dog-fight is given some decent scrutiny as well.

Reading this book made me realize the importance of Sehwag to Indian cricket. Generation after generation, Indian batsmen have been intellectually inclined. As if this was some kind of virtue. The focus on technic was needlessly high. I remember when Ian Chappell and another Indian commentator were on air when S.Ramesh was batting. The Indian commentator remarked something about Ramesh’s feet not moving well and Chappell said “Opener don’t have great technic. They have better hand eye coordination”. It took Sehwag to dislodge Indian cricket from a technic-first mentality. Tendulkar’s cricket was getting worse because he was migrating towards technical perfection. Dravid would have become Manjrekar. I felt the mere presence of Sehwag gave them another perspective. Manjrekar writes;
“All you need is a clear mindset. When you hear stories of G.R. Viswanath and Virender Sehwag, you realize that their simplicity was a big reason for their success. For example, when an out-of-form Viswanath. was advised by his well-wishers that he should stop playing the square cut because it had got him out early a few times, his response was, ‘So where do I get my runs?’ He stuck to playing his square cut, and came back to form. If the same advice had been given to me, I think I might have considered using it. Sehwag, meanwhile, was intent on making the most of every ball bowled to him before one with his name on it came along.”
Initially, it was surprising to me that better cricket books are written by dour and boring players . I loved Atherton’s book (and think he is the world’s best commentator) and Manjrekar’s book is certainly impressive. I wondered why this book was so much better than Tendulkar’s trashy autobiography. Then I realized that this book presented an elegant answer to this question. Tendulkar is a better cricket player than a writer. Manjrekar is a lesser cricketer. I am betting Sehwag’s book will just be a few words long. Something along the lines of “I scored a lot of runs”.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Open: Andre Agassi Autobiography

I don't know if the Japanese or Germans invented a word to describe the splendid after taste one has after reading such a delightful book. They should've. The feeling is so awesome that it should be honored by a dedicated word for it. This is one of the best written books I have read in a long time. I kept thinking to myself "I am truly enjoying this. This is amazing" for the most part. It is not just the beauty of Agassi's personal story but the fascinating way in which it was narrated. I wanted to understand what motivated Agassi, get closer to his soul and probe his thoughts. I was overwhelmed with the way Agassi focussed on his true self without any posturing or pretentiousness.

Agassi tells his story as a person who was being pushed with crushing force in a direction he did not want to go. The more he resisted the greater the the push. The narrative arc of this book is Agassi trying his best to rebel against this incarceration that suffocates him. He was in places he loathed and has a body he really didn't understand. Agassi's story, similar to many tennis players before and after him, was that of huge parental push towards sport. The difference lies in his reaction to it. The beauty with which he brings out the details of the house his father bought, the custom backyard-turned-tennis-court and the dragon shaped ball machine that hurled 3000 balls per day at great 100+mph to little Agassi from a great height and acute angles (which is why he became so good in returning serves) is just fascinating. This story could've been told in many ways. But Agassi (and his ghost writer) uses colorful metaphors to take use through his journey.

Agassi's Open is really a scream. A loud scream of a person suffering from great pain. He militates against the existence of this sport and fills most of his pages with a dark humor based wisdom that is so rare for a sports book. While my fandom was always dedicated to Boris Becker, for any non-Becker match, I wanted Sampras to win. Sampras, to me, personified excellence, and a jedi like dedication to the sport. I read Sampras and Agassi's autobiography back to back recently and the books completely changed my perspective. Sampras' book was pedestrian and a mediocre token sports book with no trace of self-awareness. It is the kind of book that can be used an example of how not to write your story. In contrast, Agassi tells us his version of "the meaning of life" via his book. Through his eyes we learned what his father did to his mother, to his brothers, to him. What Nick Bolleteri's methods did to students who joined his academy. What the Academy did to the people there. What Brooke Shields did to herself.  What tennis did to him. He doesn't eulogize the sport, it is not hagiographic by any means. Everything from his tennis, to drugs to marriage is told in a way that sounds - real. Nobody has kept it more real than Agassi does in this book.

Most times, the personality of the tennis player becomes as enriching to the sport as the skill the player brings to the table. What is tennis if Becker and Ivanesivic didn't meltdown and crush fan expectations by suddenly folding in 3 sets? What is tennis without a McEnroe tantrum that fueled him to do better. These players had game and personality that contrasted the Lendls and Stefan Edberg's dour personalities and winning game. Agassi and Sampras were tennis players I really tracked in the 90s. And they represented the personality Vs craft players in an interesting way. While Agassi did look like a personality player, beneath the denim shorts, the rebel hair styles and screaming girl fans, Agassi had a solid game. His personality hid how solid and complete his game was. Similarly this book's personality hides the excellence of his tennis. Tennis though fully and meticulously covered, almost appears like a side point of this book. This book would look great even if Agassi's profession was knitting flower baskets.

The book does contain interesting trivia about tennis coaching technics, on how Agassi saw Sampras' shift from two handed backhand to one-handed, the small tournaments he participated in, the dugs scandal etc. But the larger arc that led to Agassi marrying Steffi Graf and how he completely avoided getting his children into tennis is so beautiful that tennis trivia didn't matter. I developed new found respect for Brad Gilbert by reading this book and went ahead and bought his autobiography. Looking forward to reading that next.

Like I said, there must be a word for "great feeling after reading an excellent book". 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Book Review: Veerappan: Chasing The Brigand

“There are no atheists in the jungle” — writes Vijay Kumar, the police officer who eventually killed the dreaded sandalwood smuggler and forest brigand Veerappan. This is obviously a rip-off on the American phrase “there are no atheists in a foxhole” — used to indicate that extremely stressful situations makes anyone a believer. Autobiographies generally allow you to gaze into the author’s soul. We read them because, we get to see life from the point of view of the author and get to live, albeit briefly, the life of someone who is very different from us. With these sort of cheesy lines from army books, Vijay Kumar signals to us that he is a cop who isn’t used to “baring” his emotions to other people. I was all prepared to hear Vijay Kumar tell me about his hunt for Veerappan in the deep jungles of Sathyamangalam, a jungle according to him that was as formidable as his foe. Instead I got a fairly impersonal story that serves as a fast racy thriller and one that feels like its always at an arm’s length away from the “real” Vijay Kumar.
Koose Munnisamy Veerappan was well-known criminal in the state of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and chased by police from both states. However, the people of Tamil Nadu had this unexplained fascination for Veerappan. He polarized the population into those who thought he was some sort of Robinhood and those who thought he was just a cruel murderer. The first time I learned about Veerappan was from the movie Captain Prabhakaran (Rs 2 ticket in PerInbaVilas theater, Thirunelveli), a hagiographic take on the fugitive. On one hand, I grew up watching journalists openly supporting the brigand and accusing the cops of feeding and growing him and on the other hand Walter Devaram — TN’s most famous cop ever was publicly demanding his head. This effect he had on people intrigued me. You’d generally expect a murderer, smuggler, and kidnapper to be unanimously hated by all, how does he get to polarize people instead? I wanted to know. And thats why I picked up this book.
Vijay Kumar IPS is a well known cop in Tamil Nadu and succeeded Devaram as the head of STF tasked to nab Veerappan. The lead character of the famous Tamil movie Kaakha Kaakha was supposedly modeled after his mannerisms, he was in Rajiv Gandhi’s Special Protection Group, and BSF in Kashmir. Vijay Kumar has structured this book as a multi-threaded narrative that goes back and forth in time. It starts with a phone call he receives from the then CM Jayalalitha requesting him to come join the effort to capture Veerappan, it then goes into Vijay Kumar’s past and the rigorous training he went through in India and abroad, and then goes way back in time to tell the story of Veerappan’s past and all the cops who tried to hunt him down. While this is an interesting narrative structure to keeps things fast paced, it doesn’t feel like an autobiography, which is generally linear. It feels like a Dan Brown fiction thriller and Vijay Kumar is further limited because of his introductory note “In some cases, I have deliberately blurred sequences, obscured details and scrambled timelines in order to preserve operational secrecy and protect identities of people who were involved in sensitive missions”. This forces narrative choices that makes the book feel even more “commercial”. Also, I had a problem with the narrative structure of this book that I had with the TV series Wonder Years, or the movie Titanic. Any story narrated from the point of view of a single person must either contain events where the narrator was present or events which could’ve been narrated by someone else to the narrator. Vijay Kumar liberally writes about Veerappan’s optimism, his regrets and his feelings — which seem like needless “masala” thrown into an other wise realistic narration.
There were several ‘aha’ moments in the book. The brief origin story of Veerappan told from the POV of the rather senseless partition of states in the 60s, the story of “Rambo” Vijay Kumar’s valiant effort to nab Veerappan and the cruel way in which he was bombed by Veerappan on Good Friday (called as the “Good Friday Massacre”), the gruesome murder of Karnataka STF Shrinivas, Veerappan’s daring escape from Karnataka STF and his revenge bombing of STF base camp. All these have been narrated in great detail by Vijay Kumar who collects information from a variety of his sources to enrich this narration. I especially felt for “Rambo” Gopalakrishnan, nicknamed so because of his body builder frame. The Good Friday Massacre permenantly disabled him and he passed away recently. Reading this book made me feel for all the unnamed sacrifices made by the police force for meagre financial returns and almost no limelight. There were police officers who volunteered to be part of the STF just for pride. They put their life in danger, they spent days without food in terrible conditions and lived far away from loved ones. All for what?
This book also provides significant insight into the police procedural and intelligence aspects that were crucial to the eventual killing of Veerappan. I was hoping to understand Vijay Kumar’s hypothesis, his thought process or just about any sort of access into his brain to enjoy this autobiography. Again, Vijay Kumar keeps this book at an uncomfortable distance from him. We get detailed descriptions of setups involving Veerappan’s informers, his wife Muthulakshmi, and the prisoners who were known to Veerappan. It tells us how many months/years of work go into getting one set up to fruition. When it fails, its back to the drawing board again. And there were several failed set ups for Veerappan, until the one that finally got him. What this book also brings to light is the murky connections that Veerappan had with famous people in TN. The Mr. X that Vijay Kumar describes, the one who finally helped them get Veerappan, seems like a very interesting character. I wonder who he is.
The best part of the book is the countdown to Veerappan’s final moments. The operation is described in minute detail. Suddenly, for a brief moment, Vijay Kumar comes alive as an author and opens up his thoughts and his mind to us. We really get to live the ebbs and flows of his anxiety and care about what happens. This to me was the bst chapter of the book. There was always a suspicion among the public that the encounter that killed Veerappan was staged. I wonder if the amount of effort Vijay Kumar puts into that chapter reflects his intensity to counter that rather unfair criticism. I wanted to know if his killing was staged or real. This chapter presents the operation leading to his death in such a detailed fashion that it becomes hard to question the legitimacy of his death. He managed to convince this layman reader with that chapter.
To conclude, this book is a good read from the POV of learning about the life experiences of a cop who was in charge of this cat and mouse game. It is neither Vijay Kumar’s autobiography nor a Veerappan biography. I wanted to know what Vijay Kumar thought of Veerappan, what his colleagues thought of him and what he wanted the reader to think about about Veerappan. We don’t get a lot of this. While this book gives insights into Veerappan’s ruthlessness (he kills his own child) and his general character profile. It doesn’t go deep into his motivations. In a sense, its not a true “both sides of the coin” story. Its not an unbiased look at the forest brigand. My personal intuition and bias is with the police force and I did want to see Veerappan caught or killed. But it is human nature to seek, to question and to understand both sides of the story, to get an unbiased view of what happened and make sure all those who were at fault were brought to justice. It is human nature to understand another human being (the author in this case). As to what motivated him and his innermost emotions that made him the person he was, that vicarious peep into the inner recesses of his mind or his world. In that way, this book did not help me “get to the truth”.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Tamil Nadu's Upper Funnel Education strategy and why its brilliant

Tamil Nadu has one of the best education strategies in the country. Let me start with an analogy that will help you appreciate this.

Imagine you are an e-commerce website owner. You have a webpage (like or that allows people to visit the webpage, prospect products, maybe add-to-cart and eventually buy. Think of your webpage as a funnel. The top of the funnel is people visiting the webpage. Mid-funnel is people prospecting products. Bottom funnel is people doing "Add-to-Cart". You have couple of important strategy options for digital marketing this webpage. Strategy 1: You adopt an upper funnel strategy. Your digital marketing efforts drives as much of the population to simply visit your webpage. It is prospected by many, and then a small subset will add-to-cart and a subset of that will complete purchase. Strategy 2: You adopt a bottom-funnel strategy. Your digital marketing efforts specifically targets people who are more likely to "add-to-cart". In effect - you only want those people who will take the "add-to-cart" action to visit your webpage. The traffic coming to your webpage is much lower, but those who come will most likely convert.

People pick from these two strategies based on their constraints and priorities. If you want to keep your server capacity cost low - you pick strategy 2; if you want brand awareness of your webpage to be high - you pick strategy 1.  Here is the key thing - the definition of traffic quality - depends on what you think of success. Strategy 1 could define quality as (number of people who know about my webpage)/(total population). This strategy focuses on more people being exposed to your webpage so that they have a habit of visiting when the need arises. Strategy 2 defines quality as (people who actually purchase)/(people who visit my webpage). There is no consistent definition of quality. It depends on what you, as the owner of the web page, want to do. It is dangerous to evaluate one strategy with metrics used by another strategy.

Tamil Nadu has an upper funnel strategy for college education. It wants as much of the population to either (a) get exposed to college education or (b) pass college and get exposed to professional career. It does not specifically optimize or even care about how many people eventually convert to great jobs in the end. It wants to make people going to college a habit, passing college a natural thing and hopes that this virtuous cycle habit formation leads to both direct and indirect positive effects. The definition of quality is more social - "what % of population get exposure to college education". Thats why it has a 12th pass % of 92%. Karnataka has a 12th pass % of 52%. It is adopting lower funnel optimization. Its definition of quality is (people who get jobs)/(people who get to college). Therefore, it is okay with a large chunk of its population not experiencing college or a professional career. While this is horrible for Karnataka's population, thats the state's strategy.

Tamil Nadu has consciously made passing 12th std easy, consciously allowed liberal centums and high marks in Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology. It optimizes to put as many people in a position of applying to college. BITS, RECs, Delhi Colleges, and top colleges in other states have relied on 12th marks as a basis for admission. To help its students get into these non-TN colleges - Tamil Nadu has ensured that its students stand the best chance relative to students from other states. In parallel and quite obviously, it has increased its own server capacity in terms of number of colleges within TN to ensure the infrastructure support for its strategy. Now voila! - Magic. TN has not only pumped in its students into its own rapidly growing list of colleges but also into any available seat in non-TN colleges. Think of the virtuous cycle effects here. When BITS switched to normalization (which is (your mark)/(your state first mark)) - Tamil Nadu increased the "if you have to be above 90% its better that you be 96%" density to counter that strategy. It is a deliberate strategy to give its students the best chance everywhere. It has had flagrant success in exposing students to college education and embarrassing defeats to those exposed. But it has made sure getting to and completing college is as automatic a habit as brushing your teeth. It is quite a stunning feat. And it has taken all castes along in this journey - dalits, brahmins, thevars, MBCs, OBCs - the whole kitchen sink. Everybody has prospered. No one has been left behind. The country did not wise up to it until now. So we have NEET - a competitive move from other states to shut us down. Tamil Nadu's counter should have been "Fair enough. Bring it on". What it doesn't need now is a ill-informed intra-state caste war. That will only make it weaker. What it needs is a new game plan.

To conclude. In a philosophical decision of "Should I pass a person who is only semi-likely to succeed"  or "Should I fail a person who is semi likely to succeed" - Tamil Nadu has reduced false negatives (type II errors) and increased false positives (type I errors). It is morally and ethically the right strategy from a social justice point of view. This fantastic strategy has caused (a) a state with abnormally high self-esteem where almost all people have college degrees and most have professional degrees (b) the false positives - i.e. people who fail to secure professional jobs still be useful to society by finding other ways to survive as a college graduate and (c) a generation of highly valuable "graduate educated" parents to the next batch of TN children entering school. Lastly, it has allowed me, a late bloomer in education, to prosper later in a career. I could've been easily discarded as not good enough if I were a student in Karnataka. I owe my life to TN's strategy. This chance that I got is what is being assaulted by NEET. It stops the state from determining its strategy. Thats why NEET is poison and thats why TN should innovate a new strategy to get around it. 

Friday, April 07, 2017

Katru Veliyidai - The unusual Maniratnam man

This is a fairly decent movie. Certain interactions between the Karthi and Aditi - when the former behaves like a dick and the latter like a squirming worm - made you cringe on your seat and made you want to look away. These are powerfully well thought out and well written moments. Very subtle but the tension is like an elephant in the room head butts you. But they come with severe distractions. The jarring close-ups on Karthi was a strange vehicle. I understand that close-ups are used as some mood inducing vehicles by cinematographers. However, showing Karthi almost exclusively in close-ups  was just too much of 'why dont you step back from the camera dude' for me. I say this because a big part of the movie runs on his ability to charm and mysteriously smile his way into Aditi's heart and ours. The chemistry that makes us feel for them seems absent. Mostly because the love seems baseless and rushed. On either direction, it was hard for me to see why a person of that mind-set would pursue the other person so mindlessly. One can say "that is love" but somehow i feel it isn't.

The entire crux of the movie is the surprise on seeing a new Manirathnam man. The Maniratnam man is usually a highly virtuous, likeable, principled and forceful personality. People like Baradwaj Rangan exagerrate that all Maniratnam men are neither black nor white but superbly grey. I don't necessarily agree. From a perception point of view, they are always likeable. They are the people's man. And the law cant be a basis for grey if your men are always likeable.  This movie was different because the hero came off as genuinely unlikeable. I simply loved that subtlety. The heroine came off as a confused person and very unlike Maniratnam's girls who are usually independent, decisive and never abused. Here she is the opposite. Which was also interesting even if a little bit anachronistic. I wish the suffering of his journey was brough out better. He looked as smug and as much of a jerk as a POW as he looked in his airforce base. It was hard to believe he had changed his attitude by the end of the movie.

Overall this is not as bad as Kadal or Ravanan (his worst) and not in the class of Iruvar (his best). It rests firmly as his 50th percentile movie. It is a reverse portrayal of GVM's Nee Dhaan En Pon Vasantham but much less boring. The pretentiousness of "oh! we sleep together before marriage, have babies before marriage, family drinks saarayam, we are so cool" was weighing down on me. Those show pieces of fake rebellion could've been avoided. But I am coming to terms with the new Maniratnam. One of us has changed. I don't know if its me or him. But the relationship with my boyhood adulation has changed in the last 15 years.  

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Nirmal Shekhar

Some news items make you sad. Nirmal Shekar passing away is one. I had this article cut and stuck on my bedroom wall for many years. I have read it and re-read it countless times (as I recollect here). Nirmal Shekar is a sports writer I grew up reading and the best sports writer I have ever read. I was so sad to hear the news of his passing away. Reading his version of the extent of grass and wind chill in the Edgbaston pitch made you want to wear a sweater in 40C Madras sun. Stefan Edberg arching like a bow while serving, Becker flying parallel to the ground to get that unreachable volley, the years of Pete Sampras worship and then the magic of Federer were all special if you saw it through the eyes of Nirmal Sekhar. His writing was more flair and more poetry than sports but then who cares.

Link to my favorite article of his is here

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I liked Kabali. First, a disclaimer on my biases to help readers quickly decide whether to abandon this post after reading the first para. I fundamentally dislike glorification of cinema actors. My theory is the movie's story should organically bring out whatever coolness an actor supposedly has and not be made with the express purpose of showcasing some perceived coolness. It is one thing to party and have fun on FDFS of Rajini movies but it is also one of the least desirable human behaviors to consider someone 'thalaiva' and then go watch his movies just to see him move his body parts in slow-mo.  In the last 10 years upper caste/class douches (especially women) have suddenly discovered the coolness of being a Rajini fan and have tried to get on the bandwagon like an unwanted nerdy kid trying to get into a swimsuit party. Most upper class/caste Rajini "fans" remind me of Kumudha's IT colleague nerd boss in 'Idharku Dhaan aasai pattai Balakumara'. Given all these - I have mostly disliked Rajini movies that moves away from his traditional 'convey a simple comeback from behind story' platform and descends too much into hero worship (with Baasha ranking as his stupidest movie and worse than Naattukku Oru Nallavan, Pandian etc). However, this general disdain towards his movies hasn't stopped me from (a) watching all his movies and (b) liking him more than Kamalahasan in the recent past.

Now to Kabali. I wasn't planning on seeing the movie any time soon. But the fact that Rajini fans didn't like the movie gave me confidence that the movie might actually be good. I liked that the movie took its time to say things. I actually wished that it took more time to say the story fully well. Once Ranjith decided to make a slowish mood piece, I wish he'd done full justice to that choice. The class of the movie is evident in the way it makes Rajini search for his wife in a semi-prolonged way. It primes the situation up and builds pressure for a nice emotional release. Very similar to the build up to the Viswaroopam scene where Kamal reveals himself as a 'fighter'. This was the best part of the movie for me.  If they had abandoned the non-linear way of story telling it would have helped me appreciate the movie much better. This movie didn't need the slices of flashback to tell us about Kabali's rise and his love for Kumudha. It needed to start with it and spend a good 45 minutes on just that. In the first 30 minutes I didn't understand the extent of animosity between Rajini and the half dozen characters that are introduced in quick succession. There were so many of them that I stopped caring after a point. I also wasn't aware of how much Kabali loved Kumudha. I can't help but think that a powerful and detailed flashback (similar to the one in Ghajini) may have helped a lot. This movie is basically Nayagan and should've simply played out in a similar linear format. If a bunch of time is spent on establishing a character *before* an event then a whole lot of time does not need to be spent to explain the character's emotions *after* the event. I felt a trick was missed there.

The dalit undercurrent was as fascinating in Kabali as it was in Madras.  The dialog in the beginning where Kabali says (in the context of caged birds but obviously referring to boxed in humans) "Saava vida un karunai kodumaiyanadhu" was mind blowing. The reference to clothes, Ambedkar etc all provides a fascinating set up. Its just that Ranjith fails to cash in on this set up because (a) he hasn't spent time telling what made Kabali who he was and (b) he spend inordinate amount of time doing some stupid 'rajini style' scenes in the climax (the sequence at the top of tower where Rajini does a come back on the Chinese guy was plain nonsense). In the rest of the movie - the powerful dialogs were there but the situation wasn't there because Ranjith had not spent time setting it up. This actually significantly diminishes the impact of the dalit subtext Ranjith wanted to say. And this was a recurring theme of the movie for me - it would have worked much better had more screen time been spent on the rise and falling in love of Kabali as opposed to a retrospective look at his life in slices. At the end of every Rajini movie, I imagine if I would've liked the story had it been acted by a unknown actor. Most Rajini movies fail the test. This one sort of ended as a just pass.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Agassi, Sampras on Ramesh Krishnan and Paes

November’s Thanksgiving holidays gave me an opportunity to read autobiographies of two great tennis players; I followed very closely in the 90s; Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Among players of that generation, I was a huge fan of Sampras and was so-so about Agassi. However, I’d rate Agassi’s autobiography Open among the best books I have read. It is certainly the best autobiography I have ever read. Reading both the books back to back in a space of week allowed one to contrast the same event as viewed by two different people. I’ll post a couple of anecdotes about this book that I liked across two posts. The first one is regarding the experience of both Agassi and Sampras with a tennis player from my hometown. Madras has been a decent enough factory for tennis players (Amritraj brothers, Ramanathan & Ramesh Krishnan and to a some extent Leander Paes) – of which Ramesh Krishnan was a personal favorite (although my father constantly criticized him whenever we watched him play).
Agassi’s mention of Ramesh Krishnan of was heartening to read – “MY FIRST TOURNAMENT as a pro is in Schenectady, New York. I reach the final of the $ 100,000 tournament, then lose to Ramesh Krishnan, 6– 2, 6– 3. I don’t feel bad, however. Krishnan is great, better than his ranking of forty-something, and I’m an unknown teenager, playing in the final of a fairly important tournament. It’s that ultimate rarity— a painless loss. I feel nothing but pride. In fact, I feel a trace of hope, because I know I could have played better, and I know Krishnan knows.”
Interestingly, Sampras made a decision to turn pro after beating Ramesh Krishnan “At Indian Wells, I beat Eliot Teltscher and Ramesh Krishnan, who were top-twenty players. Things were really starting to click, and people were taking notice. Tournaments began offering me wild cards…..The die had been cast, and now it was just a matter of exactly when I would turn pro. We decided to make the leap right then, after I beat Krishnan, even though it meant setting up a whole new lifestyle for me. Who would travel with me? What contracts would I sign? Where would I play next—“
It was hilarious to read Agassi’s description of Paes and the comparison to Brad Gilbert during their encounter at Atlanta Olympics “In the semis I meet Leander Paes, from India. He’s a flying jumping bean, a bundle of hyperkinetic energy, with the tour’s quickest hands. Still, he’s never learned to hit a tennis ball. He hits off-speed, hacks, chips, lobs— he’s the Brad of Bombay. Then, behind all his junk, he flies to the net and covers so well that it all seems to work. After an hour you feel as if he hasn’t hit one ball cleanly— and yet he’s beating you soundly. Because I’m prepared, I stay patient, stay calm, and beat Paes 7– 6, 6– 3.”

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Swan Song

Recreational cricket played during weekends in Seattle's really beautiful summer has been a major part of my life over the last 8 years. This cricket and associated practice sessions has led to great friendships and some of the most joyous moments I have experienced in Seattle. All good things must come to an end - and as the story of my life goes, I swim against the current and decided to move to bay area when most people my age moved away from bay area. That brought to end two things I cherished the most in Seattle - cricket and my prabhandha ghoshti.

I had been playing the 40-over a side leather ball cricket with the same team for 8 years and for the last four out of the 8 years, I played it with almost the same set of XI guys (the team is part of a club that rotates its players across teams to encourage club wide bonding). The moment I accepted my bay area job offer and the timelines of the move crystallized, I knew that the next weekend's game was going to be my last one with this team. Sadly, a sinking feeling inside me was also telling me that my life was changing in a big way and the next game was possibly my last ever in leather ball - league format. In the context of the league, it was an important match as we had to essentially win all the games non-stop to qualify for a division promotion. The next game was against a very strong King County CC boasting of super fast pakistani + afghani pace bowling line up that gave opening batters the chills the night before. It also boasted the super fast bowling sensation Naseer Jamali who was playing for US national team at that time. I have played against Naseer since he was 19 year old kid. Naseer is left handed, bowls like Akram but with a Shoaib Akhtar like run up and a nasty inswinging deliveries at 85+mph. The team has enormous rivalry with my team and the sledging gets really bad when I, a known troll, am at the wicket. I don't tell my team that this is going to be my last match with them as this is an emotional group of boys and instead decide to wait until the game is over. It maybe some small time useless league. But friendships are very real. The peace of mind and release of life pressure this small recreation provides is immeasurable.

We are set a target of 141 and I walk in with my opening partner of 4 years knowing fully well that their bowling attack is going to make this target very tricky, especially on a ground as large as Marymoor. Ever since I was a small boy playing cricket, I opened the batting but always took the non-striker end. This was a result of idolizing Sunil Gavaskar in my formative years.  This time, I decided to take first strike much to the surprise of Sriram, my opening partner, who in the four years had given up all hopes of trying to convince me to take first strike. Javaid is their opening bowler and bowls one of those banana outswingers at reasonable pace. He can bowl a straighter one without a change in action and essentially preys on the batsman's doubt whether to leave the ball or not. I have hurt this team badly in the past by moving around the crease so much and spoiling their line and length. The team is super charged up and greet me with a lot of 'nice' comments. As Javaid runs into bowl the first ball he totally expects me to walk down the pitch and so pitches a pre-emptive short one. I am rooted to my crease as a counter bluff and simply duck under the ball. He patiently walks up to me and tells me what he thinks of me with 10 other people chirping their 2 cents. This is exciting. The kind of last match I wanted to play.

Next over Sriram faces Naseer Jamali, who begins to square him up and bounce him in alternate balls. Sriram has a great technique, solid defense and is very compact. Unlike me in almost every sense of the game. In Naseer's second over, he bowls a perfect inswinger at a speed that feels like 90 mph and gets Sriram LBW. I still haven't faced Naseer but can see that he is bowling really well this match. On the other hand I can instinctively feel that I am trying too hard and not really seeing/timing the ball very well. The voice inside my head is telling me I wont last. It is always a battle with that voice inside your head isn't it? The voice tells me to go for it every ball and temperament is about shutting it down. I usually shut the voice down by focusing on the ball all the time. When it is being passed from keeper to slips, to cover fielder to  mid off and then to the bowler. Then I watch the ball all the way through the run up.

The first time I face Naseer, I remember why it is so difficult to bat against him. His long run up with the ball semi hidden both (a) makes it hard to focus on the ball and (b) tests one's patience in waiting for the run up to end. When the first ball is delivered I realize how quick he is as the ball takes an inside edge before my bat has landed fully. Steal couple of runs and am still on strike.  The fielders and egging me to have a go at him. Javaid walks up to me and says "if you are really a man, take him on" and I burst out laughing. These guys are dead serious when they say shit like this. Next Javaid over, I take him on the first ball. I walk out during his delivery stride giving him less time to react. But I mistime it and sky the ball. As I run towards the other side resigned to my fate, Javaid is not looking at whether the fielder would take the catch but instead is staring at me and says "I told you I'll fucking get you bitch". The fielder drops the catch. I troll Javaid. Troll the fielder even more. The game gets paused for a while as fielders try to have a word with me and complain to the umpire at the same time. This is fun. I love this.

I face a full Naseer over without losing my mind. The mental patient which is the voice in my head seems caged. Its a struggle every ball. Meanwhile Neeraj, our 1-drop batsman falls to Javaid's classic in-swinger that takes the inside egde to the keeper (Neeraj Bats left). Next over Naseer is bowling to me again. As he is going through this his long run up, I am battling with the voice again - should I walk down the pitch hoping for a short ball. When I want to make the bowler to bowl short, I walk down the pitch when the bowler is a couple of strides away from delivering the ball. This way he gets a chance to see me moving, has the opportunity to do a brain freeze and then bowl short in panic. If done selectively this technique fetches me some easy runs. This time I walk down and Naseer bowls short. However, I realize that he has added a few yards to his pace and my reflexes weren't what it used to be. In 2010 when I did the same thing to him, the ball easily cleared the rather large Magnusson cricket field in a big way. Cleared by so much that my team mates were jibing Naseer to rent a taxi to get the ball. This time the short one is really fast. the ball hits my glove, lobs to no man's land in backward square leg. 2 runs. The next ball, during the agonizing wait for Naseer to finish his run up, I keep telling myself "Behave yourself. See him off.". Naseer bowls a beauty. He cuts one into me at great pace. The ball is through the gate before I can say 'boo'. Naseer is a nice guy. We have had a nice rivalry over the years. He doesn't sledge. He smiles and says 'got you' as he runs past me. I nod saying 'good ball'. Game, Season, Phase of life over for me.

King County thinks at 29/3 they have the match in the bag. Lucky for us Parthu - our newly minted #4 batsman - finishes the game. At the end of the game, in our team huddle. I tell the guys. My voice shakes. It hits me that I will never play with these guys again and will never play in these grounds again. We all walk off the ground much later than usual but I will never forget that day.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Exam Preparation

There are four stages to exam preparation

  1. Freak out about the extent of preparation you have to do when the exam dates are announced
  2. Slowly recover and build confidence that you can ace it.... to the point of becoming complacent
  3. Realize that you have procrastinated too much due to complacency and get back to totally freaking out about the the number of things you need to prep in the last minute
  4. Give up and reconcile to doing what you can in the time that is available to you.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Single Serving Friends

Consider the relationship between your first cousin from your father's side of the family and your first cousin from your mother's side of the family. Unless they are married to each other (which turned out to be true in my family) or they know each other outside of the link my family provides them, chances are high that these two people only meet when there is a major event in my family. So they meet only a few times in a span of 20 - 25 years. They would've met during my parents marriage, meet again when I was born but after that they would only need to meet when I get married. Imagine the convenience this single-serving relationship offers. But wouldn't be awesome if the frequency was more than once a decade but not as suffocating as once every other day?

Friends who you only meet in kids birthday parties are true single serving friends. These are people you know because your kid goes to school with their kids or they are your friend's friends from a different circle of friends.  That common friend is the only intersection between you and this single serving friend. And you only need to meet this person only when this common friend hosts a birthday party or a house warming party.

If occasional sex with no strings attached was considered the holy grail of man-woman relationships. Then conversation with no friendship attached is the holy grail of random person in birthday party -> another  random person in birthday party relationships. You are standing there watching your kids run around and have extreme fun. 2 hours to kill before they serve you lunch and its terribly boring. This is when the prototypical desi male takes out the smart phone and pretends they actually have serious stuff to do on the phone. In reality they have no life and nothing special is going on. They are probably browsing twitter or reading some FB comment. But they make it appear as if they are really busy. It took the world some time to wise up but now everyone knows that the guy staring into his phone with a dumb smile is a dork. How does one avoid this kind of an awkward situation?

Here comes your single-serving friend to the rescue. This dude could be South Indian, North Indian, Italian, Latin american, Caucasian - it does not really matter. You could have a solid conversation, kill two hours and there is no day-after phone call or weekend-after meet up with the family.  You could say anything you want. Here is what is awesome. Once you get introduced, you cross the awkwardness once and for all. The next time you meet you can actually pick up exactly where you left off. I have some single serving friends who I meet only once a year. But it seems like we pick up a conversation from a year ago like it was yesterday. Its like a stage play. The moment we actors enter into that milieu we remember the lines, the plot and all that crap. We just continue the conversation. There is no awkward introduction etc. You can straight away jump into a conversation. I actually have 4 separate sets of single serving friends. I can actually choose a topic and have a conversation on the same topic with these 4 sets of people. Its very interesting. Like enacting the same drama with different set of actors.

Tyler Durden assumed that single serving friends were single serving because you met them in a airplane ride and then never met them again. But that isn't how single serving works. I can go to a restaurant exactly when I choose to and have single serving of a dish and feel no obligation to either (a) have a second serving or (b) visit the restaurant again. That is what is called a true single-serving meal.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Madras Crowd - 4

In Irandaam Ulagam there is this scene where Arya cleans the backside of his paralyzed father (sitting in the commode) with hand wash. As he starts spraying the hand wash the father says "dei romba koosudhu da". Someone from the crowd shouted "engalukku eriyudhu da".

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tendulkar Sattrumurai

Strangely, I was reminded of this match today. As a little boy I vividly remember watching this entire series with my uncle. A boy called dindi kept stepping into my house and commented "that selfish guy is only looking for a century. not a win". On a pitch where Kapil opened the bowling with Maninder singh, Gavaskar opened the batting in 4th innings and was playing a knock similar to Tendulkar's Chennai 136 against Pakistan. It was one man battling against 1 bowler who was making the pitch spit snakes. It was not a team against another team. It was 1 man waging a war. After Gavaskar got out my uncle was like "I am never going to watch cricket again".  The cleansing process of life is fascinating. The old are washed away and replaced by the new in no time.

As Tendulkar sets aside his last two paasurams for a Sattrumurai before he sings his mangalam, I stand depressed. Not only because of the cliched childhood dying. It is.  I am also sad that I am not as sad as I thought I would be. I enjoyed a particular brand of Tendulkar. I didn't watch him because of an 'Indian' spirit or for the "for love of country" nonsense. I didn't think cricket was a team game where 11 people do a coordinated attack to topple the other 11. I switched off the TV when Tendulkar got out. It really didn't matter to me what happened after that. I'd take a Tendulkar 100 and an Indian loss any day thrice on boxing day. I saw the game because it was a 1x1 battle between a supremely talented batsman and an attacking bowler.  Here was a batsman who rose above the mediocrity surrounding him. Throughout the 90s when he walked in at nothing for 2 wickets which quickly became nothing for 5 wickets, he demonstrated the difference between mediocrity and class  when facing high quality bowling attacks. For that we have to thank the reasonably good batsman who played for India in the 90s who played their part in showing why the bowling was difficult so that Tendulkar could show us why he was special. These other players do include Dravids, Azharuddins Laxmans, Manjrakars and Gangulys of the world. 

I didnt think his skill was waning. This was just another challenge he would have outgrown in due course. I watched Tendulkar for the moments he created. He scored 10 or 12 runs against Donald in Durban but there were a couple of 4s there that I would rather watch as opposed to several centuries of other batsmen put together. He made 12 runs in Perth against Wasim and Waquar but the two or three 4s he hit was worth the $200 I paid as a stipend earning student and the fines I subsequently paid for illegally installing a dish antenna in a student apartment without permission. I watched Tendulkar the batsman. Salivating at the possibilities. He did what no other batsmen could do in the art of batting. That he was a cog in the wheel for a team to win some trophies was a distraction. It was tax that I had to pay to watch him bat.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Happiness & Context

People will fundamentally agree that happiness is one of the chief things they seek from life. There is a upanishadic ultra short story on how a person meets and experiences the state of happiness.

A hunter after a long day's chase decides to spend the night under the tree. Upon waking up in the morning he hears the roar of a lion. He quickly climbs up a tree and sits on a branch. In a few moments he notices that a poisonous snake is approaching him from the bark of the tree and as he slowly recedes away from the snake he is pushed to the edge of the branch. One more step and he falls down. Right below the edge of the branch is a pond with an alligator waiting to devour him. He can swing and fall on the ground beside the pond. But the lion awaits him there. As the snake slowly slithers towards him and he is considering all his no-win choices, drops of honey from a leaking bee nest above falls on his face and mouth. He licks that and feels the sweet taste of honey. He experiences happiness. [1]

This was meant to illustrate in a 'there is no day without night' kind of way on the context in life in which happiness can be felt. The story is a metaphor and could represent the kiss of a small child when you are in great sorrow or a 2 hour gettogether with old friends in a marriage when you are going through a lot of stress. It could be a metaphor for why people read and reminisce olden day epics, ithihasas and puranas. On why Sri Thyagaraja or Sri Krishna Premi melt in tears when they talk about Rama or Krishna. People reminisce about epics, gods, saviours and puranas because these stories are like a drop of honey sweetening their mind when it is full of tials, tribulations and challenges. Recursively the epics and puranas themselves were not without the snakes, lions and the alligators. They were anything but nostalgic utopia  filled with happiness, clear blue skies, peace and joyous dancing. Those epics were about how in moments of great trials and tribulations man was touched by a moment of happiness. Those stories may have been about other things. But in all of them there was certainly an inspiring story about how it was darkest before dawn. That is why people read them and reminisce about them

[1] from an oft repeated anecdote in Velukudi Krishnan's lectures

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Shakunthala & Dushyantha

अभिज्ञान शाकुन्तलम् represents the best of  Kalidasa. It is his magnum opus. In this work he interprets the Mahabharatha story involving the falling in love of Dushyantha and Shankunthala. This great love story was a particular favorite of my father. His fascination with this love story led to a couple of things - my name and of course a constant telling and retelling of this tale and its beautiful layers as I was growing up. 

Shakunthala was this stunningly beautiful daughter of Vishwamitra and Menaka. Dushyantha was the king of Hastinapura. Dushyantha happens to meet Shakunthala, falls in love, impregnates her :-) and then has to leave back to Hastinapura due to certain circumstances. Shakunthala meanwhile earns the misfortune of being cursed by - who else - the eternal angry old sage Durvasa. As a result of this curse Dushyantha completely loses memory of ever meeting Shakunthala. How circumstances led him to remember her forms the rest of the story.

My favorite interpretation of this love story is how this separation and reunification happens across life and birth cycles. Each husband and wife pair is a version of Dushyanthan and Shakunthala story. A man and woman in love and united in marriage play out the Dushyantha and Shakunthala in an infinite loop. The live a fulfilling life of marriage and die. The next birth makes them forget each other for a while but at the right time the man's thoughts are sparked off the way Dushyantha's was when he saw the ring. Ultimately the man searches, knocks door after door until he finally finds his Shakunthala and asks her in marriage. Almost always it feels like they were meant to be united. That they had known each other for several years but for some reason had forgotten. In every birth Dushyantha and Shakunthala may wander, may get lost, they may even get married to the wrong person. But come the moment their destiny leads them towards each other. This story is so fascinating that even the gods love to participate in this game. This is why Meera meets her Krsna. Andal meets her Rangamannar.

p.s: I am not the most romantic person. But this story does intrigue me.
p.s2: The image is Raja ravi Varma's painting of Shakunthala looking longingly at Dushyantha

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mariyan = (Nee Dhaane En Pon Vasantham) ^ Kadal

Disclaimer: The dude who acts as the heroine's father. I think his character name is thomas but they call him thommai or bommai or some such shit. He needs to be given an Oscar or a BharathRatna for his emoting, diction, tamil and accent. Temples must be built for him for people to worship. Where did they find him?

Among the people who like the smell of their own fart, Bharathbala likes the smell of his own fart the most. This is quite an extraordinary achievement considering the fact that his competitors include Gautham Menon and Manirathnam who, with kadal, locked himself up in a closed air-locked chamber for 3 hours to smell his own fart. Which might've been alright if not for the fact that he locked in the audience with him as well. You can at least forgive Mani & Gautham as they've given us a few hits in the past. But Bharathbala! First movie and all this indulgence. Really?

There is a very bad song by A.R.Rahman early on in the movie called 'Sonapareeya'. If ever there was a badly done song that did not fit the situation or the movie. It is this song. That song is the point where you kinda begin to fear this movie may not be good. It kind of tells you that something is badly out of synch. And then its all downhill. There was so much time in the movie where nothing really ever happened that I had time to think what was exactly wrong with the movie.Firstly, Bharathbala does not have the skills to translate a thought on paper to images and sound on screen. Secondly, Bharathbala has a total about 3 ideas that would be worth about 45 movie of movie time. All 3 ideas are very uninteresting. But in Bharathbala's mind these ideas are like gold. So he shows us these ideas repeatedly. Each idea is shown in such a slow place that it loses any effect whatsoever. And then its repeated a couple of times again even more slowly.

Dhanush has acted well. But in this movie its like running a marathon in a treadmill. Lots of hardwork but you are still in the same place. AR.Rahman has done 1.5 good songs. Nenje Ezhu was good. Kadal Raasa was so-so (althought both arrive at a time when you are "chopping off your fingers with car keys" level bored). The other songs are all nonsense and don't fit the milieu. I don't think ARR is competent to handle fisherman subjects. Not just ARR - the entire crew seem to be unable to add any sort of native flavor or originality to the fisherman backdrop. Its like some rich Oxford, peter, guy trying to portray fishermen to us. Fish out of water.

The movie fails because, none of the events shown touch any sort of emotional chord with us. It doesn't matter. You are not engaged. The challenges to Dhanush's love story seem trivial if not nonsensical. The kidnappers look like circus clowns and you really can't take them seriously. The whole escape portion has no drama in it. Its all just a bunch of pretty images collated together.